We’re all wrestling fans. There’s no difference between the guy writing this column and the people reading it. I have to imagine most wrestling fans are happy TNA is enjoying such success lately. Some of us appreciate TNA for the alternative product that it is. Some might be grateful former WWE superstars have another big league option (many of us hope to see Captain Charisma on iMPACT! soon…). Some might be happy Vince has a bit of competition, because it means he’s now forced to tighten his ship and improve his product. Some might want to see their favorite independent wrestlers like Samoa Joe and Austin Aries on a larger stage.
Either way, there’s at least one reason why the true wrestling fan should be happy for TNA’s progress as a company.
TODAY’S ISSUE: TNA’s Primetime Special
After only a few successful weeks on Spike TV, TNA was given a 2-hour primetime special on Thursday, November 3rd. This special was a perfect conceptualization of TNA as a company with a unique product compared to WWE. Let’s take a look at the show as I try to draw parallels between the show itself and TNA as an alternative product, match by match.
After a well made, historical montage that told a condensed version of the history of TNA, we were off and running.
1. Jeff Hardy & Lance Hoyt & Sabu vs. Diamonds in the Rough (Primetime Elix Skipper/David Young/Simon Diamond). A quick paced opener that got the show on the road, so to speak. The face team won after Hardy’s signature Swanton Bomb. A post match attack on an obviously injured Sabu by Abyss ensured storyline continuity and progression. Mid-card match: Simon Diamond’s stable is based on a very simple principle (veteran takes rookies under his wing) but it’s reason enough for them to be a team. This match had intensity and action, and it was a good, sharp eye-opener to begin the show. Strong mid-card action with good performers taking care of business.
2. The Alpha Male Monty Brown vs. Brian Gamble. A special ECW-like relationship between the performers and the iMPACT! Zone fans was evident here (as it was at many other moments during the broadcast). The crowd chanted for Brown’s finisher: “pounce, pounce, pounce”. After he hit the pounce, they called upon him to do it “one more time!” and he obliged. Still hungry for more, the crowd demanded a third pounce. After drilling Gamble with the pounce three times, Brown finally put his opponent out of his misery. Squash match: The Alpha Male Monty Brown is a homegrown talent, and the crowd obviously loves him. He showed off his wares here, and established his dominance. If you have to show a squash on TV, this is indeed the way to do it. Brown tore through the jobber and pleased the crowd in the process. Far more entertaining than watching the Big Show toss around the Heart Throbs.
3. X Division 6-man tag match – Fallen Angel Christopher Daniels/Baby Bear Alex Shelley/Samoa Joe vs. Austin Aries/Sonjay Dutt/X Division Champion AJ Styles. The crowd interaction was evident once again as the crowd reacted to Samoa Joe’s elevated knee in the corner like a Ric Flair chop with the “woooo”. They also chanted “Fallen Angel” during the match. I couldn’t even begin to describe the action, but I have to mention the very cool triple-submission spot. Simply awesome! That portion of the match drew a “TNA” chant from the raucus crowd. Cruiserweight-style match: Unbelieveable action, superb intensity, great fun to watch. Amazing moves. Outstanding performance by all six men. THIS is what we should be seeing in WWE’s cruiserweight division! I don’t know where Batista gets the idea that these guys aren’t really wrestling, but it could be that he simply doesn’t recognize moves other than spinebusters, clotheslines and power bombs.
While I enjoyed Rhino’s promo in which he took some hardly-veiled shots on WWE, I was disappointed that he stole Austin’s “War Machine” line from a few weeks ago on RAW (and I’m NO Austin mark, believe me). Minus two cool-points for that.
4. Team Canada vs. Team 3D. The Dudleys seem reborn in TNA. The crowd chimed in this time with the “USA” chant. This was a classic formulaic tag team match. When you follow the tag team formula correctly, as they did here, it still works. Why mess with a winner? Showtime Eric Young hit an absolutely HUGE elbow drop off the top rope! The crowd chimed in with a “we want tables!” chant. This match also featured good intensity, as it seems TNA matches always do. 3LK came out to counter Team Canada’s cheating, and Team 3D hit their finisher for the win. Tag Team championship division match: Like a modern-day orchestra performing Mozart, they read the sheet music properly and performed beautifully. I’ve written before about the lack of a tag team division in WWE, and TNA has filled that void nicely. Team 3D, AMW, Team Canada, the Naturals, 3LK, and the Diamonds in the Rough comprise a robust tag team division.
5. Ultimate X Match. Petey Williams vs. Chris Sabin vs. Matt Bentley (w/Traci). Once again, the crowd was involved, starting off with the “Bentley Bounce” as HBK-lite made his way to the ring. During the match they did the dueling chants: “Let’s go Petey; let’s go Sabin”. After Sabin hit a vicious baseball-slide dropkick on Petey Williams’ face, the crowd asked him to do it “one more time”, and he did indeed. After all three endured plenty of grueling punishment, Petey Williams finally hit his wicked CANADIAN DESTROYER flip powerbomb on Chris Sabin, to which the crowd chanted, “that was awesome!” Williams and Bentley both scaled the scaffolding, and after a bit of Indian leg wrestling followed by a low blow to Bentley, Petey Williams claimed the big red X, and the number 1 contendership for AJ Style’s title. Signature match: Whether it’s War Games, the Royal Rumble, the Elimination Chamber, or the Turkey-on-a-Poll match (kidding), wrestling companies have often created a signature match that you will only see on their programming. Ultimate X is the signature match of the X Division, and therefore, of TNA. It features high drama, daredevil action, and is always unique and exciting. You gotta’ love it. What can I say about Ultimate X to somebody who’s never experienced it? MUST SEE. This is a one-of-a-kind match, worth the price of admission by itself. The X Division rules without the crazy high-wire act, and Ultimate X is just that much better.
6. NWA World Heavyweight Championship – Rhino defended against Jeff Jarrett. I love the way they made this seem like a very important match by showing the ‘tale of the tape’, and through the great pro boxing-style ring announcing of Jeremy Borash. Jarrett looked sharp here, including a very nice dropkick. Rhino was aggressive, and played his role of the powerhouse to perfection. When they brawled into the crowd, they did a very ECW-like spot where a fan held up his own chair so Rhino could drive Jeff’s face into it. They then turned the match into a carbon-copy of most WWE heavyweight contests in the past few years. Tons of interference, a ref bump, two low blows, and a title switch to the man who cheated. Jarrett reclaimed his title, of course. Heavyweight championship match: An overbooked mess, this seemed a bit uninspired and retread. But, if they couldn’t resist booking it that way, at least the interference was awesome. AMW hit a Death Sentence on Rhino through a table onto the floor, and it was absolutely vicious! Gail Kim missed her legdrop attempt from the top rope, allowing the heel team to “show ass” a little. If this is how NWA title matches will be booked, TNA fans are still going to get their money’s worth. Considering the rest of the card, and the fact that this match was at least fun and intense, I can live with it until some more talented wrestlers make their way into the heavyweight title picture, or the bookers decide to book “cleaner” matches without all the interference.
TNA is here folks, and they’re for real. If you haven’t seen them before, give them a look on Saturday nights on Spike TV. If you didn’t enjoy the early Russo-booked TNA of years ago, I understand. However, you should give them another chance. They’re currently doing many things correctly, and making entertaining television for the wrestling fan. TNA offers something for everyone who enjoys professional wrestling. High-flying cruiserweights, talented, agile big men who can actually move in the ring, a fully realized tag team division, recognizable veterans, up-and-coming stars, old-school heel managers, and a fantastic play-by-play man. Hell, there’s even a few “knockouts” running around, with Jackie Gayda set to join Gail Kim and Traci.
What more could you want from a pro wrestling company?
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.
p.s. – Why do we say ICE cream, but ICED tea? Why not ICED cream or ICE tea?