Welcome to the Valentine's Day edition of TNAsylum's resident roundtable column, the Spin Cycle. On this month's episode, TNAsylum Writers JSO, FK9, Will Cross and Garrett Kidney discuss Ring Ka King, Against All Odds and more.
1) With the first few episodes of Ring Ka King in the books, what are your early thoughts on the show?
JSO- I've been impressed. It's definitely a fun, organized show and I like how it's presented as a wrestling-based reality program. Thus far, we got a good glimpse into the makeup of a lot of these characters from their matches and nice little promos/segments, so things should be interesting as the season progresses into the big feuds and such. I kinda wish that they didn't show clips and previews before commercial breaks and at the end of the show because sometimes they give away a bit more than they probably should.
Will Cross- Before I answer, I should note that I have only seen the first episode and part of the second episode but that should be more than enough to allow me to answer the question. I think that Ring Ka King is a throwback show to when wrestling was 100% kayfabe and the fans thought it was real. That helped the show immensely. It was also a very simplistic show as it was basic wrestling booking 101. It doesn’t need 50 high spots in a match to entertain the crowd, it doesn’t need gratuitous weapon shots to pull the crowd in and it didn’t need overly complicated characters. Ring Ka King has surpassed my expectations because quite frankly I didn’t expect it to get as much critical acclaim as it has gotten and I didn’t expect Ring Ka King to be this huge money making business venture that it has become. I even have wrestling buddies of mine online telling me that they’d rather watch Ring Ka King over TNA.
Garrett Kidney- It's a nice, easy to watch show. A very talented roster and simple 101 booking makes it a good solid show, and despite it being mostly in Hindi there's little to no language barrier as everything is very easy to follow and there's enough English in there to keep up. Mahabeli Veera is an over and credible guy with a good look to eventually (once he has a little more time to develop) build the company around without having to over rely on the Americans. And then of course there's Scott Steiner. Any TV show centered around Steiner is good in my book, the man is just so entertaining and so far has been the star of the show (and I can't wait until the episode where he causes half the audience to flee in terror). Overall, a big thumbs up and I recommend anybody with some spare time on the weekend to give it a watch.
FK9- I like it. It's a nostalgic throwback to the old school booking of an era that was a little less complicated and took itself a little less seriously (or more seriously, depending on how you look at it), and there's something oddly refreshing about that. I doubt a show like this would fly here in the states at this point, but the beauty of Ring Ka King is that it doesn't have to. It's a show produced for a specific audience, and in that capacity, I think you have to consider this a big success. Clearly they've put a lot of effort into making sure it works on a cultural level. It's not just another American pro wrestling import; it's something made by and for the Indian people, and it looks like they nailed it.
I think TNA are really on to something here, tapping into a market like this. It might be a bit of a niche audience, but that doesn't mean it can't make them money. A lot of these fans have never experienced pro wrestling before and are getting it for the first time with this show -- no wonder the crowds have been so great.
The show might not interest a lot of American fans, but it wasn't intended to. Considering how the Indian audience has embraced it, Ring Ka King gets a big thumbs up.
2) What is one element/concept/wrestler you would like to see added from Ring Ka King to the IMPACT Wrestling Product?
FK9- Allisa Flash a.k.a. the woman who should have inherited Awesome Kong's spot as the top Knockout heel when Kong left the company. But they weren't smart enough to hold on to her, elevated Madison Rayne instead and the results were underwhelming to say to the least. This company has been missing the boat with Alissa Flash for years. She got over effortlessly in her previous run despite being booked as enhancement talent most of the time, she's a terrific worker and has a unique look that sets her apart from all the other women. She could have done big things in the Knockout division if they'd given her half a chance and she still could. Clearly someone in the company is a fan of hers if they brought her back for Ring Ka King, and with the Knockout division in need of a bit of a shakeup, Alissa could be just the woman for the job.
Will Cross- There are a number of things that Ring Ka King has that I want TNA to have but since the question is name one (I will be happy to say more of them if someone asks me in the comment section) I will say: I want Ring Ka King’s atmosphere added to the TNA Impact show. What I mean is when you watch Ring Ka King, it comes across the screen (TV or Computer) that this show is a huge deal. You have celebrities on the show, you have beautiful female dancers just there to hype the crowd, you have the crowd who is incredibly into the show and you have the announcers being emotionally invested into the show. Put all that together and it creates a show that becomes MUST-SEE to the viewers at home which is something TNA doesn’t have at the moment.
Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the TNA product at the moment as it’s has been quality shows for months now but it not OH MY GOD I MUST SEE THIS SHOW kind of stuff. A lot of Atmosphere I’m talking about can easily be met by TNA if they go in front of real wrestling fans on the road and you replace TNA with someone who can commentate a show with emotion.
JSO- I would like to see Ring Ka King's emphasis on tag team wrestling translate over to IMPACT Wrestling. TNA is sort of getting back on that path right now with their main product but I like how Ring Ka King went right out of the box with the old-school tag teams built around a name/gimmick (Sheiks, Mumbai Cats, Bollywood Boys, etc). TNA doesn't necessarily have to bring in any of the particular teams currently in Ring Ka King but I do want to see more bonafide teams like that in the division as opposed to makeshift teams that may or may not last long-term.
Garrett Kidney- Their tag division (or at least import elements of it). Rave and Ion, The Sheiks, Chavo and DH Smith, Hollywood and Broadway (Joey Ryan and Nunzio) and even the local Indian guys make for a good, strong tag division who'd mesh well with Joe and Magnus and The Guns (and it's been clear for a while that TNA need depth in the tag division). Maybe not bring them all at once but bringing in a couple of them would be a big help to the division as a whole.
3) It's Valentine's Day; what Knockout or Wrestler would you like to show your love for?
FK9- Sarita. The most criminally mishandled and underutilized woman on the roster. Speaking of missing the boat... look at Sarita in Mexico and look at her in TNA. I just don't understand how they could have gotten this so wrong. Booked properly, this woman is unbelievable in the ring. She can do things I've never seen any woman do before and they've completely wasted her.
Plus... come on, just look at her. Damn. I mean, daaaaaaamn. Screw Velvet Sky and her giant fake boobs -- sexiest woman in wrestling, my butt! Sarita... now that's a real woman.
Garrett Kidney- Ms. Brooke Tessmacher. Aside from the fact that she's improved drastically in the ring, and the fact that Asstastic is one of the greatest moves in the history of wrestling, there is the blatantly obvious reason why anybody would like Ms. Tessmacher.
Will Cross- Probably the easiest question of the 6 as the answer for me is Winter aka Katie Lea Burchill aka Katarina Waters. I have loved this female wrestler ever since I first saw her on WWE TV back in 2008. There is a reason why I never criticize her and it’s because I just can’t bring myself to say anything negative about this goddess. Winter, will you be my Valentine?
JSO- Gail Kim. Just as many expected, she has helped bring some life back to the stagnant Knockouts division. Anytime someone does a fine job in whatever activity they're involved in, they deserve their just praise and success, and Gail continues to do that not just for TNA again but for women's wrestling overall. It's also a bonus that she's one of the sexiest women in the business.
4) Many critics say that the Television and Knockout's Tag Team Titles are a waste of space. Creatively, how would you respond to these criticisms?
Garrett Kidney- I've always thought of them as unnecessary. Even if they were booked well and made credible titles, I still don't think there's sufficient room for them. Four belts (one for each division) is the right amount of titles for a two hour weekly TV show with a monthly PPV. Anything else is just clutter, they should just phase them out and focus on the titles people still actually take seriously and build them up further instead.
JSO- It's remarkable how this topic never seems to go away. The solution to the TV Title is obvious - it has to be treated as a legit midcard belt, a prize for those not quite ready to jump into the main event territory or former world champs looking to restore their glory with some gold if they're not able to remain at their previous level. I think the best case scenario might be for Robbie E to piss off Sting in some way so the GM puts him in a match where a true upper/mid card talent beats him and starts bringing some real prestige to the title.
As for the Knockouts Tag Team Titles, I initially proposed a unification of the singles and tag belts in one of my columns more than a year ago. To this day, I still believe that should be the case. Hell, that's already sort of the case with Gail holding both belts right now, so why not just make it official with one undisputed title? TNA had every opportunity to do something worthwhile with the tag belts but of course they didn't, and it's pretty safe to assume that they never will even if they happen to bring in a solid tag team from the indies.
FK9- I would respond to these criticisms by saying that they are absolutely right. The Knockout tag titles mean virtually nothing and the Television title means less than nothing. The only thing that makes one championship slightly more relevant than the other at the moment is the fact that at least the Knockout tag team champions Gail Kim & Madison Rayne are presented seriously (more so in Gail's case), whereas the current Television champion Robbie E is an untalented, unfunny comic relief jobber masquerading as a midcarder and the writers haven't even tried to hide it.
The kicker is that the TV title situation is so ridiculously easy to fix, it's almost laughable. Get the belt off that loser Robbie E, for God's sake keep it away from Eric Young while you're at it, put it on a serious up-and-comer who actually has potential to be groomed as a future main eventer (Magnus, Crimson, Aries, etc), then give them a storyline with someone worthwhile to feud with. DONE. EASY.
Making the Knockout tag titles relevant takes more legwork. The problem here is that those championships -- while a good idea in principle -- were created for the wrong reasons. They weren't created because the company had lots of great female tag teams with no titles to fight over; they were created because the writers had a ton of female singles wrestlers on their hands, many of whom had nothing to do. As a result, the Knockout tag team division never really got off the ground since there's only ever really been one or two viable teams in it at any given time. When there's not enough good teams to keep the title picture interesting, the titles end up not being focused on, and as a result, the whole Knockout tag team division (not just the titles) really doesn't mean anything.
It's obvious management's heart hasn't been in this. There's never been a ton of effort on their part in this area, especially when you compare it to how they've been trying to rebuild the men's tag team division recently. It's not as if they don't care about tag team wrestling; they've proven that they do. So why all the apparent disinterest?
A tag team division needs teams to make it work. Not just random singles wrestlers thrown together, but teams, meaning people who are packaged together, not separately. Sure, they can start out in singles -- plenty of great teams have started that way -- but once they come together, if you're not marketing/packaging them as a duo, then there isn't much validity there.
TnT is a good example of this. The pairing of Brooke/Tara didn't seem to make any sense at first, but there was an obvious chemistry between them, they made an effort to package themselves like a team and the fans seem to enjoy them together. Sarita/Rosita is the only other genuine female tag team the company has at the moment. I liken them to the British Invasion, in that Sarita brings the wrestling, Rosita brings the personality, and when you put them together, they help bring these qualities out in each other.
So that gives them two good teams to work with. Unfortunately, two teams won't keep a division interesting forever. There's also the little problem of neither team vying for the tag titles right now! Hell, no one is! Sarita/Rosita are off TV, Brooke isn't doing anything and Tara is feuding for the singles title. What's more, the tag team belts don't have any current challengers at all, so what's the point really? Is it any wonder why people think the Knockout tag titles are a waste of time?
First of all, they need more teams to work with. Unfortunately, all the other female duos they have at the moment I don't consider tag teams in the traditional sense. The Winter/Angelina pairing has flatlined since day one due to an obvious lack of chemistry and an asinine gimmick (plus the fact that Time Traveling Lesbian Vampires is a stupid name for a team). What's more, the current champions were clearly thrown together more for the purpose of pushing Gail Kim than anything else -- the pairing was just a way to facilitate Gail holding two championships at once, so the titles were just a means to an end in that case. At this point I doubt even reforming the Beautiful People would be a real option since management obviously sees more money in pushing Velvet Sky as a singles wrestler these days.
[SIDENOTE: The first person who suggests ODB & Eric Young as an option gets a kick in the balls.]
And that's pretty much it. Despite the female roster being pretty loaded, it doesn't seem to lend itself to a tag team format. That said, this isn't terribly difficult to fix. First, create a feud for the tag titles comprised of people who all want them. While this is going on, I think the best choice would be to sign some new talent, women who have experience working together and could come across believably as a team. The most readily available would probably be the Blossom twins from OVW. There are arguably better teams out there, but hell, TNA could package and market them without even trying. Also, them being TNA's answer to the Bella twins might have some appeal for a lot of people.
Then, once you have enough teams for an interesting division, FOCUS on it. The Knockouts get enough screen time these days that you could pull this off. You might have to alternate focus between the tag and singles championship periodically, but done properly, that might be a good thing as it could prevent each title picture from becoming stale.
TNA need to really dedicate themselves to this if they ever want it to work. So I guess, the question they should ask themselves is, "DO we really want this to work?" If the answer is yes, then start putting the same effort into it that you put into the men's tag team division. If the answer is no, then just get rid of the titles altogether, because as it is, there's essentially no reason for them to exist.
Will Cross- Creatively speaking I would have to figure out a way to disprove that notion because at the moment both titles really are a waste of space. The TV champion was last used as an enhancement talent for the tag team champions. The Knockout tag team titles were last defended in November and neither Knockout tag champion even acknowledge that they are a tag champion. It depresses me that the TV Title is so misused. When EY was champion TNA missed a golden opportunity to create a new stud heel at the expense of EY. What I mean is with EY being all fun and games and a pretty over babyface, he was ripe for the picking for a heel to debut/stamp their heel status by just killing EY in the ring. Decimating such a lovable (unless you’re FK9) babyface, would get you over in a heartbeat even in the Impact Zone. The TV title would be in the hands of a monster heel and you could book him like Benoit’s Intercontinental Title run in 2000 where he defended his title every show and won clean. He would spend a month or two of Impact broadcasts defending his title against lower card guys as a way to build the TV Champion up before he starts defending the title in the midcard/upper midcard. (The guy I would use is Gunner) That is how you can bring the TV Title back.
As for the Knockouts Tag Belts unless you get more Knockout talent (at least 6 of them) and an additional TV show, the belts will forever be a waste of space until it is scrapped. As the Knockout division is currently set up, there is just no way to make the Knockout Tag Titles relevant.
5) What is one concept/wrestler/idea that TNA has had in the past that you would like to see return to honor their 10-Year Anniversary?
JSO- I would like to see the old Rough Cut segments return leading up to Slammiversary. It was a unique concept that TNA utilized effectively to build up the wrestlers and/or feuds and I remember it was a lot more personal than the Reaction or Before the Bell pieces. I always enjoyed that aspect of the TV shows, so it would be nice to see TNA do those again as sort of the 24/7 boxing specials for the two guys that will compete for the World Title in the main event at Slammiversary.
Will Cross- I will say this every time I am asked: For the 10 year anniversary TNA must celebrate their history and their history alone. To do that, it must start with the first ever TNA/NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ken Shamrock. TNA must do everything in their power to get him to appear at Slammivarsary which is when TNA will probably throw a huge 10 year anniversary party/broadcast. I want to see TNA’s first ever World Heavyweight champion again on TNA TV/PPV.
FK9- King of the Mountain with simplified rules this time. I agree that the concept was too gimmicky and needlessly complicated, but it was a tradition, and it was a fun match that I looked forward to every year at Slammiversary. What's more, it helped give that PPV an identity that separated it from all the others -- something that's sorely lacking in TNA's PPV right now.
To this day, I don't know why they got rid of it when a few simple tweaks could have fixed all the problems. Get rid of the stupid 'hang the belt' stipulation, maybe the penalty cage too and you're nearly there. Maybe just make it a big multi-man ladder match. It's not as hard as they're making it out to be. There's no reason to kill the match altogether, especially when it's one of the few gimmicks that Vince Russo hadn't run into the ground before Prichard took over. Plus, maybe it's just me, but Slammiversary without KOTM just doesn't feel like Slammiversary.
Garrett Kidney- While there are a lot of things (like the six sided ring, Petey Williams, Don West and Cody Deaner (that one's a joke folks)) I've always been a big fan of the King of the Mountain match. It was one of TNA's exclusive gimmick matches and usually created an exciting and dynamic match (even if people gave out about the rules being complicated which I never really saw myself). I'd like to see it at Slammiversary every year but hopefully at least this year.
6) What is your favorite Against All Odds moment from history and why?
Will Cross- Christian winning his first World title at Against All Odds 2006. I was always a huge Christian mark and I hated the fact that WWE never elevated him to the top of the card in his time (his first run) with the company. He jumped to TNA and as the PPV’s name says “Christian became a World Heavyweight champion of a wrestling company Against All Odds put in front of him.” Christian’s win was easily my favorite Against All Odds moment ever.
Garrett Kidney- It's really only a choice of two things, and while the captain of the Christian Coalition's first title win was a huge, memorable moment, it has to be the Styles/Daniels 30 minute Iron Man match. Both men were just on fire in '05 and this was by far the best match these two ever had against each other in TNA. Frenetic pace, great near falls, tremendous counter wrestling, a fantastic visual with AJ, bleeding, refusing to give up in the Koji clutch and a crowd that was with them every step of the way. Without doubt one of the best matches in the ten year history of TNA, and definitely the best thing ever to happen at Against All Odds.
FK9- Traditionally, this hasn't been one of my favorite PPVs, but there are some pretty fond memories I have of it. Christian Cage winning the world title from Jeff Jarrett at AAO '06 was pretty sweet, if for no other reason than to see the belt FINALLY taken off Jarrett, and also because it was awesome to see Christian finally win the big one. Me being the huge Chris Sabin mark that I am, I loved seeing him defeat Jerry Lynn to retain the X-division title at AAO '07. But I think my favorite would have to be the Motor City Machine Guns & Jay Lethal saving the X-division from Team 3D & Johnny Devine at AAO '08. Sure, the feud had been badly booked and Jay Lethal had been made to look like the worst champion ever, but seeing those guys finally go over and gain that victory for the X-division (not to mention putting an end to a feud that had probably done more harm than good) was awfully cathartic.
JSO- I would have to say Christian Cage winning the NWA World Title from Jeff Jarrett at Against All Odds 2006 is my favorite. The buildup to the match was fantastic with the press conference and the promos touting it as a 'win or go to the midcard' situation for Cage. At that time Jarrett dominated the main event scene as the champion, so there was also that extra desire to see him lose the belt to someone who had never held a major World Title before. It was magical to hear Mike Tenay say that Cage added his name to the honor roll of champions in pro wrestling, and even more so when the fans got in the ring and celebrated with him.