TCWNN #23: War? What war?

Well let’s just get this out of the way right now, first thing.

A .98.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA …

I know, I know. I shouldn’t laugh. But after all the hype, and all the talk from Hogan and Bischoff about how getting a Monday night time slot would be a game changer and reignite the Monday Night War… I just can’t help it. It’s not like the WWE put on an all star show in response to TNA’s declaration of war, and had it’s rating rocket sky high as a result. They cruised along on auto pilot and got their usual mid 3 rating. So yeah, I’m laughing at TNA. Like I said, I know I shouldn’t. What the wrestling industry needs more than anything else is competition. Strong, healthy, robust competition. Something TNA has shown that they are, by virtue of their own apparent blindness, in no position to adequately provide. It really shouldn’t surprise anyone. But even I was hoping for just the slightest glimmer of hope, just the slightest hint of a turn in the right direction.

But it’s the same old same old. And I mean, old, brother.

Hulk Hogan can not be the focus of a wrestling promotion in 2010. He just can’t. His presence is one thing. The man is a genuine legend, and his name is synonymous with pro wrestling. His coming to TNA as “management” was a totally acceptable use of the man. But it’s abundantly clear now that the number one babyface star in TNA is supposed to be Hulk Hogan himself. People used to joke that Kevin Nash, when he booked in WCW, turned himself from Big Sexy to Big Poochie, after a character from The Simpsons episode “Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie”.  For those who don’t recall, Poochie was an unpopular new character forced upon the Itchy and Scratchy show and voiced by Homer. At one point in the episode, Homer makes a list of suggestions for the producers, one of which is “whenever Poochie’s not on screen, all the other characters should be asking ‘Where’s Poochie‘?”  To many, that was the essence of Kevin Nash’s booking strategy. And based on the past weeks of TNA, it’s quickly become the new TNA strategy, only with Hulk Hogan wearing the orange skin… I mean fur, of Poochie.

Whether it’s Hogan putting the boots to Flair, Styles, Wolfe, and an entire security team in order to make the save for the Evad Sullivan channeling Abyss (and is it just  me, or does anyone else out there expecting this whole Hogan/Abyss hero worship storyline to end with Abyss pulling an Andre, and becoming just one more monster heel for Hogan to beat?), or coming out after a show opening, allegedly career threatening, bloody beat down to defend the not even two minutes freshly debuted Rob Van Dam from a nonsensically heel turned Sting (why? Because Vince Russo apparently is married to the idea, despite all his previous failed attempts at doing so), Hogan is clearly the focus of the show; actual current top stars like RVD and Jeff Hardy are treated as after thoughts. And when Hogan’s not on screen, Tenay and Tazz are sure to talk about him. Worse yet, at every turn, Eric Bischoff and Bubba the Love Sponge are there to undermine whatever minimal progress TNA has made over the years by pointing out that without Hulk Hogan, the company would be dead and buried. He is being made out to be both savior and superman, yet he can visibly barely walk to the ring, let alone run in it.

I don’t want to bury Hulk Hogan. I really don’t. He can’t help his physical state, and he’s certainly not the only problem with TNA, or even the main one. But by placing him at the forefront, he’s the most visible. Vince Russo needs to go, there’s no question about that. More focus needs to be placed on wrestling and less on backstage skits. Their camera men need to take some serious lessons in timing, so that they stop cutting away too soon. The blow offs to matches need to stop getting given away on free TV 2 weeks before a pay per view. Maybe even actually publicizing the matches in advance. And so on, and so forth. If there’s one thing older than the WCW reminiscent lack of sense TNA is displaying, it’s the laundry list of tried and true things they can do to succeed that they somehow just can’t be bothered to do.

Ironically, the WWE has managed to put out a show that’s an alternative to their own still sports entertainment heavy programming, just by pure happy accident. WWE NXT may not be the best wrestling show on the air, but by gum it sure is the closest thing to the old school presentation of wrestling as an athletic competition to air on major network television in years (while I would love to give that title to Ring of Honor, HDnet is barely mainstream enough to count as actual television). Part of that is because the very idea of the show is that it’s a competition for a WWE contract. But the other part of it is the fact that every single second of that show has to do with the wrestling. The characters, the interactions, the feuds, literally the entire show… it all makes perfect narrative sense, because it all revolves around wrestling as competition. The mentor/student relationships even mirrors the old school idea of pairing guys with managers to mask their weaknesses and get them heat. Michael Cole’s over the top “these young punks need to show some respect (and boy does that new fangled internet thing stink)” persona is the most sports entertainment thing about the show, and even that is rooted in the traditional idea of having to earn your place in the business.

Like I said, it might not the best wrestling show on the air. A lot of the “rookies” still have a long way to go. Not all of them are a Bryan Danielson. David Otunga, for example, may have been in FCW for the last 2 years, but he’s still a super green rookie who botches at least one move per match. But isn’t it better to have a long way to go in the ring after a mere 2 years than to have a long way to go with an entire company after nearly 5 times the amount of time?

Oh, and one other thing. You know what NXT’s rating was this week?

A 1.0. Basically the same as TNA.
Some war.

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