By Will Pruett
TNA is onto something. This something isn't Dixie Carter. It isn't even Magnus (who is great). It isn't A.J. Styles suddenly returning. The something is the undercard. TNA has invested time and storytelling ability in the undercard of their roster.
As I watched this show, it seemed like everyone had a story going on. Whether those stories are amazing or disappointing, they are still stories. No moment of television seemed wasted. As TNA is evolving their roster and attempting to create a compelling wrestling show without a soaring budget, they are investing themselves in new talent. They are taking what they have, be it good or bad, and trying to make the most of it.
In some places, it is working really well. Ethan Carter III is set up for a pseudo-pay-per-view match with Sting in two weeks. His character is well-defined. He has one of the best entrances in all of wrestling (and probably the best in TNA). He has been given consistent mic time to establish who he is. EC3 has gone from debut to an upper-mid-card wrestler in less than three months.
With other gimmicks, time will be the ultimate test. I was not impressed by Samuel Shaw on this show. He had his re-debut match and it was too much schtick for me. He is playing the American Psycho-esque character with a very heavy hand. Shaw traded in his board shorts for khakis, but neither really fit a wrestler. His act right now seems like a 21st century callback to the occupational gimmicks of WWE in 1995.
Even when looking at the acts I'm not enjoying, they are being integrated into stories. They aren't being put out in the ring without direction and asked to fill time. The creative effort in TNA is really impressing me. There are still problems, but the overall direction is positive. Now, if only we could get Dixie Carter's mic shut off.
Picking up the pieces:
- Bobby Roode and Kurt Angle's ongoing feud doesn't feel as important as it did a few months ago. Roode tried to ratchet up the intensity and the emotion standing in the ring with Angle, but it appeared artificial.
- The stipulation concerning Angle and the TNA Hall of Fame doesn't excite me. This part of the feud has been disappointing since Angle turned down the induction at Bound for Glory. While other elements have worked, this never clicked.
- I hope the blowoff for Roode vs. Angle is the Genesis cage match. They have built a nice feud, but it is time for it to end.
- Rockstar Spud is a cartoon character. He is fine in Dixie Carter segments, where characters are drawn in a broad way. He is really out of place when inserted into a serious feud. Spud interrupting the serious Angle and Roode segment was awkward.
- Speaking of awkward and out of place, Lei'D Tapa is both. The hair, makeup, and costume departments in TNA are making her look absurd. Her acting doesn't help things. Tapa is not being given a chance to get over, because it's hard not to laugh when she's on screen.
- Gail Kim vs. Madison Rayne was clunky, but the story was there. Madison helps the division and a shot at Kim (and another match between these two) should help her get her wrestling legs back under her.
- The drama between Gunner and James Storm intersecting with Angle and Roode's tag match was nice. Gunner is being set up as a major star in TNA and the Kurt Angle stamp of approval helps him.
- Chris Sabin regaining the X Division Championship is probably the best move, but it didn't impress me. Sabin is clicking as a heel, but I wish a real division could be established here. His match against Austin Aries felt like the least important on the show.
- The finish was Sabin vs. Aries made Aries look ridiculous. He bought into an obvious heel play to distract him while watching the heel set it up. Aries, as a character, should be smarter than this.
- Norv Fernum was a nice comedy jobber for EC3, but he didn't quite fit was Shaw needed. He is a good performer, but this is an issue.
- The tease of a Beer Money reunion proved to be more compelling than an actual Beer Money reunion.
- James Storm and Gunner are in shades of grey mode right now instead of being clear cut characters. It works for me. I would like to see Storm ultimately come out of this as a heel, since he is quite stale.
- Not to harp on Storm too much, but he could also stand to lose some weight. He is looking more and more like Braden Walker these days.
- Sting and EC3 had a nice exchange. I'm excited to see what they put together in the ring for Genesis.
- Speaking of Genesis, TNA did a nice job building up Genesis with Sting vs. EC3, Roode vs. Angle in a cage, and more. This should be a fun show.
- The tease of burning Joseph Park was not exciting for me.
- Why did Ken Anderson wait for his music to play before running out? A man was almost set on fire and he was (presumably) screaming at DJ Zema Ion (who I assume actually plays the music backstage so TNA can save a little cash) to play his music. Some wrestling tropes make almost no sense and this was one of them.
- Bully Ray's current act doesn't really interest me. I get the idea behind it and appreciate the effort to evolve, but I can't say I'm compelled.
- The first part of the coronation ceremony felt like five minutes of content stretched into fifteen. The second part would have been far more effective without a mic in Dixie Carter's hand.
- A.J. Styles' return was well done, but I expected it a couple weeks ago. TNA showed some nice patience, but then appeared to rush to setting a title vs. title match. Why not have A.J. return to TV last week for another week of hype?
This show was well-constructed and fun to watch. TNA is making some really nice strides as a wrestling promotion. There are some growing pains as they approach the tasks in front of them, but said pains can be shaken off. The creative effort in TNA is currently impressing me.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me and interact on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
Pruett's Pause: TNA Impact Wrestling - A story for every moment and a moment for every story, A.J. Styles returns to set up a Champion vs. Champion match with Magnus, and more!
Jan 3, 2014 - 04:32 PM
Jan 3, 2014 - 04:32 PM
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