At the time of this writing only the first four members of the new Main Event Mafia have been revealed, but already I see infinitely more positives in this group than the Aces & 8s faction has yielded in the last thirteen months. The company is being smart with how they're presenting the MEM, but with the A&8s we have a faction that has fallen into the same trap that many other heel stables have been a victim of in TNA over the years. Firstly, the faction is too big with only one or two members having a specific role within the group and the others not doing much more than filling space, as if the only reason they're even there at all is because the writers couldn't think of anything else for them to do (coughKNUXcough).
Secondly, the focus is too narrow -- much like how Immortal was really just a vehicle for Hogan and Bischoff, the A&8s is just a vehicle for Bully Ray, with no one else really getting anything substantial out of it. One of the purposes of any great stable should be to help create new stars; Bully Ray has milked it for everything he can, but have any of the other members taken advantage of this? Not really. Knux is as much a non-entity now as he was a year ago when he was still wearing a mask, Brisco and Bischoff have been reduced to cannon fodder enhancement talent after Brisco's feud with Kurt Angle fizzled out earlier this year (if even Kurt Angle can't get a great performance out of you, there's something seriously wrong), Devon had another interminable TV title reign that went absolutely nowhere and, in hindsight, feels like it was done more to kill the title than anything else.
The only exceptions might be the other two. While Anderson certainly hasn't been pushed through the roof, his association with the group has at least gotten him back on TV, and for him that was a step up. But Anderson was already established long before this group came along, so it's not doing much more than keeping him relevant. It does seem like TNA are trying to make something out of Doc right now, but whether that will actually work or whether he'll crash and burn like Brisco did is anyone's guess. Unfortunately, if that is all that's been accomplished with this group after over a year, that's pretty pathetic, and TNA have no one to blame but themselves for this. They created a faction comprised mostly of rookies whose talent is questionable at best getting pushed way too hard way too soon, scrubs few people (if any) actually care about and past-their-primers who should be in backstage roles at this point; Bully and Anderson seem like the only reasons to watch this faction most of the time. It's almost as if TNA put the group together without realizing that there was no mileage in most of the members until after it was too late to do anything about it.
You'd think management would have learned their lesson with Immortal. When every segment the group appears in is essentially one or two guys running the show or cutting a promo while the other members just stand in the background not doing anything and never get to shine on their own, never get their own feuds or contribute anything of merit, then this faction is just spinning its wheels. Sadly, the few attempts the writers have made to help some of the other members break out have tanked (the fact that Brisco was given multiple victories over Kurt Angle and then went right back to where he was before, getting virtually nothing out of it, speaks volumes), which really goes to show that TNA chose the wrong people when they put this group together in the first place.
The comparisons between Immortal and the A&8s cannot be ignored. In both cases, the faction is really just one or two stars getting most of the spotlight and no one else really benefitting from it at all either because there isn't enough screen time to accommodate them or they simply don't have the tools. But while the A&8s seem a lot like Immortal, TNA has hit a bullseye with this new MEM, a faction that feels a lot like Evolution (in a good way).
Loathe as I am to compliment the WWE on anything these days, Evolution was a very effective faction. It was comprised entirely of people you either cared about or had the potential to care about and there were just enough people in it to make it seem like a huge deal without diluting the membership. You had the veteran mentor/manager figure in Flair, the main eventer/leader in HHH, and the two up-and-comers who were being groomed as main eventers in Orton and Batista, and that was it. Everyone had a role to play, everyone got to talk, no one was overshadowed and everyone got something out of it. Ultimately that faction helped create two new big stars, which is two more than the Aces & 8s have produced.
Call me crazy, but I got the same vibe from the Main Event Mafia last Thursday.
Start at 9:45
After this segment alone, what this group has over the A&8s is impossible to deny: Star power, It factor, the potential to create new stars. You have Sting in the mentor role now that he's been shut out of the title picture, Angle as the main enter/veteran who can still go, Samoa Joe as the powerhouse using this vehicle to re-establish himself as the force he used to be before he was mishandled for years, and finally Magnus, the hot rising star (who has far more to offer than any of the Sons of Anarchy wannabes) being groomed for a top spot in the company. Everyone matters, everyone gets mic time, everyone has a specific role and therefore you can care about all of them. A far cry from the one or two stars and assortment of meat shields that comprise the A&8s.
Simply put, the MEM come off like stars, while the A&8s seem more like, as Hogan so succinctly put it, pussies in leather.
Without getting spoilerish, I hope TNA will stop once the fifth member of the MEM is introduced. That's another person who can both bring star power and fill a unique role in the faction, but if they added anyone else I think it would lose something. They've got a great thing going here, so let's not ruin it by succumbing to the same pitfalls as their heel counterparts, shall we?