TNA Roster Cuts: The Wrestlers ARE NOT the Problem

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TNA Roster Cuts: The Wrestlers ARE NOT the Problem
If everybody on the roster can fit on the stage, then everyone's fine. Photo: KnightNephrite at http://knightnephrite.deviantart.com/art

There are 64 wrestlers listed on TNA’s Impact Wrestling web page.

Fourteen of those stars are Knockouts (including Christy Hemme, Karen Jarrett and SoCal Val), and nine of them are non-wrestling talents (commentators, interviewers, Hogan and Bischoff, Don West and Flair, etc.). 

TNA has one two hour show, Impact Wrestling, which airs every Thursday from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM EST on Spike TV in the United States. They also have an hour long show, TNA Xplosion, which is televised for international markets, but is shown in the United States via the web.

As of this writing, it has been announced that both Mick Foley and Tommy Dreamer will be leaving TNA sooner rather than later. This has added fuel to speculation that more roster cuts will follow, or more stars will step lively in Foley and Dreamer’s footsteps due to some growing discontent with the direction the company is moving towards.

The chatter about roster cuts and departures has raised the same old tired argument that TNA’s roster is simply “too big” to feature each of its stars appropriately. Fans who believe this usually cite TNA’s lack of a secondary show (a B-Show, if you will) as reason enough to thin out their “bloated” roster.

These fans also list numerous stars that they believe add nothing to the product and wish to be cut from the roster. 

Needless to say a good number of TNA fans are delighted that Foley and Dreamer are gone from the company, hoping that Brother Devon, Orlando Jordan, Murphy, Rob Terry, and some others follow suit.

One cannot refer to himself/herself as a TNA fan and believe this malarkey at the same time.

With a talent roster of 64 stars, 13 of whom do not wrestle regularly—Don West, Jeremy Borash, Eric Bischoff, SoCal Val, Christy Hemme, Mike Tenay, Hector Guerrero, Willie Urbina, Hulk Hogan, Karen Jarrett, Taz, Desmond Wolfe, and Cookie—TNA has 50 stars to split between two shows.

This leaves twenty-five wrestlers to feature on Impact Wrestling and Xplosion each, assuming the company would want to feature each star once on every episode of their respective show.  While that seems impossible for the hour long Xplosion, it is very possible to accomplish this on Impact Wrestling.

It is unrealistic, however, to expect twenty-five wrestlers to wrestle on each and every episode of Impact Wrestling, which is where the real problem lies in the expectations of the fans.

First and foremost, TNA’s roster is not and has honestly never been “too big.”  The problem does not exist in the number of talent they have, but rather how they showcase that talent. 

This issue is quite heavy for three reasons: a good portion of TV time on Impact Wrestling is used for talking segments (in-ring/backstage promos, hype videos, etc.), the pace of Impact Wrestling isn’t suited at this point to feature most of the wrestlers, and TNA is slowly working on developing their mid-card division to feature stars that usually wouldn’t make television.

But again, the biggest problem comes from the fans that expect everyone to make every single episode of Impact Wrestling.

For the most part the matches shown on Impact Wrestling involve wrestlers that are embroiled in major story lines. That fact alone strikes out at least three quarters of the 63 person roster, leaving you with 21 stars.

Subtract 10 non-wrestling talents from that list (leaving Bischoff and Hogan), and you now have 11 superstars that can be featured in a given episode.

Sting, Mr. Anderson, Hogan, Bischoff, Brian Kendrick, Winter, Mickie James, Velvet Sky, ODB, Angelina Love, Eric Young, Robert Roode, James Storm, Alex Shelley, Kazarian, Gunner, Samoa Joe, Karen Jarrett, Crimson, Abyss, Matt Hardy, Miss Tessmacher, Bully Ray, AJ Styles, Jeff Jarrett, Kurt Angle, Scott Steiner and Matt Morgan were all prominently featured on the June 6 episode of Impact Wrestling.

I’ve just listed 28 people that were featured on last week’s show and well over the eleven I speculated could fit on a given show and slightly more than half of the roster.

How is it then that TNA’s roster is “too big” when in one episode 28 out of 53 possible stars were featured prominently? 

That’s a little more than half of the actual wrestling roster!

Clearly, it cannot be the size of the roster that’s the problem, so perhaps it has something to do with the pacing of the shows.

Vince Russo, head of TNA’s creative team, has been heavily criticized by fans for his “Crash TV” style of writing. The Pro Wrestling Torch reported on an interview Foley did with the Busted Open satellite radio show two weeks ago, where Foley made the following comment regarding Russo’s style:

"There’s a lot of people to please. His version may not be the version that winds up making the air. At the same time, I’ve always said that Vince tries to tell too many stories. He has great ideas, but again, maybe we don’t need seven 87-yard touchdown runs in the same show. Maybe that one great run is something people will remember.” 

If there are multiple major story lines occurring on one episode of Impact Wrestling, it can easily become problematic to feature more stars than necessary.

Would you really want to feature more than what’s necessary if this is truly the case? 

A match between Generation ME and Mexican America would easily get lost in the shuffle of major feuds and story lines on the show. Would it be possible to feature their match, however, if several major story lines were not present in a given episode?

Of course it would be possible! 

A well-developed mid-card (and opening bouts for that matter) would relieve the stress of an over-booked show as well as allow TNA to cycle all of its stars in and out of the televised programming throughout the month.

Imagine if Gunner simply defended his TV Title against Eric Young one week and Orlando Jordan the next as opposed to being in a feud with just him over it. To make matters worse, it’s not even a “serious” feud.

How better would the show flow with an opening X-Division match that was just simply an opening match?  What about an easy Knockouts’ Tag Team match that justifies having the division and the tag titles for it?

It’s not that TNA hasn’t done this before; the thing is, they don’t do it very often.  Most of the times they can’t afford to do this because their promos and talking segments take precedence over the actual wrestling.

Think back to last week’s episode of Impact Wrestling; fans literally spent the entire episode watching Eric Bischoff carry around a summons, speaking with several stars about his fears of his and Immortal’s future in TNA. 

Bischoff doesn’t open the envelope until the end of the program, a show that saw a lot of wrestlers talking to one another either backstage or in the ring. The only reason fans really know that wrestling matters in TNA is because they’re constantly talking about how it matters instead of actually wrestling!

That situation is made worse by the extremely fast pacing of the show. Very little during the program is allowed to develop and simmer, especially with Mike Tenay commentating incessantly without the slightest pause.

Impact Wrestling suffers consistently because they’ve yet to really ease into a nice and steady comfortable flow for the show.

This does not bode well for anyone when you attempt to cram twenty-eight wrestlers into a fast paced show.  It is even more troublesome when you attempt to cram the same twenty-eight wrestlers into a fast paced show each week.

Just when it seems matters couldn’t get any worse, you try to cram the same twenty-eight wrestlers into an awkwardly paced show with several major feuds intersecting one another at whiplash speed!

The roster cuts, therefore, will not solve TNA’s problems. Their roster for what they produce is perfect, but the real problem exists in how they produce what they produce. 

Seriously think about it: what is the purpose of having tag team titles for the Knockouts if there are only ten wrestling Knockouts? Who does Gunner defend his TV Title against if most of his contemporaries are vying for the TNA World Heavyweight Title? 

TNA at one time boasted having the best tag team division in pro wrestling; can you name more than four active tag teams in TNA now?

Can the solution really be to cut more stars from the company?

The meat of the situation is this: the roster cuts are coming not because the company has too many stars, but because there are tons of stars that are not being used to their fullest potential for whatever reason.  Mick Foley and Tommy Dreamer both chose to leave the company for their own reasons, and both were probably not being utilized by the company effectively.

By that reasoning, several other stars should be cut as well: Samoa Joe, “The Pope” D’Angelo Dinero, Matt Morgan, Okada, Brother Devon, Doug Williams and Magnus, Jeff Hardy, Rob Terry, Rosita, Chris Daniels, Murphy, Brian Kendrick and Orlando Jordan are all being utilized in the most half-assed way in my opinion.

That list alone gives them a roster thin on talent and abilities, and if these cuts were to happen they’d have to bring in more “superstars” or talent from their Gut Checks.  That would be circular logic leading them in spirals back to square one.

However, if more time was spent on developing a comfortable pace for their show (a pace which I will openly admit they had prior to the Hogan and Bischoff Era) and featuring more stars in matches that aren’t bogged down by story lines, then maybe they’d be able to lobby for another show for the U.S. market.

If roster cuts are necessary then they are most certainly because the wrestlers are not being used properly for the formula the company subscribes to, not necessarily because the roster is “too big.”

But do not be surprised if the same problems exist, just with fewer wrestlers involved in the mix.  No amount of paint, set redesigns and roster thinning methods will fix the issue ingrained in the actual product itself.

If anything it only puts a sugary coating over the same crap to make it sweeter when we take it in.

Please don’t drink the Kool-Aid; TNA’s roster is fine, but there’s a lot to be said about the navigators driving the product.

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