Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Aftermath of 10-10-10; Looking at Impact Wrestling's last year (Part 2)

Total Nonstop Action wrestling recently held its biggest pay per view of the year, Bound For Glory 2011. Their version of WrestleMania, all of their top storylines are either settled or started each year. Last year's BFG, held on the ominous-sounding TEN-TEN-TEN (aka October 10, 2010), saw the formation of the Immortal faction. Click here to read part 1 of this blog, looking at the formation of this super-group, which merged with Ric Flair's Fortune faction and also took power of TNA away from Dixie Carter.

I'm going to first look at some gaps in logic with this storyline initially, then give a brief synopsis of 2011 in TNA and the Immortal faction. Finally, I'll look at some wrestlers that got a boost from being associated (either with or against) Immortal and who it hurt.

Immortal began when Abyss turned heel under the premise that "They" told him to and that "They" would reveal themselves on "Tennnnn Tennnnn Tennnn!" In order to turn heel, Abyss had to betray his new friend Hulk Hogan. He savagely bloodied Hogan in the ring, even attempting to seemingly choke him to death.

So, two months later, Hogan is the leader of Immortal, who was telling Abyss what to do. So, Abyss attacked and betrayed Hogan in order to join a group that is led by Hogan.

During Abyss' reign of terror, he assaulted TNA President Dixie Carter. Visibly shaken, she went to Bischoff for help. He brought forth some papers to sign so that they could prosecute Abyss to the fullest extent of the law. She signed them without reading them.

That was not a good idea. Turns out those papers gave Immortal control of TNA. I'm no law expert, but I really don’t think something like that would hold up in court. She signed those papers under false pretenses, and it was all captured on film and broadcast to millions of people on SpikeTV.

I could maybe overlook that aspect somewhat if lawyers weren't such a huge part of the angle in the beginning. As soon as Immortal took over, Dixie got her legal team assembled and went to work getting her company back. Nothing happened.

The first roadblock to the Immortal storyline was actually completely out of their control. A group of heels is only as strong as the faces they go against. Kurt Angle was being kept off television in anticipation of his feud with Jeff Jarrett. Rob Van Dam, the man who never actually lost the title being held by his former friend Jeff Hardy, was being used to help elevate the EV2.0 storyline, and Pope & Samoa Joe... Don't even get me started on that.

So, the first challenger to try and destroy Immortal was none other than Ken Anderson. Except for one little problem: Jeff Hardy hit him with a chair and gave him a concussion. The top face in the promotion is now out of commission and we have a pay per view coming up.

What does TNA do? Create dissension in their top heel group barely a month after the formation of it. Matt Morgan and Douglas Williams leave Immortal and become the top faces in the company. Morgan goes on to main event two pay per views against Hardy, while Williams feuds with the lower members of Immortal over the next few months.

A new character who had recently debuted in TNA after the formation of Immortal was Crimson. In January, he ominously tells Immortal that "They" are coming, in a similar manner in which Immortal was formed. Rumors start that this is the return of TNA's most famous stable the "Main Event Mafia." A 2009 heel group, the faction consisted of Sting, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Kevin Nash, and Scott Steiner.

The rumors seem to be true when Angle and Steiner return to the company. Angle had been on storyline sabbatical, while Steiner actually signed a new contract with the company. Sting's and Nash's contracts had expired, which is why they were written out of the storyline initially, but both were still on good terms with the company. Booker T had left the company over a year ago and his status was unknown.

The Main Event Mafia storyline never came to fruition, as Sting had not renegotiated a deal in time, and Booker T and Nash both signed deals with WWE. Scrambling to come up with a Plan B, TNA hastily turned the Fortune faction (AJ Styles, Robert Roode, James Storm, and Frankie Kazarian) face.

So, Immortal was formed and had a face-off with Fortune initially. The crowd responded to it in a big way, only for them to swerve everybody by joining the two groups together. Then, TNA began promoting a faction where most of the talent wasn't under contract yet. When that didn't work out, they broke up Fortune and Immortal after less than five months together.

TNA loves to do work-shoots, which means they like to create staged events based on real events. TNA airs on SpikeTV. The network has helped finance the company in certain aspects, like paying for production costs and certain wrestler contracts. As a result, they have some input into what goes on the show. As a result of this, "The Network" begins causing problems for Hogan and Bischoff. One of The Network's first big things they do is name Sting the number one contender for Jeff Hardy's heavyweight title.

The Network representative is scheduled to debut soon. It would make the most sense for the rep to be Dixie Carter. She lost her company, so she joined up with the Network to get her company back. No, turns out the representative is Mick Foley. He causes a couple headaches for Immortal before he gets tired of working for TNA and gets out of his contract. The network representative idea is then dropped.

Anderson, initially the top face in TNA to battle Immortal, joins the group in the summer of 2011. He is ousted from the group by the fall. Scott Steiner also joined Immortal after initially coming back to destroy the group. Kurt Angle also illogically joins Immortal. After a months-long feud with Jeff Jarrett, which involved Kurt's ex-wife Karen Jarrett (who, as we can tell, is now Jeff's wife), Angle uses Immortal to win the TNA title and joins the same group as the Jarretts.

Shortly before the 2011 Bound For Glory, Immortal is beating down Anderson. Who comes out to save him? Abyss. Yeah, the guy who turned heel to initially set up Immortal is now fighting against the group.

Sting has spent the last year fighting to help Dixie Carter regain control of TNA. A match is set up for Bound For Glory against Hogan, with control of the company at stake. Sting wins. Dixie Carter owns TNA again. Immortal comes down to attack Sting, only to be fended off by Hogan! He's a face again.

Abyss and Hogan, the two most shocking heel turns to begin Immortal, are now back to being good guys. Dixie Carter is in control of TNA. Jeff Hardy is a face again. It's almost like the last year never happened.

So, there's how the last year played out, roughly. Now, let's look at who was helped and hurt by Immortal.

Helped:

Jeff Jarrett. This was the only heel turn that made sense. He explained it with conviction and got people to really hate him. In real life, Jarrett founded TNA. It recently became part of the storyline a few years ago. In real life, Dixie Carter took control of the company. Jarrett joined together with Immortal because Dixie Carter took his company from him. I honestly feel like Jarrett was such a strong heel that they turned him into more of a comedy character so that he wouldn't upstage Hogan, Bischoff, and Hardy. His heat got so intense, that it made no sense to have him do his silly mixed-martial arts skits to prove he was a better fighter than Angle.

Matt Morgan. He was a middle-of-the-card heel who was positioned as the 7-foot "muscle" of Immortal. He then broke off into one of the top good guys in the company, a position he stayed in for a better part of the year. He's still there, but not as hot as he was. He's in a much better spot than he was last year.

Crimson. He was nobody last year. He came into TNA as a new wrestler and was initially aligned with what was supposed to be the Main Event Mafia. He then went on a Goldberg-like winning streak, that he is still on. He is positioned to be one of the top stars of the future.

Gunner. When Jarrett started doing his MMA-themed gimmick, he came out with an entourage of people around him, just like MMA fighters. Two of them were independent wresters Gunner and Murphy. After that ended, Gunner and Murphy became a tag team. Murphy has faded from the scene, but Gunner has turned into one of the top young guys in the company. I wouldn't be surprised if he is a top contender for the TNA championship by the time we get to the 2012 Bound For Glory. And it's all due to his association with Immortal.

Bully Ray. The former Brother Ray turned heel and broke up his successful tag team with Devon. The two had a very intense feud for a few months, until Jeff Hardy was sent home by management (click here to find out why). After that, Ray was brought into Immortal to essentially replace Hardy. He has gone on to have one of the best runs of his career, and definitely has earned a championship run. His work lately has been nothing short of amazing. One of the MVPs of TNA in 2011.

Who it hurt:

"The Pope" D’Angelo Dinero. He was one of the breakout stars of 2010. After a forgetful run in WWE, he popped into TNA and became an instant hit with the audience. He joined up with Sting and Kevin Nash, seemingly as heels. The storyline twist here was that Nash and Sting were actually the good guys, which would then mean that the Pope was a good guy as well. Not exactly, as he stayed heel after the Immortal storyline began. He has literally done nothing of importance this last year. If TNA released him from his contract, I wouldn't lose any sleep. They have literally destroyed any momentum he had and turned him into just another guy there.

Samoa Joe. See what I just wrote for The Pope. When writing the book titled "Biggest Mistakes in the History of TNA" the handling of Samoa Joe will be the biggest chapter. Not just the last year, but the six years he has been a part of TNA has seemingly been an experiment to see if they can destroy one of the best wrestlers they could possibly have. They have pretty much succeeded.

Rob Van Dam. At this point, it's hard to bury RVD. He has a built-in audience from his years in ECW and WWE. But, when you look at his 2010 and his 2011, he is definitely not where he once was. He held the TNA championship for most of 2010. He lost the title without ever being defeated. He had a ready-made feud with his former best friend and current TNA title holder Jeff Hardy. They kept holding off on that match and waited too long. Secondary, lame, storylines had taken the luster off of RVD. Their long-awaited showdown was a forgettable matchup shown on Impact Wrestling for free.

* * *

That, in a nutshell, has been the last year for TNA. Did it all make sense? No, not really. Was it entertaining? Most of it was, I think. I'm not really a fan of "Ownership of the company" angles, which is one of my biggest complaints against WWE right now, with their Triple H/John Lauranitas deal going on. I feel like the main attraction should be the wrestlers and their pursuit of the World Heavyweight Championship.

Hopefully now that the company is back in the hands of Dixie Carter, she and all the other authority figures will fade to the background and let the wrestlers take the focus. You can have an on-air authority figure, but that person doesn't need to become a weekly character.

We already have some interesting developments to start the next year for TNA and Impact Wrestling. Tune in every Thursday at 9 p.m. on SpikeTV to see the start of the build to next year's BFG.

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