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.
I decided to do a little undercover work for this column. A little research searching and digging throughout the internet to find what the IWC is saying about TNA Wrestling these days. I went to the streets of the internet or the underworld - so to speak - by rummaging through forums, comments, and columns on various sites. I read past reviews of IMPACTS, thoughts on the product, and overall, what the reputation of TNA is to those who consider themselves "smart" to the industry.
I don't think I have to tell any of you what the final consensus is. We already know. For someone like myself who has a few select locations for wrestling news and rumors that are respectable and credible, the mass amounts of venom I came upon towards TNA was overwhelming. Really, it was outrageous. Actually, it's quite disturbing. Wait...wait, to be honest, it's quite overboard. Absurd, maybe? Dare I say, the comments are rather hypocritical. But then again, nothing you all don't already know. .
As I read the comments, the more I continued, the more I began to wonder if anyone decides to think through the statements made, or are they just said because it falls in line with what everyone else is doing? After all, no one wants to be a contrarian in the world of professional wrestling fandom, because you don't want to be seen as: 1. a "mark"; 2. someone that doesn't "know" the business; 3. an idiot; or 4. a "fan boy".
Because after all, that wouldn't make you "smart" to question the uniformed thinking of the masses even if you may not wholly agree with it. To be "smart" requires you to conform to what is deemed as "smart" thinking. And right now, poking holes in the TNA product is considered "smart" because...well, just because!
So, in a weird way, I'm going to battle with the IWC...and we're going to do it...tonight!
***straps on football helmet and catchers gear***
What I decided to do was address some key popular statements made about TNA lately. Essentially, a task some TNA fans have been doing as the persecuted minority in those "streets and underworlds". A battle that is against conformity. Against the syndicated thought process.
I decided to take the comments most frequently found, heard, and read in regards to TNA, and challenge them each. And for the heck of it, we'll use WWE as the controlled example, since that seems to be a cornerstone reference in the illogical reputation being forced upon TNA by the IWC.
Disclaimer: It's sad that I have to add one of these, but I know people tend to take from an article what they want. But let the record show, I am in no way being impartial towards TNA and attempting to criticize WWE in any manner. I enjoy both companies, all companies, really. I even gave Wrestling Society X a try and that should say a lot in itself. So, once again, the use of WWE programming examples is strictly to expose the hypocritical nature of this underworld known as the IWC towards TNA Wrestling. Discretionary thinking is advised.
With that said, let's start with the most common statement:
Ah yes, also seen in many variations, particularly using "sux" to add to the "hipness" of the statement. Wow, way to really freshen up the word.
My satirical nature aside on grammatical leniency, let's knock this one out immediately. Yes, there are many forms of wrestling out there. A handful of major organizations, hundreds of indies, and a library full of footage you can rummage through on YouTube, you know, if you would like to relive the old days. But saying "TNA Sucks" only proves one point - you prefer one brand, and because of that like, you feel your fandom comfort is threatened by another. Relax! There is enough wrestling to go around! And if you don't like it, simple, don't watch it!
And lastly, It's rather hilarious when "TNA Sucks (or sux)" is followed by examples of the latest episode of IMPACT. You disprove of the product, but still tune in, because you just can't wait to give your expertise and in-depth opinion on the product after it ends - "TNA Sucks". Groundbreaking.
"TNA is about to go bankrupt" or "I can't wait for Vince to buy TNA"
Hmmm, so you mean to tell me, for someone that is "smart" to the business, and "understands" it, you seriously share the opinion and belief that a company which continues to sign television deals around the world and is aired live on prime time weekly in the United States is close to being belly up? Okay.
Or let's look at it this way. Since you're "smart" to the business, you believe one more company under the WWE monopoly is good for all wrestling fans? Yup, that's great for wrestling! (hint:sarcasm)
And, why can't you wait for Vince to buy TNA? What's the point in saying that? What's the endgame in that process? So WWE could release TNA footage on WWE DVD's? Then why not just watch TNA? Oh yeah, you must like the cool WWE montage before their programming. I don't blame you, it is pretty cool. I guess I see your argument now. (Yes, that was sarcasm again.)
"TNA is basically WCW"
This one really bothers me. How in the world is that even remotely close to being accurate? Are we forever going to compare the second largest wrestling company in the United States to WCW for the rest of our wrestling-loving minds? If WWE is somehow surpassed, does it become "basically WCW"? Just stop. Please...stop. "Smart" fans ask - more like beg - bookers and writers to come up with new material and to be innovative in their thinking, and this is the best comparison they can come up with? Who's rehashing things now?
"No One Watches Impact"
Obviously, this refers to the ratings of TNA's flagship show. So under this logic, any show that isn't watched by the majority of the fanbase is not a good product? Shows like Family Guy and Arrested Development, which were cancelled, only to be brought back were not good products? ECW (the original one. And I hate myself for having to say that for a select few), which also didn't receive stellar numbers on TNN (Spike before it was...well, Spike) was not a good product? Heck, let's just say it, ECW failed as a business. But it was a good product.
As a male that is in that key 18-49 demographic, can I then make the claim that "WWE sucks" because it gets crushed by Monday Night Football? Of course not.
Look, a good product builds the brand. Brand builds awareness. Awareness pulls in viewers. Viewership grows the company. Ratings do not always equal a good product. A Good product does not always equal good ratings. Their not mutually exclusive, but rather collectively exhaustive.
As for "no one watching", IMPACT is a nationally televised show that has lasted several years in prime time television. TNA gets short-credited on this accomplishment. C'mon now...to expect TNA to burst onto the scene and rival WWE is as unrealistic as it gets. But you know, it's not "smart" to think that logically.
"Total Divas is more entertaining that IMPACT"
This is currently a popular one. Everyone is in on the joke, because you know, Total Divas isn't a real wrestling show but it beats IMPACT in the ratings. Ha. Ha. Get it?
Look, I won't knock Total Divas. I don't watch it. I understand what it was created for, and the WWE has done a great job with it. I prefer to watch wrestling and not a reality show based around wrestlers.
If you find it more entertaining, then awesome. Good for you. But how this truly discredits IMPACT, I have no idea.
There are reality shows that beat Raw in the ratings. Big deal. Big whoop.
Also, as mentioned above, when you have a brand that is recognizable such as the WWE, it's easier to spin off new and successful shows. Once again, that's not to lessen the accomplishment of the show, but to state the fact that Total Divas receives multiple plugs throughout almost eight hours of programming seen by almost 4 million viewers. Impacts viewer share isn't close to that. But whatever, keep recycling the same "Total Divas jokes". It doesn't get old apparently.
"TNA screws up everything" or "TNA just does stupid stuff"
Yup, another doozy. Boy, way to screw up continuing to grow, and grow, and grow, and grow, and grow...and grow every year, TNA. That move out of the IMPACT Zone? Huge Screw up! Touring England? What are you thinking? Because you know, doing that is just stupid. Giving the wrestling fan an alternative or something else to watch on Thursday nights, yeah, way to screw up my week TNA.
In all seriousness, doing "stupid" stuff when it comes to wrestling is as subjective as the type of wrestling you enjoy. I don't care for a lot of the dancing and "entertainment" aspects that happen, but I understand there are those who do. Wrestling is the rarest form of entertainment as it's a mixed bag. Its why it is so great.
However, these "stupid stuff" happen in lots of companies and have been for years. More so in the WWE than any other. I sometimes wonder if IMPACT featured dance offs, game show parodys, leprechauns, and other of the "stupid stuff" seen on WWE TV, how would the IWC react?
In preparing for this column, I unfortunately (as it hindered my ability to enjoy it) watched RAW with this mindset - what if TNA did this on IMPACT? Can you imagine if Hogan came out of no where, dropped the big leg on an X-Division guy, and inserted himself as the special guest referee the week of an upcoming pay-per-view?
As for screwing things up, that's also subjective. August1Warning? You're entitled to your opinion on the execution, sure. But didn't WWE hype Big Show for a while not to deliver on it until this week? Or how about those "Brodus Clay is coming" videos only to have him show up as a funkster and now directionless? If TNA had similar instances, Twitter would probably break.
Now onto the criticisms and statements with a bit more foundation...well, sort of.
"Hogan, Sting, and others are old and taking up too much time that can be used for younger wrestlers"
I honestly think this one is such a cop out in regards to criticism about TNA. Sting and Hogan have been phased out for weeks, and they are for the most part on-air figures that are enhancing the story lines around them.
Disagree? Fine, I can honestly see the validity in an opposing or alternative viewpoint.
However, where are the complaints when the McMahons are in the midst of a weird power struggle on Raw. Where is the complaint of Triple H being involved in Summerslam's main event? Where are the complaints when the McMahons are more focused on than some of the WWE's younger talent? Triple H pointless pedigree to Brian Maddox?
And I'm sure if Sting or Hogan ever showed up on Raw, this "Smart" statement of criticism will change instantly.
Because when the WWE has "old" guys, their "Legends", and that's just called enhancement, baby!
"TNA Pushes old guys ahead of their young or homegrown talent"
Once again, another cheap excuse. Take a look at the last few months of the TNA product, and you will notice there is a serious movement in either their homegrown stars or their younger talent. After all, Chris Sabin was World Champion. Austin Aries and Chris Sabin also were the main event of an IMPACT.
All of this in the midst of a Raw that just featured Brock Lesnar, Triple H, Vince McMahon, the return of the Big Show, and our old friend (no pun intended) in Rob Van Dam. I don't mind any of the above, but you can't complain about it one way, and accept it on the other end.
"TNA is stale and predictable"
"TNA wastes time doing stupid things on their show"
"TNA always bring in non-wrestlers to their product (paraphrasing)"
Remember when everyone had Brooke Hogan turning heel at Lockdown? Or how about August1Warning being Bob Holly? No, it was Low Ki for sure! Thennnnnnnnnnnnnn, of course, it was definitely Adam Pierce, right?
Want even more proof of how illogical this statement is? Tell us all, if it's so predictable, who is going to win the Bound For Glory Series? Would you bet your savings on that answer? Anyone?
Yet, when Cena conquers everyone, no one is upset. Or when we get repeat matches from Smackdown on Raw, and vice versa, it's alright.
As for wasting time, no one has more filler in their programming than WWE does - no one. But they can afford to let the product breathe with so many hours of programming.
Also, TNA has had their fare share of celebrities and stunts that they've tried. Some failed. Some were disasters. Some helped get them notoriety. TNA brought in Tito Ortiz recently and you would've thought the cardinal sin in wrestling was just committed. Yet, when Kevin Federline pins John Cena, Snooki notches a Wrestlemania victory, or when the Muppet Babies are on Raw, nothing is really said.
"TNA Copies the WWE"
Ah, the old [fill in wrestling company here] follows WWE.
If anything remotely resembles or reminds a fan of something WWE, then by all means, they are copying the WWE! I'll credit the WWE for their branding, because it's what they do best. But on the other end of the spectrum, it's pretty gullible by those who buy into it so easily. You're thinking just like Vince wants you too.
"TNA releases good talent like Matt Morgan and Crimson to sign washed up talent"
Soooooooooo, wait a minute. "No one watches Impact", but you know that Crimson and Morgan are good wrestlers? And for those who do watch IMPACT, they watch for guys like Crimson and Matt Morgan?
And wait, didn't the WWE release Matt Morgan first?
As for washed up talent, I read this comment on a website (I will not disclose out of respect) which was posted in 2010, "TNA needs to stop bringing in talent like RVD that no one in wrestling cares for anymore, and start to concentrate on AJ Styles, Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, and Samoa Joe."
A year and half later, the same person commented the following on a different thread:
"TNA is dumb. They have a no charisma having wrestler like Chris Sabin as their champ? Bush. They could've cut Hogan, Bischoff, and Sting and kept guys like RVD, Morgan, Crimson, and Jesse Sorenson. TNA has no idea what they are doing."
That statement brings me to the final hypocritical statements made against TNA:
"Dixie Carter has no idea what she is doing"
"Dixie Carter has no idea what the fans want"
Now, I honestly can't validate a comment for either one. I don't have any idea about Dixie Carter as a professional or her pulse on the wrestling fan base. What I could say is this, Dixie Carter took a small regionally based company and has turned it into a worldwide brand.
I've never operated a wrestling company or even a global company, so I haven't the faintest idea of what Dixie's day-to-day operations are like. Who knows what financial, managerial, or operation hurdles she is working within. And I'm pretty sure not many of us do either.
But once again, facts are facts, TNA has grown year after year, and that's hard evidence to argue against. Even if you attempt to throw the ever-so-popular rating statistics at it.
As for now knowing what the fans want, well, as seen by the statement above, the even the fans don't know what they want. Vince McMahon often claims the credo of "knowing what the fans want more than they do". He must have an sixth sense for such an impulse. Dixie, unfortunately, just has the regular five we all share. Bummer.
I wonder how the IWC would react if both companies swapped already prepared scripts and run-of-show-breakdowns for one month without it being leaked? Think it makes a difference? Think anyone notices? And if not, then aren't all of the above statements dead in it's hypocritical lore.
All in all, a lot of what is being said out there about TNA is off-based. Is TNA perfect? Absolutely not and very far from it. But never in my entire life have I've ever seen a wrestling company that has provided so much for fans, talent, and the overall health of the industry be slammed day in and day out for reasons that are overboard, outrageous, absurd, illogical, and hypocritical.
But I guess that's what it takes to be "smart" to the business these days, huh?
Throughout the episode of Alex Rodriguez returning to baseball and the attention/reaction he has gotten from the media and his peers, isn't there a blueprint or a future heel character for pro wrestling in there somewhere?
What's with all of these former TNA wrestlers taking shots at the company lately?
And isn't this an indication that they should give the decorating plans back to the men who built the house in the first place?
In some weird way, doesn't it add something to the match when the ladder becomes destroyed as it's being used?
How classy, transparent, and honest was Dixie Carter acknowledging Kurt Angle's rehab situation?
And as a fan didn't you appreciate that more instead of writing him off TV with plot-holes?
Did Velvey Sky go visit Angle in rehab?
How weirdly innovative was ODB using her bra to choke her opponents?
How surprisingly comfortable (and good) was Rampage Jackson in his promo?
And couldn't he stand to help Tito Ortiz a bit?
"I've kicked the butts of many around the world. And here in the United States" Say what, Tito?
How unpredictable and fun has the Bound For Glory Series been?
Is the the gang warfare in TNA starting to grow on you?
Didn't Sabin vs. Bully have that "Big Fight" feel to it?
Am I the only one that dislikes the "using the door" tactic as a win when TNA's cage door is humongous and there is a ramp that meets the door?
Were you also truly swerved by Tito?
Where does this leave Sabin going into Bound For Glory? Mr. Anderson?