“If you can’t beat ’em…” –John Cena, referring to Nexus, on WWE Raw, 7/19/10
With invasions currently happening on both major pro wrestling — I mean sports entertainment — TV promotions, I figured it would be a good idea to take a step back and offer up an evaluation on the WWE Nexus and TNA / ECW (Version 326) Invasions to date.
WWE Nexus vs. TNA / ECW Invasions
Evaluation 1: Shock Value
Let’s face it, we’ve seen the ECW guys invade other wrestling promotions before, and regardless of what Tommy Dreamer says, this IS an invasion. Sure, it might be a one-off PPV that Dixie Carter has handed over to Dreamer and his ECW brethren, but by doing that they have effectively been given control over the TV product as well for at least this week as TNA builds towards Hardcore Justice on August 8th.
On the other hand, what we hadn’t seen before from WWE and what was truly shocking to see unfold on Raw was the immediate and simultaneous elevation of eight (now seven) rookies who were entrusted with interrupting the main event to jumpstart their post-NXT careers. And as we stand today, the Nexus has done wonders for Raw as a hellacious group, something I never saw coming:
If you think about it, we all knew that Wade Barrett would be just fine, and many of us speculated that he would be given a mid-card slot where he would build himself up gradually with the hope of breaking through at some point. But did I ever think that Barrett would bring Michael Tarver, Skip Sheffield, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, David Otunga, and Darren Young along for the ride? And did any of us ever think that Barrett and WWE would be able to pull all of this off without Daniel Bryan (Danielson)?
Therefore, when it comes to true shock value, the advantage has to go to Nexus. Now if the ECW takeover leads to a long-term creative shakeup in TNA and the emergence of Paul Heyman as THE dictatorial voice behind TNA, then I’d gladly (and surprisingly) reopen the books and revisit this evaluation.
Evaluation 2: Emotional Resonance
Up until Thursday night, I would have scored this as a victory for Nexus. However, with the Nexus angle, we have a stalling tactic currently taking place where WWE feels like they can’t reveal too much of Wade Barrett’s “Bigger Picture” too soon. While I agree with that sentiment, I also have this little tiny smidgeon of skepticism starting to take hold, where perhaps WWE Creative doesn’t really know what that “Bigger Picture” is just yet.
Also, WWE has kind of painted themselves into a little bit of a corner on Raw with the Anonymous GM angle for three reasons: 1) they teased big names by using Austin and Piper catchphrases, so if the GM turns out to be Michael Cole or some other non-big reveal, then it will be a letdown; 2) the increasingly annoying interruptions that have effectively turned the Anonymous GM heel (more go-away heat than real heat); and 3) the idea that the Anonymous GM will likely be aligned with Nexus, which will then take some legitimate heat away from Wade Barrett, who is currently looked at as Nexus’ leader.
With all of that said, there is obvious emotional resonance in the Nexus Angle, especially when it comes to their repeated beatdowns of John Cena. However, I felt that Tommy Dreamer’s promo on last Thursday’s episode of TNA iMPACT was so perfectly well-executed by Dreamer that for a few minutes, this whole angle seemed worth the trouble despite all of our misgivings:
Why? Because while I have my doubts about WWE knowing where they’re going with Wade Barrett’s “Bigger Picture”, I simply BELIEVED Tommy Dreamer in his big TNA moment of truth.
And when you talk about emotional resonance, you have to admit that Tommy Dreamer certainly knows how to pull on our heartstrings.
After all that, I’ll have to call this an even matchup. Nexus feuding with Cena and other top guys like Chris Jericho and Edge is sure to stir emotions, but I also feel that Dixie Carter and Tommy Dreamer sold me on their feelings and connected with us when they absolutely had to deliver.
Evaluation 3: The FUTURE of WWE and TNA
As it stands right now, all things point towards Nexus shining brighter than ECW in the long run. Of course, we could end up reevaluating this a few months from now at the end of the year (something I plan on doing) and be saddled with the possibility of both angles withering away, too.
My HOPE is that at the very least, the ECW Invasion leads to a change in TNA’s creative direction after Hardcore Justice is in the books, whether they bring in Paul Heyman, retain Tommy Dreamer as a booker, or just shake things up in another way. After all, I partially agree with Dixie Carter when she said that TNA has the talent to “survive”, but when it comes to thriving, my colleague David Roberts astutely pointed out in his last column that TNA desperately needs new creative direction. And until they regroup and move away from nostalgia trips and into marketing their own talent in a new and refreshing manner, it will be more of the same in the coming months for TNA.
As far as Nexus is concerned, I just hope that there really is a “Bigger Picture” and that it makes sense. I don’t feel it’s too much to ask for WWE to think of something to keep Wade Barrett and the NXT grads relevant for the long haul, and I expect SummerSlam to give us at least some answers to that effect.
Overall Advantage: Nexus
For now, WWE Nexus has the clear advantage over TNA’s ECW Invasion. Unless something monumental happens in either direction, there’s really only one thing left to say:
“You’re either Nexus or you’re against us.” –Wade Barrett, Nexus catchphrase