I know a lot of people aren’t talking about it, but TNA has been on fire since they moved over to Destination America. That’s been said before, but this time they’ve managed to keep it going for more than just a few weeks. I’m not sure if it’s going to stick around for the long term, but today we’re going to take a look at what’s going on in TNA at the moment and why it’s working so well.
We’ll start at the top with TNA World Heavyweight Champion Bobby Lashley. It always seemed that WWE wanted to make him into the next big thing, but Lashley never really clicked in that role. Some of this could be attributed to one of the same issues currently plaguing Roman Reigns: trying to humanize a monster.
TNA has found the key to Lashley: keep his talking short and just let him destroy people. There’s no need for a character for him as his in ring abilities and power are more than enough to get people to care about him. Fans are going to react to a powerful monster running through people and it’s working with Lashley. It also helped that they made him a heel as it’s another simple idea: build him up as this unstoppable monster and then have a hero beat him. That led to Lashley turning face, and now he has the fans’ respect to earn their cheering. It’s a simple concept that WWE would be well suited to use with Reigns.
Continuing with the theme of people WWE screwed up but TNA is knocking out of the park, we have Ethan Carter III, who wrestled in WWE as Derrick Bateman. You don’t remember Bateman? That might be due to him being a very generic guy who only got to show the occasional comedic chops. He’s a bit different in TNA and the results have been quite the success.
Over in TNA, Bateman is the nephew of hated TNA boss Dixie Carter, who is now off television. However, Ethan is now one of the best heels in the company and is nailing the stuck up better than you heel who has yet to get what’s coming to him. He’s been in TNA for over a year and a half now and has yet to be pinned or made to submit. During this stretch, he’s also pinned almost every member of the TNA Hall of Fame (and does anyone care that he never pinned D-Von?) and gotten more and more cocky every week.
Carter is the kind of heel that you love to hate because he’s just so perfect in the role. How many fans are told that they can’t wrestle but come back with his own chants of “I disagree” and “I’m very good.”? No he’s nothing revolutionary, but you don’t have to be something never before seen to be an entertaining character. He even has a bodyguard in Tyrus (Brodus Clay) to complete the heel archetype. The guy is just great and has ran with the spot they’ve given him, which alone puts TNA ahead of WWE in this area.
Keeping up with the idea of areas where TNA is ahead of WWE, there’s the tag team division. While it’s cooled down in recent weeks, there’s a part of the division that TNA has above WWE: a division. Over in WWE, you usually have the champions, their top challengers, Los Matadores, and whichever thrown together team is filling in the fourth spot, followed by some teams who are around but not in the title hunt. This can get very dull in a hurry and has been dull for years.
Last year, TNA had a feud of the year candidate with a tag team series between the Wolves, Team 3D and the Hardy Boys. This led to an awesome series of matches with each team getting a win until the Wolves came out on top and walked out with the Tag Team Titles. The division might not be the deepest in the world, but at least you get more than one style of match over and over.
To get away from the comparison idea, let’s look at some things TNA is doing well on its own. Above all else right now, they’re keeping the stories simple and then building up to the payoffs. For instance, the World Title feud is Kurt Angle challenging Bobby Lashley. These two have had issues since Angle was in charge but they never actually had a match. Now that Lashley has cleaned out the main event scene and Angle is back from injury, they’re set for a showdown this week on “Impact Wrestling.”
It’s such a basic story but they’ve pulled it off very well. Wrestling can work so easily if you just slow things down a bit and tell basic stories with logical conclusions. Not everything has to be the epic NWO story or have the intricacies of the Higher Power. Just let the story build up and then give us a good wrestling match to blow it off. That seems to be where we’re headed and it’s all they need to do.
TNA has also cut down on their use of authority figures and heel stables fighting for control of the company. There are two heel stables at the moment but they’re fighting for titles instead of being able to run everything. This is a nice break from what TNA has relied on for so many years and it’s a very refreshing change of pace. TNA has spent so much time on the same idea that just going away from that for a change is making things feel that much easier to sit through.
The commentary has gotten a lot better too and it really does put WWE’s to shame. At the end of the day, Josh Matthews isn’t the second coming of Jim Ross, but he and Taz are slowly finding a rhythm and stay away from all the nonsense that Taz and Tenay got into and the lack of focus on everything but wrestling that you get on “Monday Night Raw” or “Smackdown.” In other words, they talk about what they see in front of them and focus on it instead of whatever else there might be to talk about at the moment.
I’m not saying TNA is the be all and end all of modern day professional wrestling, but it’s gone from a show that couldn’t figure out what it wanted to be or how it was going to get there to a show that is really easy to sit through and presents itself like a show you could get behind. They’ve stopped trying to reinvent the idea of professional wrestling and have really gone back to the basic ideas, which is a very welcome change of pace after the disasters that “Monday Night Raw” and “Smackdown” have become.
If you have Destination America and are looking for a nice alternative to WWE, TNA is worth checking out for a change. I’m not saying they’re turning the corner or have finally solved all their problems. The show still isn’t perfect and has some stuff that I’m not a fan of, but they’ve gotten rid of a lot of their major issues and have been on a hot streak since the beginning of the year. I’ve been a fan of TNA for years now and it’s very nice to see them starting to get rid of some basic mistakes. They deserve a bigger audience than they’re getting and you should check them out.
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