For Your Consideration TNA Should Not Add a Second Hour

Welcome back. First off, after a month here at Pulse Wrestling, next week I will finally have my very own graphic. It’s pretty damn exciting, and hopefully more of you will now notice that this is a column and not a news article. I know it’s been confusing since I’ve been posting random graphics every week, but now there can be no confusion only disappointment.

Few quick things I want to get to before this week’s topic. First, I implore you to go see “Grindhouse” as soon as humanly possible. It’s not the best movie ever made but it’s one hell of a movie experience. I’m pretty disheartened with the rumor that the Weinsteins are thinking about splitting the flicks up and releasing them separately. Boo! I’m going to blame this decision on the fact that it was Passover and that a week with no bread or carbs screwed with their minds. By the way, how much of an ass am I for not wishing my fellow Jews a happy (belated) Passover? For those of you out there that sacked up and went the whole week without bread, kudos to you. I made it all the way through on matzoth and am still alive to talk about it. Also, happy (belated) Easter to my Christian readers. And to my atheists, happy (not so belated) Tuesday.

My next quick point is about feedback. I’m a whore for feedback as I said before. I’ve been getting some nice e-mails every week and to those people I would like to say thank you very much. I even got my first piece of flame mail, which I will get to in a moment. Now I’m a neophyte when it comes to message boards, but I have been making available a thread on the Pulse forum if you feel more comfortable posting your comments there instead of writing directly to me. However, as I said before, if I get a particularly good e-mail with some interesting insight, I will put part of it up next week.

This week, however, I want to bring to light perhaps my favorite e-mail ever. Without giving out the second half of his name (the @whatever), I’ll go by his first part, Kswizz308. Kswizz wrote:

“I didn’t like you calling Benoit Karl Rove and MVP George Bush. MVP is awesome, and I don’t know why everyone’s hating on him.”

Now, I wasn’t “hating” on MVP, but rather making an analogy. See, most people are not big W fans. Most people are not MVP fans. These groups are not mutually exclusive. My point was that Karl Rove is an evil genius who can manipulate people into somehow buying George Bush as a credible political figure. Chris Benoit is a pro wrestling genius and tricked people into thinking that MVP is a credible wrestler. Were people fooled by MVP’s performance at Wrestlemania? Sure. If you were, don’t feel bad, because plenty of people were tricked into voting for W.

Speaking of colossal disasters, this week’s topic isn’t inspired by anything going on in the news right now. In fact, it isn’t even a particularly new topic at all. However, despite floating around in the sports entertainment ether, I haven’t seen anyone recently comment about it. What is it? Well, if you didn’t read the heading of the column, then I’m begging you to either buy some glasses or cut back on the ecstasy.

For Your Consideration TNA Should Not Add a Second Hour

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not a “TNA guy”. I never ordered a TNA PPV when they were a weekly show. I never made a pilgrimage to Orlando to see a TV taping in between riding E.T. and getting wasted at City Walk. I never once thought to myself, “What wrestling needs is a commentator that used to hock sports memorabilia on the Home Shopping Network!”

With that out of the way, I will say that I do watch TNA’s product whenever I can. I used to catch it on FSN and used to Tivo it on Saturday nights when it started on Spike. Now, I Tivo it on Thursdays because no matter how much “Scrubs” falls off in quality, there is no chance that I’m missing an episode.

Now, I have a lot of respect for TNA. They have had moderate success where many others have failed. They have created a viable national alternative to the WWE. Don’t get me wrong, they are about as big a threat to the WWE as Ohio State is to Florida, but like Ohio State, they still try damn hard despite being outclassed at every turn.

No one thought that TNA would survive, but somehow they did. No one thought they’d get on TV, but somehow they did. Now, with their 1.0 rating on Thursday nights, they have a shot at becoming a weekly 2-hour program. This, in my humble opinion, might lead to their inevitable downfall.

TNA knew that the key to their success was to be the anti-WWE. While the WWE was focused on big men, short matches and ludicrous storylines, TNA was going to focus on guys with unique looks, innovative moves and a better in-ring product with minimal soap opera theatrics. This approach garnered them the favor of the IWC pretty quickly, as guys like AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels were given a shot at national exposure. TNA used an approach that was very similar to what the WWE did back in the days of the Monday Night War; they stole someone else’s idea and ran it as their own.

Ring of Honor is to TNA like ECW was to the WWE. TNA used ROH as a breeding ground for their superstars because like ECW before it, ROH has “street cred” with wrestling fans. If a guy’s from ROH then chances are he’s good. If a guy’s from ROH and he winds up in the WWE, then he’s probably going to get buried. (See London, Paul) If he winds up in TNA, however, then he’s got a chance at longer TV matches and national exposure. It worked for Styles. It worked for Daniels. It worked for Sabin and Shelley and Joe. Maybe TNA was going to be different; like ROH but with a TV deal.

Did this happen? Nope. But it’s fun to dream. TNA right now is a very flawed program that stands as a monument to squandered opportunity; maybe even more than ECW. TNA traded in the equity with real wrestling fans for the possibility of cash and fabulous prizes. They were tempted by the idea of building an upper card with WWE rejects and they gambled it all on nostalgia. Ask any wrestling fan and they’ll tell you that nostalgia has about the shortest shelf life imaginable. On paper, it sounds logical. Sting. Steiner. Nash. Angle. Jarrett. Christian. These are recognizable names. Bankable stars that fans will tune in to watch, no less. These are names that carried promotions sort of.

Now, with an upper card that’s about as exciting as a marathon of “According to Jim”, TNA is hoping to EXPAND to a second hour every week. Not since the third hour of Nitro has the thought of more wrestling been less appealing. With Vince Russo holding the book, TNA has become the retarded stepchild of Crash TV. They cram as much stuff into one hour as possible so that the fans don’t realize that the volume of shit is covering up the fact that the show is paper thin. There is no real midcard. There are no compelling characters for fans to connect to. There’s just half-assed WWE storylines with hour 1 Nitro matches thrown in for seasoning.

When you look at the talent assembled under the roof at TNA, it’s stunning that they haven’t been able to do more. Hell, they could just put Joe and Angle in there every week and it would draw money for at least another 3 months without people complaining too much. The problem is that somehow a company that was praised for being about more than “size” and “politics” has installed their very own glass ceiling. No one cares about the upper card. Hell, I forgot that Christian was even champion. (How ironic is it that once Christian left that the WWE needed a smart-assed heel on Smackdown? Oh who am I kidding, Dunn would never have let Christian get near the belt.) Everyone and their mother has known for over a year that Samoa Joe is going to become champion. However, unlike the WWE who stumbled into a great wrestler with a real crowd reaction with Austin and pulled the trigger at the right moment, TNA has let the crowd reaction warm over, so that when Joe gets the belt, it’s less about “Go Joe!” and more about “Finally.”

Take all of these problems; weak upper card, no characters connecting with the fans, weaker in-ring product, terrible announcer weighing down a good announcer, an annoying crowd and a preconceived notion of inferior production and multiply that by two.

This could work out in TNA’s favor. Maybe the idea is that they are going to use the 2 hours to give fans unbelievable matches week after week. Maybe they are going to flesh out their caricatures in the midcard and let fans connect with guys like Petey Williams and Robert Roode. Maybe monkeys might fly out of my ass.

Vince Russo has the patience of a spastic six year old. Look at how quickly he rushed Joe/Angle, and look at the buyrates for the rematch as proof that they wasted a golden opportunity. Do you think that he has the discipline to write out a two-hour show every week and not blow his load within a month? You thought Eric Young was getting old before? Imagine it when he starts popping up in 2 segments now instead of one. A two hour show has ten segments (RAW has 11 with the over-run), and it’s pretty difficult to fill ten segments every week with the WWE’s roster, let alone TNA’s. Sure, you could throw the X-Division guys out there to eat up time, but then you’re creating the problem that WCW had, where the smaller guys did all the hard work while the main eventers got all the glory.

TNA’s storylines tend to run any good intention into the ground. How is it possible that the Dudley Boys are STILL feuding with LAX? Seriously? With two hours to kill, TNA is going to fill more time with the same tired stories and the show is going to suffer. At least with the one hour a week format that they have now, they can hide the cracks a hell of a lot better. “Why wasn’t there anything with the Dudleys and LAX this week?” “Oh, we didn’t have time.” Maybe not getting to every storyline every week isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it could be used to enhance what’s going on. That way, when something happens, it’s important. Now, the already contrived stories are going to seem ever more contrived because fans know that TNA’s going to run out of ideas and start kicking frantically. (Cough-“Lost”-Cough)

Ultimately, the two hour show will happen because it pulls in better ratings than reruns of “Worlds Most Insane Car Wrecks” and there is a perception in the wrestling world that to be a contender that you need two hours of programming. Spike gets higher ratings, TNA gets more exposure and the fans get to watch something better than a car wreck, they get to watch a company implode.

This has been for your consideration.