I ENJOYED last week’s 5/17/12 episode of TNA Impact Wrestling, and since I’ve put WWE’s Raw and Smackdown on the back burner for a bit, it ended up being the last weekly pro wrestling show I watched until its 5/24 follow-up.
So, when I turned on Impact last night my anticipation was “high.” “High” in the sense that I hoped to passively enjoy the show while half-paying attention, as opposed to having it on in the background for the comfort of its ritualistically habitual noise.
The results were…confusing?
This is the first “Open Fight Night/Gut Check” episode of Impact I’ve tuned in to watch, and I’m not sure what to think. While I reservedly applaud TNA’s experimentation with new/different ways to present televised pro wrestling–and this concept certainly isn’t as bad as some they’ve sprung in the past–it’s still not nearly as effective as the simple show they pulled off to reasonable effect last week.
The good? The “reality show” segments with Hogan mulling over Bully Ray, Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, and AJ Styles as participants in the World Title match, and the “Open Fight Night” challenges where the roster was seen hanging around in the back, waiting to hear who’d called out who, both added to the feel that the Impact roster is a group of competitors questing for titles and in-ring prestige. It sounds so obvious, but I rarely feel this way when watching WWE, where the roster feels more like a collection of performers each doing their own individual act.
I haven’t seen the amount of angst expressed over title contendership as I saw during the Hogan segments in as long as I can remember. Similarly, the open challenge scenes reminded us that the wrestlers are on the show to fight and position themselves closer to the top of the card. Again, something that too often slips through the cracks in WWE and TNA.
Still, the Hogan segments, with their wannabe-“Apprentice” camera angles and sound effects, ultimately felt distracting, and had me longing for the less-frilled approach to the same thing (title contendership) that went down last week.
Similarly, the backstage roster scenes, while on the verge of effectiveness, teetered off that verge due to a lack of properly defined characters with understandably motivated relationships.
In a super hero comic, for instance, when you get a room full of heroes and villains together, each character is so well defined that you know exactly what they think of one another, and as you watch them interact amongst themselves in ways that make sense, their universe feels all the more consistent and real.
The “Open Fight Night” locker room shots were nowhere near as bad as those times when WWE shows the Raw and Smackdown rosters sitting together in matching t-shirts, the heels backslapping and guffawing with the faces of the same brand, but it still failed unnecessarily where it could have easily been successful.
“Gut Check” was a total afterthought and neither here nor there for me. I guess it’s kind of cool that there’s now a forum to see indie notables like Joey Ryan on Impact, and Austin Aries was awesome in this match, but, in the end, “whatever.” Again, TNA goes for gimmickry where fundamentals would suffice.
The title match was fine, but I was pretty fatigued from all the novelties and experimental formats leading up to it.
In the end, I didn’t like this episode of Impact, but I didn’t hate it. Although I’ll watch again next week, my enthusiasm has dimmed considerably since last time. The bells and whistles are fine, especially since none of them were that offensive in and of themselves, but please, lock down the fundamentals first. Oh, also, any appearance of Garrett Bischoff on my screen makes me want to never watch again (even though I totally will).
p.s. Best bell and/or whistle in recent-ish Impact memory was the ranking system they had instituted for a minute some time back. That was cool.