Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Return of Crash TV

Vince Russo has returned to wrestling, bringing back a formula he popularized during the late 90's wrestling boom, Crash TV. Under the watchful eye of a supervisor like Vince McMahon, Russo thrived.

However his exploits since have led many to wonder exactly how much of the success of the Attitude Era can be attributed to Russo. The more power and control given to Russo without someone like McMahon to keep him in check usually meant more mind-numbing garbage for wrestling viewers to struggle through. So the question I pose is, how much "Impact" can TNA have with Vince Russo in charge?

****Warning: Spoilers Ahead****
It should have been the greatest night in TNA history up to this point. TNA was about to go prime time, and this was no reference to Elix Skipper. After four long years, this was the opportunity these guys had been waiting for. TNA was no stranger to new audiences. After making moves from Nashville to Orlando, Pay Per View to Fox Sports Net, and Fox Sports Net to Spike TV, TNA has had to reestablish their show for different audiences over and over again.

For this reason alone there was great reason to have faith in the product TNA would provide on this night, but TNA had an ace up their proverbial sleeve. In addition to their strong core of talent they had built over the past four years, they had just procured one of the most valuable talents in the wrestling business from their main competitor. TNA had signed a multi-time former world champion and olympic gold medalist, Kurt Angle, and on this night, he would make his in-ring debut.

The show begins with several of TNA's hottest home-grown commodities. LAX, AMW, and Samoa Joe highlight the beginning of the broadcast. Joe, who has been undefeated for 18 months may not look resemble the prototype of what the future of this business has been believed to be in the past, but he certainly has made a connection with fans.

Based on their styles, he is the perfect opponent for Kurt Angle. TNA recognizes this, but rather than create a slow build that ends with big money, they give it a little over a month to develop, and throw it on the Genesis Pay-Per-View, referring to it as the "Dream Match of the Decade."

It is hard to argue that Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle is one of the most highly anticipated matches of the year in either promotion. It may be the most highly anticipated match in TNA history. Still, this decade has presented such highly anticipated matches as NCAA Champion Brock Lesnar vs. Olympic Champion Kurt Angle, Best of the 90's Shawn Michaels vs. Best of the New Milennium Kurt Angle, as well as Hogan vs. The Rock and Hogan vs. Shawn Michaels.

This is not to make an argument that TNA should reference the competition (although they have proven time and time again that they love doing so) or that they shouldn't pull out all the stops to put their own product over, but still, whether casual fan or smart mark, the idea that this is the "Dream Match of the Decade" seems a bit contrived, especially with rumors of a Hogan/Austin match surfacing every so often. In reality, it's not the dream match of the decade. Angle himself has been in two bigger in the last 5 years.

In the meantime Kevin Nash is in the bathroom with Austin Starr and Alex Shelley. We later find out that Nash is naked, as he does his most tiresome promo since the dying days of WCW. Unfunny and uninteresting.

At the end of the show Nash namedrops Shawn Michaels in his promo. If only this was the only reference to HBK on the show. As Kazarian is in the process of cutting a promo about himself, Matt Bentley, and Johnny Devine, we get a very confusing TNA-tron for the Voodoo Kin Mafia, which I wrongly assume will be the name of the movement Kazarian is referring to.

Instead, it turns out to be BG James and Kip James, who are "back in black" after quitting a week earlier. It seems they are spinning their wheels as new shirts and bandanas, and a really hideous dye job to Kip's hair don't appear to be the answers to their struggling careers. It's obvious where this is going, as it doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that VKM are Vince's initials. Wrestling is famous for these types of ribs. Virgil, Ted Dibiase's slave shares his gimmick name with American Dream Dusty Rhodes' real name. Later when he moves to WCW, he is renamed Vincent. They spit the names Paul Levesque, Michael Hickenbottom, and Vince McMahon in an awkwardly forced attempt to be controversial.

Let me bring some war to Brian James Armstrong and Monty Sopp. If you are going to talk about Degeneration X, talk about their history in correct terms. Degeneration X was created while The Roadie was attempting to live off the fact that it was he who really sang, "With My Baby Tonight" and while Billy Gunn was managed by the Honky Tonk Man and billed as Rockabilly. Both men should have probably been released, but it was decided to throw them together. I give them both a lot of credit for making something out of nothing.

However, I give Vince McMahon more credit. Later, as singles wrestlers Vince again tried to make something out of nothing by pushing them both, even going so far as making Gunn a King of the Ring winner. However, his sheer athleticism which was always pushed by Jim Ross would never allow him to break through to become a bigger superstar. He remained on the WWE roster longer than most, and was repackaged all the way from a Smokin Gunn to being "The One."

At one point his theme music said he was an Ass Man, but he proved he could be even gayer with tag partner Chuck. What does he have for his long and moderately successful WWE run? A lot of bitterness. The New Age Outlaws were able to get over in WWE, and due to Shawn Michaels back injury and a returning X-Pac, they were able to get a run in Degeneration X. With a few catchy phrases and the ability to leech off of something that the fans already supported, they had a great run.

In TNA under a multitude of names, gimmicks, and storylines, they have not been able to get over. That my friends, is no fault of Vince McMahon, Paul Levesque, or Michael Hickenbottom. The angle seems amatuerish, and the unhealthy obsession of the Voodoo Kin Mafia on their more successful counterparts up in Stamford makes the whole TNA product look second rate.

Christian Cage and Rhino attempt to save the show with a fantastic, albiet overbooked, cage match. Bolt Cutters, Strait Jackets, and Chairs, Oh My! They use a fairly standard finish, used by Snuka/Muraco and Austin/McMahon. Still, it looked great. These guys are what's right about TNA right now, but the problem is, they are WWE midcarders. Don't get me wrong, I like them both. I am a huge Christian fan. Still, no matter how much I wished for him to be a World Champion over the years, when he finally got his chance, the fans lamed out and the reign went flat.

Styles, Daniels, and Sabin wrestle next. Daniels wins the X title by pinning Sabin while AJ is outside dealing with Christian Cage, who by all means shouldn't be able to even walk. Russo thinks the best thing for the X Division is turning Sabin and Styles heel apparantely. He also is fond of jobbing out Sabin.

We then go to some remote location where LAX is ready to burn the flag. They hand the blow torch to Petey, which I love, because it seemingly is them wanting to commit the dirtiest of deeds, but pass the actual responsibility off to Williams. Williams then goes on to give one of the lamest speeches I have ever heard, proving he is no Patrick Henry. Hell, he's not even "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan. It will always be a concern to me what would have happened had Williams not been handed the blow torch.

Would he have had his opportunity to go all Susan Powter and stop the madness? LAX gives him the beatdown. Then, lacking any true emotion, and appearing pre-taped, Tenay gives us a monologue that was better rehearsed than most plays I have seen.

I guess you can't spell Tenay without TNA, but you should be able to find two asses to fill seats for a national primetime broadcast who are better than Tenay and West. Tenay has long been an IWC favorite because he knows the names of moves and recognizes things that have Mexican and Japanese origin, but Tenay is incapable of generating the proper amount of emotion to get anything over.

One can assume that Tenay's boring demeanor is the reason for the hiring of Don West, who can best be described as being constantly on a bender. Stop screaming at me you big fat oaf. You almost make me miss Mark Madden. Ok, that was a little harsh. What would be wrong with having Cornette and Scott Hudson in the booth. At least with them we might be able to get past the Tony Schavonie "This is the most important night in wrestling history" schpiel that Tenay seemingly picked up and passed along to West. Tenay is wrestling's smartest dose of dramamine, and West is a caffiene-infused idiot. Those who thought the two would make a great pair were sadly mistaken.

West is so idiotic, you might have thought he was booking this garbage. No, that honor is all Russo's. Number one contender Abyss vs. the debuting Kurt Angle. Some would think you have to give them props for actually giving us a finish. The finish? Put the debuting Angle over the number one contender.

Yeah Yeah, I know, it's Kurt F'N Angle. Regardless, Abyss needs to be built as a serious contender to the World Heavyweight title to help sell this pay per view on Sunday, and it's hard to believe it when he's losing on Thursday night. He didn't just lose even. He tapped out.

Ah, but wait, we still got Joe vs. Angle to anticipate, right? Wrong. We get it right here on free tv, three nights before the PPV. Joe loses credibility by teaming with Abyss to handle an already beaten and tired Kurt Angle. This is obviously to set up Sting taking out Abyss, but still... Sting chases off Abyss, as Joe hooks submission moves on a lifeless angle. Backstage, in one of the most assinine moments I have ever seen, Sting is now hanging upside down in some sort of cartoon bear trap while Abyss is gently hitting him with a baseball bat. Wow, craptastic.

On to Genesis:

Before the PPV, Robert Roode loses to Eric Young. Pre-Russo, they were going in the right direction. He was a hot free agent, with various managers courting him, a throwback to my favorite wrestler ever, "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Lance Storm had his fair share to say about TNA's shoddy booking on his website in reference to this Roode angle. He ends up choosing Traci Brooks, and since has basically become a jobber. He now has dissention with Brooks. Who cares? Roode deserves better.

VKM squashes the newly repackaged New Movement. Well, that was a waste... They use HBK and Triple H's moves. Well, whoopdee crap. This angle is horrible, and can't possibly go anywhere that gives VKM or TNA for that matter the upper hand. For those who think Vince, DX, or WWE should acknowledge this on their shows, you are crazy. WWE would generate twice the audience TNA already has for them if a third of their casual audience flipped the channel because someone chose to acknowledge them.

DX has bigger fish to fry in the form of Edge and Orton. They have no reason to worry about VKM. It would be the equivalent of being 30 and hearing that some dude you went to high school with was talking shit because you stole his girlfriend 15 years ago. Just the mere fact that DX blows it off makes them look big time compared to VKM.

Later that night, Christian Cage defeats AJ Styles, and Styles continues his heel turn. Didn't Russo attempt this with Styles last time he was there, and didn't it fail? Didn't Russo also turn Goldberg for the sake of turning Goldberg? AJ's style won't work for a heel wrestler, and I don't see them toning him down any. Him and Daniels are more interesting as rivals than enemies.

Russo is grasping at straws to present the type of product he is used to, which is face vs. heel. That will involve throwing a lot of shit at the wall til something sticks, and that could involve a lot of failed heel and face turns that seemingly make no sense.

LAX defeats AMW, but it's all for not. AMW could be tag champs, but not LAX. Cornette comes out and strips them for attempting to burn the flag and beating up Petey Williams. If they don't hand over the belts, they will be fired. If wrestling were real, LAX would say F U to TNA and take the belts up north and lay them at Vince McMahon's feet. Normally this wouldn't matter, but this is coming from a company who loves worked shoots and loves referring to the WWE constantly.

Abyss defeats Sting via DQ, but becomes TNA champion. This is such a lackluster way for someone who has been with TNA for so long and has been so deserving to win the title. This is worse than Kane winning the belt and losing it the next day. I understand that this is a TNA rule, but no one will accept a champion that wins the title under these circumstances as being a true champion ever.

Even if Abyss holds the belt for two years, we will remember that he won it because Sting got disqualified. Now, in the first PPV after the relaunch, we have two titles marginalized. Three if you count the fact that Daniels didn't actually beat former champion Styles to win the X Division belt, but won it in a three way by pinning Sabin.

Now it was time for what is supposed to redeem this show. The intrigue is somewhat lost as the match was booked immediately upon Angle's arrival to TNA, Joe has basically been turned heel, and they basically were able to go for 20 minutes on free TV three days before, showing how they would counter each other's finishers and the like.

Joe didn't pass out while in the Ankle Lock, or even get pinned in a quick roll up. He definitively tapped out to the ankle lock. What if Joe had not given up, but could not continue? I know it's Kurt Angle, but regardless, this feud should have been booked to make money. TNA's insistance on instant gratification was a huge mistake.

Now, the great thing about TNA is that you can see into their future, up to three weeks, and while attempting to spare specific details so the show remains interesting, I do want to highlight some of the Crash TV that TNA is dishing out this month.

Highlight the following if you wish to read it:

- Sting is booked as Jesus Christ, as his disqualification is the equivalent of Jesus destroying the marketplace in the church before he was crucified. He will spend the next three weeks trying to show Abyss the light.

- Christian Cage comes to the ring in full Sting gear and mask, leaving us to wonder where in the hell the Sting Gear Warehouse for Wrestlers is located, as this is like the millionth time someone has worn his exact stuff to the ring. Russo loves dressing guys up as Sting, but he's not the first.

- Eric Young wears a turkey suit. Hooray for the Gobbledy Gooker.

- Eric Young, the misfit of TNA, defeats "wrestling's hottest prospect" Robert Roode again!

- All American Boy Petey Williams and Jim Cornette sing the Star Spangled Banner together. There is a lot of junk about flags to come.

- It is announced that Joe and Angle will meet again, and again it will be rushed to the next Pay Per View.

- The Voodoo Kin Mafia spends their frequent flyer miles to cut a promo in Stamford. Get over it guys, seriously.

- The first two weeks main events end in no contests. Russoriffic!

- We refer to Abyss by his real name, thus breaking kayfabe on one of the only characters in wrestling with any mystery to him. How about we take your mask off next week, Chris?

- Styles finishes turning heel, despite the fact that it will never work.

- Abyss has a shocking secret in his past, that somehow Christian knows about. I assume the bookstore he stopped at to read about Abyss' past is next to the Sting Gear Warehouse.

- Angle beats Joe again, as they face off the week before the PPV, again. Welp, no reason to buy this PPV either.

So TNA has effectively ruined some title belts, ruined some big money feuds, ruined some great babyfaces by turning them heel, and ruined some great heels by making them suck. All the action will be brought to you by your favorite commentators Don West and Mike Tenay, and everything you will see has to be coming from the mind of Vince Russo. TNA has a lot of problems right now. They certainly need a problem solver.

Oh yes, there is more crap to highlight below:

NEWS FLASH: TNA has signed Problem Solver Tyson Tomko. Somewhere, Tomko and his mom rumored to be the only two people really happy about it.

Thank you Mr. Russo for single-handedly steering TNA directly back to the minor leagues. Thank you Jeff Jarrett and Dixie Carter for allowing the return of Crash TV.

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