We’ve been hearing the rumors from TNA for almost a month. When Impact Wrestling debuted on Destination America, we were going to see some changes. Impact Wrestling was going to hit the reset button, and try to become a true alternative to WWE, rather than just a lite version of genre’s top dog.
It should be an effective strategy. It’s what started to set TNA apart in the mid-2000’s, before the company took some steps back with Hulk Hogan in charge of much of the product. Hogan was doing his best, but his style felt too much like WWE, and TNA doesn’t have the resources to be WWE, so it morphed into what it did; it looked like a wrestling company with far less money trying its best to impersonate a billion-dollar public company.
TNA’s debut on Destination America was a hit. The show started with a giant brawl that began on the sidewalk of the Manhattan Center and ended inside the building. The crowd was hot from the start, and stayed electric all night. The crowd in New York City, although a fraction of the size, made more noise on Wednesday night for TNA than the Corpus Christi crowd for Raw this past Monday.
The presentation was fresh. There was a new logo, a new play-by-play announcer – former WWE voice Josh Matthews was the new voice – and a new direction. There was an old-school feel to the show. The ring was lit, while the rest of the arena was darkened. There were cameras everywhere, with multiple cuts to what appeared to be some sort of security camera in the back, and the announce team mentioned on numerous occasions that anything that happened during the show, the audience would be able to see.
It’s reality television meets pro wrestling. We can debate whether or not it will work, but at least it’s an effort to differentiate itself from WWE. The hidden-camera element gave a purpose for the cameras being in the backstage area. It’s a much different feel than WWE’s backstage pre-tapes, where the camera is clearly there, and wrestlers and personalities are pretending like it’s not.
TNA dropped the ECW’ish feel the product had in its dying days at Spike TV. This thin-veiled “us versus the world” mentality, where promos seemed to veer off course and always mention a mythical war with WWE. TNA needs to focus on itself. Who cares what WWE is doing. Usually I’m for reality, and ignoring WWE isn’t very real, but TNA needs to keep the focus on TNA.
The show being in a smaller venue in New York, and featuring more adult-themed storylines and action is going to draw comparison to ECW from some, but TNA seemed to stop fanning those flames, which is much different than what it was doing this past summer. To me, this broadcast felt much more like an Impact episode from 2006, which is a good direction to be headed.
The big hook came in the World Title main event, where Bobby Lashley retained the championship over Bobby Roode. But the bigger news was the formation of a new heel stable, after Samoa Joe, Low Ki. and Eric Young all turned heel to end the show, helping Lashley win the World Title. MVP seems to be the mastermind, but we’ll learn more in the weeks to come. I liked that the announce team hit on Young and Roode’s issues from the past, going all the way back to Team Canada. TNA tries its best to have continuity, and remembers its past, where WWE prefers to gloss over it.
The hype for the World Title match was great. Video packages and multiple graphics were scattered throughout the show, and TNA made it clear that the TNA World Hvt. Title is a big deal, and this was a big match. The booking might be some improvement, but this was also just one show, and it was written with the hope of generating some buzz. That’s what the angle at the end of the show was for. It’s there in an attempt to hook viewers into coming back next week. The new presentation was great, and while there was some good and bad mixed together in the booking, it was a good start to the Destination America era for TNA.
1) Kurt Angle returned to ring action to open the show, resigning as the authority figure just after reinstating himself to the active roster. Angle’s return to the ring would normally be something left for pay-per-view, but that model has become more of an albatross for TNA at this point. They’re a television company. They will run a few like pay-per-views this year, according to Dixie Carter, but TNA’s focus is its television rights. That’s where they are making their money, and that’s the priority. You can argue that they should have advertised Angle’s return, instead of having it come from nowhere, but this idea that it should be kept for pay-per-view is passe, at least in TNA.
2) You can’t debate the TNA in-ring style is entertaining. It’s incredibly fast-paced, which probably could afford to slow down at times, but it’s engaging. James Storm and Abyss retaining the TNA Tag Team Titles over The Wolves had the crowd on fire. Most of the matches did, to be honest. It’s a mostly adult, New York crowd, and it lived up to its reputation.
3) This should be cleaned up once TNA goes to taped shows next week, but the bleeping of the crowd’s cheers made it difficult to understand some of the promos, in particular MVP’s early in the show. The in-ring style is much different than WWE’s, and helps separate the product.
4) Awesome Kong returned to TNA following the Knockouts Battle Royal, facing off with Havok in the middle of the ring before Havok walked away. The crowd was on fire for her return, and depending on the build, Havok-Kong could easily be an Impact Wrestling main event. It’s also something else that would differentiate the TNA product from WWE.
5) The X-Division Title match, while exciting and filled with action, had lackluster promotion behind it. The story wasn’t about Aries or Low Ki, and why the audience should root for one over the other. Rather, the message was simply “these little guys fly around and do cool moves.” That’s nice, but I’d rather see a build around why the match was important. Who should the audience want to win?
1) Kurt Angle def. MVP in a street fight
2) James Storm & Abyss def. The Wolves to retain the TNA Tag Titles
3) Austin Aries def. Low Ki to win the TNA X-Division Title
4) Taryn Terrell won a Battle Royal to retain the TNA Knockouts Title
5) Bobby Lashley def. Bobby Roode to win the TNA World Hvt. Title
It was a good start. Comparing this to a regular episode of Raw, it’s clear that two hours is much better for a pro wrestling show than three. TNA’s new presentation felt new, which was good. The booking went back to some old bad habits at times, but it’s hard to judge the writing based on just one week.