Top-Down Smackdown: Trying TNA Again

By Luke Y. Thompson in TV
Monday, January 13, 2014 at 5:39 pm

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Here is why I got bored of TNA Impact Wrestling before: way too many factions with too many members. Factions work best in wrestling when there is only one - maybe two if another one forms to stop them. And you want thematic names: "The Four Horsemen" tells me there are four members. "Evolution" is about linking past greats with new blood. "The Dungeon of Doom" all have monster gimmicks. What the hell is "Aces and Eights"?

And not just that, but the old Vince Russo style of beginning every show with somebody coming out and giving a speech that seems to last for 20 minutes, before there are multiple run-ins and everyone scatters. That only works if the prior week was a cliffhanger.

That said, I'm prepared to see an all new TNA tonight. I'm coming at this totally cold, hoping to like what I see. Below you will find what is basically my liveblog of the show as I watched it.

(TNA's Facebook page still doesn't have photos from last week, so all images will be from prior shows. Good job.)




Okay, so the world champion is an English guy named Magnus who recently turned bad. Got it. And AJ Styles - I've heard of him, but I thought he was legitimately gone. Guess that was a gimmick.

Ooh, I'm sorry, but company owner Dixie Carter should maybe dress a bit more her age and position. Black leather miniskirt is not working. I get that she's playing a villain and you're supposed to hate it, but she does not look remotely "like a boss."

The one-night only contract gimmick is a good one, especially since they have the press believing AJ's really leaving. Good blurring of the lines - I really enjoy it when they can actually make me wonder what's real and what isn't. And AJ's a better actor than I remember. Dixie is not.

"Your little Mini-Me redneck kids!" - funny insult coming from a Southerner named Dixie who comes out to country music. And by "funny" I mean "not funny." AJ has a very good point - wrestling should be about two men facing each other to see who's the best, and people like Dixie do keep screwing it up.

The guy in the suit versus the guy in the hoodie - that's a pretty clear-cut visual motif. Both way better dressed than Dixie Carter. Shit, I just realized this is exactly the kind of show opening I said upfront that I didn't like. I'm actually okay with it so far, but I hope every week doesn't start off this way.

Okay, contract is signed. Now shut up and let's get on with the show. AJ gets out a bleeped joke about ass-kissing, but it's unnecessary. As soon as he signed the contract, his theme music should have played and that been that. Oh, that's pretty cool that their "PPV" will be free on cable.

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Joseph Park and Eric Young. Hmm, Eric Young appears to have evolved along similar lines as Daniel Bryan. Park wearing a full sweatsuit.

This obnoxious DJ Zima guy is a great hateable heel. Wait - this team is called The Bromance? Oh wait, I'm sorry - The Bro-Mans. Nothing like a little thinly veiled homophobia in wrestling. At least here the stupid gimmick is meant to be stupid, and booed (ahem, Los Matadores). And looks like Park is going to wrestle fully clothed. Hmm.

They're interrupting a tag team title match to show women fighting backstage? Allrighty then. ODB is now Eric's wife, a development I missed. So he bails on Park, whose massive sweatsuit padding will presumably not save him.

The Dixie Carter not the Stephanie McMahon bubba.

So wait: Joseph Park is Abyss??? That's an amazing transformation; I'll give them that.

"That's what they call it in the business: the gimmick." Thank you, Taz, for stating the obvious. The Bro-Mans reinforce baddie credentials by beating up on Park more after the bell rings.

Samoa Joe's still here? Wasn't he supposed to have signed with WWE by now? Like, years ago?

James Storm - I love unapologetic drunks as characters, and the T-shirts they end up making for them. "Long Necks and Rednecks," incidentally, is also the theme tune for Redneck Island, hosted by Steve Austin. So how many tag teams has he carried now?

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Somebody buy me this, please.

A briefcase with a title shot in it as focal point of a dispute? Yep, seen that before. Them agreeing on a rematch with it back on the line was slightly unexpected. But again, how many interviews are we going to see versus matches?

And Samoa Joe gets attacked in a really dramatically lit part of backstage. Looks like they actually shot it on something different, like film versus video. I get it, but it's a decision I can't say I agree with - these backstage bits should always look like they were candidly captured, not staged perfectly. Commercial, and now the fight's coming out to the ring - and the bad guy is named EC3, apparently Dixie's nephew. Joe's T-shirt is ugly and I would not buy it. EC3 hyped as undefeated, so I don't see him losing tonight. Announcers are hyping up a Kurt Angle steel cage challenge later in the show.

"EC3's a one-percenter!" LOL. Interference by some Pee-wee Herman looking guy ends the match as a no-contest. Joe sells the pain well.

Oh good, Kurt Angle lost the beard. And the cage challenge is up next.

AJ Styles is sitting still backstage in perfect lighting, yet the camera guy can't quit shaking and zooming. Look, If you're going to make it look perfectly staged, get a damn tripod.

James Storm found KO'ed backstage from a whiskey bottle. Sting's outrage is half-assed.

"What are you now, Dr. Phil?" - Dixie, to Sting, in what comes off as a terrible bit of improv. This scene between them is brutal.

LIARS! You said the cage challenge would be after the commercial - and now you stretch it out through another commercial before it starts? Boooo.

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We're back, and looks like Bobby Roode is accepting the challenge. Oh wait, no...he's on the mic. It's going to be a fakeout. Hyping next week's match between them at Genesis. And he's going to introduce somebody else. Two of them, in fact: Kazarian and Christopher Daniels, who I guess now have the team name of Bad Influence (since both of them played a character named "Suicide," the name fits). Good match between three of the best talents around. And now Dixie suddenly announces a cage match between Bobby Roode and Sting - you don't think maybe that would have benefited from more time to hype it? WWE would have made that a next-week thing, even though the way they're setting it up it is 100% inevitable that it will end in massive interference.

Kurt Angle taking pics with a black family for some reason, as Al Snow drives up in a car saying there's an emergency and they have to go to the airport. Maybe they need to give Head to someone in need.

Glad Sting found time to paint his face. But I guess he's afraid to take his shirt off nowadays. Dude - either be real or don't. Loudest fans are rooting for Roode, the bad guy.

Sting used to look like a hip surfer, then the Crow. Now he looks like Doink the Juggalo. He needs a head-shave and gimmick shake-up, bu it's probably too late for that.

I'm impressed how long this match has gone. Figured the run-ins would have happened by now. And no sooner do I write that than EC3 comes down with Pee-wee guy, who hands Roode a baton. It's legal in a cage, so this counts as a win for Roode. I make fun of Sting, but while his moveset isn't what it was, he knew how to tell a story in there, which is a bit of a lost art.

Ken Anderson at a funeral home, looking like Steve Austin. Cut to commercial. Will he desecrate a coffin? Can't wait to find out!

And we flash back to last week - Bully Ray threatening to set Anderson and Joseph Park on fire. I guess he didn't succeed since they're both here, unburned.

Now back to the funeral home. Bully Ray is sitting in a pew. All of this is being shot through some orange marmalade or something. Ken goes to look in the coffin, and it's...clothes? Then Bully Ray magically disappears like Batman. I don't get it, but the Dudley/3D gimmick did need a refresh, so Unabomber it is.

Oh goddamn it, another Dixie-Sting scene, and she's calling him "Steve." Is she trying to seduce him? This is just uncomfortable in the wrong way. Just a tip, folks - you've never seen a vignette where Vince McMahon called the Undertaker "Mark." At least not that I can recall.

Title match up next. Unless it's just the ring intros up next.

Good job, TNA - in this one show you have legitimately made me excited for this main-event match. Though it seems weird to have a match this big the week before a "PPV." If AJ wins, does he leave with the title and force another tournament? Oh hai Earl Hebner!

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EC3 interference, but this is no-DQ. AJ nails them all, but can't hold out.

"A Ferrari hittin' a pickup with Georgia plates! Ha ha! That was a good one." - Taz laughing at his own terrible joke. Sting hobbles out to the ring to even things up, and we go to commercial.

Do we think AJ tattooed a giant "AJ" on his ribcage so no promotion can ever make him change his name? If he was hoping for WWE, the timing's real bad on that.

Oh hey, the Bro-Mans are back. Four on one now - Hebner does a super-slow, reluctant three-count and AJ kicks out. Sting takes out all the bad guys, slowly, badly, but they sell all his moves as harder than they are. Now Bad Influence with the interference, nailing their finisher - oh shit, Earl;s going crazy and trying to send everyone back...and he knocks the Pee-wee guy down! Earl bails, and here's a new ref, Earl's son Brian. This match is way too much of a clusterfuck. Bad Influence now attacking the ref and knocking him out. Hebner back down as ref, and Bad Influence grab him too.

Sigh...Bobby Roode involved now. And a third referee. Just occurred to me - I think they're trying to make Dixie look like Sarah Palin. Magnus wins the match and unifies the title after Roode beats the living hell out of AJ. So does this mean he really is leaving the company?

Okay so, all in all, it looks like TNA has the same problems I remember: too-long promos, alliances that are too big (and devalue everyone's talents when it takes six of them to beat AJ), and at least one past-it star who needs to realize he's not what he used to be (Sting). Dixie as an on-camera character is awful, possibly the worst evil GM since Mike Adamle - she needs to take herself off the show completely. The filmed stuff backstage and elsewhere needs to be simpler and less self-consciously attempting to look artsy - people seem to forget that wrestling is supposed to be pretending to be a reality show, not a film noir. Too often on this show, good set ups turned to shit finishes, but with a better follow-through, this could be something decent. I'll keep watching for a bit and see if they vary things up over the next few shows.

I know it's slightly off-topic - but feel free to use this as a Monday Night Raw open thread as well.

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