Monday, December 18, 2006

TNA: 2006 Review and 2007 Preview

2006 was the best of times and the worst of times for TNA Wrestling. On the plus side, it was the year when the promotion finally completed the infrastructure for sustainable success. Unfortunately, the company’s booking direction went from mediocre from awful, and the inclusion of Vince Russo on the creative team is harmful enough to outweigh a lot of the other positives the company has going for it.

TNA has built a foundation for potential success slowly but surely. The current ownership group is invested in the company. They have a major television station behind them, and a prime time slot. The talent roster is a strength. TNA has over time been able to develop a skilled roster, and has added some major names to supplement that group. Most importantly TNA added a potential major difference maker in Kurt Angle, who should have been able to help draw away WWE fans. All of these are very positive signs for a company that for most of its existence has operated on tenuous footing.

However, TNA for all its strengths has lacked vision. It has all the bona fides one would want from a challenger to WWE, but that is ultimately hollow without that vision. TNA’s direction was problematic prior to Vince Russo. TNA didn’t offer a genuinely alternative product to WWE, and the promotion had way too much focus on Jeff Jarrett. Still, that was a golden period relative to the product since Russo took over.

Any borderline competent individual with knowledge of professional wrestling could have told TNA decision makers what an awful idea it was to bring in Vince Russo. Few individuals in wrestling history have done more to destroy the business through sheer stupidity. All the Russo hallmarks are there again. The promotion is going through storylines way too quickly, with little focus on internal logic. Wrestlers aren’t protected, and match results are devalued. Tag teams are broken up, crazy stipulation matches are given away, and turns are constant. It is hard to keep up with and care about the promotion even if you watch every week.

These problems are most clear when it comes to the booking of Kurt Angle. Angle should have been a savior for the promotion. Protecting him and making him feel important shouldn’t have been that much of a challenge. Yet, less than a couple months into his TNA tenure he has wrestled numerous matches and already been beaten. His feud with Samoa Joe should have been a drawn out and monumental feud, and sadly it has already practically run its course. There is no patience or planning. Russo’s booking operates like a simulator where you plug in 8,000 possibilities and simply shoot out feuds and matches with no rhyme or reason. That is not the way to build a promotion.

Thus, the key to TNA success in 2007 is first and foremost dumping Russo. The promotion will simply not grow with Russo in a prominent creative position. TNA needs to present a more serious product with meaningful match results, not go into a more hyperactive mode than WWE. The good news is that the company has assets for a successful 2007. It just has to act quickly before the self-destructive booking takes its toll.

Other Notes for 2007:

-Perhaps the biggest impact of Kurt Angle’s signing is the effect it could potentially have on other WWE stars when their contracts are up. Most WWE wrestlers cannot be terribly pleased with the promotion, and if TNA can convince them that it is a legitimate competitor it will be able to draw them away. Angle suggests TNA is legitimate, as do signings like Christian Cage and Sting. RobVan Dam or Rey Mysterio would be a huge addition to the roster. TNA can begin to convince wrestling fans that WWE wrestlers are leaving for TNA, not that TNA is taking WWE outcasts. That’s an important distinction.

-TNA needs to use the right guys in the right slots. The VKM idea isn’t a bad one. Challenging Vince McMahon and WWE rallies the fan base and challenges what WWE is doing. However, that challenge should not be in the form of sophomoric silliness. That should be the critique itself. Moreover, the challenge needs to be made by people that are credible and cool. The James Gang is yesterday’s news. The wrestlers that challenge WWE represent TNA. If the TNA representatives are uncool, TNA is uncool. Thus, that spot needs to be occupied by someone more like Kurt Angle. The same logic applies to the recent MLB angle.

-Paul Heyman may or may not be a booking answer in 2007. He sure hasn’t shown much as a booker since 1998 or so. But he has a greater chance of making a positive impact than most, and TNA should consider him if WWE lets him go. Jim Cornette is another natural choice given his understanding of basic wrestling that has really been lost in recent years. An outside the box choice would be Konnan, who had great success in Mexico and understands the business very well. In any event, TNA would benefit from one booker rather than a committee, because less ideas would be out there and the TV shows would feel less cluttered.

-Senshi should be added to LAX. While Hernandez has performed well this year, he’s still better off in a bodyguard role. Konnan is better off as a pure mouthpiece, and not having to get involved in the physical action. Senshi and Homicide as a tag team could do great things, and everyone in the group would be slotted in their ideal role. The current members have expressed interest in this, and it’s a good idea. B-Boy would also fit in the group perfectly if they have other ideas for Senshi.

Tomorrow: WWE 2006 Review and 2007 Preview
Wednesday: UFC 2006 Review and 2007 Preview
Thursday: Observer Awards Ballot
(all written and ready to go)


Blogger Dave Ling & Franchise said...

If TNA can go a full calendar year without putting the strap back on Jarrett that would make for an ideal 2007.

Sure, the Russo booking has been shaky at best but an important thing with wrestling is that good in-ring work can conquer bad booking in most cases. Angle/Joe, although rushed has been very good, thus I'm not really mad that their feud might only have one more PPV match in their run at this point, which can be renewed when you put the Title in between the two.

If TNA can just keep the title off Jarrett in 2007 then they are almost a lock be seen as a fresh alternative who let new stars rise. RVD is a near mortal lock to be in TNA in 2007 so a bunch of stars the WWE had and wouldn't let in the title picture will be featured in TNA... RVD, Angle, Christian, and then an infusion of fresh TNA talent like Joe and Abyss just makes TNA more watchable.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous todd martin said...

I disagree with you Dave on a fundamental level. I don't think good wrestling can conquer bad booking. I think good booking can conquer bad wrestling, but not the other way around. Good wrestling can help good booking a lot, but I think the overarching story is the most important thing, and without a good story, good matches don't mean anything. That's just my philosophy, of course.

RVD would certainly help though.

9:12 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home