What the hell?!
To be honest with you, I’m still speechless nine hours after first hearing the news of the WWE’s recent locker room purging.
By now, all of you have heard about the seven future endeavored superstars that incurred the wrath of Vince McMahon’s tear-away pink slip pad. And surely by now you all have read the numerous articles from our loyal Bleacher Report contributors, analysts, and featured columnists that have expressed their shock, anger, and displeasure with the WWE’s layoffs.
Most fans here in Bleacher Report have already accepted the notion that Shelton Benjamin, Mickie James, and Katie Lea will more than likely end up in TNA very soon.
The same fans have speculated that Mike Knox and Jimmy Wang Yang will end up doing big things on the independent pro wrestling circuit (even though Wang seems to think otherwise ).
As for the fate of Funaki and Slam Master Jay, most of us could give two wooden nickels and a Vince Russo memoir about where they’re going.
The biggest issue fans have at this point is twofold in nature. For one, we’re very displeased that the WWE released superstars with incredible in-ring ability and skills. Secondly, we’re even more displeased with our perception of the current direction of their product without these skilled men and women in the company.
Our coping mechanism for this multi-tiered issue is finding comfort in knowing that TNA will gladly scoop up Benjamin, James, and Lea to give them the proper push they rightfully deserve.
I personally hope and pray to all that is sacred and holy in this world that none of the seven superstars end up in TNA.
Yes, I said it. I hope and pray that none of the WWE’s recently released superstars end up in Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling.
Ever since Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff took over “control” of the chaotic mess that was TNA, numerous fans have compared them to WCW...not the “We beat WWE in the ratings for 83 weeks” WCW, but the “No Limit Soldiers, Kwee-Wee, No DQ-Rule-PPV-but-every-match-ended-in-a-DQ” WCW.
The latter WCW is the same WCW that hired anyone and everyone from the WWE simply for the shock value of having fans tune in to see who was jumping ship the next week. If WCW was around in 2002, I’m very positive they would’ve tried to hire Katie Vick.
How can we expect TNA to rid itself of this stigma if they continue to hire everyone the WWE fires, even if they hire the talented future endeavored stars?
Diehard TNA fans get very angry when others refer to the company as a WWE retirement home, but with each passing moment you see way more former WWE superstars than you do TNA wrestlers.
In fact, it’s almost like TNA scouts the WWE’s future endeavored for their new talent. That would make sense, seeing as they don’t have an established developmental farm like FCW, or seeing as they seemingly don’t scout the independent scene or ROH on a regular basis.
Adding any of these seven superstars, let alone Benjamin, James, and Lea, would only exacerbate TNA’s problem of not marketing their own wrestlers and product as something separate and different from the WWE.
Diehard TNA fans will proclaim loudly that the company is light years ahead of the WWE as far as exciting, fast-paced wrestling is concerned, but TNA constantly adds former WWE superstars to their roster at the expense of their own homegrown stars.
Can you really sit and believe that TNA is better than the WWE even as they keep digging through the WWE’s trash can?
In his article , Johnathon Gustin mentioned that, “ TNA has done things with former WWE wrestlers no one thought was possible.”
Johnathon went on to mention how TNA brought new life to the careers of Matt Morgan and Elijah Burke. The company gave these two men the chance to shine and they have done magnificently well.
The same could be said about TNA Knockouts Angelina Love and Tara. The former was released while in the WWE’s developmental system and the latter was released for similar reasons as Benjamin and friends.
Now that I think about it, the same can be said for Christian and Kurt Angle.
There are two things we must remember when we think about how TNA offered these superstars chances to showcase their true abilities when the WWE balked at the opportunity:
- TNA also gave “new” life to Dustin “Black Reign” Runnels, Orlando Jordan, Sean Morley, and Joey Matthews, just to name a few.
- When these superstars were given their rightfully earned push, the homegrown TNA stars since the days in Nashville were pushed down to the bottom of the pecking order.
A.J. Styles spent six months carrying the TNA World Heavyweight Title, bringing a significant level of prestige to the title.
RVD debuts with TNA, and six weeks later he defeats A.J. Styles for that same title. No build up, no secondary title reigns or defenses; RVD literally pulled a Sheamus and walked right into a major championship reign. In one night, he became the number one contender and champion.
I forgot to mention that it took three to four months for “The Pope” D’Angelo Dinero to become the number one contender, only to lose his championship match after being stabbed in the eye.
The sad part is that some fans believe TNA recognized The Pope’s ability to be “championship material.” That’s one hell of a way of showing it, I’ll say that much.
And why are we quick to assume that TNA will utilize any of these superstars to their fullest capabilities?
We’re all excited at the prospect of Shelton Benjamin receiving a TNA World Heavyweight Championship reign, but we’ve quickly forgotten about how the company fired Christopher Daniels after that stellar but brief series of championship matches he had with A.J. Styles.
It’s arguable whether or not Benjamin is a better athlete than Daniels, but if TNA can’t give an athlete as great as Daniels a fair shake at the top OR with a job, what makes us think they’ll do the same for someone who is just as good as or slightly better than him?
The same thing goes for Mickie James and Katie Lea. They were two of the best athletes in the WWE’s Divas Division, hands down. We’re already ecstatic at the idea of them running rampant through the dying TNA Knockouts Division.
This is the same company that let go of Gail Kim—a pioneer of the Knockouts Division—because she felt that she should have been paid more money than what the company was giving her.
Keep in mind that the Knockouts usually receive the highest-rated segments for the company. Keep in mind that Gail Kim’s feud with Awesome Kong brought real prominence to women's wrestling and the division.
Also keep in mind at the time of her release, Awesome Kong—another pioneer in the division—was only making $400 per match.
To recap, TNA is a company that let go of two of the best women wrestlers in the company, and possibly the world...and we’re excited that Katie Lea and Mickie James might find their way to Orlando, FL?
What about the other four superstars that were released along with Benjamin, James, and Lea? Most folks have already written them off as afterthoughts for an independent show in a high school gym.
In fact, these were Svyato Rovenchuk’s exact words in his piece on the subject:
“The releases of Kung Fu Naki, Slam Master J, and Jimmy Wang Yang are not too surprising. Those guys aren’t really doing much these days besides jobbing and occasionally[sic] appearing on tv for a good 5 min. Look for those three to go down to the Indy scene.”
As a wrestling fan, I would rather see these three and Mike Knox end up in TNA over the others, if anything.
One of TNA’s many problems is the fact that they don’t have a mid-card of jobbers (or a mid-card at all for that matter) that exists simply to make the other wrestlers look good. I believe they’re called “enhancement talent” by the IWC and others.
But then again, why would you need an established set of jobbers for your newly signed WWE future endeavored talents when you’ve got your TNA Originals to do just that?
In the midst of everyone focused on these releases, I’ve yet to see anyone comment on the fact that Vince Russo is planning on stepping away from TNA’s creative team for an undisclosed amount of time.
Citing that he’s “burned out” from writing wrestling (…really…?), he plans on moving to Nashville with his family and taking a break from actually writing the shows while maintaining some level of input with the creative writing process.
I would think that we would have been all over the speculation of Paul Heyman coming into the company , but it barely registered a blip on our collective radars.
We were even on fire when we heard that Jim Ross had a meeting with Dixie Carter, which fueled speculation that he could end up broadcasting in TNA.
What we didn’t talk about was the fact that Jim Ross stated his desire was to stay in the WWE, or the fact that if placed in a talent scout role similar to the one he had with the company before, some incredibly talented individuals could be brought into the company (Ross is credited for signing The Hardyz, Brock Lesnar, The Rock, and a slew of others during the Attitude Era that a lot of us fawn over).
And even as we sit here and revel in the controversy of the moment, no one has really commented on the creative writing, booking, and direction of TNA’s product. We’re so caught up in this frenzy about the possibility of folks going to TNA without really considering how they’ll be used there.
We’re just excited to see them in the Impact Zone. Does that necessarily mean the product will get better?
The only thing TNA stands to gain by hiring any of these people is the fans that follow them. The company is not at all concerned with branding their product, making it visually and creatively different from the WWE, or even advancing beyond a sound stage in a theme park.
Go back and read the link about Paul Heyman. TNA wants to start an ECW faction (that’s original) with Heyman leading the pack. So far, I haven’t heard anything about Heyman heading up the creative writing for the product.
It seems that TNA is only concerned with is recreating nostalgic moments for disenfranchised fans.
While we're focused on more wrestlers in the company, we've yet to consider the value of having Jim Ross as a talent scout or Paul Heyman as creative head of the company. And so far, TNA has yet to land a contract for either one of them.
But in 90 days, Shelton Benjamin will be TNA's new World Heavyweight Champion!
They aren’t concerned with growing their fan base or audience, touring the nation regularly to get their product in front of people’s faces for more than two days a week, adding a second show to their weekly programming, or scouting unsigned talent and jewels that have nothing to do with the WWE and its product.
All they want you to do is to tune in to their show and applaud the fact that they gave Jimmy Wang Yang a chance to be TNA’s World Heavyweight Champion.
It's in that sense that the WWE wins in this entire debacle.
We’re justifiably pissed off that the WWE fired these seven superstars, especially Shelton Benjamin, Mickie James, and Katie Lea.
What we don’t consider is the fact that creatively there was nothing for them, and they’ve been virtually unused by the WWE for quite some time.
What we don’t consider is the fact that incredible athleticism is not the only factor that goes into giving a superstar a push. Katie Lea is a great wrestler, but when was the last time the Divas division in the WWE was about great women’s wrestling?
Mickie James was, by far, one of the most talented Divas in the division, but has she had a Carlito-like attitude and approach to performing in her matches? Had her singing career (much like Lillian Garcia’s) taken precedence over her wrestling career? Did she refuse to lose weight as it had been speculated the WWE wanted her to do?
Shelton Benjamin is regarded as the best pure athlete in pro wrestling today, but had he shown any fire or growth in regards to his mic skills?
Did you think his presence in Wrestlemania 26’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match was outstanding or equivalent to his first MITB match? Did he wrestle with the same fire and passion, or could he see the writing on the wall for his career in the company?
These are questions I feel we rarely ask ourselves as fans. We just know that they deserve a championship title, or at least more than the insignificant roles they were given.
As the old cliché goes, “it’s not the cards that matter, but how you play the hand you’re dealt.”
Can you picture paying $750 for a front row seat at Wrestlemania 27 to see World Heavyweight Champion Shelton Benjamin face Sheamus for the title, especially since most people didn’t care to watch the two face each other in ECW?
Can you picture Katie Lea, Beth Phoenix, and Mickie James face each other in a Triple Threat Match for the WWE Women’s Championship when you run for the bathroom every time a Diva’s match comes on (anyone remember Natalya v. Beth Phoenix v. Mickie James for the number one contender’s spot for the Women’s Championship?).
Why aren’t we pissed off at the fact that a beast like Mike Knox could have been drafted to RAW this Monday and entered into a feud where he terrorized John Cena and gave him a real run for his championship?
More importantly, why are we anxious for TNA to pick up these ex-WWE superstars when they won’t even give wrestlers like Robert Roode, Christopher Daniels, Homicide, Consequences Creed, Jay Lethal, Generation Me, the Motor City Machine Guns, Awesome Kong, Tara, Rhino, Samoa Joe, and even A.J. Styles good, solid chances at bringing real, true, unmitigated, new, and rabid fans and fire to the company as TNA WRESTLERS?
I wish all of these men and women the best, and I look forward to seeing them do more amazing things in their careers. However, I really and sincerely hope that ROH picks some of these stars up before TNA gets a hold of them.
In my opinion, a move from the WWE to TNA for Shelton Benjamin, Mickie James, and Katie Lea would be akin to descending further into the burning flames of Hell than rising towards the glory and promise of Heaven.
If anything, it would only give more reason for the WWE to hire them back, and that does absolutely nothing for the growth and development of TNA’s product and the company.
Then again, if TNA doesn't care enough about their product to at least attempt to separate themselves from their “competition,” then neither should we.