For Queen and Country #7
March 22, 2008
By: Daniel Browne of WrestleView.comTotal Nonstop Uncertainty, Part 02
Greetings to all. Owing to the untimely passing of Andrew "Test" Martin, I delayed the second part of my TNA overview by one week. I'm sure you, the wrestling fans, can collectively understand my belief that this was the only decent thing to do. My thanks to all those who emailed in response. Sadly, I'm sure we all stand braced for "the usual" as this unfortunate situation continues to develop...
Ironically, given the circumstances, Andrew Martin is a plum example of a tendency inherent to the men trusted with the creative direction of TNA; an example of one-dimensional thinking. Martin had (at varying points) enjoyed considerable success as a WWE superstar, and periodically looked very good in the ring in the process. This combination invariably piques the interest of what is ostensibly WWE's ?competition?. In a nutshell: if a performer of an even vaguely successful stature gets treated to the "we wish them well in all their future endeavors" spiel, chances are he'll be assessed, hired and pushed by TNA. It helps considerably if you have a friend in the office who's more than willing to facilitate by action or recommendation (Which is why, for example, Dustin "Black Reign" Runnels was hired despite being utterly washed up, and why Matt Morgan is still being granted TV time, presumably to show off his toning) TNA has not been so overt with their stratagem recently, what with the global financial crisis. This is of course the same reason WWE has been hiring and firing with such alarming frequency, and bringing in ancient veterans on a weekly basis. The need to make money is far greater than the desire to invest in a long term project.
On an obvious level, this notion of focusing on a rival's (former) talent makes sense. It's invariably cheaper and more immediately productive if a promotion can trade on pre-existing qualities i.e. name value, rather than laboriously constructing and building up their own stars. In fact, trading off the name and past achievements (and connotations) of a particular performer can work splendidly when utilized quickly and adroitly, and the star in question possesses all the requisite qualities needed to enhance the existing talent pool and product.
The fundamental problem here is very few performers acquired in the aforementioned manner actually qualify as worthy additions. TNA lacks the financial muscle needed to aggressively compete with WWE at the negotiating table, so rather than Eric Bischoff offering top dollar to the the WWF's main event crew to jump ship and work for Turner, TNA finds itself hoovering up the chaff. The likes of Rhino, Raven and the former Dudley Boys (Team 3-D) have all arrived in TNA over the years and prospered to varying degrees, and I do not dispute their overall abilities and possible justification in finding success in another promotion. Alas, the issue here is perception. Rhino was fired by WWE after dropping off the radar and getting into an altercation with a plant pot. Raven took too long in getting to WWE in the first place, and his reputation preceded him. His legendary attitude was not tolerated in WWE and when eventually fired by WWE in 2002 (after allegedly presenting the booking crew with ten individual character ideas, upon being given the notorious ?we've run out of ideas for you? speech) he proved some faces simply don't fit in certain pictures. Team 3-D had achieved everything possible as a team and bombed spectacularly as solo artists. When they left most people felt the time was right, and thus shed very few tears when they were let go.
The former are examples of purged WWE talent who subsequently contributed to the TNA product, albeit in a manner consistent with the laws of diminishing returns. The likes of the ex-New Age Outlaws, D-Lo Brown, Mike Sanders, the late Mike ?Crash Holly? Lockwood, John Stamboli, Dustin Runnels, Matt Morgan etc. do not qualify as ?worthy additions? to any roster concerned with competition, and between them added most to the wage deficit as much as to anything else. Hiring (and pushing) this calibre of performer only fuels the burning fires of markdom within a WWE acolyte (pre-programmed to despise anything not WWE-branded, lest we forget) that TNA is little more than a sunny retirement home for the Big Time's less successful members.
Having established the potential folly of focusing on ex-WWE talent, it's important to note the policy has, when focused properly, yielded dividends. The likes of Scott Steiner and Kevin Nash may be utterly broken down and finished as in-ring commodities, but their name power is such having them around in a controlled capacity can augment the roster as opposed to diluting it. TNA seldom seems to grasp the need for controlled exposure of such performers however, and the results have not always been in the best interests of TNA Wrestling. The risks inherent in trusting to such men is they end up clinging to the spotlight like the most tenacious of parasites; risky indeed when show-sealing angles are on the line.
It's rare a wrestler arrives in TNA at the expense of WWE. Booker T and Christian Cage are examples of men the WWE didn't necessarily want to lose, but lost through creative and financial arrogance. Christian has subsequently returned to WWE (a decision he's already regretting) after an otherwise fine run in TNA. He was the first legitimate 'steal? by TNA from WWE. He was offered huge money, a chance to work far fewer dates, and guaranteed a perpetually strong push. As such, he enjoyed the benefits of huge backing and consistent scope for character enhancement during his tenure. Over the course of his three years in TNA, Christian continued to evolve into a superb all rounder, worthy of greater success than he's presently enjoying in the wrestling promotion otherwise known as Vinny Mac's personal fiefdom. It was TNA who facilitated this growth, and as such deserve considerable credit for allowing a gifted performer time to perform. A pity all that work is presently being pissed straight up the ECW-shaped wall on Sci-Fi...
Booker T (at the age of forty-two) finally tired of the booking chicanery within the upper-echelons of WWE and decamped for a summer holiday. Despite a stellar opening ovation and initial progress, Booker stalled and lost momentum, owing to TNA's inertia when it comes to original thinking. His role and performances have been consistent and he adds plenty to the Main Event Mafia brew, but TNA thus far have added nothing (and done very little) with the Booker-man...
Daniel R. Browne.
Wow. I guess this is taking longer than I anticipated. So, there will be a third (and final) part next week, focusing on the new and original stars associated with TNA; a look at the contributions of Sting, Kurt Angle and Gail Kim, and concluding whether or not TNA has a bright, gold-laden future. Patience is a virtue, boys and girls. Until next time.