October 25, 2010
Katie Lea Burchill: the Debut That Could Have Been
It's no secret that TNA have been aggressively looking for new female talent for a while now with several signings being made just recently and numerous others being given tryouts. The results so far have been somewhat mixed.
Signing Mickie James was a big coup as she's probably the most popular female star currently working in the industry in addition to being a talented wrestler. Having been thrown into the top mix immediately, her impact has already been felt.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have Robbie E's manager, Cookie (Becky Bayless). After several weeks of hype videos and a number of horror stories describing her dark matches as being hilariously bad, these Jersey Shore parody characters debuted to loud chants of "Boring!" and "Who are you?" and proceeded to get put in an angle with Jwoww, a peripheral character from the very reality show their gimmick was created to mock, in a rather transparent attempt on TNA's part to garner the company some mainstream publicity that was nevertheless successful, for better or worse.
The third signing, a woman who debuted for the company this past Thursday in a rather bizarre segment with Angelina Love, is the one we're here to talk about today: former WWE Diva, Katie Lea Burchill.
This particular signing seems to have fallen under the radar with most fans. I haven't heard too many people talking about it, which is understandable. Katie Lea falls into the same category as Tara did when she came in -- a solid worker who was booked as a jobber and didn't seem to get a fair shake in WWE. But TNA gave Tara that fair shake and the results were... underwhelming. So I assume the fans are feeling a bit of trepidation this time.
As for me? I'm ambivalent about it. Yes, she's good looking, she can wrestle and cut a good promo, so superficially it makes sense. Still, there are much more exciting talents on the independents that I'd been hoping TNA would go after. So, while Katie Lea certainly isn't a BAD signing, she wouldn't have been my first choice either.
Nevertheless, TNA have the woman under contract, so the question is, what to do with her.
TNA have had a somewhat spotty track record when it comes to debuting new talent the right way. Sometimes they get it right (ex. Mickie James) and sometimes they don't (ex. Rob Van Dam, Jeff Hardy). It's too soon to tell if this Winter character is going to work, so if I'm playing armchair booker for a minute here, what could I do with her that would be appropriate, give her the best chance of success and perhaps be about a little bit more than being Angelina's creepy stalker?
I've heard some people say that, given the goth look she cultivated in WWE, she'd make in ideal partner for Daffney and perhaps the 2 of them could create some badly needed interest in the Knockout tag team division. I don't disagree with this, but if TNA were to roll with that idea, I think they could take it a step further.
Let's be honest, Daffney isn't very high on the food chain right now, nor was Katie Lea for most of her WWE run. If the writers were to just bring Katie Lea out cold and have them randomly form a team from out of nowhere, I doubt many people would take notice. If you want a new talent to make a big splash, you have to make them look important right out of the gate while also taking the fans' past knowledge of them into account. Katie Lea, while a good worker, was booked as enhancement talent in WWE, so if you have her show up and immediately become the top contender for the title (i.e. Tara), it's just going to make TNA look second rate.
To avoid this, we need to find something meaningful for her to do so she can build up some credibility in a storyline that keeps her out of the title picture, at least at first. And who are the most relevant Knockouts not currently in the title picture? The Beautiful People.
Let me be clear on something... I think TBP as a group are stale as hell. They haven't been interesting in a very long time due to them basically doing the same exact damn thing for ages, and after the last year of them stinking up the ring with their crappy, subpar matches, I would be perfectly happy if I never saw this faction on my TV screen ever again. But whether I like it or not, they are over, a ratings draw and the most successfully marketed women TNA have on the roster with merchandise, catchphrases and a hot entrance to prove it. Sure, most of them can't wrestle to save their life, but for what I've got in mind, we can take that and use it.
The storyline would start on Xplosion. Taylor Wilde cuts a promo about a singles match she has with Daffney later in the show. The promo is interrupted when Daffney walks into the shot, eyes Taylor's tag team title belt, grins at her and walks out of the shot without saying a word. Taylor is creeped out by Daffney's odd behavior and doesn't finish what she was saying.
Later in the show, Daffney cuts a manic, crazy-sounding promo of her own in a darkly lit stairwell. She says that the established order of the Knockout division has become stagnant and that a change is coming.
Daffney is on the offense for the majority of the match, being very vicious with the announcers calling attention to this and wondering where her newfound aggression is coming from. After taking a long beating, Taylor surprises Daffney with a roll up and wins the match. The cameras stay on Daffney afterward -- upset about her loss, she screams and throws chairs at ringside.
Post-match we have another backstage segment where Daffney's fit of anger is continuing until her cell phone rings. When Daffney realizes who is on the other line, she is suddenly calm. Listening intently to this person, she tells the camera man to get lost.
On the next week's show, Daffney has a match with Taylor's tag team partner, Hamada. Before the match, Daffney cuts another promo in her stairwell. As the segment begins, Daffney is on the phone with the person who called her last week, but she hangs up when she notices the camera. In contrast to the previous week, her delivery in this promo is calm and focused. She describes herself as an agent of chaos. She says people always underestimate her, which makes her dangerous, and Hamada will learn that tonight.
Much like the previous match, this one is booked with Daffney on the offense most of the time, being very aggressive. Late in the match, Hamada finally manages to gain the upper hand, but Daffney takes the fight to the outside and nails Hamada with a chair, causing a DQ. She continues to assault Hamada with the chair until Taylor makes the save and Daffney backs up the ramp, laughing maniacally.
The next week, the announcers tell us that Daffney has requested and received a handicap match against Taylor & Hamada. Tenay ponders whether Daffney has been driven completely insane this time. Taz remarks that such a thing would be a short drive for her.
In a backstage promo, Daffney is once again on the phone, this time sounding happy and excited. She tells the person on the other line that everything is in place. The call ends, she stares into the camera and screams.
During the match, Taylor & Hamada keep Daffney on the defensive with Daffney getting just barely enough offense to avoid getting pinned. Despite taking a lot of punishment, Daffney has a huge grin on her face the entire time. The announcers wonder if she's actually enjoying the beating. The match nears its end and the babyfaces appear to be closing in on a victory until Hamada runs at Daffney and gets thrown to the outside. Before she can climb back into the ring, a mysterious woman in the crowd attacks her with a kendo stick, knocking her out. Taylor is distracted by this, Daffney capitalizes and gets the upset pin.
The mystery woman jumps the rail and joins Daffney in the ring. Angry, Taylor attacks both of them, but she can't overcome the double team and falls to kendo stick shots herself. Daffney and her new friend smile at each other and do stereo screams.
The mystery woman is Christina Von Eerie, who had a tryout some weeks back. At the moment, it's unknown if TNA plan to sign her or not. Reportedly, her tryout match didn't go well due to her opponent, Cookie, botching all over the place, but she did receive high marks from Mick Foley on his twitter account, so her getting signed is not inconceivable. Yeah, I'm assuming kind of a lot here, but this is all hypothetical anyway.
The announcers assume that Christina is the person Daffney has been talking to on the phone and Tenay wonders if they're witnessing the creation of a new tag team.
Since TNA like to own their wrestler's names, they'd want to give her a new one. So on the next show, Daffney introduces her new friend as Serafina.
Taylor & Hamada come out for a tag team match, but Daffney & Serafina jump them from behind with weapons on the ramp. They destroy the babyfaces and leave them lying with brutal chair shots. Later, they are celebrating the destruction of their opponents in a post-match promo when Daffney once again receives a phone call. She tells the person on the line that everything is going perfectly.
The angle then moves to iMPACT where a Knockout battle royal match is booked with the winner earning a title shot against Mickie James, who by this point has won the championship from Madison Rayne. Taylor & Hamada are not involved as both are selling their injuries. As TBP are walking down the ramp, we see that a strange graphic -- QoC -- has been inserted into their entrance video. They are all confused about where it came from.
Working together, Daffney & Serafina eliminate EVERYONE in the match until it comes down to the 2 of them and Angelina Love. Angelina seems ready to take both of them on, but they just give each other a knowing look... and then leave the ring on their own. They back up the ramp grinning at Angelina, who wins the title shot, but is too weirded out by this to celebrate.
Angelina gets her title shot against Mickie at the next PPV. Once again, we see the QoC graphic in her video as she makes her entrance. The match goes back and forth, Angelina gets the upper hand, she makes a pin attempt, it looks like she's about to win the title... and then Katie Lea jumps out of the crowd, breaks up the pin, pulls Angelina out of the ring and takes her head off with a chair shot. The match ends in a DQ, medics come down to help Angelina and Katie Lea escapes before Velvet & Lacey can lay a hand on her.
On the next iMPACT, TBP (Angelina with her head bandaged) cut an in-ring promo. Angelina calls out Katie Lea. The house lights go out, some unfamiliar music plays and Katie Lea appears on the stage via full entrance with smoke and lasers. She wears an already-made t-shirt that reads 'Queens of Chaos' and introduces herself as Nikita, both names playing off her former gimmick on the independent circuit.
She says that she came to TNA because she was sick and tired of being treated with kid gloves and wrestling with handcuffs. She says that the whole time she was in WWE she kept hearing about this company down in Florida that claimed to have the best women's division in the world, but when she turned on iMPACT all she saw was a bunch of glorified models, 3 blonde bimbos pretending to wrestle, embarrassing themselves and making a mockery out of the sport she had dedicated her life to. She says she felt insulted by this and that she came to TNA to put a stop to it. She came to TNA to destroy TBP.
Right out of the gate with her first promo, rather than insulting the fans' intelligence by pretending TBP don't know who she is, we address her history as a WWE Diva as well as the fact that she was booked as a jobber in that company by saying that she was held back and not used to her full potential. We then give her a reason for coming to TNA by giving her character motivation and a feud immediately.
Livid, Angelina says that Nikita isn't the first failed Diva who thought she could save her career by coming to TNA and she won't be the last. Angelina says she already made Tara her bitch and now she's setting her sites on Nikita for costing her the title.
Nikita laughs off the mention of Tara. She calls Tara a washed up failure who thought she could succeed on her own, but Nikita is too smart for that. This addresses the fans' concerns that she could turn out like Tara has in TNA -- someone who got overpushed despite not delivering well enough to deserve it -- by saying that she has no intention of turning out that way.
As TBP's attention is focused on Nikita, Daffney & Serafina (both wearing Queens of Chaos shirts) emerge from the crowd behind them with weapons. They hit the ring, joined quickly by Nikita, and TBP are completely DECIMATED! The heels give them the beating of their lives. It's the female version of Fortune's destruction of EV2 on the Whole F'n Show. TBP have NEVER looked so helpless -- they take chair shots, kendo stick shots, all 3 of them are a bloody mess. Then, after Angelina and Velvet have been beaten into unconsciousness, the heels focus on Lacey -- the embodiment of what Nikita was talking about in her promo -- they take Lacey outside the ring, they tear up the mats and Nikita gives her multiple pile drivers on the concrete floor.
TBP are taken away in an ambulance with the announcers saying their career's could be in jeopardy after the beating they took.
Now we have our inciting incident. People will want to see TBP rise up and get payback after this. It also has the benefit of removing Lacey from the playing field because, let's be honest here, the less involved Lacey is, the better this feud is going to be.
Some of you may be wondering why the angle needs to go this far. The very idea of TBP doing blade jobs might sound preposterous. After all, their characters are all about being shallow, catty bitches who only care about looking good. Their gimmick practically forbids them from blading, let alone taking a horrific beating like this.
I argue that this is precisely why the attack needs to be that severe. That's why it's so perfect, because TBP have NEVER been in a situation like that before -- a rival faction presented as being on the same level as they are showing up on their home turf and completely obliterating, shaming and humiliating them. Wouldn't you be shocked to see TBP in such a state? That's the whole point. Putting them in a position they've never been in before gives you new and different things to do with them, which makes them more interesting (something that's badly needed with this faction).
On the next iMPACT, the QoC cut an in-ring promo where Nikita explains that she instructed Daffney & Serafina to make sure Angelina won the battle royal. She wanted Angelina to win the title shot, to be thisclose to winning the Knockouts title back, all so Nikita could snatch it away from her. Nikita boasts that she owns Angelina now. At the PPV she cost Angelina the title, last week she cost Angelina her dignity, and if she ever comes back, Nikita will cost Angelina her career, just like she did with Lacey.
The returning Taylor & Hamada appear on the stage, looking pissed off and ready for a fight. They hit the ring and a huge brawl ensues until they're separated by security. A Knockout tag title match is booked for next week.
On the next iMPACT, Tenay & Taz talk with Angelina on the phone. She says that she's been released from the hospital and is recovering at home, she'll be cleared to return before too long, but Velvet may be out for a while and Lacey is in really bad shape. The doctors have informed her that Lacey suffered neck trauma and have strongly advised her to retire from in-ring competition because she's one bad bump away from ending up in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Angelina says that Lacey will always have a place as TBP's manager, but her in-ring career is most likely over. She wishes Taylor & Hamada luck and vows to take action when she returns.
Before the title match, Nikita cuts a promo on Taylor & Hamada. She says the QoC respect them for being real competitors rather than no-talent models, so the QoC will only take their titles tonight, not their careers.
Taylor & Hamada face off against Daffney & Serafina with Nikita shouting instructions to her mates at ringside. Again, Daffney works a very aggressive style and the announcers remark that Nikita's influence has transformed Daffney into a force to be reckoned with.
The 2 teams find themselves at a stalemate until Nikita interferes, allowing the QoC to win the match and the tag titles. They beat down the babyfaces post-match, Hamada taking the worst of it. "So much for respect," Tenay remarks. Taz says it may not be long before the QoC are ruling the entire Knockout division.
Next week, the QoC are told by management to come out to the ring, but they aren't told why. Angelina appears on the titantron. She challenges Nikita to a No DQ match at the next PPV and promises to even the score with her.
On the night of the PPV, Taylor confronts Angelina backstage. She says that the QoC injured her partner too and if Angelina needs backup tonight, she's got it.
During the match, neither woman is able to gain the upper hand. Eventually, it spills out of the ring and into the crowd where Daffney & Serafina are waiting. The heels triple team Angelina until Taylor shows up to help. The whole thing degenerates into a big brawl, and in the confusion Nikita nails Angelina with a chair shot, enabling her to get the pin.
Here, we put Nikita over an established top Knockout in her debut match, but we don't do it in such a way that makes the TNA talent look inferior to the former WWE star. Nikita isn't portrayed as being necessarily better than Angelina and only gets the win due to heel tactics and help from her 2 friends, one of whom is a TNA star herself. She looks more credible than she did before, but Angelina saves face.
On the following iMPACT, the QoC cut a promo where Nikita says that she was miserable in WWE for years and the fact that she ever called herself a Diva makes her sick, but she loves being a Knockout and loves TNA because here she finally has the freedom to be who she really is -- the most dominant, violent bitch who ever laced up a pair of boots. She boasts about her win, saying that her only regret is not hurting Angelina worse than she did.
With this promo, we further the split between Nikita and WWE so the fans can begin to associate her more with TNA, she puts TNA over as being better than the competition, but reminds people that she's still a heel by bragging about her destruction of Angelina and TBP.
Angelina and Taylor appear on the stage together. Angelina looks really banged up by this point, but she says that since the QoC never seem to have a match without one of them interfering, they should all get in the ring at the same time. She challenges them to a 6-woman tag match next week. Nikita accepts.
Next week, we have a backstage segment where Angelina and Taylor are preparing for the match when they're joined by the returning Velvet Sky. Velvet insists on being the 3rd woman on their team. Angelina says it's too dangerous as the doctors have advised Velvet against wrestling until she's fully recovered and says that they can find someone else. But Velvet is adamant that she be included, she wants payback on the QoC and she wants it now. Angelina finally agrees.
As the babyfaces make their entrance, the announcers inform us that TNA medical staff have not cleared Velvet to wrestle tonight and she had to sign a release absolving the company of legal ramifications if she is injured in this match.
The 2 teams have a highly competitive bout, but Velvet is still selling her injuries and is clearly not 100%. The QoC get the clean win with Nikita pinning Velvet after a pile driver and attack Angelina and Taylor afterward while medics stretcher Velvet out of the arena. Once again, Nikita goes over an established TNA talent, but it's done in such a way that doesn't make the homegrown star look inferior to the WWE import. Nikita gets the win and the credibility, but she only did it by taking advantage of the fact that Velvet was working hurt. She gets put over again, but no one is diminished for it.
The next week, by virtue of her 2 big victories, Nikita has been given a non-title match with Mickie James. If she wins, she will be given a future title shot.
The match proceeds with no funny business until Nikita avoids Mickie's super kick by pulling the referee in front of her. With the referee taken out, Nikita uses the opportunity to go for a kendo stick. She nails Mickie with it, but before she can make a pin attempt, Angelina and Taylor come down the ramp. Nikita dares them to get in the ring, distracting them, allowing Daffney & Serafina to attack them from behind. She laughs as the 4 women fight at ringside, not realizing that Hamada has emerged from under the ring and is right behind her. Hamada bludgeons Nikita with her own kendo stick, drags her out of the ring and puts her through a table with a moonsault. She throws Nikita back into the ring, Mickie hits her DDT, makes the pin, the recovered referee makes the count. Mickie wins.
Nikita takes her first loss, but once again everyone is protected. She looked strong against the Knockouts champion, which makes her look good, but not necessarily strong enough to win the match clean, which makes Mickie look good. Angelina, Taylor & Hamada get some heat back by costing Nikita the title shot she wanted and handing her her first loss in TNA, but the loss only comes after she took a kendo stick shot, was put through a table and took Mickie's finisher, so she wasn't beaten easily, which makes her look like one tough bitch, despite doing the job.
The following week, another 6-woman tag match is booked: the QoC vs. Angelina, Taylor & Hamada. Angelina gets the better of Nikita each time they come to blows during the match, and finally Nikita starts avoiding her. The match goes to a stalemate until the heels go for their weapons at ringside. Velvet & Lacey (still selling their injuries) come down the ramp and take the weapons away before they can be used. The babyfaces win when Hamada pins Serafina.
So Taylor & Hamada get a victory over the women that cost them their tag titles, earning a possible rematch in the future, and Velvet & Lacey get some heat back by stopping the heels from cheating, helping the faces win, while not getting directly involved in the action, leaving the match to the superior wrestlers.
Post-match, Angelina grabs a mic and says she wants to finish this business with the QoC. She challenges Nikita to a lumberjack match at the next PPV with Daffney, Serafina, Taylor, Hamada, Velvet and Lacey acting as jacks (jills?). Later, management adds a stipulation that the winner of this match will become #1 contender for the Knockouts title.
Who wins this #1 contenders match would be determined by how over Nikita has gotten, or not gotten, by that point. If her push has been a success and the fans have taken to her, she could beat Angelina, prolonging their feud, and go on to challenge Mickie again. If her push hasn't caught on, we have Angelina go over, conclude the feud and try something else with Nikita.
And thus the angle ends. We address how Katie Lea was so weakly booked in WWE and instead of ignoring that, we use it as part of her character's motivation, we completely separate her from the WWE in the eyes of the fans, start her off in a midcard feud involving the second tier championships, let her build up some credibility organically, then give her a shot at the top woman in the company and see if the fans accept her in that spot, all without making any of the TNA homegrown stars look inferior with the exception of Lacey, who really doesn't count because Lacey is an embarrassment of a wrestler and shouldn't be in the ring anyway. If the push ultimately doesn't work, then so be it, but at least this angle gives Katie Lea a good chance to succeed or fail on her own merits.
The storyline also has the added benefit of making TBP interesting again by putting them in a type of feud they've never been in before, it gives Taylor & Hamada something to do, it makes the Knockout tag titles relevant for the first time in a long time by actually having people fight over them (what a concept!), it frees Velvet from her wrestling role for a while, giving her a reason to pursue different avenues as a manager until her "injuries" heal, and best of all, it gives Lacey a reason to stay out of the ring until such time that she actually learns how to wrestle.
And who knows... maybe TNA would get a big new female star out of all this.
Or they could just take Katie Lea and make her Angelina's creepy stalker, which I'm sure will be just as interesting...