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Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Monday Night War reactions: 2 - the Impact negatives

Yesterday I addressed a great many of the things that I liked about the Impact from Monday night.

In the interests of fairness I ought to take a lot at some of things I didn’t think worked at all, and a bunch of other things which I didn’t think work on the night, but I’m willing to sit back and watch to see how it comes together over several weeks.

I thought the biggest problem TNA had all night was that there were a lot of major errors of judgement or elements that made the hour hard to watch. I watched Raw live then Impact later so I can’t be a proper judge, and I am a Bret Hart fan so that would cloud me more, but I’m fairly sure that after the first hour of Impact I would have switched to Raw.

Obviously, as many have already said, the X-Division match was a bit of a disaster. If the whole point was to have Hardy start a programme with Homicide, surely they could simply have had a three way with Homicide, Red and Sabin, for example, and when Red retained Homicide goes crazy with the baton, with Jeff making a save. I guess the point was to have the visual of Jeff Hardy sitting on the cage, but to have an eight man match go to a DQ after four minutes was ludicrous, then there was the very dull bit where Homicide climbed anyway – badly. To round all this off Jeff Hardy landed a clean chair shot to Homicide’s head, and that wasn’t the only time that would happen during the night.

Off on a tangent before I come back to the dodgy first hour, I think the Jeff Hardy acquisition is a very odd decision. I know the guy is a major star, but I think it sends a bad message that this guy with many, many obvious problems and a possible custodial sentence hanging over him can walk into a job. I would be delighted, to tell you the truth, if that was a one night deal for now while Hardy sorts out his legal issues. Let Shannon Moore on Impact and have him talk about Jeff every week. Have Moore wrestle Homicide and have the Notorious 187 pick on Shannon, but then Hardy comes back to make the save at some point, should he be free from any major legal issues.

Also, if you are going to have a major star like Jeff Hardy, I’d make more of him than what they did. He was lost in a bit of a sprawl, and frankly both his and Flair’s appearance would have been bigger had the other one not happened. I think there was enough going on in the three hours to suggest that it would have been plenty of a success without Flair or Hardy, and that either of their returns could have been held back a couple of weeks to make the ongoing Impacts interesting.

Back to the problems with the opening hour, and I’d suggest that there were two other major problems with the opening match, aside from the four minute nonsense and the fans’ distain. One was that the red structure of the Steel Asylum looked awful. It shook when people climbed it and one section looked like it may fall down.

Also, and I’m not sure how they rectify this problem apart from moving to a much later timeslot, but the crowd’s “bullshit” chant had to be partially bleeped out, and it was embarrassingly hard to watch. I guess the first thing is that they need to not produce segments that make the crowd chant “Bullshit” (they did it again when Hogan dissed Jeff) and then it isn’t a problem. Going forward, I’d be interested to find out where they can take this, because if they were to end up going head-to-head against Raw, it would be odd to see a kid-friendly wrestling and a teen/18-40 wrestling show going out at the same time.

I didn’t at all care for the section of the fans saying “TNA is better than WWE” and “I want to watch wrestling, not kiddie comedy”. That to me was self-defeatist, because anyone agreeing knows that anyway, and anyone partially DISagreeing may well have just been reminded that WWE was on later that night.

Leaving the first hour aside for now, I’d say that the element of the show which I disliked the most was the talk of “the format”. Eric and Hulk ripping up “the format sheet” and then later Eric telling a runner to cut down a segment because it was running too long. I hated that. Wrestling (or Sports Entertainment) is a unique type of television show, I realise, but basically it is an amalgam of Sport and Soap Opera. You don’t watch a major sporting event – an NFL game, a Champions League football (Soccer) game, anything – and see them talk about ratings. Neither would you watch Eastenders or ER or CSI or any drama and have a character talk about doing something for ratings or to change the product. It’s ridiculous. How can you have a format for a sporting event full of a series of matches? You don’t know if that match will last twenty minutes or two minutes. How can you schedule that?

The biggest thing that has ever happened in wrestling was Scott Hall showing up on Nitro and the nWo beginning. They played that as “is it real, is it not real?” but they didn’t talk about a script or a schedule or a format. They let people’s imagination run wild and played it as though it was real. Austin was a wildman running roughshod over Raw and terrorising his boss. If he had stopped to say he was only doing it for ratings it would have bombed. If TNA never mention ratings again I’ll be delighted.

I’d also be happy if they didn’t use so many insider terms. I didn’t like Christy telling JB that if he let Foley in the building he’d “get heat”. I didn’t care for Hogan explaining that wrestlers would “get the push”. I hate that. If it’s a sport, then no-one “gets a push”. The guys that win more often get successful. They don’t get a push from management. Or at least they shouldn’t.

Some other minor points from the opening hour – I thought the Tara v ODB match was poor considering both girls are reasonably strong wrestlers. I thought neither of them had any character developed or explained, considering there may well have been new viewers. I didn’t like that AJ Styles, Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe were barely mentioned, if at all, in the first hour. I didn’t like that basically no big matches were announced. Two of the matches that were announced didn’t even happen (Rhino v Abyss and Beer Money v British Invasion).

A criticism I had early on in the show which was addressed as it progressed was “who is in charge?” It was very confusing in the opening ninety minutes or so as to who had any power. I understand that Hogan would be in a position to be an authority, but for quite a while Bischoff was spouting off without any real reason to. Then there was Foley and Jarrett. At least they addressed it all eventually.

I’m not crazy about TNA announcing “First evers”. They said it was the first ever Joe v Abyss. Hmm, I wonder who those two people I saw wrestle in Liverpool in June 2008 were. Looked like Joey and Abby to me.

The Nasty Boys. Hmmm. I actually thought that they were a fun addition to the show, and would although it wouldn’t be my type of wrestling, I think Team 3D v the Nasty Boys might be interesting to section of TNA’s audience.

Orlando Jordan? That is ridiculous. There is a point where more returns actually make things worse and not better, especially if they are wrestlers who haven’t been seen for a couple of years and made absolutely no impression when they were around. Perhaps they have signed him because of his first name, considering where Impact is filmed.

Considering they had three hours, there was not nearly enough wrestling for my liking, but to be fair they a lot of plot to fit in.

I didn’t care for Dinero beating Wolfe. The former Nigel McGuiness is a very talented wrestler who put on two awesome matches with Kurt Angle but jobbing to Elijah Burke? I don’t know, I thought that was poor. I’ll be honest, I have no love for the “Pope” character. I’m not offended by it, personally, but I couldn’t see why people might be. I just think it’s a bit over-the-top and doesn’t really work. Plus Wolfe is way to talented to be losing in three minutes.

Finally, I have one other point to make. The character blurring was an interesting aspect to the show, but there was probably a few too many “tweeners” (I hate that word, but I can’t think of anything better) all over the show. Foley, Jarrett, Hogan, Bischoff, Hall, Waltman and Nash were all played as tweeners. So was Flair, come to think of it. And maybe Sting.

Fans like people to cheer for. I know it is a Russo thing that characters ought to be grey rather than black or white, but you can’t have too many of them because the fans will be struck dumb. This is not a soap opera which you watch in a armchair. At least, you don’t watch others watching it from an armchair. As much as the wrestling, the atmosphere is generated by people watching a live spectacle, and for that to be effective, as it often is in the Impact Zone, people need to be booed and cheered.

I’m sure, though, this will be rectified. Actually no I’m not, but I’m sure they’ll try to rectify it. The hope is just that they do it right.

Good luck, TNA.