May 14, 2012

The Chopping Block

In my last column I mentioned how the monthly Gutcheck angle would be providing TNA with an infusion of new talent, something the company sorely needs. This is a double-edged sword, however, as there's only so much space in the locker room. Naturally, I don't expect every single Gutcheck contestant to earn a contract, but this does point to company officials actively looking to freshen up the roster with new faces, which means some current roster members may end up getting cut to accommodate these people. In the past, Dixie Carter has been hesitant when it comes to letting wrestlers go, but things seem to have changed with Bruce Prichard now running creative as well as the departure of Vince Russo.

As a writer, Russo tried to fit as many people into storylines as possible. Prichard has taken the opposite approach, focusing on a fewer number of talents, so as to devote more quality screen time and attention to developing them, and Prichard, like anyone else, has his favorites. Inevitably, this means that certain wrestlers have been thrust to the forefront while others have fallen by the wayside. And with these Gutcheck people coming in and the company presumably getting more aggressive with hiring potential new stars, any wrestler who's not staying relevant may be in danger of getting cut.

Looking at the roster page, I think there are a number of people who should be worried right now. The new creative regime seems to have little to no use for them, and if new talent is indeed on the way in, they're almost certainly the ones most likely to be replaced.

-Angelina Love- I'm not saying Angelina isn't talented, but IMO, the chances of her sticking around much longer are slim to nil. She's barely been glimpsed on television since the new writers took over 7 months ago and, like the now-departed Traci Brooks, Angelina is a wrestler who seems to have just run her course. Multiple tag title reigns, more singles title reigns than any other Knockout and she's had programs with almost every one of them at this point.

With most fresh storyline possibilities for her exhausted, the only interesting avenue left to her that I can think of would be a Beautiful People reunion, and with the creative team apparently so in love with the idea of Velvet Sky as a singles star these days, that seems unlikely. If new Knockouts start coming in through the Gutcheck program, I expect Angelina will be one of, if not the first to be replaced.

-Anthony Nese- This guy has been used about as often as Angelina since he was signed last summer, making only a scant few appearances, mainly as enhancement talent. And while his in-ring performance has been impressive, it seems that hasn't been enough to pique the writers' interest. Certainly promoting himself as the 'Premier Athlete' hasn't gotten him noticed. Maybe his lack of character or personality is the problem, or perhaps it's his apparent disinterest in developing that part of his game, choosing instead to focus on the physical aspects. I don't know. What I do know is that if you're a member of the X-division not named Austin Aries, Jesse Sorenson or Zema Ion, the writers just don't seem to care very much. If the company can't even bother to spell his name correctly on the website after being on the roster for the better part of a year, I wouldn't expect Nese to be there much longer.

-D'Angelo Dinero- Raise your hand if you had no idea this guy was even still on the roster. I'm not sure what happened here. Once upon a time, the Pope was one of the hottest characters and fastest rising stars this company had to offer. Then he turned heel for no discernible reason and things went downhill real fast. He was put in an absolutely atrocious feud with Samoa Joe that damn near buried both of them and then moved into an interminable storyline with Devon that somehow, someway proved to be even worse. Since that program mercifully ended, Dinero hasn't been seen or heard from.

This is a case that I don't understand for the life of me. The Pope is a strong performer, popular with the fans (when his character isn't being butchered beyond all recognition), charismatic as hell and still pretty young, and yet for some reason, management seems to have soured on him in a big way. Maybe it's his attitude backstage, maybe it's something else. But whatever the reason is, the Pope has apparently become persona non grata in TNA. It would be a huge waste of potential, but something tells me we won't be seeing him again. And sadly, with the way his character was ruined by the previous creative regime, I doubt many people will even care one way or the other.

-Douglas Williams- After being built up for a number of months as a credible upper midcarder with not-half-bad runs with the X-division and TV title, Williams just sort of... vanished. It would seem the novelty of his technical wrestling skills has worn off and Prichard apparently doesn't think he offers much beyond that. I would think they might keep him around as someone to feature as an attraction on the company's annual UK tour, but aside from that, it appears management has no plans for him.

-Hernandez- This one is wishful thinking on my part. Dixie Carter likes Hernandez for reasons that continue to elude me, so I don't expect him to be cut, but he should be. He started out promisingly enough. Lots of people liked him as one half of LAX. Even I thought he was going to be a star in those days. Then TNA tried pushing him as a singles competitor and... it didn't work out so well. Then they brought in Anarquia to tag with him, which turned out even worse.

It's become clear by now that, while LAX disguised his weaknesses, Hernandez lacks the skills and the charisma to be a successful singles competitor, and unless his partner was Homicide, tag teaming has been a disaster for him too. Add that to his seeming inability to work safely in the ring and I think it's high time TNA cut their losses with this guy. Unfortunately, they just seem unwilling to give up on him completely. Thankfully, he hasn't won a match or even been featured that much since the writers threw up their hands and gave up on Mexican America working out, so the bloom appears to be off the rose at least. I suspect we'll have to be satisfied with that.

-Kid Kash- Kash started out with a healthy push as the #2 heel in the rebooted X-division behind Austin Aries, working mostly as a foil to help get Jesse Sorensen over. Then Sorensen got injured, Kash disappeared from TV and hasn't been seen since. In the meantime, his heel role and rivalry with Sorensen seem to have been given to Zema Ion with the company choosing to focus their attention on developing young stars; while he may have "Kid" in his name, Kash doesn't exactly fit into that category anymore. We've probably seen the last of him.

-Mark Haskins- Haskins is in the same boat as Tony Nese. Aside from his inability to nail the shooting star press, his in-ring performance is strong, but for some other reason apparently, the writers have had no interest in using him. Like with Douglas Williams, the best thing he's got going for him is being a Brit they can feature on the annual UK tour, but when they put him in the ring during the last one, he accidentally concussed himself; a guy with his low standing on the roster can't afford to be making mistakes like that. If it comes down to a choice between the two, I think management would probably keep Williams and drop Haskins. If we see him on the next UK tour, I'll be surprised.

-Shannon Moore- Ink Inc appeared to be a sentimental favorite of the writers even if they were dubbed not quite good enough for the tag team titles (strange that Mexican America were, but let's not get into that again). However, once Jesse Neal got released last year, they seemed to have little use for his former partner.

While still with the company, Moore has been taking time off from the ring for the last several months, which certainly doesn't help his standing, not that it was very good before he left. Unless Jesse Neal returns and their tag team gets back together, I doubt Shannon Moore will resurface. Frankly, with him seeming to want to focus on his tattoo parlors right now, I wouldn't be surprised if he asks to be let out of his contract.

-Tara- Tara was originally hired to fill the void in the Knockout division left by the departed Gail Kim. That role was later given to the more high profile Mickie James and later still given back to Gail when she returned to the company. Since then, Tara's main role has been tag teaming with Brooke Tessmacher as one half of TnT. And while that pairing has probably gotten over more than any other Knockout tag team since the Beautiful People, with the company not putting much (if any) emphasis on its women's tag team titles and currently using them as comic relief props for ODB & Eric Young, that doesn't mean much unfortunately.

Aside from a brief run against Gail Kim earlier in the year, Tara has done nothing of consequence in 2012, and with partner Brooke Tessmacher starting to break out as a singles star, it leaves her without much of a purpose. Much like Kid Kash, Tara doesn't seem to fit well into TNA's changing landscape. With the company moving in a more youthful direction, her time with them may be coming to an end. They appear to think highly enough of her that I don't think they'd cut her unceremoniously like they did Traci, but her days are probably numbered at this point.

-Winter- Winter's ludicrous time traveling lesbian vampire character may have been something that amused Vince Russo, but clearly Prichard and Lagana feel differently. Like her partner/lover(?) Angelina, Winter has done practically nothing since the new writers took over. And since said writers are some of the same people that didn't feel like pushing her in WWE either, I think the writing is on the wall for her.

No comments: