Recently, Talon Thorne, one of the founders of TNAinsider.com, invited me to participate in the first ever 'Insider Spin Cycle'. Check it out!
1. In your opinion, how would 2009 in TNA rate up there against past years?
(Talon) This was a tale of two halves for TNA. The first half of the year was a mix between solid and horrific programming from TNA. Up until the changing of the guard, we saw a lack of consistency with programming. There was definitely some strong programming, but it was overshadowed by the same old crap.
Following Victory Road, things got much better. The product was the same but the main players were different. Because guys like AJ Styles, Daniels and younger studs were featured more, the match quality went up and so did the quality of the show. Victory Road was horrible, Hard Justice was a vast improvement, No Surrender was very good, BFG was better, and Turning Point was definitely PPV of the year. Quite a good way to top off the year for TNA!
How it would rank against other years is the important aspect. My favorite year in TNA was 2006, and still is. However this year either fell a little short or matched that year. Unfortunately, the lack of consistency early on in 2009 hurt it. But it was a vastly better year than last year.
(FK9) The first half of 2009 with the M.E.M. dominating every facet of the product was one of the worst periods in TNA history -- possibly even worse than 2008 from a creative standpoint. The second half of 2009, starting when Jeff Jarret & Dutch Mantel were removed, was comparably much better. They deemphasized the old men and started pushing the young talent finally. Right now, they're still in damage control mode, trying to fix all the problems they created for themselves in those first 6 months (and a lot of '08 for that matter), but at least they've finally gotten on the right track.
1st half of '09: Possibly the worst time in company history.
2nd half of '09: Pretty damn good by comparison.
(D-Day aka TNAInsider) I want to steer in the way of saying TNA is going in the right direction. Granted, there are still a number of quite annoying quirks. There's little denying that the entire landscape of TNA has literally changed from top to bottom in just less than 6 months.
(PhenomAJJones) I think TNA took a big step forward in 2009. We got the youngsters headlining main events, we got less people being held down and having an opportunity to shine. It seems like in 2009 the glass ceiling was shattered and we are seeing new blood in the main event scene with Matt Morgan, Daniels and not the same main events we have seen before.
2. What were your top highlights for TNA in 2009?
(FK9) -AJ Styles winning the world heavyweight title.
-Sting finally doing the right thing and passing the torch to AJ at Bound for Glory.
-The signing of great new talents: D'Angelo Dinero, Desmond Wolfe, Sarita, Hamada, etc.
-Jarrett & Mantel being removed from creative.
-The new creative team having the good sense to end the M.E.M. storyline before it did any more harm to the product and the young roster.
-Booker T & Sharmell leaving the company (good riddance).
(D-Day aka TNAInsider) That's clearly the youth movement. If there is one thing that TNA has done in such a small amount of time it is that they have sucessfully made a number of lower-tier/midcard talents into what could be household names if TNA continues to expand. This is something that WWE has utterly failed at doing. There are just too many WWE stars who not only wrestle unforgettably, they look the part as well. TNA has a number of guys that simply look the part right now. Even the average non wrestling fan could likely differentiate Hernandez or Beer Money over Kofi Kingston and Legacy. TNA has guys that not only look like wrestlers but wrestlers that look like future stars if their runs continue.
(PhenomAJJones) Elijah Burke aka D'Angelo Dinero coming to TNA. Elijah is a great talent, he can wrestle, he can talk, he has great charisma and it was sad to see him cut from his previous employer but I am glad he is in TNA because he has the ability to put on a great match as we saw with his match against Kurt Angle on Impact. Pope is pimpin' and I am glad he is in TNA.
AJ Styles has been with TNA from day one. Like Burke he has the ability to put on great matches with everyone in the company. AJ works his butt off and it was nice to see his work rewarded with a reign as TNA World Champion. His last reign was over 4 years ago, I think he definitely earned the championship and I hope he keeps it for a long time.
(Talon) There are way too many to count, but to name a few: Don West turning heel, Joe joining the Mafia, Daniels returning, AJ winning the World Title, the Implosion of the Main Event Mafia, Mick Foley interviewing himself, Desmond Wolfe vs Kurt Angle, Dixie Carter’s speech and of course the signing of Hulk Hogan.
3. What were the low points for the company in 2009?
(PhenomAJJones) The whole Jeff Jarrett/Kurt & Karen Angle personal drama being made public. In wrestlng all the action is suppose to be inside the ring and when it spills outside the ring and a person's personal life gets public it takes the focus off the wrestlers, fans, and everyone who loves TNA and turns it into Jerry Springer. My opinion it should have stayed in private and not out in public.
(Talon) Victory Road was a horrible PPV, but I was really down on TNA after Destination X. Thank God TNA delivered a great iMPACT afterwards. One major low point for me was the release of Petey Williams, which I still question to this day.
(FK9) -95% of the young roster being decimated so a group of 50-year-old men could relive their glory days, almost killing the company's future in the process.
-Destination-X & Victory Road. 'Nuff said.
-Anything involving Hulk Hogan.
(D-Day aka TNAInsider) Dixie Carter ignoring her promise some 9 months ago about bringing back the X-division. While there have been some excellent X-division matches, TNA has continued to leave their flagship division behind in both talent, storyline and by burying them with the likes of older, heavyweight talent.
4. Name your top 3 choices for MVP in TNA?
(D-Day aka TNAInsider) - Kurt Angle: No Doubt that Kurt Angle continues to carry the company. He pretty much does this week in and week out. There's not enough I could say about that. While I think Angle will be held in the same high esteem next year, I don't think he would take the top spot.
- AJ Styles: This is a close second. He is without a doubt the face of the youth movement. This is indicative of every other young talent and their grandmothers now going after AJ for the title. AJ is the one who opened the floodgates for the younger guys to come into the main event scene way before the average fan even thought most of these guys would get a chance at the title.
- Suicide: Yes, believe it or not, my pick is Suicide. As much as I dislike the corny masked character, he carried what little X-division diversity we saw. Like him or not, Suicide put on some great matches and was a fighting champion during his reign as X-division title holder. Easily beats Amazing Red in just the sheer amount of matches put out in the year. It's time to give Suicide the legit push he deserves, without the mask!
(Talon) AJ Styles is up there because of his breakout into the world title scene. He won the legends belt earlier in the year, was about to quit, won the world title, ended Sting’s BFG streak, and has had multiple MOTY contenders (Turning Point and with Kurt Angle).
Kurt Angle is another since he has had numerous good to great matches, had great promos, elevated Matt Morgan, AJ Styles, Robert Roode and countless others.
The dark horse for me would be Dixie Carter. Many fans were down on the constant pushing of the same old talent until Dixie Carter decided enough was enough and it was time for a change, and change she did. She removed Jeff Jarrett and his friends, allowed Vince Russo to take the creative reigns, brought back Scott D’Amore, signed a new deal with Spike TV and signed Hulk Hogan to a deal. If there was anyone in a non-wrestling role who deserves the honors, it would be her.
(FK9) -Kurt Angle -- before Joe joined the group, Angle was the only person worth watching in the M.E.M. He battled through injuries, had several MOTY contenders, came off like a superstar on Global iMPACT 2, argued on behalf of the young talent backstage, made Matt Morgan's career at BFG. Need I go on?
-AJ Styles -- the figurehead of TNA's long overdue youth movement. When a guy like Sting passes the torch to you, that means something. He doesn't get the attention in the storylines that Angle does, but he's no less important.
-Samoa Joe -- say what you want about Joe joining the Mafia, but that heel turn needed to happen. Ever since then, Joe has been set free. Gone is the whiny babyface used as enhancement talent for Sting, Nash & Steiner. He's been replaced by the cold, sadistic badass that Joe always should have been. He looks poised to reclaim his former glory in 2010 and I can't wait.
(PhenomAJJones) Angle, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe. Kurt Angle has got to be one of, if not the greatest wrestler alive. Kurt is like Michael Jordan, Kurt sick is better than alot of guys who are healthy. Kurt is 40 years old, he wrestles at a high level, his matches in TNA have been great and in 2009 they have stayed at a high level which is why he is a choice for MVP.
AJ Styles. He is easily an MVP candidate because he is the first name you think of when you say "TNA Wrestling". AJ's '09 was crazy with the Frontline, to Joe turning, to quitting, to winning the TNA world championship, the match with Joe and Daniels at Turning point was great and shows that AJ adapts well to any match, to any opponent, and without AJ Styles TNA is in a bad position. He's been with them from day 1 and if he leaves then TNA may die.
Samoa Joe. The old Joe came back. The butt-kicking, take no prisoners Joe from 2004-2006 showed back up and has ignited a fire in him. Joe is a guy that, regardless of his size, wrestlers X-division style and can compete with the heavyweights. Samoa Joe has become a big time player in TNA and lot of 2009 was focused on him, especially with the heel turn at Slammiversary. Samoa Joe is easily one of the greatest pro wrestlers of this decade along with AJ and Kurt, which is why Joe is my choice for TNA MVP.
The read the second half of the column, click here.