Last night, TNA kicked off its live season and 10th year with some quality matches and what appeared to be a renewed spirit and focus for the promotion.
The Sensational She-Hulk
Dixie Carter has a very sincere presence, and last night she was positively beaming upon introducing the new executive in charge of the Knockouts division, Brooke Hogan. Presumably, Carter was there to diffuse any negativity in the air directed at the controversial appointee.
Though there were some jeers from the Orlando faithful, it was not overwhelming.
Carter said on air what she has been saying in interviews about Ms. Hogan's passion and mind for wrestling. The two had a genuine and pleasant segment together, but afterward, I wondered why this really energetic boardroom moment was presented in the context of a wrestling program.
While I like that Carter is involving the live audience to take the stodginess out of corporate affairs and make the company seem grassroots, perhaps future segments similar to this one would work better as a website exclusive—still in front of the crowd, still a part of the TNA Live experience, but broadcast in a different venue for a more dedicated audience.
Carter's infectious faith in Brooke's creative abilities has given me hope all parties will put the focus on the talented wrestlers, and not in Brooke as a dominating on-air character. I will keep my mind open and look forward to what this partnership brings. There is no reason Brooke Hogan cannot be the Stephanie McMahon of TNA—and hopefully she will learn from that executive's career path.
Meet The New Era, Same As The Old
Is it TNA, or it is Impact Wrestling?
The company needs to pull the trigger and commit to one brand or the other. This anniversary year would seem the perfect time to finally drop the childish acronym and start creating an identity that will define the next 10 years.
Last evening's episode was my first taste of the Gut Check segment, and the aftertaste leaves much to be desired.
I appreciate the fact that TNA is trying to do something different with the wrestling show format. Gut Check seems to be a work in progress that is trying to capitalize on the American Idol mold. Hindering the concept is the death grip of kayfabe that continues to haunt wrestling promotions and how they are generally perceived.
I feel bad for contestant Joey Ryan because the company didn't seem to make it clear to either him or the judges (Bruce Prichard, Al Snow and Taz) what the perimeters were. There were multiple instances where it appeared Ryan-the-real-wrestler-seeking-a-contract was being penalized for the attitude and actions of Ryan-the-wrestling-show-character. At the end, they asked him to cut a promo, which is something wrestling characters, not job applicants, do.
There was an awful morbidity to that final promo scene, as though the contestant was before the Inquisition to beg for their life in the business. One of the gifts Gorgeous George gave wrestling was establishing that promos are meant to elicit reactions from the audience, not be a forum to beg for work.
While that part was disgusting, I'm not soured on the concept. However, it needs a new point of view. TNA needs to make it clear to the Gut Check judges and competitors exactly what is expected. If the company is going to strip away kayfabe to produce an American Idol segment, then they have to strip it all away, because this half-and-half nonsense doesn't make anyone look good.
On the first show, audiences need to see an interview with the performer discussing their character/persona, their approach to a match, why he or she wants to work in TNA, etc. During that interview, it would be helpful to see the performer in their gear vamping it up—so viewers clearly see the distinction between the real person and the character. If available, home movie and indy show snippets would reinforce the story of the wrestler's journey.
The performer then wrestles the match in character. In lieu of the usual broadcast team, the three judges need to commentate during the match and discuss the performer and his approach to ring work and characterization.
On the follow up show, instead of that sad and lukewarm segment in the editing bay we saw last evening, the judges should be interviewed in pre-taped segments to discuss their impressions of the contestant.
From there, the contestant should come out and cut an in character promo TO THE CROWD, not to the judges. Then, like Idol, the performance is over, the pretense of being in character is dropped, and the judges will assess the contestant before delivering their verdict.
Streamline the concept, strip away kayfabe and put this amazing craft of professional wrestling front and center—have contestants be judged based on their mastery of all aspects of this unique art form. Quit hedging, TNA, and just show it for what it is. Audiences will still be given that emotional payoff moment when the contestant reacts to the judges' decision.
Overall, Dixie Carter seemed rejuvenated last evening, and that energy permeated into the rest of the broadcast. It's a new decade for TNA, but hopefully this renewed focus will signal a new day for the promotion, as well.
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