September 03, 2009

Beautiful People or Ratings Whores

Originally posted on on 2/20/09.

Beautiful People or Ratings Whores?

by FK9

You never hear people say how this WWE Diva scored the highest ratings for Raw or Smackdown, but in TNA, for the last several months, the Beautiful People tandem of Angelina Love & Velvet Sky has been the highest rated segments on the show. So TNA is doing something right.

-Velvet Sky, on the Beautiful People’s drawing power.

Over the last year and a half there have been a few constants where iMPACT has been concerned:

1) if a gimmick match is booked on the show it will be presented in such a way that makes it look absolutely meaningless.

2) if there is an in-ring promo, Mike Tenay will talk over it.

3) Don West will say the word “creamed” at least 5 times every episode.

4) the Beautiful People equal ratings.

The first three are easy enough to understand; they’re things you just need to learn to live with if you’re a TNA fan. But the fourth? Personally, I’m at a loss.

This is not a knock on the Beautiful People, believe me. I think both of them are very talented women, especially Angelina. But with the way they’ve been booked throughout their TNA careers thus far, ratings grabbers is the absolute last thing you’d think they would be.

Angelina Love & Velvet Sky debuted in TNA when the Knockouts division was officially launched at Bound for Glory 2007 (Angelina made appearances in the weekly PPV days but that's not relevant here). They were hired by TNA to be the “girls next door” babyface characters. By their own admission, this gimmick was all wrong for them and it wasn’t hard to see why. They were vanilla. There was nothing interesting about them. Quite frankly, they were boring.

At Turning Point, two months after their debut, they wrestled then heels, ODB & Roxxi Laveaux. The crowd loved the heels, and not in the “we love to hate them” way -- the heels were over like babyfaces. The only time the fans really reacted to Velvet & Angelina was when they did the Go Daddy dance. Despite the live crowd being much more into their opponents, they ultimately won the match. Ironically (if memory serves), this was to be their one and only PPV victory to date.

As the weeks went by, Velvet & Angelina’s blandness became more and more apparent. They tried to save Gail Kim from being mauled by Awesome Kong at Turning Point and all the fans did was chant for ODB. They separated Gail and Kong at Final Resolution and the crowd just didn’t care. Their roles on the show seemed to mainly consist of doing run-ins and making the save for Gail Kim. Obviously something wasn’t working. As babyfaces they were just spinning their wheels.

Then they turned heel and the Beautiful People were born.

The personality change seemed just what the doctor ordered. The heel turn allowed their true charisma to finally emerge, and emerge it did. Within the span of about 2 weeks they transformed from the girls next door that everyone ignored into the stuck-up princesses everyone loved to hate. They had become relevant for the first time in their TNA careers.

They began a feud with the Voodoo Queen, Roxxi Laveaux, who concurrently was benefiting greatly from the face turn that resulted from them attacking her and uglying her up in the makeup room. The odd thing was that, despite them garnering a good deal of heel heat very quickly, the feud seemed rather one-sided.

They lost a tag match to Gail Kim & ODB, then got chased out of the arena by Roxxi. Despite Velvet’s interference, Angelina lost a match to Roxxi and then lost to her again in the Queen of the Cage match at Lockdown. They lost to Gail & ODB again and after attacking them post-match, Angelina got jumped on the ramp by Roxxi and triple teamed by the babyfaces.

By this point, it had become the norm for the Knockouts division to be scoring the highest rated segments on iMPACT week-to-week. People were watching them and it showed in the quarter hours. The Knockouts were drawing viewers in better than Kurt Angle or Booker T or Scott Steiner or anything else on the show for that matter and with no one was that more evident than with Velvet & Angelina.

For whatever indefinable reason, when the Beautiful People were on the screen more viewers tuned in. Their segments saw significant ratings increases every week, even compared to the other Knockouts. It was rather baffling actually. People kept tuning in to see these two women who were constantly treated as little more than enhancement talent. While obviously talented and more charismatic than a lot of other people on the roster, they ALWAYS lost. They were still over as heels, but as characters they were losing momentum fast, and with the Roxxi feud seemingly concluded it looked as if the writers didn’t have any major plans for them. That is… until Sacrifice.

In the Makeover Battle Royal match a month later the entire Knockouts roster competed for the right to win a title shot against Awesome Kong. Angelina was the last woman eliminated before the final two came down to Gail Kim and Roxxi Laveaux. But since Gail had already won immunity, it meant that if Roxxi won the ladder match round then Angelina would have her head shaved bald. And in what, to this day, is considered by many to be their most detestable act to date, the Beautiful People interfered, cost Roxxi the match, forced Roxxi to get her head shaved, and laughed and taunted her mercilessly as it happened.

Over night, the Beautiful People went from heavily featured jobbers to the hottest heels in the Knockouts division, even surpassing Awesome Kong who, by that point had begun to lose momentum with her feud with Gail Kim concluded. Angelina even managed to steal the spotlight from Kong on the night Gail cashed in her rematch contract. After a brutal contest Gail had the match won, she was closing in for the final blow, and then Angelina pushed her off the turnbuckle injuring her knee, leading to Kong picking up the victory.

Now they had not only cost Roxxi her hair, they had cost the top babyface in the division the championship that meant everything to her. They continued to get the better of Roxxi on the road to Slammiversary and even after Gail returned from her injury they still got the better of the babyfaces by bringing in hired muscle in the form of Moose Knuckles.

The Beautiful People had never been hotter as heels, their characters had never had more momentum, and they were still drawing ratings better than anything else on the show. And with Awesome Kong’s title reign losing steam, it looked as if Angelina was being geared up for a championship run in the near future.

Then they lost in a 6-woman tag match at Slammiversary against Gail, Roxxi and ODB. It wasn’t a big setback. After all, Moose had been the one to get pinned, so while the babyfaces gained a measure of revenge, Velvet & Angelina emerged unscathed for the most part.

Then video packages began airing on iMPACT detailing the history of a personal rivalry between Angelina and Gail that had gone back all the way to their time in Border City Wrestling years ago. A match was signed for Victory Road, and with the Knockouts title now being held by new babyface champion, Taylor Wilde, it seemed as if all the pieces were in place for Angelina to be the next one to take the belt and usurp the increasingly stale and one-dimensional Awesome Kong as the new top Knockout heel in TNA. She had the ability, the mic skills, the charisma. All she was missing was credibility, which she would’ve gained by defeating her long time rival, Gail Kim, at the PPV in Houston Texas.

Gail soundly defeated Angelina at Victory Road. Even with Velvet Sky interfering constantly throughout, Angelina was figuratively spanked in her make-or-break match.

Embarrassed, and now really hurting for credibility, the Beautiful People teamed with Awesome Kong to face Gail, ODB and Taylor Wilde at Hard Justice a month later. It was the quintessential revenge scenario -- with the Knockouts title not at stake and them having the most dominant woman in wrestling as their partner, it was the perfect opportunity for the Beautiful People to get payback on the babyfaces and reestablish themselves as a legitimate threat to the championship. If Angelina got the pin for her team, she could not only even the score with Gail Kim, but finally gain the credibility she was lacking and position herself as the new top contender for the title.

The heels lost the match when Angelina was pinned by Taylor Wilde.

This is where things got weird.

By this point, the Beautiful People were losing steam. Though they were still somehow drawing big numbers for iMPACT, fewer and fewer people were buying into them as credible threats or credible anything for that matter. And as undeniable proof of how far and how fast they were falling, TNA creative decided to partner them with one of, if not the biggest ratings killer in all of professional wrestling, Kip James (ugh).

The fact that even the addition of Kip James to their act did not damage the Beautiful People’s drawing power really spoke volumes. Love them or hate them, people were tuning in to watch them.

Then, inexplicably, Angelina was booked to face Taylor Wilde at No Surrender for the Knockouts title. Angelina, who had never won a single big match in TNA, whose team had lost at Slammiversary, who had been thrashed at Victory Road, who had been pinned by the champion, thus losing the match for her team at Hard Justice was somehow the #1 contender.

Why? After the last few months, Angelina (and Velvet) should’ve been at the bottom of the ladder and just about the last person in line for a title shot. And yet, she was getting one, not because it made sense for her to be in the match, but because they needed to get her on the card because the Beautiful People meant big ratings.

For a perfect example that that was exactly what happened here, look no further than the go home show before No Surrender. A week before, Angelina had challenged Taylor Wilde to, of all things, a beauty pageant. We later saw her preparing for said beauty pageant, so apparently Taylor had accepted the challenge off-camera despite it being totally against Taylor’s character and despite beauty pageants being one of the things that SpikeTV advertised the Knockouts division as being completely against.

On the go home show, the creative team decided to not devote any time at all to hyping the X-division title match or the tag team title match that were booked for the PPV, and instead gave no less than three segments to the beauty pageant. It was, as you might expect, painful to watch, but that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that the fact that Angelina and Taylor would be battling for the Knockouts title in 72 hours was never even mentioned.

And here’s the kicker. The final round of the beauty pageant was booked to be the lead-in segment for the heavily hyped return of Jeff Jarret… and it actually scored higher ratings.

That’s right. The return of the King of the Mountain, Jeff Jarret, which TNA had been building up to for months actually LOST viewers who tuned in to see Angelina Love in a bikini.

At No Surrender Angelina was once again pinned by Taylor, this time despite interference from Velvet Sky AND Kip James.

After this it looked like the Beautiful People were being scaled back, which would have been for the best as they needed to be rebuilt and badly. But then, at the last minute, they were booked in a hastily thrown together 6 person intergender tag team match (which they also lost) at Bound for Glory against ODB, Rhino and, of all people, Rhaka Khan.

This was an iMPACT match. It was a dark match. It had absolutely no place on TNA’s biggest show of the year, though it was inexplicably given about twice as much time as the Knockouts championship match. It was nothing but a paper thin excuse to get the Beautiful People on the show, and if you didn’t believe that before the PPV, you believed it after the completely random and pointless backstage segment involving them complaining to Mick Foley about blue M&Ms.

Blue M&Ms. Yes, you read that right.

Then, to further illustrate that the Beautiful People no longer had any purpose in TNA other than to provide a cheap ratings hike on iMPACT, they were then used as enhancement talent for Christy Hemme, a woman who hadn’t won a match in over a year and the only woman left on the roster who was still below them on the totem pole. Hemme quickly defeated Velvet Sky despite plenty of interference on the live Las Vegas iMPACT show.

You might think this was a sign that the Beautiful People had finally hit rock bottom, but you’d be wrong. There were still further depths they could sink to, and that sinking began when they invited former Vice Presidential candidate and governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, to become an honorary member of their group for reasons that could only make sense if you were a member of the TNA writing team.

But the worst part was still to come. When well known, easily recognizable independent wrestler and former WCW star, Daffney, showed up at the iMPACT Zone disguised as Palin and said she wanted them to join her cabinet at the White House, Velvet & Angelina actually believed she was the real Palin even though a blind person could see that she wasn’t and even though Barrack Obama had already won the presidency weeks earlier.

Before this, the Beautiful People had been presented as inept wrestlers who were completely incapable of winning big matches on PPV. And now, in addition to that, they were also really, really, stupid. Not a great incentive for the fans to want to tune in to see them, was it? Nevertheless, they still did.

Over the next several weeks the TNA fans were subjected to one mindless, God awful skit after another involving Daffney convincing Velvet & Angelina that, in order to join her “cabinet” they had to wash off their makeup, wear unflattering clothes and shovel cow crap -- skits that were so stupid, so clearly just a paper thin excuse to get them on the show and boost the ratings, I actually found myself longing for another beauty pageant.

You’d think that by then, the fans would’ve finally become conditioned to think that the Beautiful People were so completely unimportant, so obviously nothing more than a tool used to garner a brief viewership increase, that they would finally start tuning out when Velvet & Angelina were on the screen because their segments were never about anything more than them being a cheap ratings ploy. You’d think people would at least tune out when it came time for another idiotic Palin skit. Once again, you’d be wrong.

And when Taylor Wilde & Roxxi revealed that “Governor Palin” was nothing more than a trick they'd concocted to make fools of the Beautiful People for being terrible representatives of the Knockouts division it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. It would have if Velvet & Angelina had been pushed as a force in recent months, but since Victory Road they had gone nowhere but down and had long been presented as nothing more than heavily featured jobbers. So all Taylor & Roxxi had really done was make two jobbers look like the biggest idiots on earth and then dump sewage on them. Really not as effective as it could have been.

The Beautiful People’s drawing power is nothing but a crutch – a crutch used by the TNA creative team to buoy the iMPACT ratings whenever they need, and it could not be more obvious. The writers don’t bother to push them and don’t bother to write good material for them because they know they don’t need to. They know they can pimp Velvet & Angelina all over the iMPACT show, put them in any stupid skit, any ridiculous segment, no matter how utterly pointless it is, and it’s going to draw ratings.

As far as the TNA writers are concerned, Velvet Sky & Angelina Love are nothing but a ploy to gain viewership in the cheapest way possible.

Not Beautiful People, but ratings whores.

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