Tuesday, 21 December 2010
Thursday, 9 December 2010
Have you ever sat in a bar, and watched a group of 16 year olds come in and try to score a round? It’s hilarious.
In they come, eyes as wide as the gulf between Raw and Impact, into a realm that they aspire to be part of, but know they don’t really have it. They scuttle to a free table – they never come straight to the bar – and discuss who the unlucky one who will try their hand at getting a round in this time will be.
To the bar comes the unlucky one, grasping a ten pound note tightly, as if otherwise it would snatched from him by ravenous wolves, mistakenly thinking he can get four pints for under a tenner these days. He waits impatiently, shuffling from foot to foot whilst waiting for the barman to get to him.
Then the moment comes – the barman, without initially thinking, enquires as to what the patron would like. Our 16-year-old hero panics and attempts to drop his voice several octaves. “Four p-pints please mate.” He is desperately trying to fit in, trying to appear as if he has been doing this all his life. “Pints of what, son?” asks the increasingly suspicious barman. “Err, whatever.” says the young pretender. “Narrow it down,” says the barman, “Bitter, lager, cider?”
“Whatever is the cheapest.” And now he’s done for. The barman asks for ID, none can be provided, and the four slink out the door.
As is always the case, they eventually find somewhere that will overlook their age-related shortcomings, and score their four pints of cheap, hostile cider. However, at this point they try too hard, necking the cider at an alarming rate, ordering a couple of shots and downing them. Half an hour into their visit, they are drunk, making fools of themselves. Throwing up, falling over and slurring are the resulting effects, and the onlookers and fellow customers in that bar start to look at them as young morons. The staff there won’t serve them again.
But it’s back to school on Monday, and recount their tale to their astounded mates. They tell everyone else in the first year common room of the Sixth Form just how “wasted” they got, and what big men they are for gulping cheap, strong, nasty cider and puking on the parquet floor of the “Ferret and Mongoose” or whatever stupid name this particular establishment has. They become school heroes, at least to a select group of upstarts who have no idea of the real world.
I’m not having a go at them. This is pretty typical behaviour, and something that many young men (not being sexist, but this is prototypical male behaviour) go through. I’ve had moments like it, albeit not as extreme as the example. The point is you are a young adolescent who is desperate to be seen as one of the big boys, a proper adult, but the only people you impress as those with the same mindset, that think that getting blasted is the only way to entertain yourself of a Friday, a display of manliness.
In actuality, most ‘real’ men do a job of work, earn their money, and occasionally spend some of it drinking with their mates or their spouse. They might shift a lot of alcohol, but they do it slowly, sensibly and with an air of dignity. If they have a couple too many and get out of hand their friendship network will either frown on their behaviour and tell them to cut it out, or if they are simply a little tipsy and saying silly things, their pals will gently roll them into a taxi and text them in the morning to see if they are ok.
You know who that little group of adolescents who don’t know how to behave are? That’s TNA. They have the frame of adults. They have grown to over six foot, they can grow a beard in three days, they’ve even got hairs sprouting in places it wasn’t a year earlier. Physically, they are a man. But mentally, they have some way to go.
I cannot stand the way that TNA makes sure that the word “bitch” is on every show. Typical culprits are Velvet Sky, Madison Rayne and Abyss, though Matt Morgan let one slip through this week on Impact. It’s not the use of the word, it’s the intonation. They say “bitch” like they are pushing the word forcibly out of their mouth. It’s almost two syllables: “Bi-itch”.
If it was just one individual, I’d criticise them, but it comes from more that one source. That suggests to me that it’s being fed to them, that someone somewhere thinks they can attract a certain demographic by being more adult.
On one level, that’s really smart. WWE make no secret of the fact that they are PG. Many wrestling fans don’t like the antics of cheesy John Cena and little Hornswoggle. It’s so over-the-top and kid-friendly. There is an audience out there fed up of this, and seek an alternative. They want a grown up’s alternative.
But saying “Bitch” won’t cut it. And neither, forthat matter, will bleeding and wacky violence. These crutches are things that TNA think the grown up fans want. I’m not denying there is an audience for them, and I’m not saying they should never be used. But TNA use them all the time, ad nauseam. They have no impact anymore.
There is a passage in one of Mick Foley’s book where he says something along the lines of “Undertaker gets a bigger reaction jumping over the ropes once a year than Taka Michinoku does doing a Twisting springboard plancha every night” and he is right.
Like I said, there is an audience for constant violence, bad language and so forth. But they are the fawning mates in the above analogy, to TNA’s four kids who got drunk and made a fool of themselves. You keep on doing that, keep on abusing the alcohol and acting the fool, those obsequious mates will eventually tire of your antics, and you’ll be quite the state. I don’t want to sound dark – but there is a chance you will cease to exist.
To prove this is not too extreme a comparison, one of the inspirations for this blog is that I saw recently that TNA did a bigger number in the 12-17 demographic than is typical, and than they get in any other demo. TNA and Spike TV want the 18-34 group to be watching their show. That is their intention. But it strikes me that there are 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds all over America (maybe the world) getting all excited because Ken Anderson says ‘Asshole’ quite a lot, or they can try to look big by chanting ‘make him bleed’, or get their first erection watching Angelina Love straddle the middle rope.
Look, I won’t lie to you. I was in my mid-teens when Miss Kitty’s top came off at Armageddon. I watched my Royal Rumble 2000 video loads because it had a bikini contest with Terri Runnells wearing a barely there swimsuit. If I saw those things now I’m not saying it wouldn’t amuse me for ten seconds, but I don’t find Velvet Sky’s stately backside a reason to watch TNA, comely as it is. There is a real world out there. I was a virgin when I saw Stacy Carter reveal herself, and it was the most exciting thing in my life. Now, while I appreciate the aesthetic qualities of maybe Divas or Knockouts, I’m more likely to watch their show because they are a good wrestler or an entertaining personality.
I’m not saying there is no-one over the age of 16 watching TNA, but what I am saying is that there is an audience out there that has abandoned wrestling altogether for the grown-up world of MMA, or simply other pursuits which gratify them personally. And I find they tend to be (not exclusively, but plenty often) the more rounded individuals with a settled life and a higher IQ. And it isn’t that wrestling is beneath them, but the presentation of wrestling at the moment is.
The pair of companies are actually quite mixed up. WWE might be the company that targets kids – won’t swear, no blood etc – but they, by far, present the more intelligent, nuances, well thought out booking. Nexus/Cena has it’s flaws here and there, but it mostly makes sense. Taker/HBK was a masterpiece for two Mania build ups. The Miz is an engaging character who everyone can unite in booing.
TNA aspires to be an alternative to WWE, but all they are is simply a mixed up collection of ideals, none of which work in the real world. They are the prototypical teenager – they think they no better than their elders, try too hard to prove they should be treated as an equal, but in doing so make a fool of themselves.
The madcap X-division matches are like the one-off night out with some old mates that you have maybe once a year. Fun, a little wild, and perhaps a little drunken. Great fun, no doubt. But do it every week and you risk your health.
The language used is like when a teacher is off sick, and they get replaced by a supply teacher who lets you get away with murder. Anything goes with them. You get a big laugh out of your mates, but your captive audience will laugh at anything like that. “Huh-huh, Chris said ‘Bitch’. He’s really cool.”
TNA is one long underage party. Have you ever watched American Pie 1 and 2 (I haven’t seen 3)? By the end of it, the guys have tired of the manic partying, and are ready to settle down. They realise that trying to relive the wild party doesn’t satisfy them, whereas Mena Suvari does (you know what I mean). TNA is Stifler. He might be still be having a good time, and looks pretty cool to a bunch of people, but you sort of wouldn’t want to be him, would you? That lifestyle can only last so long.
Settling down isn’t saying ‘bitch’ or carving yourself open every week. It’s having a sensible relationship between the viewer and the product. Intelligent, well thought out storylines with exciting, longer matches with sensible conclusions.
It’s time for TNA to stop deluding itself about trying to be cool, about trying to look real, raising the bar or any other banal platitudes Hulk Hogan is so prone to spewing.
It’s time for TNA to grow up.
Posted by Rob McNichol at 16:08