March 06, 2013
Give that man a raise
Todd Keneley doesn't get enough credit for the stellar work he's done since he was hired several months ago. It's hard to get a real sense of his contributions with the 3-man team in place and the newly-minted heel Taz continuing to do, well, what he's been doing, but Keneley has truly been a breath of fresh air for a broadcast team that desperately needed one.
Keneley's positive impact (no pun intended) is best showcased on the much-too-rare occasions when the announce team is reduced to two people. Whether he's calling the show with Mike Tenay or preferably Jeremy Borash, Keneley brings an energy and enthusiasm to the broadcast team that has been sorely missing since Don West left it. There's no friction between him and his partner, no arguing, no clashing of styles, just two professionals calling the show like good announcers are supposed to. Plus, he always sounds so excited just to be there as opposed to the far more jaded Tenay and Taz, whose best days as announcers are clearly behind them.
Let's be honest, for all his admittedly impressive wrestling knowledge, Mike Tenay left to his own devices without a more energetic partner to help him sounds bored out of his mind, like he's just announcing the show out of habit, not because he really wants to. That energy and excitability was something Don West always brought which, in turn, brought out those same qualities in Tenay, and it's been missing for a long time now, the loss of which only being exacerbated by the complete lack of chemistry between Tenay and his usual partner.
Taz certainly hasn't helped the situation, especially recently, with much of his post-heel turn commentary being so painful to listen to that I often wonder if he's trying to get himself fired. He doesn't make good points, doesn't do his homework, doesn't get the talent over, sometimes even forgets the names of the wrestlers, and worse, gives Keneley a hard time seemingly for no other reason than because Keneley is actually doing what he's supposed to be doing.
There was a segment on the recent UK tour during the 6-person tag match featuring the British Bootcamp contestants where Taz utterly embarrassed himself to the point where I really wanted someone backstage to just call an audible and kick him out right then and there. His inability to get Marty Scurll's name right was facepalm-worthy all on its own, but on top of that there were his baffling criticisms of the Bootcamp talent for being "green as gooseshit" (his exact words. Stay classy, Taz) despite the fact that all three have years more experience than Jessie Godderz, who Taz seemed to think was practically a veteran compared to them for reasons unknown, AND his unwillingness to just pick a side and stick with it being on full display with him heeling the Blossom Twins one minute and cheering them on the next. Seriously, what is this guy doing?
Is it any wonder why Todd Keneley was hired? Mike Tenay had no hope of dealing with this stuff on his own.
We've now heard Keneley work one-on-one with JB and (albeit briefly) Tenay, and both times, the announcing was leaps and bounds better than it was under the direction of the former team of Tenay and Taz. He's a lot like Don West was in the sense that he just seems to click with the rest of the broadcast team whereas Taz never really has. Keneley has a natural chemistry with the others, and most importantly, he makes Tenay better in the same way that Taz makes Tenay worse.
I still wish the permanent announce team was Keneley & JB, but until that day comes, Todd Keneley is pretty much the only reason for me to not watch iMPACT Wrestling with the sound muted on my TV.
The Gutcheck contestant to get the contract should be...
Last week's Gutcheck match saw Ivelisse Velez competing against Lei'D Tapa for a TNA contract. In short, while neither woman would be my first choice, I thought both did well for themselves considering their respective skill levels. That said, I didn't see much reason for debate following the match, but more than a few people have been saying that the company should sign both of them. When the Gutcheck concept was changed to two independent wrestlers battling for a contract against each other it was inevitable that this would come up. However, I just don't agree with those people in this case.
Frankly, I think Velez is the clear favorite here. She seemed more polished and confident in all areas, from wrestling, to interview skills, to general aesthetics. Tapa by comparison wasn't necessarily bad, she just wasn't as good. Though her wrestling was more or less acceptable, it was clear how green she still is. Also I found her mannerisms kind of off-putting with all the yelling just seeming strange and unnatural. Perhaps it was a tribute to her uncle, the Barbarian, but paying tribute isn't always a good thing if it gets in the way of what you should be doing.
After rewatching this segment several times, what jumped out at me the most were the characters, specifically how they came across in the interviews. Velez talked about having an MMA background and then wrestled accordingly, using lots of submission moves while the announcers talked about her being into MMA. On the other hand, Tapa got really emotional talking about her heritage and what the opportunity meant to her, trying to tug on the viewers' heartstrings, then went out and wrestled like a heel, yelling and flailing around like a crazy woman.
I looked at Velez and saw the woman from the interview, but looked at Tapa and saw a completely different person from the interview. The conclusion being that Velez knows what her character is and what kind of performer she is, while Tapa is still figuring all that stuff out and hasn't decided what her own persona should be just yet (I don't necessarily think it's the one she showed in this match). I'm not exactly sure what she was going for, but it just didn't work for me.
Plenty of people have been making a case for TNA signing both women, saying that Velez could start on the main roster and Tapa could go to OVW. Unfortunately, that's not how this works. If we're giving out two contracts now, the first thing we should do is rewind the clock a couple months and give one to Brian Cage. But the rules of Gutcheck say that only one person has a chance to earn a contract, and TNA don't need another developmental girl right now, they need someone who's TV-ready. Velez fits that bill better than Tapa does.
If ever there comes a time when they should consider giving both Gutcheck contestants contracts, it should be when both wrestlers are absolute slam dunks, like 'these talents are better than a lot of the people already on the roster and letting either of them get away would be stupid.' I simply didn't get that impression in this case (I got it with Bradley/Cage, but that's beside the point).
Maybe it comes down to personal preference, but I just didn't view Tapa as someone TNA needed (yet). I wonder if the Knockout division didn't need a new talent infusion as badly as it did, people might not be quite so eager for her to get signed. I'd like to see her get more experience and a better grasp of what her character should be before that happens. Just because the company is hard up for new Knockouts doesn't mean they should sign every woman who walks through the door when there are much better candidates out there who should be getting priority. Tapa ought to get another look in the future, but if her getting a contract at this time means there's less of a chance of TNA giving an opportunity to someone like Shanna, Nikki Storm or Athena, that would be a bad move.