2009: After what felt like an eternity of being held back by an absolutely pointless Muslim gimmick, the Raisha Saeed character was FINALLY done away with and Melissa Anderson was repackaged as Alissa Flash. Unfortunately, while this did allow her the opportunity to get out of Awesome Kong’s shadow and finally be herself, not much changed for the Future Legend after that. The stupid gimmick may be gone but she has still been used primarily as enhancement talent since then and hints that she might be pushed as anything more than that have never panned out. Her teased feud with Hamada ended as quickly as it began and her budding feud with Traci may have already ended off-screen for all I know.
2010: Alissa is more talented and marketable than most of the other women on the roster, she was able to get over easily despite being constantly booked to lose and would be a much more ideal candidate for the role of top heel contender for the singles title than ODB, but the writers just don’t seem very interested in using her for reasons I can’t figure out. She could be a major player in the Knockout division if given half a chance, but whether or not the writers will ever pull their heads out of their asses and give her that chance is anyone’s guess.
2009: After her second run with the singles title ended at Lockdown, Kong didn’t do very much beyond tease a feud with new arrival, Tara. After severing ties with her former handler, Raisha Saeed, to the curb, she seemed to be getting her top heel on again until she was ultimately defeated by Tara in the 6 Sides of Steel, putting an end to their rivalry, at least for now.
2010: Although she may have been knocked off her perch at Turning Point, Kong remains one of the anchors of the division. Since her defeat at the hands of Tara, she has teased moving into tag team competition which, IMO, is the perfect place for Kong right now. It’s something different for her and she & Hamada could be very valuable in providing Sarita & Taylor Wilde with some real competition. Something NEEDS to be done to create some interest in the fledgling tag team division and Awesome Kong could be just what the doctor ordered.
The Beautiful People
2009: I’m lumping all three of these women together because, to be honest, I just want to get this part over with. This group was getting stale a year ago and while the addition of Madison Rayne made them a bit more interesting for a while, it wasn’t enough to really make a difference. I think these women actually got more screen time than the entire X-division this year and a lot of it was absolutely painful to sit through. The Governor Palin skits did nothing but insult the fans’ intelligence and Angelina’s title reign was a disappointment due to a series of opponents she had no in-ring chemistry with. But after Angelina was released, things got even worse.
In a decision fans are still scratching their heads over, TNA management tried to replace the highly talented Angelina Love with a black hole of talent named Lacey Von Erich -- a woman who lacks both the performing instincts and in-ring skills of her predecessor and demonstrates on an almost weekly basis why she is nowhere near ready to be on television. The sad part is that this did not affect the group’s push whatsoever. They became perennial challengers for the new Knockout tag team titles held by Sarita & Taylor, receiving title shot after title shot despite their underwhelming in-ring performances by virtue of being the only other female tag team in the company. Only recently has their push toward the tag team titles seem to have finally, mercifully, come to an end.
2010: Enough already with the @#$%ing Beautiful People! I don’t have the words to describe how sick I am of this faction. It would be one thing if their in-ring performance justified the amount of screen time they get, but it doesn’t. Madison can wrestle, but the best Velvet can usually manage is not embarrassing herself in the ring and Lacey flat out sucks. Angelina was the only member worth pushing seriously and without her the group just doesn’t have the same spark it used to have. Thankfully, it looks like management has started to recognize this. The writers seem to love this group too much to ever break them up, but they are booking them a bit more realistically now. TBP still get more than ample screen time, but their ring time is definitely being scaled back. Unless Angelina returns and kicks Lacey to the curb, TBP will most likely become less of a force and more of a sideshow attraction for the division and the recent Velvet/Lacey mud wrestling match is proof of that.
2009: A lengthy absence due to a neck injury, a brief return to the ring and now a new role as a backstage interviewer thanks to persisting neck issues. Overall, not a great year for the former Playboy cover girl.
2010: I don’t object to Christy being a backstage interviewer now that Lauren is leaving. Aside from that, Christy might have some value as a manager, but if her neck prevents her from taking bumps then there might not be much future in that. With rumored talent cuts looming, Christy may find herself on the chopping block.
2009: I can only assume that Crystal was hired in an effort to keep Bobby Lashley happy. Not that her being around makes Bobby any more interesting, but at the very least she’s shown some acting ability and makes a decent mouthpiece for the Boss.
2010: Crystal is, for all intents and purposes, the new Sharmell. Please join me in hoping that she’ll turn out to be less annoying than the woman who came before her.
2009: She debuted early in the year as the Governor -- probably the stupidest gimmick the writers have come up with since Black Reign -- as part of a practical joke Taylor & Roxxi were playing on TBP. After a haircut at the hands of TBP, she ditched the asinine gimmick and her fortunes improved for a short time. She turned heel and began a feud with Taylor that had potential, but eventually fell victim to gimmick match overload. After that feud concluded, Daffney fell into the role of Knockout punching bag, becoming the woman who took sick bumps, jobbed all the time and stood next to the increasingly irrelevant Dr. Stevie.
2010: It’s a shame to see a performer as talented as the Scream Queen go to waste. She has a great look and a gimmick that fits her perfectly, she can wrestle, she can cut a hell of a promo and she’s been able to get over easily when she hasn’t been relegated to token jobber status. Unfortunately, it seems like that’s all the writers have in mind for her. I don’t expect Stevie Richards to survive the upcoming round of talent cuts, and at this rate, it wouldn’t surprise me if Daffney got cut along with him.
2009: Hamada was reportedly on TNA’s short list of candidates for the top babyface role. After Tara got that spot, they went and signed Hamada anyway and then proceeded to do virtually nothing with her for months aside from a feud with Alissa Flash that lasted all of three weeks. However, in recent weeks she has finally been given a direction and the fans are responding to her favorably.
2010: It appears as if the writers are putting Hamada & Awesome Kong together as a tag team. IMO, this is a perfect fit as they have a prior association and neither of them have anything else on their plate right now. Given the current state of things, this is the best spot for Hamada as she and Kong can fill a critical need, injecting some life into the Knockout tag division by finally giving Sarita & Taylor some worthy opponents.
2009: An underwhelming title match at Against All Odds, a win at Lockdown that was instantly forgotten, months of irrelevance as Cody Deaner’s arm candy, and then finally a Knockouts championship win that a lot of people said came a year too late (although conveniently just in time for her contract renegotiations). Sadly, her title reign began with the most embarrassing feud in the two year history of the Knockout division as she battled her former boyfriend as he attempted to become “King of the Knockouts”. After that atrocity was over, she piggybacked on other people’s feuds for two months -- essentially proving that her title reign was just about getting her to resign with the company -- more or less killing time until Tara won the belt at Final Resolution, triggering an ODB heel turn.
2010: It remains to be seen if ODB’s heel turn is going to last long or if the fans will even accept it. If Vince Russo continues to write the show then characters will most likely continue to switch sides whenever the need arises, but for now she’s playing the bad guy. I kind of doubt she’ll remain in the title picture now that she’s signed her new contract and she probably shouldn’t. The time has definitely come to cycle in some fresh challengers for the belt, though where this leaves ODB is unclear.
2009: What a roller coaster year it’s been for the former Voodoo Queen. When it began, she was tagging with her real life BFF, Taylor Wilde, in their ongoing feud with TBP and everything seemed to be going just fine. Then she was suspended for two months following a backstage altercation with Rhaka Khan, who happened to be dating Kurt Angle at the time. In the middle of serving her suspension, she was told by management that she was being released from the company despite the fact that her contract didn’t expire until October. The reason they gave her was that they no longer had anything for her creatively -- a flimsy excuse considering she was inarguably one of the most over women in the company at the time and was already in the middle of a feud before she was removed from TV. Everyone denied that the Rhaka Khan incident had anything to do with it, but it did raise the question of why a talented, consistent and popular performer like Roxxi was released due to “the writers not having anything for her” while horribly untalented women like Rhaka Khan and Sojourner Bolt were kept around when they had practically vanished from TV altogether at that point.
During her time away from the company, Roxxi got a day job at a gym, competed in fitness competitions and resumed her wrestling career on the independent circuit. Meanwhile, Kurt Angle ended his relationship with Rhaka Khan, after which she accused him of beating and stalking her. The situation was taken to court where Angle was quickly cleared of all charges after the judge determined that Khan was a basket case. Needless to say, this lead to the end of Rhaka Khan’s TNA career. Soon after that ugliness was resolved, Roxxi was booked to return and take part in the inaugural Knockout tag team championship tournament.
Coincidence? Yeah, right…
She was only there for two shows, but it was an auspicious hint of what was to come. A few months later, just in time for the holidays, Roxxi made her return to TNA, defeating the Knockouts champion, ODB, in a non-title match with numerous wrestling news sites reporting that she had signed a new contract and was back with the company full time.
2010: With the Rhaka Khan incident finally behind her, Roxxi is poised to resume her TNA career. The landscape has changed a lot since she’s been gone and it’s anyone’s guess where she’ll fit in now, but whatever TNA has in store for her in the future, one thing is certain: it sure beats working in a gym.
2009: The top babyface spot that was originally intended for Sarita was given to Tara instead before she made it to television. This was evident after Sarita made her debut and, much like a lot of women on the roster, seemed to have no direction. She was in the same boat as Hamada for a few months -- management obviously recognized her immense talent and wanted to push her, but they didn’t seem to know how to do it. That changed when the announcement of the creation of Knockout tag team championships lead to her being partnered with Taylor Wilde and the two of them winning the inaugural titles. She may not have gotten the top babyface spot, but Sarita now fills a role that is arguably just as important: being one half of the linchpin of the new Knockout tag team division.
2010: For the time being, Sarita will probably need to stay where she is. A lot of work needs to be done on this tag team division before it will be able to sustain itself without her & Taylor. Right now, they are the only team -- makeshift or otherwise -- TNA has put together that is versatile enough to have good matches with pretty much anyone. The writers need to create and/or sign at least two more teams that are championship material before Sarita & Taylor would be free to pursue singles competition. It seems like this is in the process of happening now, but in the mean time, Sarita is exactly where she’s needed most.
2009: After leaving the WWE, the former Diva signed with TNA for the opportunity to contribute in the ways that she wasn’t allowed to in the last several years of her WWE run and was quickly pushed into a top spot. She got off to a rocky start in TNA as her first feud with then-champion, Angelina Love, failed to impress due to lack of in-ring chemistry and culminated with her winning the Knockouts title and then quickly losing it back to Angelina ten days later due to the machinations of a crooked referee.
Nevertheless, she clearly had the support of the company and began teasing a potential feud with Awesome Kong which percolated for the next several months. She came up short in a triple threat title match at Bound for Glory, but a month later, in a match that, by all rights, should have happened at Bound for Glory, Tara defeated Kong in the 6 Sides of Steel, earning arguably the biggest win of her career. The following month, she defeated ODB at Final Resolution to regain the singles title and rang in the New Year as the champion.
2010: A year ago, the former Victoria was racking up more losses against the Bella twins than Chavo Guerrero has against Hornswoggle and today she’s the Knockouts champion and top female babyface of her former employer’s chief competitor. Not bad for a lady who thought she was finished with wrestling prior to signing with TNA. Tara represents, if not a changing of the guard, then a cycling of fresh characters into the title picture. After toppling Kong and ODB, I expect she’ll remain in the #1 spot for a good long time, hopefully heralding the elevation of a new series of challengers as well.
2009: Taylor began 2009 as one half of a tag team with Roxxi as they brought in Daffney disguised as Sarah Palin to make TBP look stupid. The feud was going fine until Roxxi was released from the company, after which Taylor began a feud with the now de-Palinized Daffney. She delivered a star-making performance at Slammiversary in the first ever mixed tag Monster’s Ball match, but the feud ultimately had limited mileage due to the writers’ stubborn insistence on skipping over the whole escalation process and going right to the crazy gimmick matches. In late summer, she was placed in a tag team with new arrival, Sarita, and the two of them quickly captured the inaugural Knockout tag team titles. Having begun and ended the year working in tag teams, it seems the Upset Queen has come full circle.
2010: It took TNA management a while to figure out what Taylor’s role in the Knockout division should be. Not quite over enough to be a headliner, but too talented to be a midcarder, so where could she fit in? Sarita and the creation of tag team titles for the women provided the answer. Taylor now finds herself in a more important spot in the company than she’s ever had: anchoring the new tag team division while TNA struggles to get it off the ground. Since TBP really aren’t that good in the ring, Sarita & Taylor are currently the only team in the company talented enough to hold the belts (though the pairing of Kong & Hamada should change that). Though I still maintain that the creation of the Knockout tag team championships happened way too soon, it has made Taylor invaluable at a time when she was in danger of becoming stale.
2009: Aside from burning her boobs on a hot shell casing while visiting our armed forces in the Middle East, Traci was nowhere to be seen for a good chunk of the year. She returned to television in the summer after inking a deal with Playboy and was given a spot in the Main Event Mafia so she would be more visible when her photo shoot was published. The sequence of events that followed were so hilariously unfortunate that you’d think the Gods themselves were actually conspiring against the poor woman. First her role in the MEM went absolutely nowhere, then came the announcement that Traci would not be getting the cover of Playboy as was originally thought and would rather have to settle for her pictures being uploaded on the Playboy website, then the MEM fizzled out -- along with Traci’s push -- and broke up after Bound for Glory (despite what Scott Steiner would have us believe). And to top it all off, the woman chosen to grace the cover of the Playboy issue Traci was originally meant to have turned out to be none other than cartoon character, Marge Simpson. Traci was last seen on iMPACT, getting her ass soundly handed to her by Alissa Flash.
2010: If nothing else, 2009 should make a funny story that Traci can tell her grandkids someday. Unfortunately, 2010 doesn’t look to be much better. She’s made a fine manager in the past and they might have a role for her if she wanted to go back to doing that, but realistically, there isn’t a whole lot she can do in the Knockout division at this point that most of the other girls can’t do better. TNA have always seemed loyal to Traci and would probably let her survive the talent cuts out of fear of screwing up their relationship with Kaz (Suicide), but outside of an occasional role as enhancement talent there doesn’t seem to be much left for the Original Knockout to do in TNA.
All things considered, this has been a very up and down year for the ladies of TNA. 2009 was the year the Knockout division hit its lowest point ever on no less than three separate occasions:
-Sojourner Bolt’s Destination-X title match.
-Jenna Morasca vs. Sharmell at Victory Road.
-The Velvet Sky/Lacey Von Erich mud wrestling match.
Other unfortunate events included the firing of mainstays, Roxxi and Angelina Love, due to backstage politics and visa issues respectively, the signing of the insufferable Lacey Von Erich and the creation of a Knockout tag team division despite TNA having a very noticeable lack of Knockout tag teams.
But there were always bright spots in the darkness and, in the end, I think the positives outweighed the negatives. The void left by Gail Kim was finally filled with ultra-talented new additions to the roster such as Sarita, Hamada and the rejuvenated former Victoria. The lamentable Raisha Saeed gimmick was done away with, allowing Melissa Anderson to finally be herself. The pairing of Kong & Hamada creating some real competition for Sarita & Taylor offered the first glimmer hope for the fledgling tag division. Many of the no-talent idiots were fired and Roxxi was rehired after Rhaka Khan was served a hot, steaming plate of justice.
The first several months of 2009 were definitely not the most exciting time for the Knockout division, but things picked up in the second half of the year with the promise of better things to come. Of course, that could all be moot at this point because God only knows what’s going to happen to the Knockouts when Hogan and his cronies show up. It’s been well documented that Eric Bischoff doesn’t like women’s wrestling and Hogan booked a bunch of bikini contests on his tour of Australia instead of having women wrestle a match, which is a pretty good indicator of what he thinks about it as well. Right now, all we can do is hope for the best when it comes to that.
Anyway, just as I did last year, I will now judge the current rankings as I see them:
3) Awesome Kong
5) Sarita/Taylor Wilde (tied)
7) Madison Rayne
8) Alissa Flash
9) Velvet Sky
11) Lacey Von Erich
12) Traci Brooks
N/A: Christy Hemme, Crystal Lashley
Not bad, but not perfect either. Barring any injuries or departures, I’m hopeful that the 2010 rankings will end up looking more like this:
3) Awesome Kong/Alissa Flash (tied)
5) Taylor Wilde/Roxxi (tied)
8) Madison Rayne
9) Velvet Sky
10) Traci Brooks
Cut from the roster: Lacey Von Erich
2009: After being forced to participate in the truly embarrassing Gorvernor Palin skits for weeks, culminating in Angelina & Velvet getting “mucked” by Taylor & Roxxi, TBP gained a measure of revenge, which lead to Angelina capturing the Knockouts championship at Lockdown -- a title win that many said she was long overdue for. Granted, her several month run with the belt was rather lackluster due to having no chemistry with any of the women she feuded with, but it could have been so much better had the writers just put a little more thought into the match-making. Sadly, this was never rectified. Just before No Surrender where she & Velvet Sky were booked to compete for the inaugural tag team championships, Angelina was shockingly released from the company due to a work visa issue that had never been sorted out.
2010: The future isn’t clear for Angelina right now. She has stated that she will be returning to TNA once her visa issues are resolved, but at the time of this writing there has reportedly been no talk within TNA of bringing her back as far as I know. There’s a rumor that she’ll make her return on the January 4th show, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
2009: The Pride of Tennessee began the year as the manager of then-tag team champions, Beer Money, Inc. Her role wasn’t anything crucial, but it did keep her on television longer than her shelf life probably would have allowed otherwise. However, few weeks before Lockdown, she was removed from television by TNA president, Dixie Carter, and released from the company not long after that.
2010: Jacqueline being removed from TV was for the best, as cruel as that sounds. I heard she wasn’t happy about it, but it is what it is. Change is inevitable in the wrestling business and every performer has a shelf life. Jacqueline has had a great career; longer than a lot of women have in a business where female performers’ shelf lives are relatively brief. While I imagine there could be a backstage role for her somewhere, her time as an on-screen talent is most likely over at this point.
2009: She was a contestant on Survivor a few years ago, posed for Playboy, then one day she met Kurt Angle on the set of a movie they did together and this somehow translated into her getting a job in TNA even though she had never wrestled a day in her life and had absolutely nothing to offer.
Yeah, it made no damn sense to me either.
Her on-screen role amounted to standing next to Kevin Nash, being catty with Sharmell and… that was pretty much it. For some ungodly reason, the writers thought this “feud” deserved to go to PPV and gave the two women of the MEM a spot on the Victory Road card despite the fact that neither of them were wrestlers. The resulting atrocity was not only the worst match in the history of the Knockout division, but most likely the worst match in the history of the company. Not long after this misguided publicity stunt (or perhaps because of it), TNA management regained their sanity and quietly released Morasca from her contract.
2010: Honestly, who gives a crap? Morasca made a mockery of the wrestling business, embarrassing TNA during her mercifully brief run and hopefully she will never return to it.
2009: Lauren was a lot more than just an interviewer and she proved that during the many times that the writers injected her into storylines with various members of the talent roster. She turned out to be quite a talented performer in her own rite when it came to putting over angles and storylines, and her role grew from interviewer to Taylor Wilde’s sorority sister, Abyss’s “girlfriend” and TBP’s verbal punching bag. Sadly, in late December she announced on her twitter page that she was leaving the company to focus on two Golf Channel shows that she hosts as well as her upcoming nuptials.
2010: Lauren did a lot to enhance the product during her time in TNA. She will be missed and Christy Hemme has some surprisingly big shoes to fill, but she wanted to move on and that happens. She’d be a welcome addition if she ever wants to come back.
2009: Khan received a brief push early in the year when she and Sojourner Bolt broke away from Kong and Saeed. This push only lasted a few weeks due to the fact that they were both absolutely horrible. Following a backstage altercation with Roxxi, Khan was suspended for two months. The infinitely more popular and talented Roxxi was then fired, but Khan was not due to her relationship with Kurt Angle. She would not return to television, however. A few months later, Kurt Angle ended their relationship and Khan responded by charging him with ridiculous false accusations of abuse. Said accusations were quickly dismissed in court and Khan was just as quickly dismissed from TNA.
2010: Beats me. A mental institution perhaps? I’m sure Kurt Angle wouldn’t object.
2009: For pretty much the entire year, Sharmell’s role on television was to stand next to Booker T and repeatedly say how awesome the MEM was when a blind person could see that the MEM was nothing but a pathetic rehash of the NWO, created so a group of aging, broken down stars from a previous era could relive their glory days at the expense of every single young talent on the TNA roster. She also feuded with Jenna Morasca, but the less said about that crapfest the better off we’ll all be.
I’m sure Sharmell is a perfectly nice person in real life, but her on-screen character was annoying as hell. Had the writers put different words in her mouth, she might have been able to contribute something to the product, but that was not the case. Following Bound for Glory, management decided not to renew the deal of her equally annoying husband, Booker T. Reportedly, most people backstage were very happy to see him go and he took Sharmell with him when he left.
2010: Booker T was said to be claiming that he had an avenue to return to the WWE when his TNA contract expired and was planning to take it -- one would assume he’d be taking Sharmell with him when he did. Apparently, he was either exaggerating or being mislead because word is negotiations between him and his former employers are dead in the water. Booker T & Sharmell don’t look to be returning to the WWE anytime soon, and if the stories are true, TNA probably doesn’t want them back. Now shut out of both major promotions in the US, they’ll most likely have to settle for Booker’s Texas-based wrestling school.
2009: Over the course of the year, I honestly lost count of how many times the hilariously named Sojo Bolt changed allegiances. The writers switched her between face and heel so often that even Bolt herself didn’t seem to know what side she was on after a while.
Despite the fact she had never delivered a single good in-ring performance in TNA, she was inexplicably given a title match against Awesome Kong at Desintation-X. The result was the worst title match in the history of the Knockout division. After that, Bolt quickly fell out of favor with management and was reduced to the role of enhancement talent. She was used less and less frequently until she was finally cut from the roster in late summer.
2010: Sojourner ‘don’t call me SomeJobber’ Bolt has apparently returned to OVW. While I do occasionally miss making fun of her stupid name, I really haven’t lost any sleep over her firing and I don’t think a lot of people have. Frankly, Bolt being cut from the roster was a great addition by subtraction. Now if they could just get rid of Lacey Von Erich…