Pruett's Pause: TNA Impact Wrestling - TNA comes to New York with a new look, six sides of ring-ish goodness, a great X Division gauntlet, ECW nostalgia, and more!
By Will Pruett
Over a year ago, I wrote a blog about how TNA would do themselves a favor by going to smaller buildings and establishing a look much different than that of WWE. If you look at the Hulk Hogan/Eric Bischoff regime in TNA, it was largely built around making their arenas look like WWE's. They eliminated the six-sided ring. They eliminated the giant tunnels and brought in a big overhead screen. They attempted to move TNA into larger arenas instead of smaller, more intimate venues. They took the personality out of TNA.
This wasn't the biggest problem with the Hogan/Bischoff regime in TNA, but it was a noticeable one. Humorously, one of the biggest points Bischoff makes about starting Monday Nitro for WCW in 1995 was how he strived to be different from WWE. He shot the show in a different manner. He lit the show in a different manner. He wanted to be different. In TNA, he wanted to be just like WWE. It was weird.
On this show, we saw TNA go back to being different. They left the "big arena" look behind them and embraced the intimate New York atmosphere. They lit the roof of the Manhattan Center. They didn't put a big video screen up, assuming the 600-800 people in the building could actually see the ring (revolutionary, right?). They allowed the size of the crowd to be seen. They did something completely different from what they have been doing and what WWE is doing. This wasn't a sanitary arena in Anywhere, USA. This was a distinct building in a distinct place with a distinct personality.
The biggest visual change on this show was the six-sided ring, but the six-sided ring wasn't really important. Adding two sides to the ring and branding it as "giving the fans what they wanted" didn't have a major impact on Impact. It did have an impact on the look of the show. Once again, TNA looks different. They're attempting to do something different than what WWE does.
This was the most visually interesting wrestling show I've seen since WrestleMania. It was, not coincidentally, the least-sterile. A lack of attention to detail in production drove me away from watching TNA four months ago and interest in what TNA did in New York has brought me back.
The feeling of difference pervaded the entire show. The stories TNA is telling felt fresh and different. It's like the visual makeover carried over into every part of the show. TNA produced a great first show out of New York and I'm excited to see the rest of this set of tapings.
Picking up the pieces:
- As happy as I was about the visual changes TNA made, there is still a storytelling point I can't quite get behind, and the show was based around it. The lead babyface in TNA, who fans are supposed to cheer, believe in, and emulate, is attempting assault a woman and put her through a table. It's a major story moment TNA is building to and I am dreading it happening. The fans will be ravenous for it, but I can't behind cheering for violence against a woman.
- The X Division Gauntlet match was the match to go out of your way to see from this show. The performances of Davey Richards, Eddie Edwards, Austin Aries, and Sanada stick out as being fantastic. This was a very good match with equal parts storytelling and spot-festiveness. I'd love to see more one-on-one action in the X Division after the "Plan C" and ensuing tournament madness concludes.
- TNA is doing a really nice job with Bobby Lashley. He is winning his matches clean and finding a way to retain his heel heat in the process. While Lashley seems to be a plan B due to MVP's injury, he is a convincing champion. His match against Jeff Hardy was entertaining and the crowd seemed very into it.
- Jeff Hardy hitting the Swanton on the steel stairs was downright painful to watch. Ouch.
- The use of ECW nostalgia on this show didn't appeal to me. I was over ECW nostalgia by the time the second ECW One Night Stand show rolled around in 2006. We've seen multiple ECW reunions since then. I understand why TNA would attempt to capitalize on ECW fandom in New York, but the beginning of the show was really heavy handed. They painted this episode as a major reboot with TNA becoming the new ECW. I don't want to see a new or old ECW. I want to see TNA be different. The moments on this show where they were different were fantastic. The attempts at recapturing the spirit of ECW were far less exciting.
- Speaking of nostalgia I'm not particularly enthusiastic about, here's Devon. It's not Devon's fault, but I'm just not feeling another Team 3D reunion.
- Madison Rayne and Brittany seem to have decided to skip their entire feud and get to the babyface winning the major stipulation match. Brittany's turn was just two weeks ago and now she is losing the there-must-be-a-winner match. This was puzzling booking.
- Ethan Carter III is fantastic and a true triumph for TNA's creative team.
- I have no idea what's happening between James Storm and Sanada.
- Crazy Steve is crazy.
- MVP wrestling with a hurt knee seems like a risk I wouldn't personally advise. Lucky for TNA, no one asked for my advice.
This show was different than what TNA has been in the last nine years. For the first time since 2005, TNA seems cool and it seems like they're putting on shows I would actually want to be at. This is a major change. While I'm not too enthusiastic about many of the ECW elements they worked in, I hope they are temporary. Outside of the ECW nostalgia, TNA worked to build up a core group of wrestlers I legitimately want to see.
I'm excited about TNA and excited to continue watching Impact Wrestling. This is the first time in a long time I've been this optimistic about them. I hope my optimism isn't ill-placed.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me and interact on twitter @itswilltime.
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