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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why TNA Still Matters

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve written quite a few items in support of TNA (hey, here’s one from almost four years ago from this very blog). Throughout its various and sundry phases of expansion, contraction, innovation, and stagnancy, I’ve tried to stay optimistic for the sake of the business itself because, in my mind, the more wrestling that’s out there, the better it is, whether you’re a wrestler, a fan, a concession vendor, or a writer for the world’s most respected wrestling magazine. That’s not to say that people should settle for a substandard product either. And these days, TNA is anything but substandard. In fact, as hesitant as I am to once again publicly get behind TNA’s new direction, I’m going to do it again because TNA still matters. And it’s the efforts of some of their brightest stars that give me more enthusiasm than ever that something positive is going on with the company. Here are a few of my favorite examples:

Magnus: He’s the perfect face for the new incarnation of TNA and Impact Wrestling. A solid performer not just with regard to his in-ring skills and appearance, but also with an ability to tell a story with what he says and what he doesn’t say. Throughout the Bound For Glory tournament and his break from the Main Event Mafia, it was the omnipresent feeling that Magnus was holding back his emotions and sentiments that put him in a great position for a credible turn to the dark side. Now that he has the brass ring, there’s still a sense that Magnus isn’t really happy with the idea that he’s at the beck and call of the Carter clan. How he chooses to resolve his inner conflicts remains to be seen.

MVP: It’s true that just about anybody without a tremendous amount of baggage in the business (Hogan, Bischoff, Russo, et al) could’ve stepped into the “secret investor” role and brought some intrigue to the mix, but MVP really offers a lot in his new gig with TNA. I admit that I was skeptical at first, but it didn’t take long for me to change my tune. He’s a gifted talker, a seasoned grappler, and he has the kind of charisma that grabs fans’ interest and sustains it. It’s especially encouraging that just a couple of weeks into this stint, MVP has worked every angle of his new character to perfection.

Rockstar Spud and Ethan Carter: Early on, I just couldn’t stand these guys. Every time either dude was on the screen, I had to fight the urge to punch my TV screen. Then it hit me: I was seeing them through the eyes of a fan. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what the realization meant to me is that they were doing their job extremely well. They were putting everything they had into making the audience hate them, and it was absolutely working. Spud and EC3 are excellent buttresses to Dixie’s credibility as a bad guy, because where her credibility as a performer often falters, they can step in without hesitation and draw the ire of fans on her behalf. That’s how you know they’re real professionals.

Willow: It’s nice to see that Jeff Hardy wasn’t in the exodus of those leaving TNA in pursuit of greener pastures (and some old glory). When the new “Willow” promo aired during last week’s show, social media bubbled over with folks complaining that Hardy’s character was a ripoff of The Wyatt Family, Back Reign, and Spider-Man foe Electro. A 1.82 second search on Google will educate even the snarkiest fans, revealing that Willow has been around for a while, though. Maybe Hardy’s dusting off this persona off provide a change of scenery for his longtime fans. Either way, it’s something different for TNA. Three cheers for that.

Ken Anderson and Bully Ray: According to the official line from Impact Wrestling, their feud ended last week with the casket match. But I wouldn’t mind if it went a few more months. The dramatic side of the rivalry went a little too far when Bully threatened Anderson’s newborn twins. That was just a little too gratuitous for my liking. But their in-ring meetings were classic throwdowns, and I wouldn't mind seeing them mix it up a few more times.

There’s a lot more stuff to crow about with TNA right now. The BroMans are on fire, the company has added Alpha Female and Santana Garrett to the Knockouts roster, and guys like Chris Sabin and Bobby Roode are giving us some of the best “must watch” backstage moments from week to week. I’d like to see some more indy folks brought in, even just for short-term spots on television. Midwest brawler “Farmer” Billy Hills or southerner Barry Wolf, the latter of whom was gunning for a TNA spot in last year's Gut Check Challenge, are the kind of guys that I’d love to see on TV mixing it up with TNA’s mainstays. The fact is, it’s a big world out there and TNA doesn’t have to hand out a big ol’ buttload of long-term contracts to keep its talent pool and storylines fresh.

None of my enthusiasm is meant to say that TNA is over the hump with regard to finances, ratings, and any anything else that’s going on backstage and in their front office. It is worth noting, however, that I’ve heard from a number of TNA’s top-tier guys that, by and large, they’re very happy with how things are going in the company and that the nonstop reports of TNA’s imminent demise are largely fictional. This doesn’t mean that TNA is close to being or will ever be a credible competitor to WWE’s spot as the industry leader. But as long as they’re alive, accessible, and entertaining, it’s worth the time and attention of wrestling fans to hang in there and enjoy what they’re bringing to the table.

Mike Bessler
PWI Contributing Writer
@OfficialPWI Contributor


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