9-26-05 -- With the upcoming move of WWE to the USA Network and TNA coming to SpikeTV, it is a very important time in the world of wrestling. TNA will definitely bring a new exciting product to the national airwaves and the spirit of competition might bring out a better WWE, one that vanished with WCW's demise. What are these promotions doing right? Wrong? What should they do? Here's one long-time wrestling fan's opinion:
While WWE usually does not rank as my favorite promotion, they are undoubtedly the king of the mountain right now…and therefore earn the first mention here. This promotion needs to emphasize better written storylines, listen to its fans, and push the envelope.
WWE might be at the top of the wrestling world, but despite names such as Chris Benoit and Rey Mysterio on their roster in-ring ability is not their overall strong suit. WWE exceeds when their creative team tells a good story and the wrestlers get the crowd into whatever is happening. Hulk Hogan will never be considered the most athletic in-ring performer, but he has always drawn the crowd into his matches and storylines. WWE needs to tackle the issue of a weak Creative, one consisting of non-wrestling fans that don't even pick up on references to past storylines made by Diva Search contestants. Recruiting a creative staff that knows how to put together a wrestling storyline would benefit WWE greatly at this point...if they do not take action, they might lose their top spot to a competitor that Vince said isn’t even a threat. WWE does seem to be taking steps in the right direction by hiring Dusty Rhodes, but eliminating the sitcom writers would be an even bigger step. I personally find nothing entertaining about a storyline involving a giant deformity on someone’s face…I’d rather have a compelling story involving two wrestlers, such as the recent HBK/Hogan feud or the early portion of the recent Guerrero/Mysterio feud. While there is a place for comedy in wrestling, this Creative doesn’t know where that is most of the time.
Listening to their fans is another important aspect that WWE seems to be overlooking. Boring segments such as the Diva Search are stretched out way too long while matches are held to such a small time limit. After a week of the Diva Search, anyone viewing at home could tell that there was no interest from the live audience (although most viewers wouldn't have noticed, they probably used the Diva Search segment as a chance to take a nice long bathroom break). On the flip side, the crowd was extremely into Matt Hardy...so WWE Creative manages to do their best to bury him. WWE needs to listen to their fans...if something isn't working, phase it out quickly; if something works, build up even more heat for it instead of effectively killing any heat it had to begin with. WWE has featured a few lengthy matches lately but they need to keep pushing towards that direction.
The third point can best be reflected by my previous commentary on Muhammad Hussan. During the Monday Night Wars, the Hassan angle wouldn't have died because of a request from UPN...Vince McMahon would have pushed the envelope. He might have been forced to remove Hassan from TV but he would definitely follow with an attack against those forcing his hand -- an attack that would have been more biting, not the easily forgotten although well delivered promo Hassan ended up giving. WWE Attitude brought WWE back to the top and while the promotion does need to evolve, they need to keep some attitude.
WWE is the king of the mountain and will not be easily defeated, but they should not write off their competition. A couple of years of a virtual monopoly on the national scene might have added some rust to the WWE juggernaut. TNA has a very fresh product in comparison to WWE and has a creative staff that knows how to write for a wrestling promotion. They have a lot of wrestlers who take advantage of the opportunities they are given and do not get held back due to size etc. Below is a look at several key players on the WWE roster:
- Batista, John Cena, Edge and Randy Orton: these are the young leaders of the WWE. Batista and Cena seem to be losing momentum...if they can't recapture their past momentum, there could be a problem. Both have talent and can get the crowd behind them in a big way. If Creative can keep their storylines interesting they’ll be on top for a long time. Orton seemed to fail in his first giant push, but he has a lot of skill on the mic and in the ring. Edge has proven to be the strong half of the feud with Matt Hardy so far and could be a very big star.
- Christian and Matt Hardy: they've been held back, but if these two can overcome WWE Creative and make it over in a big way, they might play a big role in the future. WWE needs fresh blood and fresh feuds in the main event. These guys could be it. Christian is talented and can really entertain. Matt Hardy needs to pull out of the nosedive he’s been taking during the feud with Edge and get the crowd behind him again.
- Triple H, HBK, Ric Flair, Chris Benoit: they are the top guys, but they need to be used to elevate future stars at this point. Too many Triple H promos might drive some fans to avoid WWE in favor of TNA (unless Jarrett becomes TNA’s Triple H)
- Legends: hopefully WWE doesn't overuse them...or we could be seeing one of the negative aspects of WCW invade WWE.
Jeff Jarrett has the title again, but is this a bad move going into the SpikeTV era? While my initial answer would have been "yes!" I believe there is a very good outcome to be had if TNA plays their cards right. TNA has a lot to overcome if they want to knock WWE from the top of the wrestling world. They cannot go the route of WCW, using stars like Jarrett and Kevin Nash as their primary draw. These guys need to elevate the future stars of the company instead. TNA needs to establish their unique product, amazing in-ring ability, and most importantly keep doing what they have been doing.
Jarrett winning the title came as a surprise and looked like a bad move initially. However, an angle abandoned early in the year -- when Monty Brown turned heel -- might lead to a successful feud. Jarrett owes Brown a title shot from this earlier angle and while this might not be the first storyline involving the NWA title, the build to it should begin immediately. Many have mentioned Brown's excellent promo skills and his size and ring skills make him an excellent choice to be pushed as a main event star. Jarrett can be best utilized as a recognizable veteran star who elevates younger stars into the top tier. The same goes of many other "old" faces.
TNA's last pay-per-view featured the X Division Title Match as its main event. TNA has a unique product, featuring exciting athletic wrestling. AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, etc. should be held in the same high regard as Jarrett and other NWA Heavyweight Title holders/contenders. WWE lowers its small stars...the Cruiserweight Title is nothing to them and amazing athletes such as Rey Mysterio and Paul London are not given the same respect as less talented big men who could be heavyweight contenders, such as Chris Masters and Gene Snitsky. TNA needs to stress the importance of the X Division Title and elevate it to the same level as the NWA Heavyweight crown. They need to make TNA the desired home for guys like London, Mysterio Frankie Kazarian and James Gibson. The tag team division is also a strong point of TNA. Give America's Most Wanted, The Naturals and Team Canada a chance to show that tag team wrestling can main event a pay-per-view as well. Put these teams in high energy feuds with each other and with the former Dudley Boys. Both of these divisions have given TNA fans strong long lasting bouts featuring amazing in-ring action and caused these fans to spread the word and make TNA more popular. These divisions illustrate the difference between TNA and WWE and should be highly focused upon.
TNA needs to keep doing what they have been doing. While the storylines might occasionally get dull, TNA has always kept me coming back because of the opportunity to see new rising stars. My first exposure to Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, Paul London, and so many others has come from watching TNA shows. Whatever you do TNA, DO NOT STOP bringing in the indie talent! TNA needs to avoid the WWE approach of sticking to contracted talent. Bring in outside talent from ROH, ECWA, etc. to give fans a chance to see these guys in action. Guys like Colt Cabana and Homicide. Bring in wrestlers who have been around for a long time on the independent scene but never made it to the big promotions -- appeal to long time knowledgeable fans like me who have read about these guys for years but never seen them in action. Guys like Rockin’ Rebel. And bring in the young talent released from WWE that deserves a chance to shine. Guys like Charlie Haas. Below is a look at several key players on the TNA roster:
- AJ Styles, Jeff Jarrett, Raven, AMW: these are the faces of TNA...they need to show why they are and help put over the young and lesser-known talent.
- Christopher Daniels and Monty Brown: two very talented guys that can cut excellent promos and could get way over with casual fans who might not know them.
- Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Roderick Strong: all are very big names in ROH and should be given respect as such in TNA. All should play big, important roles immediately as top contenders for the titles.
- the former Dudleys, Rhino: the former Dudleys could just take this great tag division to the next level, adding some new feud match-ups. Rhino was the last ECW champion and had reached a top tier level, he deserves to be back in that top tier. TNA should not bring in every WWE release, but they should bring in the very talented ones. These guys should be pushed as being very important – as big losses on WWE’s part. Charlie Haas should also be signed and pushed in the same way. I do not know if Chris Jericho is still under contract with WWE or not, but I do know his contract was about to expire. TNA should sign him and push him as well; he fits in with the wrestling approach of the company.
- Outside talent: yes, there’s the chance of someone skipping out on their commitment, but bringing in ROH and other indie talent for a short feud culminating in a pay-per-view match would be a great way to keep the interest of fans.
- Sabu, Jeff Hardy, Abyss: with the exception of Abyss, these are the role players that will not carry TNA but can definitely bring in fans and elevate younger talent. Abyss could play into the top tier, but only if he is used in the right way. Abyss vs. AJ Styles has produced some classics, maybe a rematch on SpikeTV would draw in some more fans.
While I am obviously a TNA fan, I do want to see both promotions succeed. Without competition, the product can get horrible at times...WWE has proven this since WCW's demise. Competition will make everyone a winner...wrestling fans will get a better product and the promotions will profit from the increased interest created by a better product. The next few months will hopefully be an exciting start to a new era of great wrestling entertainment. I can hardly wait.
What do you think? E-mail your thoughts.