Pondering with Plumtree is a column on the popular blog, TNAsylum, that is written by yours truly. The blog is focused towards being a fan site for TNA Wrestling fans where they can get news, rumors, opinions, and any and everything else, TNA Wrestling. Known as "The Haven for TNA Wrestling Fans", I'm hoping to bring some of my thoughts to an already impressive roster of columnist for as long as the site will have me. You can read the latest column here, or in the text below.
Have you had enough of the doom and gloom surrounding TNA lately? It seems being a TNA Wrestling fan isn't easy these days amid the flux the company is in. Lately, the topic of the Bound For Glory series, the idea of it, it's execution, and it's purpose is the latest topic of discussion. What seems like a terrific idea has been slammed by critics who have become confused or disappointed in this year's installment of what has become a TNA-branded concept.
Last week, the discussion of TNA finding a philosophy was brought to the table in this column. And part of that philosophy that I believed TNA should include is one of being innovative, different, and unique. The Bound For Glory Series is indeed just that, despite this year's low approval from those of you who frequent this site. And if the Bound For Glory Series, the concept that leads to the company's biggest event of the year, is up for debate on whether it works, there seems to be a confusing connection between the concept and the fans. Which brings me to another question, what other concepts or matches throughout the company describes, and is exclusive to, TNA as a company?
I'm not sure about you, but Ultimate X, Option C, and Monster's Ball are the only truly exclusive TNA concepts and matches that immediately come to mind. Most of the specialty matches and concepts in TNA are either typical for all wrestling companies, or ideas that have another name to make it different (e.g. Full Metal Mayhem aka TLC).
This is especially true now with "Gut Check" being done, an image of "Championship Thursday" now on the side of a milk carton, and other concepts such as "King of the Mountain" boxed up and placed in the basement only to be taken out to show "those youngsters what it used to be like back in my day". Can you tell I'm a fan of King of the Mountain match, yet?
I hate to do this, but it has to be said, part of the WWE's appeal is of course their branding and attention to detail, but also their concepts and gimmick matches which is tied to it. Royal Rumble (which even non-wrestling fans are into). Money in the Bank. Elimination Chamber. Hell in a Cell. Beat the Clock. Championship Scramble. Tables, Ladders, and Chairs. And so much more. The concepts are identifiable with the product and the matches are unique to the WWE.
A few concepts and matches that are unique to TNA could help the company in determining, identifying, and focusing on a philosophy moving forward. One that the company could get behind completely with concepts and matches that are long-standing, easy to follow, attractive to new or causal viewers, and effective enough in making it exclusive to TNA.
So with that said, how about we put aside the doom and gloom for a little bit and do a little brainstorming, huh?
Let's take a look at some concepts and matches that TNA can begin to make their own use moving forward:
Jusssssssssssssssst a Little Tweak!
Bound For Glory Series - Why not start with the latest controversial concept? I'm a fan of the idea. At the core of the it, the concept helps Bound For Glory seem like a huge deal, and makes the World Championship the main focus of the entire product. However, finding the right balance between too long, too short, simplicity and tournament complexity is one the company is still trying to find in their third installment of the concept.
On one hand, I loved the idea of big matches being on house shows, and the mere idea those very shows have an attraction to look forward to that ties into the broadcast. On the other, the series just lasts too long, and after awhile, it just feels too hard to follow. My solution? How about making the BFG series limited to six guys. Round robin style. No extra twenty points or anything like that. Have the matches take place over the course of the summer with the top point earners facing off in the main event of No Surrender each year. Just my opinion, the BFG series could benefit from scaling down the amount of matches to make each BFG series match feel as big as it should, while still having enough time to develop feuds and storylines around the series.
Referee Stoppage - If there is one concept I'm surprised hasn't been added to pro wrestling more is the idea of referee stoppage for a win. We've seen them occasionally just to advance a storyline, but TNA can truly set themselves apart by having matches stopped via referee discretion (I think Spike and Bellator just copied and printed that last sentence and are already flying to TNA headquarters). Taking from the MMA element, the concept can add a different dimension in so many ways from interesting finishes to new ways to get guys over as legit bad asses.
Cage Doors - This one is just for me as I very much dislike the idea of winning a match in a cage by going through the door. TNA's cage door is so massive, it just bothers me from a logic standpoint. Am I alone on this? Sorry. Just had to throw that in there.
Gut Check - Why not bring back Gut Check? **hides under keyboard** I know, I know, but hear me out. The concept is not bad, but once again, the execution was poor. How about making the dark match of each taping a Gut Check match and making the segment part of the company's YouTube content? If August1Warning was good enough for just YouTube and gained mass appeal through it, TNA can definitely do the same with Gut Check.
Help Me Out Buddy!
Captains Tag Matches - This idea involves having tag team matches where a designated captain is chosen and the only way to win the match is by pinning and submitting the opposing captain. This could work for standard or multi-person tag matches, and could be a match had on an IMPACT between Lethal Lockdown teams before Lockdown.
Scramble Tag Matches - What if TNA made their tag division based on this rule? Tags are still legal, but if the legal man leaves the ring, their partner can enter right away as the legal person. Sort of a lucha libre concept, but one which TNA could apply to their product full-time to help revitalize TNA's tag division and make it different.
Buckingham Brawl Rules Tag Match - I thought TNA really had a gem here. TNA could add this concept into their rotation more often to help along feuds and even help create babyface tag teams by having them overcome the concept.
Just Found This in the Basement. Let's Dust it Off And Use it!
King of the Mountain Match - You knew this was coming, didn't you? Honestly, I don't think the match is that complicated, but I could see how it can get a bit chaotic to follow for a new fan. So, how about we simply lose the penalty box and keep the match the same. Each participant still needs a pinfall or submission to qualify to hang the title, and yes, the belt should still be hung. A simple graphic at the bottom of the screen could help as well. Possibly the wrestler's name with a red "X" or a green "check" could help differentiate who has qualified and who has not.
I know some feel a wrestler should climb and take down the belt, but that would essentially make it a ladder match and would no longer make it original. Plus, the concept of having to gain possession of the belt, then accomplish the next task of climbing and hanging it provides so many more possibilities for finishes and happenings during this match.
Steel Asylum - Yes, let's bring it back. Maybe in a different color though as that bright red really didn't come across television too well. However, what if Steel Asylum was exclusive to the X-Division? Or maybe used as a big finish for a big X-Division feud (if they ever happen)?
A small platform below the exit at the top of the age could be added to help and aid in the wrestlers exiting the dome-like structure. Or how about extending the size of the cage to include areas around the ring? I just feel like there was potential there with Steel Asylum. Because one wrestler got stuck in exiting it (thanks Homicide), the concept shouldn't have been just dropped altogether.
Three Degrees of Pain - I completely forgot about this concept until I began going through some of the match types on the "This is TNA" section here on TNAsylum. And with that, major props should be given to Talon on some of the newly renovated sections on here. They're fantastic.
The match concept, only done twice so far, is one that could be TNA's ultimate match to end a feud. A match they could limit for special feuds so the fan can remember every time this concept was rolled out there. It's a novelty I wish the company had that with Ultimate X, but that concept has been overdone a bit to maintain that novelty.
Regardless, I'd like to see Three Degrees of Pain added and become branded as a TNA-only concept. Plus, you just gotta love the name. Something (as you will see as you read on) isn't easy to do.
Strap Matches - As an old school fan of pro wrestling, I think this is a concept that has unfortunately become a lost gimmick. TNA can revive the gimmick, and even bring it back with a new name and slightly varying concept on how to win the match (instead of the touch four corners consecutively idea). And if they decide to keep it traditional, just don't add those ridiculous red and green lights on the light posts that the WWE did recently at Extreme Rules.
Elevation X - Nahhhh, just kidding with this one. Scaffold matches belong in the basement. Actually, let's just toss these out in the trash.
Best of Seven Series - These aren't done enough. I think it would be awesome if TNA somehow made best-of-seven (or five) matches part of their philosophy a bit more. Possibly even add it to the Bound For Glory Series? Just a thought.
Participation Counts Towards Your Grade
N64 Battle Royal - N64? Say what? Trust me, that's the only way I could describe it to those who will understand. Plus I'll leave the gimmick names up to you guys.
Either way, TNA doesn't really have a match that shows off and features their entire roster the way WWE has in the Royal Rumble. So I thought about a creative match that would not be a copy cat of the Royal Rumble, but would still feature the roster of the company in a unique and fun match. And I came up with this - anyone remember the battle royals or "Royal Rumble" on the old Nintendo 64 video games (WCW Revenge, WWF Wrestlemania 2000, and WWF No Mercy)?
Remember how, because of the cartridge capacity, only four players were allowed on screen at once, a new entrant would not enter until one was eliminated? What if TNA had a match like that? Say, twenty wrestlers are involved. Four wrestlers in the ring at a time. Only pin fall, submission, or over the top rope eliminations count (with the loophole of wrestlers going through the ropes to fight on the outside) count as eliminations. As one wrestler is eliminated, another enters. It repeats until (obviously) one is left.
The difference from the Royal Rumble would be that this match would actually offer varying degrees of wrestling matches. Pinfalls, submissions, (possible referee stoppages?), with the over-the-top-elimination rule being in the backdrop.
This in itself could be a pay-per-view event.
All-Star Battle Royal - Borrowing a concept from pro sports, what if every March, TNA held an All-Star Battle Royal? Fans will be allowed to vote for up to five wrestlers on impactwrestling.com for who they would like to see in the match. The Top fifteen would be placed in a Battle Royal, and the winner receives a trophy of some significance. The match could happen yearly, and could be the center around an All-Star/social media influenced edition of IMPACT.
Or, instead of a battle royal, there can be a vote for eight wrestlers, with them being ranked based upon votes, thus having a one night tournament. The winner to be crowned that year's TNA All-Star Night champion. Just throwing things against the wall, which brings me to...
Getting a Little Crazy
Penalty Box Matches - What if TNA used the penalty box from the KOTM in another simple match? Borrowing an idea from the childhood game of man hunt, how about having an elimination four-on-four elimination match with each pinned or submitted wrestler being placed into their team's penalty box. If the legal wrestler can make his/her way to their penalty box (placed at the top of the stage?), he/she can open and release one wrestler making them legal again. I know, pretty damn crazy, but once again, we're brainstorming here, folks.
Multi-Person Team Gauntlet Match - This would be similar to a gauntlet match, except it would be one-on-one encounters. Each team will send out a new member when one of their own is eliminated. This will occur until one team has been completely eliminated.
Designated Wrestlers Allowed Interference Matches - I really should have come up with marketable names for these matches. This one is terrible... bare with me.
This is how this match would work: In a one-on-one contest, both members can select two wrestlers who can legally interfere in the match at anytime for two minutes. The envisioned concept (at least in my crazy mind) is of two wrestlers doing their usual thing in the ring. The anticipation of who and when anyone from either side's choices would enter to interfere can build until the wrestlers music plays over the arena, and of course, an explosion too the ring where they change the momentum of the match for their guy.
This could be a gimmick concept where the match is built up with each wrestler scouting for the correct partners to be their lifelines. Also, could be a great vehicle to turn someone face/heel on a big platform.
Big Three Ranking - I liked when TNA (for a short period at least) began using a ranking system and released it every week, then after a while, every month. I didn't think the rankings needed to be as involved in storylines as they did, but something very subtle (maybe on their website) could be something of interest.
I also was a big fan of ROH's concept of "Pick 6". I'm not sure why they moved away from it, but it made for a concept where matches with members who were part of the Pick 6 felt important as their spot was constantly on the line.
So what if you combined the two concepts, maybe for something like the X-Division. Since the division isn't too deep right now, how about making it a small ranking of #1, #2, and #3? You can only challenge for the title if you are in one of those three spots. Each member of the ranking system has their inclusion in the triumphant three (How about that name, huh? No? Ok) on the line in every match. If they lose, the person they lose to takes their spot. New comers into the selective group automatically get the #3 spot, and the other two move up to #1 and #2.
Add a little bit of urgency to the sometimes mundane X-Division?
Maybe you think these ideas are fantastic, that some are usable, or the very possibility that they all just flat out stink. And if the latter is the case and you're reading these words thinking, "Man, Plumtree is out his mind this week", cut me some slack, it's Labor Day weekend here in the United States.
Either way, with the recent negative cloud hanging over the world of TNA Wrestling, the revisiting of how the company connects with it's fans through it's concepts and matches should be revisited as well. Offering something different and unique that cannot be seen anywhere else in pro wrestling can be a building block and a great foundation for whatever philosophy they will take moving forward after Bound For Glory.
What about you? Are there any concepts and/or matches you have in mind that can be TNA exclusive?
Enough with the doom and gloom. More positive thinking and optimism.
How great was Bully Ray staying the course and throwing Devon under the bus for always being a weak link?
Doesn't Wes Brisco seem/sound like the guy who recites his lines over and over in front of a mirror with each take being the same exact way?
And doesn't he just seem a little unnatural in his delivery? Or is it just me?
Is the recent dissension between the members of Aces and Eights and Bully Ray the most interesting thing the group has done collectively since their inception?
Where the heck has Jeff Hardy been?
Anyone else feel like Tenay stepped up his emotion tonight in the play-by-play?
Aren't Canadians wrestlers the absolute best when it comes to submissions?
How awesome was that cloverleaf/sharpshooter maneuver Gail Kim put on ODB?
Weren't you shocked to see AJ Styles fall short of the Final Four?
How simple was giving Aries and Daniels mic time to get you excited for their match?
And didn't you just know they would follow it with an tremendous performance?
And do you think Miley Cyrus was happy Aries won?
Shouldn't all teams in pro sports meet with Spike executives to add one more match to their season to give them an opportunity to get into the playoffs?
And how cheap did that stipulation make the entire series feel?
Hogan met with Spike TV for three weeks - three weeks! - to add one match?
I don't harbor any anti-Hogan feelings, but with the one job of executing promos to further storylines along, namesake aside, how poor has he been in this role lately?