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Wrestling

From the Outside (10.7.03)
Posted by Bryan "bps 'The Truth' 21" Staebell on Oct 7, 2003, 04:40

It’s been awhile since I’ve sat down to write about TNA for the site. I tried to change the format from simple weekly previews to a more all encompassing TNA analysis piece…but it failed to motivate me the way that I had hoped it would. I guess I just got burned out on doing them. It certainly wasn’t the product that was the problem. At the time I stopped they were in the midst of a pretty long hot streak, and arguably the companies best show (The Super X Cup) had yet to occur. So I have no excuses for going MIA…but that’s in the past and there is a whole lot of stuff to cover today.

There really isn’t going to be a format to today’s column…I’ll just throw in a bold headline when I change directions.



Hulk Hogan

Easily the most talked about TNA news story since the Raven/Jarrett title match is in the process of unfolding. Everyone knows the name and everyone has an opinion. Here is mine: I do not like Hulk Hogan. Ever since Steve Austin led the WWF into the Attitude era, I haven’t been able to find any use for the man. He’s still one of the few names in the country that everyone from hardcore fans to casual observers to people who never watch know…but I think he’s done far more harm than good in the last several years. Those are my personal feelings on Hulk Hogan…and that’s not even getting into his ring work.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest…here’s a little story for you. Sometime back in 1998 or 99 (I honestly don’t remember the date anymore) I was living in Ohio while going to college. Someone in my fraternity had a cheater box (or de-scrambler or whatever) so we’d watch all the pay per views for free. That pretty much kept my interest in wrestling going. One day we see an advertisement for a WCW house show up in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Hulk Hogan vs. Sting was to headline the card in a cage match. Even as a child I had never bought into the Hulkamania crap, so I’d never been a fan of any kind of his. But I HAD to go to this show. Maybe it was just to say I saw him…I mean…I’ll argue that Babe Ruth was an overrated player until I’m blue in the face, all while supporting Ty Cobb as the greatest of all time…but if the 27 Yankees were to play a pick up game a few hours down the road you can bet I’d be standing there watching. He’s an Icon for all the reasons I hate, but an Icon nonetheless.

So the story goes that Hogan has at least verbally agreed to work a special 3-hour Sunday Night pay per view broadcast for TNA. He’ll face Jeff Jarrett in the Main Event. According to the Wrestling Observer Live radio show it is also believed that Hogan would be making a couple appearances in November leading up to the big show on November 30th.

I love this idea.

Hypocritical? Probably.

But I applaud Panda Energy (the company that owns TNA) for this aggressive move. There is no bigger name in the industry that isn’t under a WWE contract than Hogan. There just isn’t.

The overall motivation for the move is to try and garner interest for a television deal, which is something that just looks so far away from happening at this point.

I can’t stress enough how fortunate TNA was to find Panda. Panda has quietly funded them for the last year and with moves like this one, and bringing in Sting for the anniversary show, and the upcoming video game announcement (read on), and even the contract signings of the regular cast…Panda honestly and truly seems to want TNA to make it. We’ve all read that Panda seems to enjoy being involved in the wrestling industry and that they view TNA as a long-term project…but moves like this really prove that statement to be accurate.

One thing that seems certain is that we are in for a big TNA media blitz in November. The three hour show (no word yet on price but I’d safely bet it’s under the WWE ppv price for obvious reasons) will be by far the most watched show that TNA has ever produced…and with nearly two months to build up to it…there really is no excuse to not hit a home run.

If we look at the current storylines surrounding Hogan’s opponent Jeff Jarrett…well…as much as I and everyone else doesn’t like it…he’ll be winning the title back from AJ Styles at the end of this month. The positive coming out of that is they’ve already started planting the seeds for a double turn in the match. Styles is going to split with Russo (as evidenced last week when he slapped Russo down and went against him) and it appears they’ve finally come the long way around to where we all knew they were going…but aligning Russo with Jarrett.

That’s an interesting situation there. The last time Hogan was supposed to work with Jarrett he was aligned with Russo then too. Then we ended up with the worked shoot that turned into a real shoot that turned into a lawsuit.

Since the TNA/Hogan talks have been going on for a couple weeks…and Russo has been replaced as head writer on the show (read on again) it started to appear that Russo was on his way out. Now it’s starting to look like Russo will continue to be an on air character…and the trigger for the Styles/Jarrett double turn.

What happens after that is anyone’s guess. If Hogan has chosen to work with Russo…we’re all but assured a Bash at the Beach 2000 based storyline where Hogan gets his revenge on Russo as the payoff.

Now that most of you have scoffed at the idea…let’s consider it for a moment.

If TNA is going to advertise this show with Hogan as the draw…he needs a villain to overcome. Looking up and down the TNA roster…there isn’t one. Sure they’d have a month to push someone to that spot…but who? Most of the guys on the TNA roster are on the small side, which 99 times out of 100 means nothing to me. This would be that other time.

With Jarrett and Russo you at least have something to hate if you’re a Hogan fan. These are people that you know…and people that you don’t like.

This brings us to the BIG question…who’s winning?

Many people have said that Jarrett won’t lay down for anyone…but I really don’t believe that. I think he’d be the first person to lay down for Hogan if it meant his company would succeed. The problem is…they are kind of screwed either way. If Jarrett wins…then people are disappointed. If Hogan wins…then he just beat the “top” guy in TNA…and we’d probably not see him in the company again. Throw in the odds of the NWA title being on the line and now you’ve got a bigger problem. I think what they are going to try for…is Jarrett winning with Russo help and the show ending with Hogan destroying Russo. The problem with that is the feud would be more about Russo/Hogan then the NWA title (assuming it’s in the equation). I guess it comes down to whether or not Hogan wants to come in and do a job just so he can get over on Russo. You’d think it would be an easy NO…but if you start thinking about it…

The other direction would be to play up Hogan as a former WWF, WCW and Undisputed WWE Champion…and have him WANT to go after the NWA title. It puts some more luster on that belt…but there really isn’t anything in it for Hogan if he loses. Color me skeptical.

I think we’re seeing TNA make a decision here that getting some kind of publicity is the most important thing at this time. In that way, they aren’t wrong. Let’s say Jarrett/Hogan with the video packages, ring intros, match and aftermath takes up the last half hour of the show…that leaves them with two and a half hours to give the audience something to remember them by. When you look over a roster of guys like Chris Sabin and AJ Styles and America’s Most Wanted…and you start to realize that this upcoming show is the BIG TIME for them…I like the odds of a great night for TNA.

Now would be a good time to go into TNA’s failure to capitalize on the hype for Raven/Jarrett, Sting and the anniversary show, and the 1 cent special…but we’ll save that for another day closer to the actual event.

From another angle…we must ask…what exactly is in it for Hogan?

I’d be incredibly interested in hearing what went down during the 4-hour meeting between Hogan and the Jarrett’s that has brought us to this point. I can understand some of the reasons that this is enticing for Hogan.

First of all, the Jarrett’s must have put over how much of a big deal they were going to make this. This isn’t just Hogan coming in and doing a show on a Wednesday Night. They are literally building an event out of it. They won’t be running out of the Asylum for this show either, they’ll be moving to an unknown (but obviously bigger) venue for the show. It’s because the news has broken that I feel confident in saying that Panda is planning on putting a whole lot of funding into promotion of the event as well. Simply put…this is the best that Hogan can do in the U.S. now that he’s left the WWE.

That would be part 2. He reportedly left the WWE over matters ranging from his use (although we all know that the Mr. America storyline was practically the only thing pushed on Smackdown) and of course, money. I’m sure Panda is spending a pretty penny on Hogan’s appearance…but it can’t be WWE money. Could it be that Hogan wants to prove something to Vince McMahon?

That’s a big risk (for everyone really) but he’ll probably never find a better opportunity to show he can draw. If he can headline a show for a group that has never done a good number on pay per view and put up a nice buyrate…he’ll have proven something. The risk comes from Hogan’s recent history of drawing…or rather…not drawing. He’ll have the power of the company’s most aggressive advertising behind him but he obviously has something to lose here. Sure a disastrous number could be brushed away with “TNA is too small time, brother” but with a show clearly on his shoulders…there would be a bit of a reality check.

So how will the show do? Well a lot depends on advertising…but simply putting in on a Sunday instead of Wednesday helps. I think they’ll do far better than they usually do, but probably take a loss on the investment. The true payoff for the show isn’t just how many people order it…but rather how far it goes in getting TNA where it wants to be (a solid #2 with a shiny new television deal) or even just adding enough weekly buys to subsequent shows with the exposure to start turning some kind of profit.

One thing I don’t see is how TNA expects any of this to translate into a sudden interest from TV stations. Will it increase public awareness of the product? Yes. Will it make F/X or USA think about jumping on the wrestling bandwagon? I don’t see how.

The fact is that TNA’s TV opportunities have always been directly tied to the success of WWE’s Raw and Smackdown shows. Currently those shows aren’t doing very well at all.

Lofty goals aside, there are a couple fundamental positives and negatives with the November 30th Supercard.

On the plus side, putting it on Sunday night with a big media push (as my friend pointed out…we’re probably going to see Hogan with his friend Regis and maybe even one of the 4 big nightly shows advertising the show…right?) plays right into the hands of the disenfranchised wrestling fan looking for something other than WWE. The only thing the Wednesday night formula seems to have benefited is the pockets of the usually out of work during midweek roster.

On the negative side, the show will follow WWE’s Survivor Series that month. Survivor Series is one of the “Big 4” and one of the only shows that features both rosters. Of course, the positive for wrestling fans is that this (for the first time since WCW went away) might actually cause Vince to put together a card that doesn’t look like the crap of No Mercy and Unforgiven. For one month anyway…there’ll be a kind of competition.

Looking at it that way it seems the most important thing for TNA is to court the swing fans. You have hardcore WWE fans that probably won’t care…and you have WWE fans that order the shows out of just liking wrestling. If they can scoop some of those people into throwing their monthly ppv fund at TNA instead…they’ll be a success. As for the Internet Wrestling Community…well they’ll probably order anyway. You can’t efficiently bitch about something unless you see it firsthand.

This brings us to the rest of the card. We know about Hogan vs. Jarrett, and we can assume the storyline from there. As mentioned…that leaves over two hours to fill. I’ll go out on a limb and guess that if they haven’t already…they’ll be placing a phone call to Sting very shortly. I’d have to imagine that they’d love to use him again on this big show.

Other than that…this show should be about putting over the guys that the company is built about. One thing that I can see happening is America’s Most Wanted finally blowing off their feud with Diamond and Swinger. They could easily have Diamond and Swinger go on defending against other teams while AMW spend the next several weeks trying to earn a title shot. That would lead to one good match.

They’ll also be sure to put the X division on display. Unfortunately that probably means a 6-way elimination type match instead of one on one matches. They always seem to turn to more people when they want to display the division…which is odd since the Super X Cup proved that one on one X matches can rock. We’ll probably see some kind of elimination match and also an X title match between whoever is at the top at the time.

That still leaves four of the biggest names in the company to fill out the rest of the card: Raven, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels and D-Lo Brown.

It’s almost hard not to put up a good lineup with the talent they have available…and if guys like Low-Ki, Juventud Guerrera and Teddy Hart are available (IE: With no previous commitments on that day) this is one show that TNA wouldn’t mind paying for them to fly in. You can almost hear Tenay telling their largest audience to date about Teddy Hart being the next generation of Harts…and you’d have to think that he’d like the exposure.

As November roles around we’ll obviously start to see where their plans are taking them. I’d venture to guess that following the Jarrett/Styles NWA title match later this month we’ll see all the booking turn towards the big event. There should be a lot of interesting developments, not the least of which is the Hogan deal.




NWA-TNA: The Video Game

The often-rumored video game appears to be official. If you go to ign.com and check out the front page you’ll see an interview with D-Lo Brown about TNA and the upcoming video game being made by EA. Now…EA is the big time. They are the undisputed leaders in sports games. The extremely popular Madden NFL franchise is their flagship, and they also have the phenomenal Tiger Woods golf game under their moniker. EA BIG, a sub company of EA games was also responsibly for the big hit NBA Street (and vol. 2) and these years Def Jam Vendetta, which one acclaim for its AKI (the makers on No Mercy) designed wrestling engine.

Getting a deal with EA is a much bigger deal than, say, when ECW got a deal with Acclaim. There are a couple of reasons for this, not the least of which is the quality of the games. EA has worked with AKI before…so TNA’s game may actually end up being a spiritual sequel to No Mercy that fans of that game have been dying for. Another big positive in this deal is that given the size and reputation of EA sports…you can guarantee that this game will get a huge advertising push. That’s both good for game sales AND TNA as a company. When EA does something…they go all out. It appears that the game will appear on all three next generation consoles (PS2, Gamecube and Xbox) just as most EA games do (though strangely…Def Jam Vendetta did not appear on Xbox).

One interesting tidbit from the D-Lo interview is that the wrestlers themselves will be going in to do some screen captures for character animations and also be providing their voices to the game.

EA already had success with Def Jam Vendetta in the wrestling arena…so they know what it takes to both move games and please wrestling game fans. It all adds up to a reason for excitement whether you are a TNA fan, or a fan of wrestling games in general.

There will be much more on this story in the months to come…as TNA hasn’t even made the official announcement yet.

One thing that won’t be that surprising is the roster for the game, as the recent TNA contract situation was partially a result of this video game deal. It’s pretty much likely that the people we know signed deals will be in the game.

That means when it hits stores you’ll see AJ Styles, Raven, AMW, Chris Sabin, Michael Shane, Frankie Kazarian, Christopher Daniels, D-Lo Brown, Diamond and Swinger, Jerry Lynn, Trinity, Sonny Siaki, The Truth and so on. Low Ki fans are probably out of luck, as his Zero-One commitments made a contract impossible (Zero-One doesn’t release their bookings very far in advance…one of the contract stips). I’m almost positive that CM Punk signed a contract, but I haven’t seen his name on a list anywhere (there was a story that he was able to get TNA to allow him to maintain his own character on other shows…leaving me to assume he signed). Shane Douglas was expected to sign soon, and Juventud Guerrera was expected to be offered one (and start working more TNA once his Visa gets cleared up. It’ll be a couple months…but then they’ll use him more). I don’t know about Abyss for sure (he might have been on the confirmed list though…I can’t remember) but assume that guys like Slash and Sinn are signed…and Vampiro will not be as he isn’t expected to be a full time guy. I also expect that fringe guys like Elix Skipper, Sandman, Mad Mikey and Shark Boy will find there way in. Actually I read a Shark Boy interview where he confirmed signing.

A last thing on the contract signings…I read that TNA was surprised that Chris Sabin and Michael Shane signed deals. On one hand I guess I am too…since Shane seemingly has an in for at least a developmental deal, and Sabin is just ridiculously talented given his inexperience. On the other, Michael Shane said that he was going to sign because TNA put the X title on him and he obviously liked the faith they had in him. Sabin, I don’t know…but I’m glad they got him. The kid is going to be a huge star for them. Another person of interest is Red, who is out for the year with an injury. Since the contracts don’t actually guarantee any money (I think) having him sign one and putting him in the game wouldn’t seem to cost anyone anything.

The contracts are for one year, and most contain a TNA option for a second.



Dirty Dutch

In news that makes the many Russo detractors happy, Dutch Mantell was hired recently to take the head writing position. What that means for Russo’s writing…I don’t really know. As I understood it, Jeff Jarrett actually headed the writing committee and he’s turned his spot over to Mantell. I’m only familiar with Mantell’s work from my limited viewing of the IWA (his former employer). I didn’t see enough to know the intricacies of his style, but I do know that he turned the IWA into a huge success through simpler storylines and more in ring action. That sounds good, but I’ve read that he think TNA should cut down on the emphasis of the X division. If that means an effort to make the X title more of a wrestling title and less of a “throw everyone under a certain size into huge train wrecks every week” then I’m all for it. We’ll see how things progress…but with the recent signings of Sabin, Shane, Kazarian and Daniels…and the making of AJ Styles into a Main Eventer…I’m not too concerned about it.




Obligatory Preview

AJ Styles vs. Dusty Rhodes

This is for the NWA title, and is serving as the beginning of the storyline that leads to Jarrett’s heel turn. I’m not fond of Styles being spanked and pinned by Dusty Rhodes…but do think that putting Styles over Dusty is a good idea.

Michael Shane vs. Chris Sabin

This is for Shane’s X title and Sabin’s X Cup Trophy. It’s a weird time in the X division, as Sabin is a heel and both Shane and Kazarian seem to be turning heel. Either way, this’ll be good. I’m not sure that they should put the belt back on Sabin right away. Shane has had a pretty unmemorable run so far.

America’s Most Wanted vs. Kid Kash & Abyss

Terry Taylor is the special ref, and is feuding with Kash. They had trouble getting going in last week’s match (although the technical difficulties were a big part of that problem) but it picked up by the end. I think these 4 have a good match in them.

Christopher Daniels vs. Frankie Kazarian

Much like last week’s Daniels/D-Lo match this is pretty much out of nowhere. They are building Daniels up…but now I have to ask…for what? Jarrett will turn heel soon so they won’t feud…and with Hogan on the plate for JJ…they wouldn’t have anyway. Perhaps we’ll luck out with a full-blown face Styles vs. Daniels feud.

Raven vs. ???

Raven will face a member of the New Church. That means it’s either Slash, Sinn, Douglas or Vampiro…and it’s probably not Douglas or Vampiro since they’ll be last. Look for Raven vs. Sinn this week. Of interest in this is Douglas’ claim to be putting his own group together. Given what the roster looks like there are a couple of people that I could see joining that group…and first on the list is CM Punk.

Diamond & Swinger & Gilberti vs. Three Live Krew

This is an elimination match. I think Swinger is still too injured to work a match, so I’d expect him to take an immediate elimination. Since this isn’t a title match (I don’t think) I’d expect Truth and company to win to continue to build towards an inevitable (when Swinger is ready) title match.

D-Lo Brown & Chris Vaughn vs. Red Shirt Security

Since one of the black shirt security guys was injured two weeks ago, D-Lo is helping the other one for no apparent reason. I’ll say this…the Security guys match last time…I liked it.


That’s it for now. You can find me at [email protected]




 

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