Monday, June 25, 2012

Top 5 mistakes in TNA Wrestling history [part 3]

We're back with part 3 of my 5-part series looking back at the top mistakes in TNA Wrestling history. TNA recently celebrated their 10-year anniversary, and as such, this list seemed like a fun idea to do at the time.

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Part 1 and 2 can be found here:

Frankie Kazarian becoming Suicide

AJ Styles' association with Ric Flair

Below is part 3, which looks at Samoa Joe and his "Nation of Violence."

Back in 2003, Samoa Joe came into Ring of Honor as an unbeatable, unstoppable, ass-kicking monster. He had an imposing (albeit unconventional) look, intensity off the charts, and pound-for-pound he was probably one of the top wrestlers of his generation. Joe won the ROH Championship on March 22, 2003 and reigned atop the promotion for 645 days, setting a record for longest reign that still stands.

In 2005, TNA came calling and brought Joe on board. Realizing that if it ain't broke, it don't need fixing, TNA followed ROH's pattern for booking Joe - he went on a tear through all the competition and eventually won their X-Division Championship. He went undefeated for well over a year, and his first loss came at the hands of Kurt Angle, and TNA treated it like something special. Sure, he had just lost, but it was to the only Olympic gold medalist in wrestling history.

Fans clamored for Joe to become the face of TNA. It took a little longer than most expected, but Joe finally reached the top of the mountain in 2008. He had feuded on-and-off with Angle since 2006 and they started it up again. Angle was the champ heading into their Lockdown pay-per-view, in which every match is contested inside a steel cage.

If this were a blog series looking at some of the best things TNA did right, the build to Joe/Angle at Lockdown would be near the top. They treated it like a legitimate contest, with promos showing them training for the match. TNA isn't a publicly-traded company like WWE, so they don't have to disclose their ppv numbers like WWE does. But, the popular rumor is that Lockdown 2008 is TNA's highest-selling pay-per-view of all time.

Around the time Joe became champ, he started a friendship with Kevin Nash. It was almost sort of a mentor relationship, with the veteran former world champ Nash looking out for Joe. Everybody could see it coming from a mile away that Nash was going to turn on Joe at some point. Predictability is okay if the intrigue surrounding it is worthwhile. Yes, he's going to turn on him, but where are they going with it after that - people were looking forward to that aspect.

Bound For Glory, TNA's biggest event of the year, saw Joe defend his title against Sting. As we all expected, Nash turned against Joe and helped Sting win the title.

That was the first step toward the creation of one of TNA's greatest super groups of all time - the Main Event Mafia.

In the weeks that followed, it was revealed that TNA Champ Sting, Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash, Booker T, and Scott Steiner were all aligned together and wanted to take control of TNA. Two superstars leading the charge against the Main Event Mafia were Samoa Joe and Christian Cage. In one of the Mafia's first appearances, they destroyed Cage and injured him. This was done to write Cage out of the company, as he was leaving for WWE.

Also taken out and injured by the Mafia was Joe. They "broke his arm," leaving him sidelined indefinitely. When somebody is "injured" in wrestling, the goal nine times out of 10 is for the wrestler injured to come back stronger than ever, looking for revenge. The other time it is done to repackage the wrestler and give them a new gimmick or angle. If your current gimmick is working, you don't need to change it.

So, guess what they did to Samoa Joe...
Joe came back a month or so later with a buzz cut, inexplicable face paint, turd-colored baggy pants, and he was going on about a "Nation of Violence" that he was going to unleash on TNA. Instead of being a badass who didn't back down from challenges, Joe was now a savage who intentionally got himself disqualified, dragged his opponent to the back and began torturing them.

Showing a little storyline continuity, Joe's first target was Scott Steiner. The only positive to come of their feud was one of Steiner's infamous "so bad they're good" promos. This one is titled "HE'S FAT!"

Joe also had a feud with Kevin Nash, the man who turned on him and cost him the Championship in the first place. Once he dispatched Nash, Joe set his sights back on the TNA Championship. That is, until he joined the Main Event Mafia for no reason at all. Mind boggling in its ridiculousness.

About a year after their formation, the Main Event Mafia split up. Joe went back to being the badass that he used to be. Until one day a group of thugs attacked him, shoved him into a van, then drove off. We didn't see him again for a few months. Then he showed up like nothing had ever happened.

Joe is nowhere near where he used to be, in terms of card placement. He is still the same intense competitor, with the same intense fans. He's just looked at as "damaged goods" when it comes to his run in TNA. He had a decent 4 or 5 month title reign; he just could have had so much more. He was that good. He had a nice little run, but he should have been the greatest TNA champ of all time.

Holding off on putting the title on him for 3 years played a role in that, but the Nation of Violence deal destroyed any chance he had of recapturing what he once had. Will he ever get another TNA Championship reign? I doubt it. He's close to the main event level now, but I don’t see him getting anywhere near where he used to be.