The Mother Brain Files: Who Are You?
Following the demise of World Championship Wrestling in 2001, the icon Sting was briefly in negotiations with Vince McMahon to join the World Wrestling Federation, a company that he never set foot into for his entire 16 year career at the time. But according to his 2005 TNA-produced DVD, he quickly realized how the WWF would treat him when his WCW buddy Booker T debuted for the invasion angle and how Dwayne â€˜The Rockâ€™ Johnson cut a promo on him that began with the question of â€œwho are youâ€. That singular moment was the straw that broke the camelâ€™s back for Sting, believing that as an established WCW star he would be marginalized in Vince McMahonâ€™s world of homegrown superstars like the Rock, Steve Austin, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and the Undertaker.
A year later, Total Nonstop Action was born. Jerry and Jeff Jarrett along with Panda Energyâ€™s Dixie Carter saw the opportunity to give wrestling fans an alternative product as the renamed WWE cornered the market and held the bragging rights to wrestlingâ€™s past and present. While established stars of the past initially helped to make TNA as prolific as possible, it was their homegrown talent that won legions of fans. A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Jay Lethal, and various other performers dazzled fans with their high risk maneuvers and mixed martial arts-style matches while WWE was restraining their talent to decrease injury risks. They had a 6-sided ring to give their product an MMA feel and unique types of matches such as â€˜Ultimate Xâ€™ and â€˜Gauntlet for the Goldâ€™. Their efforts soon paid off and a television deal was made with Spike TV in 2005. While some wrestling observers saw the equivalent of ECWâ€™s innovation in TNAâ€™s product, Others saw WCWâ€™s flaws and the same mistakes being made once again.
Fast forward to 2010. TNA signs arguably the biggest icon of pro wrestling, Hulk Hogan. Along side Hogan is Eric Bischoff, the former show-runner of WCW who nearly gave Vince a run for his money. In previous years, the company grew brought in superstars like Kurt Angle and Christian to elevate the talent as well as improve the product. But Hogan and Bischoff wanted an major overhaul to compete with WWE, even if that meant changing TNAâ€™s identity. The 6-sided ring was replaced with a traditional 4-sided ring, the Impact show moved to Monday nights against WWE Raw, and more ex-WWE stars flocked for to TNA with the belief that wherever Hogan goes, money draws. After 4 months, however, those plans backfired.
The Hulk Hogan that TNA hired was not the guy who body slammed Andre The Giant at Wrestlemania III but the guy who was past his prime, in the middle of a nasty divorce, and embarrassed by his reckless son. Eric Bischoff no longer has Ted Turnerâ€™s television time or the financial resources to one-up Vince. Now heâ€™s just a Hulk Hogan lackey. The fans were frustrated and so was the talent.
Itâ€™s bad enough that TNAâ€™s ratings are far below the WWEâ€™s. The belief that Val Venus and the Nasty Boys can draw high ratings was a joke. Between lousy booking, horrendously scripted play-by-play commentary, and lack of marketing to get more events outside their Orlando home base, TNA is seen as inferior. Yet, loyal fans blamed management and believe that the talent is being mishandled, causing much frustration for some performers throughout the years and forcing them to turn back to the more organized and better paying WWE (and for some Ring of Honor). Now TNA decides to trim some fat, make Hulk Hogan fade into the background…. and revive ECW. Excuse me, EV 2.0. Now only did ECW alum Rob Van Dam hold their world title but they now also have 4 factions going against each other: Ric Flairâ€™s Fortune (A.J. Styles, Kazarian, Beer Money, Desmond Wolfe, Matt Morgan, and Doug Williams), Team Hogan (Hogan, Jeff Hardy, The Pope, Mr. Anderson, and Kurt Angle), Sting and Kevin Nash, and the EV 2.0 guys.
But whoâ€™s feuding with who? If I get this right, Fortune is against Team Hogan AND EV 2.0. But Sting and Nash are against everybody and Jeff Jarrett wants to stop them with help from Samoa Joe. Itâ€™s really too confusing to follow much like the TNA product itself. How did AJ Styles go from TNA champion to TV champion in less than half a year? What about Abyss going from a reincarnated Dave Sullivan â€œI want to be a Hulkamaniacâ€ gimmick to monster heel in less than 3 months?
Of all the gripes I have with TNA right now, it had to be this past Thursday on Impact when the question of who built the house of TNA was brought up and Hogan dubs to his team of all ex-WWE talent as â€œthe real TNAâ€. Now shouldnâ€™t this feud be the other way around? Shouldnâ€™t Ric Flair be the babyface putting over the homegrown talent of TNA to save the company from all ex-WWE and ECW talents?Â The more I talk about it, the more I feel like trying to make sense out of WCW 2000.
As much as I criticize the current WWE product, I will praise them for going in the direction of putting more fresh young talent into the spotlight. I know John Cenaâ€™s still the face of the company but I also know thereâ€™s very hungry guys like the Miz and Daniel Bryan who are positioning themselves to take his spot one day. TNA, however, canâ€™t seem to decide whether theyâ€™re WCW or ECW. Maybe instead of seeking short-term solutions for success, put some money into marketing and long-term stability so the company can grow fresh new stars without the egos of the old generation getting in their way.
So I leave off by asking TNA management and Dixie Carter the same exact question that the Rock posed to Booker T: Who are you?