Better late than never, but is it too late? TNA officially hit the reset button at their recent television tapings in New York City at the Manhattan Center. How do I know they hit the reset button? Because both Kurt Angle and Taz said as much on camera during the first of six episodes taped in NYC this summer. However, in the middle of the taped episodes airing, reports surfaced that Spike TV will not be renewing their contract with TNA to keep Impact Wrestling on the air.
Coming out of the Hogan/Bishoff era, followed by the kayfabe heel Dixie Carter era, TNA desperately needed to hit the reset button. Putting the World Title on Eric Young saw ratings hit an all time low between the Lockdown and Slammiversary pay per view events.
From a skeptical distance one can chalk up the reset button being the following things;
- Putting and keeping the World Title on Bobby Lashley
- Bringing back the six-sided ring
- Reuniting the Hardy and Dudley Boyz
- Exploiting ECW nostalgia
- Putting the annual one month spotlight on the X Division
If one were to read the results or highlights, or have a friend tell them what happened at Destination X or Hardcore Justice (two pay per view like events that aired free on Spike) one could summize that TNA simply combined WWE and ECW nostalgia acts with a couple of their own classic concepts to try to pop a rating. However, one must have watched or at least skimmed through the shows with their own eyes to see and feel how the mood has indeed changed in TNA.
- Bobby Lashley is being built, showcased, and promoted like a heel world champion should be. The fact that Lashley will be fighting at a Bellator MMA event as the reigning TNA World Champion is a great thing for both TNA and the wrestling business, because it is the first of its kind. Can you imagine the press WWE would get and how much their mark fan boys would be gushing if any sitting WWE champion went to fight in the UFC?
- The return of the six-sided ring is a metaphor that the fans’ opinions matter to TNA management. It was ridiculous that Hogan/Bishoff got rid of the six-sided ring in the first place. It did nothing to help the product in any tangible way. Bringing it back won’t pop a rating, but it will send the message that TNA cares about their fans again. Since TNA clearly hasn’t cared about the fans’ opinions for several years now, a symbol like the return of six-sided ring is a great start to rebuilding the trust between TNA management and pro wrestling fans.
- In case you haven’t seen the NYC episodes, Jeff Hardy has been involved in the best match on each show he has wrestled on. His match with Lashley was the best of Lashley’s career until Lashley had a match against Austin Aries at Destination X. Both matches the reunited Hardy Boyz had (versus The American Wolves and The Dudley Boyz) were as good as tag team wrestling gets in 2014 or any year for that matter. Both the Hardys and Dudleys reuniting has worked, why? Because the matches have delivered and I am genuinely excited about the upcoming Triple Threat Tag Team Match Series that will round out the NYC tapings.
- WWE is allowed to exploit ECW whenever they want but when TNA does it, it’s tacky and outdated. That is the opinion of Paul Heyman and most of the internet wrestling community. This type of ridiculous bias is why it is always hard to get a true read on TNA’s quality without seeing it oneself. The fact is that is that there was kayfabe, storyline appropriate reasons for Devon Dudley and Tommy Dreamer to be brought into Bully Ray’s feud with Dixie Carter. Rhino has worked for TNA on and off since 2005 and if Al Snow can stay in that kind of physical shape, and be that over with a live crowd, there is no reason he can’t be on television for TNA, ROH, or WWE. Not to mention that as I write this, the “ECW” nostalgia angle has already been done with for as long as it was presented as an on camera angle/feud.
- TNA was built by the X Division. The X Division got them to Spike TV, getting to Spike TV got them to Sting, Sting got them as close to the mainstream as they’ve gotten. With Sting gone and Spike TV apparently on their way out, there is no better time to refocus on the X Division. The recent X Division showcase has been built around Samoa Joe and Low Ki. If you don’t want to see Samoa Joe and Low Ki get not only ring time but mic time weekly, on a nationally televised pro wrestling show, then my friend I suggest you binge watch reruns of Saturday Morning Slam and AWA on ESPN until the cows come home.
TNA has lost the benefit of the doubt with the vast majority of wrestling fans. Their live attendance, ratings, and problems securing a new TV deal with Spike TV reflect that. In a way, TNA deserves to go out of business. But we all know that would be bad for wrestling. I remember 2001, WCW deserved to go out of business too, but was the wrestling business better because they did? Alliance anyone?
The episodes of Impact Wrestling from New York City has looked and felt like the TNA Wrestling I was a fan of from 2003-2009. At the very least, watch the title matches. The best wrestling I have seen this summer that hasn’t involved Brock Lesnar or ROH has been the title defenses or wins involving Bobby Lashley, Samoa Joe, Gail Kim, and The Wolves.
TNA has hit the reset button. The consistent quality of the last six weeks beckons a second chance from their alienated fan base. Let’s just hope it’s not too little too late.