Pruett's Pause: TNA Impact Wrestling - A eulogy for the Bound for Glory Series, A.J. Styles stands alone again (naturally) and rambles, Hulk Hogan fails at coherence, and more!
By Will Pruett
Two years ago, TNA introduced a tournament to crown a number one contender going into Bound for Glory. It came one year after they had a full tournament to crown a new champion (even though the current champion returned on the same night a new champion was crowned). This was TNA's way of delivering a major build to their biggest show of the year.
Two years ago, the Bound for Glory Series was a mess. The concept was ill defined. The wrestlers had a random number of matches and completely random opponents, seemingly based on house show lineups. The points leader in the series was a poor wrestler at best, so he was eliminated via a worked injury to make up for his lack of talent. It just didn't work. Even the endgame of the tournament was up in the air until the night it finally ended at No Surrender 2011. This was a concept in need of help.
Last year, the tournament played out in a perfectly logical and reasonable way. Some bigger matches worth more points were thrown in to cause dramatic shifts in the series, but it was intricately booked and cheap tricks were not used to accomplish the overall tournament goals. TNA seemed to have taken coal and made a diamond of true creative success. I applauded the tournament and the concept on general. It looked like TNA had found a fun way to excite people about Bound for Glory.
This year, my hopes were high (admittedly too high) for this concept. While they had figured out the basic structure last year, I had hoped for a little more storytelling with each person in the tournament this year. There are so many opportunities to make all 12 competitors stand out and be noticed as they wrestled every other wrestler, I hopes for TNA to take advantage of some of them. Sadly, they didn't. They also took a step back as far as the evenness and the lack of randomness in the tournament. Instead of everyone fighting every other wrestler, wrestlers had a limited number of matches against seemingly random opponents for points.
I honestly believe efforts were made this year to make the tournament make sense, but it jut wasn't possible. TNA ran fewer house shows this year than they did last year. There were fewer opportunities for these matches to occur. Also, a year ago, they were taping Impact on a live weekly basis. This year, TNA, due to budget constraints, is running double tapings, also allowing for fewer matches to occur. There was an attempt made, but it just wasn't enough.
This year's Bound for Glory Series has to be seen as a creative failure, but I find it hard to blame the creative team themselves. Circumstance forced this failure on them. The true failure was going with this concept again with so little time to accomplish it. It could have been modified (perhaps eight men in the series instead of twelve). It could have been explained better (the true rules for this year didn't come out at any point). It could have been changed into a standard tournament (easier to understand and fan interaction with brackets would be fun). So many things could have gone differently.
While I don't like to look at wrestling purely this way, one must look at the ratings for the Bound for Glory Series. In the three years it has been happening, it hasn't caused any movement. No one is tuning into TNA to see what happens next in the series. On top of being a creative failure, the series has been a monetary failure for TNA as well.
This concept shouldn't see the light of day again. Even when it was perfectly and logically booked to make sense, the series didn't help TNA in a noticeable way. As much as I enjoyed it and believed it could be a success, both the booking and the numbers prove I was wrong. Goodbye, Bound for Glory Series.
Picking up the pieces:
- This show, more than any in recent memory, felt very random. It was one of the first shows since Vince Russo stopped booking TNA that truly felt Russo-esque. It had worked shoots, incoherent promos, and inconsequential matches with odd finishes.
- The opening Aces and Eights promo worked, in a way, to establish the dissension within the group. If the planned story is the group imploding instead of ultimately being defeated, I believe a mistake is being made. Anderson and Bully Ray shouldn't break the Aces and Eights, as babyface force should.
- Tito Ortiz now has his own leather vest. Will he have to wear it while MMA fighting? I hope so.
- I loved being told this was "Must Win Thursday" even though the final statement from Hulk Hogan would ultimately make it not-so-must-win.
- Is someone in TNA afraid of asking wrestlers to tape a second take when a pre-taped promo goes awry? While Jeff Hardy talked about making Samoa Joe tap out, he was shown pinning Joe. Why not ask Hardy to tape it again?
- There was an attempt to make the matches tonight mean a lot, but nothing felt super consequential. Hardy and Kazarian had a decent match together, but it felt very basic.
- The Aces and Eights voted on wearing leather vests, the awful hairstyles of Bischoff and Brisco, and whether to be a motorcycle gang or a book club. If only Knux had voted book club, we would see Bully Ray hitting other wrestlers with The Sun Also Rises and The Joy Luck Club instead of a hammer.
- Speaking of creative being in a bad situation, the Knockouts Division is severely limiting them. With Taryn Terrell out of action, they are leaning on ODB as their lead babyface. ODB's bit is tired and while fans may cheer her flask and breast hitting, it really doesn't excite me as a fan. Gail Kim is in a tough situation trying to get all of this over as well.
- Gail Kim vs. ODB was an okay two out of three falls match. I'm interested to see what Mickie James does going into Bound for Glory, because her current character deserves something great.
- Chris Sabin went from TNA World Champion two weeks ago to being mentioned in a Knockouts storyline this week. Is anyone else concerned with Sabin's trajectory? Being paired onscreen with Velvet Sky could get pretty awkward.
- Instead of seeing the heels get what is coming to them, we were simply told about it. The entire story with Roode, Daniels, and Kazarian attempting to sabotage the series was not very effective, especially with the series ending in this rushed manner.
- I'm glad Rampage Jackson responded to being hit with a hammer. It would be weird not to.
- A.J. Styles officially wins the award for worst worked shoot promo of the year. This was odd, rambling, and not very interesting. Last year, TNA tried to turn Austin Aries with a weird worked shoot the week before Bound for Glory. This year, they are trying to make A.J. Styles a hero with the same tactic. It was poorly constructed and didn't have a great point. Styles doesn't have the charisma to pull this kind of thing off.
- I'm not saying everything A.J. said was bad. I am saying the tactic used to deliver the message was ineffective.
- It's odd to have Styles and Aries both doing a gimmick where they claim to stand alone.
- Styles vs. Roode was a good match with a finish making little sense. Styles was attempting to make Roode tap for the entire match, but seemed perfectly satisfied with himself when he pinned Roode. Given that a pinfall win was only worth seven points and Styles needed ten, this was especially bad.
- Seriously, A.J. Styles vowed to win the BFGS, then celebrated, even though he had just assured his loss in it. Sure, Hogan changed this later in the night, but Styles looks like an idiot.
- My new nickname for Styles: The Phenomenally Lonely A.J. Styles.
- Christopher Daniels and Austin Aries had a very good match together with a spot in the BFGS final four on the line. This was excellent work from these two wrestlers.
- I don't know why Hulk Hogan was in the main event segment of the show or who is supposed to get over by having him be the lead babyface, but all of these things were happening. Hogan seemed absolutely ridiculously out of his mind and unable to make a coherent announcement.
- The addition of a Gauntlet Match next week for 20 BFGS points makes almost every match on this show meaningless. All but two competitors not currently in the final four can now make it in. Most of them can now come in first place. I don't dislike the idea of a closing gauntlet, but making it a surprise match hurts.
- Hogan's announcement of a title match between Sting and Bully Ray next week was also an incoherent moment. I know mistakes happen, but TNA usually records their shows an hour ahead in a live-to-tape way. I know it would have hurt the crowd response, but this was another moment where we needed a take two. It's a TV taping for a scripted drama. Things like this are okay. Do the second take.
I'm not purposefully trying to be completely negative. I enjoy professional wrestling and I have been quite positive about TNA, the Bound for Glory Series, and even the Aces and Eights vs. Main Event Mafia story in the past. This show was really difficult to watch. It took so much of what TNA could have had working for it and distorted it. This isn't a hole TNA can't make it's way out of, but it is a deep one.
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.
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