Originally posted on http://www.tnawrestlingnews.com/ on 1/05/09.
2008 Year End Knockout Rankings
With the year 2008 as well as the first year and a half of the Knockouts division now in the history books I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the roster of women I write about every week, where they’ve been over the last year and where they could potentially go in 2009.
So let’s do this thing.
-2008: The year started out well for the former Ms. Brooks. She was involved in a long running storyline with Robert Roode and even briefly teamed with Booker T against Roode & Peyton Banks. After that she did… not a whole lot. After Sacrifice she pretty much dropped off the map. A brief stint as a referee led to her being given the on-air position of “Knockout Law” which could have led to some really interesting situations if it had ever gone anywhere, but to this day it hasn’t.
-2009: Tough call. I like the Knockout Law position for Traci and there are a lot of story possibilities that can be mined from her being the Jim Cornette of the Knockouts division. But in order for any of that to pay off the writers will have to actually DO something with it sooner or later, which doesn’t seem to be a priority for them at the moment. If something doesn’t happen with it soon I think Traci may need to start worrying about her job if those rumored talent cuts take place. Having met Traci in person last summer and knowing what a cool lady she is, I’d hate to see that happen.
-2008: A 13 month losing streak + 5 minutes of build up = Christy Hemme, title contender. Yeah, I don’t get it either. Despite some mild improvement, it’s painfully obvious that Christy is just not championship material and having an inexplicably competitive match with Awesome Kong at Final Resolution didn’t change that. The only thing that match accomplished was dragging Kong down to Christy’s level.
-2009: How long Christy’s current push lasts probably depends on how long it takes TNA management to dial Sara Del Rey’s phone number… erm… I mean, how long it takes TNA to find the new top Knockout babyface that they’re supposedly searching the independent circuit for. If/When they find the woman they’re looking for, Christy will most likely head back to the bottom rung of the ladder which, unless she continues to improve, is where she belongs.
-2008: Managing James Storm didn’t seem to be going anywhere for the Pride of Tennessee, especially during Storm’s 4 month losing streak in the early part of the year. Then Storm joined forces with Robert Roode, Beer Money Inc. was born and suddenly Jackie became the most relevant that she’s been in her entire TNA tenure thus far. She deserves props – not many wrestlers have been able to reinvent themselves at this stage in their careers.
-2009: There appears to be no end in sight right now. As long as Beer Money stay together Jackie will have a purpose and a spot on the show. But if they decide to lose her she can be useful in helping make some of the lesser talented Knockouts look good in the ring.
-2008: Some well executed build up couldn’t stop the Lethal/Val/Sonjay love triangle from being one of the worst storylines of the year in any company. With the exception of a great ladder match at No Surrender (minus the predictable finish), everything after and including the wedding angle at Slammiversary was woefully awful. Not that any of this was Val’s fault – she was just doing what she could with some truly horrendous writing. But now this terrible program is what people most closely associate her with and it doesn’t help that new TV boyfriend Sonjay Dutt is racking up a pretty lengthy losing streak either.
-2009: Right now Val is heading down, not up. She needs to distance herself from that whole mess. The best thing she could do is turn babyface, break it off with Sonjay and steer clear of both him and Lethal. That done, Val could make a fine manager for someone else, but she may find it difficult to escape the stigma of the love triangle angle – it really was that bad.
The Beautiful People
-2008: What on earth happened to these two? After Sacrifice they were going places and Angelina was well on her way to a future title run. Then they lost at Slammiversary, they lost at Victory Road , they lost at Hard Justice, they lost at No Surrender, they lost at Bound for Glory, they lost at Final Resolution, at one point they lost to Taylor Wilde three times in one match...
Plus, they were tasked with performing a lot of things in which the dreadfulness of the material was matched only by its pointlessness (the beauty pageant, the fake Sarah Palin, etc). And to add insult to injury, for some absolutely baffling reason, the writers decided to pair up these two ratings magnets with the human black hole into which ratings disappear and never return, otherwise known as Kip James (ugh…). The best part about 2008 for Velvet & Angelina? When it was over.
-2009: Their act is getting stale, their promos increasingly pointless and they have no credibility left to lose whatsoever. The jig is up and the fat lady has sung -- it’s time to end this gimmick. Velvet Sky’s entrance alone is enough to get her over as a babyface and Angelina Love has the potential to be so much more than what she is right now. Love is solid in the ring, one of the best interviews in the company and has charisma coming out her ears. She needs to ditch Kip James like yesterday’s trash, turn on Velvet in the worst way possible and take her place next to Awesome Kong as one of, if not THE best heel in the Knockouts division.
Sadly, I doubt any of this will happen. As long as the Beautiful People keep drawing the way they do the writers will most likely continue to use them in the exact same way they’ve been used for months – as a cheap ratings ploy and not much else. They’ll never have to worry about their spot but they’ll probably never have a better one either even if it is a colossal waste of talent.
-2008: A strong initial push produced some terrific matches with Gail Kim, Awesome Kong and Raisha Saeed in the early part of the year but later on it seemed like the writers ran out of things to do with her. ODB’s Angle felt less like a talk show and more like a weak excuse to just get her on television and feuding with non-wrestler, Sharmell, isn’t going to produce any classic matches. Despite her obvious popularity it seemed like the writers just didn’t want to push her beyond a certain point. And why? You’d have to ask them.
-2009: ODB remains the most popular female babyface TNA has (though Roxxi appears to be gaining on her), but when Christy Hemme of all people was pushed ahead of her that said all that needed to be said about ODB’s chances for a future title run. She won’t hurt for screen time in the new year but she probably won’t be pushed as a force either.
-2008: An outstanding feud with Gail Kim, a dominant run as the Knockouts champion and currently in the midst of her second one. Being pinned only four times in one year is pretty damn good. I suppose that’s why they call her awesome.
-2009: She recently signed a new contract with TNA so she’s not going anywhere in the near future. Smart move on her part. As long as she stays healthy enough to wrestle she’s pretty much always guaranteed the spot of top Knockout heel. Now if they could just find Sara Del R… I mean… a credible babyface to oppose her.
-2008: First, she was the valet for Scott Steiner, then for Petey Williams. For months she was on TV and never used in a wrestling capacity. Then she finally got in the ring and we found out why. She has a good look and her shear size is impressive, but being allied with Awesome Kong didn’t change the fact that Rhaka Khan is the Freddie Prinze Jr. of women’s wrestling (that means she’s horrible).
-2009: Remember those rumored roster cuts I mentioned earlier? You do? Well, I just thought I’d mention them again.
-2008: In January, Saeed (Cheerleader Melissa) was introduced as Awesome Kong’s associate, but perhaps a better moniker for her would be Awesome Kong’s sacrificial lamb because that’s basically what she is. When someone needs to get over on Kong without actually beating her they pin Raisha Saeed. Sometimes she’ll interfere on behalf of Kong in matches, occasionally she’ll win a tag team match with Kong’s help, but otherwise she’s never won even one singles match and has no role other than being little more than a designated heel jobber for the other Knockouts. And that is absolutely inexcusable because…
-2009: …if you’ve ever seen Cheerleader Melissa’s work on the independent circuit or if you saw her match with Daizee Haze on iMPACT last year then you know why TNA management needs to drop the Muslim gimmick like a bad habit. The difference between Saeed & Melissa is night and day and if you’ve only experienced her as Saeed then you would never know that under that burqa is one of the most talented female competitors in the country, if not the world.
Don’t believe me? Well, then click on the following link and prepare to have your mind blown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsCLaTBvp-s
This woman is easily the most misused and underutilized talent TNA has. She could be ruling the Knockouts division and instead she’s been sitting on the sidelines for a year. With Rhaka Khan now handling the jobbing responsibilities for Team Kong, Saeed’s role has become completely irrelevant, so the best thing TNA could possibly do with her is ditch the Muslim gimmick, get behind her as the ass-kicking cheerleader and give her the Gail Kim push. And this would be so very fitting, because outside of Sara Del Rey or Sarah Stock there is no one better to fill the void left by Gail Kim. And here’s a big bonus, TNA… SHE ALREADY WORKS FOR YOU!
-2008: It’s been an up and down year for the former Voodoo Queen. Her highlights included winning the Queen of the Cage match at Lockdown and the Makeover Battle Royal at Sacrifice where she lost the match, lost her hair, but won the hearts of a lot of fans. Unfortunately, Roxxi’s initial babyface run was the first serious casualty of Gail Kim’s Superwoman push – her feud with the Beautiful People was abruptly cut off so Angelina could be fed to Gail instead and this was followed by several months of obscurity. But a welcome gimmick change that finally allowed her to showcase her personality (something the Voodoo gimmick had always prevented) and the sudden departures of Gail, Salinas & Karen Angle freeing up a lot of screen time changed all that. No woman has benefited more from the depleted Knockouts roster than Roxxi. She now enjoys a more prominent role, a higher spot on the card and ends the year in a better position than she was in when it started.
-2009: When this Christy Hemme push fails (and mark my words, that is EXACTLY what’s going to happen) TNA management may find themselves wishing that they hadn’t taken Roxxi for granted so much over the summer. Because after Christy, there are only three other babyfaces on the current roster that can feud with Awesome Kong, and of those three, Roxxi is the option that has been the least explored and the only one of them that hasn’t had a singles feud with Kong yet. If management doesn’t find their new top Knockout babyface on the independents then the process of elimination leads to only one woman.
-2008: A shocking upset for the Knockout’s championship in the weeks leading up to Victory Road was followed by a lengthy win streak. Unfortunately, TNA’s efforts to create a new top female star didn’t work out quite the way they’d planned. No one can deny Taylor’s athleticism, her good looks or her ability to have a great match with just about anyone, but for whatever reason some of the fans just didn’t take to her. Some liked her, others didn’t. Eventually, her title run ended in very anticlimactic fashion in a match on the Las Vegas iMPACT show that lasted all of three minutes and her chances for a rematch were hastily cut short by the ill-conceived Christy Hemme experiment. Since Bound for Glory, Taylor has been scaled back. A less prominent role and partnering with the more popular Roxxi seem to be quieting some of her critics.
-2009: Taylor’s title run wasn’t as well received as TNA management were probably hoping for but the creative team obviously still believes in her enough to keep her the most credible female babyface competitor they have. It’s unclear when she might get another shot at the title, but for the time being, taking a step back in order to take two steps forward later is probably the best thing she could do.
-2008: A feud with Robert Roode & Peyton Banks, a lengthy disappearance and now the sole female member of the Main Event Mafia. It seems like TNA management alternates between loving Sharmell and hating her.
-2009: Sharmell is not a wrestler. I don’t want to see her in any more matches unless she’s the one getting pinned. Aside from that, Sharmell is pretty charismatic and her mic skills are quite good. She’d be an excellent manager or mouthpiece for someone, provided that she doesn’t overshadow any of the wrestlers.
-2008: A brief appearance here and there became a full time deal. Unfortunately for the artist formerly known as Josie, in her first match as an official member of the roster she was jobbed out to Christy 'I don’t need no stinkin’ credibility!' Hemme in an instantly forgettable three minute match, which means she has about as much heel credibility as the Beautiful People right now.
-2009: A loss to Hemme means Bolt starts at the bottom. The good news? There’s nowhere to go but up. But TNA management would be well advised to give her a name that sounds a bit less ridiculous. No offence to Josie, but the temptation to call her ‘SomeJobber Bolt’ may become overpowering.
-2008: Speaking of ridiculous names… Following her in-ring debut at Slammiversary as the Beautiful People’s hired muscle and two hardcore matches on iMPACT, the former Mickie Knuckles never officially signed her TNA contract before going down with a broken leg in IWA: Mid South in a match against TNA’s new top Knockout babyfa… I mean… against Sara Del Rey. However, all reports indicate that she has a contract waiting for her when she’s ready to go. Having recently been cleared to wrestle, her TNA return shouldn’t be far off.
-2009: The Knockouts division is seriously hurting for credible heels right now. When Moose returns to television a hardcore feud with Roxxi would be a good way to reintroduce her.
Overall, a pretty crazy year for the Knockouts division. Some impressive highs early on were followed late in the year by some unfortunate lows that hopefully won’t last very long. The way things are right now, I’d say the current rankings of the division look something like this:
1) Awesome Kong
2) Christy Hemme
3) Taylor Wilde
4) Roxxi/ODB (tied)
5) Raisha Saeed (Cheerleader Melissa)
6) Rhaka Khan
7) Angelina Love
8) Velvet Sky
9) Sojourner Bolt
[Please note: I’m only ranking the active in-ring competitors, hence the exclusion of non-wrestlers or women currently in non-wrestling roles like Traci and Jacqueline.]
Barring any injuries, I’m hopeful that the 2009 rankings will end up looking more like this:
1) Sara Del R… oh, never mind.
1) Cheerleader Melissa
2) Awesome Kong
3) Taylor Wilde
4) Roxxi/Angelina Love (tied)
5) ODB/Moose (tied)
6) Sojourner Bolt
7) Velvet Sky
8) Christy Hemme
Cut from the roster: Rhaka Khan
Plus, I’m hopeful that we’ll see some new additions to the roster over the next year as well because there’s only so many times you can watch the same match ups before things get stale. Just to throw out a few examples, I think TNA management would be strongly advised to take a good look at the following women in no particular order:
-Sara Del Rey
-2008: She fit nicely as the manager of LAX but never did anything on her own worth noting. She left the company around the same time Gail did, citing – you guessed it – financial reasons.
-2009: Salinas ’s ungodly sexiness will definitely be missed by the male ages 18-34 demographic, but it’s not like she was irreplaceable. Her role in LAX could quite easily be filled by a much better worker like Mercedes Martinez (who had a tryout match recently as luck would have it).
-2008: Shoot me. The only woman that TNA pushed harder than Gail Kim last year was Karen Angle. And here’s the kicker: she wasn’t even a wrestler! And yet, for some inexplicable reason the creative team decided to:
1) have this woman figuratively neuter AJ Styles.
2) give her more screen time and more mic time than the entire Knockout division AND X-division put together. In fact, there were quite a few installments of iMPACT in which Karen had a larger role than Samoa Joe during Joe’s world title reign.
I’d ask for someone to explain this to me but I don’t think I’d want to know the answer. She was the impetus for AJ Styles and Kurt Angle to start hating each other, but aside from that… yeah, I’m not losing sleep over this one and I don’t think a lot of people are.
-2009: Despite pictures of her still appearing on the TNA website, she’s gone from the roster and they have no plans to use her in the future. Her last appearance on iMPACT was months ago and the show has been much better without her.
And last, but certainly not least…
-2008: The pioneer of the Knockout division and first ever TNA Knockout champion started the year in the midst of an incredible feud with Awesome Kong that could very well have been the female equivalent of Styles/Daniels/Joe. She competed in, and won, the first ever women’s ladder match in TNA, was pushed ahead of all other female competitors and was promoted as the unequaled star of the Knockout division regardless of who the champion was. Then management lowballed her in her contract renegotiations, she left and, as Brother Ray would put it, sold her soul back to the devil.
Do you hear crickets? I hear crickets.
-2009: Gail, for your sake, I hope the big paycheck you get from Titan Sports is worth it. I really do. Because, believe me, there’s going to be a trade off. In TNA, you were promoted as THE premiere female superstar of the company and had everyone (except the payroll department apparently) kissing your feet. In WWE, you’re going to be just another face in the crowd, you’ll have the Undertaker’s girlfriend thinking she needs to teach you how to wrestle and as soon as you tell management that you don’t want to pose for Playboy you’ll be jobbing to Kelly Kelly faster than you can blink.
It saddens me that TNA didn’t realize what you were really worth until it was too late. I wish you all the best in your new workplace and sincerely hope that your financial issues are short lived and that WWE pays you the truckloads of money that you deserve. And I hope that money will cover the cost of your soul.
Overly dramatic? Nope, not me.