Introducing Dark Angel
One of the things a lot of people never really appreciated about Gail Kim when she was in TNA was that, yes, she was a great wrestler, but more importantly than that, she was so versatile that she could have a great match with pretty much anyone. It went far beyond blowing the roof off the arena with Awesome Kong. If you put her in the ring with Velvet Sky, she could have a great match. If you put her in the ring with Christy Hemme she could have a great match. And so on, and so on.
It was no coincidence that almost every match on the Knocked Out DVD had Gail Kim in it. It’s because she was so good at what she did and so talented when it came to bringing out the best in her opponents and elevating the workrate of women who were not on her level.
Ever since Gail Kim left TNA last year, the Knockout division hasn’t had anyone filling that role, which means that women like Christy Hemme and Rhaka Khan have pretty much been left to their own devices and we’ve all seen the results.
Innumerable fans, wrestling pundits, as well as people inside TNA itself have gone on record saying that the Knockout division hasn’t been the same since Gail Kim has been gone. And while I still firmly believe that the downswing of the division was mostly self-inflicted by a lot of unwise and, in some cases, flat-out stupid booking decisions, it’s impossible to deny that the in-ring work just isn’t as good as it was last year.
For the last 6 months TNA has been trying to fill the void left by Gail Kim. They tried bringing up Rhaka Khan and Christy Hemme to compensate for the loss, but they somehow forgot that there was a very good reason why these women had never been pushed before.
Soon afterward the signings began. I don’t know why they dragged their feet for so long with this, but it did eventually dawn on them that if they wanted to resuscitate interest in the Knockout division they were going to have to go after new talent. The problem was with the talent they went after.
1st was Josie/Sojourner Bolt. To say that this woman has been a disappointment would be an understatement. She seems to have some mic skills, but wrestling-wise she has not brought anything to the table whatsoever.
2nd was Daffney/Governor Palin (I can’t believe I just typed that). Let’s get one thing straight: the Sarah Palin impersonator gimmick is easily the stupidest thing the TNA writers have come up with since Black Reign. But aside from that I’ve always liked Daffney. She’s always been an entertaining character, she’s a quick study and in WCW she proved that she could get over with her personality alone. Though she hasn’t pulled on her wrestling boots yet, I know her to be a good hand in the ring. Good, but not incredible.
3rd was Ashley Lane/Madison Rayne. I wasn’t sure about this one. TNA already had several hot blondes; did they really need another one? Granted, she wouldn’t be a SHIMMER tag team champion if she weren’t a good worker, but I’d seen some of her matches and there didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary about her.
Three signings. The first was very underwhelming and the next two were good and solid, but ‘good and solid’ was not going to solve the problem. They needed ‘great.’
Then they signed Sarah Stock.
Dark Angel Sarah freakin’ Stock.
Oh. Hell. Yeah.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Stock, this is her:
In a recent column, I examined TNA’s search for a potential new top female babyface. Now that the search is seemingly over I’m going to quote some important passages from that column to help illustrate my point.
“I recently conducted polls about this topic on two different websites. Judging from the feedback, at the time of this writing there are four clear frontrunners that people want TNA to pursue:
2) ‘Dark Angel,’ Sarah Stock
Pros: As far as support in the polls I conducted, she’s a close second. Wrestling-wise she’s in the same league as Del Rey, but her mic skills are better and she’s a bit more photogenic.
Cons: She lives in Mexico and TNA has had issues with work visas as recently as the World-X Cup last summer. She’s also a mainstay in CMLL, which TNA has been trying to cultivate a working relationship with (I'm not sure why); pursuing Stock could jeopardize that even though they’ve reportedly been interested in her for some time."
-KNOCKED OUT: A New Top Babyface, 2/10/09.
In both poles the general consensus seemed to be (aside from the push of Christy Hemme having “train wreck” written all over it) that while Sara Del Rey might arguably have more support, in terms of replacing Gail Kim, Sarah Stock was probably the better choice, if not the best choice.
Stock is of the same caliber of wrestler as Del Rey, but she’s better on the mic. As an added bonus she’s also heart-stoppingly gorgeous which, let’s be honest, certainly doesn’t hurt. She has the good looks of a woman the WWE would typically go after; the difference being that, unlike 95% of the Divas, she can wrestle her ass off.
“Whoever this person is that TNA is looking for, there are two crucial X-factors they’re going to need:
1) to be an acceptable replacement for Gail Kim she has to be a good worker, and I mean DAMN good. She has to be able to believably hang with Awesome Kong skill-wise, or else people aren’t going to buy into it.”
-KNOCKED OUT: A New Top Babyface, 2/10/09.
Problem #1 solved. Stock is one of the best female competitors in the industry.
“2) the audience has already connected with Awesome Kong. If this person is going to have any chance of stealing away the crowds’ support then she’s going to need an already-established fan base. It needs to be someone that at least a portion of the fans are already familiar with and would be willing to support before Kong.”
-KNOCKED OUT: A New Top Babyface, 2/10/09.
Problem #2 solved. Stock has competed in ROH, is a regular in SHIMMER: Women’s Athletes and is a star in CMLL in Mexico.
In their search for a new babyface to lead the Knockout division TNA tried their luck with several different women without success. This one will work. Trust me. If they use her correctly (a big IF, I know) this one will work.
The signing of Sarah Stock means 3 things:
1) they finally have a great rival for Awesome Kong, which they have not had for the last six months (though I still think they missed the boat with Roxxi).
2) the Knockouts finally have the ring general they’ve been lacking since Gail Kim left; someone who can elevate the workrate and help the women who are not as good as some of the others to have quality matches.
3) once she debuts on television we will have hopefully seen the last of these BS pushes of the lesser talented women, which has been a huge part of the problem lately. I mean, let’s be honest -- if you have a choice between pushing Rhaka Khan and pushing Sarah Stock you’re not going to push Rhaka Khan. You’re just not.
Yes, the writers focused on Gail Kim way too much when she was there, but at least they weren’t giving pushes to women who didn’t deserve them back then. Because the lead babyface was so much better than everyone else it really didn’t make any sense to push the Hemmes and the Khans. Now that they finally have a great replacement for Gail, maybe it can go back to that.
I’m not saying that Sarah Stock will solve all the problems with the Knockout division right now (they’d need Scott D’Amore back for that), as the writing and booking of the division as a whole still needs to improve (a lot). But having Stock on the roster will help enormously, at least in terms of raising the caliber of ringwork back up to where it used to be. And if you saw the recent iMPACT, which featured the absolutely horrid match of Awesome Kong & Raisha Saeed vs. Sojourner Bolt & Rhaka Khan, then you know that this is needed and needed badly.
Now, TNA, when you decide when and how you want to debut her, do yourselves a favor and be smart about it (I’m looking at you, Russo). If Stock shows up in the iMPACT Zone with a Michelle Obama impersonator gimmick it’s not going to work. If she debuts with a Japanese geisha gimmick complete with face paint and kimono, which she then has to wrestle in it’s not going to work. If she shows up in a gaudy Halloween costume, chugging bottles of clam juice and calling herself Stone Cold Shark Girl. It. Is. Not. Going. To. Work.
Just this once, please forgo the unnecessary gimmicks. Hype her up with video packages, do a Rough Cut series about her, give her a cool entrance with music that doesn’t sound completely generic like a lot of TNA’s entrance themes do. Just let her be herself and focus on doing what she does best: WRESTLE; as in, that thing that she’s doing in the following videos:
Be smart about this, TNA. If you can accomplish these simple things then you will finally have your new top Knockout babyface. If you can’t, if you screw it up, if you hamper Sarah Stock with some ludicrous gimmick for no other reason than Vince Russo feeling the need to get the gimmick out of his own twisted imagination, then the readers of TNAwrestlingnews.com will be looking forward to many future columns of me ranting about how you’ve wasted Dark Angel as much as you’ve wasted Cheerleader Melissa.
We shall see…