Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic

Total Nonstop Action Wrestling certainly knows how to stage an elimination tournament. They identify a valuable prize and place talented wrestlers in the brackets, then off they go. TNA uses a sound booking approach – they promote exciting matches with important consequences, and put the emphasis on championships and title opportunities. The in-ring action is the most important aspect of TNA programming. The rivalries between competitors are based mostly on competition and the desire for success, not over-the-top nonsense.

TODAY’S ISSUE: TNA’s Super X Cup Tournament

Over the last few weeks, TNA promoted the second Super X Cup Tournament, with the finals scheduled for the Sacrifice pay-per-view on August 14th. In the final, Ring of Honor import Samoa Joe battled the very backbone of TNA, AJ Styles. “The Samoan Submission Machine” got the victory over Styles in a hard-fought match, so he will advance to an X Division title match against defending champion “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels at the Unbreakable pay-per-view on September 11th.

The Super X Cup tournament, which The Fallen Angel egotistically renamed the “Christopher Daniels Invitational” while on guest commentary, started with a very impressive field of wrestlers. Petey Williams, Matt Bentley, Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley, and Sonjay Dutt all competed in first round matches. These men are talented, athletic performers, and always put on entertaining matches. I know Shocker was in the opening round too, but I’m not convinced he’s a good fit in the X Division just yet.

Team Canada Captain Petey Williams faced AJ Styles in the semi-finals, in a perfect example of X Division action. It was a fast-paced, hard-hitting contest in which both men looked strong and competent. Neither held the advantage for too long before the other recovered and scored with some offense. Watching that match on my computer (iMPACT! debuts on Spike TV on October 1st), I was more interested and engaged in the action than with any WWE programming in months.

The X Cup tournament made for several weeks of compelling iMPACT! broadcasts. It gave me a reason to keep checking to see when the next show was available for viewing.
TNA has a formula for presenting pro wrestling that really appeals to me, and they execute it well: straightforward storylines, exciting action, and logical rewards for winners.

I really appreciate how they booked mostly clean wins in the tournament, and that all the matches were hotly contested. There were no squashes, and all eight men in the two brackets looked solid in the ring. None of them were made to look foolish or weak. That’s a fine line to walk, avoiding the dreaded “50-50 booking” while still making the wrestler on the losing end seem like a capable grappler. The winners won, but not easily. The losers lost, but were in contention all the way through. Each match seemed that it could have easily gone the other way.

Somehow, the tournament failed to deal with important issues like love triangles, child-custody disputes, dueling musical styles, evil authority figures, dead fetuses, or facial deformities. Here’s the simple storyline: all eight of these men wanted a shot at the current champion. Each man wanted to climb the mountain, to be recognized as the best X Division grappler in TNA. Their only motivation was that they wanted to be champion; they wanted to win. I wish WWE’s creative department, which is comprised mostly of Hollywood writers with no pro wrestling experience, would take notice.

Wrestling fans are not hard to please. We want creative to pick two guys who can really put on a good show between the ropes, then to give them a plausible reason to go at it. I know this sounds crazy, but championships can make very good motivation for two professional athletes to compete against each other. Championships bring an athlete fame, glory, and money. Pro athletes want success, and they want to be champions. That’s why they risk injury night after night, and live their lives on the grueling road. They seek success. Certainly there can be other storyline issues between two wrestlers besides professional motivation, but those should be the exception to the rule.

TNA wrestlers have personalities and attitudes, but thankfully there are no undead zombie brothers of destruction, no mentally challenged wrestling-savants, no Canadian-French sympathizers from America, no obese love machines, no bodybuilders who can’t wrestle, and no elderly orange men with white hair. Even the “big men” on the roster can move around well in the ring.

Speaking of TNA’s talent roster, here’s a funny quote from Iain Burnside’s The Anti-Pulse, regarding the Abyss/Lance Hoyt match from Sacrifice: Sure, Abyss is basically Kanekind and Hoyt is nothing more than Test 2: Electric Boogaloo, but since Vince fears change as much as he values size, that just makes it all the more surprising. Really, when it comes to Big Guy wrestlers on Raw I’d much rather have Abyss and Hoyt than Viscera and Snitsky. I concur, Iain.

On the August 19th edition of iMPACT!, TNA began the 2005 Chris Candido Memorial Tag Team Tournament. If they book it as well as the Super X Cup Tournament, I have no doubt it will provide some more exciting television. It’s nice to have something important going on week to week in the storylines, instead of the same tired formula WWE dumps on us Monday and Thursday nights. The “Candido Cup” already has one intriguing plot point. In honor of Candido’s role as a mentor to young grapplers, they’ve randomly teamed veterans with newcomers to create all new teams for the tournament. They’ve also shown no fear of unusual pairings or opponents. 3LK members BG James and Ron “The Truth” Killings faced each other on opposite tag teams already in this tournament.

TNA has figured it out, as evidenced by the weeks of sound pro wrestling action via the Super X Cup tourney. If they keep broadcasting solid, reality-based storylines with good in-ring action as the payoff to the feuds, I’ll keep tuning in to Total Nonstop Action wrestling.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – When you press a door bell button, you should use your ring finger.

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