We seemingly ripped apart TNA this week. But all of the criticism was done with a certain tough love. WWE is of course the top dog in the industry. That might never change. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for other companies in the industry. We love Ring of Honor, PWG, Chikara, House of Hardcore and NXT. Each itches as certain scratch. For all that TNA has done wrong, there are some bright spots that they can capitalize on. Let’s give credit where credit is due…
Whether it’s the allure of being on television, the contract money or promises of a better future, TNA has been able to recruit some top rate talent in the past couple of years. This has been a welcomed change from a company who once doubled down on the likes of Kevin Nash and Raven well past their prime. TNA looked towards Ring of Honor for most of their recent signings. The shift in focus began in January 2014 with Dixie Carter posting a four letter tease of Twitter: DR. EE. This confirmed the rumors that former Ring of Honor Tag and World champions Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards were heading to the Impact Zone. Within a few weeks, they were TNA Tag Team champions and both have since picked up memorable wins in singles competition.
That right there might be the selling point for incoming talent: immediate success. No Performance Center, no observing rolls in 101 classes, no NXT, no paying your dues in the new company. Moose is the latest ROH talent to jump ship to TNA. His size and look had many believing he’d be in NXT before long, but the former NFL star opted for TNA. Moose debuted on television immediately and has floated around the main event scene ever since.
The other standout newcomers of 2016 are Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis. Maria had a six year run in WWE from 2004-2010 but remarkably, she’s better than she has ever been. With her husband in tow, the Bennett’s have risen to the top in a way that would only be possible in a company like TNA. Maria is the current Knockouts Champ and with the plethora of gold floating around TNA, Bennett’s waist will surely sport a title in the next six months.
TNA has also invested in some WWE castoffs but these aren’t just big names on the back 9 anymore, they’re diamonds in the rough that WWE failed to utilize. Drew Galloway, formerly known as Drew McIntyre, is a star. His intensity in the ring and on the mic is first class. Maybe it’s his gruff Scottish accent, but when Drew Galloway speaks it always sounds important. In the ring, he’s big and hits hard. He’s been at the top of TNA’s card since his arrival and he’s staying there for as long as he wants. Of all the former WWE employees, I think Vince looks at him and really wishes he didn’t waste him in gimmicks like 3MB.
Two more stars looking to fill the McMahons with regret are Damien Sandow, now known as Aron Rex and the rumored-to-be-arriving-soon, Cody Rhodes. Rex has been masterful on the mic thus far. His TNA in-ring debut is slated for the 9/15/16 edition of Impact in the first of it’s kind Impact Grand Champion Tournament. If you missed the announcement, the IGC will be three 3-minute rounds with judges rating competitors on a 10 point scale. If neither competitor secures a pinfall or submission in the 9 minutes, the judge’s scores will decide the victor. Looking at the brackets, Rex and the aforementioned Galloway might be on a collision course to crown the first Impact Grand Champion. That would charge them with the task of selling audiences on a new brand of wrestling. With chips on their shoulders and a second chance at stardom, these two will absolutely be up for the challenge.
So when will Rhodes pop up? TNA’s live Bound for Glory event might be a good guess. Rhodes deal seems to be unique in that he may be splitting time between two televised companies in Ring of Honor and TNA. If true, this opens the door for TNA to build a better relationship with the independent scene as we suggested yesterday. Invasion angles can be convoluted and messy due to the egos involved with promotions trying to protect their brand. But if a free agent Cody can find an independent antagonist who chases him everywhere he goes out of sheer hate, he’d be an asset to both companies without having to do a traditional ROH vs Impact storyline.
So there are opportunities out there for TNA to rebound after several years of rumored bankruptcy, despised booking and TV station shifting. The dust will need to settle on the leadership shake-up but look for 2017 to be the year that TNA finally puts it together or the year where they finally go out of business. Whether it’s darwinism or capitalism, there should be no in-between at this point.