Thursday, May 31, 2012

Runaway


My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Top 5 mistakes in TNA Wrestling history [part 2]

TNA's upcoming "Slammiversary" pay-per-view is held each year to commemorate the anniversary of the first show in TNA history. This year's edition of the show will mark the 10-year anniversary of the number two wrestling promotion in the world.

To exist for 10 years, one has to do something right. And, as I have mentioned on here lately, TNA has done a lot right and looks to be currently doing several things right. But, over the course of 10 years, they have made some major mistakes. Some head-scratching, odd mistakes. Mistakes that make you think, "What were they thinking?!?"

This list is in no particular order. It's just 5 instances over the years where I feel like TNA dropped the ball with a particular storyline and talent. A talent went into a situation with momentum and left with people wondering where that momentum went. In a lot of ways, the people who are included on my list have yet to fully recover. And, most probably never will.

Part 1 of this feature looked at Frankie Kazarian turning into Suicide. Below is part 2.

AJ Style's association with Ric Flair

When TNA formed in 2002, they had two main groups of talent to pull from - WCW and ECW competitors who didn't go to WWE, and unknown talents. Mainstream wrestling fans don't know who unknown talents are, so in the beginning TNA pushed the known names.

AJ Styles was the first homegrown TNA talent to become a star in the promotion. He was a young kid, a high-flying sensation. He didn't have the greatest microphone skills, but he had a connection with the audience and people loved him. Well, in time. He started out as a cocky, brash heel. Then like most heels who do a good job, the audience respects you and cheers for you.

Another factor in AJ's favor was that after a while there was a slight backlash against TNA for using so many former WWE, WCW, and ECW wrestlers. The fact that some of these people were pushed ahead of Styles made the fans like him that much more. He became "their guy," and they waited for the day when he would become "the guy."

He had a few short reigns as TNA World Heavyweight Champion. He also had several reigns as TNA's X-Division Champion and a couple Tag Team titles. Right now, he has won the most titles in TNA history.

As 2009 was coming to a close, AJ Styles started riding another wave of momentum. He was the top guy again and was heading into a match at Bound For Glory against the TNA Heavyweight Champion, Sting. Sting, an Icon of professional wrestling. It was known that Sting's contract was coming to an end. People didn't know if he had resigned or not. People thought that perhaps this was Sting's last match and was going to be a passing of the torch to Styles.

That happened. Kind of. Styles won the TNA Championship. After the event went off the air, Sting got on the microphone and put over the new champion, saying that he wasn't sure if he was coming back, but that the company was in good hands with AJ Styles as champion. Ultimately, Sting did come back.

AJ Styles wins the title in October 2009. He's the top face of the company. He defends the title at the November and December pay-per-views. January 2010, the face of TNA changes as Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff arrive. As a surprise nobody saw coming, Ric Flair also debuts in January 2010.

Seeds are planted as Flair casually puts over the champion on commentary one night. The next week, he comes out to the stage as AJ is wrestling. Shortly after, AJ is involved in a match with Kurt Angle. Ric Flair comes out again. What follows is one of the worst mistakes in TNA history:

AJ Styles turns heel and aligns himself with Ric Flair.

AJ Styles, 4 months into his World Heavyweight Championship reign, the top good guy in TNA, the "people's champion," to steal a phrase from The Rock. He turns heel. He becomes a bad guy. Not only does he align himself with "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, he transforms himself into "Nature Boy Junior."

He went from being the down-to-earth, fun-loving good guy that related to the common man of the audience, to a 2010 version of the "Limousine riding, jet flying, kiss stealing, wheeling, dealing son of a gun." That image works for Ric Flair. It didn't work for AJ Styles.

Gone was dressing like what he was - a normal 30 year old man wearing t-shirts and jeans. He suddenly came out wearing 3-piece suits. Despite the fact that he had acknowledged being married and had been seen wearing his wedding ring, he was suddenly seen cavorting with scantily-clad women.

Trying to become the bleach-blond Flair, Styles adds blond highlights to his hair. His promos had always been mellow and not overly boastful. Now, he's doing a second-rate Ric Flair impersonation. And not even a good impersonation like Jay Lethal could do.

AJ Styles continued as the Flair 2.0 for a couple months. He eventually lost the title to Rob Van Dam and basically turned into a midcard superstar. That is, until he turned face again and dropped the Ric Flair schtick. As we're approaching the halfway point of 2012, AJ Styles is back to where he was before the turn - a strong wrestler that the audience loves and respects. We just need to forget that his Nature Boy period existed and everything will be okay.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

mountainslate.wordpress.com

Mountain Slate magazine has a new online home for the moment:

http://mountainslate.wordpress.com/

As of right now, the tentative idea is to have issue 1 of Mountain Slate out by November-ish. Of course, that's without any roadblocks or any unforseen circumstances.

Until then, and probably after then, the wordpress account will be the place to go for updates about the magazine and other features. I'll probably have members of the staff (5 or 6 other people at the moment) write some stuff, and post some cool stuff throughout the summer.

We're still getting things sorted out at the moment; the site isn't complete. Some of the links on the main page don't go anywhere, and I don't really like the Times New Roman-ish font for the posts. Some stuff will be added and others will be changed as things progress.

There are 2 posts on there right now, but if you've been following me here it's nothing that you haven't heard before. But, I'd still like it if you checked it out.

Giving TNA some credit



In my last post, I started counting down the Top 5 mistakes in the history of TNA Wrestling's 10-year existence. One of the things I mentioned at the start of that post was that TNA was on a roll lately and was producing some solid television.

For those who may have given up on TNA, or never gave it a chance, or who may be curious to see but don't want to commit yet, I decided to embed the opening to last week's edition of their iMPACT Wrestling program.

That was the last week it was taped and at 9 p.m on SpikeTV. Starting Thursday, May 31, iMPACT Wrestling starts an hour earlier, at 8 p.m., and is also going to air live.

The video above is from TNA's "Open Fight Night" concept. It's a once-a-month feature they do where talent is afforded the opportunity to challenge a wrestler and it has to be accepted. In the case of the World Heavyweight Championship match, there were 4 challengers and Hulk Hogan, as the TNA authority figure, had the job of figuring out who would get the opportunity to challenge Bobby Roode.

You don't see it in this clip, but ultimately AJ Styles is selected as the challenger. He loses to Roode, and as such, Roode becomes the longest-reigning champion in TNA history. The previous record had actually been held by Styles.

I like what they did with the video there, as it's been reported that the exchange was loosely scripted. The wrestlers were given a starting point and an ending point, and told to improvise everything between. I think it makes for some compelling television.

The exchange is only about 10 minutes long, with the final 5 minutes being the start of the program and a challenge by Gail Kim to the women's tag team champs, ODB & Eric Young. EY is a comedy character in TNA. He's pretty entertaining. I'm not a huge fan of his being involved in the women's division, but he's produced some funny moments out of it.

So, while they have made some big mistakes over the last 10 years, and I will continue to document those, I wanted to take a moment and congratulate TNA for doing something good. Below is a video teaser for Thursday's first live edition of iMPACT Wrestling, featuring the return of Sting, who will challenge Bobby Roode.

Top 5 mistakes in TNA Wrestling history

Total Nonstop Action Wrestling has been criticized a lot over the years. It seems some people just don't want to give this organization any credit for doing anything good or interesting. I'm not one of those people. I like to look at the positives and give credit where credit is due. The TNA brand as a whole has been doing a pretty good job lately. While I feel they aren’t quite on par with their peak in the spring/summer of 2009, I feel like they can approach that level if they continue to be solid.

With that said, though, there have been some mistakes made over the years by the Nashville-based promotion. The following series of articles will illustrate what I consider to be TNA's 5 biggest mistakes over the years. The list is full of moments where peoples momentum was stopped due to illogical creative or ideas that seemed good on paper that just didn't flesh out like they planned. All of them have left me scratching my head, and likely will yours as well.

The list is in no particular order. If you agree or disagree, or would like to offer your own choices, feel free to leave a comment. Below is the first installment.

Franke Kazarian becoming Suicide

In the early days of TNA, Frankie Kazarian was a fun, fast-paced X-Division wrestler. He was solid and showed signs of being a great character. He eventually jumped to WWE in 2005 and made a few appearances on their second-tier show at the time, Velocity. Wrestling folklore has it that WWE officials asked Kazarian to cut his hair and he objected, asking for his release. About a year later, he popped up back in TNA. Ironically, he had cut his hair.

Kazarian bounced around for a little while, hitting a new low as a flunky for Raven. Things started turning around when he broke free from Raven and had an amazing couple months. The crowd was getting behind him as a new face and his performances were on a main-event level. He won a tournament to earn a World Championship shot, defeating Christian Cage in a thrilling ladder match in the final. He lost the title match against Kurt Angle, but held his own and looked great. He then won a "Terror Dome" match to earn an X-Division title shot. At that same pay-per-view, Samoa Joe was supposed to defend his title against Scott Steiner and Kurt Angle. Angle was injured days before, and officials stuck Kaz into the match. A star was made.

Kaz lost the World Title match. Then he lost the X-Division title match the next month. Then he lost a couple more matches. Then he did an interview where he said he was frustrated and taking some time off.

Then Suicide showed up.

Who?

Suicide was a masked character created specifically for TNA's first video game. It was decided to make him a real character in TNA. Suicide was a cool-looking character and he was talented as well, as it was Kazarian under the mask. Why? I don’t understand why. Kaz was a main-event talent waiting to take his spot. Suicide was a masked character that any wrestler needing a boost could have done. In fact, when Kazarian injured his biceps muscle, Christopher Daniels was Suicide for a couple months. When Kaz left the company, TNA considered giving Suicide to a Japanese wrestler, Okado. They ultimately retired Suicide.

Kaz came back to TNA in 2009. He has been solid, but not spectacular. He is nowhere near the level he once was. It was a blown opportunity for TNA to create a potential main eventer. Had the character of Frankie Kazarian basically not disappeared from TNA from 2006-2009, maybe we’d be talking about how many World Championship reigns Kaz had acquired. He definitely would have been a bigger star had he not become Suicide.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mountain Slate magazine update

Do you ever feel like you're playing catch up, trying to get your life back on track from where it once was? That was me for the last few months. If you remember my last blog - http://chrisslater.blogspot.com/2012/02/one-step-forward-two-steps-back.html - I wrote about my journey from leaving Pizza Hut and starting a new job that I really liked, to being fired from that job and being jobless for the nearly 2 months that followed.

So, I get this new job. For those curious, I'm a server at Outback Steakhouse. Yes, it's just as glamorous as it sounds. It’s not like you just get a new job after 2 months and pick up where you left off. No, you get a new job and spend the next several months trying to catch up on debts and get acclimated to your new surroundings.

 My enormously large electric bill has been paid off and I have made several new friends from work. So, things are looking up now. As such, life can progress as usual.

What I'm now working on in my free time, once again, is the Mountain Slate magazine project. For those who don't know, check out the following blog - http://chrisslater.blogspot.com/2011/12/mountain-slate.html - and check out @MountainSlate on twitter.

Long story short, if you don't want to read that blog I linked - I came up with the idea to start a magazine in 2009. Nothing really happened until the fall of 2011, where I made a lot of progress until December-ish. Then I lost my job for 2 months and had to play catch up. I feel caught up, so it's time to start making a magazine.

"Why didn't you work on the magazine during your time away from work? Wouldn't you have had a lot of time on your hands?" True, I did have a lot of time. But, everything is pretty much planned out. At this point, I need money before things can progress. The last thing I was working on before I lost my job was an ad contract so that I could sell advertisements to fund Mountain Slate.

I surprise myself sometimes with how well I can save money. I was stockpiling some cash to fund the magazine on myself. Then I lost my job and had to use the magazine fund to pay my bills. Now I'm accumulating some money again, and I'm ready to get things started.

Where we're at right now:

The advertising contract is complete. I am putting the finishing touches on an informational packet that I can show potential advertisers. It is 3-pages long, with information about what kind of content will be in the magazine, who it will be geared toward, etc, etc... There is also a section looking at the staff of the magazine. At the present time, I have four other staff members on board with me and am talking to a few other people. For anybody who would like to be involved, email mountainslate[at]gmail.com for more information. Or message me on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or text me. Or come visit me at Outback.

After I finish that information packet, I'm going to talk to the company that will be printing the magazine to make sure they remember that I exist. Then I will map out my plan to sell 500,000 brake pads. Wait, that's the plot of Tommy Boy. Map out the plan to sell enough advertisements to turn Mountain Slate from an idea to a magazine.

I'll keep you updated on how things go from here.

Random Wrestling Thoughts: Macho Man, Monday Night Raw, iMPACT

A few random thoughts:

The other day was the one-year anniversary of the passing of professional wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage. Check the links below for two blogs I wrote about the subject at that time. The first is a random promo of his that I put linked upon hearing the news. The second is the official WWE tribute video they premiered a few days after his death.

http://chrisslater.blogspot.com/2011/05/macho-madness.html

http://chrisslater.blogspot.com/2011/05/wwe-legend-randy-savage-tribute-video.html

While we're on the subject of wrestling, it is an odd time to be a wrestling fan. The WWE is continuing to push this John Lauranitais character on us, despite nobody really finding him enjoyable. I've written before about my displeasure with "Evil Authority Figure" angles and this is one of the worst.

It seems like WWE knows that myself and others like me don’t care for that, which is why they're giving us a CM Punk versus Daniel Bryan feud. It's like Vince McMahon is saying, "They hate my main story, so let's have these guys wrestle for half an hour on pay-per-view so they'll shut up."

WWE and TNA both announced huge deals on the same day. WWE's flagship show "Monday Night Raw" will soon expand to 3 hours, while TNA’s "iMPACT Wrestling" program will switch from taped to live this summer.

The TNA announcement is very good. One of the big problems with the promotion is that they would tape 2-3 weeks of programming at a time, and results would get out. The reason that this is done is because of cost issues. It is cheaper to tape a lot of content at one time than to do a live show.

TNA being live is just an experiment for the summer. I guess the idea here is that hopefully going live each week will improve ratings, which will offset any additional costs.

I have mixed feelings on WWE's 3-hour announcement. I need to see it in effect before I pass judgment. If it's just a 3-hour version of the 2-hour show, I don’t think that will be a good idea. World Championship Wrestling had a 3-hour show for a couple years in the late 1990s. When the writing was strong and the talent was there, WCW filling a 3-hour show each week was easy and it was fun program to watch. It was when most of the key talent left and the writing wasn’t as good that a 3-hour program started to drag.

At the moment, I don't think WWE has the talent and writing ability to fill a 3-hour show. If they do something different and groundbreaking, that would be something to see. WWE has toyed around with a Monday night countdown show of sorts, possibly online or on the long-awaited WWE Network. Maybe 8 p.m. until 9 p.m. could be a couple talking heads recapping the last week in wrestling and getting us ready for the 9 - 11 p.m. block.

Overall, it's a good time to be a wrestling fan. Ring of Honor is coming to Charleston in June. I’m attending the show with @Candace07. It should be fun. Check out my Facebook album from the WWE SmackDown live event that we attended a while back. It was during Edge’s last run as World Heavyweight Champion, as he retired due to injuries just four months later.

As a final side note, WWE recently released a DVD retrospective of Edge’s career. It’s a great documentary. I highly recommend it. A 3-disk set, the second and third disks feature matches from his career. In 2008, WWE released a 3-disk match compilation of Edge’s career, so that’s where most of the highlights are, wrestling wise. This set features mostly matches from the final years of his career, including his last match, against Alberto Del Rio at WrestleMania 27.