Friday, 31 January 2014

It's All Been Wasted Time

When was the last time Samoa Joe did anything important?

Image © Jason Garber courtesy of Flickr.

In the past two months, he: lost to Magnus in the Heavyweight Championship tournament; got taken out by EC3 in the Friends of AJ storyline; and beat up Rockstar Spud.

So in other words, jobbing, getting beaten up, and accomplishing something that a stiff breeze could do equally well.

So I ask again: when was the last time Samoa Joe did anything important?

Exactly.

And I don't mean that as a slight to Joe. He's one of my favourite TNA wrestlers: endlessly versatile, charismatic, and popular with the fans. But it's precisely because Joe is so great that his enforced idleness is so frustrating.

As I said in my review of the first half of Genesis, it would have been easy to set up a feud between Samoa Joe and EC3. After all, EC3's primary opponent, Sting, had moved his focus onto Magnus, and EC3 assaulted and injured Joe's knee.

There was motive. There was opportunity. There was potential.

So what did TNA have Joe do?

Squash Rockstar Spud. The wrestling equivalent of kicking one of those small yappy handbag dogs: easy to pull off and technically justified, but you still look like a jerk when you do it.

TNA could have started a feud. Instead, they wasted Joe's time and ours. Fantastic.

And the problem is spreading, too. When did Bad Influence last do anything beyond interfere in the main event?

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When they lost to Kurt Angle two-on-one. And although the match helped given Angle momentum for his facedown with Bobby Roode, it's killed Bad Influence's momentum dead.

And what's more, their feud with Eric Young and Joseph Park seems to have fizzled out and died without ever reaching a clear resolution. Bad Influence spent an age investigating Park and his law firm, and trying to unravel the mystery of his identity. Were those plot threads ever resolved? Of course not.

Yes, there was the Monster's Ball handicap match that Park won, but that didn't answer any lingering questions.

And now the feud has passed on to the BroMans and Zema Ion because... TNA suddenly remembered they have a Tag Team Championship that should be defended occasionally? It's really not clear.

And where does that leave Bad Influence, possibly the most charismatic tag team in the company?

With no enemies, no momentum, and nothing to do besides add extra bodies to the overbooked main events.

Makes perfect sense.

I know that you can't touch on every storyline and every feud in every show, but when you have wrestlers as awesome as Samoa Joe and Bad Influence wasting their time in supporting roles and squash matches, you're doing something wrong.

Please, I'm begging you, give them something worthwhile to do.

Because honestly? At the moment, you're doing the wrestling equivalent of hiring Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston and Robert Downey Jr for five minute non-speaking cameos in a movie.

Or to put it bluntly, you're wasting their talent and our time.

Image © FrankWilliams via Wikimedia Commons.

– Stark

Monday, 27 January 2014

TNA Genesis Part Two: UK Air Date 26th January 2014

So Genesis Part Two: better or worse than Part One? Let's find out.

Image © TNA Wrestling courtesy of Wikipedia.

First of all, the constant interview segments are starting to feel like toast crumbs in my bed. If we want to watch your Impact365 content, we'll go on YouTube. That's the point of it. Advertise it to us. Don't force it down our throats in lieu of new content.

I found it particularly galling because these parts gave the absolute nadir of the evening: Bully Ray musing about dropping babies on their heads. Words cannot describe how vile and inappropriate this was. I don't care how much heat you're trying to draw for Bully Ray: there are some lines that should not be crossed. Despicable and disgusting, TNA.

On a more positive note, Gunner and Storm's feud is developing nicely. Gunner suits his push, and Storm's growing frustration suggests a change coming for the cowboy that I look forward to seeing.

On the other hand, Samoa Joe squashing Rockstar Spud was a waste of time, no matter how much you want Spud to get his comeuppance for being mildly annoying. As I said last week, this could have been a wonderful set-up for a feud between Joe and EC3, but instead, we saw Joe beat up a man a third his size who could barely fight back. How noble.

And I have no idea why Eric Young thought fighting the BroMans and Zema Ion three-on-one was sensible. Nor do I know why Abyss showed up, or why he tried to choke-slam EY. This plot seems to have lost all momentum and direction and it's just meandering now, which frustrates me.

Also frustrating is the game of hot potato we're apparently playing with the X Division Title. Every time Chris Sabin and Austin Aries have fought, the belt has switched hands and it's getting ridiculous. Treat the title with a modicum of respect, for goodness' sake.

However, the cage match between Kurt Angle and Bobby Roode was amazing, my highlight of the evening. Angle's sick moonsault off the cage and the way he just snatched victory away from Roode was a fitting end to this storyline, even if the feud was stretched a little long. A very satisfying conclusion.

But to the highs must come lows, and the main event was certainly a low. Magnus versus Sting was yet another over-booked car crash. I know Magnus has to look like a cheating weasel, but surely that's possible without involving Samoa Joe, EC3, Bad Influence, Zema Ion, the BroMans, Kurt Angle, Bobby Roode AND Dixie, right?

And, of course, the Mystery Investor. The reveal teased by the American Wolves intrigues me. Although I suspect the investor might be Sting, I look forward to finding out.

For me, Genesis Part Two was worse than Part One because it was dull and nothing we haven't seen before, especially the over-crowded main event. Hopefully the Glasgow show will shake things up and bring something fresh to the table.

See you on Friday.

– Stark

P.S. You've probably heard that the Glasgow live show will be broadcast in the UK this Thursday. Although I have a previous engagement, I will record and watch it as soon as possible and my review will probably go up the following Monday at the usual time to let the rest of the world catch up.

Related Post: TNA Genesis Part One: UK Air Date 19th January 2014

Friday, 24 January 2014

The Kind of Human Wreckage That You Love

How violent is too violent in professional wrestling?

Image © MarcusObal via Wikimedia Commons.

Maybe it's a strange question, but the feud between Bully Ray and Ken Anderson has raised it for me a few times. As I've mentioned both here and on Twitter, I find Ray and Anderson threatening to set each other on fire awkward and uncomfortable.

But why?

Violence and professional wrestling are inseparable. After all, what are the aims of a wrestling match? Either wear your opponent's body down until you can pin their shoulders for three seconds, or apply a hold that causes enough pain for them to submit to you. And half the moves wrestlers inflict on each other could easily cause serious injury or death if performed incorrectly. So why do we accept this as normal?

Perhaps it's because the professional wrestler is still influenced by the larger-than-life characters of the 80s and 90s: they're super-human.

Think of a wrestler getting punched. They'll generally reel back and act pained and dazed, but most often, they will respond in kind. Now think of a referee getting punched. They generally go down like a sack of wet porridge and stay like it, don't they? Because referees are human; wrestlers, super-human.

This is why we'll accept wrestlers shrugging off the kind of assaults that real life would find unrealistic. But is there still a place to draw the line? And where?

Let's take blunt force trauma. While we know that head injuries can be deadly serious, we accept that the wrestler is super-human. James Storm hitting somebody with a beer bottle? Believable.

What about Madison Rayne and Tara running over Mickie James with a motorbike? Not so much.

Image © kenjonbro via Flickr.

Alternatively, sharp objects. While we know that being dropped on thumb tacks would be seriously harmful, we accept that the wrestler is super-human. Abyss hitting the tacks? Believable.

What about Abyss almost murdering Rob Van Damn with Janice the board of nails? No.

So what's the difference?

I think it's how explicit the chance of death is. Running somebody over with a motor vehicle could kill. Disemboweling somebody is life-threatening. Burns are some of the most dangerous injuries you can suffer.

For me, all of these elements skirt too close to or cross the line between standard wrestling violence and attempted murder.

The world of wrestling may be slightly different to our reality, but the police still exist and trying to kill somebody by setting them on fire is still a crime. Without ramifications for those actions, my suspension of disbelief can't be sustained.

So can it be done?

Yes. But only if consequences are addressed.

Have an authority figure announce that the assaulted was arrested and bailed. Have the assaulted refuse to press charges so they can fight again. Have the assaulter boast about their magnificent lawyer. Just have something before we start asking difficult questions.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

But what about you? How violent do you think is too violent in professional wrestling? Let me know in the comments, and I'll see you on Monday.

– Stark

Monday, 20 January 2014

TNA Genesis Part One: UK Air Date 19th January 2014

Genesis is a time of new beginnings, but was that the case for TNA? Let's tackle part one of TNA's first PPV of 2014.

Image © TNA Wrestling courtesy of Wikipedia.

We'll start negative: opening your total non-stop action with over fifteen minutes of talking is boring, even if it is useful exposition. This was my least favourite segment, despite the good heat it drew Dixie and her crew, simply because I was more interested in checking Twitter than what they were saying.

Fortunately, the six-aside tag match was fun, exciting, and gave every performer a moment in the spotlight, especially Joseph Park holding his own against Magnus. However, it progressed neither his plot nor the antagonism between Gunner and Storm, which disappointed me.

TNA keep Samuel Shaw and his violent assaults in mind was heartening to see, if briefly shown.

I'm indecisive about the developments between Aries, Sabin and Velvet. While Velvet standing up for herself was a relief, this will be the third championship match between Aries and Sabin in four weeks and it's beginning to grow stale. Where's the rest of the X Division gone?

Similarly, I like Anderson's darker edge when his family is involved, and Bully Ray's characterisation, but the constant threat of arson in their matches is really off-putting for me, leaving me uncertain. More on that another time.

However, I'm fascinated by the idea of an eventual face turn for Magnus foreshadowed by the conflict between him and EC3. I hope something comes of it.

The introduction of the TNA investor suggests the introduction of a face authority figure to rival Dixie, and I look forward to seeing where this goes.

However, Kurt Angle running around, choking Al Snow, threatening Dixie and getting attacked felt superfluous. I would have preferred Angle's elements be placed in the six-aside tag match. I would give Samoa Joe a video segment, where he says that he's absent due to the knee injury inflicted on him by EC3, but that he will soon be back for revenge. This would give Joe something to get his teeth into, and set up a new feud for EC3 now his antagonist has moved on to the championship scene.

EC3 versus Sting did not end well. TNA refused to use a clean finish in a main event for several weeks now: it's getting old. And having Magnus come in to take over referee duties was unnecessary and convoluting, even if it did set up our World Heavyweight Championship match for next week. Not the best moment.

So what was? Madison Rayne versus Gail Kim for the Knockouts Title. It was the best women's match I have seen in a long time, focussed on athleticism over sexiness, and not even Madison's head-humping attack spoilt it for me. I loved this match, and I would definitely watch it again.

My summary? Good action, but some stories failed to progress as they should. Better than last week, and hopefully, Genesis Part Two will be an even bigger improvement.

See you on Friday.

– Stark

P.S. It would be remiss of me to end this post on anything but a payment of respect to Mae Young. Rest in peace: you will be missed.

Image © Yagobo79 via Wikimedia Commons.

Related Post: TNA Impact: UK Air Date 12th January 2014

Friday, 17 January 2014

Just a Matter of Opinion

Recently, Matt Hardy posted a string of tweets on Twitter that made me think. And I've collected the most interesting four here on Storify.

Image © Robby Green via Flickr.

Laying aside whether you like Matt Hardy as a performer, I got to wondering after I read those tweets, and I started asking myself question.

"Who am I? What am I doing on this blog? And why?"

I do not consider myself a journalist. Although I follow Wrestle Talk TV and TNA Insider on Twitter, I do not do extensive research, and I am not bring you breaking news. I'm an opinionated Brit with a blog, not a professional.

Nor am I a wrestling expert. I have been a fan on and off since I was a child, but due to long periods of inattention and my relatively young age, I don't know everything. I'd like to think I'm more than a casual fan, but wrestling would not be my Mastermind specialist subject.

And what I plan to blog are my opinions rather than fact. I am not objective: my writing comes through the lens of my bias, and my reviews and my opinion pieces are just my personal feelings.

That's who I am. That's what I'm doing. Like my blog header says, these are the thoughts of a twenty-something TNA fan. Nothing more.

Image © Mr Shasihinka via Wikimedia Commons.

So if I'm neither a journalist nor objective, who am I think that my comments are worthwhile? Why don't I just shut up and buy a ticket like Matt suggests? Do I have the right to do what I'm doing?

According to Matt Hardy, I don't. And meaning no disrespect to him, I have to disagree.

Wrestling may not be my forte, but stories are. I'm a creative writing student: character, plot and dialogue are all my areas of expertise, and professional wrestling uses all of them.

As an aspiring writer, I believe that professional wrestling can be an exciting and unique medium for telling a story, and that we should accept only the best from the people orchestrating this from behind the scenes. We the fans need to let the people in charge know what's working for us and what isn't so that they can tailor their product and make it work better.

I do not intend to insult the wrestlers themselves: if I criticise, it is the gimmick – the character being played – rather than the performer themself. I don't know these men and women, and I won't make unfounded attacks. I will not criticise a plot, a character or a piece of dialogue without due cause or explanation, and I will always try to find a positive even in the aspects I dislike most.

So that's why I'm writing this blog. Because I believe that I have a unique perspective on wrestling as storytelling medium. Because I believe criticism can help wrestling. And ultimately, because I feel I have something to say that's worthy of your time.

And isn't that why anyone blogs about anything in the end?

Image © Cortega9 via Wikimedia Commons.

– Stark

Monday, 13 January 2014

TNA Impact: UK Air Date 12th January 2014

They've been tweeting about it. We've been waiting for it. And now it's arrived: the long-awaited TNA Impact pitting Magnus against AJ Styles to find the one true champion.

What did I think?

Image © TNA Wrestling courtesy of Rasslor.

The Friends of AJ angle started off rough when it failed to clarify that Eric Young and Joseph Park were part of it before they were taken out. However, the assaults were well-executed and played, particularly Samoa Joe trying to battle through the pain of his leg injury, and they had enough variety to keep me wondering what would happen next.

I'm interested to see if Joseph Park's potential concussion will be part of his ongoing split personality storyline or not.

I'm looking forward to the re-match between James Storm and Gunner, but I have noticed that we're being encouraged to support Gunner, even though I feel Storm is the one in the right, not helped by the interview where he made peace with Kurt Angle. This could just confuse us as an audience rather than showing us moral shades of grey.

And I'm getting tired of the interviews. The clips are on YouTube, and that's where they should stay. The show should be for new material, not replaying their online content.

Kurt Angle has won a match for the first time in at least two months, and both he and Bobby Roode are going into Genesis with momentum. This has helped rekindle my interest in their feud because until now, Angle had lost every match and didn't appear to be a threat to Roode, which made the conflict boring. Now it has some life to it again, and about time too.

Sting butting heads with an increasingly megalomaniacal Dixie was fun to watch. The way Sting advocates for the younger wrestlers like the team dad is always fun, and the segments helped build excitement for the main event.

Unfortunately, said main event was a let-down and my least favourite part of the show, Despite good build up from the opening segment with AJ, Dixie and Magnus. The interference from EC3 and Rockstar Spud came too early and the match became farcical. AJ looked strong for surviving as long as he did against the Zerg Rush of heels, but he had no time to show off his strong in-ring skills one-on-one and the match was a disappointing send-off for the Phenomenal One.

The highlight of the evening for me was Ken Anderson confronting Bully Ray at the funeral parlour. It hit all the right notes: Bully Ray was intimidating and even downright scary, and Anderson responding seriously instead of with sarcasm help sell it as a serious, dramatic moment. Although Bully managing to vanish into thin air at the end was silly, this was still my favourite part of the show.

Overall? A decent episode of Impact that fell at the final hurdle. I expect better from Genesis.

I'll see you again on Friday.

– Stark

Friday, 10 January 2014

Off-Topic: A Reintroduction and a New Home

Hello, and welcome to the brand new home of Stark Remarks.

If you follow my twitter feed, you probably know that I'm an opinionated, twenty-something English TNA fan who likes to live-blog TNA wrestling. What you might not know is that for quite some time, I also ran a blog where I posted in-depth reviews of episodes of TNA iMPACT!, which can be found here if you're interested.

However, that blog had... problems. Specifically, my posts often leant towards "tl;dr", and the amount of time it took to produce them meant that – combined with my academic work – it suffered terrible schedule slipping.

So now, I'm going to try something different.

For the next six months, this blog will update twice weekly. On Mondays, I'll post a bitesize review of the most recent episode of TNA, summarising its strengths and weaknesses; and on Thursdays, I'll post a short opinion piece that relates to wrestling. This could be on anything from why I like or dislike a particular gimmick to more in-depth commentary on a particular storyline or anything that piques my interest.

After the six months, I'll see how this has gone and whether it's something I wish to pursue further.

I hope you enjoy this little experiment of mine.

– Stark