Pondering with Plumtree is a column on the popular blog, TNAsylum, that is written by yours truly. The blog is focused towards being a fan site for TNA Wrestling fans where they can get news, rumors, opinions, and any and everything else, TNA Wrestling. Known as "The Haven for TNA Wrestling Fans", I'm hoping to bring some of my thoughts to an already impressive roster of columnist for as long as the site will have me. You can read the latest column here, or in the text below.
It's like deja vu all over again.
On the very same day as last year, after being in the very same position as last year, TNA again has come up for air after what seemed like another situation that may lead to an eventual drowning of the company. Or at least that's what the "reports" and the lack of communication from TNA made it all feel like.
I for one will admit to all of you, the past four months of TNA fandom, of TNA television, of just being excited about the TNA product has been extremely tough. You probably have noticed this from the lack columns coming from my way. There were plenty of things to ponder, but truly, I preferred to stay away from piling on the negativity built from the fear the situation produced. For me, regardless of how entertaining the product was, the uncertainty of TNA's future played a huge role. It just felt like diving into the plot of a film knowing there might not be an end. What's the point?
A New Home in POP TV
Regardless, here we are! A(nother) NEW beginning set to begin on POP! TV this January. After reading the Miami Herald's interview with Brad Schwartz and how the overall process of the partnership came to be, I am extremely happy for TNA, the offices, the staff, and of course, the talent. If you've been to a live show, you've noticed that these folks work extremely hard. It's easy to root for them.
Unfortunately, I don't have POP TV on my provider here in NYC, so I'm not familiar or able to check out the programming or the overall feel of the channel. I still remember finding Destination America and seeing the other programs and thinking, "ummmm, well alright". After all, SPIKE was once TNN, right?
Though, from the interview, Schwartz seems like a guy who gets wrestling, and how it fits into, yes, pop culture, in today's environment. While my gut is leading me to be more at ease with this deal than prior to the Destination America signing, I'm not ready to throw all of my trust into it just yet. Lest we forget, DA gave TNA the works with additional programming, replays, and tons of advertising. That at the time seemed just as promising.
Unfortunately, something happened along the way. E-mails, change of leadership, change of heart, second-thoughts, change-of-minds - something! - that derailed the deal midway in 2015, leading to this divorce. Whether it was one-sided or mutual, this relationship just felt on the outs once the ROH addition was made and DA moved them off of Friday nights.
In a perfect world, I would love to hear what the truth really was.
World Title Series
Before moving forward, despite the uncertainty and the anxiety of TNA's future, I just wanted to get in how much I have enjoyed the World Title Series. Yes, yes...I know, it's simple, generic, and at times doesn't have much flow for a television show. It's actually really geared toward the wrestling fan who enjoys pure wrestling, which I can deal with.
However, for all of the criticism TNA receives (huge understated comment, right?), the fact that they were able to foresight, plan, and readily produce something of this magnitude to close out 2015 all within the framework of their situation should be commended. Down the stretch on DA has been much more enjoyable and engaging than it was a year ago on SPIKE.
It wasn't long ago I talked about Pro Wrestling looking to borrow concepts from other avenues of entertainment, and as a big sports fan, the presentation really hooked me. It was different, fresh, and for some reason, the end of this week's show which included the round of sixteen bracket reveal was truly interesting and intriguing. The match ups feel fresh and important. And of course, intriguing when you consider some of the dynamics such as the Knockouts, and some early round surprises like Roode/Hardy and Lashley/Galloway.
By the way, I'll continue to beat the drum for the X-Division and say their pool was very much enjoyable to see unfold. Yup, I'l say it, there is still hope with a thoughtful and invested X-Division.
And of course, there was the evolution of Robbie E which was fun to watch. I think he walked away as true standout from this tournament. Especially, when Josh Matthews and The Pope did a great job explaining his turn to being a serious competitor.
My only criticisms of the tournament? I wish "Group Future" had more focus, or at the very least, included guys who are indeed part of the future for TNA. But again, who knows what "future" holds going forward in January? I do like Aiden O'Shea, the former Jay Bradley.
Nonetheless, I'm all for TNA using this concept in the future. Maybe, even a scaled down version as the new BFG series or just an annual tournament built on prestige like New Japan's G1 Climax.
Moving On and Forward
Well, here we are on the doorstep of another era for TNA Wrestling. You can either look at this with a roll of the eye, or by exhaling and acknowledging this company continues to find a way to survive. With that said, pro wrestling fans, especially TNA-centric fans, deserve plenty of credit for hanging on. I hope the company realizes this.
With that said, there are so many ways TNA can go beginning in January. We saw a brief re-brand this past January with the focus on a different presentation and the intended philosophy on "peeling back the curtain". It brought about some negative things in my opinion (the inconsistent and irritating camera shots) and some very interesting and creative things (the street fight between Lashley and MVP in from of the Manhattan Center).
For me, my most important wish for TNA moving forward is simple - consistency. If TNA can provide that while continuing to improve in other areas, I would be extremely happy. That is, and continues to be my biggest hurdle with the product.
Everyone has their opinion on what the company should do to restart, including acquiring and improving the star talent, defined divisions, marketing strategies, and business models. None are wrong. Some are crazy. Some might be too far fetched. A few are ill-advised. Others are just too focused on a select few within the masses of wrestling fans.
I'm not sure where my hope and vision moving forward for TNA lies, but as stated, consistency is my main objective. However, for the fun of it, to share, to debate, to argue, and of course, to criticize (go ahead, I'm ready...) here is a brief list of other minor things I would love to see in TNA moving forward:
- Youth and Homegrown - I like the idea of TNA staying with stars who are their own and not having to sign the latest big star. We've been down that road already, included one of the biggest names ever in Hulk Hogan. I'm fine with the signing of a former wrestler who were underutilized else where, or even one or two legends who can stick out on the roster as such, but I would love TNA to feel like an exclusive product where you can only see exclusive talent.
- Brand Style - Speaking of exclusivity, one of the reasons I loved the WTS was the ability to see some of these guys wrestle with no strings attached. The bare bones product allowed many talents to shine in the ring. I would love for TNA to get back to having a reputation for seeing that "Wow" match (I loathe the "five-star term". It sounds so pretentious to me as if you're Yelping the match). Having a branded style, or even a hybrid of styles represented on the product would be cool. But this is easier said than done.
- Special Events/Dates - One thing I really, really, really, miss from the TNA product are special occurrences. Even this past Thanksgiving weekend I missed the days of the turkey suit tradition. I miss when certain nights felt like a culmination of many things. When Lockdown and BFG were big nights with announcers in tuxedos/suits and the feeling of not knowing what was going to happen was in the air. I miss when TNA rolled out it's specialty matches once a year, or in a while, such as Ultimate X, Lethal Lockdown, or any other TNA exclusive matches. TNA fans may not like this, but ROH gets it right, using their TV tapings and even their house shows as vehicles leading up to a pay-per-view or special event. It's been awhile since TNA had a night or event like this.
- Trial and Error - I'm one of those fans who applaud TNA for attempting to try new things. Whatever the experiment is. With that said, I hope TNA looks at some of it's worse mistakes and actively attempt to not repeat them. They have a history in my opinion of clear wins and losses, of things that worked and did not. Using their past is essential to looking ahead.
And finally, I'll throw in a crazy idea just because...
- King of the Mountain Title - So, if this belt is back now, let's give it a new look and simply make it a no nonsense belt. A belt built on pure wrestling for wrestling fans, by wrestling fans. No created or written story lines (maybe organic ones). Why not have this division controlled by fans with online voting or tweeting during live shows? Maybe for the attendance during house shows? You can vote for opponents. You can vote for match ups. You can vote for stipulations. You can vote on rankings. Have the KOTM champion present for autograph signings during live events. Make the belt a representation of the today's change in fandom - a pseudo smart/interactive representation of the belt. You know, the way we nutty wrestling fans so desperately want to so badly? Can you imagine a showdown in a fued of the company's champion and the fan's champion? So many opportunities...
Regardless, it's good to hear that TNA (and even ROH) have moved on from Destination America with television deals in which they can hopefully thrive with moving forward. Pro Wrestling all around has had quite the interesting year. Quite frankly, it hasn't been the greatest. But with the turn of the year ahead, at least for TNA, things are alive again. It feels as if TNA fandom has gone from black and white to color after the TV announcement, everything-TNA with an energized focus.
Despite all of the crazy wishes, demands, and know-it-all comments we have, moving on and moving forward for TNA is the bottom line, the most important line. I'm glad they're doing this again. And I too can't wait to see what the next chapter brings.
Dejavu, all over again.
Sooo...anyone else confused on whether Kenny King belongs to ROH or TNA?
Wasn't the group stage play a nice visual/evaluation of the TNA roster?
And truly, doesn't TNA have quite the international roster?
Aren't The Wolves sleepers for the TNA MVP of the Year award?
After this is all said and done, wouldn't you like to see TNA keep the entire sports feel with predictions and in-studio breakdowns, especially for big matches?
Wouldn't it make more sense to have another personality do it as well?
Is Tyrus not the luckiest man in TNA in having to just sit back and watch this play out with an automatic title shot to follow?
Love him or hate him, hasn't this been a pretty good run for Matt Hardy?
Didn't this tournament need a bit more of E-li Drake?
Seriously though, how entertaining and engaging is this guy?
However, doesn't that He-Man...whatever-thingy, he wears to the ring make the guy look like a goof? Or is that the idea and I'm missing it?
Anyone else really intrigued by how the inter-gender matches are going to play out in the round of 16?
Am I alone on this when I say Destination America will probably go into the "nothing-worth-watching-on-this-channel" subconscious of your TV viewing habits once again?