A year ago around this time, I was talking up how I had stopped watching WWE and started finding TNA to be pretty fucking good. It was shocking, but just as shocking is how a year has passed and my feelings couldn’t be more opposite. As it is right now, WWE is probably at its most solid since 2001 while TNA has gotten so laughably bad that I really wouldn’t mind too much if it died.
Hey, it’s not like most of the guys are getting paid well anyway.
So what happened?
With the WWE side, it appears to be two major things. First off, Triple H has been taking over more behind the scenes and while he failed pretty badly in bringing in Sin Cara, he’s smarter than Vince in a lot of storytelling aspects and is finally able to get his vision off the ground. One of his big problems has been how he makes for a terrible face character and puts himself over way too obnoxiously (having a semi-retired guy as one of the top faces does nothing for anyone other than short-lived ratings peaks), but now that he’s a heel, it works.
The other big change came from something that’s been hurting the company for years and that’s the Who Moved My Cheese? factor. For way too long, WWE’s been in need of an era shift. They’ve been stuck in the Cena/Batista/Orton era for so long while being too afraid to move forward. Batista quit a few years ago and Orton’s been deemed too much of a risk to be top face, so they’ve been stuck making Cena super important while doing a bad job of building up anyone to be on his level.
CM Punk came really close, but they chose to instead turn him heel and ruin that momentum. Sheamus has come close, but just hasn’t been able to come off as more than Player 2 Cena. Then there’s Ryback, who got pushed to the moon, only for the bookers to realize that he’s nowhere near ready to be champion, leading to him losing a bunch of matches, turning heel and falling down from the grace of the main event.
At this point, they’ve reached the point where they have to move on or simply flail around like they have for the past few years. While they’d love to ride out Cena forever, he’s finally reached the point of having to take a vacation to recover from injuries. They’ve handled this the best way possible by pushing Punk and Bryan as top faces while NOT having them succeed at the bat, while at the same time having Bryan get the first 100% clean win on Cena in forever. Meanwhile, Orton’s turned heel, which is the best place for him.
It’s weird to look back at three of the biggest things to piss me off with WWE in the past three years.
1) That time Christian won the World Heavyweight Championship and they immediately jobbed him out to Orton.
2) Daniel Bryan losing his title in mere seconds on a huge PPV stage.
3) CM Punk beating Cena at Summerslam, only to have a Clique member attack him and the Money in the Bank holder to come out and pick the bones.
The crazy thing is, all of these basically happened at the end of Summerslam! Daniel Bryan won his big title match, Triple H laid him out and he lost the belt in mere seconds to Orton. And it worked!
WWE’s really been on a roll lately, firing on all cylinders. Watching three hours of Raw used to be a chore, but now it flies by because nearly every segment is a good time. It’s been a long, long time since they’ve had that kind of quality.
Not only that, but there’s some great talent coming down the pipeline. Sami Zayn (El Generico), Adrian Neville (Pac), Kassius Ohno (Chris Hero), Solomon Crowe (Sami Callihan) and many others are on the NXT roster, waiting to be called up. The reason they aren’t being called up? Because Triple H wants to make sure that they have actual plans for any new member of the roster. This is a smart thing.
As for TNA? A year ago, they were really damn good. Even their cheeseball Claire Lynch storyline, which had some of the worst acting we’ll ever see, was entertaining as hell. The matches were great for the most part and the Bound for Glory Series round robin tournament was super interesting to watch. After losing wrestling’s cancer Vince Russo, the writing took a huge upswing.
So what happened? The main thing that killed their momentum was their desperation to hold onto Jeff Hardy. His contract was coming up, so in order to entice Hardy into staying, they pushed him to the top. The final four in the Bound for Glory tournament were Hardy, James Storm, Samoa Joe and Bully Ray. Storm, Joe and Ray all had their build-up reasons as to why they could or should win the tournament and move on to challenge Austin Aries at the Bound for Glory PPV. Instead, Hardy won with no build. It really ruined everything. Aries had to turn heel despite his run as a mega-face being short-lived and they had to put the “Bully Ray is behind Aces & 8s” reveal on hold.
That was the worst. Aces & 8s went on FOREVER. What made it really bad was that for the first few months, they didn’t even give anyone in the gang identities. They all wore masks, so they had no personalities and no reason for us to care. They were just a bunch of generic bikers. There was nobody it could be to make it worthwhile and much of the revealed roster proved it (ie. Bischoff’s son and Mike Knox). At least when they finally showed Bully Ray was behind it, the explanations made sense. It’s just that it wasn’t very exciting while it happened.
But therein lies one of the other major problems with TNA. See, Vince Russo’s main problem was that he could come up with a good beginning to an angle, but would then just swerve it into oblivion or forget about it. Post-Russo TNA would come up with a good beginning and maybe a good middle… but then they’d stay there. For instance, last year they introduced Abyss’ “brother” Joseph Park, who went from searching for his missing brother to becoming a wrestler to having episodes where being cut open would cause him to black out and become like Abyss for a minute. The first instance of him having one of those episodes was a year ago and only now are they giving it any attention! It’s not even follow-up! They’re simply calling it out as something that happens and are letting it ride.
The company’s also been falling apart outside of the ring. They’ve been in a perpetual storm of bad publicity where they’ve treated their talent like shit and have had problems even paying them on time. One of their wrestlers Jesse Sorensen got a major neck injury and they tried to give him an office job, only to fire him from that. Not for doing a bad job, but because they needed to save the money. Meanwhile, wrestler Zema Ion contracted some kind of stomach cancer and put up a failed Kickstarter to pay for the surgery. Surgery that TNA wouldn’t foot the bill for. Vince McMahon’s no saint, but he’s smart enough to know that you take care of this kind of thing for the sake of publicity.
Now you might figure that between the fucking over of the ailed roster and the firing of many others, it would be because the company is simply in dire straits and can’t afford it. Well, maybe that’s true, but it’s also so they can afford to bring in Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz and put them on the roster. I can’t imagine how much Ortiz cost them, but considering his debut was met with complete and utter silence and confusion from the crowd, I figure they paid him too much.
And what about the Bound for Glory Series? They’re doing it for the third time this year and it worked out so well last time. Up until they panicked and made Hardy win, it was strongly booked. At the very least it should have given them focus, right? Not so much. As of right now, the tournament needs to wrap up in about two weeks and they haven’t even done HALF of the matches they need to do! Yeah, check out that time mismanagement. They most certainly had the chance to get it right, but now they don’t have enough TV and house shows to fulfill the concept and will likely have to sweep it under the rug.
Also funny is how TNA lets their wrestlers compete at indy shows and one indy show in particular recently featured much of the Aces & 8s roster. They all jobbed.
As it is right now, TNA appears to be beyond saving and watching them cut corners makes it look like they’re in their death throes like WCW was in their final few months. The thing is, I’m not as down on it like I was when WCW went under. Other than the showcase of some strong – if meandering – talent, it’s lost its purpose. They’ll never be good enough to make WWE sweat even a bead and will be lucky if they can ever make it a good show in general. It’s run by incompetent and rather callous people. There’s a lot of good talent in there, but it’s not like these guys are getting the most out of it. Hell, some of the younger guys like Magnus could probably find a place in WWE.
WWE is the Gallant to TNA’s Goofus. I look forward to every WWE show now to witness this new era shift that was ultimately set in motion by CM Punk’s “pipe bomb” promo, all while the most entertainment I’m getting out of TNA is watching them gasp for air. Just like WCW in 2000.