February 04, 2013
Someone please shove a sock in Taz's mouth
At the time of this writing we're just two weeks into Taz's heel turn and I'm already stuffing tissues in my ears to mop up the blood gushing out of them like a gunshot wound. I don't know whose bright idea it was to turn Taz heel, but I hope that person is kicking themselves now because this has been absolutely painful.
Taz wasn't always a bad announcer. There was a period during his run on WWE Smackdown when you could have arguably called him the best color commentator in the business. But those days are long gone and the Taz we've gotten in TNA has been almost as far removed from being a great announcer as the Aces & 8s are from having an impressive win/loss record.
To be fair, not all the blame can be put on Taz for this. Him and Mike Tenay have just never gelled whatsoever. They've failed to develop any real chemistry even after several years, and frankly, both men seem to work much better with Jeremy Borash than they ever have with each other. This was the main reason why I was so thrilled when Todd Keneley was hired. I don't know why company officials didn't consider Borash an option, but Keneley has done a commendable job acting as a go-between for Tenay and Taz, somewhat alleviating the friction there.
[SIDE NOTE: Can we PLEASE get JB into the announce booth on a permanent basis already? For crying out loud, he should've replaced Tenay years ago!]
For a short time the addition of Todd Keneley to the broadcast team improved the announcing on the show. However, Taz wasn't helping the situation with his constant digs and cracks at Keneley's expense to the point where I started to wonder if Taz had something against him (to Keneley's credit, he's been a good sport about this). I don't know what issue Taz has with the man... Is it hazing? Does he feel threatened because Keneley is actually doing a good job? Does he resent the fact that Keneley was able to make Mike Tenay bearable like Taz himself never managed to do? I don't know, but as annoying as these issues were, they were made all the worse on the fateful night of Bully Ray and Brooke Hogan's wedding when Taz declared that it was "freaking hot in here" and aligned himself with the sinking ship that is the Aces & 8s.
What we've been lead to believe is that this was done to give the Aces & 8s a strong mouthpiece. Apparently whoever thought up that little gem hadn't been listening to Taz's commentary lately because he'd been doing some pretty lousy work in recent times, and now that he's officially playing for the bad guys the problem has only intensified.
Now, rather than making bad jokes, arguing with Tenay and giving Keneley a hard time while calling the show, Taz is making bad jokes, arguing with Tenay, giving Keneley a hard time and preaching about the non-existent dominance of the Aces & 8s instead of calling the show. That's all he seems to do now. And don't even get me started on his borderline offensive comments during the Knockout segments; Jason Blade has already gone over that in detail. But note to the Human Suplex Machine: If I want Jerry Lawler circa 1998, that's what Attitude Era dvds are for.
Literally all I want is for Taz to call the show like a normal wrestling announcer. I really don't think that's asking for too much. He can be a heel if they want him to be, there's nothing wrong with that (hell, Don West's heel commentary was absolutely brilliant). But in order to put this heel turn over he's apparently stopped trying to do the job he's supposed to be out there to do, which leads me to wonder why on earth he's even still in the announce booth at all. If they want him to be a mouthpiece for the Aces & 8s, let him go do that. Let him be their manager and stand at ringside while they lose matches. Why keep him where he is when his new heel character is doing nothing but making the commentary so bad I want to hit the mute button?
If there's one positive in all this it's that the newly minted heel Taz has apparently stopped squealing, "LET THE PIGEONS LOOSE!" like a horny schoolboy every time Velvet Sky gives herself a crotch massage with the middle ring rope, but that's not making this any easier to take. I haven't spoken to or read comments from a single person who thinks this has been a change for the better. After just a couple shows I'm already at a point where I'm doing my best to tune out the announcers when I watch iMPACT, and if that's not a giant glaring neon sign to TNA officials that the Taz heel turn was a bad call, I don't know what is.
Stop fighting it and just reverse the roles
Imagine my surprise and picture my dismay when TNA flew across the pond to film a month of television in England, giving us a very welcome vacation from the Cast Member Zone, the arena that had been singlehandedly putting the canned heat vendor's kids through college for years, and I turned on iMPACT, discovering, to my horror, that they'd apparently given said vendor so much business that he'd opened a UK branch.
Isn't one of the big selling points of taking the show on the road and getting into real arenas with paying fans who are actually into the product that you wouldn't need to use canned heat anymore? And the very idea that it was used to not only mute out the massive pops that Austin Aries and Bobby Roode were greeted with, but to manufacture some artificial crowd reaction for the lamentable pairing of Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez, in a sad and fruitless attempt to convince viewers that Los Stereotypicos were, in fact, NOT dead on arrival as a tag team, is nothing short of ludicrous!
NEWSFLASH, TNA: The fans love Austin Aries. Even if he's a bad guy. Much like the Motor City Machine Guns a few years ago, no matter how heelish he acts, people are still going to cheer for him. You should know this by now. You tried pushing him as a heel once before and he was so popular that you had to turn him face. What made you think it was going to work this time? Admittedly pairing him with Bobby Roode was a nice try and under different circumstances that might have worked to some extent, but when their babyface foils are the most insufferable charisma-challenged duo since... well, the last tag team Hernandez was a part of, it just ain't gonna happen.
So my question to you is this: Why are you fighting it? When your heels are so much more engaging and entertaining that the fans are cheering them on despite their best efforts to act like cheating bastards and booing Chavo when he reaches into his bag of tricks and pulls out his old reliable 'surefire gonna get me a cheap pop no matter what' spot of doing the three amigos and pointing to Eddie up in heaven it's time to concede that this is a battle you can't win.
This leaves you with a dilemma, TNA. Fans are not going to boo the Wet Dream Team like heels in this situation. That would have been an uphill climb under ideal conditions, but if you thought it was going to happen by feuding them with Poor Man's L.A.X. ver. 295735842467 then you might as well throw in your cards right now.
Here's a crazy thought... why don't you stop trying to push through this brick wall and just reverse the roles? Make Chavo and Hernandez the heels. I mean, good grief... when even Bad Influence couldn't get these jokers over, that should have been a tipoff that their babyface run probably wasn't going to work out. Turn Los Stereotypicos heel and allow the fans to do what everyone packed into the Manchester Arena wanted to do, and that's cheer for the mother-humping Wet Dream Team because they're awesome!
Sure, TNA is sorely lacking strong heels at the moment (God knows the Aces & 8s have been a total bust), and turning Aries and Roode certainly wouldn't help matters any, but there are ways to remedy that. There's Crimson, who has made great strides honing his top heel chops in developmental and could be brought back at any time. There's Magnus, who has always been better as a heel outside of the UK tour. They could consider giving recent Gutcheck winner Jay Bradley a shot as an upper-tier baddie. Maybe even AJ Styles, who seems likely to return with some kind of new attitude at some point.
The fact of the matter is we're well into round peg/square hole territory here. Los Stereotypicos aren't working out. The Wet Dream Team are. Just make the adjustments and let people cheer for the bad guys already!
His time for glory is upon us
Speaking as a person who was on the 'Don't call me Brutus' Magnus bandwagon long before that was the cool place to be, it's very gratifying to see this man finally starting to justify the faith Dixie Carter had in him when he was signed. I've long thought Nick Aldis had the potential to be something big for TNA, even in the early days of his run when he was green as hell and surely would've reported to OVW if TNA had been associated with them back then. He's always had the size, look, charisma and mic skills to be a star, and now that he's made the improvements in the ring that needed to be made he looks primed to really break out this year.
If the huge reaction he got at the Manchester Arena wasn't indication enough, Mike Tenay's comment about how many folks see Magnus as a future world champion definitely did not go unnoticed. After the increased exposure he got in 2012, it looks as if TNA are finally poised to get behind the Magdaddy as a singles star, and I for one can't wait to see where he goes from here.
I'm as big a proponent of TNA creating and getting behind their homegrown stars as you're likely to find anywhere and Magnus is one of the brightest prospects they have. They've long been looking for a quote unquote crossover star with mainstream appeal (one that wasn't created by WWE or WCW first) and Magnus has already kind of become that person in the UK with various hosting and acting projects under his belt in addition to wrestling. Presented correctly, Magnus could potentially be for TNA what Michael Bisping is for the UFC: the face of the company in England. And seeing as how the UK is TNA's biggest foreign market, I definitely think there are big things in store for this guy.