Monday, June 30, 2014

The Impact Report: Where Legends Go To Die

At least he can't hurt himself
Screen Grab via
Kurt Angle is one of my favorite wrestlers in the world. He was one of the first guys I really watched work at the onset of my fandom. Every hitch to his character in WWE contained a nugget of something I absolutely love about wrestling, even when he just became a suplex-throwing machine and little else. And yes, it kills me a little bit inside to watch him work at TNA. I know his run there is coming up to overtaking his run at WWE in terms of length. Still, it really pains me that the man that looks like a really angry hot dog is the same person that sprayed the McMahons with milk and gave New York its first glimpse of a champion, even if it was just for one night. It’s heartbreaking to realize that Angle is bound and determined to die in the ring. Thankfully, the Powers That Be have put him in a position where he absolutely cannot wrestle and maybe just maybe he can get himself together to realize he’s given everything he needs to give and doesn’t have to give anymore.

Those words above could also apply to Jeff Hardy. I was never as big a fan of the Hardy Boys as I was of Lita, but there is still a lot of nostalgia and affection for Matt and Jeff than I’d care to admit. Their style of wrestling paved the way for so many people I love now, it’s hard to not have respect for them. Even if you don’t agree with his life choices I can’t imagine anyone not feeling a little bit uncomfortable watching him in TNA, knowing the demons he may still be battling outside of the ring.

I can’t say the same about Bully Ray. The man has become everything I absolutely despise about pro wrestling. He's sexist, unnecessarily violent, talks a lot about how he’s a “real man” and “hardcore,” and pushes the idea that in order to get over you have to do a bunch of crazy table bumps and blade and run through flaming barbed wire and whatever else. He talks about how much he loves real wrestling and for having been at TNA for so long it’s clear that he may not be the biggest fan of WWE and what Vince McMahon did to ECW, but when asked if he would go back to WWE if asked he outright states he’d run back like a tail between his legs and buries the company he works for now, that has given him a new name and a new audience who cheers for him. He is the man who pushes these other two to dangerous levels, but has become less than willing to do the same. Instead he preaches violence against women because one had the temerity to stand up to him and beat him at his own game.

These three men’s stories haven’t yet become intertwined, but things have come to a head this past week making the parallels among them important to note. Angle has wrested control of TNA away from MVP and Dixie Carter, because no one can run a wrestling company like a crazy white man. Angle’s return as the Director Of Wrestling Operations promises some “big changes” for TNA, a “reboot” of sorts, bringing things back to when they were “good”. Hardy is still stuck in his Willow persona but a reckoning is upon us. Matt Hardy is returning and things cannot and will not stay as they are. And Bully Ray has enlisted the help of his buddy Tommy Dreamer to continue to threaten to put Carter through a table. ECW is gone and never coming back, absorbed forever by that New York promotion. Even the TNA of old is dead. We’re left with a roster full of aging wrestlers grasping at past glory and young wrestlers who will never get over with guys who really don’t even want to be there taking up spots.

The idea of legacy and nostalgia has become the crux of TNA ever since the beginning, every since they built a roster out of ex-WCW and WWE guys mixed in with young up-and-coming indie guys. Now they’ve reached the point where almost everyone who is with the company now has been with it for more than 3 years, and even the newcomers have ties to other legacies. Sanada is chastised for his ties to The Great Muta and whether he can live up to it, The Beautiful People are here to remember past glories, and even the newest stable The Menagerie is only here to get enough money to bring the “family business” back from the brink.

TNA’s legacy has become poison, a place you don’t come back from, where my favorite wrestler in the world has spent almost as much time doing moonsaults off of cages for near empty backlot soundstages as he has playing Madison Square Garden. Instead of reaching back into wrestling past, a past it had no hand in creating, TNA desperately needs to focus on creating something new, with new wrestlers. They need to become a place where legends meet their end metaphorically, not literally.