The Reality of Wrestling: iMPACT! Goes to 2 Hours

The Reality of Wrestling: iMPACT! Goes to 2 Hours
By Phil Clark

RAW Thursday or something different?

This past Thursday marked TNA iMPACT!’s first two-hour show; not a special, but the beginning of weekly two-hour installments of what has turned into RAW on a different night. That is not to say that TNA hasn’t been doing some things correctly with their T.V. program, they have. The only problem is that their negatives have far outweighed and been exposed more than their positives (like pretty much anything TNA in 2007). With an extra hour of T.V., everyone within TNA is predicting a turnaround. If the prophecy doesn’t come true, then there are real problems in Orlando.

P.C. Says: For iMPACT! to succeed as a two-hour show, they have to become the next Nitro

Think back to the glory days of WCW’s Monday Nitro—you know, the show that went up against RAW for around six years—and try to remember what made it so enjoyable. I’ll give you some help (if needed): great wrestling, new and fresh angles, and a feeling of spontaneity. TNA has had all of these things, but as of late has seemed to lose them in the debacle known as The Second Russo Era, and while it is unfair to blame all of a company’s problems on one guy, it does seem that these three much needed things all have seemed to fade away with the entrance of one individual. Scary, no?

The very reason that TNA is where it is today is because they were an alternative to The E. If you remember back in 2003 (when TNA first began to hit), The E was in the middle of one of their down years creatively and qualitatively and here comes this new (well, somewhat new) company with young guys doing new things and having great matches, hell we really don’t care if they have charisma or can act in an angle or not. That was the mindset for me and probably all of the fans that TNA attracted to their product at that time. I know that may make me a bit nostalgic and insert a bit of favoritism for that period of time, but it was also in 2005 that this happened and that sealed the deal for TNA getting on Spike because I’m sure that the suits at Spike were thinking they’d get an alternative product. They did get that for the most part, but it has been slowly degrading back to a sports entertainment enriched product since Jarrett retook the book in ’06 and Russo was handed the book in ’07.

What Nitro did was go at a much faster pace than RAW did, or at least it seemed that way. And there in lies one subtle difference between the two: the feel of the show. It is interesting that in the beginnings of the Monday Night War, RAW was taped and Nitro was live whereas today it is the exact opposite concerning RAW and iMPACT! That is the main thing that has to change if TNA wants to attract more than just the usual 1.1 rating: live shows. At this point, TNA still doesn’t have the money to do live shows that often and it is definitely a plus for the talent that they only have to work 3-4 days a month with the tapings and all, but something is always lost when it’s not live.

If TNA wants to be different, they have to have a different product, and having a different product means pushing different people. Trust me, people will get behind and watch unproven guys (look at TNA’s following in the weekly PPV years) if they are good enough and can grab the audience’s attention. Well, TNA has those people; not only do they have these people, but they acknowledge how good they are and that they are the guys the audience loves to see the most. The problem with this: these guys aren’t getting pushed. A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe, XXX, LAX, The Motor City Machine Guns, Petey Williams, Jay Lethal, Christian Cage, why haven’t all of these guys been pushed to the moon and become the new face of wrestling for a company that claims to be just that? Simple, too much elderly cludder. Sting, Kurt Angle, Rhino, Team 3-D, Kevin Nash, you’ve all got to go. With Angle, it does make me sad, but considering the Joe/Angle feud got botched out of the gate and the HHH/Jarrett hybrid that Angle apparently is turning into backstage, there doesn’t seem to be any choice there. With Sting, TNA could’ve signed Jericho for the same amount (Jericho has said as much in interviews) and would’ve gotten a lot more mileage out of him than they have with “The Icon.” And Team 3-D, unless they start jobbing, they have to go to. While the Duh-duh-duh-Dudley’s (oops!) are one of the final remnants of the former ECW, what have they been doing lately that’s helped anything? Yes, we finally got the dream match with the Steiners, but unless they are planning on jobbing to LAX legit or MCMG’s, then they just have to go. Why has Rhino lasted this long with TNA? My guess is that the original plan for Rhino was for him to be a token Jarrett title defense (with an impromptu title win) before Sting came back. How exactly did that translate into a two plus year stay? And Big Kev, we all love you when you’re on the mic or talking to a camera, but if you come back to the ring, you have to go too. Seriously.

For TNA, it’s put up or shut up. It’s either change a lot or don’t go anywhere. I’m not predicting that pushing the young or younger crowd is immediately going to translate into dollars, but it sure beats pushing E rejects and faded legends into the ground while wasting the golden years of your young talent. LAX were on the path to becoming something really special in wrestling last year before that got derailed, Joe would’ve been something really special in wrestling with that first win over Angle, but nope that didn’t happen either. Do you see a pattern? And seeing A.J. Styles turned into a comedy act makes me want to cry considering how good this man can still be. These are the kinds of things that need to change and change quick because if people see that you’re an E clone, they’ll go to the proven name. And then it’ll take even longer or something groundbreaking to win them back. And I don’t TNA has the patience or imagination for either at this point.

The Reality is the first two-hour iMPACT! scored a 1.1 rating. While the people at Spike do see this as a good thing, I’m not sure what to make of it, so I’ll make nothing of it. This has been the rating that iMPACT! has been scored basically since they moved to their current timeslot. You do have to hand it to Spike, they do believe in TNA, if they didn’t they would’ve gotten rid of them already for lack of ratings movement upwards. Instead, they finally gave them a second hour in the hopes that iMPACT! will make Thursday a real wrestling night again. I honestly think they’ve already done this as they are the first competition since WCW to get a cable T.V. slot, and since it’s on the night SmackDown! used to be on the pieces put themselves together don’t they? The changes I wrote of above are ones that I’m almost imploring TNA to make because it is not only what they need, but also what wrestling needs. Everywhere other than Mexico it seems that nobody is willing to put everything into pushing their next generation of stars. And by everything I mean patience, creativity, intelligence, timing, and the willingness of your older talent to do the job when necessary. While some companies have tried to use some combo or trio of these five, it hasn’t worked. You know why? Because you need all of these things if you’re going to keep a wrestling fan’s attention long enough to introduce him or her to someone new and then keep them with this guy so he goes somewhere in the business. It hasn’t happened. Where are the days of Jumbo Tsuruta creating All-Japan’s main-event scene for the 90’s practically by himself, or Terry Funk creating stars in WCW? Those days are gone apparently. While some promotions outside of Mexico are making an attempt at pushing the next generation, neither of America’s Big Two seems intent on doing it. And they wonder why the business has been dying for the last three years with only one event able to pull in the big crowd. If it wasn’t so sad, it’d be pretty funny.

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