2012 is, and has been, a great year for IMPACT Wrestling. They debuted new concepts, tried new methods, ventured to new lands and raised the bar for wrestling in general.
In this past year alone, we've seen some stars shine in the form of James Storm, Daniels, Kazarian, Zema Ion, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode and more.
There's been much more new concepts and ideas flowing through TNA such like Gut Check, Open Fight Night, Championship Thursday, and 'Option C.'
The entire quality of shows, television or pay-per-view, has greatly increased and further strengthened fan support.
2012 really turned things around for TNA in a positive manner. However, with every pro there's a con. 2012 has been great for TNA, but not exactly perfect. Here are five things that TNA should avoid to make this new year better than the last.
Alex Silva, Sam Shaw and Taeler Hendrix all fit in this category. Those are three out of the six Gut Check winners.
Those three have impressed the judges and IMPACT audience so much, that they've been awarded an IMPACT Wrestling contract. After that though, then what?
They've all been sent to OVW.
These Gut Check winners get as much exposure as those who lost their Gut Checks. They appear on IMPACT and, regardless of the decision, vanish from our TV screens afterward.
Watching these wrestlers pass their Gut Check and get an IMPACT contract only to disappear for months on end makes the entire concept seem irrelevant.
TNA selected these wrestlers for Gut Check knowing that they'd just send them straight to OVW when they're done. Why couldn't they just sign Silva, Hendrix and Shaw to developmental contracts without running the whole Gut Check charade?
By doing that, they could've given those televised Gut Checks to wrestlers who are ready to compete in front of the big crowd (Ex: Joey Ryan) and it would've made the Gut Check concept look and feel more relevant.
The X-Division has had this issue, on and off, since about 2009 to 2010. The tag division has only recently developed this issue, as TNA has always been great at keeping tag team wrestling relevant and fresh (Ex: Beer Money, MCMG, Team 3D, LAX, etc). The Knockouts have had this issue probably, I'd say, about as long as the X-Division.
The issue is, these divisions hardly get any TV time or storylines within them!
The talent is there in the X-Division, it's just a matter of TNA writers taking an interest in them for once. Looking at the roster you've got Chris Sabin, Christian York, Douglas Williams, Jesse Sorensen, Joey Ryan, Kenny King, Kid Kash, RVD, Sonjay Dutt, Zema Ion, and even Gut Checkers Alex Silva and Sam Shaw.
The X-Division prides itself on putting TNA on the map with help from AJ Styles, Daniels and Samoa Joe. However, this generation of the X-Division would be content with five minutes of time in front of a camera.
The X-Division is something unique about TNA, and the more they utilize it and the talent within it, the happier fans will be.
The tag team division has a similar issue to that of the X-Division, but is also lacking in teams. The tag team champions, Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez, hardly find TV time and, when they do, it's just some kind of a squash match with no real feuds coming from it.
The current tag division consists of Chavo & Hernandez, Bad Influence, the Robbies, and the pairing of Morgan & Ryan. Sure, you could argue Gunner & Kash or Bischoff & Brisco, but neither team gets TV time; just like all the others.
The Knockouts are an interesting case. They do have the talent (Tara, Mickie, Gail, ODB, Rayne, Sarita, Velvet, etc), but the fact is that every Knockout, besides Sarita and Rosita, has been champion before. They're in need of some new blood in the division to spice things up a bit.
Bottom line is this; all three divisions are in need of new talent, be it newly signed wrestlers or wrestlers brought up from OVW.
The most important thing the divisions need is a direction, and not just the, 'you're the champion and I want your title' kind of direction or feud. The TNA creative team needs to be, well, creative.
TNA has had more than enough soap-opera style love stories this year. Starting with EY & ODB, then AJ/Dixie, moving onto AJ/Claire Lynch baby story, then Madison Rayne's crush on Earl Hebner, and closing the year with the Bully Ray/Brooke Hogan storyline.
And, with those four, some fans only enjoyed one of them, and it took a comedic approach! So, why continue producing them, if nobody likes them?
A wrestling ring is no place for a crackhead (Claire Lynch), a young, attractive woman liking a man 40 years older than her is gross, and nobody cares about two grown adults' love lives.
There are no scandals or affairs, just really bad angles.
I do like a good, strong, preferably heel faction. But, I don't like seeing a new one debut every 12 to 16 months.
TNA has always had factions running around. Planet Jarrett, Team Canada, Christian Coalition, Angle Alliance, Main Event Mafia, Frontline, Fortune, Immortal, EV2, World Elite, Aces and Eights, you name it.
Not since the Main Event Mafia have I felt that TNA really nailed a faction. The Mafia made IMPACT television compelling. You tuned in every week to see what they'd do next, and who their next victim may be.
The Mafia was the focal point of the show, where as these other factions (Fortune, Immortal, Aces and Eights) are just parts of the show.
Main Event Mafia had all the gold, was a dominant group, and didn't collapse because one, two, or three wrestlers attacked them. No. The MEM was strong and defeated every challenger put in their path. They collapsed from within when head honcho Kurt Angle had a change of heart and dissembled the group.
As much as I liked Fortune and like Aces and Eights, they were/are just small-time players in the TNA product. They weren't the center of the show or center of attention, and didn't make it feel like you had to watch every week.
Unless they could book my ultra dream faction (Leader & World Champ: Bobby Roode, TV Champ: Crimson, Knockout Champ & Crimson's on-screen girlfriend/valet: Madison Rayne, X-Division pretty-boy womanizer: Zema Ion, and super-talented Indy team who would make great heel henchmen: TMDK), TNA has burnt through all ideas for a faction.
The IMPACT Zone, rich in history, not so rich in crowd interaction. Having been in Orlando, Florida's IMPACT Zone for the better part of TNA's 10-year history, these fans have seen just about everything by now. With that, in a way, they've been spoiled.
Having witnessed so many moments through the years, this crowd isn't as good as it once was.
In the new year, I think TNA should avoid the IMPACT Zone, almost, at all costs.
If TNA really wants to spread their brand, going on the road more often is the most effective way of doing so. They've shown in the past, TV or pay-per-view, that they can draw a much better crowd than that in Orlando.
All 10 (thanks to the schedule change and cuts) pay-per-views in 2013 should be on the road. If not all 10, five of them at the very least. As for the television tapings, I could understand if they want to stay in Orlando. That'll only mean more money saved for traveling during pay-per-view time.
TNA has been locked up in Orlando for so long, it's time for them to stretch their legs and see how far they can go.
Holding pay-per-views in the IMPACT Zone, even the lesser ones like Sacrifice or Hardcore Justice, must be avoided.