Welcome to this edition- the first involving TNA! Today we experience a very real sense of deja vu...
The year was
1996 2010. WCW TNA had been dogged for weeks with the notion that a war was coming by cryptic messages from the Outsiders Abyss culminating in a massive revelation where Eric Bischoff and Hogan would be revealed to be leading a new stable that would run roughshod over the babyfaces of the company- the nWo Immortal!
Ok, let's take this from the top.
January 2010 had seen Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff come to TNA as part of a new deal to attempt to try and steal some of that old WCW magic and get TNA into a position where it could be truthfully thought of as a viable rival to the WWE.
While there were some absurd stories (Abyss being granted Hogan's WWE Hall of Fame ring seemed to be quite an odd way to show that your wrestling show was on an equal playing field), many thought that the whole product had the potential to be going in an interesting new direction with returning superstars like Ric Flair, Sean Waltman, Kevin Nash and Jeff Hardy.
And then it all went screwy.
If you had to ask me which superstar has been abused the most by the TNA franchise, I wouldn't say AJ Styles, Eric Young or Samoa Joe. I would say that it is always been Abyss. Frankly TNA had a massive monster heel that could have been their Kane or something similar but instead they see fit to have being shunted in all sorts of weird storylines. In the middle of 2010, he went from a loopy one that involved Hulk Hogan's HoF ring giving him some sort of extra powers, to turning heel and beginning to prophecise that 'They' (the people who were controlling him) were coming to take over TNA from Dixie Carter. He became more fanatical and began wielding a board with nails sticking out to the ring which he called Janice.
Just think about that for a second. TNA apparently had on its roster a lunatic who had an attachment to a board with nails sticking out of it- a board that could inflict fatal damage to another human being under normal circumstances. If this was a normal business surely said lunatic would be committed or at least the weapon would be wrested of him. In TNA, Bischoff decided to make a match where Janice would part of the stipulation for the title match against RVD. Why should anyone believe that Abyss is a monster if his weapon is used as part of the stipulation of a match?
Anyway, Abyss decided to get his revenge on RVD by ambushing him and leaving him in a pool of his own blood (once again begging the question why he was still on the roster when he had essentially committed GBH). This left the TNA World Heavyweight Championship vacant- which Bischoff said would be re-contested through a tournament that would culminate at the Bound for Glory PPV. Furthermore, RVD returned and demanded a match against Abyss at the same PPV. At the same time as this was occurring, Sting was suspicious of Hogan and Bischoff's motives and began questioning their intentions for the company. He teamed up with Kevin Nash and D'Angelo Dinero to face Samoa Joe, Jeff Jarrett and Hogan at Bound for Glory- which was changed to a 2 vs 3 match when Hogan needed back surgery.
So, coming up to Bound for Glory, TNA fans had three interesting matches to look forward to as well as wondering who the mysterious 'they' were who could be controlling Abyss. What new and interesting direction would Bischoff take the company in?
Well, RVD beat Abyss and Sting/Nash/Dinero beat Samoa Joe and Jarrett after Jarrett essentially left Joe hanging without a tag. But the crowd was still waiting. When would 'They' make themselves known in the main event between Kurt Angle, Mr Anderson and Jeff Hardy.
That came soon after when Bischoff and Hogan came to the ring and interfered- helping Jeff Hardy to win the title and revealing themselves- along with Abyss and Jarrett to be 'They'- which would be better known as Immortal.
Firstly, who in their right mind casts Jeff Hardy as a heel? You know who is a good heel who pulls off a rebellious look? CM Punk. You know why? Because he has the charisma and the magnetism to make crowds listen to what he has to say and then hate him for it. Furthermore, his moveset is versatile enough to work as a babyface as well as a heel. Hardy on the other hand is a high spot expert, but he's not great on the mic nor as a ring psychologist. Why in the world would you trust the crowd to hate him? Furthermore, why would he join up with a corporate schmuck like Bischoff?
Secondly, where was the swerve? No, I mean it. Sting was suspicious about Bischoff and Hogan taking over the company...and they did. I mean, I guess they could have claimed at least that they didn't do something similar at another wrestling company and so the notion of both of them turning heel would have been new.
Which leads to the next thing about the angle that made next to no sense. Hogan as part of the nWo made sense- he could go out there, kick ass and take names. However, when Immortal formed Hogan was 57. Nobody could expect him to do much wrestling. Essentially then TNA had an evil heel that would dominate television time while not doing anything like, say, wrestling. So essentially, to unseat Hogan most of the stories had to be things like kayfabe court cases in late 2010 and early 2011 rather than matches in the ring- something that must have had each and every TNA fan on the edge of their seat.
But the thing that must stick in the craw of so many in TNA's locker room was the fact that the stable consisted of 5 established guys. It is ironic that the masterminds behind one of the most famous stables in history were still so blind to the fact that a stable could be one of the best devices to nurture young talent. Imagine if Immortal was a bit less like the nWo and a bit more like Evolution- with a couple of up and comers in their ranks. Maybe TNA would have been able to find the way forward with superstars that were theirs and theirs alone, rather than continuing to rely on the legitimacy of ex-WWE and WCW guys.
TNA had a chance to try something new in 2010- to take a risk with some new talent and try and take it to the WWE who was suffering from a lack of depth at the time. The formation of Immortal was important because it showed TNA that Hogan and Bischoff were not willing to try and book for the future of the company. What was risky booking for the nWo in 1996 was now anything but; and it made TNA look like a pedestrian promotion that was living in the past instead of looking to the future.
That's article 16 of this series! Next time is both an big success as well as a massive disaster. See you next time!