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Pondering With Plumtree - TNA Held Captive By Free Agency

The DP will now be exporting material on a more frequent basis. Yes, that is correct, ladies and gentleman! After several guest columns on the popular wrestling blog, TNAsylum, yours truly was offered and has accepted the opportunity to be a regular columnist. I even get a column name and everything! I'm pretty excited as I'll get to share my opinions on any and everything TNA Wrestling with a large and very vocal/opinionated readership base.

Once again, I'm pretty excited about the opportunity, and look forward to having some fun with it. I'm already enjoying it as I post under the name, "Mortimer Plumtree", who for you non-TNA Wrestling historians, was the manager of one of my favorite wrestlers of all-time, AJ Styles back in the early 2000's. Hence, the column's name, Pondering With Plumtree. 

The following is my initial column, which you either read here, or below.

Curt Flood. 

What? Huh? Alright, I know, not exactly the name and way you thought I would debut a column on this site, right? I guess the Shockmaster can move over. Maybe even Tito Ortiz. Too soon? Sorry, forgive me. 

Nonetheless, for those of you who are not familiar with the name Curt Flood, he was a center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals in the late 1960's. Flood, who was then traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, refused to report for the club, citing poor facilities and horrendous team record at the time. To make a long historic story short, Flood eventually challenged the "Reserve Clause" in Major League Baseball and eventually was triumphant, starting what is now known as Free Agency in sports...and yes, parts of entertainment. 

For wrestling, though the organizations and companies aren't directly dependent on one another for the health of the industry like a Sports League, they are indeed bound indirectly, despite the fact that some might differ in opinion. The health of all promotions makes for a better industry, makes for better products, and of course, makes for a better marketplace for the talent. That may seem awfully obvious in concept, but look around the internet in forums, comment pages, and even some opinion articles. Unfortunately, you will find some who don't quite get it. 

Free Agency and the Independent Wrestling scene, much like Curt Flood envisioned, is a tremendous option in pro wrestling. We've all experienced it in the past during the Monday Night Wars. Watching some of our favorites randomly show up on the other company's programming, hearing rumors of an ECW legend moving on, or even that big independent star showing up in the famed bingo hall down in Philadelphia, wrestler movement was exciting. It was captivating. It was controversial. And it was loads of fun. And I guarantee you, no one in the pro wrestling industry was complaining about the leverage they had to negotiate with.

Wrestling fans embraced the change as it helped everyone involved. Fresh rosters. New match-ups. More opportunities. 

However, somewhere along the way, that idea fizzled out. Gone are the days and excitement of wrestler movement and being a pro wrestling fan. That embraced thought process is now replaced with brand stamps - guys suddenly being labeled as [fill in promotion here] wrestlers, and fans following the same brand loyalty. 

"He's a WWE guy" or "I don't watch anything but WWE" are sentiments often heard today. Whatever the reason for those comments, and I'm sure you have your opinion, the point is the breed of the pure pro wrestling fan is nearing extinction. That is evident by simply looking at wrestling free agency. Especially for TNA, who suffers from an egregious double standard in terms of scouting and signing new talent. 

Digest these few scenarios and think about which is met with the most disdain:

Wrestler 1

- Wrestled six years for New Japan, and is highly regarded for his in-ring work.

- Signs with ROH

Wrestler 2

- Wrestled four years for ROH, relatively known for his in-ring ability over his showmanship. Loads of untapped potential.

- Signs with WWE

Wrestler 3 

- Wrestled seven years for TNA and is known as a solid draw anytime he is on the card/show. 

- Signs with WWE

Wrestler 4

- Wrestled five years for WWE, highly regarded talent, but consensus is he has more potential to tap into. 

- Signs with TNA

Looking at all four scenarios, "Wrestler 4" would easily be the most controversial, as anyone that leaves WWE, is a "WWE guy" for the remainder of his career. However, the perception - or misconception - is never the other way around. In fact, it rarely (really, never) works this way for TNA. If TNA signs anyone other than a relatively unknown from the independent scene in which only someone like me and those of you reading this column right now would know, TNA would be signing "someone else's" guy. A public perception slant that does not apply to other companies and organizations in the world.

Compare that to how the news and reception regarding a scenario like "Wrestler 2" would be accepted. Or just wait for the real case study when Matt Morgan arrives on WWE television. How many fans will perceive him as being a "TNA guy"?

For a company continuing to grow, you would think acquiring the best talent available at the most financially efficient route is essential. Really, TNA should be collecting any and all talent that could help them regardless of who their last employment was. MLB teams do it. NFL teams do it. NBA teams do it. NHL teams do it. Even entertainment production firms do it. It's how free agency should be. What it was meant to be. However, because of this injustice in the perception of free agent acquisition when it comes to TNA, it places them at a handicap other organizations don't have. Leaving TNA to hire talent that either are not ready, or simply not the best the market has to offer (see: Gutcheck), simply to avoid this perception. 

This bias disrupts the true intention of a free agent market, and kills any possibility of future dream scenarios we once envisioned. And of course, it hurts the careers of the talent by giving them limited options, especially if leaving the WWE. 

Unfortunately, and sadly, the pure pro wrestling fan is dying day-by-day, and it's taking one of the best parts of pro wrestling, free agency, down with it. 

Curt Flood would not be happy. 

----

Finally, I though I'd wrap up each column with a few random tidbits I'd like to call Random Rhetorical Ponderings:

Wasn't it weird to start IMPACT with a promo not involving Hulk Hogan? 

And how great was it to hear Bobby Roode return to the "It Factor"?

Couldn't the Ace's and Eights who were already in the building, simply, just let Taz in? 

Weren't they at one point sneaking into the building anyway? 

And, seriously, what's up with the Taz's hiatus anyhow? 

I like a motivated Mike Tenay and his reference library verbatum, but don't you feel like Jeremy Borash should have been in that position since night one?

How cool is the Mankik-Spiderman-ish gimmick? 

And wouldn't it work better if he wore an outfit and mask that didn't remind everyone of Suicide? (The character of course! I guess that's why they changed the name.)

Shouldn't they just throw the "Hail Sabin" sound clip in front of the old Motor City Machine Guns theme?

After all, how awful is the theme music for the World champ?

Admit it, you can't wait for the next AJ Styles/ Austin Aries match, can you? 

Wouldn't Kurt Angle's glasses be better off if one lens were stars, and the other just stripes? (Still cool glasses though Liam!)

and finally...

Whether you liked it, hated it, or were a bit disappointed in it (like I was), aren't you at the least a bit intrigued in where this Tito Ortiz ordeal is going?

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An establishment cannot uphold systemic injustice, and attempt to condemn it, simultaneously.

My prayers (and of course my thoughts...so many thoughts) are with Charlottesville, Virgina, and the many people of color who have endured through these scenes and images over the course of history.