The Future of Wrestling
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m 22 years old and still an avid wrestling fan. Don’t patronize me with cries of “it’s soooo fake!” I know, and you know what? Those doctors in Grey’s Anatomy? They aren’t real doctors. Those cops on Law and Order? Yep, they aren’t real either. Wrestling is just like any other TV show. They are actors portraying a given character and performing for an audience.
I haven’t been watching as consistently as I used to, but this new revival of the “Monday Night Wars” has piqued my interest. You see, TNA Wrestling has stepped up to the plate and has decided to take on WWE head-to-head every Monday from this point forward. Tonight, TNA has proven to me that they are indeed the new face of professional wrestling.
I’m not a fanboy by any means. I’ve always had my doubts about TNA. Their arena is too small, their production is unpolished and they simply have too many old guys, but putting their show up against Monday Night RAW has proven to me that TNA Impact! is the superior product.
Tonight’s show began with Hulk Hogan and his new buddy, Abyss coming out to the ring for their match with Ric Flair and TNA Champion AJ Styles. It is pretty sad seeing Flair and Hogan clumsily stumbling around the ring, blood flowing off their foreheads. I can’t help but think of Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. One of these old dudes is going to die in the ring if they don’t give it up.
Suddenly the lights go out and Sting appears in the ring. We haven’t seen him in months and have no idea what his intentions are. To everyone’s surprise, he attacks Hogan and Abyss but doesn’t really align himself with Flair and Styles.
After the match, Sting pushes around TNA President Dixie Carter, telling her “I don’t owe you anything.” It’s official: Sting has gone full-out heel (that’s wrestling jargon for bad guy).
Wondering what I’ve been missing on RAW, I flip it over to USA and see Shawn Michaels and Undertaker wrapping up an in-ring conversation about their upcoming match at Wrestlemania. 15 minutes of talking. That’s the best you can do? Yawn.
I turn it back to TNA. Dixie Carter is pissed and says that Sting will be wrestling tonight against a mystery opponent. Looks like I’m going to have to leave it on Spike to see who this mystery man is…
You see, what TNA is doing here is great. They give you a reason to stick around and watch their program, giving us cliffhangers galore.
Later we see former WWE and ECW Champion Rob Van Dam revealed as Sting’s opponent, making his surprise TNA debut. Van Dam wins the match but Sting goes berserk on him afterward, beating both him and Hogan with his trademark baseball bat.
Quite simply, TNA has the goods. They have all the interesting former WWE guys that are still in their prime (Kurt Angle, Mr. Anderson, The Pope, Jeff Hardy and Van Dam), great young TNA originals (Champion AJ Styles (pictured), Samoa Joe and Desmond Wolfe) and those old novelty acts for the nostalgia (Hogan, Flair, Sting, Mick Foley and Kevin Nash). Plus, they actually have real tag teams and decent female competitors.
Say what you want about all the 50+ year-old competitors in TNA. Have you been watching WWE lately? They have been running a segment between Vince McMahon and a 50-year-old stroke victim (Bret Hart) as one of their major storylines for Wrestlemania. It is just as bad.
Perhaps their biggest advantage is that their show isn’t anchored down by the WWE’s limitations of a PG rating. I mean seriously, how am I supposed to take a guy serious as being pissed off if his dialogue is limited to “I’m going to kick your butt” or “I’m very angry!”
Right now, TNA is only drawing about 1/3 of the audience that a typical Monday Night Raw draws. Give it a little more time to expand their audience and phase out the old guys, and this little company could see itself as a real competitor for the WWE. If they can keep up what they started tonight, I’ll be watching all along the way.