Say what you will about TNA's booking but Impact Wrestling has always been the home of "something different," be it Ultimate X, the Knockouts or guys like Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and Austin Aries.
They're not always successful but Dixie Carter and company do frequently attempt to innovate and the Bound for Glory Series is no different.
In a world without King of the Ring, last year's BFGS, a long-form tournament to determine a number one contender at the Bound For Glory pay-per-view, seemed like a breath of fresh air.
We all saw potential in the five-month extravaganza but injuries to a third of the participants and TNA's inability to maintain momentum quickly derailed the promising concept.
This year's tournament is well underway. TNA hasn't changed anything about their methods, however, and several holes in the design will inevitably lead to a repeat sinking of the boat.
Without eliminations or other prizes at stake, fans and wrestlers alike become apathetic to tourney results until just a few weeks before the winner is decided. We're too plugged in to get behind a 20-week scenario with such little early and mid-term drama.
Like a 500-lap NASCAR race, the pay-off is so nebulous and so far down the road, people feel like they can tune out, tune back in near the finish and not have missed a thing—an occasional car crash, maybe, but nothing they can't see replayed later.
To remedy this lethargy, TNA needs to up the ante in future BFGS events by adding a step-tier of rewards to supplement the ultimate goal.
(It's not just the fans who need motivation, after all. There's a whole group of competitors grinding away for a single shot while no less than four other guys get that opportunity before them, most of whom will have worked a quarter as hard as anybody in the tournament for the same privilege.)
A few examples of tiered rewards are as follows:
The points leader each week gets to be "guest commissioner" and make all the BFGS matches on next week's episode of Impact. Will he pursue a hated rival or schedule himself against a weaker opponent while allowing the biggest dogs to eat one another?
More a reward for those doing well, a selection of bottom ranked entrants will be eliminated at timed intervals (after one month of competition, two months, etc.) to add a sense of urgency at all levels of competition.
The points leader after three months gets a bye in the next round of the tournament (receiving an automatic seven points) while his rivals must continue winning matches.
Probably the worst decision from TNA creative regarding Bound For Glory was allowing house show results to affect series scores. There's nothing wrong with a fully televised tournament.
Other than WrestleMania 28, a TNA house show is my favorite live wrestling experience—I'm going to see another one in Tulsa tomorrow—but adding BFGS matches to non-televised cards isn't going to do anything for an already great show. It won't sell any extra tickets.
If you're running a high profile gimmick like the BFGS, you want to keep it where more eyeballs can see it. Don't confuse more casual observers who may just be following the tournament at home and not rushing to TNA's website to see who won in Salina, KS, at an event that was almost canceled due to poor attendance.
As if we need more reminders that wrestling is scripted, how about TNA "arbitrarily" select 12 guys from their roster to compete in a tournament where the winner would've probably gotten a title shot with or without the distraction?
Not only would the BFGS benefit from an aura of "anybody could win it," like the Royal Rumble, but it's a way to showcase under-carders who might not find themselves on television otherwise. (TNA's got this weird thing about signing talent and never using them.)
Even if the whole roster isn't involved, at least double the field to 24 so matchups don't get repetitive and we can get more three- and four-way dances (high energy spot-fests) that play well with WWE crowds (who are used to spot, spot, spot, finish with few transition moves).
There's a reason TNA's next pay-per-view, Hardcore Justice, looks so good on paper. There are three BFGS matches with four wrestlers each—one of which is Styles vs. Daniels vs. Joe vs. Kurt Angle in a ladder match!—hearkening back to the rip-roarin' days of WCW cruiserweight battle royals. People want that kind of action.
As it stands, wrestlers get 10 points for a submission victory, seven points for a pinfall victory, five for a count-out, three for a disqualification and two points for a draw.
While this covers almost the entire range of "ways to win a wrestling match," I feel like TNA is losing some points in fan participation for not making it more fantasy football-y.
Maybe a wrestler could score an extra point by executing his opponent's finisher against him or putting someone through a table.
TNA experimented with point-based fantasy wrestling awhile back. Why not put similar scoring methodology on top of the BFGS and make things more exciting for fans? (Many Americans won't watch soccer because there's not enough scoring, remember. This tournament suffers from the same weakness.)
Not including those who were injured, participants in 2011's BFGS wrestled a wildly uneven schedule with a different number of qualifying matches, resulting in an unfairly skewed amount of points possible.
Bobby Roode wrestled 16 times for 59 points; Bully Ray, 16 for 52; Gunner, 20 for 42; Rob Van Dam, 13 for 35; James Storm, 13 for 30; A.J. Styles, 11 for 24; Scott Steiner, 10 for 21; and Samoa Joe went 10 for 10.
I realize that wrestling is, at its core, a faux sport with predetermined outcomes but the fact that TNA was pushing a (kayfabe) legitimate athletic competition and couldn't be bothered to present it as such is somewhat maddening.
If the BFGS is intended to be a testament to "Wrestling Matters," then each of the eight pawns on the board should've had the same number of moves. Anything less cuts the legs out from under the entire operation, and diminishes the spirit of what TNA is attempting to do.
Jeremiah Allan is a sometimes comic book writer, 2009 graduate of Ottawa University (Ottawa, KS) with a BA in English, and senior staff writer at Wormwood: a Serialized Mystery. Check out the article archive for more of his work.