September 02, 2009

the Unappreciated Knockout

Originally posted on on 1/30/09.

The Unappreciated Knockout

by FK9

In light of Gail Kim's departure from the organization, and Taylor Wilde's huge title push a few months ago garnering a lukewarm response from the audience, TNA is searching for a top woman babyface character to lead the Knockout division. They have a clear-cut lead heel in Awesome Kong, but no clear-cut lead babyface. Kim's departure from the company & Wilde's lack of crowd response played into Christy Hemme finally getting a chance after largely sitting on the sidelines since the birth of the Knockouts division late last year. Additionally, TNA has started looking outside as some girls currently not affiliated with the company are being considered.
-Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

When I read the quote you see above I was both excited and upset. I was excited to hear that TNA was looking outside their company for new female talent (something they should’ve been doing anyway). But I was upset that they thought they needed to find someone new to be their top female babyface when they never seemed to explore the possibility that a certain woman already on their roster could be that person.

Someone who managed to get over with the fans without the TNA machine getting behind her, who’s proven herself, but has never really been given an opportunity to run with the ball.

I’m talking about Roxxi.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Roxxi is the Matt Hardy of the Knockouts division. And by that I mean that throughout her tenure in TNA she’s always seemed to be able to get over despite the questionable way she’s often booked and the stupid situations the writers put her in. A lot of people don’t realize how difficult that is.

Roxxi Laveaux made her TNA debut in 2007 at the Victory Road PPV as the Voodoo Queen, one of the more outlandish gimmicks in recent memory. She was introduced as the valet for the Voodoo Kin Mafia, a heel team that few fans actually cared about anymore, and they feuded with Christy Hemme, Basham & Damaja, a babyface team that the fans cared about even less. Unsurprisingly, the feud never caught on.

Afterward, Roxxi could have easily faded into obscurity, but she didn’t. Instead, she began competing in the company’s fledgling Knockouts division and, prior to the debut of Awesome Kong, had become Gail Kim’s chief nemesis. Not too shabby, considering she was saddled with a pretty bizarre gimmick that Roxxi herself admits she wasn’t entirely comfortable with at first because she was given little instruction from management on what to do with it.

The first indication that she was starting to connect with the fans came at Turning Point 2007 where she and ODB faced the pre-heel turn Beautiful People. ODB got the majority of the crowd pops, but for the first time, “Let’s go, Roxxi!” chants were audible as well. Maybe they weren’t as loud or as frequent as the “O-D-B!” chants, but Roxxi had more fan support than either of the babyfaces, who eventually won the match by pinning her.

It was around this time that I began to get curious about the person behind the gimmick. Looking her up on the internet, I started to familiarize myself with Nikki Roxx, her alter ego on the independent circuit. And after watching some of her matches, I was shocked – this woman couldn’t have been more unlike the Voodoo Queen. She seemed like a completely different character and what’s more, seemed to have quite an ardent fan base.

I quickly came to two conclusions about Roxxi:

1. the Voodoo Queen gimmick was holding her back. If she was allowed to simply be herself she could rival ODB in terms of popularity.

2. she needed to be a babyface.

The first proof of this came a few months later. After being fired from the Voodoo Kin Mafia (which most people agreed was the best thing that could’ve happened to her) her first real feud was with now full fledged heels, the Beautiful People. Velvet & Angelina offered to make Roxxi over into a more attractive woman (as if she wasn’t one already) and instead, beat her senseless and uglied her up in the makeup room backstage. The segment was heavily panned and with good reason – it was poorly produced and quite awful – but that didn’t stop fans from latching onto it.

The reaction was immediate. When the Beautiful People appeared for their next match the crowd chanted, “We want Roxxi!” even though fan favorites, ODB & Gail Kim, were already there. Weeks later at the Lockdown PPV, when the Queen of the Cage match came down to Roxxi vs. Angelina Love, for the first time the announcers pointed out her numerous fan chants and acknowledged how popular Roxxi was becoming, though the fact that the show was held in her home state certainly didn’t hurt.

Next came Sacrifice. In the final round of the Makeover Battle Royal which would determine who would win a title shot against Awesome Kong and who would get their head shaved, Roxxi battled Gail Kim in a ladder match. She came close to winning the match several times, but had to fight off interference from both of the Beautiful People. Despite the live audience being solidly behind Roxxi, rather than the supposed crowd favorite, Gail Kim, she ultimately lost the match. But even though she didn’t win the title shot this was nevertheless the most defining match of Roxxi’s TNA career because this was the match that made her a star.

In the most emotionally charged moment of the entire PPV -- so much so that it even managed to silence the ever popular “Fire Russo!” chants -- Roxxi was then forced to let a barber shave her bleeding head as the other Knockouts gathered around her in a show of support and the Beautiful People laughed and taunted her mercilessly.

“Fire Russo!” was replaced with “Foxy Roxxi!” and “You’re still sexy!” And by the end of the segment none of the fans in the iMPACT Zone seemed to care that Gail Kim had finally won her rematch with Awesome Kong. Gail might have won the match but Roxxi stole the show.

But then something strange happened…

The good news was that the Voodoo gimmick was done away with. The bad news was that instead of embarking on a revenge storyline and well earned mega babyface push, Roxxi’s role was almost immediately deemphasized. She was made to look weak against the Beautiful People on iMPACT, she played the babyface-in-peril role in a 6-woman tag match at Slammiversary in which she wasn’t even allowed to get the pin for her team, her feud with the Beautiful People was quickly dropped so Angelina could be moved into a feud with Gail Kim and be squashed by her at Victory Road and the Knockouts title push that should have been hers as well was instead given to the debuting Taylor Wilde.

Confusing? You bet.

Roxxi wasn’t seen much over the next few months while her transitional, post-Voodoo Goth look was phased out, giving way to her current “hardcore” image for which she also says she wasn’t given much direction by TNA management beyond, “We want you to swear a lot and go out there and fight.” The gimmick change seemed beneficial as it allowed her real personality to finally come out, whereas the Voodoo Queen gimmick had always suppressed it. However, she was only seen here and there and it didn’t look like there were any major plans for her.

Then Gail Kim left the company.

Soon, Rough Cut segments spotlighting Roxxi began airing on iMPACT detailing her background as a wrestler, the origins of her hardcore influence, the defining head shaving and her desire to not only get payback on Awesome Kong for bloodying her in a recent match, but to win the Knockouts title at Bound for Glory as well.

The video packages were apparently a tool to get the fans behind Roxxi and they did their job well. In the triple threat match for the title at Bound for Glory 2008 she was the definitive crowd favorite and clearly had more fan support than the heavily pushed defending champion, Taylor Wilde.

The match lasted about 5 minutes. Roxxi was pinned with a bridging suplex.

You might think such an unfortunate high profile loss might have damaged her popularity, but you’d be wrong. The next Thursday night on iMPACT she was allowed to cut a promo for the first time in over a year and her crowd pops were as loud as ever as she defeated Awesome Kong’s manager, Raisha Saeed.

The feud continued to intensify with backstage beatdowns and a very good tag team match at Turning Point. And after Kong regained the Knockouts championship from Taylor it seemed as if Roxxi was being positioned to be the one to take it from Kong.

Then, with no explanation given and without anything being resolved between them, the feud was dropped. Kong was said to desire opponents, but Roxxi & Taylor were nowhere to be seen. Roxxi apparently no longer wanted revenge for Kong giving her stitches in her face and no longer wanted to win the Knockouts title.

Once again, Roxxi had the rug pulled out from under her, this time because the TNA writers instead thought it would be a better idea to hotshot a title push for long time enhancement talent, Christy Hemme, at the last minute with no build up.

Roxxi and Taylor, along with the Beautiful People, were added to the ODB/Sharmell match and competed in a 6-woman tag at Final Resolution in which Roxxi’s crowd reaction was now comparable to that of ODB.

A month later at Genesis, after Christy Hemme had gone on the shelf with bulging disks in her neck, Roxxi was booked in another 6-woman tag with the winner earning a future title shot against Awesome Kong. Despite Roxxi being the only female babyface left on the roster to never have a singles feud with Kong, ODB won the title shot, leaving Roxxi (w/ Taylor) to presumably revisit her previously aborted feud with the Beautiful People.

Roxxi has been a part of the TNA roster for about a year and a half now. In that time she’s delivered good to great matches, had memorable moments, made sacrifices, and has continuously gotten over despite the marketing machine never getting behind her like it has for many others. And despite all this, TNA still gives her no appreciation.

She’s never had a pictorial done of her for the TNA website when even Lauren the interview girl has one. Even in the commercial SpikeTV airs advertising the Knockouts division she was nowhere to be seen until Gail Kim & Karen Angle left the company and the footage of them had to be replaced with something. And the fact that TNA management apparently thought that an unproven, overacting, habitually sloppy worker like Christy Hemme would be a better choice than Roxxi to fill the role of “lead babyface Knockout” while they (hopefully) search the Shimmer & Chickfight locker rooms for a more ideal candidate makes about as much sense as a Misty on a Pole match.

So if you want, you can consider this a message in the event that any member of the TNA staff happens to read this column:

Give Roxxi a shot. Let her run with the ball for a change instead of constantly yanking it away from her because she’s been a solid performer for you for a long time, because she deserves it, because the fans want to see it.

And because Nikki does indeed rock.

No comments: