Third time’s the charm, or so they say.
For TNA’s Gut Check segment, where upcoming prospects wrestle in a try-out match for their chance at a TNA contract, the third time was just like the first and second—the wrong decision was made.
Gut Check excellently blurs the lines between kayfabe and reality, making it difficult for fans to know whether everything truly is predetermined.
Most likely, TNA has a very strong idea of the outcome of each wrestler’s Gut Check before it takes place.
We can’t even pretend to know what truly goes on backstage, or even the full potential of the Gut Check contestants. As viewers, our judgment is based upon the one televised match.
Going by that factor alone, three wrong decisions have been made to date.
TNA cannot afford to hand out many new contracts per year, so viewers should expect very few Gut Check contestants to actually get a contract. The standard answer from the judges should be “no” unless the performer truly shines.
However out of the first three, there have been two new contracts and one rejection.
All wrong choices.
Let us begin with Alex Silva, who stepped up to the challenge in April. Many wouldn’t have thought it possible, but he was like a skinnier and less-charismatic Randy Orton.
His performance in a brief losing effort to Robbie E was not at all captivating. Based upon that alone, Alex Silva earning a contract also makes every one of Ryback’s opponents a likely candidate.
When asked to cut the promo of his life to earn himself a contract, Alex Silva blurted out his sob story of hardship in childhood and how he’s struggled to reach this point in his life.
Sob stories shouldn’t earn contracts and yet Alex Silva has one. He should have been rejected.
Silva has actually worked a dark match for TNA back in November 2011, which suggests that the company has been considering him for a while now.
Nevertheless, the chance of him becoming a staple of TNA, or even making another appearance is just as likely as WWE 2011 Tough Enough winner Andy Levine actually making it to televised WWE.
He has already been released from his contract.
Next up to the Gut Check plate was Joey Ryan back in May, and he had it all.
An established gimmick, charisma, pure wrestling ability, and the skill of putting it all together for an entertaining show.
His Gimmick is little more than a 70’s porn star—mustache and all—but he sells it expertly.
He even has catchphrases: “Bringing sleazy back to pro wrestling” and “Legalize sleaze”.
Ryan is an experienced performer, who’s established in the industry. To put it simply, I would pay to see him right now, and then again tomorrow.
Ryan wrestled Austin Aires in his Gut Check match, and while Aires will struggle to put on a bad match any night, Ryan not only managed to hang with him, but held his own with a great arsenal of moves, eventually losing to a brainbuster.
Joey Ryan can hold his own and deserves a contract; however, Taz said “no” in the deciding vote.
The reasoning behind Taz’s decision was that Ryan is too entitled. To me, Ryan was just selling himself and cut a promo doing exactly that. Wrestling is about big-noting yourself.
Would they have preferred a generic sob story instead of a real promo?
Another reason given for Ryan’s rejection was that the gimmick wasn’t him.
In other words, he was rejected for being established as a wrestler and not a plain nobody who could be molded.
Despite his rejection, Ryan continues to appear on Impact Wrestling.
Firstly it was backstage badmouthing Taz, and this past week it was in the front row holding a “87% can’t be wrong” sign, referring to the fan vote.
More than anything, this aspect seems to be the indicator that Gut Check is fully predetermined—as even though rejected—Ryan continues to impress more than the other two contestants with contracts as he builds up a rivalry with Taz.
The third and final Gut Check contestant so far was Taeler Hendrix, who had her chance this past June.
Her try-out match was another losing and mediocre effort to Tara, although it was better than Silva’s performance by far.
Hendrix lacked charisma and any traits to captivate her audience. Hair dyed reddish-pink doesn’t make you charismatic and breast implants do not make you a female wrestler, despite the high correlation between the two.
Her skills were nothing noteworthy, and I wouldn’t pay to see her in a wrestling ring.
Again, like Silva her promo was another sob story about her battles with cancer. She didn’t sell herself as a wrestler, but as a frail victim.
We can’t know how Gut Check works behind the scenes, but in the ring we’ve seen two undeserving people get contracts and the most deserving get rejected.
Sooner or later TNA needs to realize that two-thirds of contestants can’t get contracts. The rejections will have to outweigh the acceptances.
Despite all of these wrong decisions, Gut Check is quickly becoming one of the most stand-out segments of Impact.
Wrong decisions or not, it makes for compelling television.
It’s just like WWE’s Tough Enough or Diva Search, but more relevant.
The smaller doses, faster gratification, and judgment on a individual basis all ensure that Gut Check stays fresh, and hopefully it won’t be leaving us any time soon.