Was Joe’s big win too little, too late, or the beginning of a new era in TNA?
I wrote this before last night’s Impact, but really, the big news of the week in Orlando-based promotions was the main event last week. After what seems like an eternity, Samoa Joe won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
I say seem like because Joe has been an active member of the TNA roster for slightly less than three years. Although today’s wrestling scene has seen career tracks for accelerated from years past, it’s still not absurd to think that that’s not a long time for a guy to be elevated. It’s also hard to argue that the guys who held the strap ahead of him didn’t have some merit. Even Jarrett’s last run, which the fans literally tried to bury by tossing garbage in the ring, had some merit as far as shuffling him off screen and setting up a big blow off for his years on top of the promotion.
The fact that they chose Sting as the guy to dethrone him struck me at the time as short sighted, because Joe had so much momentum going in to Bound For Glory, but I can see some logic in putting the belt on the “Icon” instead of the hotter commodity. At the time, it fel like a missed opportunity (something TNA won an award for around these parts). But in hindsight, they had a Joe/Angle feud that didn’t need the title and a feud with Abyss that could have made him a real player. I’m not saying it turned out the way that it could/should have, but if I look at it side wise I can justify it.
The same goes for Christian and Angle’s subsequent title reigns, and their going over our portly Samoan anti-hero. There’s also something to be said for the title chase. In theory, it should have made Joe’s title win a bigger deal. Just to further serve as Devil’s (or Russo’s, depending on your perspective) advocate, I’ll even posit that our demand for instant gratification that has something to do with the fact that Joe’s big win wasn’t met with a ton of enthusiasm. Modern day wrestling fans aren’t used to prolonged title chases; we expect wrap ups commiserate to season finales of scripted TV shows.
I can’t rationalize away the fact that Joe’s title win on Sunday was anti-climatic, though. The build up was done well, and the match did at least apporximate the UFC-esque “big fight feel” they were going for. It was a good match that didn’t involve any overbooking and came down to competition between two great competitors over a title. It had the right guy going over.
It was, in short, what we want. It’s what the ROH and old school fan contingency find lacking from mainstream wrestling and has sent them to the indies and 24/7 to find. It’s what most criticism against TNA boils down to; that they don’t do this enough (or at all, really). It elevated a guy who’s almost universally popular and regarded as a great worker to the main event level in a promotion that, while being on a level far below the WWE, does have a national TV deal and PPV. You’d think it would cause giddy elation in the IWC.
Unfortunately, it just happened to be a match in the series too late. This is really the match they should have been able to put on at Hard Justice with four titles on the line, sans the hastily slapped together Karen Angle melodrama, especially since that was for four belts. While this does serve as a good functional blow off to the years long rivalary between these two (or, more realistically, an end to the first chapter of it), it’s hard to wash the bitter taste of the match that preceded away, although going as far as having Kurt having Karen escorted away from ringside by security was a nice touch.
It occurs to me that I haven’t talked about the match in all this. It was certainly in the good to very good ration, or **** range if you’re an asteriks fetishist. I haven’t had a chance to watch it again yet, but I doubt it, or any match between the two ever, will live up to the lofty expectations we all seem to have for an all time great, ***** classic between the two. I think it served as a good hybrid of the MMA stuff Angle was talking about integrating (and a lot of the build up was centered on) and their usual spots. Best of all, it was Joe’s first decisive victory over his nemesis, as he went over clean as a sheet (as Scott Keith is fond of saying) with his signature move. In some ways, it reminded me of Flair’s Starcade title win over Harley Race, although that’s surely the cage and the title change talking. At least they had a better ref than Gene Kiniski.
Time will tell if this marks a momentous change in TNA’s direction or just another botched opportunity.
One Stop TNA Link Hullabaloo!
Steve Murray takes a look at the bright side of Lockdown with his real time coverage, after going up against Jake Mulligan in the latest edition of VS.
The exquisitely monikered Bones Barkley sat in on a confrence call with the new TNA champ last week. As an added bonus, you can hear him typing!
David Brashear sneaks a hilariously accurate comic strip reference in to his look back at the AJ Styles/Rhino feud which never quite lived up to what it could have been last year.
Matthew Michaels gives a youtube imbed of TNA Today, which features post Lockdown footage, as well as an interesting tidbit about a former WWE star and current concussion researcher who was at the Impact Zone last week.