So I was watching TNA Impact the other night and realized that when comparing the two companies, lately I’ve been noticing that I’ve been enjoying TNA much more than Raw. The first & I believe, the most obvious reason for this is their roster. They just have talent that in my opinion are allowed to be what they want to be and portray themselves as they would like to be portrayed. I think these guys probably have a lot more say in their characters than most guys do in WWE, where they’re given a direction, look, lines & the whole nine yards and aren’t allowed to stray from what has been written for them.
Also, in the case of a number of WWE talents that when they got themselves over either by accident or on purpose, “creative” decides that because that’s not where they had envisioned this talent that they won’t just go with it like they have in the past (see: Steve Austin). Take a guy like Zack Ryder as an example…here’s a guy who just like everyone else was told to work hard at his gimmick, learn it & try hard to put himself where he wanted to be in this business. So he went out, picked up a hand-held video camera & started his own youtube channel, posting some funny, and well thought out shows starring himself along with his father and a couple of his friends. He did what he was told to do and the fans took to him, he quickly got fans to start “liking him on facebook, following him on twitter…” to the point that he has almost a million and a half twitter followers and when WWE was in the New York metro area, he had a pretty huge following & people demanded to have him on their TV.
Or how about Alex Riley who was a lackey for the Miz up until and during his WWE title run. When Miz blamed his title loss on Riley & kicked him to the curb, fans got behind him and wanted to see him give Miz what he had coming to him, but again creative put the kibosh on it and now I believe he might be doing some commentary on a show that gets little to no viewership.
Meanwhile, over on the TNA side of things…sure they might not always get it quite right, but I just don’t see them chopping the legs out from under their talents as they’re trying to put them over and make them stars the way WWE has with CM Punk & Daniel Bryan. There are a number of TNA talent that are legit TNA World Title contenders that if were put into a title match, nobody would blink an eye and wonder why that talent was put into that match.
In WWE, I can really only look at a handful of talents that I really get excited to watch in any given match regardless of their opponents. That short list includes: CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Mark Henry, Brock Lesnar (when he’s around), Undertaker (again, when he’s around). I love it when Paul Heyman is on the mic…he can be so ruthless with his comments and is quite the wordsmith when it comes to assembling his promos. He’s also careful as to not make the opponents of his “Heyman guys” look foolish and beneath them. Also, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns are a great unit. I also will get up for the Wyatt Family. Bray Wyatt can have such a bright future in WWE if he is handled correctly. His goons, Rowan & Harper are a bit rough around the edges, but it kinda plays into the gimmick. I also am a big fan of the Usos.
Over on the TNA side of things, the main reason for me writing this column is that I love watching AJ Styles perform his magic in the ring. He’s such a well rounded talent. He can have a good match with ANYONE. And it hasn’t always been like that, we’ve had the privilege of watching him grow as a performer over the course of the last 12 years in TNA. Now, I don’t cringe when it’s time for him to cut a promo on his opponents with his southern drawl.
Also, Bully Ray may be one of the most versatile performers they have on their roster and it’s taken them awhile to realize it and put the World Title on him. In the ring, he can go with the best of them in his brawling style as Steve Austin also did back in the attitude era. On the mic though, he’s money! He can invoke near-riot like animosity with barely even trying when he’s playing a heel. When he’s a babyface, he can get every person in the crowd behind him on his quest to do what’s right. There aren’t many talents like him that can play both sides of the coin so precisely right.
On to the rest of the talent in TNA that I love to tune in & watch each week regardless of the storylines they’re booked into: Frankie Kazarian & Christopher Daniels as the tag team of Bad Influence are in my opinion the best tag team wrestling today. Their brand of snarky heels with no redeeming qualities really makes their segments so much better. James Storm is another guy who is just so amazingly over it’s insane that they haven’t kept him in the World Title picture longer than he was. Bobby Roode took awhile to grow on me, but now that he’s not Million Dollar Man v. 2.0, I really do dig his segments & matches. Austin Aries is another guy whose matches are just sick to watch, he’s such a complete performer both in the ring & on the mic that it’s really been cool seeing him transform over the years from what he was when he first showed up in TNA to what he has become now. His rise to the World Title was a great story too, having him cash in the X Division Title for a shot at the World Title, which not only elevated him to the upper echelon of talent in TNA but also helped to give the X Division Title more value as well. Very well done!
I also love watching Samoa Joe‘s matches. The dude’s a beast and when he’s on, there aren’t many better than him at telling a story in that ring. The same can be said about Magnus. That dude has future World Champion written all over him. He’s got the look, can talk & is VERY good in the ring. To the point that I’m surprised they haven’t pulled the trigger with him yet. He’s able to have some very good matches with just about anyone in the TNA locker room. Ken Anderson also made his return last week after being out a few months apparently in contract negotiation. He showed some real fire in his last few weeks on TNA TV before leaving in the injury angle. And I guess he settled for less money than he was making to stay with the company since I’m sure WWE probably doesn’t want him considering he was there already and originally made his name there and they let him go. But he seems to still have that fire under his ass right now as he appeared to be quite motivated in his big return, surprising Bully Ray. And I’ve gotta say…a motivated Ken Anderson is a Ken Anderson that I want to see on my TV every week.
So while looking back now, I realize that maybe my list of guys I like in WWE might be slightly longer, I do still cringe at the way some of those guys are used on the shows or what is being written for their promos while over on the TNA side of things, a lot of the promos just seem more natural or more organic so to speak that you actually believe that people talk to eachother these ways or will react to things in the way that they do on Impact as opposed to Raw where Stephanie McMahon is embracing Randy Orton who just a couple of years ago, DDT’d her and kissed her while she was unconscious and Triple H was handcuffed to the top rope in the corner of the ring and couldn’t come to her rescue. It’s just plotholes like that that make watching WWE so hard these days.
Anyway, that’s my story & I’m sticking to it!