The “Rise” and Fall of TNA (Part 2)

First, I am sorry that
this took longer than planned. Secondly, I used to be a big fan of TNA. I
started watching their product in late 2004 and became a regular watcher by
2005. The company was making strides. In fact, it made some of the biggest
strides I have ever seen a young wrestling company make. And the future for the
company looked to be even brighter. However, Dixie
Carter became obsessed with the stars of the past and the cancerous Vince
Russo. She loved him so much that she made excuses for him instead of fixing
the problems that fans were complaining about. TNA also became more concerned
at looking for lost wrestling fans than pleasing their hardcore fans. It
is honestly sad that Carter allowed self-indulgent famous employees from
the past to ruin her company. It is even sadder that she allowed them to.

Chris Harris had two great matches with James Storm and then a
star-in-the-making performance in the King of the Mountain match, so he faced Christian
Cage at Victory Road ‘07. He went toe-to-toe with The Instant Classic and
looked like he belonged. Dustin Rhodes, who had not been in the company in
years, cost Harris the match. They wrestled each other at Hardcore Justice,
where Dustin Rhodes debuted his new gimmick Black Reign (which was essentially
Evil Goldust). An overweight man with a silly gimmick beat the living shit out of
him. A bunch of X-Division wrestler had to run into the ring to stop him, and Sonjay
Dutt was spotted laughing at how ridiculous this entire thing was.

They wrestled again at the next PPV. Harris got a quick roll up victory
over Black Reigns, but he was, yet again, a victim of a beatdown. Harris was also
dumb enough to handcuff Reigns  to the
ropes and walk away forgetting that Reigns had the key. It is bad enough to
make the heel look smarter than the face; it is even worse to make the babyface
look like a complete idiot. Harris had to sell for a rat that Reigns put on his
face. Don West screamed and uttered out a ton of hyperbole about how horrifying
it was. Backstage, Harris began complaining about the way he was being used on TV, so Russo gave him a gimmick where he would just complain and whine. Shortly
after, he was released from the company.
TNA’s eyes were set on Bound for Glory 07, their Wrestlemania show. These
were the following main matches for the card:
(1) Jay Lethal was set defend the X-Division title against Chris
Daniels, although they hardly did anything to hype this up. The X-division
champion was too busy being beat up by Team 3D
(2) They brought back Reverse Battle Royal, even though the Observer
called it the worst match of the year of 2006.
(3) 10 years after anyone cared, the Steiner Brothers were booked to
face Team 3D in a Tables Match.

(4) They decided to debut the Knockout’s title in an Over-the-Top Battle
Royal that would crown the new champion, despite there being a Battle Royal
already on the show.
(5) The TNA Tag Champions Pacman Jones and R-Truth defended their titles
against Tomko and AJ Styles. The champions were not over and Pac Man was unable
to do anything physical, yet held the titles for longer than two whole months. They
elevated the titles’ credibility just as much as David Arquette elevated the
WCW title’s credibility. No real build for this either.
(6) The main event was Sting vs. Kurt Angle, and their storyline was an
unbelievably convoluted mess. Sting filed a restraining order against Karen,
disallowing her to come 50 feet near him. Angle then wanted to bring out Sting’s
mean streak in order to get the very best out of him. This was despite Angle being a
chicken shit heel that relied on Karen’s interference to win most of his title matches in the past.
He made Sting mad by attacking his son after the kid’s football practice. Sting and Angle’s “heated”
match began with wrestling holds and exchanges. Not once did it ever seem
like they hated each other, and Karen interfered in it anyways. Sting won
the title, yet dropped it back to Angle the next week on Impact.
Bound for Glory was, as a whole, a disappointing show. Two positive
things came out of it, though. Samoa Joe and Christian had their blow off match
that made Joe come out looking like the monster he once was and the birth of
the Knockout’s Division.
The Knockout Division became the strong suit of the company, with Dutch
Mantell as its
 booker and Scott D’Amore as its road agent. Gail Kim and Awesome
Kong had a series of matches that were very good and put the division on the
map. The Knockout’s title had more credibility than anything else did in TNA due
its logical booking and great matches. That was until Russo got his hands on
the division. The division has never been the same since then.
TNA changed its motto from “We Are Wrestling” to “Cross the Line”, though
the meaning was never explained. To understand the storylines and characters’
developments, one had to snort a few lines, though. Russo started to inaugurate
in “shades of gray” booking, resulting in too many poorly defined heels and
babyfaces. Or so we thought…
 A script of an Impact episode leaked online. It showed whether the wrestlers were faces or heels, meaning that Russo
was not using shades of gray booking. He was instead improperly accentuating the good and
evils parts of the characters. The script leaking was a blessing in
disguise for those that were confused about the wrestlers’ roles, though. Also: the words “to the back!” made every TNA viewer cringe. Instantly
after every match, the show would go to segment or promo that was happening in the back. They were mainly something ludicrous or purposeless. Due to how fast the cameras would go to the back, it made big moments, like a title or big win, seem pointless.
Team 3D and Johnny Devine wanted to demolish the X-Division and thus kept beating
up all the X-Division wrestlers. Therefore, the Motor City Machine Guns and Jay Lethal
decided to step up and fight for the division. Team 3D and Devine dominated
most of feud, but at least the X-Division wrestlers won the blow-off match. In it, Lethal came out looking like a superstar by overcoming a
three-on-one deficit in a hard-fought battle. Despite his popularity and momentum, the company barely did anything interesting with him afterwards.
 A few months later, he lost the title when Petey Williams cashed
his “Feast or Fired” briefcase on him. He never got revenge on Williams, as he was
too busy proposing to So Cal Val.  Also,
the MCMGs did not gain much from the big win either. In spite of them being great in the ring and being immensly popular, the company was too busy being mad at them for not wanting to blade. The angle was supposed to
help the X-Division. In hindsight, it did nothing for it at all.
For Lockdown ’08, the company built up Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle in a no-nonsense type of
way, and the build was excellent and refreshing. It placed a heavy emphasis on the
psychology things such as preparation, strategies, and the wrestlers’ strengths
and weaknesses. The whole PPV was being built up as a big change in the direction of the company. 
It ended up being the same old Russo drivel, though. The show had 46 wrestlers on it, a reversed cage battle royal thingy, a tag match with 8 teams where a wrestler had to be cuffed to a cage if they were pinned, and BG James vs. Kip James. Although, Samoa Joe finally won
the TNA belt, and the PPV did one of TNA’s biggest buyrates ever. However, Joe was barely the focal point of the company and was not
allowed to beat the main eventers without some sort of bogus finish.
Two weeks later, Kurt and Karen Angle renewed their vows
on Impact. Joe and Nash crashed the ceremony, though. They attacked
Angle and stripped him down to his polka dot underwear. The minister took a
bump that made him disordered. AJ Styles helped Karen Angle up and then the confused
minister pronounced them husband and wife. Angle, in his underwear, looked on confused. Styles then took Karen on a honeymoon to Gatorland the next week. He told her that every day would be a honeymoon if he truly were married to her .Only Russo would build to an Angle vs. AJ Styles dream match in this sort of way.

They both had two very good matches at Slammiversary and Hardcore
Justice, although, to no surprise, the finishes were overbooked. The first one had
Karen Angle interfere and the second one was a total mess. Angle was placed on a stretcher because of his injured neck. Styles then after attacked his neck on the stretcher. Randomly, Sting hit the Deathdrop on Styles as he walking up the entranceway. 
Angle and AJ had a Ladder
Match a week later on impact for Angle’s Gold Metal. AJ won from the lights
going out and Jarrett’s music playing. Just to recap, the babyface tried to steal the heel’s wife, attacked his possible broken neck, and then took his gold metals from him in a cheap way.
Frank Trigg was hired by the company to hang around with Angle. At
No Surrender ’08, he faced Styles in a faux MMA match that ended in a DQ.
It was mind numbingly bad and the crowd turned on it by shouting “We Want
Wrestling”, “Boring”, and “Fire Russo”. To make matters worse, the PPV feed cut
to a porno movie during the match. Nobody ever apologized for it.
In spite of being built up as a beast, Joe continued to be booked
poorly as one. He won his King of the Mountain match because Nash helped him win by Jackknifing
Booker off the ladder. It set up a feud with him and Booker
T, as the whole buildup was about no one thinking Joe could beat him. Meanwhile,TNA ran house shows that had Booker T vs. Samoa Joe main event them. To no surprise, Joe pinned Booker T in most of them – negating the entire storyline.
Joe snapped and went crazy on Booker T at their Victory Road match, reestablishing his mean
streak. Sting came out to tell Joe he has gone too far and then proceeded to beat him up
with his baseball bat ( making Joe’s beatdown on Booker almost pointless). Booker T walked out
with the TNA championship, and Tenay screamed “How can Booker T be champion!?”
The whole thing was convoluted, and it set up the contrived angle where the heel wrestler carries the title around like he’s the champion.
At Hard Justice, Joe faced Booker in a Six Sides of Steel
Weapons match to blow off the feud. Of course, Joe could not go over a
former WWE wrestler clean, so the lights went out and Jarretts’ music played. Despite only wrestling two matches hitherto, Sting ended up
facing Joe at Bound for Glory for the title. Even though everyone saw it
coming, Nash still turned on Joe – allowing Sting to win the title.
This was the end of Joe’s unmemorable title reign. He did not even beat a non-WWE
wrestler clean except Kurt Angle.
Russo booked a conflict between the young guys and the old
guys (an imitation of the WCW New Blood vs Millionaire’s Club feud). It was called the Main
Event Mafia vs. The Front Line, and it was an interesting angle at first. But, of course,
it ended up being booked completely backwards. The Front Line was never booked
as if they were on Main Event Mafia’s Level and didn’t even end up
winning the feud. The Main Event Mafia only disbanded because they couldn’t get
Around this time, TNA was a “pick and choose” type of company. They had a
group of talented wrestlers and a lot of good matches too, but the booking and old wrestlers being treated superior than the young guys made the product frustrating. Other than most of Russo’s booking being lowbrow and nonsensical, another main problem was it was mostly about himself. He never made the wrestlers the focal point of a show. The central point was always about his storylines, hence the amount of swerves and turns the show had on a regular basis.

Before Gabe Saposkly developed a massive ego, he was the complete opposite in ROH. He knew that the wrestlers were the main assets and thus built the entire show around them. His booking was just to help them get over (not to stroke his massive ego). And you can laugh at how small ROH
was then all you want, but Saposkly made the company profit. That is something TNA has never been able to say.

Next: Vince Russo vs. Jim Cornette, The Calm before the Storm, Monday
Night Wars, Vince Russo finally gets fired, TNA’s product gets better but Aces and Eight
ruins it.