January 27, 2013

Random Reax

Rockstar Spud was the right contestant to win British Bootcamp
I was going to do a livestream video to talk about this, but that idea was shot down due to technical issues, so it has become a column instead.

Rockstar Spud was my pick to win British Bootcamp from the beginning. Some may be surprised to hear that, given my fondness for the Blossom Twins, but he was always the guy I saw winning and the one I thought should win. Out of all four contestants, Spud had simultaneously the biggest upside and the biggest negatives. He had the most clearly defined character, the best mic skills, was the best at drawing heat, but is small even by X-division standards and his attitude and behavior are pretty questionable (this is assuming his antics on the show were not completely worked).

That said, I believe the good outweighed the bad in this case, and Spud's personality was the deciding factor for me. I imagine he'll be put in the X-division now; well, what's one complaint so many people always seem to have about the X-division? 'It's just a bunch of generic spot monkeys, no one has any mic skills, there are no characters, blah, blah, blah!' Well, here's a cure for what ales you people.

Rockstar Spud is nothing but character. It's no coincidence that he was the one who got the lion's share of the attention on the show -- it's because he was the one who was doing all the interesting stuff, and love him or hate him, he was the one you were paying attention to most of the time because of his character and the way he carried himself. Hell, back when British Bootcamp was first announced, I tried to familiarize myself with the contestants and was so entertained by Spud's promos on youtube that I nearly forgot to watch his matches and ended up not even bothering with them. Trust me, if you wanted more character in the X-division, you just got it.

As for the others... they all had their pros and cons. I said in a previous column that while Spud was the best talker, the Blossoms were the most marketable and Marty Scurll was the best wrestler, and that still holds up.

The Blossoms are gorgeous and probably more solid in the ring than several of the current Knockouts (not naming names, but I think we all know who I'm talking about), but were perhaps a bit lacking on the mic. That didn't seem to hurt them where it counted, however, if their popularity with the fans during the BFG fanfest episode is any indication. They can certainly draw a crowd, and their characters might be a bit too cute and sweet for some people, but at least they have characters that are unique to them.

This, ultimately, is what killed Marty Scurll's chances in my mind. Scurll was the one I would have cut first from the competition as I saw him as the most generic of the lot. He was the only one with nothing unique about him. I look at Spud and I think he's the only person in the business who could play that character in that way. Same thing with the Blossoms; no one else is going to be able to do what they do (don't talk to me about the Bella Twins. Just don't). But I look at Marty Scurll and see a guy with a gimmick that could just as easily be performed by a thousand other wrestlers. He might be great in between the ropes, but just ask Tony Nese how much that does for you in TNA these days if you're not bringing something else to the table on top of it.

However, all 4 contestants made a good impression and I think have something to offer TNA. And this is the part that a lot of folks need to calm down about. I've seen a lot of angry comments from people about how the Blossoms should've won or Marty should've won. Try to relax, people. I've said this before and I'll say it again: the winner of the competition does not, I repeat, DOES NOT MATTER. It never mattered who won the contract on the show because at the end of the day TNA is just going to sign all the contestants they like. And they liked all of them!

Hogan was gushing in the finale about how he didn't want to get rid of any of them. Dixie couldn't wait to tell them that they were all going on the UK tour, and Marty and the Blossoms were going to get another chance to earn contracts. And if they were as high on the them as they appeared to be, why wouldn't Marty and the twins get hired?

The winner of the contract was a formality, something done for PR reasons. Even in terms of story-telling in the editing room, Spud getting the nod just seemed like the most compelling way to end the show given everything that we'd seen up to that point. And considering the buzz surrounding the show in the UK, the winner was going to get a lot of publicity, be doing a lot of interviews and so on. That being the case, Spud was the logical choice because he's the best talker, draws the most attention to himself, etc.

So if you're pissed off and hurling obscenities because your favorite didn't win, please cease your bitching, have some decaf coffee and take a deep breath. Not winning this reality show doesn't mean we're never going to see them again. In fact, I'd bet money that all four of them will be on the main roster by the end of 2013 at the latest.

And the next to leave will be... 
All right, people, I know you want to say it. I know it's building even as I speak. I know you're fighting the urge not to, so just get it over with already. Let me hear it! All together now! On three... 1...... 2...... 3......

"Bro-ken re-cord! *clapclapclapclapclap* Bro-ken re-cord! *clapclapclapclapclap*"

There. Now that you've got that out of your system, please sit back down and be quiet while I talk about the Knockouts again.

In my Rise and Fall and Rise of the Knockout Division series, I discussed the process by which many of the current generation of Knockouts have been gradually phased out under the Prichard regime over the last year or so. This process has whittled the Knockout roster down to seven remaining women, and you'd think that would have been taking it far enough, but I have a nagging suspicion that Prichard isn't quite done just yet. This is just an educated guess, mind you, but I believe there are two women still in line for the chopping block.

Let me preface this by saying that this has nothing to do with my personal feelings about these women. It's true that I'm not a fan of either of them, but this is nothing more than me looking at the facts. And the fact is, outside of her mini-feuds with Gail Kim and Brooke Tessmacher (which lasted about two months combined), Madison Rayne did essentially nothing in 2012. What's more, she was the only Knockout on the roster not involved in the Genesis battle royal match for the #1 contendership, AND by her own admission, this is the first year she's been with the company that she wasn't booked on the annual UK tour. Things aren't looking too good for Madison right now if you ask me. Prichard might not think she's 100% worthless, but he's obviously nowhere near as high on her as Russo was. He seems to view her as a midcard utility player and not much else. The problem for talents like that is they're easily disposable.

And if Madison is the next in line to be cut, the woman standing right behind her is ODB. ODB is the last remaining Knockout that Prichard seems to have little to no use for. Even after the previous creative regime brought her back, the company appeared to have grown bored with her to a large extant. And aside from screwing around with the often-absent Eric Young, she didn't do a single thing all last year. Prichard seems to think less is more where ODB is concerned -- good for occasional comic relief, but nothing else. The days of her being pushed as a central figure are long gone and under Prichard's direction she's been relegated to "wacky neighbor" status at best.

In fact, it seems as if Prichard has zero plans for her outside of the angle with Eric Young, who, thanks to the success of his Animal Planet show, is only a part-timer these days, which basically makes ODB a part-timer as well. They haven't done anything meaningful with her in ages and, quite frankly, her work (what little we've seen of it) has been uninspired. She looks like she's just going through the motions out there, not trying too hard, just doing enough to get by.

That being the case, is there really much point in her sticking around? Does she really add that much to Eric Young's act when his fishing show is on hiatus that it makes her worth keeping on the payroll? How much longer can she last before company officials throw up their hands and decide that they've milked this character for all it's worth, so maybe they should cut the cord and replace her with someone they can get more use out of?

Don't quote me on this just yet, but I wouldn't expect to see too much more of Madison Rayne and ODB in TNA if I were you. I'm not saying they'll be leaving immediately, but when the day comes that their contracts expire can you honestly tell yourself that you're expecting them to be renewed? I can't. If new female talent is on the way -- and signs do point to that being the case -- these two look like the last ones from the current generation that will be sacrificed to make room for them.

And leads me to...

I've watched for over a year now as one of my favorite aspects of the TNA product has taken a backseat, had its TV time reduced, had its storylines/feuds become increasingly bland and uninteresting as less and less thought was clearly being paid to them, and most disturbingly, saw many notable departures with no one brought in to fill the void. 

And what baffles me so much about that last part is that over the last few years TNA have tried out innumerable independent female talents -- either in dark matches or Gutcheck seminars -- who would have been terrific singings and could have been big stars if given the chance, and for one reason or another, passed on every single one of them. Even now with the women's roster in probably the most stale and depleted state it's ever been in, nothing has been done to rectify this issue.

It seems the pretty unanimous opinion that the Knockout division has done as much as it can with the current limited roster and is in serious need of a new talent infusion, but so far we haven't gotten one. The Blossom Twins may yet earn themselves contracts and Taeler Hendrix may get called up from developmental at some point, but in the meantime we're stuck watching the same women in the same spots rehashing the same tired old feuds over and over and over again.

TNA, surely you understand that your Knockout division needs some TLC, don't you? For a while I was willing to put up with this, but Prichard has just about finished clearing the table of the women he has no use for and NOW it is finally time to fill the hole they left behind. No more excuses, no more dragging your feet, TNA. Now it absolutely MUST be done. And I say this, not because of my admitted mounting frustration with this issue, but because of the turnout of the 1/24/13 Nottingham Gutcheck seminar.

Attending this seminar were three women who, no matter how I look at it, I don't see how TNA can possibly say no to, perhaps three of the brightest female prospects on that side of the globe. Two of them we knew about as they were previously announced. The third was a woman I'd been crossing my fingers for and was a wonderful surprise as I was looking through the pictures from the seminar on Thursday afternoon.

If a sucessor to Awesome Kong exists anywhere in the industry, it's this woman. While I admit Alpha Female isn't really one of my favorites, I'm overlooking that for the moment because of what she brings with her: attention. It was no coincidence that the buzz surrounding the Knockout division cooled off considerably when Awesome Kong left because she was the one who made the division different from every other women's roster out there. You see a 6 ft monster of a woman, built like a brick you-know-what house standing in the middle of a whole bunch of other more traditionally built women and she's going to become a huge focal point of your division almost by default. This is something that's been missing since Kong left and it's a role Alpha Female can fill. She worked a dark match for TNA in the past, so she's been on their radar for a while, and with the Knockout roster so badly needing fresh talent that can make an immediate impact, they'd be hard pressed to find someone better suited for the task right now.

I wasn't very familiar with Shanna prior to hearing about her taking part in the Gutcheck seminar. She was someone I'd heard of a few times mostly from reading about Pro Wrestling EVE, but that's about it. But I've been watching her work since she posted that graphic on her facebook page and the more I see of her the more impressed I am. Very athletic, seems highly skilled, not bad on the mic, looks like a million bucks. Plus, she already has a marketable gimmick, and it seems to be working for her as she's the new face of a chain of gyms in France.

'Portugal's Perfect Athlete' Shanna is a great example of a talent on whom the hardest work has already been done. There's no need to package her for television, or think of a gimmick or a character for her -- she's already done that stuff. All that needs to be done is to put her on TV and let her do her thing. IMO, TNA passing on Shanna would be as bone-headed a move as that time they passed on Jennifer Blake; the difference is in this case there's no ban that prevents them from using her (yeah, still bitter about that one. Thanks a @#$%ing lot, AAA).

But while I consider Shanna the most marketable of this bunch, the unannounced one that came in under the radar is the one that got me the most excited.

'The Dynamite Queen' Nikki Storm, is considered by many to be one of the best all-around female talents in the UK, and if you don't believe that, just ask her. Not only is she great in the ring and deceptively good-looking IMO, but perhaps more importantly, a wonderfully entertaining and engaging heel; her facial expressions alone have made me crack up more than once. It's no secret why she's the top heel in Pro Wrestling Eve and the only woman to hold not one, but TWO pinfall victories over Alpha Female. She's been near the top of my list of women that I want TNA to sign for some time now, but never did I think there was a chance it might happen. Not until I saw her in those pictures of the Nottingham Gutcheck seminar.

Any one of these women could probably bypass developmental completely and go straight to TV. Any one of them could be put in a prominent spot and make an immediate impact IMO. So just imagine if TNA signed all three of them. It's almost surely a pipe dream, but, damn, just imagine it... The Knockout division is so light on talent right now. If they were to sign these three, problem solved.

In the last year alone TNA has lost Winter, Angelina, Sarita and Rosita, and it seems likely that they'll lose Madison and ODB in the not-too-distant future. You can't say there isn't enough space on the women's roster to accommodate Alpha Female, Shanna and Nikki Storm. At this rate there would be more than enough even if the Blossom Twins are on their way as well.

I was crossing my fingers that we might see two of them in the monthly Gutcheck segment when the UK TV taping results came in and was very disappointed to learn that TNA put Gutcheck on hold for the month. Even so, I will be holding out hope that these women will be on the short list of candidates should British Bootcamp get a much-deserved second season.

Talents the caliber of these three women could breath new life into a women's division that, quite frankly, needs resuscitating. Think about it, TNA, please. Really think about it...

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