Hello fans. If you could choose a nickname to call the summer of 2010 as it relates to the pro wrestling landscape of the two major North American promotions, then maybe the appropriate title would be something like “The Summer of the Invasion.” After all, the WWE has spent the majority of its summer working an invasion angle in the Raw vs. Nexus feud, while TNA is resurrecting ECW for a one night PPV show. It’s really only possible to judge the outcome of the WWE angle, since the TNA-ECW angle is still in its beginning stages. But when you take a look at both programs for what they are and what they could mean for potential business, there are stark differences.
The Nexus invasion began nearly two months ago and got off to one of the more visually aggressive starts of any wrestling program in years. The violent assault elicited some of the biggest discussion from inside and outside of wrestling circles than nearly anything in the last decade. Even those who had long tuned out of WWE programming or wrestling in general flipped through the USA Network on that evening and saw something they had never seen before. They saw the sacred ground of WWE, its own ring, being literally ripped apart. A group of guys who the vast majority of the WWE fanbase had never heard of (unless they watched NXT) were out there laying waste to everyone. Perhaps, the thing that stuck out most about that initial angle was the attack of the announcers, timekeeper and other members of the ringside crew. Heck, it was so intense that Bryan Danielson was fired over it.
Many insiders and members of the online wrestling community quickly gave the angle praise, but were leery of its long-term momentum at the same time. WWE has a well known history of stopping hot acts dead in their tracks, but then something unique happened…the angle picked up at an alarmingly strong rate. The Nexus continued to assault guys on a weekly basis and even roughed up some legends in the process. They kept getting more heat put on them and the company did not diffuse it. Instead, they gave them their own merchandise, theme music and kept them smartly booked, which is no small feat given the company’s penchant for start-and-stop pushes. The end result of all this: Nexus, seven guys who one had ever heard of six months ago, will be headlining what appears to be the most important WWE match this year outside of Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker at Wrestlemania.
It’s quite a testament to the individual members of the group, the creative staff of the company and the outstanding work by the veteran performers in getting them over up until this point. The company has proven that it still can make new stars and provide us with compelling storylines even in the current PG environment. The most amazing statistic about this program is that all of the performers involved in the 7-on-7 match at Summerslam, with the exception of Bret Hart, are under 40. It’s amazing when you think about the fact that seven of the guys in this match were in WWE developmental earlier this year and have never performed on a worldwide stage and major event like they will at Summerslam in a few weeks.
TNA, on the other hand, is playing their same old card. They are going back to their never-ending well of washed up stars from the 80s and 90s, not even taking out the time to realize that a big reason as to why the Nexus angle is so hot is due to the fact that the guys are totally new. Dixie Carter is going all out to make the upcoming August PPV into the second ECW One Night Stand (2005 version). I like Dixie personally and really want her company to succeed, but if bringing in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff couldn’t save TNA, then what makes her think that a bunch of ECW alumni will. Some of the smarter ECW alum like Paul Heyman, Lance Storm and Steve Corino realize that an ECW show is not the fix the company needs. Like Dave Meltzer and Heyman (who even admitted to Dixie in person) have preached, a band-aid fix or one hot angle isn’t going to turn TNA around. It will take a multi-year process in which the entire way in which the company approaches its business model will have to be revamped. More like a change in overall philosophy and not just in a booking sense (though it wouldn’t hurt).
Some have described the final segment on Impact last week as being sad. And I can see that being a valid conclusion. Tommy Dreamer’s promo, while no doubt sincere, came across like he was a big baby who can’t come to terms with the fact the beloved promotion that he sacrificed his life for is gone and never coming back. He almost came across as a whiner. Throughout his promo Dreamer cried about how he was forced to watch all his friends in the WWE version of ECW lose their jobs one by one. From what he said, I think we were supposed to believe that he mentally couldn’t handle this unfortunate fact of life, which was the reason he quit WWE. Well Dreamer, people are sometimes fired. Does it suck? Yes. Is it a natural part of life? Unfortunately yes. WWE is a business and what happens when a business no longer has a need for its personnel? They get fired. There is alot of recently released WWE talent who I don't see crying on national TV about how much Vince wronged them. They accept it as a natural part of life and learn to move on. And for a good portion of them, they discover that the quality of life is much better after leaving the WWE. For some reason Dreamer and this ECW contingent just can't seem to do that. They appear emotionally wounded and desperate to get back at Vince and prove that the ECW product of a decade ago can still kick the butt of today's massive WWE infrastructure.
Since the upcoming PPV will be an ECW talent showcase, it’s safe to assume that a good portion of the talent on that show is hovering around 40 or over it. That’s not the point because there are alot of very talented near-40 and over-40 guys that can still go (Chris Jericho, HHH, Shawn Michaels, Jerry Lynn). The point is that this is another in an endless string of instances where instead of new talent being elevated, Dixie instead refuses and decides to go with guys who had their moment in the sun some decade plus earlier. I would really like to meet Dixie one day and just have lunch with her so I could get to know how she really thinks about the wrestling business. I would also ask her who she listens to when making the majority of her decisions. Apparently, from TNA’s track record this year alone, that voice she listens to is grossly out of touch with what the TV viewing and PPV buying audience wants to see in their product.
In what has become typical fashion, TNA is copying yet another WWE concept. We all know how the story will end. Both are doing invasion angles. WWE’s is booked much better, their talent involved is much younger and at the end of the day it will surely do much better business than anything TNA has done. I would almost be stunned if this year’s Summerslam does not end up doing the second-highest WWE buyrate of the year.
Dixie said a line on Impact about how ECW meant to the 90s, what Hogan and Flair meant to the 80s. If that is true, then I would like to ask her who from her company means as much to pro wrestling in 2010?
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