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.
For all the years of TNA's existence prior to 2014, I've eagerly wanted and anticipated their arrival to the New York City area. After a few live events, including some record setting ones here in Brooklyn, TNA brought their brand to Gotham for two sets of tapings in 2014, and then gave us the privilege of opening their new era on Destination America. From this fan, Thank You, TNA Wrestling. You could have picked anywhere to do this. And to be honest, there is a part of me that believes TNA likes it here. Who wouldn't? But that's just the New Yorker in me.
Nonetheless, we've all had plenty to discuss, hope for, digest, and evaluate over the past few months as the company's lights went out for a hiatus. Regardless of your opinion or thoughts, It's safe to say that most are happy that TNA Wrestling is airing somewhere and still an option for the wrestling fan. The more interviews of Dixie Carter I listened to leading up to this past Wednesday's show, the more I am grateful for Destination America and it's willingness to embrace this venture.
With all of that said, I found myself bracing bitterly cold weather and insane winds in midtown Manhattan to be a part of this new era, and yes, another set of tapings. I attended the Wednesday show and Friday's taping. And again, just like the previous two sets of tapings, I had lots of fun, which is what wrestling should be, no?
Without giving away any spoilers - I wouldn't do that to those who like to keep things fresh - there are a few thoughts - ponderings if you will - that I came away with from this week's tapings, it's first IMPACTS on Destination America.
Ah yes, its easy to get lost on a site like this, with a focus on TNA fandom, to think that TNA's support is unconditional and overwhelming. Truth be told, one of the things I was curious about was indeed the demand for the product on the first night. Whether fans were there for just another show or there to welcome back TNA Wrestling to the marketplace was a point of interest and concern for me. After all, the company did go on hiatus for several weeks, and such a break could possibly disconnect some fans.
But as always, wrestling fans are super loyal regardless of what we may say. I'm never watching again! I'm done! Yeah, right.
I was surprised to find as the lights came up on the ring in the Manhattan Center, and Jeremy Borash welcomed us all back, the crowd was insanely on edge chanting "TNA! TNA! TNA!". The mega-brawl felt like utter chaos in the building, and we all ate it up. Things were back to normal. Like TNA never left.
Even More TNA Support
After this crowd engaged themselves completely into the product, I begn to look around the building and noticed many, many familiar faces in the crowd from other wrestling shows in the area. In fact, plenty of faces I've seen at other ROH and indie shows were also in attendance for these shows, especially Wednesday night.
Likewise, on Friday, in his usual hype-man shtick, which he is so good at, JB asked how many were seeing TNA Wrestling for the first time live, and plenty of hands went up around the building. Maybe around 40 percent of the building. Of course, on a Friday night, there were plenty of families and children in attendance which is also a good thing for the brand.
New Year, New Channel, New Look!
Obviously, we anticipated all of the changes to come with this new era, and as meticulous as wrestling fans can be in there appreciating/critical ways, the new look of the product was part of said anticipation. In person, the new smoky blue ropes were immediately a better visual than the bright blue ropes of the past. The new, simple set, which has changing lights and a more advanced look than the "galaxy" curtain of the last tapings is also nice in person. On TV (more on that in a bit), I'm not sure if you truly capture the visual of the set, but, at least in my opinion, it's not that big of a deal.
The logo also looks super sleek along the perimeter of the ring. Kudos to TNA on redesigning the look.
Also, you didn't hear much of it on the Wednesday broadcast, but the new IMPACT wrestling theme is catchy. Still stuck in my head after two long nights of tapings.
As for the debatable "darkening of the crowd" look, I'm kind of indifferent. On one end, it does darken the presentation, but at the same time, much like the staple feature at Madison Square Garden, fixating the eyes of everyone on the product rather than elsewhere is a plus. I won't, and can't, really judge until the other shows which will have more time to post-produce are aired.
TNA Live vs. Home experience
The live wrestling experience is amazing. However, Wednesday's taping definitely peaked many thoughts on the difference of the television product and live experience for TNA. This was very evident in Wednesday's tapings where there were stalled moments throughout the show including one really lengthy period (about 20 minutes) following the opening Angle vs. MVP match. Technical difficulties understood (it happens), all of Wednesday's segments from the live experience were fantastic. But yet, still seemed rather empty.
It wasn't until I watched the television show upon returning home where what I saw Live made more sense or became clear. Again, I understand they were on tape delay, or semi-delay, or whatever the true industry term is for the taping is, but it really did hurt the experience more so than their usual tapings to be aired on later dates and not the night of. As always, I gauge casual fan interest from my wife who genuinely felt the effort should have been to stay home for Wednesday's show as she enjoyed it more than being there in person. She was also very annoyed after an awesome opener to just sitting around for the next twenty minutes.
Again, what was taped and happened in front of us was indeed awesome, but all night it felt weird and something felt off. I can't explain, it just did. I'm sure others who were there too can relate. Wednesday's taping just never connected completely. Just my opinion.
Which brings me to...
Dixietron? Or not to Dixietron?
I'll be honest, I'm not a complicated wrestling fan who get's caught up in all the bells and whistles of a product. I'm simple. Give me good wrestling. Good characters/Personalities. Make me care. Entertain me. And I'll support you. Sure, shiny things are nice and make it easier and more pleasing visually, but I am not one of those who were clamoring for a big screen on the new entrance set for IMPACT.
Well, that was until Wednesday happened. Truth be told, some of the stalled moments were just as long as your basic Live Raw or Smackdown events, however, they are able to place random videos, moments, and other things on the screen to keep you engaged in the product. It also helps the fans in the building connect with what will be happening in front of them. Or even what's going on backstage.
I get it, sometimes you can't have nice things. We all live on a budget, and so does TNA. But a video screen would be nice, not just for aesthetic purposes, but simply from a productivity standpoint of enhancing the live experience.
The opening video to IMPACT was truly amazing, and as excited as the crowd was inside the Manhattan Center, the hype would have reached a another level if that aired on a screen in the building prior to the show's start?
Too Long or Money's Worth?
Another issue regarding the Live experience is a rather interesting conundrum - is there a point of diminished returns on the length of a show? One of the reasons I love the Thursday taping back in the summer when Dixie went through the table (one of the greatest live wrestling events I've ever been to) is that it was three and half hours, and never felt that way. At the end of it, you were just blown away for a period of time, and part of you still wanted more. IN fact I tried buying tickets for the next night and they were sold out.
As I've stated, Wednesday left a little bit to be desired, but at Friday's taping's, fans were treated to wrestling from 7:00PM to 11:15PM with a minor short break to construct the cage for the Lockdown taping. By the way, TNA has a fantastic crew who is never seen or heard. All of them deserve plenty of credit.
Nonetheless, as I always feel with these TNA tapings, getting your money worth is rarely an issue. You will get your money worth. But at what point does the length of the shows hurt the overall experience? It's an interesting problem to have, and not necessarily a tremendously bad one per say.
I've already read some incorrect "correspondents" describing crowd reactions, and to be honest, by 10:30PM, much of the crowd were exhausted. I definitely was. It's very hard to keep up the type of energy and chanting that occurred throughout the night.
Both tapings were really good, but it was obvious some fans were checked out heading into the final matches of the last taping.
So yes, is too much, a bad thing? It's an interesting question.
Let's Go Bro!
There are many who dislike the Bro Mans and their act and have been very vociferous in making that known. Of course, our own Fk9, who brings us Straight Shooting reviews here at TNAsylum is known for his insatiable (and at times humorous) dislike for Robbie E. Contrary to him and others, I enjoy the act, and actually find the group to be very entertaining.
However, over the two days of tapings, it's hard not to acknowledge the amount of "Bro Man" neon tank tops that were either in attendance or purchased. This was especially the case during the summer tapings where areas of the buildings were wearing them. And let's not even go into the amount of people who mimic DJ Z yelling "bbbbbeeeerp" the minute he comes down the aisle. It's actually rather loud and at times infectious.
You are now! In! The! Mix! BBBBBBeeeeerp!!!!!!
Sorry. Again, it's a guilty pleasure.
I very much dislike telling other wrestling fans how to feel or what they ought to like, and I never will, because that's just stupid. Wrestling fandom ought to be diverse and personal. However, for those who dislike them, The Bro Mans may not be the next Road Warriors, but it looks like they've carved themselves out a reason to remain in TNA. They've connected with the audience and sell merchandise. Seems like a keeper, no?
Mixing Work and Play?
At this point, it's safe to say TNA has found themselves a very supportive partner in the Destination America brand. But I have to give props where props are due, as on Friday night, executives from the channel were to my right in the balcony area in a section reserved for them and were having a damn good time. It was border line weird to see these suits and execs chanting and engaging with fans. They seem to be vested partners, as well as fans, and that may prove to be a good thing for this relationship.
And yes, some of them were chanting, "M-V-Penis", which was one of the funniest chants throughout the week of tapings.
On the other end of the spectrum, JB mentioned several writers from wrestling websites which really didn't receive the warmest of welcomes. Some didn't even care. However, an elderly man in our section did notice that one of them never seemed to show any emotion throughout the night. "He's probably writing right now, 'awful segment. Two star match. Or whatever the hell these guys make up'", he said to laughter in our section.
And the elderly gentlemen was correct. The man just typed away on his tablet in a very stoic manner. I his defense, it's probably just business as usual and these shows are just work at this point for him and many in his industry. But there was a stark difference in observation between the new TV execs who seem to let themselves go and had fun, and the writer who didn't, and whose words and opinions so many hang on to as gospel.
Jeff "Freakin" Hardy
Again no spoilers, but Jeff Hardy is the man. Mad respect to this guy. I respected him, but wasn't a huge fan. Now I believe we all should scream like little girls when he hits the ring. The guy deserves it for what he does for us fans.
Haters Gonna Hate
And of course, it wouldn't be TNA without some type of negative detraction, right?
During Friday's tapings, there was a guy in our section who obviously, by the families surrounding him, was alone for the show. He kept screaming things to not only attempt to bring attention to himself, but also ruin the show for others.
"Are you guys seriously cheering for this?"
"Who is booking this?!"
"Another run-in? This is awful!"
"You don't see this garbage in other companies!"
"Who tapes two shows in one night?!"
"A six sided ring is stupid!"
These were among the various obnoxious statements he made throughout the night. Again, looking for attention, looking to sound "smart" instead of you know, having fun and enjoying the show.
To place the cherry on top of another fun set of IMPACT tapings, a TNA production staff member, who was working the sound/visual board in the production area of the balcony, politely walked over and stated in between segments, "Thanks for supporting us - and also buying a ticket".
Boom. Well said, sir. Well played.
The man, obviously caught by the statement and the embarrassmentstared in on the obvious hypocritical being the moment created. He was silent for maybe ten minutes thereafter, then started right back up with the comments.
Complain all you want, but you bought a ticket - alone. Which says more than anything he could have possibly said.
In today's wrestling fandom, some just want to hate. It used to slightly bother me, but I've come to acknowledge this is where our fanbase has moved to.
Some now ridicule others for enjoying and supporting an entity they do not, while also supporting an entity they don't enjoy.
Haters are gonna hate. No need to change it. I'm accepting it.
After all, they're still supporting the product. Oddly, isn't that what counts?
I know I already said this, but how awesome was that opening package for IMPACT?
And didn't they do a great job with the graphics and visuals on the show?
Was the new match graphic your favorite as well?
Didn't you miss Tenay in the sit-down interview role?
And isn't it such an effective way of developing characters rather than in-ring promos?
Wasn't the mention by Josh Matthews of Low-Ki as the second ROH Champion a nice touch to go along with the new "reality" direction?
After all, aren't you tired of companies insulting you like we don't know about other options?
Anyone else believe for such a menacing and imposing figure, Tyrus has chosen the worst possible tights to present himself with?
And after he received chants of "funakasaurus" and shouts of "Funky's on a roll" during this week's tapings, doesn't it prove how damaging one bad gimmick can be in pro wrestling?
How great was Awesome Kong's return?
Couldn't you watch a best of seven series between Bobby Roode and Lashley?
With all of the options available (WWE, NXT, NJPW, TNA, ROH, & LUCHA), isn't wrestling in 2015 shaping up to be pretty awesome?
As always, feedback is very much welcomed and appreciated below, and over in Twitterland at @domepondering.