It was five months ago that Josh Boutwell (TNA iMPACT Recapper, Viva La Raza! Columnist) and David Stephens (RAW Recapper, That’s a Wrap Columnist, Co-Host of ‘The Teachers Lounge’) sat down to address the topic of TNA haters. The result? A Wrestleview Civil War and a divided audience. Josh & Dave are two columnists who rarely see eye to eye, but Wrestleview.com has brokered a deal to have them write one more column.
David Stephens: I was hesitant to write another RAW iMPACT column as the last one caused me a lot of strife in the Internet Wrestling Community, but after the Royal Rumble I could no longer resist. We should almost do a case study on what happened Sunday evening. After years of listening to fans complain about TNA’s usage of used up WCW/WWE talent, these very same fans were marking out like Jimmy Snuka was leaping off the top of a cage in Madison Square Garden. The ovation that Booker T and Kevin Nash/Diesel received on Sunday night was extraordinary. I’m referring to the reaction they got online, not in the arena. I’m puzzled by the reaction. Am I to understand that Booker T in TNA equals a disposable joke, but Booker T in the WWE equals salvation? What gives?
Josh Boutwell: The insanity all started over the weekend, even before the Rumble when it started to leak out that both Booker and Nash would be “surprises” in the Rumble Match itself. It was crazy, all the comments I was reading on Twitter, Facebook, Message Boards, and even Wrestleview.com’s reader comments. I couldn’t believe the amount of people that were “marking out” over this when MANY of these same people were only months ago laughing at Kevin Nash being in a key storyline in TNA, and the same goes for Booker. Before he left in 2009, we heard the same jokes about it being another “washed up WWE reject” and how lame he was. Now, all of a sudden they’re great again because they stepped foot back in a WWE ring. How exactly does that work? It’s mind boggling to me. And it didn’t end there, after the 02-21-11 tease on RAW the rampant rumors of Sting coming to TNA began and once again people that I had heard/saw making remarks about Sting being “washed up” and “destroying his legacy” by continuing to wrestle at such an advanced age in TNA were creaming themselves over the thought of Sting showing up in a WWE ring. How is it good in one place, bad in the next? Don’t get me wrong, I understand and acknowledge that there is idiot, double standards by TNA fans towards the WWE but it just seems that it’s so much more prominent in the IWC in regards to WWE fans crapping on anything TNA does but giving a pass if a similar thing happens in the ‘E.
David Stephens: It absolutely sickens me to agree with you about anything, so let me try and take another spin. Let’s take a look at how the characters of Nash & Booker T left the WWE. Thinking back on their departures, neither character was well liked by the IWC at the time. Nash was coming off his bizarre Hell in a Cell match against HHH, lost his hair in a match against Chris Jericho, and was unsuccessful at the 2003 Summerslam in the Elimination Chamber. He took time off for neck surgery, and the WWE ultimately elected not to renew his contract. Personal opinion aside, Nash was generally regarded as stale when he left the company. Booker T of course left after the horrendous “King Booker” gimmick. I’m all for suspending your disbelief (hell the last Monday of the month is kayfabe night in my RAW recap), but this just didn’t make any sense. I get that he started the King motif after King of the Ring, but what was up with the English accent? He went all Madonna on the WWE. Coupled with Sharmell chanting as he walked to the ring, it was just ridiculous. I read a lot of columns at the time each of these men left, and not many had favorable messages. Given that they weren’t beloved at the time of their departures, how did they garner those Royal Rumble reactions?
Josh Boutwell: And you know I can’t stand agreeing with you but again you’re right. Everyone panned them when they left the ‘E’ and let’s be honest did either one of them have a stellar run in TNA either?! Kevin Nash started off decent enough helping to get over guys like Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley, but he regressed back to his typical “pay me, I don’t give a shit” ways pushing guys like AJ Styles and Samoa Joe down in the process. I’ve personally never liked Kevin Nash, WWE or TNA (just read my Impact recaps to know how I felt about Big Kev), but Booker T is a different story. The man can go in the ring when he wants to. He did have a few memorable matches with the likes of AJ Styles and Christian in TNA but for the most part it was a bust. Really both of their TNA runs were a bust for the most part, except for one little run, the Main Event Mafia. The night that group was formed was one of my first nights recapping Impact and it was a pretty cool moment. The group was fun and they did bring in the ratings. Some of the most highly rated feuds, matches, episodes, and segments came during the Main Event Mafia era. When Booker left (on not great terms) TNA back in 2009 I fully expected him to show up some more, some time but I (like many) figured it would be back in TNA. When it came to Kevin Nash, pretty much everyone buried the guy. Said he couldn’t wrestle, he was washed up, and possibly an addict. I mean was it that long ago that the Kevin Nash & Sean Waltman Shoot Interview (actually like 2 months ago) had everyone in the “IWC” rolling their eyes? How about how people almost melted down when they heard his comments directed at Wade Barrett on that shoot? Now he’s back in Vince-land and it’s all cool with Big Daddy Cool? Trust me people; he didn’t all of a sudden become a great wrestler when he put on that stupid “Diesel” glove.
David Stephens: I like the direction you have swerved us. A key point here is that neither of us is trying to claim that these guys shouldn’t have been panned for their work in TNA. I will admit that I did enjoy the first part of Nash’s tenure in TNA. His paparazzi work was pretty awesome, as you mentioned. Nevertheless, both guys did leave TNA with a sour taste in the mouth of fans. Booker had reached a place where people were no longer taking him seriously. Do I blame that on his wife for wrestling that Survivor chick? Partially.
Then there is Nash. As much as people hated on him at the end of his WWE run, they REALLY didn’t like him at the end of his TNA run. I can’t remember a conversation in which a wrestling fan didn’t claim that he was only in TNA to try and take advantage of the company and cash a paycheck. They’d say that Nash was holding down the younger talent, and was only looking out for himself. Flash forward to the Rumble and he is all of sudden beloved? I don’t get it. I’m not trying to sound like I’m whining, but I just don’t understand the double standard. A double standard which I’d venture to say goes well beyond Booker and Nash. How about Jeff Hardy? Not the recent legal embattled version, but the first TNA run Hardy. He was supposedly a wrestler that had lost his charisma and couldn’t draw or excite fans. Yet, he comes back to the WWE and those same fans are begging for him to be Champion. I don’t get it.
Josh Boutwell: The same can be said for Christian. He was a “jobber” and “yet another WWE reject” when he walked through TNA’s doors. A few hot feuds and titles later, and the guys back in WWE and certain folks are going nuts, clamoring for him to be the next Champion. Hell, even Ron Killings! I can’t count the comments I heard about how untalented and just plain awful this guy is and the same people think he’s “underrated” in the ‘E’. Now, let me go the other route and say that I’ve heard more than a few people talk trash about Mickie James but then when she came to TNA she was “one of the best women’s wrestlers in the world” or people who said Tommy Dreamer was a “never was” until he came to TNA and it was “give him a chance”. So the door swings both ways to an extent, but it just seems to be so overwhelming from the other way. It doesn’t stop at the wrestlers either, no one was complaining about blood 2 years ago, but now that the WWE doesn’t do that stuff because of the PG-rating, it’s “disgusting” when TNA does it. Really? Disgusting? We all witnessed Vince McMahon “die” on National Television and Triple-H hump a mannequin as part of a storyline yet now BLOOD is disgusting?! Am I wrong is seeing this as ass backwards?
David Stephens: I don’t think I’m the right person to ask about blood. I’ve said before that if you imagine your dream utopia, mine would be that, plus blood. I love the image of a wrestler’s mangled body on the mat draped with barbed wire & glass in a pool of his own blood. But hey, that’s just me. Actually, I think the Tommy Dreamer argument works just as well in the opposite way. He wasn’t beloved by the WWE Universe when he left the company, but he had some very strong programs over on ECW. His work with Christian is definitely worth checking out. Then when the guy goes to TNA, all of a sudden he is moronic? I spoke with Dreamer after his release and he struck me as a guy who genuinely loves the business. The road schedule is pretty rough in the WWE, we all know that they work upwards of 300 days out of the year. Dreamer gave the very political sounding “I want to spend more time with my family” line, but I for one believe. Am I being naive? Maybe, but I don’t think that makes a difference in this situation. Yes, Dreamer could have taken a desk job in the WWE for six figures, but he saw an opportunity in TNA to wrestle and help some rising stars. The critics then take his in ring promos, and treat them as fact. Their reaction is actually a testament to how effectively Dreamer’s last run in TNA delivered. The waterworks were part of the angle! How is it that a TNA angle is considered gospel, and yet no one believes that The Undertaker is actually dead?
Josh Boutwell: Don’t get me started on why certain angles in the ‘E’ are supposed to be taken as “part of the show” or “just entertainment” but we see similar things on the other side and it’s “just dumb.” I’m supposed to roll with the punches when Paul Bearer unveils an earn with a magical light that’s Undertaker’s “power” but Hulk Hogan giving Abyss “the power of the Hulkamaniacs” is just utterly retarded (which they both were equally stupid in my mind). Or Kane shoving Paul Bearer off a balcony “killing him” is acceptable but Abyss beating people with “Janice” is the dumbest thing they’ve ever seen. How about, how I’m supposed to have a “sense of humor” when it comes to Santino’s comic relief, but Eric Young dancing around like a half-wit on Impact is somehow not supposed to be considered in that same “comic relief” role. Why? The point I guess I’m going with this is, why does it have to suck just because TNA does it? Yes, I get it, a lot of people can’t stand TNA Wrestling, but you don’t have to remind us every chance you get by naming all the things you hate about it, especially when things you claim to like on the other side are equal in its silliness, craziness, or even violence. The Kevin Nash and Booker T stuff from this past weekend is what I guess brought all this to a head with me. It was just astonishing to see so many people that had just months before trashed these guys, marking out for their WWE return. Going back to Sting, it’s almost a fever pitch with people wanting him to come back for the 02/21/11 thing. Yet, some of these same people claimed he couldn’t wrestle without a shirt last year because he was “too flabby and out of shape”. These same people bitched and moaned on Twitter and Facebook about how he was “ruining his legacy” by continuing to wrestle when he “clearly can’t go anymore.” What’s changed? Did Sting get younger since October? Or did the setting (potentially) change? Is WWE’s lighting going to make him better in the ring at 51 years old? Is their “production value” going to make him all of a sudden become 20 years old again?
David Stephens: It blows my mind. having just seen the rating for this past week’s iMPACT, I can’t help but laugh at the double standard that exists. If the WWE is having a good streak of ratings, it is because the product is strong, and they are engaging the audience. If TNA generates a good rating, then clearly they are flawed and/or don’t mean anything. I’ve done my fair share of research, and I do understand the debate over Nielsen, but that doesn’t change the fact that the ratings are critical to a show’s success. Not just because they need to be high to stay on air, but because they are how a network prices spots for advertisers. Yet, will TNA be congratulated for achieving a stellar rating this week? Nope, it’ll be regarded as a fluke.
Let’s see, what other double standards can I think of at the moment. Mick Foley jumping off of the Hell in a Cell is amazing, but Kazarian leaping from the Ultimate X posts was a terrible idea. The Beautiful People are just a poor man’s LayCool. The Miz can blossom into a World Champion, but Johnny Fairplay was a waste of money (ok, actually on this one I might have to cede to the TNA haters). Hmm, the RAW Guest Host concept was great, but bringing in celebrities to TNA show’s their failure. Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero’s family add great emotion to a storyline, but including Jarret and Angle’s is reprehensible. ECW One Night Stand was brilliant, but HardCore Justice was lame, despite the fact that it got double the buys of an average TNA PPV. Vince McMahon can be on camera, Dixie cannot. The list goes on…
Josh Boutwell: Yeah, it really does man. It’s a never ending cycle and going back to the ratings. I’ve had this debate with several people who will talk about a huge rating that RAW gets and then immediately slap down the idea of TNA having a good week by saying Nielsen is “flawed” and they probably got half the amount of viewers that the ratings claim. How about when they do a poorer than usual rating? When RAW got killed pretty hard going head-to-head to the big Falcons-Saints Monday Night Football game that was the first defense, “oh they had huge competition tonight,” but when TNA was murdered by Lebron’s return to Cleveland earlier this year people said that argument was “just an excuse.”
Please don’t get me started on the LayCool/Beautiful People thing. I’ve been trashed several times for referring to them as the Bootleg Beautiful People, but TNA steals ideas from WWE so WWE would never steal an idea from TNA right? Even this past Thursday, I had to hear the arguments about how it didn’t make sense for AJ and Fortune to turn face since Crimson choked AJ a few weeks ago and the fact that Fortune helped beat up Mr. Anderson, but I didn’t hear these SAME exact people complaining when CM Punk was revealed to be the leader of Nexus despite the fact that Punk got his ass beat by Nexus just a few months prior. I guess where I go with this argument is why does it have to be this way? I’ve said this a million times but no one can ever answer it, if you hate TNA (or WWE for that matter) why do you watch it? What I get from the majority of the people that use these double standards are half of them go into watching the show with it in their head that it will suck so there’s no hope for them liking it. The other half don’t even watch the show, they read the spoilers, and then talk trash about it. Those are the people have the most problem with. Don’t argue with me about something that you don’t even bother to watch. If Doug Lackey can say “don’t argue with me if you don’t purchase the PPV” then I can say “don’t argue with me if you aren’t bothering to watch the show.”
David Stephens: Ha! I love that last sentence, because it is so true. Another double standard perhaps? Actually, you bring up a point that addresses the larger issue. I hate to be the kind of person that just bitches about something without offering a solution. It seems counterproductive to even discuss the matter in the first place, but with the dilemma of double standards in the internet wrestling community, I don’t know where to move forward. Watching TNA has become the “global warming” of professional wrestling. There are experts on both sides that will show research after research until their dying breath that proves their side of the argument. People who don’t watch TNA, aren’t going to suddenly admit that it is worth having an open mind. So where do we from here? You’re the TNA guy on Wrestleview, what’s the solution?
Josh Boutwell: Honestly? Other than blowing them all up? There isn’t one. We can talk about this until we’re blue in the face, but there will always been some people out there that just love to BITCH! I guess it’s just human nature. I just hope that maybe a couple people will at least read this (and other things I/we say) and get where I’m coming from and maybe take it as more than just “the TNA guy” whining about the TNA hate. Adam Martin & Grash made some comments on the “Friday Fishbowl” Friday that struck me. They both mentioned that I’m “passionate” about my feelings towards TNA yet still willing to criticize the company when I feel necessary. I guess that’s where me making arguments like this come from. Instead of just sitting back and reading or hearing a lot of the comments out there that are just blatant hate, I’m going to respond to that.
David Stephens: I believe that Recappers are inherently biased. I’m comfortable saying this because you and I are closing in on 3 YEARS of Recapping for Wrestleview. How could you not be attached to your product? You’ve been with TNA for that entire time, but my case is a little different. I’ve shifted through three shows during my time with the site. Without going into too much detail about the “behind the scenes” of Wrestleview, I had several options when the site decided to bring me in. At the time, I had the choice of choosing either Smackdown, iMPACT or ECW. For a laundry list of reasons, I choose ECW. As I engulfed myself in the product, I legitimately believed that it was the best wrestling show on television. To be fair it was getting a lot of praise at the time from people inside and out of the company, but I also knew that I was biased. I agreed to stay on for the transition to NXT, as at that time I knew I’d be taking over the RAW Recap once Hunter Golden stepped down later in the year. The first season of NXT was pretty good, but it wasn’t as good as my biased mind thought. I’m only a couple weeks shy of a year on RAW, and you’d have to torture me before I’d consider another show “better”. Now, I didn’t just tell you this to prove that I’m inherently biased, but also to illustrate the importance of immersing yourself in the product. You mentioned that people criticize the show without watching, and that’s exactly what I’ve discovered in my personal views.
I didn’t watch ECW regularly until I started working the coverage for the site. Well, except for when Kelly Kelly was on the show. DAMN. I had a generally negative view of the show, for honestly no reason other than that I’d seen people say it was a weak show, or a terrible rehash. What I discovered once I forced myself to not just watch, but actually absorb the material, was how much great television I had been missing. TNA is not for everyone, but if you are someone that doesn’t really watch the show and just know it as the butt of all internet jokes, I challenge you to give it a fair chance. I’ve been there, I understand. If you’ve done this with TNA and you don’t like it, fine. I have no beef with honest fans that don’t care for a product.
Part of me wonders whether wrestling fans pick on TNA, Chikara, etc., to mask their own insecurities. Professional wrestling isn’t exactly the most popular form of entertainment on the planet. The general populace looks down on the industry. I doubt that there is a single fan that hasn’t at one point been taunted or teased for liking a “fake” sport. A lot of wrestling fans never sat at the cool kid’s table in high school, so they make themselves feel better by doing exactly what they hated experiencing themselves. They attack fans of the TNA product. They call them dumb, idiots, etc., to make themselves feel better. Personally, I just feel sad for those kind of people. This is a damn carnival act, just have fun with it.
Do you understand that? A carnival act. This industry started because a barker saw another way to make a buck as he traveled from town to town with his troupes. Wrestling terminology has deep roots in carnie. For crying out loud, wrestling isn’t real. Have the TNA Haters forgotten this fact? They’re cheering when HHH comes down to the ring and pretends to knock someone out with a sledge hammer, yet Abyss’ weapons are dumb. Newsflash – they’re both dumb. It’s a violent soap opera targeted towards males. This whole industry is ridiculous at its very core. So let’s jump off the high horses, and just be willing to accept that some people legitimately enjoy the TNA product. Criticizing others for watching and discussing the type of carnival game that makes them happy is just plain idiotic.
Josh Boutwell: And I have absolutely no problem admitting that I have a bias towards TNA and It actually goes deeper than just the fact that I’ve been recapping Impact for almost 3 years, I’ve been watching this company since I sat in attendance at the very first (technically it was two shows taped back to back) TNA Weekly PPV tapings back in 2002 in Birmingham, Alabama. Maybe I have a little bit more investing into the product than a lot of fans because I’ve watched it grow from the company a certain “insider” said wouldn’t last 6 weeks let alone 9 years. You mentioned that you had a negative view on ECW before you started watching the show regularly. I had the same exact viewpoint on Smackdown for a very long time. So many people just referred to it as “the kids show of the WWE” for several years so I just never bothered to watch it. Finally, I started to watch it a few years ago and I have no problem admitting that most of the time Smackdown is a far better wrestling show than any other show on TV and that includes Impact and RAW.
I honestly don’t think I can say anything any better than the way you wrapped up your comments. There isn’t a single wrestling fan that hasn’t had that “why do you watch something fake” (we won’t get into how asinine that comment is seeing how 99% of TV is fake anyway) comment thrown at them. We’ve all been clowned for enjoying our “male Soap Opera” but still certain TNA fans have to trash every single thing the WWE does and scream to the world how much better TNA does or would do it. The same said for WWE fans trashing anything and everything that happens in TNA whether the person even watches what they’re trashing. Just chill out, if you don’t like it there is no one holding a gun to your head and screaming “WATCH THIS!” Just pick up the remote, change the channel.