August 09, 2016

The Jane Cena Monster

A Message for Gail Kim

There's a youtuber I follow named SchlegDaddy who once coined the term, "the John Cena Monster" when discussing WWE superstar John Cena, referring to how Cena and the way he's booked had become harmful to so many other performers in that company due to how untouchable he is, how no one ever seems to get over on him, how other wrestlers are often built up only to be fed to him and then never recover, how he has no more obstacles to overcome because he has become the obstacle for everyone else, etc. This might just remind you of someone because, as my viewers are aware, in recent times, I have begun pointing out a number of similarities between this WWE star and a certain TNA star who I came up with a particular nickname for to illustrate that. Sorry, Gail, but it really does seem quite fitting at this point.

I was going back and forth on whether or not I wanted to write this as I already wrote a similar column a few months back and I didn't want to beat a dead horse. That changed recently when I noticed something that really stood out to me. Several days prior to the time of this writing, while I was streaming my weekly review of IMPACT, the topic of conversation turned to Gail Kim and her seemingly never-ending push. I was urged by several people in the chat room to check out the video on TNA's youtube channel of Gail's match with Madison Rayne from the 7/28/16 edition of IMPACT and read all the comments from fans who, much like myself, had begun to feel a certain amount of resentment toward Gail due to the fact that she is constantly focused on, constantly pushed at the expense of the rest of the Knockout division and has been for nearly a decade now.

Once I finished the stream, I went to the video to look at those comments and to say that what I saw was illuminating would be an understatement. Yes, negativity in a youtube comment section is hardly shocking, but normally you'll get a wide variety of opinions on the topic of any given video. Rarely have I seen so many commenters in complete agreement on something, and here all these people were, united in their universal resentment of Gail Kim below a video of Gail soundly defeating fellow Knockout veteran Madison Rayne to kick off a storyline about her burying beating every member of the Knockout roster on her way to a 6th championship reign, not to mention a Hall of Fame induction.

The really interesting thing is that none of the comments were that unreasonable. All the criticism I read seemed quite fair and valid. I'll admit, I don't read youtube comment sections much anymore because a lot people like to use them as a platform to vent about any little thing that annoys them and often do it just to be assholes, but that was not the impression I got here at all. This wasn't people trolling just for the sake of trolling, this was a lot of true fans feeling genuinely frustrated by the Knockout division being the Gail Kim Show in all but name. Yes, the focus was logically going to be on Gail as she heads into her HoF induction, but seeing as how the focus of the division has been almost exclusively on Gail since the division was launched nearly a decade ago, (minus that period when she returned to WWE) this appears to have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

One week later, I looked at the comments on a video of Gail defeating Allie AND Knockouts champion Sienna from this past Thursday's IMPACT and it was the same story. Nearly unanimous anti-Gail vitriol, comment after comment after comment from fans who felt increasingly unhappy with the current direction of the Knockout division due to the booking of one woman resulting in all the other women getting held back.

Sooner or later, TNA is going to have to deal with this. I know I'm not the only one who has noticed how crowd reactions to Gail Kim have considerably simmered down in the last year or so. There's a growing number of fans out there who are becoming restless with Gail being seated on a pedestal high above every other Knockout in this division and TNA simply ignoring this so they can continue to push her to the moon and beyond until the day she retires isn't going to solve anything. That's just going to make the problem worse, not to mention shoot the division in the foot when Gail finally does walk away and it's left with no one to carry it because the focus was always on a woman who isn't there anymore and management never bothered to properly prepare anyone else to take the lead once she was gone.

A lot of people point to Jade and say that she's clearly the heir apparent to Gail, she's the one who's going to pick up the slack when Gail retires and that may be true. But if so, the treatment of Jade leaves a lot to be desired. She received her first Knockouts title reign earlier this year after IMO not enough build up or momentum to make fans clamor to see it, (if you recall, she was coming off a regrettable run during the summer where the Dollhouse had been getting embarrassed by Gail in handicap matches) then spent her entire run with the belt doing virtually nothing, often not even appearing on the show because the focus was constantly on Gail and then lost it unceremoniously at Slammiversary in a match that Gail somehow got herself inserted into without even having to earn a spot in it, thus ensuring that Jade couldn't even take the spotlight on the night she lost the title either. This is how TNA treats the supposed successor to Gail? By having her constantly in Gail's shadow, even when she's the Knockouts champion?

And this wasn't an isolated incident either. The same exact thing is happening to the current champion as well. Sienna, the new supposed monster heel of the Knockouts, debuted a matter of weeks ago and instead of being booked as a dominant contender who seemed unstoppable as she was quickly rushed into a title program against then-champion Jade, Sienna took her first loss to Gail in a random TV match not long after her debut, thus stalling her momentum before winning the title at Slammiversary. And since becoming champion, Sienna has barely appeared on the show because instead of focusing on the woman who currently holds the Knockouts title, the focus in the division is on Gail and her quest to win the title back!

Keep in mind, Sienna has been a member of the TNA roster for a scant few TV tapings, hasn't even really been established yet and now, rather than management trying to get her over as a viable character and champion in her own right, you can already see the wheels in motion for her to end up as just another obstacle for Gail to overcome on her way to a sixth title reign, because apparently the importance of Sienna's first title reign (and Jade's too for that matter) is insignificant by comparison. The title isn't presented as something important in regards to what it means for Jade or Sienna, only to what it means for Gail even when she's not the champion.

In fact, the Gail Kim push seems so unstoppable that even on the rare occasions when someone actually does score a victory over her, said victories have Gail being protected to such a degree that the other person gains virtually nothing from it and the accomplishment is then quickly undermined, invalidated and ultimately forgotten.

Remember how Rosemary defeated Gail in her debut match? I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't since TNA seem to have done their best to make sure everyone forgets about it. Rosemary only won the match due to interference when Gail was closing in on a victory, her big win was never even mentioned after that and a few months later, it's like it never happened, so any rub Rosemary might have gotten was washed away.

Hell, Sienna has not one, but two recent victories over Gail, both telling the exact same story: Gail is about to get the win, there's no question that she has the match in the bag, then some outside interference happens, allowing Sienna to steal a cheap victory. In both cases, the record books technically say that Sienna beat Gail, but Gail still looks like the uncrowned champion, so did Sienna actually gain anything from either encounter? No. You know why? Because a few weeks later, Sienna AND a partner lost to Gail in a freaking handicap match! The new monster heel of the division, a woman with two prior victories over Gail suddenly can't even beat her with a two-on-one advantage. And just like that, any credibility (*cough*) Sienna might have gained from two stolen wins over Gail instantly evaporates.

In a recent edition of IMPACT, Maria told Gail to -- and I'm quoting her exact words here -- "Let the other Knockouts have a chance and stop being so selfish." And the really crazy thing is that even though Maria was clearly meant to be the heel for saying this, I found myself in complete agreement with her. Both kayfabe-wise and in real life as well because I'm honestly beginning to think that by now, someone in Gail's position really should have gone to the writers and said, "I appreciate the push, but this isn't necessary. I certainly don't need all these wins and you're really damaging the other Knockouts by making me look so untouchable. We should start spreading the wealth before I retire or this division is going to be left in shambles after I'm gone."

But the part that dumfounded me the most when Maria said that wasn't the unintentionally babyface verbiage being delivered by division's biggest heel, but the fact that Gail never actually denied any of it. Maria accused her of being selfish, of never letting the other girls have a chance to shine, and Gail didn't bother saying it wasn't true, she just made some vague proclamation that she respects everyone, which came off as pretty disingenuous in the context of the argument and didn't disprove a single thing Maria said.

Why wouldn't Gail try to point out why Maria was wrong? Maybe because Maria wasn't wrong and deep down, Gail knew it.

Not that this is a totally fair comparison, but upon Kurt Angle's HoF induction, he embarked on a series of matches that, among other things, gave a huge rub to Drew Galloway and Bobby Lashley when they went over on him with both men benefitting a great deal. All I see from Gail as she heads into her own induction is her beating everybody like she so often does and seemingly going out of her way to show that all the other Knockouts aren't on her level. Seriously, what does that accomplish?

And now here we are, on the road to Bound For Glory, with every member of this women's division not named Gail Kim seemingly lined up to keep the Jane Cena monster well fed and the only other Knockouts being showcased in any kind of genuine, meaningful way being Maria and Rosemary who have wisely found character-centric roles that keep them far away from Gail's trusty shovel, (though probably not once the cast comes off in Maria's case) and zero indication that the booking of Jade, Sienna, Allie and the rest is going to change for the better any time soon.

So to TNA, I ask this question(s): What's your plan for the Knockout division long term? What's your plan for when Gail Kim retires? Do you want this women's roster to be able to stay afloat without her? Do you want the newer, younger girls to be able to carry this division when she's gone? If so, don't you think it's time you start taking steps to ensure that this can happen? Because right now, you seem more interested in making sure the Knockout division won't be able to support its own weight when the day comes that Gail leaves. And that day is coming whether you want to admit it or not.

And to Gail Kim, I say this: You certainly deserve to be in the HoF. No other woman can match what you've done in this company and in the Knockout division. But now I ask you to consider what would best benefit this division after you're gone and let the other girls shine once in a while. With the greatest respect, the spotlight can't always be on Gail Kim, and with retirement on the horizon by your own admission and new female stars that need to be built and developed, it really shouldn't be anymore.


No comments: