By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Head over to Reddit and you’ll find a fantastic thread of all the things that meme embodies. There’s the Chris Harris vs. James Storm blindfold match where the blindfolds kept falling off. There’s that weird cage match where you had a hole in the middle of the top of the cage that nobody could actually climb out of because … well, because the hole just wasn’t meant to be climbed out of. There’s the time the company thought it’d be a cool idea to run its television show on Mondays, opposite WWE. There’s Jeff Hardy doing all types of not-sober things. There’s the sophomoric undertone of the actual name.
There are dozens more, but the fact remains: “LOL TNA” became the go-to mantra for the memories that company gave us as wrestling fans through the years. It’s unfair to say all of it was bad, of course (AJ Styles and Samoa Joe leveled up during their time in the company and those aren’t the only two to do so during TNA’s existence), but it is very easy to look at some of the things that went on under that moniker and look back with a mixture of confusion, disappointment and silliness (the f— is a good reason to stage a reverse battle royal again?).
But now, wouldn’t you know it: Because everything in wrestling is cyclical and nothing truly ever dies, the company that TNA became, Impact Wrestling, announced over the weekend that it will revert back to its old TNA name come the new year. And in the name of all that’s great about an Eli Skipper huracanrana off the top of a six-sided cage, I say …
No. But, really.
Impact Wrestling has become an admirable company with admirable wrestlers doing admirable work. Impact Wrestling’s weekly television show has – at least once or twice – been the best pro wrestling show on the air that week. Impact Wrestling – not New Japan Pro Wrestling and not All Elite Wrestling – just gave us Will Ospreay vs. Mike Bailey, which was exactly as great as anyone reading this could hope it would be. Impact Wrestling is the home to people like Josh Alexander and Alex Shelley and Trinity and Jordynne Grace and Moose. Impact Wrestling single-handedly took a laughing stock of a brand, put its head down to change common perception, ACTUALLY CHANGED THAT COMMON PERCEPTION and won over fans over a hard period of years where it felt like that company was dead in the water.
And now it wants to go back – back to the name that’s associated with yet another legacy-tarnishing run from Hulk Hogan (who was actually not a fan of the TNA name) and the place that allowed Ric Flair to un-retire quicker than it took for the blood to dry on his face from his actual retirement match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24 (yes, if TNA was still TNA last year, you can’t convince me Flair would have needed help from his son-in-law to produce yet another “final match;” all he would have had to do was give Dixie Carter a call and that guy would have been on the first plane to Nashville with a razor blade taped to his wrist).
Beyond a nostalgic-filled camp factor, it makes little sense that the braintrust behind the current Impact Wrestling would think this is a reasonable idea. What’s the upside? To appease fans who only lionize things once they go away? Are we really trapped in an era of fandom where this statement …
“No, really, man. Hear me out. Bastion Booger was super underrated as a worker. That house show match he had with Sparky Plug in 1994 was a BANGER!!”
… can be said with a straight face?
Well, we kind of/sort of are. And that, above anything else, is the only reason I can come up with as to why anyone involved with Impact Wrestling would think this is a good idea. Let’s not pretend that TNA blazed a trail of legendary wrestling that moved the business forward in such a ground-breaking, essential way. They started an X Division, which is a pro wrestling division that still isn’t even fully defined today. They had a six-sided ring that wasn’t as original as some people insisted it was (lucha libre cornered the market on that years before TNA introduced it to the U.S.). They once gave the keys to Vince Russo. If you’re arguing that TNA was just an updated 21st Century version of Mid-South, you either have no sense of history or no respect for the industry. Or both.
Above all else, though, why don’t we take a second to come to terms with perhaps the bigger, more serious issue here: How about the workers? You know – the people who inherited the TNA stench and worked their asses off to make what was left of it a respectable product under the Impact Wrestling banner. Why do this to them? It’s like WWE relaunching ECW without Sabu and making Vince McMahon its world champion. Did legacy mean anything to anyone at that time? WWE could get away with it because at that point, the company was too big to fail. But Impact Wrestling? After years of rehabilitation, it finally feels like Impact Wrestling has been ready to take the next step as Impact Wrestling, to establish that name as the one to forever rid the pro wrestling world of the failed (and embarrassing?) TNA brand.
Was the workers’ work for nothing? Was the end goal never to take what was left of TNA and make something that stands on its own as a viable replacement and/or evolution? Or was the end goal always to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes while knowing that eventually the TNA label would return as the namesake of this venture? If it’s the latter, how fair is that to those who worked so hard to turn the ship around and build something from as close to the ground up as possible? That success was built off a next chapter, new optics, good graces. To take all that currency and cash it in for an attempt at revitalizing one of the most joke-tastic names in the last 20 years of pro wrestling feels disingenuous.
It also feels short-sighted. I understand why this generated buzz over the weekend and why it will probably continue to be a topic of conversation among wrestling fans to at least a small degree for some time, but why is it so important to bring those three letters back into the lexicon? Is this hubris? Is this a, “Nobody could take this brand out of Joke Land and into the next gear before, but we can!” type of thing? Or are there people involved who just love the TNA brand so much, they will die on the hill of revitalization if they have to?
And before someone starts spouting off some unknown legalities as reasons for this in the way that Tony Khan bought Ring of Honor to secure the All In name, stop before you begin. I don’t care if going back to the TNA name means that Scott D’Amore is promised the rights to “Slammiversary” for the next 200 years. The fact of the matter is that beyond a fun moment in the spotlight where TNA garners headlines and columns like this merely for deciding to return, I don’t see a long-game reason why this has to be done. The negatives outweigh the positives. The risk is larger than the reward – especially when you consider the admirable rehabilitative work that has been done, and the reality that now, it will be lumped in with the legacy that is Steiner Math.
Because, remember. If you go one on one with another wrestler, you got a 50/50 chance of winning. But I’m a genetic freak and I’m not normal. So you got a 25% chance, at best, to beat me. Then you add a Kurt Angle to the mix, your chances of winning drastically go down. See, the three-way at Sacrifice, you got a 33 1/3 chance of winning, but I got a 66 and 2/3 chance of winning, because Kurt Angle knows he can’t beat me and he’s not even gonna try. So Samoa Joe, you take your 33 1/3 chance, minus my 25% chance and you got an 8 1/3 chance of winning at Sacrifice. But then you take my 75% chance of winning, if we was to go one on one, and then add 66 2/3%, I got 141 2/3 chance of winning at Sacrifice. See Joe, the numbers don’t lie, and they spell disaster for you at Sacrifice.
Or something like that. Either way, there’s a 98% chance that disaster is 100% possible with the move to rebrand Impact Wrestling back to the company that somehow made Kazuchika Okada anything but the star he would ultimately become. Speaking of which …
“I don’t give a damn about Impact,” Okada said last month in an interview. “Who I really hated was TNA.”
He can’t be the only one.
LOL TNA, indeed.