It’s hard for me to write negative things about this company, unlike those who spend their days blasting the company on social media for the laugh. I stick up for the company and try to see the positives. I have been a TNA fan for a long time … well before the Hogan/Bischoff era.
TNA has made changes since those days, but they are still in a state of survival. They don’t appear to be showing that on the weekly product though. There seems to be a lack of excitement all around. The show has become unappealing, and the old look and identity of the show has long gone. Many wrestlers have left the company over the past couple of years. Let’s read through some of the wrestlers TNA let go:
- AJ Styles – TNA was built around AJ Styles for many years, so to not see AJ Styles in any capacity on the show leaves a huge gaping void that has yet to be filled. TNA has no hood ornament for the company, and it shows. TNA has yet to commit to anyone, although Kurt Angle, Roode and Lashley seem to be sharing the spot for the time being.
- Sting – He was “The Icon” of TNA for so many years. While WWE continuously come back to the “he disappeared for 14 years and just decided to show up now” shtick, any real fans of The Stinger knows he spent most of that time helping TNA Wrestling. He was the legend that the fans paid to see because he certainly wasn’t going to WWE and working their schedule. He was featured heavily, probably a bit too much. They took away from his character by having Sting on the show all the time, but you can’t blame the company for wanting to sell tickets. They couldn’t afford to not have him on the show. The “Joker” gimmick didn’t go over too well either. He clearly respects TNA, but he had to leave eventually so TNA could focus on new talent, and of course, his WCW legacy is with WWE.
- Bully Ray – The man was one of the best heels in the business for a substantial amount of time. He was so good at getting heat, and TNA messed it all up for him by turning him into a babyface. TNA is missing an exceptionally good heel. MVP doesn’t quite fill Bully Ray’s shoes in that department.
- Samoa Joe – To be honest, TNA management fell out with Joe many years ago after he decided to cut a shoot promo on Scott Hall no-showing an event. Joe felt entitled to stay in the main event scene, even though he wasn’t getting the crowd reactions. Samoa Joe was one of the greatest back in the older days of TNA, but over time he lost his spark. TNA booked him badly for long periods of time. He needed to move on, and TNA should be finding a new Samoa Joe, but it’s difficult to see that happening soon.
- Velvet Sky – She recently commented on her TNA departure, and she claimed TNA isn’t what it used to be. That’s pretty obvious to everyone. Although I love Velvet Sky, her entrance, and her “assets”, she was one of the worst wrestlers in the Knockouts Division. She wasn’t the Knockouts Champion I expected her to be, and although I will miss seeing her, I am glad her spot can be filled with a new face.
- Bad Influence – Both Daniels and Kaz worked for TNA for so many years. They made the X-Division exciting, they made the tag team division exciting. They pretty much did it all (aside from become World Champions), and they ended up as casualties of a company looking to save money. Both men are past their primes. They can still go of course, but it was about time they left and did something else.
- Chris Sabin – He left a while ago now, but I was surprised to see him go. They tried to build him up, they gave him a chance to shine in the spotlight, but his title win was poorly received (many citing that he simply didn’t have the look or presence to be a World Champion). I was hoping TNA would give him the time to prove himself, but they soon took the belt off him and buried Sabin to the point he left. He was the face of the X-Division for many years, and we have yet to see anyone replace him in that role.
After many years of fans begging and pleading, TNA brought back the six-sided ring. This is still a welcome addition, as it differentiates the product from other wrestling companies. However, with that positive move, they made other moves that took away from the appeal of it.
They made the decision to “black out” the crowd, as TNA started to tape multiple episodes (shown weekly) over the course of a few days. Although this decision is meant to stop the problem where viewers would see the same fans in attendance for many weeks, it made the other problem of making the product look very dark and unappealing.
Part of the fun of watching wrestling is to see the audience and how they react to the product. We want to see the excitement from the fans, we want to see their expressions, we want to see their fan-made signs, but with a blacked out crowd, we don’t get to see any of that. It makes the crowd noise much more clear, as it’s the only way someone watching on television can interpret how over a particular match or segment is with the audience.
Unlike some of the current WWE audiences (Jersey, Philly), TNA has exceptionally quiet American audiences. It’s a totally different story when they come over here to the UK, as the English and Scottish fans eat everything up. It’s a special event that only comes around once a year, so the fans over here want to make the most of it. Episodes of Impact Wrestling always go over much better in front of a UK crowd than an American one.
It wasn’t always that way though, I remember when TNA had a cult following and the audience in the old “Impact Zone” remained loyal to the company and kept the excitement up. The cult following was squashed after the changes in 2010 (not long after Bischoff/Hogan arrival), as they wanted to make the program less like an ECW show (how the fans react), and more like WWE. They had producers come out and tell fans not to act up as they wanted the product to be portrayed in a more “family friendly” way. The minute they did this to their loyal fans in the Impact Zone was the day TNA lost the excitement. They have yet to find that audience mentality again.
It’s a shame because TNA got over by being a true alternative, and they catered more towards the “wrestling” fans of the old “Attitude era” by being controversial, extreme, and keeping the wrestling cards very competitive. The X-Division was highlighted heavily, and once again, TNA have fallen into the slump of not paying the X-Division any attention. TNA has lost its identity, now we can’t be certain what TNA is exactly. It’s not a disaster, like some want to make out (“TNA will be dead in a year blah blah”), they are still producing some great wrestling matches. They still have Kurt Angle, Bobby Roode, Jeff Hardy, Austin Aries, MVP and Lashley, but we have to believe that these names need to be replaced sooner than later. TNA needs to do what it did to get over in the first place, be creative, and take risks with talents.
The talent TNA currently has, it’s hard to see some of them getting over in any reasonable fashion. They do have some diamonds in the rough though. In my opinion, these include:
- Bram – This guy is exceptional. He has a unique look, voice, and he can work. I can already imagine him as a World Champion. He needs some polish, but hopefully the fans have noticed his work, and he gets over with them.
- EC3 – I firmly believe he is the best heel TNA has to offer at the moment. He appears very natural in this role. You can see how he’s absorbed himself into this character, and I often get a good laugh out of the little things he does. Sometimes he misses the mark, but I can imagine that’s only because he’s trying out new things. I would never have imagined Derrick Bateman becoming EC3. He really has a passion for this character, and unlike what the fans say, he can wrestle. He chooses not to amaze people with his talents in the ring … like a good heel should do. When he does need to have a good match, he will deliver.
- The Wolves – The best tag team TNA has to offer. Hopefully they will continue as a tag team for some time, until TNA finds the need to split them up and put them in the main event scene. It would be similar to what they did with Beer Money, and when it happens, we will get some amazing matches between Davey and Eddie.
- Havok – Not quite sure why TNA felt the need to make Havok lose like she did to Kong. However, Havok is only 28 years old, she has plenty of time to make a name for herself as the new monster of the Knockouts Division. Awesome Kong is 37, and when she is ready to move on, she will pass the torch to Havok.
- Taryn Terrell – At 29 years old, Terrell is in her prime and she delivers. She has proven how good she can be in the ring, and hopefully we see more of that out of her. She is someone TNA can build the Knockouts Division around for many years. I see her as the girl who will take over from Gail Kim when she retires.
- Rockstar Spud – Spud is one of the best babyfaces TNA has now. The fans love Spud, and it’s partly down to the feud he has with EC3. Spud makes a believable underdog, while EC3 makes a believable bully. It’s a feud that has gone on for a while now, but it’s still getting some great reactions. He could end up as the new face of the X-Division one day. Either way, Rockstar Spud has proven that he has the charisma to keep the fans entertained, and hopefully TNA will never turn him heel. He needs to be a genuine underdog babyface going forward if they want to use him right. Sadly we ain’t been allowed to see what Spud can do in the ring, but you have to believe me when I say that Spud is a good wrestler. They are saving his ring work for the future, as they know that his character is much more important at this stage in his career. I am eagerly awaiting an X-Division run from the little guy. He will amaze you, trust me.
- Samuel Shaw – Proven that he can become a character. He hasn’t been seen since Brittany decided to leave TNA, but hopefully they will allow the “crazy bastard” to return soon. He has much to offer, he adds something different to the product that others don’t. He could become a force to be reckoned with, he just needs to stay dark, and maybe beef up a bit. It’s hard to say whether TNA can make anything out of him, but hopefully they do because I enjoy his work.
TNA is in dire need of creating new stars to rival some of the names I mentioned above. The product needs to swing from the Kurt Angles and the MVPs, to the younger generation of stars if TNA wants to make their product refreshing again. It’s hard to imagine them doing that when it’s guys like Angle who sell the tickets, but when those older names leave, TNA will be in serious trouble if they ain’t done enough to build up the next generation. Just look at NXT and you can see how the WWE is doing an amazing job at ensuring its future. TNA needs to do what NXT is doing. They need the right people in the right places to make an amazing mid-card they can showcase every week.