Thursday, December 31, 2009

Will they never learn?, part 2

"Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it."--George Santayana

"There's a sucker born every minute!"---P. T. Barnum

The "sucker" in this case has to be Mrs. Dixie Carter, co-owner and president of Total Non-Stop Action (TNA) Wrestling. As the company prepares for a live, 3-hour Monday edition of their Impact program on January 4, Mrs. Carter, at the behest of her new business partners, Hulk Hogan & Eric Bischoff, has been rumored to be bringing in older wrestlers who were part of the success Bischoff enjoyed in WCW in the late 90's, such as Scott Hall, whose last go-around with the company was virtually aborted 2 1/2 years ago, and Sid Vicious, whose career was thought to have ended due to a freak leg injury nearly 10 years ago. There are rumors, too, of Ric Flair, who recently toured with Hogan in Australia, signing with TNA.

Hogan & Bischoff believe that it's the veteran stars that fans are more interested in seeing, instead of the younger, hungrier wrestlers that are supposed to be the foundation for TNA. After all the pomp & circumstance of Flair's "retirement" in April 2008 from WWE, the "Nature Boy" could be coaxed into signing with the promise of the one thing he didn't get during his last tour of duty with WWE (2001-08), a World championship run. Flair won 3 tag titles and an Intercontinental title during his 2nd tour with WWE, but was never seriously considered to be World title material.

TNA has been plucking veteran names off the WWE scrap heap over the 7 1/2 years of its existence, showing little or no trust in the likes of current champion AJ Styles or Samoa Joe to be the true standard-bearer for the company. What did WCW in, as most of us know, is complacency, allowing the NWO (New World Order) gimmick to continue well past its expiration point, simply because it was the company's #1 cash cow. But even the best cows run out of milk eventually. Bischoff, blinded by his own arrogance and complacency, let the NWO get bloated out of control. While he was a figurehead GM on Monday Night Raw (2002-05), Bischoff didn't have any creative control, and was kept in check, though some fans got tired of his act very quickly. For now, Bischoff figures to remain behind the scenes, where he has grown very comfortable in recent years, as his production company has been churning out one cheesy reality show after another, including a few with Hogan, for VH1 and other networks.

Hogan will be the centerpiece in Orlando on Monday. WWE is responding by bringing in Bret Hart, who left the company in a cloud of controversy and disgrace in 1997, and ended his career in a fading WCW 3 years later. Hart figures to be around no more than about 3 1/2 months, including Wrestlemania 26 in March. Because Hart has kept himself out of the spotlight for nearly 10 years, he's relatively fresh. Hogan, because of the reality shows and the attendant tabloid headlines that go with them, plus a run hosting American Gladiators, has remained a constant, annoying presence since his last WWE match a few years ago. You figure there are only enough people that will tune in to see if he is the savior TNA needs to compete with WWE, or if he's really there to sink the ship as some people suspect. By coaxing Mrs. Carter to bring in Hall, Vicious, and presumably Flair, plus cutting rookie wrestler Cody Deaner from the roster, Hogan is making the same exact mistakes that TNA has made right along. Hogan might as well buy TNA outright, then proceed with the process of sinking the ship.

If TNA is going to compete with WWE, relying on aging veterans isn't the answer. WWE knows this. Earlier this month, Sheamus O'Shaughnessy, who'd only been with the big club less than six months, defeated John Cena to become the WWE champion, matching the rapid ascension of Brock Lesnar 7 years ago. Scotland's Drew McIntyre, on his 2nd tour of duty with the main team (he previously had a cup of coffee in 2007 before being sent back to the "farm"), is the Intercontinental champion. WWE has a number of younger wrestlers dotting the rosters of all three brands (Raw, Smackdown, & ECW), some of whom were rushed to the big club, like Sheamus, while others, like McIntyre, paid their dues before getting the permanent call-up. TNA already has had a NWO-style group, the Main Event Mafia, which seemingly dissolved a while back. Do they really need to go there again so soon? In the delusional mind of Hogan, who now claims to have studied mixed martial arts as a youth while also considering a music career, it seems that way. Hogan is pushing 60. Flair is already there. Not the kind of guys you want at the core of your roster.

They say desperate people do desperate things. TNA has been desperate for attention since day 1. This latest move is like inviting an iceberg to meet the Titanic.

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