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TNA: The Road Ahead of WWE

Kevin BergeFeatured ColumnistSeptember 17, 2011

TNA: The Road Ahead of WWE

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    For years, TNA Impact Wrestling has been a lagging business. They have always sat in second place behind the longer standing company, WWE.

    This was not due to lack of talent, lack of support or lack of high profile competitors.

    The problems were small and festering, seemingly guided by poor decisions with the company's higher management.

    TNA made the decision to pull in talents as big as Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan. They would bring in the legendary booking ability of Vince Russo.

    Many may laugh at the way I portray these guys, but this is the way the management saw these guys. They really thought they needed these men to create moments and a spotlight on their business.

    Two days ago, though, I finally saw the business that Impact Wrestling could become.

    TNA had a great show start to finish, even though it decided to have a Flair vs. Sting match as their main event that was at least 10 years too late for being a real main event.

    What we saw last night was a slow changing of the guard. This story with Hogan, Sting and Flair was the beginning of the end. The end of a long reign for these stars, who are twice as old as many competitors in that ring today, is finally coming.

    Why is change coming?

    Well, let's look into:

    1. What makes TNA unique.

    2. What TNA has done right.

    3. What TNA still has to do.

    Through these aspects we may find that goal at the end of the very long tunnel.

Uniqueness

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    Every day, we wrestling fans have the opportunity to watch, write or think about professional wrestling.

    There is Monday Night Raw to open the week and provide us with story-driven action and big stars like John Cena and CM Punk.

    Tuesday and Wednesday are a lull for the majority of fans who have forsaken NXT, leaving us with the simple time to read about news and opinions that are propping up. This also ends up being true for Saturday.

    On Friday, there is the wrestling-focused Friday Night Smackdown, which gives us an outlet for watching younger talent and rising stars rather than a plethora of main-eventers.

    Sunday is the day of the pay-per-view, which is always exciting regardless of how many there are or how they are set up, though, they are notoriously expensive, so sometimes it is easier to just follow results.

    What am I missing? Oh yeah, Thursday.

    What makes Thursdays special?

    Impact Wrestling, which is a much different product from the many shows from WWE.

    Why is it unique, though?

The Superstars

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    Not Hulk Hogan. Not Jeff Hardy. Not even Kurt Angle or Brian Kendrick.

    The superstars who began their careers in TNA.

    These are guys like AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Beer Money and some of the great X Division talents.

    These guys are incredible athletes that can wrestle in unique and engrossing styles that transcend the idea of WWE wrestling.

    Each one of these originals is an inspiring and impressive talent that should be given top priority in this fledgling business.

X Divison

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    These guys transcend the idea of a simple cruiserweight division.

    At the beginning, it was all about being high-risk and action-packed.

    Now, TNA has made it more of a cruiserweight division, but that does not change what makes this division great.

    These guys are innovative and exciting.

    This is the type of action you will not see often in the WWE as Cena and Orton rule the roost.

    These men made matches cool to watch whenever they were in the driver's seat.

Aesthetic

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    TNA looks and feels different.

    It has the ambiance of a wrestling organization that is not entirely put on.

    There is an unscripted feel to the action and promos that is sometimes lost in WWE's high-production events.

    TNA even once had the six-sided ring, which was unique to forming creative action.

    These are the same nuances that make TNA shine as a wrestling organization.

Attitude

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    TNA may not be the WWF Attitude Era, but it leans more that way than even the WWE's current Reality Era.

    The wrestlers seem more relaxed when they talk with no reason to filter as heavily. They have wrestlers bleed, though, not excessively.

    There is true beauty to giving wrestlers the ability to show grit and emotion that is somewhat lacking in WWE today.

    This makes them different.

    Not always better, but unique.

A Ship on Course

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    While TNA may be unique, it has always played second fiddle to WWE by a long shot.

    In order to change that, TNA needs to change and develop around its differences and uniqueness.

    Two days ago, TNA showed a few of those important steps along with a few decisions lately that make it seem that they know where they need to go to succeed.

Fortune

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    These guys are not really a stable.

    Sure, they kind of hang around each other, but it is not something that binds them.

    Regardless, Fortune consists of the best stars in TNA.

    AJ Styles is a ready-made star who should be the John Cena of TNA without the superman comebacks and burials.

    This guy is still in his prime and should be the focus of the show as he is the most talented and athletic man on the roster.

    Beer Money is an amazing tag team. They are one of the best in the world.

    At the same time, both men are great stars on their own terms, and Bobby Roode is looking to break out soon thanks to the BFG Series and the push he has begun seeing on Impact.

    Christopher Daniels and Kazarian are also immense stars and should make an impact in this industry, especially Daniels, who has begun a slow build turn that could make him a star.

    Overall, these men have been promoted (especially two nights ago) and will hopefully continue to be seen as the stars that run the show.

Jeff Hardy

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    He has made too many mistakes to truly be allowed another chance.

    But he is an amazing performer and veteran.

    If you are going to give him a chance, TNA is beginning this the right way.

    The raw emotion exuded by AJ Styles and Devon was incredible. It felt genuine and necessary even if it was scripted.

    These guys showed the sides of how wrong Hardy had been, how he did not deserve to get a new chance and why he was getting that final chance.

    This redemption will hopefully not go too sentimental, too quickly.

    Instead, if TNA truly makes Hardy work and put over talent like the veteran he is, we could slowly see the rebirth of the man who used to be one of the greatest high-fliers of all time.

    It will benefit everyone involved and create moments to remember.

The X Division

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    This is not just a repeat. This is a reiteration.

    If there is one thing that TNA needed to always get right, it was the X Division.

    Yes, it was a bit of a mistake to add a weight limit to the division, but that is of minor concern in comparison to the larger picture.

    There are so many great wrestlers that now reside in the division, and at the peak is Austin Aries.

    He is the greatest cocky heel I have seen in a long time.

    This man is a breathtaking athlete who does not cheat or lie. He simply brags and does it so well.

    If the AA Division continues the way it seems to be heading, TNA will have a star-making group of talent that will almost always produce the best matches of any night.

The Knockouts

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    They may not be more athletic or more talented as a large unit than the Divas in WWE, but they have a better outlet for success.

    Why? Because they are actually given real matches, storylines and character arcs.

    While WWE tries to make the Divas of Doom story thrive with about five minutes a week of airtime, the Knockouts have storylines that range from Angelina Love and Velvet Sky to Mickey James and Winter.

    The ladies get about 15 minutes each week at least to perform, and the Knockouts have even main-evented shows before.

    There is a clear line here that shows how much more TNA cares about making the most of its roster.

Bully Ray

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    One of the best heels TNA has ever had, Bully Ray is finally getting his due.

    This man has been in his tag team with Devon longer than most stars have careers.

    Never once did he get a chance to shine or develop.

    Until now.

    Immortal may be falling apart around him, but he still is the center. Ray is the character at the very central position in TNA's main remaining stable.

    He can talk. He can wrestle. He has a great sense of himself.

    Bully Ray has made himself part of the spotlight and will hopefully get his due soon enough.

Keeping the Boat Afloat

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    While this developments are nice, how can they translate to main-stream success?

    The answer lies in what TNA has yet to do.

    They need to keep their company upright and on course toward the beautiful horizons ahead, and it all starts with one big change...

Letting Go

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    Vince Russo needs to go.

    Piper says it best.

    "You've got all the things, Russo, that you want except one: talent."

    Watch him obliterate any shred of credibility Russo's name may have had.

    This man has taken down companies, destroyed franchises and made some of the worst creative decisions to ever grace a finished script in pro wrestling.

    Not every bad decision in TNA can be linked to Russo, but it will only get better with him gone.

    Piper eloquently states directly to Russo's face, "Yes, my time is over, but, you know what, you're the dinosaur now. You're the only one who needs to go bye-bye."

Retirement Plans

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    All companies have older stars.

    These are the men who get huge reactions when they come back or remind us of a time long gone, but these men do not need to be the focal point anymore.

    Ric Flair was great long ago. Now, he is the last relic of an era long past.

    Hulk Hogan has lost the drawing power of his old days, leaving him as a shell of his former self.

    There are many stars who need to find that their time has come:

    Ric Flair (62): needs to retire now. He is only tainting his legacy. He should be able to get a legends contract or a backstage role. He just needs to leave the spotlight.

    Hulk Hogan (58): has too many injuries and never had the greatest movement. Hopefully, Bound for Glory will be his last match, ever.

    Eric Bischoff (56): has never been a performer, but his time has past even though he has no need to wrestle. He is just at a point where young stars or veterans should be instead.

    Sting (52): is a great competitor of the past. Many still enjoy his work, but TNA needs to take a note from WWE. Just as the Undertaker has done, Sting should become more of a special occasion wrestler. He can be great, but he is long past his prime. The occasional match is fine, just avoid too many more World Titles.

    Scott Steiner (49): has been a force in pro wrestling for a long time. He can occasionally show some true skill now and then, but this is not a guy who should be competing for the World Title or in the Bound for Glory series any longer. As Sting should do before him, Steiner could become a special occasion wrestler at the most in the coming years.

    As these guys retire or move on, veterans like RVD, Kurt Angle and Jeff Hardy can step in to be big names who actively wrestle. At the same time, some of the older TNA talent can also be shaped into this role.

Put over the Original and New Talent

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    There is something magnetic about some of TNA's original talent.

    AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe are just some of these breathtaking talents.

    Hopefully, we will soon see Robert Roode celebrating about his World Title.

    These guys alongside new stars such as Gunner and Crimson, hopefully Austin Aries as well, should be given the same chances that WWE talents seem to get when they come into the spotlight.

    The WWE harps upon their youth movement, but TNA could easily pass them up at any time if they take the ball and run with it.

    These men are the present and the future of this company, and they should be treated as such.

The New Horizon

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    There it is. That light at the end of the tunnel. The new horizon that TNA so craves.

    They have tried to fight their way to the top. They even tried to repeat former success and make the Monday Night Wars reappear.

    Only now is there are an opportunity for TNA to grasp that brass ring.

    If they can take steps that create a truly compelling product, the falling of WWE's ratings may lead to a great surge in the company known as TNA.

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