My initial reaction to last night's Impact and the corresponding Reaction premiere were so positive, I knew right away that I had to sleep on it, for fear of rushing to my computer to mark all over everything TNA did well.
But I have to say, the more I thought about it, the more I realized just why I enjoyed the three hours of TNA programming.
I'm going to throw out some observations, first about Impact and Reaction, before jumping to TNA's big idea. But I think it's fairly safe to say that TNA may have stumbled onto something truly innovative, and I sincerely hope they continue this trend in the weeks and months ahead.
Observations from Impact/Reaction
The matches were, for the most part, top notch.
Having Kurt Angle versus AJ Styles as the opening bout was a stroke of genius on the part of TNA. The crowd loved it and the excitement generated by this match clearly set up the positive momentum that lasted throughout the night.
Allowing the women to have a full wrestling match, where the belt actually changed hands in a way that didn't involve mystery boxes or some other method of diminishing the title and the women who fight for it, was also nice to watch.
A few other highlights of varying shapes and sizes included the extension of the EV2/Fourtune storyline, which has potential, given that the ECW originals they decided to use from the pay per view are arguably the best of the bunch.
I also liked the fact that they're starting to call this faction EV2 more and not EV2.0. I know that's a small change, but really, EV2 sounds a thousand times better to me. It rolls off the tongue. It's a quick and easy abbreviation that works.
EV 2.0 sounds like antivirus software that I bought for my Macintosh computer back in 1989. Okay, I didn't buy a computer when I was nine years old, but that's neither here nor there.
Some have criticized the ECW guys for sticking around and taking time away from the young, deserving TNA talent. But look who they'll be feuding with in the biggest angle in the company: Matt Morgan, Douglas Williams, Kazarian, Beer Money, AJ Styles, and Ric Flair.
Beer Money is coming off of a fantastic series with MCMG, but they need a new direction if they're not going for the tag titles again for a while, and this fits perfectly.
TNA has AJ Styles rejuvenating the Television Title, and while some might argue that a feud with TNA talent would work just as well, I personally wouldn't mind seeing a feud with Sabu to further raise the value of this gold.
The rest of Fourtune is full of promise, but like Beer Money and Styles, I think they're all ready for something new. EV2 provides something new, and while the storyline definitely has the potential to derail at some point, it's been done well so far. Maybe a small amount of faith, if not cautious optimism, might be in order.
I've also noticed that TNA is starting to form a very solid, established midcard. Players such as Matt Morgan, Anderson, and the Pope seem to be headlining what looks like a very solid group of midlevel guys with main event potential. In other words, TNA is utilizing their depth and the results speak for themselves.
To me, this mid card helps a lot in clearing up a main event scene which, until recently, seemed to include nearly half the company.
The Big Idea
So while the pay per view atmosphere of Total Nonstop Action was phenomenal last night, I noticed a new formula emerging between the action of Impact and the reaction of, well, TNA Reaction.
Again, only time will tell if this is the new standard set by TNA. But how many people loved the fact that there was minimal talking on Impact, and that all the drama was saved for Reaction? To me, this is a near revelation for pro wrestling.
All of the fans out there, especially TNA fans, who have been complaining about the half hour blocks of talking, the momentum stoppages due to back stage segments, interviews etc, this was your night.
As previously stated, there was a definite pay per view atmosphere. There was a palpable enthusiasm from the audience, that was never derailed or interrupted by half hour long vignettes from Hogan or backstage shenanigans, or the other stuff that always tends to slow the show down.
It felt as though I was watching an event, which was underscored by the fact that Reaction felt like a post game show. Again, what a perfect way to both add the theater aspect to the show while making the Impact part of the three hour block look that much more important, and thus, that much better!
They gave their thoughts, they built the drama and, above all, they provided a lead into next week's show and the upcoming pay per view.
It's such a simple concept. Leave all the talk for the wrestlers and the actors like Hogan and Bischoff for a one hour block of post-game coverage.
Along with that logic, Reaction accomplished all of this plot advancing and advertising for future TNA events without having to make the matches on Impact last five minutes or less. There was no compromise between action and theater and thus, there was no downside.
The product was allowed to shine without interruption and then Reaction complimented the product by providing the theatrics. It was so easy to switch from the action to the theater, one has to wonder why they've been trying to interweave the two to begin with. Well, of course, that's how it's always been done.
I'm not saying that Reaction was perfect. The camera work was so-so, although I do like the sort of grainy, reality look to it. The fact that everyone stays in character gives the illusion that this is the world of TNA, which really does more to fill out the product as a whole.
But imagine if they did this every week: A lot of wrestling, with more wrestlers being able to get out there and have matches instead of an hours worth of talking, promos, backstage interviews, vignettes, etc, there's only about ten to fifteen minutes at the absolute most.
Then you follow up that pay per view style of show format with a show that's nothing but the drama, the talking, the rivalries, the adverstisements and the character depth. While the wrestling, sneak attacks, post match attacks and brawls tell the story of how a rivalry develops and plays out, Reaction has all of the promos, smack talk and fodder that are typically used to advance the storylines and feuds afterwards.
Again, I don't know if this is how TNA will format the show from now on, but if they do, I have a feeling that the TNA audience will love them for it.
Sure, TNA fans like some of TNA's drama (though not usually when it involves 45 minutes of Hogan talking each week), but the attacks, the beat downs, and most of all, the actual wrestling, are what sells the product.
To me, this Impact and Reaction combined to form one of the best TNA experiences I've ever seen. If they were smart, they'd stick to this format. Sure, they might not have PPV caliber matches each week, and they honestly shouldn't, or else why would anyone buy the pay per views?
But they need to rely on their talent to put on good matches, keeping a solid flow going, start good feuds and then use Reaction to augment those feuds. TNA has the level of talent to pull off this kind of format, now they just need to do it on a week to week basis.
Personally, I think that the ratings will bear out this idea. Yes, it was basically meant to be TNA's pay per view that they missed when Hardcore Justice went to EV2, I know.
But the thought that they could put on this type of action packed show and follow it up with a separate show that does everything that really tends to bring the momentum, flow and fan enthusiasm of Impact to a screeching halt (promos, backstage interviews, previewing the pay per view, previewing next weeks show etc)?
To say that this idea appeals to me is an understatement.
Separating the talk from the wrestling, having the event and then analyzing it afterwards (thus making the event itself feel more special), giving fans two hours of near wall to wall wrestling, pay per view style, while advancing the stories, getting to know the wrestlers, enhancing the rivalries, previewing the PPV, and next week's show on an hour show afterwards would make TNA great.
PLEASE continue this format. Maybe even have Impact bleed over in to Reaction, where two new hosts, Borash and SoCal Val take over for Tenay and Taz for a few minutes, like we're getting bonus coverage.
This is one of the best ideas I've seen in wrestling in years. I guarantee you, Dixie, stick with this new format and you won't be disappointed!