There are a lot of reasons that it's a shame TNA has squandered numerous chances to become a real competitor to WWE and is allegedly struggling even with their new television contract with Destination America.
Chief among them is that that national TV deal gives wrestlers that Vince McMahon and company miss the boat on another chance to hone their skills. And no one is doing a better job of it than a dude WWE watchers knew as Derek Bateman.
As Ethan Carter III, the arrogant but skilled nephew of TNA President/Owner Dixie Carter, he has slowly built himself into a credible contender capable of garnering tremendous amount of heat from audiences in the Impact Zone and on the road. In my most recent WWE NXT review, I (repeatedly) wrote that Kevin Owens is the best heel in professional wrestling, and it's not even close.
I was wrong.
Kevin Owens is the best heel in professional wrestling. But EC3 is making it close.
On the episode of Impact Wrestling that aired this past Friday, April 24th, Carter debuted the newest wrinkle to his character. He already dubs himself the Hardcore American Icon - monikers he gave himself after "defeating" Tommy Dreamer & several other ECW veterans and Kurt Angle - and now he's campaigning to be your TNA World Heavyweight Champion.
The promo he cut on Impact, which you can unfortunately only see a small clip of above, was his keynote address to kick-off that run. His character is already a smart blend of both an old school Ted DiBiase-esque wealthy wrestling villain and the more recently developed staple of handpicked company-man bad guy. Lobbying to be "elected" champ is a timely play on both. As America gets ready to pick from among a selection of multi-millionaires who are running for President in 2016, #EC3forCHAMP lets him satirize the inanity of a 21st century political campaign and poke fun at backstage politics in pro wrestling.
All while taking shots at his former employer like this:
Letting him give stump speeches like Friday's promo also allows EC3 to utilize one of his strengths, and something he shares with Owens - the ability to respond to the crowd in order to create more of a connection. When TNA audiences didn't want to accept him as either a WWE cast-off or as someone Dixie was going to push down their throats, it was popular to chant "You Can't Wrestle" at him. He turned that around by rhythmically responding "I Disagree" and "I'm Very Good" to their taunts.
In this clip, he does it by breaking from the text to say, "I love this speech, too".
His biggest challenge is probably the quality of his foils. Based on this week's show, it looks like the first person "running against" candidate Carter will be Ken Anderson. Unlike Carter, Anderson is well past his prime and any chance of a career renaissance; he's been on the fringes of TNA's storylines for years. Hopefully, he can channel some populist fire and play the common man while putting EC3 over.
If there's one thing we probably don't have to worry about with Impact's booking, it's Carter losing. While a lot of his wins have been by dubious and deceitful heel means, he is promoted as being undefeated since his 2013 debut.
Destination America isn't in a lot of homes, and TNA's track record (behind the scenes and on-screen) has made it a tough company to support at times. But it's worth seeking out what you can of Ethan Carter III, and being part of the grassroots campaign he's on to become one of the best heels in pro wrestling.