September 01, 2009

Gail Kim Leaving Was For the Best

Originally posted on on 12/15/08.

Gail Kim Leaving Was For the Best

by FK9

I know what you’re thinking. Just hear me out.

Last summer, when the announcement was first made that Gail Kim had decided to not renew her TNA contract and leave the company I was shocked and depressed and not just because she was and is one of my favorite women wrestlers.

The Knockouts division had essentially been built around Gail since its inception last year, many of the most highly regarded women’s matches since Bound for Glory ’07 had featured Gail prominently and even after she lost the Knockouts title to Awesome Kong she was still pushed as the star of the division.

So naturally I was upset. But then I started to think about what this really meant.

Why did so many people think of Gail as the star of the division? Was it because she was so good in the ring? Or was it because TNA pushed her harder than any other three women on the roster combined?

At the time of her departure it looked as if she was about to get her third big push in less than a year. Her third! Meanwhile some of the other women on the roster were still waiting for their first.

Gail’s never-ending prominence didn’t really bother me in the beginning. After all, the woman couldn’t have a bad match if she tried and she could melt butter from fifty feet away. But at some point I did start to want to see some of the other Knockouts get the spotlight for a change. And I thought for sure this would happen after Sacrifice with what transpired between the Beautiful People and Roxxi Laveaux.

In the most emotionally charged segment of the entire PPV the Beautiful People decided to interfere in the ladder match round of the Makeover Battle Royal. As a result, Gail won the title match contract that the live crowd had clearly wanted Roxxi to win and the Voodoo Queen got her head shaved as Angelina & Velvet laughed and taunted her mercilessly.

This was the boiling point of a feud that had been brewing in the midcard for several months. And once I got over my anger about my favorite Knockout getting screwed over big time, I started rubbing my hands together in gleeful anticipation at the thought of Roxxi getting payback on Angelina at Slammiversary – a match that would undoubtedly have tons of heat behind it because, as a result of that head shaving, Roxxi had never been more over as a babyface and Angelina had never been more over as a heel.

That match never happened. What I thought would be a Roxxi/Angelina grudge match quickly became a 6 woman tag including, among other people, Gail Kim.

Then I thought surely Roxxi would get her revenge at Victory Road. Instead, the Roxxi/Angelina rivalry was dropped completely and Roxxi quickly faded into the background.

All of a sudden, video packages began airing on iMPACT chronicling a personal rivalry between Angelina and Gail that apparently had existed for years. A match was signed and had Angelina won this match it would’ve catapulted her up the ladder and into title contention for the first time. And since the Knockouts division was really lacking credible heels I thought the smartest thing TNA could do would be to put Angelina over here in a big way.

Angelina fought Gail at Victory Road and despite a great deal of interference from Velvet Sky, Gail beat her. Badly. Since then the Beautiful People have gone nowhere but down.

So a feud that could have turned Roxxi into a mega babyface and a match that could’ve made Angelina a top tier heel were sacrificed all in the name of keeping Gail Kim relevant.

Over the next few months Roxxi was rarely seen on iMPACT, Angelina rapidly became enhancement talent, ODB’s screen time seemed to have been reduced and by that point, Traci Brooks had practically vanished from television altogether.

Gail, of course, was as prominent as ever and seemed likely to get her next title shot against new champion Taylor Wilde and almost certainly Awesome Kong at Bound for Glory. Then came the shocking announcement that Gail had decided to leave TNA, citing financial reasons.

The fan community was understandably upset. So was I, until I saw what happened next.

Roxxi was suddenly getting much more TV time and seeds were planted for her to be added to the Knockouts title match at Bound for Glory. ODB ended up facing Awesome Kong at No Surrender – a spot Gail had clearly been positioned for. They even teased the unmasking of Raisha Saeed and even though it ended up being just a tease it still got me so excited because that was something I’d been screaming at TNA to do for months (and frankly, still am).

Do you think any of these things would’ve happened had Gail decided to stick around? If you do you’re fooling yourself. And it was around this time that I realized something:

Gail Kim was holding the Knockouts division back.

Was Gail a huge part of the division? Yes. Did she produce many of the division’s best matches? Absolutely. Was she the face of the Knockouts division? Undoubtedly.

But there comes a point where people are going to get tired of seeing the same person all the time and you have to put the spotlight on someone else. And forgive my bluntness, but Taylor Wilde doesn’t count. Even after Taylor burst onto the scene and upset Kong for the title Gail was never lacking for screen time and her spot at the top of the card never wavered for a moment even when it came at the expense of many of the other women on the roster.

TNA had put all their eggs in one basket with Gail. They pushed her to the moon and then sacrificed much deserved pushes for several of the other Knockouts in order to keep her there.

Since she’s left things have been different. The most welcome change has been Roxxi’s elevation to a higher spot on the card. She now enjoys much more regular screen time and the same can be said for Velvet & Angelina -- although one could definitely argue that the quality of the material the Beautiful People get to work with isn’t always terribly high.

TNA made it quite clear that as long as Gail was there the Knockouts division was going to revolve around her. And that becomes a problem if you ever desire to see someone else get the spotlight for a change.

With her now gone, there’s been a much more fair and equal distribution of screen time because, let’s face it, Gail was getting quite a lot. So was Karen Angle for that matter, but I don’t think there were too many fans shedding tears when she left.

Some of the other women are getting opportunities to shine now. Granted, some of these opportunities may not work out, some of them may be ill-advised (Rhaka Khan hasn’t shown me a thing yet), and if they drop the ball, so be it. But you’ll never know one way or the other if you don’t give these people a shot.

Gail being gone might hurt the Knockouts on a superficial level, but her departure has created opportunities as well. It also increases the chances that we might see some new additions to the roster now – hopefully good ones.

[Note to TNA management: give Sara Del Rey a tryout match yesterday.]

As much as I’m a fan of hers, Gail was preventing the Knockouts division from growing and changing. And sometimes change can be a good thing.

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