October 12, 2009

A Knockout Spin-Off Show

There’s been a lot of noise lately about TNA starting up a second weekly show for the Knockout division in the near future. I remember rumors about this first popping up around a year and a half ago and lately there have been a lot more. Many people have been saying that with TNA signing so many new female talents as well as creating a women’s tag team division on top of that that it’s only a matter of time before a weekly Knockout exclusive show becomes a reality.

The question is: could an all Knockouts wrestling show really work? That all depends…

Historically, women’s wrestling has been mainly a niche product with not a lot of mainstream attention devoted to it unless men were involved as well. Remember G.L.O.W.? Remember W.O.W.? Don’t worry. Not many people do.

Things seem to have changed somewhat in the last few years however. SHIMMER is still in business after several years and over twenty volumes produced so far. Granted, they’re still a small independent company without a TV deal, but if they weren’t making money from their DVDs they wouldn’t still be around.

And for the last two years, the Knockout division has been one of, if not the most consistent ratings draw that TNA has.

But could the Knockouts draw on their own? Could they carry their own show? Possibly.

Could TNA pull it off successfully right now? Honestly, I doubt it.

Let me clarify. I think the Knockout division is in a good place right now. With the addition of women like Tara, Sarita, Alissa Flash & Hamada the roster is as stacked as it’s ever been and the matches they deliver are generally very good. But it’s easy to keep the quality high when you only have one or two segments/matches on any given show. You can just focus on the most talented women and use the others sparingly. TNA wouldn’t be able to do that if they had an entire hour to fill every week. A half hour? Sure. Sixty minutes? Not a chance.

If TNA were intent on delivering sixty minutes of Knockouts action every week that means they would have to use everyone. Yes, the women’s locker room is pretty crowded right now, but that’s only because the TV time allotted to them on iMPACT and PPV is relatively limited compared to the men. Give them their own one hour show and the roster is immediately spread way too thin and each woman’s weaknesses as a performer suddenly become much harder to disguise.

Currently, TNA has sixteen women on the Knockout roster, and that’s only if you count Melissa Anderson twice (since she plays both Raisha Saeed & Alissa Flash) as well as Rhaka Khan, who will probably be gone by the time this column is posted. When you look at it like that they really don’t have that many women. Would they have enough to fill all the spots they would need to fill? I think so. But that would mean we’d be seeing a lot more of the women that we don’t see much of right now for obvious reasons.

The Knockout division is tremendous as long as you focus only on Alissa Flash, Awesome Kong, Daffney, Hamada, Sarita, Tara & Taylor Wilde. But a one hour weekly series would mean a lot more screen time for the other women, the ones who are not as talented, which means the overall quality would start to dip pretty quickly.

Be honest. Would you still be so inclined to tune in for an all Knockouts show if you knew Sojourner Bolt would be wrestling every week?

But for the sake of argument let’s say that fans would give this Knockouts show a chance. Let’s say that people would tune in at first and the overall quality of the show would determine whether or not they kept tuning in after that. What would TNA need to do to keep them tuning in?

1) I know I’ve said this before (KNOCKED OUT: Knockout Tag Team Titles), but roster cuts would absolutely need to happen. If you’ve got sixty minutes to fill then you’re going to have to get mileage out of everyone you have, which means the dead weight. Has. Got. To. Go.

If you want to make this work then you have to keep the quality as high as possible. You can’t have a bunch of idiots stinking up the ring every week if you want fans to keep tuning in. Rhaka Khan, Sojourner Bolt, Lacey Von Erich – drop these women like a bad habit.

2) After you’ve trimmed the fat you’re left with twelve or thirteen women at most. That’s not enough for a weekly one hour show. So take the space you’ve freed up and fill it with new talent. Sara Del Rey, Daizee Haze, Mercedes Martinez, Jennifer Blake, Jetta, Portia Perez, Nicole Matthews, Madison Eagles, Wesna, etc. Send out feelers to the SHIMMER locker room, start evaluating people and get signing. Remember, you’ve got singles title, tag team title and non title feuds to think about, and with sixty minutes a week you could have 4 or 5 of these going on at any given time, so you’ve got plenty of spots available.

3) It is imperative that you find the proper role for everyone so you can maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Take Sharmell for example. For the record, I can’t stand Sharmell – she annoys the crap out of me and not in an I-love-to-hate-her-because-she’s-such-a-great-heel kind of way either. But if you’re doing a show exclusively for the women then Sharmell suddenly becomes quite valuable.

Angelina Love had arguably the best mic skills out of all the women in TNA and she was just released. And even with Angelina there was still a lack of Knockouts who could cut great promos; with Angelina gone there is now a serious lack. They’d need to latch onto women who can work a mic and one of those women is Sharmell.

As I’ve said before, I don’t consider Sharmell a Knockout because she’s not a wrestler. But what she is, is a great talker and a Knockout spin-off would need as many people like that as they could get their hands on. So here’s how you would need to use someone like this: keep her out of the ring, leave the wrestling to the wrestlers and make Sharmell a manager. She would be an ideal mouthpiece for someone like Sara Del Rey who is a fantastic wrestler, but has trouble with promos. Pair them up and Del Rey could focus on what she does best while Sharmell could focus on what she does best.

By that same token, Traci Brooks has good mic skills but is nothing special in the ring. So phase out, or at least deemphasize Traci as a wrestler and return her to the Knockout Law position. Forget about her being a referee and instead give her character the power to book the matches. This would give the Knockouts their own general manager type of authority figure and put Traci in a roll she can excel at. So she gets an important spot on the show that highlights the stuff she does well (cutting promos) and takes the focus off of the area she gets outshined in (wrestling).

4) Cross-promote between shows. Still have the women appear on iMPACT, but instead of having them wrestle let their involvement be in more of a storyline capacity. Let them cut promos and shoot angles that set up the matches that will take place on the Knockout show, get the fans watching iMPACT excited to see the women go at it and then let them know that if they want to see that match then they have to tune in on whatever night the show airs. Really give the iMPACT audience a reason to watch the show beyond it just being a bunch of women beating the hell out of each other.

If TNA could manage all these things, if they were smart about it, then I think a Knockout exclusive show might work. But if they decide that they don’t need to hype or promote it that much and then kick off the debut episode with a random, fifteen minute Sojourner Bolt vs. Lacey Von Erich match then I really don’t see this still hypothetical spin-off lasting very long.

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