December 10, 2012
TNA resigned Velvet Sky? Um...
Anyone who's followed me for any length of time can probably guess how I felt about this. I'm not going to raise a big stink about it because, as a business decision, I get it. TNA is a business first and foremost, and Velvet Sky makes them money, so that's going to be the end of the argument right there. The woman does have a big fanbase whether I like it or not, so we had to expect them to bring her back if they could.
Unfortunately, the return of a woman who's been with the company for years and already done pretty much everything there is for her to do is not going to solve the problem of the Knockout division becoming stale and repetitive. If anything, it's going to make the problem worse. TNA have gone as far as they can with the current women's roster, with nearly all creative possibilities long since exhausted. The only way to remedy this is by introducing new female talents, not old ones.
But Velvet is back now regardless, so the question is what to do with her. That's going to be tough since, like the other Knockout stalwarts, she's already held both titles, feuded with just about everyone and had lengthy runs as a heel and a face. It looks like the writers want her to chase the Knockouts championship again even though she spent most of last year doing that, the process of which being downright intolerable IMO, but that's hardly uncharted territory at this point and it's not going to lead to anything impressive.
About the only things Velvet could do that would be new for her would be feuding with Mickie or Tessmacher, and someone would have to turn heel for that to happen, which seems unlikely at the moment. Mickie was teasing a heel turn earlier in the year, but Tara was turned instead during Mickie's absence from TV. They could revisit that idea, but then you'd have Mickie and Tara jockeying for position when a heel Mickie after so many years as a face really shouldn't be sharing the spotlight. Tessmacher seems better suited as a fan favorite; they could turn Velvet, who was infinitely more convincing as a heel (I don't care what anyone says; she makes an insufferable babyface), but with TNA seemingly so in love with the idea of Velvet being the Knockout poster girl in recent years, I don't see that happening either.
I've said this before and I'll say it again. There is a way to use Velvet Sky that would probably please most of her fans and critics alike: Repackage her. Put away this idea of her being a stand-out singles competitor; that was never a realistic option for obvious reasons and we all know it. Instead, remake her into the 21st century version of Sunny, a woman who's more about the entertainment side of the business than the physical. Push her as more of a character than a wrestler. Give her a role that lets her maximize her best assets (personality and sex appeal) and keeps her out of the ring most of the time. Even the most staunch Velvet supporters, when they're being honest with themselves, must admit this woman's wrestling just ain't that good -- at best, she's serviceable -- so why even go there again, especially when wrestling was never what got Velvet over in the first place? If she wasn't wrestling, would the casual fans really care that much as long as she was still letting the pigeons loose? I doubt it.
Here's an idea: Have Velvet be the new Knockout authority figure. It's not like Brooke Hogan has done anything with that role, and she's involved in a storyline outside the division now anyway, so why the hell not? It would be something new for Velvet, and if she's a character, a manager, a mouthpiece, or, yes, an authority figure, she can cut promos, show off her personality and do her crowd-pleasing entrance, and that stuff is why Velvet Sky is over. Those qualities are why she has a fanbase, so let her emphasize that and keep her out of the ring otherwise unless there's a really good reason to put her in there.
Wouldn't some new Knockouts in a TNA ring be refreshing at this point? Are you that excited by the idea of Velvet embarking on another prolonged title chase? Are you that anxious to see Velvet feud with Gail again, or feud with Madison again, or feud with ODB again (please, God, no), or feud with Tara again, etc, etc, etc.? I mean, have you really missed Velvet Sky's matches since she's been gone? Be honest...
The whole reason why this division is stale is because it's been the same women over and over again for quite a while now, so why add to the problem? Hire some new Knockouts and let them carry the wrestling. But if TNA want Velvet back so badly, please do something new with her. And remaking her as a modern day Sunny-type figure would be something new. Just saying.
RIP Against All Odds and No Surrender
I am 100% behind TNA cutting some PPVs from their schedule. Frankly, I wish it had happened sooner. This move will give them more time to build up Lockdown and Bound For Glory, two much more important shows for which AAO & NS usually got thrown under the bus in favor of anyway. It will also allow for the Bound For Glory Series finals to play out on television from now on, which could make for some eventful episodes of iMPACT and hopefully help with viewership.
With the growth of the internet, livestreams becoming easier and easier to find, and most televised broadcasts (PPV or otherwise) being available for viewing online mere minutes after they air, it's best that TNA stop trying to swim against the current. PPV may not be a dead business, but it is on the decline, and if there are a few less PPVs to buy a year, it might make fans a bit more eager to actually pay for them; a philosophy I really wish WWE would consider.
So this move will give TNA 10 PPVs a year. But why stop there? IMO, they should take this a bit further. Were it up to me, I would have TNA reduce their number of annual PPV events to 9. Keep the 4 big shows (Genesis, Lockdown, Slammiversary, Bound For Glory), and have one or two buffer PPVs in between each of them. This would give more importance to the major PPVs and present an opportunity to do different things with the B-shows, perhaps treating them as theme shows used to highlight specific divisions; D-X spotlights the X-division, Final Resolution spotlights the TV title division, and so on.
Imagine if TNA's PPV model looked like this:
Genesis -- Big 4
Victory Road -- Knockout division showcase
Lockdown -- Big 4
Destination-X -- X-division showcase
Slammiversary -- Big 4
Hardcore Justice -- Hardcore PPV
Bound For Glory -- Big 4
Turning Point -- Tag Team division showcase
Final Resolution -- TV title division showcase
This would remove all the filler shows, create new storyline possibilities, and bring some attention and prestige to the championships, allowing their respective divisions to be the focus of a PPV, as well as give each show its own unique identity, making it stand out from all the others. This way every PPV would feel special for different reasons. That sounds a lot better to me than having 10 or more PPVs a year with only a scant few significant in any way.
Develop a core group of talent to focus on
This has already been discussed ad nauseam on TNAsylum, but one of the biggest differences between Vince Russo and Bruce Prichard is that Russo tried to cram as many talents as possible onto the show to the point where very few people could stand out from the pack whereas Prichard likes to focus on a smaller number of talents so as to better spotlight them.
We've been over the pros and cons of each approach countless times, and in most cases I've been on Team Prichard. However, there has been a drawback. The practice of focusing on a fewer number of stars means that a lot of other talents have to sit out and wait their turn. And with the writers progressing the storylines at a slower pace these days, at times we can go weeks or even months without seeing certain wrestlers.
And without additional TV time to feature them, it also means that once it's someone else's turn to get pushed, the previous talent who was just in a prominent role often vanishes from television altogether. For example, Brooke Tessmacher had a lot of build up as the woman who finally ended Gail Kim's record-breaking run as the Knockouts champion, she held the title for several months, her character seemed to be connecting with the audience, it looked like TNA were trying to cement her as the new top babyface of the division, then she lost the title at Bound For Glory and quickly disappeared without a trace. After putting all that work into building Tessmacher up, doesn't taking her off the show so suddenly kind of throw all that away? Wouldn't you want to have a new program ready for her after her feud with Tara ended so as to keep her character relevant while someone else goes for the belt?
Prichard's run as head of creative has produced numerous examples just like this. And sadly it often makes it difficult to get invested and stay invested in the characters we see on the show. Why should I as a fan bother getting emotionally attached to a wrestler that the writers are pushing if I think that wrestler is going to disappear for 6 months the second his push is over? It's the unfortunate reality of TNA having a huge roster and only 2 hours of TV a week. And unless they can get a second weekly show, compromises are going to have to be made.
TNA need to identify a core group a talents to build the product around. People who are not just going to vanish from TV once their current feud is done. People who have all the tools necessary to be stars for the company (in-ring ability, charisma, mic skills, etc), so we can be confident that the writers won't lose interest in them after a month or 2. Talents who, once their current storyline concludes, have a new one waiting for them on the very next show, so they don't have their momentum ruined and fall into irrelevance by being off TV for long stretches of time.
To a certain degree, TNA have done this. There are select people on the roster that are featured on the show every week and are consistently kept in relevant storylines; Austin Aries and Bully Ray are examples of this. But it's still not enough IMO. When exciting up-and-comers with tons of star quality like Kenny King and Magnus are hot one minute and gone the next, that's not good. TNA need to slightly expand their core group of talents (2 representatives from each division at the very least), make them the central players of the product, then they can use this phase-in-phase-out philosophy with every else.
Looking at the roster right now, as far as I'm concerned, the core group of talent should be: Abyss/Joseph Park, AJ Styles, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode, Bully Ray, Christopher Daniels, Crimson, James Storm, Jeff Hardy, Jesse Sorensen, Joey Ryan, Kazarian, Kenny King, Kurt Angle, Magnus, Matt Morgan, Mickie James, Brooke Tessmacher, Samoa Joe, Tara, Zema Ion.
I'm not saying all these people should be getting pushed at the same time; that wouldn't be possible. But they should at least have a consistent presence on the show even if other people are being spotlighted. The fans need to feel like there are characters on the show they can get attached to without worrying that these characters are going to vanish at the drop of a hat, and right now I just don't feel like I can do that with most of the roster.