What you’re missing when not watching TNA Impact Wrestling

If you’re not watching TNA Wrestling, you probably won’t.

That’s the unfortunate truth. The brand of TNA Wrestling is absolutely poisoned to the point where only the diehards remain to follow them from TV network to TV network every other year. For all of the awful business decisions made by Dixie Carter, too many wrestling fans have written off TNA as a dead company. The constant question from wrestling viewers is how close TNA is away from closing down or being sold to the WWE.

Last year I wrote about how TNA’s coffin has no more nails. Back then TNA was rumoured to lose their deal with Destination America. They did. Back then they had Bobby Roode and Austin Aries. Today they are signed to the WWE with Aries active in NXT. Back then there was talk of TNA talent not getting paid. Not much has changed. At the very least, the President of POP TV has said they will return in September.

With a pay per view on Sunday for TNA Slammiversary, I decided to take a look at what you might be missing when you skip out on watching Impact Wrestling on Tuesday night.

The Decay do goth right. The Hardy’s do goth wrong.

Matt Hardy is a mess. A wonderful mess. Hardy’s hair looks like Seth Rollins decided to blowdry it instead of soak it down. He looks like if Johnny Depp in Demon of Barber Street let himself go. He still wears the same type of gear he did as Matt Hardy Version 1.0 back in the early to mid 2000s for some reason. His eye makeup is worse than when Undertaker wore it. He constantly calls Jeff Hardy “Nero” and tries to talk as if he’s depressed and morose. Jeff Hardy is bringing back Willow and the less said about it the better. It’s just a mess. Maybe you like messes. If you do, this is your mess.

On the other hand, Decay are quite possibly the best goth faction since The Brood. Maybe you think a goth faction in 2016 is beyond expiry date but it’s done so well you forgive it. Rosemary is a revelation for TNA. Abyss feels refreshed. Crazzy Steve is a poor man’s Joker Sting but it works in this environment. Coming out to Marilyn Manson doesn’t hurt either. They are actually a little scary and are appropriate camp, unlike the North Carolina spooky men.

Young talent get lots of time to develop in TNA Impact Wrestling.

It wasn’t just the debut of Braxton Sutter. It wasn’t just the Tribunal, formerly Marcus Louis and Sylvester Lefort of NXT. It wasn’t just Sienna and Allie working under Maria Kanellis-Bennett. There are so many fresh faces in TNA it doesn’t feel like the TNA of the past, which felt like a stowaway for washed up WWE talent. Drew Galloway is only 31, a year younger than when Christian Cage came to the company. Ethan Carter III barely had a career in the WWE so his rise in TNA feels authentic to TNA. The same goes for seeing Eli Drake as King of the Mountain champion (or as my friends like to call it, the Ed Leslie Memorial Title for having so many gimmicks) also getting substantial microphone time. This is a fast, young, hungry roster and TNA isn’t just focusing their entire TV time on the Hardy’s. The youth get to develop. Yes, I know the show ended with the Hardy’s smacking each other, but it wasn’t a roster full of guys like the Hardy’s. It was a roster full of new blood.

Maria thinks she’s Paul Heyman

Maria cut a promo in the ring and it sounded… very familiar. It was like an Ad-Libs book for a Paul Heyman promo with a few names switched out. I mean, if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best. When she talks about her husband, she sounds like she’s talking about her client. When she talks about herself as the first lady of wrestling, it sounds like just a line among a lot of lines she could say.

But at least TNA Wrestling embraces managers and valets! You have everyone from Maria to Al Snow to Shane Helms in those roles, helping their talents get heat. People don’t boo Mike Bennett because he wears hot pink. They boo him because he seems to have everything in the world and still wants more. Trevor Lee is a great talent in the ring, but give him the Hurricane at ringside and you got some real heat to build in the X-Division. When other wrestling companies stutter when it comes to managers, TNA has no fear on it. It’s definitely the best way to use guys like Helms and Snow.

Josh Matthews and The Pope are atrocious

If you were hoping to hear commentary that made the likes of Michael Cole and JBL sound bad, you won’t find it here. I don’t know why but wrestling commentary seems to be a dying art (Mauro Ranallo and Lucha Underground not included). I guess Josh Matthews didn’t sound this bad during the AAA Lucha Cup but boy is he bad here.

I don’t want to get on a rant here but the purpose of having a former pro wrestler in your commentary booth is to give the perspective of a former pro wrestler to the psychology of the match. This is something Jerry Lawler stopped doing in 1998 but doesn’t mean every wrestler had to stop. When you hear Vampiro talk in Lucha Underground, you hear him talk about the danger of a match and the speed you have to think. You get none of that out of the Pope. You just get basic statements you could have seen with your own eyes. It’s infuriating and maybe not just TNA’s problem, but they could have hired anyone for the role of Josh Matthew’s colour commentator. They got Pope, and Pope is bad.

Remember Vignettes?

Vignettes used to be one of the best parts of pro wrestling, especially when trying to hype up a talent. WWE used to be the kings of it but they rarely use it anymore. Everything is in the ring or backstage. There’s rarely segments outside. Lucha Underground do the modern vignette better than anybody, but I don’t want to make this about Lucha. TNA seems to have purchased a few GoPro’s and put them on a drone for some aerial shots. They used it for the embarrassing Hardy contract signing (so bad TNA themselves decided to parody it) but they also used one to build up Eli Drake in a quick segment:

Maybe that doesn’t do much for you but for me it sells the grandeur, pomp, and circumstance you’re supposed to feel when watching pro wrestling. It makes Drake feel larger than life and you get a real sense of how egotistical he is, not because of the way he talks, but by the way the shot flies around him as the centre of the universe. Pro wrestling is physical theatre that is supposed to tell stories with the body. It’s all about what you see. You don’t have to always tell the stories by someone telling you. Sometimes the best stories are told through the camera lens. That segment pulled it off, and I hope TNA continues to find ways to sell me on their own superstars through the art of the vignette.

As you can tell, these five things are not always positive but they are still things you might be missing because you have decided to write TNA Wrestling off from your weekly viewing schedule. I’m not telling you it’s a must see show or that you need to drop your money for TNA Slammiversary, but it wouldn’t hurt to give an Impact a try and see if you can shut off your cynicism for two hours and find some pro wrestling to enjoy. If not? Hey, there’s always still Lucha Underground for an alternative to the Stamford Wrestling Experiment.