Friday, April 26, 2013

Vintage Troublemaker: The Monday Night Wars II (or not)

I’m having to pad things out for the next couple of months, so I am going back through all of my old MySpace blog posts and finding ones that I think are interesting or entertaining; or entries that just seem like a shame to not have on Needless Things.
Today’s post is from the Summer of 2009 (most of these are from 2009) and was written right before TNA’s big move to Monday nights. I think it’s an interesting read given where the company is today. I also think I was right about almost everything I said.
I might have been a little too harsh about ODB, though. It’s been almost four years and her balls still haven’t fallen out during a match, so maybe I was wrong.
          I just read something really hilarious.
When I write a new post, I pull up an older one to use the format so that everything looks nice and neat on the blog page. Usually I will pick something at random, delete the body, change the header and start typing. Often I will read the original post before I delete it. What I read today amazed me. It was a post called “Everything Sucks” from a little less than a year ago. Mostly it’s just bitching about TV and wrestling and how much the last SmackDown game sucked, but there is a section where I complain about $800 in home repairs I had to make. That is the super-funny (but not really) part, considering we are rapidly approaching the ten grand mark on repairs (not including the roof, which insurance actually deigned to shell out for) thanks to the 9-21 flood. I wish rain was a person so I could ________________ (I couldn’t come up with anything quick and horrible enough to go here. I could write a book about the various tortures and abuses I would heap upon a personification of rain if it were possible).
But, as always, we’re not here to talk about my miserable bullshit. We’re here to talk about tomorrow night’s head-to-head programming of TNA and WWE and…….. (drum roll, please)

THE RETURN OF THE MONDAY NIGHT WARS!
 
HAHAHAHAHAHA! HOO! Oh, boy… BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!
I’m sorry, I just couldn’t type that with a straight face. I hate to be so cruel to TNA, but they really need to reign in the hyper-optimistic lunatic that is out there promoting their company right now. Hulk Hogan heralding the return of competitive wrestling programming on Monday nights is somewhat akin to Sean Hannity announcing the return of Christ. You know the guy might have sort of an inside line, but you kind of have to question not only his information; but his sanity as well. Does he really believe what he’s saying?
Since I’m excited enough to be hosting a modest get-together tomorrow night to witness this supposed Rapture, I thought I’d write a little something about where I think TNA is right now and what their chances are to make an Impact (Get It? No, wait; that’s taken…).
Let me clarify something before I get any further. I am not a “Wrestling Journalist”. I keep an eye on the machinations of the wrestling companies through various online sources – Online Onslaught, Lords of Pain, JR’s blog – but would never claim to have the complete picture on anything. I just sort of put what I know together with what seems reasonable and go from there, so there might be factors that I am unaware of or just haven’t been thorough enough to come across.
Several months ago TNA signed a deal with Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. This is extremely funny by itself for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is what an amazing disaster Hogan’s personal life has been for the past couple of years. You also have to consider the fact that “Hulk Hogan” has not been an acceptable solution to any problem since late 1996. I did just read an interesting point from JBL, though – that Hogan’s name will open up new, international markets for TNA that were previously unavailable. I hadn’t thought of that.
But then there’s Bischoff. I happen to have a fairly high opinion of Uncle Eric and his mind for wrestling promotion. Because of that, Bischoff’s standing in this deal was much more interesting to me than Hogan’s. I honestly believe that if anybody has a chance of making TNA competitive with WWE, it’s Eric Bischoff.
The gist of the deal seems to be that Hogan, along with Bischoff and his production company, have a promotional agreement with TNA. I don’t know what the hell that means, exactly, but Hogan is running around telling everybody that it means he’s in charge of TNA now. This is a bad thing if it is reality, but it is also a negative even if it is only for story purposes.
If Hogan really is running things now, TNA is fucked. I subscribe to the theory that Hulk Hogan is a self-centered fuckwad who wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire if he wasn’t somehow benefitting from it. Of course, the only basis I have for this belief is his entire fucking career, so I could be wrong. If Hogan’s in charge, we can look forward to a televised version of the dinosaur and has-been exhibition he’s been touring around the world for the last year or so. Finally, we can get that Nasty Boys/Dudleys title match we’ve all been not dreaming about!
TNA also gets a failing grade if they are just putting forth the illusion that Hogan is in charge. Hulk Hogan the character is a performer, not a businessman or a creative talent. It’s not like they’re announcing Paul Heyman is coming in to fix their sinking ship. Hogan is just the latest of a long line of wrestlers who have “taken charge” of TNA to “make it a better company”. This is old hat, and shouldn’t excite anybody with more sense than a rutabaga. Granted, the TNA fans are probably pretty excited, but that isn’t who TNA should be trying to please. Those people are going to watch TNA whether the main event is The Rock versus Austin or a midget in a garbage can versus his penis (this actually happened). TNA needs to be going after those casual fans who used to watch wrestling but don’t anymore because it “started sucking”. Wrestling never actually started sucking. The on-screen product really isn’t that different now from ten years ago. Somehow, the promoters forgot how to make it seem like a big deal. They forgot how to make their performers and storylines seem important. They forgot how to compel Average Joe to tune in and find out just what the fuck was going to happen to that poor guy who got his ass kicked last week, or if that douchebag in the fancy robe was finally going to get his come-uppance at the next PPV. Like I said – “Hulk Hogan” is not the answer to any of these dilemmas.
So far, the extent of Hogan’s impact on TNA seems to be that 1) Hogan has gotten a lot more interviews on wrestling-related radio and internet talk shows, 2)TNA is airing hilariously lame commercials during WWE programming featuring Hulk Hogan, 3)Vince Russo unfortunately still has a job and 4) Cody Deaner does not.
Okay, so that last one is an immediately recognizable benefit.
TNA announced the whole Hogan thing at a press conference in Madison Square Garden that was not as big a deal as it should have been. MSG is like home court for WWE. TNA doing anything there is a huge slap in the face, but for some reason TNA failed to mention that. Given TNA’s track record for subtlety, you’d think they would have paid people to stand around outside looking interested, replayed it as a commercial on Spike every night until tomorrow, done a thirty minute special detailing how it all went down and had Don West screaming about how it was the “First Shot Fired!” in the new Wrestling Wars. And then released a DVD about it. For some odd reason they didn’t.
So far, these things are confirmed for Monday Night Impact:

  • Hulk Hogan will be appearing - I don’t know exactly what this entails. I’m fairly certain TNA will linger far too long on the crowd’s response when Hogan comes out, though. I’ll say a solid four minutes. Hogan’s presence is effective in the sense that I am morbidly curious to see what will happen, I just can’t imagine anything that Hogan could do here that will have any positive long-term effect on TNA.
  • Tara will defend her Knockout title against ODB (They can’t just call it the TNA Women’s Championship because then several members of the Knockout roster wouldn’t be eligible to compete for it, one of whom happens to be in this match. That’s my theory, anyway.) - this is in no way an exciting, “Big Time” match. ODB is disgusting to the point of being difficult to look at – Jazz was a treat for the eyes, comparatively – and poor Victoria has already been thoroughly “TNA’d”, by which I mean she is somebody I used to find very interesting; but her new employer has used her so poorly and inconsistently that I no longer care. See also: Dudleys, The and T, Booker.
  • Taylor Wilde and Sarita will defend the Knockout Tag Titles against Hamada and Awesome Kong - This match doesn’t do a whole lot for me, either. I don’t support the idea of a Knockout tag division. I like Wilde and Sarita well enough (though I could do without their stupid implied HLA entrance move) and Hamada is one of my favorites in TNA right now. Her match against Daffney is my pick for Women’s Match of the Year. The less said about Kong, the better. The only way I’d pay to see her is in a Death Match against Khali, which would likely be the first of its kind to live up to the name.
  • There will be a Steel Cage Asylum match for the X-Division title – I am all for a multi-man exhibition of what should be TNA’s signature division for what should be TNA’s most important title. I am wholly against it being a stupid gimmick match. Let six of TNA’s best compete in a straight-forward elimination match. WWE has spent the last year killing the appeal of its Pay-Per-Views by making most of them some kind of gimmick-oriented crap. TNA should differentiate itself by focusing on wrestling – at least in the X-Division – and not goofy shit that distracts from it. My original complaint about WWE’s gimmick PPVs was that it stank of TNA’s over-gimmickry. Having said all of that, I can’t even remember what the fuck a “Steel Cage Asylum” is. I hope it’s the one where Bubba Ray flips the lights on and off while D-Von pretends to be electrocuted by the razor-sharp steel fence!
  • There will be surprises! – This from Russo and Hogan. We’ll discuss the scintillating possibilities next.
Here are a few things rumored to be occurring:
  • Rob Van Dam will show up –This is a good thing if he’s here to stay. If not, it’s as exciting but ultimately meaningless as his match on RAW was. I’d put the X title on him immediately if he’s sticking around.
  • Angelina Love will return –This is good only if Lacey Von Erich is on her way out. I actually find the trio of Love, Sky and Rayne pretty entertaining; but Von Erich is one of the biggest disasters in recent history. She has yet to display a skill, unless you count making everybody around you seem smarter as a skill. And if you do, then you must think that Randy Orton is one of the most skilled entertainers on the planet.
  • Sting will return –Fucking shit. TNA really is trying to become pro wrestling’s answer to On Golden Pond, aren’t they? I DON’T CARE ABOUT WHAT OLD PEOPLE ARE DOING! What is the official age at which people should cease to matter in an in-ring capacity? Forty-two. See, that really is the answer to everything. And life and the universe.
  • There will be a new look for the “Impact Zone” –This is absolutely critical. TNA looks more bush league now than they did when they were in the farm exhibition center, or whatever the place called “The Asylum” actually was. I know they can’t realistically do anything about the tiny space, but they have got to lose the set that looks like a 1980’s Nickelodeon game show. Also, the lasers have absolutely got to fucking go. Either that, or they need to just give up and end every episode of Impact with fireworks and Lee Greenwood’s embarrassing piece of exploitative shit, “Proud To Be An American”. Lasers were the shit back in 1984. Now they are just lame.
Off the top of my head, here are a few other changes I think TNA really needs to make as part of their “relaunch”:
  • Trim the fat. Their roster is entirely too large for two hours a week, and at this point TNA doesn’t need any more than that. They don’t manage that 120 minutes well as it is. Here are my cuts:
    • Abyss – I’m sorry. I know he’s classic TNA or something, but he’s just fucking boring. I haven’t cared what happens to this guy in a very long time. Actually, make that ever.
    • Bobby Lashley – Shit or get off the pot. He will never be effective for TNA unless he quits the MMA thing. We can’t just wait forever for Lashley to be relevant, and his wife is doing a shitty job of being interesting in the meantime.
    • Team 3-D – Also boring. I number them in the top three great tag teams of all time, but TNA has mishandled them so badly that I don’t care anymore. Heel, face, heel, face, heel; all in the space of like three weeks. Also, their turns have rarely made sense. One minute they’re kissing the fans’ asses, the next they hate them and never needed them, anyway.
    • Jesse Neal – This one isn’t even fair, considering how little time he’s had to do anything since his return, but that initial story with Rhino was so stupid and took so long to play out and had such a lame ending that I still hold it against him.
    • Robert Roode – I contend that the people who claim Robert Roode has “it” and is just a contract away from debuting on RAW and winning the World Heavyweight Title (or whichever one is on RAW right now. WWE isn’t doing so well at captivating me, either) are fucking retards. Robert Roode is like Bret Hart, only without the talent or boundless charisma. Seriously, Roode makes Lance Storm look like The Rock, personality-wise.
    • Rob Terry – Who the fuck is Rob Terry? Actually, I’m kidding. I know he’s the big British guy with the fucking idiot haircut, but you get my point.
    • Scott Steiner – It pains me to say this, but Steiner has got to go. I’m a huge fan of Steiner – even now – but he is old and irrelevant. He is not bringing anything to TNA that somebody younger and quicker can’t, and that should be the criteria for old guys.
    • Sting – He gets a special retirement angle with AJ before he goes, but he gots to go.
    • Suicide – I think this character was a great idea when they had a game to promote. Now, it sucks. Give Kazarian a chance to shine after he ditches Suicide, but boot him, too if he hasn’t figured out how to work a crowd yet.
    • Awesome Kong – The Human Concussion Machine goes. I can’t tolerate wrestlers who can’t or won’t protect their opponents.
    • Lacey Von Erich – Worthless.
    • ODB – Hideous mutant freak + not great in the ring = goodbye.
  • I’d also make some changes to some of the people who stay. Nothing serious, mostly just dropping old, dated gimmicks:
    • Desmond Wolfe – Drop the howl from his entrance music and refrain from any further lupine references. It’s just a name. I’m terrified TNA is going to make him a literal werewolf or something when The Wolfman comes out later this year. TNA does tape at Universal, after all. Maybe Chucky could show up, too. Or Robocop.
    • Stevie Richards – No more of this “Dr. Stevie” nonsense.
    • Jay Lethal – No more of this “Black Machismo” nonsense.
    • Kevin Nash – No more of this “still wrestling” nonsense. Nash can manage or work backstage or basically do whatever he wants, but he has no place in the ring.
    • Matt Morgan – I really liked Morgan at the end of his WWE run, but he has lost every bit of that appeal. I can’t stand him in TNA. I still think he has potential, though. He just needs to slow down and focus on not coming off like a douchebag (I mean an X-Pac douchebag, not a Jericho douchebag).
    • Mick Foley –Foley has nothing exciting left to offer in the ring. That is a sad truth, but a truth nonetheless. I’m not even sure he should remain an on-screen talent, just because he seems to cheapen his legacy with every storyline he’s involved in. There is no doubt that Foley could help guide younger talent, though. Even if only as TNA’s official financial advisor.
    • Raven – Same as Foley, except Raven will straight up tell you he doesn’t give a shit anymore. He might be useful backstage, but maybe not. I just love the jerk too much to cut him loose without exhausting every possibility.
    • Samoa Joe – Just be Samoa Joe. That’s enough.
    • Shark Boy – This is a tough one. If Dean Roll is willing to alter his gimmick enough to not be retarded, then you just redo the mask to look more like a standard wrestling hood and call him “Shark” or something. Sharky is a TNA classic and a good hand, so I hate to just get rid of him.
  • And some more general improvements:
    • Change the Impact theme. That song is so fucking bad my butthole puckers up every time it starts playing. I would be mortified if anybody ever heard me listening to that without knowing what it was. Just thinking about it makes me want to punch a kitten right now.
    • Calm Mike Tenay down. He is the play-by-play guy. He does not need to make up for Don West’s no-longer-present enthusiasm.
    • Get a four-sided ring. I thought the six-sided one was a good idea at first, but I was wrong.
    • Get rid of that backstage interview girl whose only settings are “confused” and “outraged”.
    • If it is at all possible, do not hold pay-per-views in Orlando. Image is going to be key for the new TNA, and PPVs need to be seen as different and special if people are going to shell out for them. It’s harder to justify paying money for an event that looks like it is in the same old setting.
Another sad rumor that I have no trouble believing is that our future holds a feud between the teams of Dixie Carter, Hulk Hogan and Kurt Angle (faces) and Mick Foley and Jeff Jarrett (heels). Fucking shit.
I suppose I should also address WWE’s response to TNA’s challenge. Surprisingly, there is one.
WWE has gone out of their way to obtain the hosting services of one Bret “The Hitman” Hart for tomorrow night’s RAW. Not only that, WWE has signed Hart to a short-term talent contract that apparently lasts at least through WrestleMania. Now, the timing of this may be pure coincidence; as Hart has been on the WWE radar for a return for quite some time now. It does seem like a bit more, though, given that it all went through within weeks of TNA’s announcement of their live, Hogan-infused show for the 4th.
Also making Hart’s presence intriguing is Shawn Michael’s promise to Vince McMahon that “Only good things will happen” if Vince would just let Hart host the show. Add to that DX defending the tag titles against JeriShow, Kofi versus Orton and NO JOHN CENA!!!!! and you get a show that I’ll be watching as soon as Impact is over. I’d hate to have to actually choose tomorrow night, but if I had to I’d go with…
RAW is more likely to be a good show. Impact is more likely to be a chaotic, groan-inducing mess. WWE is going to be around for a long, long time putting on memorable (and not-so-memorable) shows that may be even better than tomorrow’s RAW. TNA may only get this one opportunity to really shine or fuck up the world.
I guess I’d have to pick TNA. It really is a make-or-break night for them, regardless of how much everybody but Hogan is downplaying it. It will show if they really are still capable of putting on an amazing, compelling show or if they truly have lost whatever it was that made them special in the first place. I think a lot of TNA fans might be in the frame of mind I am in: This is it. If they can’t get their shit together to go up against RAW, then they sure as hell aren’t going to be able to do it right for any significant amount of time in the future. I’m not looking for TNA to crush WWE in the ratings or anything ridiculous like wheeling out The Rock, I’ll just be satisfied (and surprised) if I can sit back and say, “Wow, that was actually really good” when it’s over.
All I want is to have TNA make me eat my words of doubt. If they do, you can bet I’ll be here to write about how awesome they are.
Note: I just checked LordsofPain.net again to see if there was any new info. That place cracks me up. One of their headlines is “Kelly Kelly Desirable”. Way to go, guys. That’s about as creative and insightful as “Algebra Confusing”.
-Phantom

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