August 27, 2013
Where does Chris Sabin go now?
With his world title reign now concluded, Chris Sabin is seemingly left without a direction. The video package on last week's impact teased some kind of change for him, but the question remains what that is. I have some thoughts on this, and to explain let's first rewind the clock a few weeks and examine the poopoo joke misfire again.
Yeah, the joke didn't work, I won't deny that. But we've seen this type of thing from Sabin in the past and it did work back then. I recall numerous segments in the days of the MCMG where Sabin would make a corny joke or quip that on its own wasn't very funny, but was then followed by Alex Shelley either adding something to it that made it work or pointing out the lameness of the joke which then allowed Sabin to poke fun at himself for making it, thus generating the laughs he was going for.
Ex. "...you ARE Suicide!" *punches Daniels with a microphone* "He already has a mic." "I just wanted to hit him."
This was one of the things that made the MCMG so great. It wasn't just their chemistry in the ring, but the way they complimented each other's personalities so beautifully. Now Shelley's gone and it seems like Sabin may not have completely shifted out of that mode yet. Contrary to what some people say about him, Chris Sabin does have personality, he does have charisma; it just sometimes takes a little coaxing and/or the right situation to get it out of him. Back in the day, working with Alex Shelley helped him do that and I think it would benefit him to have something or someone like that again.
Chris Sabin's personality tends to shine best when he has someone to bounce off of who understands his particular brand of humor and plays along with it. Revisiting that dynamic I think would help him reestablish himself in whatever his next role on iMPACT is.
IMHO, I think Sabin would be prime candidate to be paired with a Knockout. Of course, most people would probably point to real life girlfriend Velvet Sky for this -- she's done well in comedy segments before, they even have corresponding knee issues -- on paper it would seem like the obvious way to go. However, with the main attraction of Velvet being her sex appeal, pairing her up with a male star (thus making her appear unavailable) might take away from that. I think it would work better if they were heels, but the writers seem unwilling to turn Velvet heel at this point, which is a shame as I think she was much better that way.
No, if Sabin is to remain a babyface, I think teaming him with a new female talent would be a nice way to repackage him (as well as get a new Knockout on the screen). Personally, I think Leva Bates or Courtney Rush would be a good fit with him, but that's just me.
And just call me the king of segues because this leads right into my next topic...
Why so few male/female star pairings?
I understand wanting the Knockouts to be different from the WWE Divas, wanting them to be more independent, more focused on their wrestling or whatever the case may be. But it seems like there is an aspect of having female wrestlers on the show that has been largely ignored by TNA in the last few years. Why are there so few pairings of Knockouts with male stars, either in relationship storylines or otherwise?
Yes, WWE has overplayed the AJ Lee psycho-slut heel character to the point of it becoming comical, but nevertheless, Lee got herself extremely over through her interactions with various male stars. Over the years this has proven to be a very effective formula with the right talents, leaving me to wonder why this avenue has not been explored more by TNA.
Just look at what we saw last Thursday. The long-absent Brooke Tessmacher was reintroduced as Bully Ray's new love interest. In one segment the writers were able to make Tessmacher relevant again in a way she probably wouldn't have been had she simply returned to the Knockout division as a wrestler. They paired her with a male star and the top heel in the company, instantly making her a really big deal. It remains to be seen if this pairing will click, but it has placed Tessmacher in a high profile spot which could be hugely beneficial to her.
I don't understand why TNA haven't tried this more often when we've seen in the past how it can lead to some entertaining pairings and create new story possibilities. Granted, it doesn't work in every case (Tara/Jessie Godderz was a bust), but that holds true with every type of story. Even the Eric Young/ODB pairing (which wasn't to my taste by a long shot admittedly) fans seemed to get a kick out of until Eric's unavailability due to his outside projects put the kibosh on it.
Maybe it's just me, but I'd like to see the writers experiment more with this type of stuff. At the very least it's something new you can do with some of the women and anything involving the Knockouts that's new is a very good thing right now.
What happened to the undercard?
Why does it seem like nothing is going on with the undercard at all? We usually see it happen at this time of year with the BFG Series and main event angle taking a lot of attention away from other things, but not to this extent. Currently it's as if every undercard champion on the roster doesn't have single interesting thing going for them. And that's a damn shame because they're all perfectly fine champions in their own right.
GunStorm are a new, fresh pairing that seem to be gelling well, Mickie James is doing some of her best character work in years since her heel turn and the writers have created a fascinating new character with Manik that they seem to want to build the X-division around now. Unfortunately, they're all stalling because none of them have anything to do.
The Knockout roster has been depleted down to practically no one with nearly every fresh feud either done to death or not currently an option, leaving very little for Mickie to sink her teeth into. While the writers seem to be having fun with Manik's character, it doesn't look like they had much of a plan for him post title win. And with Los Stereotypicos seeming to have been finally written off as a failed experiment and the dissolution of the Wet Dream Team (I'm crying bitter tears over that one), GunStorm have been quickly reduced to place-fillers simply keeping the tag belts warm and having meaningless enhancement matches with the Bromance to kill time, thus necessitating a possible feud with EGO just so they'd have something to do, even though EGO is already preoccupied with the BFG Series.
I understand that TNA is currently in house cleaning mode, cutting the fat out of the roster, after which we'll hopefully see an influx of new talent, but good grief, can't they speed it up a little? Bound For Glory isn't far off and when it comes around I'd really like to see some well developed undercard matches on the show so it doesn't have to rely solely on the stale-as-hell-no-one-cares-anymore-just-freaking-end-it-already Aces & 8s angle to put asses in the seats.
Contract negotiations with AJ Styles are ongoing. AJ supposedly wants more money. TNA reportedly want to keep him as cheaply as possible. Quite frankly, a TNA without AJ Styles is a concept I can't fully get my head around, and FTR, I do think they'll ultimately come to some kind of agreement. But for a minute, let's just imagine, what if...
AJ Styles has been in TNA longer than any wrestler not named James Storm. He's the guy most fans think of when they hear, those "TNA!" chants. And yet, one could argue whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. AJ has been one of the company's top homegrown stars for years and in a case like the recent Kurt Angle dilemma, they know they always have him to rely on in a pinch. But much like with some other wrestlers I could mention, but won't because we all know who they are, there comes a point when relying on him so much ceases to be a necessity and to some extent becomes a crutch that leaning on too heavily stops the company from taking a chance on anyone else.
The rise of many great WWF stars in the Attitude Era might not have happened had Vince McMahon not been forced to create them when Bret Hart left the company. Daniel Bryan would almost certainly not be getting the push he's receiving today if John Cena wasn't out with an injury. Not to compare the situations or anything, and I'm not saying that losing AJ Styles wouldn't hurt a lot... but I'm not saying it would necessarily be the end of the world either.
Looking at everything AJ has done in TNA since its inception, what does he have left to do? He's been in top matches, had every kind of feud imaginable, been the world champion, main evented Bound For Glory. Even if all this time and effort put into his current "redemption" angle plays out the way it looks like it will with him headlining BFG and winning the world title from Bully Ray, it won't be breaking any new ground for him, not really. As much as the TNA faithful might love AJ, he may have risen as high as he's going to at this point, whereas there are others who could potentially rise higher if given the chance.
And look, God bless the man. I'm a fan of his and always will be. He's certainly busted his ass to earn that fatter paycheck. But with TNA having to be much smarter about their financial bottom line than they have in the past, they have to consider if he's really worth it. Just like TNA recently re-signed Magnus to a better deal because they know a guy like him is going to bring in enough money in the future to justify it, if they're going to shell out more to keep AJ on the payroll, it has to be because they think that decision will make financial sense as well.
We don't know what kind of money AJ Styles draws. We don't know how much merchandise he moves or how many tickets he sells. Only TNA management know this, and these are all things they're going to have to consider now. And if they determine that the deal AJ wants is going to cost them more money than he's going to make them... well, they have to do what makes the best business sense. They can't afford not to anymore.
As great as he is, AJ Styles has always felt like more of a sentimental favorite than a top draw IMO. You can see it in the way they've presented him over the years. Even when he was the world champion he never really got the same treatment someone like Sting did in that position. And I am in no way suggesting that the Phenomenal One is not a draw, but is he the kind of draw you need a top star to be when you're on the road, expenses are high and you don't have that sound stage at Universal Studios to fall back on anymore? Beats me. Again, only TNA have that information. But it's certainly debatable.
I know I'm going to get a ton of heat for saying this, but if AJ Styles was as big a star as some say, if he was the guy that was going to help the company reach that next plateau, it would've happened by now. Don't misunderstand, AJ is incredibly important to TNA, he was a huge component in helping them get to where they are; I'm just questioning if he's the one that can help them get to where they want to go next. If the answer is yes, TNA will do what they have to do to keep him. If the answer is no, then they'll have a tough decision to make and might be forced to take a chance on someone new, which wouldn't necessarily be the worst thing that could happen.
For example, suppose the push of AJ up to BFG and probable subsequent world title reign prevented James Storm from getting that main event run he deserves or further delay TNA management fully pulling the trigger on Magnus, a guy a lot of fans want to see them really get behind sooner than later. I'm not saying Magnus is 100% ready to be the potential face of the company (if not, he's pretty close), but hypothetically this is what we'd be looking at. And it's possible that both those men are talents that might draw more money as a top star in the long run if given the chance.
On the other side of the coin, what if talks with AJ broke down and he left the company? What if this forced the writers to change directions and BFG became the crowning moment for Storm or Magnus instead? Would that be such a bad thing? That would be a career-making experience for either of them -- one that, quite frankly, AJ Styles has already had.
Plus, we've been lead to believe that TNA could hire 4-5 new talents with the money Styles is asking for. Suppose they took the money that his leaving freed up and used it to sign Rubix, Brian Cage, the American Wolves and Ivelisse Velez -- all people who could help the undercard divisions a great deal right now. We wouldn't exactly be walking away with nothing in that situation, you know. That sounds like a pretty good deal actually.
I know it's a tough pill to swallow for many of us, but the financial realities TNA are facing now are harsher than they used to be. If AJ wants to make 'top star' money, then he really has to be that guy. If he is, then TNA can afford to pay him like one because he'll be worth the investment. If he's not, then they can't afford him and he'll either have to settle for less or they may have to cut the chord and let him go.
And I'm not saying I would want that to happen. I'm just saying that if AJ Styles were to leave TNA, it might not be quite as bad as some people think. There could be a potential silver lining there. You just have to look hard enough to see it.