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Heavy Impact (10/7/15): A Change Would Do You Good




Hi everyone, Marie here, ready and able to dish out the lowdown from this week’s Impact Wrestling!

In a sense, last Sunday’s Bound For Glory pay-per-view is the end of TNA Wrestling as we know it. Gone is the format that is a carbon copy of what WWE has right now. In its place is a refreshing, different idea from what other wrestling shows have to offer. WWE shows are dramas about a wrestling show. Lucha Underground is an action-fantasy movie about luchadors. Ring of Honor is indy circuit wrestling that just so happens to get to be on TV. The new TNA format pegs Impact Wrestling as a talkshow about wrestling. While it’s too early to judge from one episode that the new format is a success, I can definitely say that it’s a vast improvement from what they had before.

Treating pro wrestling as “sports” gives TNA a bit of leeway on creating storylines. One of the biggest problems about TNA is the weakness of their storylines (I can almost hear the snickering from smarks under their collective breaths). Treating pro wrestling as “entertainment” (as the WWE does it) demands a lot more from their creative team. By copying WWE’s format, TNA experienced the same pressures on their bookers and writers, who unfortunately had varying degrees of success.

I believe that the talent of their core wrestlers sets TNA apart from the WWE. A lot of people and wrestling companies can attest to that (case in point: TNA Original James Storm in NXT). With the focus shifting to the competition (and therefore to the matches themselves) they are easing off on some of the pressures from their creative team. That also means putting more responsibility on the wrestlers themselves. They need total commitment from their performers: something they had already demanded and established in the last few weeks between the GFW storyline and Bound for Glory.

TNA do not need to pretend that the show is live. By using the “sports analysis” format, they are subtly acknowledging that the matches shown in Impact Wrestling are pre-taped, easing off the burden of making the viewers think that the matches are done live. Pre-taped sessions are a good way to create their content, since it minimizes the costs and risks of developing a pro wrestling TV show. It also gives them more reason to protect themselves from leaks and spoilers. I don’t think their TV audience cares that much about the show being taped live or not; what matters to them is if the show is good or not.

The trick now is how to make what is basically two guys talking about pro wrestling interesting. First thing they did is to restructure Josh Matthews and the Pope’s panel area. The announce table is gone. In between the two men is a big screen. Not only can they talk about some previous event, but also show it to the audience for better clarification. The most significant change is the bigger time allotted for their analyses between matches. That means that the creative team must write the commentators’ talking points: not just to clarify certain parts of the action, but also to whet the audience’s appetite for the next matches and even episodes.


The competitive series that is the #WorldTitleSeries gives the show a natural story arc that writes itself over the course of the three months that TNA had with Destination America. By focusing on the competitive aspect of pro wrestling, TNA’s creative team now only needs to think about the details and in-ring storylines. They need to give the TNA World Title Series depth, by showing the audience how the 32 wrestlers will strive to obtain the gold.

That brings me to what is the weakest part of the World Title Series: the panel interviews. I find it hokey and artificial, and intrusive because it divides my attention between the talking people on one side of the screen, and the in-ring action on the other. I can see the intention though: they only need to refine the segment a little more. Getting the wrestlers’ thoughts via backstage interviews might look more natural, perhaps?

The TNA World Title Series

Here’s an overview of the World Title Series for those who hadn’t caught this week’s Impact Wrestling (because of NXT Takeover: Respect maybe?). Thirty-two wrestlers are going to be grouped into eight four-person groups, based on their skills, experience, or gender. (Yes, there are four Knockout wrestlers vying for the TNA Heavyweight Championship! I love this new development. Yay for gender equality!).

The wrestlers in each group will fight with one another in matches with a 15-minute time limit (three points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero for a loss) until a group winner will emerge. The group winners will then duke it out in a tournament for the TNA World Title.

The timing of the TNA World Title Series fits the twelve weeks they have with Destination America. Based on my estimates, the elimination round will take nine episodes (by my count, until the end of November). The first two rounds of the tournament will be on the first half of December, and the semifinals. The finals will be held on the last two weeks of 2015.

This episode focused on three groups: Group UK, Group Knockouts, and Group Champions.

Group UK

Drew Galloway and Bram started the show and the series. It was a good opening match, and the two men are equally matched in intensity and personality. Galloway won, given his current push to the top of the the roster. I’m predicting him to be in the top four of the series.


The second match for this group, Rockstar Spud vs Grado, definitely takes the prize for the most entertaining match of the episode. Grado, as always, is comedy gold. He had stripped away (at least for this match) the pull that Rockstar Spud had the past few months with his matches with more serious wrestlers. What resulted is a fun and relaxed match, that had me chuckling for a long time after Rockstar Spud got the win.

They parodied movesets from your favorite WWE superstars, starting with Grado’s Pedigree, then Spud’s weird-ass version of the Five-Knuckle Shuffle, and then Grado’s own hilarious version of the same move, and everything escalated from there. The Pope called the entire match a "classic," but  Josh Matthews has the best comment: “Well, in instances like this, I will do what any pro wrestling broadcaster will do: I’m gonna steal lines from JR. Bah gawd this is a slobberknocker!” If you like Grado’s kind of comedy, do yourself a favor: Google the match, and watch it in its entirety.


Group Knockout

The first match of this group was between Gail Kim and Brooke. They had a pretty effective and devastating technical match, which made the introduction of women wrestlers in the World Title Series very much plausible. Kim did look a little tired after her Bound for Glory Knockout Championship match, which made the upset win by Brooke quite convincing.


The match between Awesome Kong and Madison Rayne is the second qualifying match for this group. Rayne was the plucky underdog of the match (and the entire group as well), and was given a brief moment or two against her bigger opponent. But Kong is as awesome as ever. I am always impressed at how insanely fast and agile Kong is, despite her build (which makes me glad she’s not in WWE; with her non-model like looks and "unfeminine" demeanor, I’m sure Vince won’t know how to use her properly). No surprise that Kong won the match. I’m predicting that she will be the eventual winner for this group.


Group Champions

Of all the groups that has been introduced so far, this one is the hardest to predict, as each one of the four has the potential to be in the tournament. If the Grado vs Rockstar Spud is the most fun match of the card, the two matches for this group are the most exciting in the entire show.

The group’s first match is between Ethan Carter III and (surprise, surprise) Austin Aries. Josh Matthews took the initiative and predicted (I think correctly) how “net nerds” (aka smarks) will gripe and moan about why Aries is here, when he said his goodbyes when he lost the name-versus-career match against Rockstar Spud a few months ago. Apparently, we should just take it as it is: that Aries saw an opportunity to grab the title and he took it, and it didn’t matter if he wasn’t employed by TNA at the time. Knowing smarks, asa pa (you wish).

Anyway, the match is as great as imagined it would be. Despite the multiple awesome spots in this match, the best spot of the night was easily Austin Aries’ perfect 450 splash. In the end, the 15-minute limit was not enough for the two men to get a pin. The match ended with a disappointing draw, each getting just one point each.


The second match for the group was more decisive. The fight between Bobby Lashley and Ken Anderson is a pure powerhouse match: strength, aggression, and utter ruthlessness. Mr. Anderson targeted Lashley’s arm, with multiple armbars. In the end it was no use against Lashley’s humongous spear, which got him the win at the verge of the 15-minute time limit.


All in all, this was a very good start to the TNA World Title Series. Despite the weird way this had started (I will tackle Matt Hardy and how he vacated the TNA Heavyweight Championship next week when it’s his turn to show up in the qualifying rounds), the big renovations in the Impact Wrestling format and the TNA World Title Series had given the show a breath of fresh air. I now wonder how the other teams will fare in the next weeks.

Did you see this week's Impact Wrestling? What did you think of the episode? What do you think about the new format of Impact Wrestling? How about the TNA World Title Series? Which wrestlers do you think will be in the final four? Let us know in the comments!

Photos taken from ImpactWrestling.com

*****

Marie Ricana (@cris_ricana) is an IT specialist and a network/system administrator. While an engineer by profession, she dreams of becoming the next Roland Barthes or The Masked Man. One of these days, she’ll publish the most insightful book on pro wrestling in the Philippines. But for now, she is mostly writing reviews of TNA Impact Wrestling for Smark Henry.

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