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Pondering with Plumtree - Adding Sport to the Entertainment of Pro Wrestling

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.

"This is what wrestling needs, man" he said to me as we sat slumped on my couch attempting to stay awake for a big fight well passed 1:30am. 

"Stopppppp! Everyone wants to attach their opinion on wrestling to it's so called 'need'", I responded in annoyance to his comment. Much of my uneasiness stemming from the fact that the UFC thought having a big fight well into Saturday morning was good business. 

"I'm serious. How many things have MMA and sports taken from pro wrestling? The building of characters. Camera angles. Video packages. The exploitation of the good vs. bad guy. Every other industry takes from wrestling and evolves, and wrestling stays in it's lane. Why wouldn't wrestling take the things that work from other areas of entertainment and put them into their product?"

I sat up with the intent of rebuttal, acknowledged his comments, thought them over again, and again...and again, only to tilt my head to signify, yes, you sir have a good point. A really, really good point. 

And quite frankly, he did. It was a very honest and truthful assessment. Why wouldn't pro wrestling steal the things that work in MMA, or sports, that attracts so many in today's environment. The same way sports have taken much from pro wrestling, especially MMA.

Now I refuse to go down the path of dissecting Dana White's "pro wrestling is fake" comment, because that's a column in itself. But I will say that maybe, just maybe pro wrestling in a time where the cat is out of the bag on the industry, and admittingly so, has given up on at least presenting the product as real, or as real as it could be. 

Sure kayfabe is dead, but does it have to be? 

Now again, I'm not looking for TNA, or even pro wrestling, to completely change it's course. Not at all. And by no means will I look to get on my soap box to say what wrestling "needs". Even if I do, I'm sure Vince McMahon's bank account will disagree with just about anything I had to say. 

Nonetheless, as a big sports fan who considers himself a pro wrestling addict as well, there are a few suggestions, brainstorms, and additions I wouldn't mind added to pro wrestling, or in this case, taken from the realm of sports and attempted in pro wrestling. Not aspects needed in excess, but added lightly into the product in addition to what they already do. Especially, for TNA, who can continue to refine their identify in comparison to the other products in the industry. 

Say a lot of Mean Things in Front of a Camera

No one does video packages like the WWE. No one. Not the NFL, MLB, The Premier League, UFC, Scandal, The Voice, whatever. WWE production is top notch. In my opinion, it's the aspect that attracts casual fans over other companies. 

However, the format in which the UFC uses, and sometimes we see it during the Olympics, with a specific person(s) of focus answering questions and saying what is on their mind in front of a recording camera. It's just the type of piece that can accomplish so much. It can introduce you to a personality. Give you a sense of who/she is. Explain why the impending meeting is important. And also offers a quick proper buildup/hype which backstage skits and pointless in-ring promos/interactions sometimes miss on. Who, what, when, where, and why are all answered. Isn't that what's important in story telling? 

And let's be quite frank - throw some music that pumps you up in the background of someone saying some means things in front of a camera, and you're kind of hooked. You want to see what happens because either you hated their personality or you fell for their story, and are rooting for that person.  

TNA has slowly shifted back to a model along this thinking lately with more backstage interviews with Jeremy Borash - which is old school, and I'm a huge fan of it. 

Will Somebody Stop the Damn Match! Enough is enough!

A minor pet peeve of mine is the way wrestlers will at times refer to an upcoming match with an opponent as a "potential five star match" or a candidate for "potential match of the year." Sometimes, again, it takes away the feeling of at least projecting what we're about to see is indeed a competition. The statement just evokes putting on a show. 

I thoroughly enjoyed last year's SummerSlam where Brock Lesnar destroyed John Cena. It projected the idea that any given night a one-sided fight can happen. The unpredictability was refreshing. 

I wouldn't mind seeing more of those, and it doesn't have to be in the main event. Heck, bring back jobbers (Norv Fernum = ratings!) and squash matches. How about once in a while having a match or two stopped by an official?  I think that surely will help in building up a monster or put over a feud.

It just brings a certain out-of-the-box concept for pro wrestling that really isn't that crazy. A knockout spot in pro wrestling? It just seems like an added element of unpredictability and authenticity.

Of course, which brings me to...

If You're Gonna Take a Dive...TAKE A DIVE!

Okay, so I get that in pro wrestling referees are a bit less...well, authoritative than in actual competitive and real sports. I'm okay with the occasional, "oh no, the referee has been knocked out!" situation. I really am. Again, it's part of the overall essence and circus that belongs in pro wrestling. 

However, and I really mean this...if a referee is going to be rendered incapable in a match, please make it believable. Squash him in a corner by a big man. Have him eat an inadvertent kick or punch. Have the ref get run over from an Irish whip. Even an inadvertent poke in the eye is believable. Nothing bothers me more than a referee who dives after the wind of a nearby punch rendering him unconscious. Especially in today's world where it's sooooo overdone.

Or even the ref who turns his attention to matters outside of the ring during a contest. 

I know it's just wrestling, but I just hate when referees "do" ill-advised things in a competition. I think it hurts the product and looks more hokey than anything that is "scripted". 

Okay, so THAT was my soap-box statement of this column. Moving on... 

Rank, List, Eliminate...Repeat

Sports fans love the ability to debate things based on what we presume are hard facts. We dwell on power rankings, standings, and random tournaments/cups. TNA has done a good job by keeping their top five relevant, and I think it's a nice addition to the overall product, especially when it is of importance. I enjoyed how it tied into EC3's rise, and at one point, him being number one and still having several roadblocks in front of him. It was a nice nuance and a well told storyline. 

Fans strengely enjoy these type of tournaments, eliminations, lists, and ranks. It adds some concrete reasoning to what at times can feel like random matches. Especially in a sporting world of college football, the NFL, and the Premier League, where each loss is so vital to a team's season. It's possibly why the BFG series seems to be a favorite of so many in the open discussions on this site. 

Also, why not add a random tournament throughout the year. For a trophy? For an annual title? For a check? For a spot on the roster? ROH's top prospect tournament is always interesting and is a great concept. Anything, really. Yay tournaments! Call me crazy, but tournaments are fun. So are rankings. Add 'em, and make it consistent. 

Stats and the Past 

Speaking about added content to discuss, what about the inclusion of statistics to pro wrestling? Now, calm down, we're not looking to go all Money Ball here with advanced metrics. Regardless, I'm not sure there is a way to determine the exit velocity of a wrestler's irish whip. But how about some small tidbits similar to what Impact: Unlocked (wow, doesn't this show seem like forever ago?) presented. 

Statistics is what drives the fantasy sports phenomenon these days, and while it's tough to mimic in pro wrestling, especially considering most products are taped, the added numbers could give a sense of urgency. realism, and interest to the product. We don't have to start evaluating crazy averages like a wrestler's HPM rating - that's obviously headlocks per minute, if you didn't know. Or even breaking down percentages of punches landed (which if you think about it, would probably be in the inhumane heights of 80%+). 

But it is nice to be reminded that EC3 is undefeated and what the current reign in terms of consecutive days is for the current champion -  a small tidbit that is cool and easily adds depth for a new viewer. How about going further by adding the win-loss record between two wrestlers who have wrestled one another before? What is Bram's record lifetime in hardcore matches? What's the percentage of wins Kurt Angle has had in matches that go at least 25 minutes?

Maybe touch on some all-time records? Most title defenses? Consecutive wins streak? Tag Team win streak? 

Heck, they can make this stuff up! But who cares?! It's added content that would probably create discussion and drive social media discussion. It's added material that lends to the overall product. 

WWE has recently done this with their Royal Rumble In Numbers piece, and it's always a joy every year. 

Sure, it's insanely geek-like. But so is fantasy sports. And that's considered cool. 

Under My Wing

I miss the days of a good manager, hence my Mortimer Plumtree alias here at TNAsylum.

But I thoroughly understand that wrestlers are expected to talk for themselves and be the "total package" (Not Lex Luger) in today's pro wrestling environment. Especially for smaller companies who need to maximize funds. And doubly especially when Paul Heyman is setting the bar for others at astronomical heights. 

In a world where factions and groups who "have agendas", especially in TNA, are becoming overkill, why not somehow incorporate guys who simply train together. Why couldn't wrestling have their version of American Top Team or some other type of training camp. I'm not sure how one can do this creatively, but it's just a thought and another spin to attach younger wrestlers to the established stars without making things feel so forced. Maybe even an angle creative enough to have heels and faces in the same camp? 

Possibly a revolving door in a constant camp? Have camps recruit new wrestlers on screen? Attachment to British Bootcamp? I don't know, just pondering.  

Punch Your Ballot

Remember when TNA tried a weekly online vote to determine who earned a World Title shot and Desmond Wolfe kept winning? I admit, I voted for Wolfe as well. Though, after awhile I really felt that TNA found that annoying in that it was either a severe wake up call from a creative standpoint, or it contradicted their plans. I'm sure it bruised a few egos as well. 

Nonetheless, how about a concept that allows the same fan-involvement format in an All-Star Themed episode of Impact. Organize a poll of the entire roster into two columns of heels and babyfaces (without labels of course). Maybe add a few legends and notable names like Shark Boy to make things fun.  And have fans vote for four wrestlers from either side. The top four vote recipients from the heels wrestle the top four from the babyfaces in an eight man elimination tag in the main event that night.

The fans get their favorites in, a chance to impact (pun intended) the product, a possible dream-like scenario for fans is created, and TNA still controls the situation as they see fit in the end.

I'm not sure if any one these ideas are valid concepts that could enhance a wrestling product. Maybe there are more that aren't listed above which can be fused into the world that is pro wrestling to make it much more attractive and desirable. But I do know my friend had a point during UFC 190 where millions stayed up fighting sleep to watch it's event, and still felt satisfied in the end. There is more the wrestling world can take from sports, and even growing trends in entertainment (more sophisticated story lines?) to improve itself as an industry.

What do you think? By all means, feel free to discuss them below.

Random Rhetoric

How quickly did the raging fire, created by the overreaction of many, that was ROH's "invasion of Destination America" flame out?

And do you believe, like I still do, that ROH and TNA still need one another more than they think they do?

Anyone else very confused, yet highly intrigued by the TNA/GFW relationship?

Shouldn't one of their upcoming joint ventures include pooling together some cash for a new KOTM title? That poor belt...

Did you watch this past edition of IMPACT with high anticipation for whatever this is, was, will be, or going to be?

Did you also watch it with a casual fan who repeatedly asked you questions about GFW? When did it start? When does their show come on? Who are these guys?

Couldn't a case for 2015 TNA MVP be made for Eric Young?

And how sweet is it watching him deliver piledrivers to others?

Anyone else very much enjoying the rise of Rockstar Spud?

Someday, isn't there money in Spud vs. EC3 again?

I say it too often, how bad ass is Bobby Lashley?

In staying with the sports ideology, isn't there a serious enough argument that Jeff Jarrett's draft classes and ability to sign talent is underrated?

Has TNA ever brought in a crop of wrestlers as good as those as he did while he was in position to do so?

And finally...

Maybe I'm overreaching here, but isn't EC3 the long term franchise guy TNA has been looking for?

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