April 22, 2013
Will WWE be introducing a TV camera mounted on a silly hat worn by Lillian Garcia now?
Wrestling companies stealing ideas from each other is nothing new. It's been done for years. Hell, TNA have been guilty of this themselves (did anyone think the Feast Or Fired match wasn't a paper thin ripoff of WWE's MITB concept?). But in the last several months, WWE has been even more shameless about this than we're used to seeing.
First they copied TNA's 'Previously on...' intro packages. Then they took Open Fight Night and Championship Thursday, mashed them together and called it Champion's Choice; funnily enough, this lasted a grand total of one episode. Just recently they had Ryback cut a pre-taped promo complete with video footage, explaining all the reasons that lead to him turning face on John Cena (yes, I call it a face turn because that's what the NJ crowd treated it like, goddammit!), and if that wasn't WWE trying to blatantly ape the style of the 'Bully Ray Aces & 8s reveal' videos, then I don't know anything. And, of course, let us not forget the AJ Lee sex scandal storyline last summer that seemed so suspiciously familiar...
Really now, should TNA be flattered or file for copyright infringement?
I find it hilarious that for so long people criticized TNA for trying to be like WWE instead of finding their own identity, and now that they're actually doing that and the roles have been reversed, WWE is somehow getting a pass on this. But that goes back to the double standard so many wrestling pundits hold TNA to that we've railed against countless times.
Can we not just give TNA credit for at least trying to forge their own path for once? Can we not appreciate that they're trying new things and attempting to be innovative? Sure, the "X-Cam" didn't exactly revolutionize the product in its first outing last week, sure, it didn't really capture anything that the camera men couldn't capture just by standing on the ring apron, sure, it seems of little, if any, practical use. But if nothing else it shows that TNA is trying to think outside the box and come up with new concepts. It shows that they're constantly thinking of ways to evolve the product and aren't just content to do the same stuff they've been doing for years like Vince Mcmahon is.
I don't know about anyone else, but I would rather watch a company that tries 100 new concepts with 99 of them failing miserably than a company that is so set in its ways that it never tries anything new except what they see the other company do first.
I still like Gutcheck, but...
It seems to be the popular opinion on TNAsylum right now that the Gutcheck process in its current form is not as effective as it should be, with many wanting it to be scaled down or done away with entirely. While I do understand the criticisms, I must disagree. Maybe it's just because I enjoy watching new talent be introduced and developed that I find the concept so interesting. Also, I follow OVW, so for me these people are not simply vanishing off the map like they are for those who don't.
However, I do agree that Gutcheck has never been perfect. One criticism is that the winners report to developmental and are not debuting on TV fast enough. This I'm fairly lenient on. The product's storylines are planned out months in advance and it's entirely possible that rushing the Gutcheck winners to TV upon signing them would throw a lot of creative monkey wrenches into things. I'm not denying the desire for instant gratification on our part, but isn't management actually figuring out how to best use a talent, packaging them appropriately and coming up with a direction for them BEFORE putting them on national TV a better way to go? You want to give these people the best chance to succeed, so don't just throw them out there randomly. Debut them when you have a spot open and they're the right person at the right time to fill it.
The more pressing concerns IMO are that the people they've brought in for Gutcheck have been largely hit and miss, the judges' arguments often make little to no sense, and can be completely contradictory to their actual decisions.
Now I do like the change of having two contestants battle each other because it accentuates the sink-or-swim mentality of it, but when you start eliminating the contestants who win the matches (them, in several cases, being the more impressive and TV-ready of the two) and have the judges rendering their verdict on the ones who lost, people start to question the validity of the whole thing. If this is done as part of an angle with the intent to bring these people back at a later date with an axe to grind, that's one thing, but in the process you're pretty much abandoning all pretense of Gutcheck being reality-based, which I thought was the whole point of it.
I don't want to see Gutcheck go away. It's a compelling idea (to me, at least) and something unique that sets TNA apart from the competition, but I would like to see some changes made. First of all, I think the time allotted to it is fine. It's not like these segments eat up a ton of TV time; we're talking about a few minutes a month. If they have to devote a little less screen time to Hogan, Sting, and the Aces & 8s in order to give some aspiring independent wrestler a shot, I'm quite happy with that.
Some people would like the whole thing to be done in one segment -- have the match and then have the winner be judged in the ring -- I won't argue against that idea, but I think they do it over two weeks in order to show the judges' deliberation process. When it's done right, this can be very interesting to watch, seeing how the backstage personnel evaluate talent. When it's done poorly, you get things like Al Snow questioning whether Adam Pearce has any mic skills when we just saw Pearce cut the best Gutcheck promo we've seen in a year. TNA need to remember that the fans aren't stupid and can recognize bullshit when they see it, be it storyline dictated or not. I say keep this part the way it is, but go back to the deliberation process being "real" with the contestants getting evaluated for the actual qualities they displayed, not flimsy ones fabricated by the writers that the audience sees right through.
I would cite Joey Ryan's Gutcheck as a good example. While an angle was made out of this, it didn't seem that way at the time. The judges debated whether Ryan's gimmick was right for television, which was a legit concern that made sense. In this case, the segment worked. However, when the judges are wondering whether the 13 year veteran Magno is too green, that's when it loses all credibility.
Next, think more shrewdly about the talent you bring in for this. They don't necessarily have to be TV-ready just yet, but they need to show obvious potential and be impressive enough that the company doesn't get embarrassed for even featuring them like in Kris Lewie's case. IMO, what they should do is look to the Gutcheck challenge competition. They've given the fans the power to vote on which contestant from the seminars gets a shot, but why should only one of them get it? In each bracket, the fans are making their voices heard, saying, "This is the person we want!" Let the ultimate winner of the competition have his or her Gutcheck, but after that, use the next eight Gutcheck segments to try out the winners from all sixteen brackets. Even if they don't work out, at least the fans will have no reason to complain this way because they were the ones who selected this person in the first place.
Next, wins and losses need to matter. Alex Silva gets squashed by a comic relief jobber in Robbie E and walks away with a contract, but Ivelisse Velez defeats Lei'D Tapa in impressive fashion, garnering a lot of fan support, only to get cut in favor of her opponent? How on earth does that make any sense? If you want the audience to take this process seriously it needs to be the winner who faces the judges, even if it's just for show. If you have to vote No on the winner of the match in front of the cameras and vote Yes on the loser behind closed doors backstage, there's nothing wrong with that. It's not like anyone expects them to show up on TV immediately at this point anyway.
Next, if you want to make an angle out of someone not getting a contract, do it in a way that makes sense and preserves the credibility of the process. Joey Ryan doesn't get a contract because his attitude pisses off the judges -- fine. Adam Pearce gets cut because Al Snow thinks he has no mic skills (did Snow not even watch Pearce's promo?) -- that's just dumb.
And finally, stop letting obviously talented people get away. If they lose the match and/or get cut by the judges on TV, don't let that be the end of them. If this person has all the tools to be a star, just quietly give them a contract and put them in OVW. Letting Brian Cage walk away empty-handed was a bone-headed move, as was not signing Ivelisse (assuming that wasn't an angle). Who cares if the judges voted No on television? If this person has potential to be something, then snatch them up for crap's sake!