Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic

Weekly pay-per-views. Fridays on Fox Sports Net. Internet broadcasts. Now onward and upward to Spike TV. For the past three years, TNA Wrestling has done what it had to do in order to provide weekly programming one way or another, and hopefully they’ve paid enough dues that their new “Slammin’ Saturday Night” venture will pay off.

TODAY’S ISSUE: TNA survives several transmutations to stay in business.

Kudos to the Jarrett clan and Panda Energy for staying the course long enough to get a better deal on a bigger cable outlet. I was pleased to learn the Spike TV deal had finally gone though. In early October TNA iMPACT! will replace WWE Velocity on Saturday nights, as WWE heads back to their home of many years, the USA network. Considering the larger audience available on Spike TV compared to Fox Sports Net, and the amount of WWE’s recently released quality talent, TNA may now be poised to take it to the next level.

Many have speculated that a certain amount of substantial competition will sharpen Vince McMahon’s focus on the writing and improve WWE’s product overall. I subscribe to that theory, and hope TNA makes more of an “impact” on the national scene than ever before.

TNA has already seen it’s darkest days (Vince Russo created a tag team called “The Johnsons” that looked like giant penises!) and are now in a position to become a true alternative to WWE. I realize there may never be another war like what we all got to experience in the late 90’s between WWF and WCW, but at this point any alternative with decent cable clearance is a positive thing for wrestling fans, especially if it improves WWE programming as well.

But the key is, in my humble opinion, TNA only has a chance to succeed if they truly focus on being an alternative. They shouldn’t try to be WCW-lite, circa 2001. Nash, Hall, Page (as much as I mark out for DDP), Sting, Waltman, and non-WCW antiques like Shamrock and “Kip James” are NOT going to set TNA apart as the new face of professional wrestling.

TNA must highlight the unique things they do well, and that set them apart from WWE, like the X Division. They should also continue to showcase traditionally “smaller” men as credible NWA champions like AJ Styles and Raven. There’s a great senior talent roster that could be used to make stars out of guys like Petey Williams, Christopher Daniels, The Naturals, America’s Most Wanted, Monty Brown, Lance Hoyt, and Chris Sabin. Nobody needs to see Jarrett versus Nash. That match-up is old news, not the new wave.

There’s also the signature look of their arena and ring. TNA’s six-sided ring makes an immediate impression on new fans, and they should utilize that individuality early in the Spike TV broadcasts. A few 3-team tag or 6-man X Division elimination matches could showcase the differences of their ring and make an “impact” on first-time viewers. They also have the opposing entranceways, which makes for an uncommon visual experience. They should find a way to make that point useful. The informational bar across the top of the screen, although it was called the “Fox Box” and it tied into the “sports” theme of that network, was another rare fact that made iMPACT! on Friday afternoons seem like something totally unlike WWE programming. They should find a way to revive that clever tool as, perhaps, the “Spike Stripe”?

I’d like to see Billy Kidman and Akio in the X-Division, Maven with the obvious “Former Tough Enough Winner, Now Fired” gimmick practically prewritten, and the Dudleys shake up the tag team scene. Also, Kevin “Seven/Mordecai” Fertig might have potential in a feud with Tritan, and Charlie Haas would be a legitimate threat to any NWA world champion. Even Matt Morgan versus Abyss could be entertaining if built properly. There’s certainly a nice group for TNA to choose from, following the WWE’s recent bloodletting.

Ultimate X is the most interesting gimmick match to hit the US scene in years, and this is coming from someone who actually likes WWE’s Elimination Chamber. The key to Ultimate X is the fact that TNA actually has the strong X Division roster to pull it off, and make it more than an insane spot-fest. Also, the X Division doesn’t need to rely on Ultimate X, as any number of guys can hook up for a “standard” match and give viewers a captivating 10-15 minutes at the drop of a hat. There’s a lot of depth in the X Division right now, and as I said earlier, a few world-class cruiserweights on the bench at the moment who are no doubt waiting for TNA to call.

TNA seems to have a good rhythm right now of writing reasonable storylines and meaningful feuds that culminate with solid in-ring blowoff matches. That’s a formula for success in professional wrestling. Also, there can’t be a wrestling fan alive that doesn’t dig Petey Williams’ Canadian Destroyer flip-piledriver, or AJ Styles’ amazing athleticism and acrobatics. Even their “monster” Abyss moves fairly well for a big man, and his Black Hole Slam looks devastating. AMW are a solid tag team, and their feud with The Naturals has grown to epic proportions. There’s a lot of exciting action on an iMPACT! broadcast. Hopefully more fans will catch the X-Division fever now that TNA is on a bigger stage and then get hooked on the entire product, like I did when the Fox Sports Net show debuted.

I wish TNA well in the next leg of their journey, and heartily pat them on the back for making it this far. The sky is the limit if they grab the brass ring, or the big red X. Best of luck, TNA. I can’t wait to see what you do in October on Spike TV.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – When you “shut up” do you also “quiet down”?