Last year was a season of change in TNA. Some wrestlers saw their stock rise to new heights, such as former Beer Money tag partners James Storm and Bobby Roode, while others have seemingly fallen off the map entirely, such as Ken Anderson and Brian Kendrick.
There were some great matches, some booking decisions that defied logic (remember when the TV title was around the waist of Booker T or A.J. Styles), talent departures, controversy and more action, both in and out of the ring, than one could ever hope for from wrestling's second promotion.
However, from a fan perspective, I still feel as though TNA simply isn't where it could be. This company has been one of limitless potential since its inception.
Perhaps Spike TV doesn't reach enough homes for the ratings to tell the full story. Perhaps TNA simply has too much competition in a world where the choices in television programming now dwarf the number of choices that most people had back in the Attitude Era.
Regardless of the reasons, issues or backstage politics and the fact that TNA still has a ton of room for improvement leaves me both frustrated and excited about their product. While the WWE probably won't get any bigger for a long time, if ever, TNA still has the talent and the television presence to make things happen.
Perhaps then it's the New Year's holiday that makes me so optimistic for TNA in 2012. It is a time for reflection on the past year, as well as the promise that the next can be even better.
As I attempt to make my 2012 better than 2011 by eating better, working out each day and trying to lose that holiday baggage, I look to TNA, whose first show of the new year airs tonight on Spike TV.
I see several resolutions that they could make to better themselves in the next 365 days. Without further ado, let's take a look at what I believe TNA's 2012 New Year's resolutions should be going forward.
I didn't always hate Immortal.
The idea of a super-faction, comprised of Fourtune and Immortal, with Jeff Hardy as the surprising heel-turned figurehead and the "Immortal" Hulk Hogan as the leader was intriguing.
Sure, I would've done a few things differently, but given that the original idea was to reunite the Main Event Mafia before Kevin Nash and Booker T jumped ship to the WWE, I thought that their second attempt at a big surprise went off pretty well.
It wasn't long after however, that the wheels came off the bus. Hardy was gone, and Fourtune pulled away from Immortal almost as quickly as they had joined them. Then, at Bound For Glory, the "Immortal" part of Immortal turned face and left the group as well.
In fact, the group completely lost power in the company at that event, and now Eric Bischoff, the evil genius who, along with Hogan orchestrated the TNA takeover by his rogue faction is now left with Ric Flair, who's basically incapable of wrestling anymore, Gunner, Bully Ray and Scott Steiner (Jeff Jarrett and wife Karen Jarrett are also a part of the group, but are currently "fired" aka working for TNA in India).
So that's it. Three wrestlers, an icon that's basically a manager now and a figurehead with zero on-air stroke anymore.
When I say that Immortal is a "bad" stable, I don't mean that because it's a group comprised of heels. I mean that this faction is simply unwatchable now. Three wrestlers, really? Why even bother with this group anymore?
TNA, it's time to take this sick animal out to the shed and end its pain and suffering once and for all. Resolve to write this faction out of existence and find something new for its few remaining members as soon as possible.
TNA has one of the best rosters it's had in some time now.
While there are a lot of men and women that I can see a bright future for either in the short term or long term, there are others that simply bring the show to a grinding halt with their lack of mic skills, their bad gimmick, or most importantly, their mediocre wrestling ability.
Here now are the individuals that I'd resolve to show the door to in 2012:
Matt Barela can't be blamed for the fact that TNA has basically used him in Homicide's role in what essentially amounts to LAX 2.0.
Sure, he's 37 and they have him pigeonholed in to a bad Mexican gangsta stereotype which is honestly painful to watch most of the time, but unlike Homicide, who I'd personally love to see in TNA again, Anarquia's wrestling skills simply don't lead me to believe that the crowd would care about him if the Mexican America didn't have the anti-American angle.
Another pretty obvious one here.
TNA wanted this guy to succeed so badly and yet he's failed to impress everyone at each and every turn.
The former muscle of the British Invasion turned Immortal lackey has now been reduced to a "bouncer" type of role for Robbie E in what must be the most pathetic comparison to Diesel/HBK I've ever seen.
Seriously TNA, do this guy a favor and either get this guy to OVW for an extended period of time (at least until he learns how to move in the ring and wrestle a compelling match) or send him packing.
Look, I loved Hogan in the '80s and early '90s as the guy that body-slammed Andre the Giant, one half of the Mega Powers, the NWO in the late '90s, etc.
But now, I hate to say it when his wife has taken so much from him already, but I honestly don't find this guy compelling anymore.
It makes me feel bad for the guy when I see him wrestle because his back is so completely messed up. I don't want to see one of my favorite wrestlers growing up do this to himself anymore.
I also don't want to see him as an on-air character anymore.
He played the "heel-turn" card and now it's done and over with. So what's left?
Hogan as a face?
What can he do that Sting can't?
Sting's the commissioner of Impact Wrestling, so if Hogan's not in a position of authority, what does he do?
Does he come in and save Garrett Bischoff from the clutches of his evil father? I honestly couldn't think of a bigger waste of both his time and the fans time as well.
Hogan might be a draw for TNA, but he doesn't draw me in anymore and I'm sure that's the case with a lot of wrestling fans once they put nostalgia aside and think about program quality now and in the future.
As far as behind the scenes work is concerned, Hogan's seems to be even less helpful to the company if rumors are to be believed.
Here are a few things I take issue with in regards to Hulk:
- His constant Twitter skirmishes with talent like AJ Styles.
- His burial of Robert Roode at Bound for Glory, rendering the whole BFG tournament a complete waste of time.
- His many (and I mean MANY) failed attempts to bring in his cronies and get them over.
These should show upper management that this guy has neither the in-ring ability or behind the scenes instincts to take this company where it needs to be.
I hate to sound so terse, but give the guy a grand send off and move forward.
It seems like an old refrain for long-time TNA fans.
"Bring back the X-Division!"
As if it went somewhere. Of course, it hasn't disappeared entirely, as evinced by the division's ultra-charismatic champion, Austin Aries. Call me crazy, but this guy has Chris Jericho levels of potential.
Back in WCW and early on in the WWE, Jericho had the silly top-head ponytail, which I suppose could be comparable to Aries' inexplicable use of a pink feather vest that he wears to the ring.
However, while Jericho immediately blossomed in to one of the WWE's biggest stars, A Double still has a long way to go and a ton of upward momentum. The X-Division can only be better for having this man as its figurehead for now.
The only problem, however, is the fact that the X-Division is Austin Aries right now.
Kid Kash has filled in admirably as the veteran heel, and he's shown that he definitely still has the talent to be competitive in this division, but where are all of the other talents?
Though Zema Ion finally seems to be getting some time, Jesse Sorensen and Anthony Nese are as vanilla as it comes and Mark Haskins might as well put his face on a milk carton.
That's it. That's your Impact X-Division; the crown jewel of TNA Wrestling and what separates Dixie Carter's company from Vince McMahon's.
Are you kidding me?
Where are Jay Lethal, Sanjay Dutt, Petey Williams, Elix Skipper and the legion of other risk-takers that made X-Division matches such a thrill to behold night in and night out?
Given the talent pool, and how green some of those talents are, the X-Division honestly looks like a low-card title for curtain-jerk matches.
For 2012, TNA needs to resolve to build this division up again.
Instead of having Jeff Hardy feud for the World Title, why not put him in a protracted feud with Austin Aries for the X strap?
Or how about Shannon Moore, who lost his tag partner and doesn't seem to have a whole lot going on lately?
Or Christopher Daniels, who seems to be wasting away in an on again, off again "feud" with Rob Van Dam?
Or here's a crazy idea, why not put Rob Van Dam in the X Division?
Make the X Division a place where main-eventers of a certain style can transfer back and forth between the world title picture and a title picture that pits them against faster-paced wrestlers.
TNA needs to make their title belts more desirable and the only way to do that is by having main event-caliber talent compete for them. This elevates the lower level talent and the belts as well, and makes it appear as though anyone on the TNA roster can win a match and put on a great show.
But taking a few main event level wrestlers and making them X-Division stars will not take this division to the next level single-handedly.
TNA must also find something for Jesse Sorensen and Anthony Nese. Give them gimmicks beyond having one of them hold a football and having the other one... Exist.
Oh, and where is Alex Shelley? Is he injured? Here's hoping that the Motor City Machine Guns can return with a bang in 2012.
Furthermore, TNA must go outside of the company and bring in some new talents.
The second (I mean the SECOND) that Jack Evans contract is up with AAA, Dixie Carter needs to be on the phone with him, contract in hand, to get this guy signed.
Other names out there include several former TNA employees (those that they haven't burned bridges with, of course).
I'm sure that there are many other talents, either in OVW or on the Indy circuit that could be used as well.
In case you don't recognize the one on the right, that's Angelina Love. She's a wrestler in TNA's Knockout Division. She's been champion of that Division on multiple occasions.
You wouldn't know it though, as she's been used sparingly over the last few months and was basically Winter's lackey before that. Had you only started watching TNA six months ago, you'd think she was one of the bottom feeders in the Impact fish tank.
Talk about a heel turn gone wrong.
The woman that was once one of the faces of one of the best women's wrestling divisions in the world, and the leader of one of the best women's factions in wrestling history (note that I said one of, not THE best by any means) has been rendered anonymous by TNA creative.
As for Velvet Sky, the fans are completely and utterly enamored with her, more so than Gail Kim or Mickie James, who seem to appear on every single episode of Impact regardless of which women are in the current month's angle.
There are several rumors/theories as to why she's never been given the KO Title and a real chance to run with it.
This is my issue with the Knockouts Division, though:
It's not the lack of talent, as they have some of the best, most beautiful female wrestlers in the world.
Sure, TNA couldn't find anything to do with Melissa Anderson (AKA Cheerleader Melissa, AKA Alissa Flash, AKA Raisha Saeed) once Awesome Kong left, which is flat out mind-boggling given her look and her level of in-ring skill.
However, there are currently over a dozen good, solid female wrestlers in TNA.
It's highly probable that they'll be adding another one soon, though former WWE Diva Melina currently denies it.
The real fly in the Knockouts ointment, as is usually the case in TNA, in the booking.
TNA is never more uneven in their booking than they are when it comes to the ladies.
They either have one mass lady-fight or lady scene (i.e. the car wash), or they have one feud between two or three women, where those talents are crammed down fans' throats for a month or two, before returning to obscurity.
Sure, other women will appear here and there.
ODB was recently teaming with Eric Young in what could've turned in to a rather humorous angle for the two of them.
But give her an actual one on one feud with someone? Sorry, that would take time away from Gail Kim and Mickie James, or Madison Rayne and Tara, depending on which month of the year it is.
TNA could have two teams feuding over the tag belts, but instead chose to saddle the pink titles with Rayne and Kim.
Why not have TNT feud with Rosita and Sarita, who are both talented (extremely talented in the case with Sarita), both gorgeous, but are basically used as arm candy?
In short, TNA fans love the Knockouts Division.
In 2012, TNA creative needs to find more ways to get these women on TV and not in a "one feud each month" kind of a way and definitely not in a "throw 10 women in to a fetish match" kind of a way.
Give them storylines, keep them fresh and current.
The fans will only appreciate them that much more if we're not inundated with a few of them at the expense of the rest.
On the first page of this article, I mentioned that some wrestlers such as Bobby Roode and James Storm, had seen their stocks rise in 2011.
Resolution No. 5 is dedicated to those whose stock went in the other direction.
These are legit talents that have been fun to watch in the past, but for whatever reason, TNA seems to have either put them on the back burner, slowly drying out in mediocre tag teams, or they've been poured out entirely, stuck to the floor of the company.
I would ask that in 2012, TNA resolve to recognize the main-event level talent of these wrestlers and find some way to bring them along, whether by way of new gimmicks, more coaching on the mic and/or better feuds.
These guys should be on TV as much as possible:
I figured that I'd make my first choice the most controversial (because Sleazy E says it creates cash).
But in all seriousness, Chris Parks is a highly skilled big man who doesn't need a faux-Kane/Mankind gimmick to show off his solid move-set and in-ring ability.
Sure, he's got the choke slam, the electric chair drop and the black hole slam, but Abyss could be so much more than those three moves and while he sits, mired in a "feud" with the remnants of Immortal, I'd love to see TNA give him something new.
Disagree with the first one all you want, this one is nearly irrefutable.
A.J. Styles is the only Grand Slam Champion in TNA history.
He's fast, he's innovative and he's capable of putting on a five-star match every time he's out there.
So why is he in a tag team with Frankie Kazarian, presumably getting ready to be fed to Matt Morgan and Crimson?
Styles' mic skills might hold him back a little, but TNA needs to find a way to get this guy to the top, permanently.
No more putting the title on him, only to have him return to mid-card status.
This guy should be the figurehead of the company, not Jeff Hardy.
Can someone honestly explain what happened to this guy?
Really, that's not a rhetorical question.
As the Pope, Elijah Burke was on the fast track to main event superstardom.
Now he's in one of the longest, most boring feuds in TNA history as the heel who's taking Devon's kids away from him?
Are you kidding me? I just fell asleep reading that.
Turn him face and at least get him in the TV title picture.
This guy has main event written all over him and TNA is botching it horrendously.
This guy is so boring it makes me sick, and the worst part is that he doesn't have to be.
He's solid in the ring, yet TNA seems content making Ric Flair his mouthpiece and then throwing him out there each week to manhandle someone.
Give this guy something to do on a more permanent basis and some legit talent to match up with.
This one's obvious...almost TOO obvious.
The Samoan Submission Machine should be one of the leaders in TNA, one of the perennial top dogs.
He has the look, the talent and the mic skills.
I've read in various places that he has a bit of an attitude and a tendency to work a hard match here and there, but that shouldn't take away from the fact that this guy is a beast and the fans loved him.
That is, they loved him until TNA buried him in this "sort of heel" persona and pulled him from TV at various points in time.
This guy deserves so much more.
With Immortal whithered down to virtually nothing, and with the sheer amount of wrestlers that are either being misused or not used at all, it would seem like a good time to come up with another company-wide angle.
Of course, many will disagree with me on this, but hear me out.
TNA is at its best when its telling a company-wide story. By that, I mean when TNA creative is functioning in its most well-known environment.
They've done these before.
Eric Bischoff with the NWO, Vince Russo with Degeneration X or the Corporation or the Ministry (or the Corporate Ministry).
So let them do what they do best.
Since TNA has proven themselves to be only marginally sucessful with building up new talent and getting mid-carders to the main event, why not resolve to lift up the young talent, use the high-level talent correctly, and give the main-eventers something to do besides going for the world title?
So what's my suggestion? It's a little of this and a little of that, really.
It's a little WCW/NWO, which of course, has been done to death several times over, but perhaps they can put a unique spin on it.
Call it: TNA.
As in Tru North Alliance.
That's right, use the brand name of the company as a force that's trying to take it over.
Not invade it, mind you (well, not completely), but take the wrestlers, both men and women, that used to wrestle in the WWE (i.e. in the north), and create a legit faction with them, complete with T-shirts that have the TNA logo in WWE lettering (if possible), a TNA World Title, etc.
Make it seem as though Eric Bischoff is trying to create a sub-company within Impact Wrestling becuase he no longer runs it.
Maybe he uses his money, old friendships and promises to try and regain power. Then uses his first converts to convert others over time.
The original goal is for separation.
Bischoff convinces these former WWE wrestlers that TNA is the minor leagues, that their careers have been tarnished by having to "wrassle" the likes of A.J. Styles, Kazarian, Beer Money, etc.
He will come out and say that he wants to add real major league level wrestling and class to Impact Wrestling and he'll extol the virtues of Vince McMahon and his genius leadership, etc.
All of the members of the group will praise the WWE for being a pioneer in wrestling and talk about how their lives have worsened since coming to TNA since being at the pinnacle of the profession up north and how Dixie begged them to join her ragtag little company.
Bischoff will start off by saying that he's creating a group that doesn't want to take over, but simply show Impact fans what real, elite wrestling is all about.
Over time, as the company changes its name to TNA/Impact Wrestling, the goal changes to getting rid of the Impact Wrestlers and removing them from the company by injuring them, trying to get them fired, etc.
Imagine, not a faction, but a whole segment of the company that features the likes of Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, Matt Morgan, Ken Anderson, Rob Van Dam, Brian Kendrick, Team 3D, D'Angelo Dinero, Ric Flair, Scott Steiner, Shannon Moore, Tara, Mickie James, Winter, Gail Kim and Angelina Love with others to be added as well including Carlito, Chris Masters, John Morrison and Melina.
An angle like this would create new rivalries that could take place over a prolonged period of time, with TNA and Impact Wrestling becoming almost like political parties that disagree with one another at their core.
It'd be less about heroes and villains and more about one sides view versus the other.
I'm sure that there are a lot of WWE fans that watch TNA, who might actually side with a group that's pro-WWE, even if they can't say the name.
Imagine the possibilities.
What if Matt Morgan joined this faction while being one half of the tag champions with Crimson?
Perhaps they feud over who gets to have both belts?
Or maybe over time Morgan realizes that he joined the wrong side and goes rogue?
What if the TNA Knockouts started calling themselves something similar to Divas and as a group, tried to get rid of Velvet, Madison, Brooke Tessmacher, ODB and ther rest of the Impact Wrestling women?
Plus, this means that major feuds that develop will need to be between the TNA wrestlers and Impact Wrestlers like A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, etc., perhaps enemies form alliances to stop TNA from killing Impact Wrestling down the line.
But regardless, this angle should not be used to put over aging talent, but rather get everyone over, as much as humanly possible.
This isn't the NWO beating up WCW jobbers for 100 weeks in a row.
Obviously, this might sound a lot like the NWO versus WCW, or Main Event Mafia versus the Frontline, or Immortal versus Fourtune WWE's SmackDown/RAW brand extension, and in a sense, its all of those things, but I would do this in a way that's more systematic.
Split the roster in two. Make the other group legitimate. This idea even runs in to my next slide, which has an idea that most TNA fans should agree with.
But regardless of the similarities, TNA is at its best when there is a large-scale conflict because it draws in a lot of talent that the creative team is otherwise not very good in utilizing.
It might sound derivative, but if done correctly, it could be something fun and unique for wrestling fans.
TNA should make a 2012 resolution to create a new and compelling angle that utilizes all of its talent in an exciting and unique manner.
Even if it's not all in the same angle, they should really strive to get each and every wrestler over as much as possible.
It's insane that I even feel the need to type that, but given how far some of TNA's stars seem to fall at times, one has to wonder how well creative prioritizes talent at various points in time.
This final idea almost makes too much sense to even post it, but another show is an obvious need.
Dixie Carter's company must resolve to get a second show on Spike TV in 2012.
First and foremost, TNA's roster is gigantic when compared to the amount of time they have each week.
When you take long opening promos into account, and how many wrestlers are off air for weeks, if not months at a time, the evidence really begins to pile up in favor of a second show.
The roster simply no longer fits well in to a single two-hour block of TV each week, with a monthly PPV.
If they have proven nothing else over the last year or even the last few years, it's this: They need a second two-hour show.
What better way to do that from a story perspective, then for Eric Bischoff to convince Spike to give his brand of TNA their own show on a different night.
For a while, the wrestlers from the shows will invade one another as the whole TNA versus Impact Wrestling angle heats up and eventually explodes in to an all out war.
However, after the dust settles and the feud is over, TNA is still left with what it's needed all along: Another two hours each week to get wrestlers on TV, in the spotlight.
In my slide about the Knockouts Division, I mentioned how uneven the booking is due to the fact that it seems as though only a few KOs get the spotlight each month on the way to the one Knockout match that's on each PPV card.
This would help solve that issue, as more Knockouts could get airtime as well as more matches each PPV.
The same goes for the slide pertaining to the underutilized talent.
A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe, the Pope, etc., won't be suffering for airtime anymore, as they'd be big parts of their own respective shows.
Besides, with the UFC now on FOX, TNA should be camped out in front of Spike TV headquarters, begging them for a chance to take some air-time off of their hands.
It's the perfect moment to strike, and TNA should be angling for this both behind the scenes and on air for the health and future viability of their company.
The more time they have to tell their stories, the better those stories just might wind up being in the long run.