The Reality of Wrestling: TNA Lockdown

The Reality of Wrestling: TNA Lockdown
By Phil Clark

Could TNA be singing “St. Louis Blues” by the end of Sunday night?

This weekend marks TNA’s second non-Impact Zone PPV since the move to Orlando in 2004. The all cage match Lockdown PPV is an interesting choice for TNA as any variety in matches are basically dubbed down a bit with the fact that EVERY match takes place inside the cage. But St. Louis has always been a big wrestling city—former wrestling capitol of the world—dating back to the days of Sam Muchnick and Wrestling at The Chase. Considering that TNA is still tied to the NWA in the minds of hardcore TNA fans or hardcore wrestling fans, St. Louis does seem to be an ideal location for their show. The fact that as of a month ago 3,000 tickets had been sold, it seems that there should be another good crowd like in Detroit. Whether or not that fact is relevant remains to be seen.

P.C. Says: The show itself will sell out, but it won’t help the bigger problems TNA has

As of the last time I checked, St. Louis’ athletic commission still had the “no blood” rule in place. Now, if it has been lifted or if TNA was able to get around it, good for them; however, if not, then how do you have an all-cage PPV without blood? My opinion of the all-cage PPV in general is that it was fine as a one-time deal to show that TNA could be versatile even with Big Dust booking; as an yearly event, it devalues the cage match by giving people eight or nine in one night with eleven more months in the year. Despite everything I just mentioned I do believe that Lockdown will sellout in St. Louis.

One of the “bigger problems” that I’m referring to above is the fact that TNA has basically run the same card since Russo took over. Rhino & Styles are still feuding, Low-Ki & Starr are still feuding, VKM (ha ha I get it!) are still feuding with Christy Hemme (insert your own jokes), and LAX & Team 3-D are still feuding. The main reason that these ongoing feuds are a problem is that there has been no progress in the feuds since they began. LAX has beaten 3-D every time they’ve faced them in a variety of different street fights. I’m a fan of LAX, but all this shows is that TNA is beginning to care as much about their tag division as The E (in fact The E may be starting to care more than TNA). Rhino & Styles’ five-month feud only proves that Russo has no idea what to do with either of them. Here’s my idea for Styles: if he’s in the heavyweight division, have him go at someone else in the title chase, if he’s not, have him move back and forth since he’s seen as a guy who’s conquered both divisions. The VKM feud is just a joke and can someone please give Russo some worthwhile advice about how to book the X Division? Low-Ki and Austin Starr are both guys who could be doing better things right now than being background to Bob Backlund’s newfound popularity in Orlando. Seriously, some of this shit is getting quite sad.

Another problem is that with this repetitive booking, TNA is constantly relying on the main-event not only to steal the show, but also sell the show. Some may be thinking, “isn’t that the job of the main-event?” Those people would be correct, however the only matches that make cards one-match sells are dream matches or matches between people so over that they can sell shows by themselves; TNA has no dream matches left and no people with that kind of drawing ability. They killed the Joe/Angle dream match value by having it go three straight months; it made all three shows, but was a waste as the trilogy could’ve been stretched out for months without much trouble. The highlight of all of this is this Sunday when every big star that TNA has will be in the main-event match that has little chance of being anything above ***1/2. A classic example of putting all your eggs in one basket.

Another of the big problems is the direction of the company in general. If you look at TNA in the months leading up to the new Russo era and how it is now, I can sum it all up: X-Division gone up in flames, tag-team division gone without much being said, and the heavyweight division getting all the love. I’ve got no beef against TNA’s heavyweight division since Joe, Angle, Cage, and Styles (if they keep him there) will keep it at least entertaining, but at the expense of the rest of your product? That’s not how a wrestling company succeeds and it’s not right either? I am aware that Kevin Nash can cut a f*cking hilarious promo and interview, but that’s not the only way to get people to care about X-Division wrestlers.

My idea at this point would be to merge the tag division and X-Division until something more stable could be put into place. Not only that, but if that were to happen, LAX would be established as the #1 tag-team in TNA with an extended run more than likely highlighted by great matches against more athletic teams and not only that, but Hernandez would get face time by being able to throw around people half his size for a few months. You get some new tag teams on the scene, Homicide can go into the X-Division as well, and the undercard would sharpen up if effort was put into it not only by the wrestlers themselves, but by the people backstage thinking this shit up.

TNA was able to survive through the first Russo era by having an extremely athletic locker room. The next year and a half under Jarrett were still good mainly due to the fact that TNA had problem the most athletic locker room in wrestling (I’m not dissing ROH since the two were exchanging talent on a regular basis back then). Then when Jarrett stepped aside, we got the TNA booking committee with Tenay, D’Amore, Borash, etc. and got the summer of ’05 as a result. Every TNA PPV from June 2005 until December 2005 was above average to card of the year candidate good with entertaining stuff up and down the card. This was not only because the locker room was still one of the best in wrestling, but because the new booking committee had an almost gung-ho attitude towards these shows trying to up themselves each month with great matches and angles that weren’t ludicrous mainly because they knew exactly how much Sports Entertainment to add to the mix. I can only think that had all of those months—instead of three out of six—were on T.V., this attitude may have caught on more than it did. After reading the above paragraph, tell me that I’m wrong in saying that TNA can still be great?

The Reality is TNA’s future doesn’t look the brightest right now. Despite Angle’s participation in the promotion, it hasn’t yet sent TNA into the stratosphere. Of course, a 2-hour show and a better timeslot could change all of that. However, if TNA begins to become big, they have one problem staring them in the face: being different from The E. When you get into trying to attract the mainstream audience (the bulk of the audience) you can’t be the same as your competition. WCW broke away from The E in ratings and PPV buys in the mid-90’s because they were a total 180 from what The E was at the time. Look at what WCW was doing from 96-98 that The E wasn’t: cruiserweights, The nWo, Japanese wrestlers. All of these things along with the star power of the veterans helped build an audience that liked what they saw: variety, entertainment, and great wrestling all in one. TNA had that once, but with the help of a certain former WWE writer, has gone to being to close to becoming a carbon copy of Vince’s one ring circus (to quote Scott Keith). Luckily enough for TNA, Bill Goldberg and Chris Jericho have been away from wrestling long enough where they wouldn’t be considered E rejects, like most of TNA acquisitions from the past few years.

This week’s “FUCK YOU!” goes to:

HULK HOGAN & ANTONIO INOKI
Welcome to selfish self-promotion central. It is only a few weeks until the biggest Indy match ever takes place: Hulk Hogan vs. Jerry Lawler in Memphis, Tennessee. This week, Antonio Inoki announced that the first show for his new promotion—Inoki Genome Federation—would take place June 29 at Sumo Hall. I’m going to start with this one because my gripes against Inoki have been well documented in this column. I’m not going to comment on the promotion itself until this event actually happens; this is around the fifth “big” show that Inoki has promised in the last year including a 100,000 seat show in Korea (I didn’t know L.A. counted as Korea these days), all of which never happened. Next, Yukes bought Inoki’s shares in New Japan and rights to use his image and name whenever they pleased. So how is this going to be nothing other than another New Japan Sumo Hall show? I know Inoki has people under his contract and not New Japan’s, but they used that in a fairly successful feud back in 2003 under the New Japan banner. Obviously this, like Wrestle-1 and others, is not going to be a touring promotion. I see it only as another way for Inoki to get his name and face in the papers and stay in the spotlight because of his everlasting legend status in Japan. Enough is enough. I have no problem with the Hogan/Lawler dream match because it will likely sellout the FedEx Forum because Lawler is that big in Memphis and Hogan is that big a name in wrestling. My first gripe is that the match will suck, I’m pretty sure few people are going to go to this with the thought that it’s going to be good. My other gripe with this is that Hogan is booking it (guess who’s jobbing?) and is doing it with the hopes of showing he can still draw and hopes to start a promotion with himself as the big draw all based off of this one match. Can someone explain to this guy the different between dream match drawing and regular drawing? To Inoki and Hogan, your importance to wrestling (for better or worse) is never going to be questioned, but please bow out as gracefully as you can. You’ve done your part, now let others carry on the business because that is the only way it has kept going through the years.

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