Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thoughts on TNA Impact's first Monday show
Ric Flair is my favorite wrestler of all time. When he returned to the WWF in 2001, I jumped around my dorm room at Bowling Green, cutting a mock Ric Flair promo.

That was before WWE (WWF has to pretend it was always WWE. I don't.) put out Flair DVDs and classic Flair matches. The guy delivered more often than anyone in the modern era.

I also was impressed two years ago, when Flair retired from WWE, and the company gave him a touching sendoff, which included three of the original Four Horsemen, Harley Race, Greg Valentine, Ricky Steamboat and Dean Malenko.

It almost made me like HHH (who was the emcee of ceremony, and he did a great job) for 30 seconds.

You knew, even then, that Flair would come back. I just hoped it would be in WWE. For as much as I don't like WWE or Vince McMahon at times, they do represent the major leagues of wrestling. McMahon used Flair at last year's Wrestlemania, and did so effectively, in a manager's role.

Less than a year later, Flair was back in the ring with Hulk Hogan. I tried to watch the match, but it was too sad. Flair, now north of 60, just doesn't have it anymore in the ring, nor could anyone expect him to.

The fact that Flair and Hogan, approaching 120 years old combined, were in the situation spoke to how poorly TNA has conceived its Monday night show.

In 1995, when Eric Bischoff began the first Nitro, he started with a cruiserweight match. It was two young guys (Jushin Thunder Liger and the late Brian Pillman) wrestling a fast-paced, exciting match.

Buschoff was sending a message: We're bringing the fans something new.

As much as I love Flair, as much as I respect what Hogan has done for the business, that message was not sent on Bischoff's Monday show some 15 years later.

But that was one problem. Among the others:

Sting comes out five minutes into the show and inexplicably turns heel. You know what Flair thinks about this; he's said it 100 times in interviews:

"Sting isn't a heel. He can't be a heel."

This, however, is typical of TNA writer Vince Russo. He loves to take top babyfaces and turn them heel. It worked in 1997, when he was on the WWF writing team and they turned Bret Hart. Since then, teams that Russo have been on have turned:

Bret Hart, WCW, 1999.
Bill Goldberg, WCW, 2000 (Remember the Big Surprise? No? Don't worry about it)
Ricky Steamboat, TNA, 2002
Sting, TNA, 2008, 2010.
A.J. Styles a few times, despite being one of the few homegrown wrestlers the company has and therefore as close to a "franchise" wrestler as the company has.

Sting is a great performer. His interviews in the last year are by far the best in his career, and made him, stunningly, one of the best talkers TNA had. But you get the sense Steve Borden really can't get into a heel character. Nor, after 22 years of playing babyface, should he be expected to.

- The biggest crowd reaction I've heard in TNA all year came when Rob Van Dam came out. He beat an unsuspecting Sting in eight seconds (and, like a true face, got him from behind), and then got beaten to a pulp by his opponent after the match. That's right, it took a minute for TNA's top new act to look weak. Not only that, but RVD was laying on his back for a minute after Sting beat him up.

- RVD, Jeff Hardy and Sting are on your show. Think you want to tell anyone? TNA wants to surprise the viewer, who, strangely, wasn't watching because he or she didn't know the three would be on, and therefore wasn't a "viewer" to begin with.

-Hall, Nash and Waltman are all pretty played out. Nothing against them as performers, but the acts haven't really changed in 13 years. Hall didn't look good.

-I did like some things about Monday. The atmosphere -- which my close friend Joe was a part of -- was electric and felt fresh. There was a really good X-Division match that could have used 5 more minutes. But in the end, it was a microcosm of what TNA has been for much of its existence -- potential, but not much delivered.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home