January 16, 2012

TNAsylum Spin Cycle 1/16/12

Welcome everyone to the return of TNAsylum's Roundtable Column, the Spin Cycle. Much like the show seen on the web, we have collected a variety of different names to comment on different topics at hand. Meet today's cast:

Shelbin- The Writer of "Shelbin's Slant" and "The Abstract"
FK9- Writer of "Straight Shooting" and controversial columnist.
Irish Yid- Writer of "Irish Yid's Interpretation"
JSO- Author of the trademark "Narrative" column and our media guru.
Talon- Yours truly, writer of "Talon's Take" and "Last Night on IMPACT Wrestling"

Now with introductions out of the way, let's get into the Spin Zone.

With 2011 in the rear-view mirror, what are your overall thoughts on the TNA Product last year?

Shelbin- Sadly, I thought the overall product was a bit of a disappointment. It wasn't until Bruce Prichard took over, immediately following Bound for Glory, that things started to look up. But the product before BFG was, for the most part, a mess. The world title picture had never been as bad as it was last year, the tag team division had been left to defend itself from Mexican America, the TV title was non-existent, and the Knockouts division had become Karen Jarrett's toy project. Conversely, the X Division saw a bit of a re-birth which is was one of the few positives of the year. On the bright side, the year ended on a good note with the focus being put back on to the titles and the younger stars.

Irish Yid- There were two good periods in TNA last year. The Destination X Pay-Per-View and the four weeks leading up to it as well as everything since the Bound For Glory Pay-Per-View. TNA went back to what got them started: the X Division and their home grown talent. The emphasis that was placed on the likes of Bobby Roode, James Storm and Austin Aries made me believe in TNA again and, hopefully, this leads into an amazing year for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling in 2012.

JSO- There were certain intervals when the product was really engaging or just lagging. I personally enjoyed all the tournaments that took place last year on both Impact and Xplosion as those produced some great matches and a seasonal focus for the wrestlers involved. There were other little nuances that were refreshing as well - the rebranding to Impact Wrestling and the multiple road tapings being the most notable. Of course there were also quite a handful of low points that felt ridiculous or discouraging, some of which may have even turned some fans off the product entirely. Overall, 2011 was a mixed bag for TNA. It was just another year, that's all.

FK9- Most of the positives for me were summed up with the introductions of promising new/returning stars like Crimson, Austin Aries and others, the company finally making an effort to rebuild the X-division, and of course, Beer Money's ascension to top tier status. But if I'm being brutally honest, there were too few peaks and way too many valleys.

The Immortal takeover was an interminable year-long creative brainfart that served more as a vehicle for Hogan, Bischoff and Sting than anyone else, the tag team division was damaged beyond all repair, finally forcing them to throw the whole thing out and start from scratch, the one-two punch of Eric Young and Robbie E destroyed any chance fans had of ever taking the TV title seriously as a viable secondary championship, the creation of the Knockouts VP position threatened to devolve the women's division into a glorified circus act, and so on, and so on...

The on-screen product was a constant source of frustration until Prichard took over. Since then, I think he's been splitting his time between trying to move things in a positive direction and performing damage control on the creative quagmire Russo, Hogan and Bischoff left him with. All things considered, I think he's done very well. And now that the fallout has been mostly dealt with, I think we're finally going to see what Prichard's vision for the product is. It might not be revolutionary, but I'm quite confident that it will be infinitely better than what we had before.

So ultimately, 2011 was pretty hard to sit through at times, but the year ended with me feeling optimistic about 2012 which, a few months ago, I wouldn't have expected.

Talon- Aside from the few highlights in the product, I wasn't too keen on most of the product we got the first 6 months. It wasn't until things began to build up to Destination X, the BFG Series and Bound For Glory that things started becoming more concise. The final three months were the best of the year but that was because we got a creative change. What I am going to remember most about the majority of 2011 is the never-ending Immortal storyline, the constant face and heel changes of Mr. Anderson and the Victory Road incident with Jeff Hardy. Thank god these things were matched with the growth of new stars, the reinvention of different ones and new concepts that should be used in the future.

It's a new year with a new start, what is one wish you have for TNA in 2012?

Irish Yid- On the road full time. I can't stand the Impact Zone. The fans may be the worst wrestling fans in the world. I hope that the TV taping in London makes the higher ups see this even clearer. If not, then I'd like to see TNA change up the Impact Zone for each PPV, with the entire set changing, rather than just the ring ropes.

JSO- There are a lot of wishes for TNA every year to further their growth. Obviously the most important one is the transition to live weekly broadcasts from different venues. Since this year is specifically their 10-year anniversary, I would really like to see the company do something elaborate and/or extravagant each month leading up to Slammiversary in June. They certainly got the ball rolling on that with the upcoming double TV taping in London, and I'm sure they can come up with at least five other special ideas too. It can be something simple from bringing back old fan-favorite concepts to something grand like the aforementioned UK tapings. 

Talon- There are tons of things I would love to see begin to culminate this year: Xplosion to Spike TV, Every PPV and IMPACT to be on the road, Occasional Live TV Specials, PPVs to mean something and the continued growth of our product. I will go a different avenue however. 

I want the announcement of a new "IMPACT Wrestling" videogame in 2012. Let it be known that the best wrestling videogame I have played since 2005 was the spiritual successor to the original TNA Videogame in WWE All Stars. I have been playing the Smackdown vs Raw Series for years and the WWE All Stars game blows all of those out of the water. While we now know that THQ San Diego won't be developing the next TNA videogame, I would be happy with Namco Bandai (those who helped develop the TNA iPAD) game. I would want them to really focus on gameplay and maintaining the atmosphere of TNA TV. 

FK9- Don't hit the panic button just because the ratings haven't been incredible lately. You're on the right track. Yes, putting the spotlight back on the veterans might provide a small ratings increase in the short term, but it would do absolutely nothing to benefit you 5 years from now. What you need to do is exactly what you're doing: building your future. Maybe some of these young guys aren't ratings draws at the moment, but if you don't invest time in them, that's never going to change. 

Stay the course. Keep developing talents like Roode, Crimson, Aries, Magnus, Joe, Ion, Tessmacher, etc. And for God's sake, PLEASE don't drop the ball on James Storm. With Storm you have a home grown guy who could potentially become a breakout mainstream star; he's got the tools to do it. Don't derail him just for the sake of pushing Jeff Hardy back to the top. Learn from your past mistakes and you'll be a lot better off in the long run.

Shelbin- I wish that the writers continue to focus on character development that leads to inspiring feuds and rivalries. Keep the focus on the wrestlers in the ring and not on the non-wrestlers outside of the ring. Continue to deliver matches with no overbooking, intense feuds and fascinating relationships between wrestlers that viewers can embrace.

2011 was the year of Bobby Roode and James Storm. Who do you want 2012 to be the year of?

FK9- There's four guys that I'm really rooting for. The first two are Samoa Joe & Magnus. One, a former world champion that creative had been dropping the ball on for years, the other, a guy who could be a future world champion if given half a chance, and both were going absolutely nowhere until the dissolution of the entire tag team division as we know it created a desperately needed opportunity for them. One tag team tournament later and these guys are now showing early signs of becoming the next Beer Money. 

Most people don't expect Matt Morgan & Crimson to be a long term team; they look like they were put together just to facilitate an eventual rivalry. My guess is that it will be Joe & Magnus taking the tag titles from them that does the trick. And once that happens, I want to see creative run with this team. They've got the talent, the charisma and the in-ring chemistry to be that top heel tag team that Mexican America utterly failed to be, and this could end up being the gateway to bigger things for these two that Beer Money was for Roode & Storm. 

And that leads me into the next two on my list: the Motor City Machine Guns. By the time these guys return it will have been well over a year since we've seen them together. Injuries put TNA's tag team of the year in 2010 out of commission for all of 2011, and the results weren't pretty. Now that the company has hit the reset button on their tag team scene and is trying to rebuild it from the ground up, they need an A-list team to build the division around, and with Shelley about to make his return to television and Sabin due back from his knee injury in the not-too-distant-future, they'll have the perfect guys for the job. 

This is the opportunity I've wanted to see Sabin & Shelley get for years now. In 2010, they proved why management was wrong to overlook them for so long, and in 2012, they can finally become the undisputed leaders of the tag team division without the threat of being overshadowed or held back by politics that company officials simply can't afford to indulge in anymore. They claim to be the best tag team in the world -- it's time to let them be exactly that. 

Shelbin- Although the Bobby Roode and James Storm era had begun last year, it is this year that we will see their full potential. I think the two longtime TNA stars will flourish under Prichard and will essentially carry the company for most of the year. I also suspect that Jeff Hardy will have a fine year as he continues his road to redemption story. Other things to look for: Gunner's development, the debut of Jessie Godderz, the evolution of the X Division stars (Austin Aries, Jesse Sorensen, Zema Ion), the dynamic between Samoa Joe and Magnus, and the return of the Motor City Machine Guns.

Talon- I am a huge fan of many of the young guys in TNA so to name just one guy is hard. For the heavyweights I would love to see Magnus, Crimson, Gunner and the Pope continue to rise. I would love to see alot of the X stars get more attention as well. Overall I just want there to be a focus on the younger guys with talent.

Irish Yid- Gunner. Since his partnership with Ric Flair began, he's taken out Jesse Neal, Douglas Williams and Rob Van Dam. I'd love to see this continue and perhaps even someone like Mr Anderson being taken out, especially as he doesn't have anything creatively at the moment. I believe that Gunner could even win the BFG Series if TNA decides to bring it back for a second time. I just hope that we don't see Garett Bischoff pin Gunner and destroy all of Gunner's credibility.

JSO- I would have to go with Austin Aries. He has been superb in his current role in the X Division and like many before him he's destined to graduate to bigger things because of the consistent quality of his work. Aries is a good-looking, relatively young guy with well-rounded skills and a fancy moniker like the "greatest man that ever lived". All of those attributes scream main event level superstar to me. Remember back in 2009, The Pope was just doing his thing in the X Division until he took advantage of an opportunity to hang with the some of the top guys at that time like Morgan, Hernandez, Team 3D and Rhino. Aries can potentially follow that same path too when the right opportunity presents itself.

TNA is celebrating its 10-Year Anniversary this June, how would you specifically make this year and that event one for the ages?

Talon- In 2010 and 2011, Slammiversary has not been treated as a special event. In my mind, Slammiversary is the #2 or #3 TNA show of the year and should be treated as very important since it is TNA's Anniversary Show. With this being the 10-Year Anniversary, I would love to see a stacked show as well as homage to TNA's past. I suggested a Blast From the Past Battle Royal that would feature TNA Alumni that helped build TNA. I would love to see guys like Chris Harris, Petey Williams, Sonjay Dutt, The Naturals, Lance Hoyt and many others make an appearance at the show. 

While many would love to see the return of King of the Mountain, I don't see the match in its current version returning. If we don't see some form of KOTM, I would love to see James Storm vs Bobby Roode main event the thing. Have one of TNA's originals in James Storm finally defeat Roode to become the World Heavyweight Champion once again. 

Whatever is decided, TNA needs to feature buildup videos like WWE does with Royal Rumble, Survivor Series and Wrestlemania. TNA has accomplished something great and the fans who have supported the product should be part of this moment. 

FK9- I would put Eric Bischoff through a flaming table wrapped in electrified barb wire. Just imagine the pop that would get. LOL! 

Seriously though, I would bring back the King of the Mountain match. I don't know why they got rid of it in the first place. Sure, the rules needed to be simplified, but it was an exciting, once-a-year event that made Slammiversary stand out from all the other PPVs. 

Or if not that, then, after months of build up, I would have the main event be the big blowoff to the Bobby Roode/James Storm feud. I don't know if they could keep the feud hot that long, but I can't think of a more fitting way to celebrate TNA's 10th anniversary than with one of two guys left who were there on the night the company was born a decade ago, becoming world champion.

Irish Yid- Slammiversary has to be shown to be one of the most important Pay-Per-Views for TNA this year. It should be held in Nashville as that's where TNA began, and should bring together a lot of TNA's past with the return of the King Of The Mountain match. A tournament of some sort leading into the PPV could focus the show in the way that the X Division qualifiers focused the run up to Destination X. Whatever happens, I just hope that TNA adaquately lives up to their past and puts on a good show.

JSO- Well, I pretty much talked about the month-to-month buildup to the anniversary above. As for the event itself, I would just try to emphasize the excitement of the atmosphere and the pure talent on display. A good portion of the existing feuds/storylines should be settled at Sacrifice so management can freely select and build the most appealing match-ups possible leading into Slammiversary. Some ideas would be to book the two hottest main event stars at that time in the main event for the World Title, a few vintage matches that haven't taken place in years (e.g. Joe/Angle), an Ultimate X match with past winners only, a special gauntlet battle royal featuring former TNA stars for a contract maybe and so on and so forth. Sprinkle in the intangibles like pyro for the on-the-road set, a short speech from Dixie Carter and/or Jeff Jarrett and various video packages, and I think that's a good formula for the event.

Shelbin- If I were booking the event, Slammiversary would be the night that James Storm defeats Bobby Roode to win the world title. I would keep Abyss off TV until then and give him the opportunity to return (old ring attire and old theme music) with James Mitchell leading him to the ring. I would also end the night with a bang. An invasion angle would be fun, one that leads into Bound for Glory.

What are your thoughts so far on Bruce Prichard's creative era as opposed to the one that preceded it?

JSO- I'm generally enjoying the product under Prichard 's direction. Granted it's not devoid of its flaws, but the shows have a much more relaxing quality about them. Nothing really feels too crammed or out of place and everything flows nicely from one match/segment to the next like they should without too much confusion floating around afterwards. As a whole, that's a good upgrade from the nonsensical, chaotic, long drawn-out elements that used to be associated with the product on a regular basis.

Shelbin- I think Prichard has done a phenomenal job since he took over as head writer and I believe he will only improve as all of Vince Russo's storyline arcs are finally behind us and Prichard's vision can fully materialize. As for right now, the most obvious improvement is in the way that titles are presented. Title reigns are longer and more relevant, giving the entire product a sense of legitimacy. In addition, Prichard has taken the focus away from storyline-dictated plots and put it back on character-driven angles with an emphasis on old school feuds and relationships. This has given every wrestler a new focus and a sense of individuality. Wrestlers are not as expendable as they were under the Russo/Hogan/Bischoff regime.

Irish Yid- I have enjoyed Bruce Prichard's run so far and feel that the show has been better paced and more focused. They have concentrated more on particular roster members than others, and they have chosen the right ones. Prichard has settled the show into a proper format that gives us just enough wrestling and just enough speaking on each show. He has also concentrated on both the X Division and the Knockout Division, with a clear focused head of each division in Austin Aries and Gail Kim respectively. I have really enjoyed the show since Pritchard has taken over and can't wait for TNA in 2012. 

Talon- In many ways, I thought Bruce Prichard was a placebo to the critics who were negative on the product just because Vince Russo's name was attached. I will say that while there are still eye-rolling moments, the quality of the product has been a definitive step up from what we were getting just months ago. Other people may notice the subtleties of the change but the big thing I see is the focus on younger talent and the buildup of new main eventers in James Storm and Bobby Roode. The buildup of Roode's heel character has been fascinating. I would be more than happy if we get the quality of the past three months for the next few years. 

FK9- We're really talking about two completely different shows here. Most of what we saw up to and including Bound For Glory was poor to mediocre. There were flashes of greatness here and there, but generally, the Russo/Hogan/Bischoff gestalt was a train wreck. The booking was a mess, storylines made no sense at all, the crap with Immortal just wouldn't end and many of their ill-conceived attempts to create new stars were, shall we say, less than effective (ex. Mexican America). 

Then Prichard took over and suddenly the show got a lot better. The addition of Prichard to the creative process brought a desperately needed infusion of intelligence, logic, common sense, and the ability to actually time a show properly and tell a freaking story in a coherent manner. Angles can be understood more and insult our intelligence less, matches get more appropriate time, the booking is much less frustrating. I'm not saying the show became perfect, but it was a hell of a lot better than what we had before. In short, everything before Bound For Glory was the same old crap, everything after Bound For Glory was a marked improvement.

This past week, TNAsylum had the debate of PPVs vs TV and what is more important. Where do you stand on this issue and how do you feel TNA treats its PPVs compared to its television show?

Irish Yid- The television show has around 80 times as many viewers as the average TNA Pay-Per-Views and so I definitely feel that the higher ups are right about giving more importance to the happenings on TV. However, giving away your two top matches from the Pay-Per-View on TV four nights later is just a giant FU to those customers who bought your PPVs. Putting emphasis on TV is one thing, but if you are going to produce Pay-Per-Views, then you should at least reward those people who were willing to pay for your shows.

FK9- With the way TNA does business and books their product, there's really only one answer to that question. Love it or hate it, their TV is more important because that's their main source of revenue. The kicker is this wouldn't be so if their PPV business was doing better. But from what we know, it hasn't gotten better, and IMO, that problem has been largely self-inflicted. Have their PPV buyrates not improved because PPV is a dying business, or is it simply because they've conditioned their fans to think that all the really important stuff is going to happen on free TV, and therefore the PPVs aren't worth the money? It's probably a combination of the two. 

The PPV industry may be on the decline, but companies like the UFC have proven that people will still open their wallets for a show if you make it worth their money. Personally, I think people would be more inclined to buy the PPVs if they thought they were going to get something special that they would never see on iMPACT -- they'd pay that $35.00 because they support the company and they want it to succeed -- but that's not the mindset TNA has chosen to cultivate. On rare occasions when they've gone all out and really busted their asses to sell a PPV, featuring great anticipation, big matches, etc, they've done better buyrates (ex. Lockdown 2008), but I suppose they figured the effort wasn't worth the payoff. 

I do think TNA could change this if they wanted to -- they could retrain their audience to think that their PPVs are more important -- but I just don't think they're interested in doing so. And that's unfortunate because, if and when their company grows beyond a certain point, they may find themselves thinking that the money they make from SpikeTV isn't as much as what they could be making if more of their audience was buying the PPVs, and find that it's too late to do anything about it.

Shelbin- I think critics are a bit misguided in their criticisms of the PPVs, in my opinion. As someone who buys the PPVs, I don't quite care if the company books rematches of the main events on the following episode of Impact. I buy the PPVs so I can watch the development of the feuds and/or storylines so it means very little to me whether they conclude on the PPV or Impact. I want them to put out the best product they can regardless of if it's on PPV or not. I just find it odd that people who buy the PPVs complain about the rematches on Impact. If it means so much to you, I suggest that you stop buying the PPVs so you can watch the matches for the first time on Impact.

JSO- In the modern age, TV is definitely more important. TNA has grown leaps and bounds with brighter animation and bigger name superstars on their roster. It's not just about a bunch of great wrestlers having excellent matches anymore; it's all about the sheer entertainment value of the product. That's why the Impact broadcasts are a higher priority than the monthly PPVs. Nevertheless, I feel TNA needs to put a better effort into their PPVs. They put together some really entertaining cards on paper, but then they are marred by half-assed finishes and such. It's a shame too because live PPV matches are generally more memorable than taped TV matches split with commercials. But that's the reality of the situation and it is what it is.

Talon- I first want to note that while many of us are divided on this issue, we show respect for each other's opinions and do not go around calling people names or trashing their opinion because we disagree. 

It is no secret that TNA treats TV as the more important show and it is hard to disagree with that stance. TV is TNA's main source of revenue so they need to protect that revenue while keeping Spike happy. The problem I have with this is that they have made TV important at the expense of diminishing PPVs. 

When you look at the numbers that TNA makes for one episode of IMPACT vs what they could potentially make from a well hyped and well purchased PPV, you will see it from a different point of view. From what I understand, Spike TV pays TNA a certain amount of money whether the ratings are a 1.3 or a 1.1. However the difference of 5,000 to 10,000 buys for a PPV is about the equivalent of 150,000 dollars. 

While this past PPV didn't bother me that much when TNA gave away Storm vs Angle and Hardy vs Roode on TV as much as it did when they did it for AJ vs Roode last month, this is a recurring theme that will likely hurt TNA's bottom line in the long run. If TNA trains their audience to think that they don't have to pay their money to get the resolution they want, less and less people are going to buy their shows. I do it because, despite these issues, I still enjoy watching them. 

I became a habitual PPV buyer in 2006, a year when PPVs had great matches and moments and were much higher quality than today. What one year of great PPVs did was create fans who were willing to dish out money once a month for the next seven years. I guarantee that if TNA delivered the PPVs they have done these past few years, I likely wouldn't have become a habitual viewer. 

While PPVs are a dying business, they aren't a dead business. TNA has a commitment to their buying customers to deliver a show that the fan feels is worth their money. While TNA may be stuck in a contract, if they are promoting their PPVs then they should give their buyers satisfying events.

Source: TNAsylum.com

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