The Two TNAs
For over six months now, fans of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling have witnessed a schism between what TNA has been and what it appears to be now.
Sure, change is the only certainty in an uncertain world, but as more fans become detractors and WWE marks predict TNA's demise in ever-increasing numbers, one has to wonder where Dixie's company will go from here.
TNA Hardcore Justice has been almost universally panned by the IWC as an idea that's not only unnecessary (do we really need a 700th FINAL ECW show?), but also several years late, as these wrestlers are well past their prime.
Furthermore, most people view this as a cash grab and a slap in the face to TNA's roster, as Dixie comes off looking like she believes that her own roster can't put on a PPV worth buying.
Or, taken to a lesser extreme, that she has to go outside of her own company and use nostalgia to raise buy rates.
So with this non-TNA pay per view being presented by TNA, one really has to wonder if this is a turning point in the history of the company.
Now, I don't mean that in a "This change will change the face of TNA" type of a deal that either Dixie or Jeff Jarrett seem to post about every little thing these days on Facebook or Twitter.
But consider the fact that Hogan and Bischoff have been scaled back dramatically from when they first came in to TNA back in January. I know, Hogan had surgery recently, but both he and Bischoff have been used sparingly in the last two months to say the least.
Add to that, the fact that this entire ECW non-invasion seemed to be almost tailor-made for the arrival of Paul Heyman, which has been rumored about endlessly and one has to wonder where TNA is headed.
With sagging PPV buys, unhappy wrestlers (such as cornerstones AJ Styles and Samoa Joe), and increased fan outrage over the division between what TNA has been and what it's become, one has to wonder if drastic changes aren't in store.
I've never been a doomsayer when it comes to TNA, but I do feel that such criticisms are necessary if they ever hope to recapture the original TNA, the real TNA; the company that seemed to have endless upward momentum and potential.
The Real TNA
To me, the real, original TNA is founded on speed, shock-value IN the ring, and a cast of characters that we simply hadn't seen before that could flat out go.
The X Division, built on the idea that size didn't matter, but rather what you did in the ring that counted. This was no cruiserweight division, even if a lot of the speedsters from the company started out here.
Names such as Elix Skipper, Sanjay Dutt, Consequences Creed, Amazing Red, Petey Williams, Jay Lethal, Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley, Kazarian, and of course, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and Samoa Joe helped bring this division to life.
But in truth, that list goes on, as numerous innovators have passed through the no limits X Division, putting their own stamp on it while providing real, genuine, holy s*#t moments from the infamous hurracanrana by Skipper off the top of a steel cage to the amazing, over-the-top action that is Ultimate X.
In short, the X Division was something that the WWE didn't have and it delivered a good match every time, guaranteed.
If the X Division has traditionally been the crowning achievement of TNA, it must be said that the Knockouts Division is the jewel in that crown.
Though it basically rose up from nothing around then TNA star Gail Kim, the KO division has featured some of the best women in wrestling over the last few years. Awesome Kong, Alyssa Flash, ODB, Taylor, Velvet Sky, Daffney, Madison Rayne, Sarita, Roxxi, Tara, and my personal favorite, Angelina Love, just to name a few.
What made this division so great was the fact that as their many promos stated, they weren't "divas" like we saw in the WWE.
These women WRESTLED.
There were very few matches that degenerated in to hair pulling and rolling around on the ground, botching moves left and right like what we see on a weekly basis in New York's product.
TNA's starlets were putting on legit matches, going move for move with what the guys were doing. They weren't all gorgeous playboy models, but no one cared because they put on a good show and in most cases, it was the women's segments that put up the highest ratings on Impact! each evening.
At its peak, TNA had a fantastic mix of young, up and coming talent, a few young WWE castoffs that TNA has made their own (Matt Morgan and the Pope) as well as main eventers that could still go in the ring (Christian Cage, Kurt Angle, Jeff Jarrett).
Of course, they've also had a robust tag division that featured the likes of America's Most Wanted, the Voodoo Kin Mafia, The Motor City Machine Guns and the Latin American Xchange as well as several other teams that were highly capable of putting on a good show.
This is the TNA that I remember. The company that was building itself from the inside, while featuring solid main-event level performers and an all-around show that had you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, even if the production values, storylines, and overall acting were nowhere near the level of what WWE was putting out each week.
The point was that they had momentum. You could see that TNA was headed somewhere, even if it wasn't there yet. The future seemed bright, in spite of all the WWE mark naysaying.
The New TNA
So how did we end up here? How did TNA fans, we proud few, end up with an upcoming pay per view that will feature no TNA stars on its card? Granted, I know that most of these athletes are under TNA contract (though many of them for one night only), but make no mistake, this PPV is about ECW.
Remember the X Division? What is it now? A seemingly endless feud between Douglas Williams and Brian Kendrick. Sure, we might see an X Division match here and there, but this is nowhere near the level of talent that we've seen in the past.
Christopher Daniels left TNA in favor of Ring of Honor, basically stating that this was no longer the company that he helped build as the door hit him in the ass on the way out. Now we see AJ Styles wondering what's happening to the company that seemed to build itself around him.
Gone are the likes of Consequences Creed, Sanjay Dutt and Petey Williams. The rest of the individuals that I mentioned before are either in non-X Division feuds/angles or they're simply drifting in TNA.
In fact, that's exactly how I'd describe Samoa Joe, one of the best characters, one of the best wrestlers and one of the best TNA grown talents to ever come along. This guy should be headlining every pay per view.
What they've done to Samoa Joe is borderline character assassination.
I've read rumors that he's also unhappy with TNA, and would jump ship to the WWE if they gave him even the slightest indication that they were interested. This is apparently the kind of loyalty being fostered by TNA's current regime.
As for the women, the destruction of the Knockouts Division has been well documented. For a division that was once so big and so bustling with young stars that they actually created women's tag team belts, the current ratio of gold to wrestlers is one of the biggest indications that this division is not at all what it used to be.
Of course, the other bumps in the road have come even more directly from Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. While TNA's past cornerstones are either gone or left twisting in the wind, Hogan has seen fit to bring in his friends in a Bischoff style "shock of the week" that featured such esteemed arrivals as Sean Morley, the Nasty Boys, Orlando Jordan and many others.
These have not been universal failures, of course. Ken Anderson and Rob Van Dam are thriving in TNA. So I'm not going to sit here and list the faults of the current regime without listing their successes as well.
But it must be said that in trying to take TNA "to the big time" as Hogan stated a while back, it seems as though the company once founded by Jeff and his father has lost a fairly large part of its soul.
No more six sided ring. No real X Division to speak of and a Knockouts Division that's a shell of its' former glory. A main event scene consisting mostly of WWE castoffs and old WCW relics.
In an attempt to increase buy-rates, TNA has resorted to grasping at any big name that will have them. Hogan.
Bischoff. The Wolfpac. Rob Van Dam. Jeff Hardy. ECW. When TNA decided to forgo building up their own talent in favor of quick fixes and surprises, they sacrificed their core roster and not so surprisingly, alienated their core audience.
They tried to move to Monday night, not realizing that while some wrestling fans like TNA, most wrestling fans love the WWE. After this debacle, the simple idea that TNA could one day compete with the WWE was crushed and with it, alot of TNA's momentum going forward.
So where does TNA go from here? What can they possibly do to recapture their own essence and regain that lost momentum?
Obviously, there's no quick fix here. No one wrestler inside or outside of TNA will put them back on the path that there were on before.
But do they even want to be what they once were? I mean, let's face it, though the ratings were always slowly upticking, they were never a huge ratings draw (though they've always been solid by Spike TV standards) to begin with.
To me, first and foremost, as most others have said, the road to recovery in TNA starts with firing Hogan and Bischoff.
That's basically a given by now.
From the six sided ring and the destruction of the KO and X Divisions to Hogan bringing in his cronies and that lame, worthless sham of a No. 1 Contender voting process as well as some of the worst angles in TNA's history ("The One Ring" storyline, anyone?), they've shown what they're capable of time and time again.
Next, TNA needs to trim the fat off of the roster. If you're not capable of putting on a TNA caliber match, then get lost.
Kevin Nash, Team 3D, Orlando Jordan, Raven, Tomko, Jesse Neal, Tommy Dreamer, Stevie Richards, Shark Boy, Rob Terry, Eric Young, Sting or anyone else that has to wrestle in a T-Shirt for that matter.
If TNA can't get a second, full length show out of Spike, then they need to stick with a roster that, from top to bottom, is full of superior talent that can still put on a great show. To me, that's just obvious.
Next, TNA has to do some hardcore scouting. Find guys and gals in ROH, Shimmer or on the Indy circuit that can bring something new and/or unique to their audience. Desmond Wolfe is a prime example of bringing someone in that can give TNA fans a great match.
Granted, TNA has almost ruined him by now, but let's face it, there are a lot of wrestlers on the roster that could use some redemption. Heck, there's a lot of wrestlers that aren't in TNA anymore that could use a reprieve.
Monty Brown, Petey Williams, Chris Harris and of course Christopher Daniels? I'd love to see TNA bring back some of talent that has slipped through their fingers over the years.
But that's just me dreaming out loud.
As I stated way back at the beginning, the only certainty in an uncertain world is change. So while I'd love to see TNA regain lost wrestlers, lost time etc. I also want to see them move forward.
Where they go from here is a mystery, but one thing is known by anyone that likes TNA enough to stay with this article this long:
TNA has had a good run and they've had some phenomenal ideas and even more phenomenal wrestling talents. They have the makings of a great company but they just haven't put it all together yet.
Blame Russo's bad writing. Blame Hogan and Bischoff for doing, well, almost everything they've done to this point.
But TNA still has a ton of potential and whether it's Paul Heyman and a completely new team at the top that helps them realize it or someone truly new to the wrestling scene, I can only hope that Dixie will look at TNA as a whole, recognize what's worked and what hasn't, and make the MUCH needed (and now long overdue) changes that need to be made.
I'm not a doomsayer, but TNA needs to somehow reconcile the best parts of the two TNAs, the past and the present, and work toward creating a better company that gives the fans what they want instead of the nostalgia trip they're told they should want. If they can't TNA will have a hard time pressing forward, developing their young talent, and perhaps one day having a legit chance at competing with Vince McMahon's company.
Who am I kidding? If they can't reconcile their past and present and somehow find a way to move forward, recapture the lost enthusiasm, and reenergize their core fan base, then they might as well take their ball and go home.
If they keep relying on the past, complete with ring entrances that sound like, but aren't what they were before (symbolism, anyone?), they'll spin their wheels all the way to the poor house as Vince McMahon laughs his way to the bank.
Thank you for reading!