Sting and Hogan at their peak – Source: The Wrestling Fans Review
The TNA Problem
This is a statement, from our resident Ring of Honor Correspondent Steven Forrester, in which he airs his grievances with TNA Wrestling. We hope you aren’t too offended.
Just to get this out of the way so there’s no confusion: I am not a fan of TNA. I have never been a fan of TNA. I watched it for about a year in 2010 and 2011 but honestly I wasn’t impressed much and when I stopped watching the weekly show, I never went back. On the other hand, I readily recognize that TNA was a great promotion in the mid 2000’s. When guys like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christian Cage and Kurt Angle were having amazing matches on a regular basis. I didn’t watch wrestling then, but I’ve seen a lot of those matches and they really are great. They just happened during my wrestling hiatus.
But I’m also not a TNA hater. I just think it has fundamental problems that stop me wanting to watch. The key problem is is this strange idea that TNA fans have that everything TNA does should get a pass because it’s not WWE. TNA fans seem to be blinded by pure hatred of everything McMahon produced and think that TNA is inherently superior; simply because it isn’t WWE. I think a simpler way to put this is this: I don’t understand what WWE these people are watching.
In my honest opinion, WWE has never been better than in the last two or three years. Attitude Era included. Match quality is off the charts and story lines lead to true character development. Even though a lot of it is old angles being rebooted and changed (something TNA is even more guilty of), WWE in the end of 2013 feels fresh and exciting. With wrestlers like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose and Antonio Cesaro leading the charge, we’ve seen a great number of awesome matches in a short period of time. Hell, even the tag division is showing signs of growth and strength.
Meanwhile, I look over at TNA and it just seems like more of the same and like the company hasn’t grown at all in the two or three years that I haven’t been watching. If anything it’s stagnated and even gotten worse. If the dirt sheets are to be believed, TNA are still performing in front of middling and uninterested crowds and drawing in the same disappointing and mediocre ratings. I always read online that this is because they’re a young company, but even though they’ve gone on the road in the US it just doesn’t seem to have made much difference.
Another problem is the lack of a singular star. As good as AJ Styles is in the ring, he’s been doing the same act for years on end, and even his ‘badass’ character hasn’t set the wrestling world on fire. I’m sorry TNA diehards but he just isn’t in the same league as a John Cena or a CM Punk. Or even a Daniel Bryan. The same goes for other TNA stars. Bully Ray is a great heel and a great character but lets not go crazy, he’s still Bubba Ray Dudley. Kurt Angle is always going to be Kurt Angle, but even he has lost his shine in TNA. Austin Aries is a great talent but TNA doesn’t seem to want to keep him on the top. Chris Sabin looked like he was breaking out into a shining star but surprise surprise, he turned heel. I don’t even know what Samoa Joe is up to these days. But I guess there’s always t-shirt Sting, isn’t there…
Another problem is that TNA is still heavily reliant on huge stables and team vs team angles, as well as always trying to work the audience and play on the fact that wrestling isn’t actually a real sport. Through the time I was watching TNA it was Immortal and Fortune, then it was EV2.0. These days it’s Aces and Eights and the Main Event Mafia (again). It’s always another NWO rehash of some guys who are “taking over” and “running things”. This booking style worked for a while for WCW, but even those guys ran it into the ground and they had a billionaire and a genuine roster of big stars behind them.
But you see, it worked for WCW because no-one in the average wrestling audience in early and mid nineties had ever seen a rogue faction storyline like that in the United States and there was still a degree of kayfabe in effect that hadn’t yet been destroyed in the post steroid trial scandal era, before Vince McMahon finally drove the last nail in the coffin in 1997. But in 2013, we all know what’s going on. What was fresh and exciting in 1997 is passe today.
Conversely WWE has just recently started using stables again. Groups like the Shield, the Wyatt Family and the Authority have cropped up. But unlike with TNA’s Aces and 8s or Main Event Mafia, all three of these groups are small, three members max. There’s no dead wood. They’re all themed and they all have distinct goals. The Shield are a pack of mercenaries, the Wyatts are a cult and the Authority just wants what’s best for business, which seems to be babyfaces being unhappy. This is all happening after years of WWE not having any stables. The Nexus was probably the closest but even then it was mainly Wade Barrett plus entourage, the other members weren’t important at all.
There’s also this hilarious idea out there that TNA are innovative and offer something widely different than WWE. The brutal truth of the matter is that TNA are barely even in the same league as WWE. If WWE are Arsenal or Manchester City, then TNA are surely Crystal Palace. I always find this idea strange because I’m an ROH fan (who I would compare with perhaps Swansea or my own Aston Villa) who genuinely do offer a vastly different product than WWE. TNA on the other hand, offers sub-par WWE styled sports entertainment and then try to fool us all with their mantra of Wrestling Matters. Nonsense, politics matter. Until recently it was whether Hogan liked you. Now it seems to be whether Dixie Carter and Eric Bischoff likes you. Its the same as WWE: politics.
It’s also really funny to look at the “innovative” label and then tune into Impact to see a newly turned Dixie Carter as the heel authority role and AJ Styles as the anti-heroic face. This is of course hot on the heels of Triple H’s ascension to heel Godness and the likes of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. TNA aren’t exactly the most fresh and original promotion out there are they? At one time they definitely were ahead of the curve with the X-Division but they never really capitalized on that and even those matches don’t seem as special today as they did five or six years ago.
It seems all that matters to TNA fans is the fact wrestlers can swear and blade in TNA. When you look at actual match quality over the last few years then honestly TNA doesn’t even come close. Compare the Victory Road Jeff Hardy debacle with Money in the Bank 2011. It’s sad really. TNA shows are riddled with botches and blown opportunities. WWE are just so much more professional than TNA. From presentation to execution.
Thanks for reading,