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.
With the TNA Wrestling roster being a hot topic as of late, it is the perfect timing in conjunction with the third part of a series regarding the future philosophy of TNA Wrestling. If you've missed the last two, be sure to go back and run your eye balls through them.
As the latest issue thrown to the wolves to chew on, TNA's roster has received various criticisms such as the questioning of talent, it's lack of depth, and an overall feeling of staleness. Of course, the easy answer is to throw out the latest and greatest unsigned names "humping the roads" on the independent circuit as "must sign". Because quite frankly, we all have favorites on the indy scene, and it's natural as a fan to shout to the highest of highs, post to as many forums as you could, and tell every one of your friends about the guy (or girl) you know about that no else does. Your guy. Your girl. The next big thing.
Admit it, we're all guilty of it. Yes, yes...even you.
As someone that's truly never been nothing more than a die hard fan, my understanding of recruiting and talent acquisition in the pro wrestling business on a scale of one to zero is about -3. I'm really not sure what professionals and experienced individuals in the business really look for and I won't pretend to.
What I do know is that we all as fans have our likes and dislikes. And sure, there are those wrestlers who are unanimously terrible or universally outstanding. Yet, the majority of the time we forget that wrestling is a mixed bag and that it is for everyone. Yes, yes...not only just for you.
A live audience can watch a show and all walk away with different likes, dislikes, loves, and hates.
"So Plumtree, where are you going with this, man?"
Fair question random, opposing pondering thought in my head.
What if, in their expecting recruitment for replenishing the roster with new talent, TNA decides to do so with diversity in mind? Let me further explain:
"It's like some weird form of IMPACT the video game"
Coming off the heels of the 60's and 70's, wrestling moved from legitimate tough guy characters into an era of large personalities, bright colors, and over-the-top characters. Everyone had to find a way to stand out, and if you didn't, ironically, you got lost in the shuffle as just being a "normal" guy.
As the 90's and 2000's came around, such personalities were now considered too goofy and being edgy and cool became the thing. Gone were the characters, gimmicks, and bright colors. The new trend was all about reality, "attitude", the tough guy look, sudden black trunks, and the standard, "I'm a bad ass" aura.
Today, it seems many are still stuck in this realm as many guys look, feel, and sometimes even wrestle the same. As much as I love the X-Division, when everyone does the same flips and moves without any flair, character, or personality, it can all feel the same at times. It's like some weird form of IMPACT the video game.
Nonetheless, love him or hate him, what Eric Bishoff says about the television business and pro wrestling is viably true - they are both one form. At least that rings undeniably true here in the United States. Wrestling on television is in the entertainment business. And the entertainment business does include pro wrestling.
In a world that is becoming more diverse and more connected through social media, the internet, and through improved education about one another, diversity on television is no longer taboo. It is no longer a imposed requirement. It is a must-have for any production looking to connect with ALL types of people.
The time for cookie-cutter wrestlers and having "the look" could be set aside.
"Bro, I Don't Even Listen to Rap Music!"
Now, I know I'll have to tread lightly through this section because, let's be honest, there are some that feel uncomfortable with diversity. Especially when it pertains to race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, and other things that make us different as individuals.
So be forewarned, I'm not looking to present or endorse any personal or political views here. Just wrestling. I promise. Pinky swear. Scout's honor. All that good stuff that ensures that my word is my bond.
But with that said, think for a second, how many stereotypes can you name that are still being done in pro wrestling? The one that immediately comes to my mind and always makes me laugh is the rap music-entrance theme for black wrestlers (mostly in the WWE).
Sometimes, it's even the typical "gangster" gimmick. Looking straight at you WWE. Cryme Time? Believe me, all of Brooklyn was ashamed. We're really not like that.
I remember attending a local indy fed show a few years ago here in NYC and a black wrestler came out to some of the most generic rap music with the crowd letting him have it. As he walked around the ring, he looked over to a couple of us and confusingly said, "Bro, I don't even listen to rap music! I have no idea. This is what they gave me."
Another crazy stereotype is that of the Asian wrestler who is almost always 1) Never given a microphone to talk; 2) Placed in comedic or sidekick roles; 3) Given oriental sounding theme music (always the theme music!); or 4) Always asked to play up some kooky character that makes him seem like he's from some ancient civilization ran by Mao Zedong himself.
Or how about the British wrestler? A handful of my family is from England (as I'm sure some of you reading this are), and I can tell you not many of them walk around tightening their wrists or are some type of tea-sipping blue bloods. They do drink a lot of tea though. (Another reason why Magnus is such a fresh of breath air. Kudos to TNA on that one.)
Indian wrestlers or those from the Middle East? I'm sure their tired of being given turbans, touting the anti-american banner, and/or asked to do their best Apu from the Simpsons imitation.
It's quite shocking to think these still exist. It's even more disturbing to think about how few World Champions there have been in history that were either minorities, of a different nationality, or of a various ethnic background.
One of the coolest things in my opinion was when Takeshi Morishima was ROH World Champion. It was fresh. He wasn't cookie-cutter. He wasn't your stereotypical Japanese monster here in the States. And honestly, it felt like there was diversity to a "World" Championship. It felt like a true World Championship.
This would be an easy place to criticize TNA for not attempting to hold onto, developing, and seeing the ability in a guy like Kazuchika Okada. But you know what, WWE doesn't either with their Japanese talent. Actually, here in the states, no one does.
So why not be the first? Why doesn't TNA scout and try to find unsigned talent from the Far East? Why stop there? What about the UK, India, Australia, or even Mexico - all areas and regions they now have television in?
At Wrestlemania this year, I set next to a very nice family that went absolutely nuts - just flat out lost it (flags, vuvuzuelas and the works!) - when Alberto Del Rio's music hit and he made his way to the ring. Before that, I honestly didn't believe ADR had fans. It was proof that there is ethnic and national appeal.
How about offering the first Japanese star in American pro wrestling in who knows how long? Heck, what if you offered the first black World Champion in TNA since Ron Killings?
It's all a mixed bag.
The same reason television shows now attempt to offer a salad bowl of different people on their programming, is the same reason TNA should look into diversifying their roster - it appeals to a larger amount of people. And most of all, with programming in various countries, it most likely will give each section of the fan base a character or guy/gal to connect to.
Once again, it's a mixed bag, folks.
"Sometimes Out of Shape is Good"
Another part of diversity that can really help a roster is a difference in size. Not necessarily the kind that measures height, weight, and body fat to a distinct tee as if this were the NFL combine, but the kind that really can distinguish characters on a show.
The TNA roster lacks a true giant. A guy that is distinguishable from the roster. Or how about the big man that can really make the simplest of moves seem devastating? I'm not saying that TNA should go out right now and sign Giant Gonzalez and Cheex, but having a talented performer or two who can vary the roster does add to the intrigue.
Long gone are the guys like Vader, Bam Bam Bigelow, or even Terry Gordy. Not exactly physical specimens, but guys who really knew how to entertain with the unorthodox body type and who could use thus body type to make matches unique and interesting. They say styles makes fights, but in wrestling, styles makes matches (AJ could totally steal that if he wants). Often the different body sizes lends to this creed in pro wrestling. Sometimes being out of shape is good.
Also, varying in body type is essential for the Knockouts division. Ding! Another big topic as of late. While the general consensus for fixing this problem also seems to fall under the hope of signing [enter the names of your favorite unsigned talents], I think that would be a mere band-aid solution to address the depth and not the overall philosophy and health of the division.
The Knockout division when it set the world on fire was about twelve girls that looked distinctly different. Different looks, different body types, and different presentations. Trying to get back to a division that is of course talented, but also looks and feels different as characters on the show by talent and immediate visualization can provide a foundation for the future.
"Heal the world, and make it a better place"
Look, by no means am I advocating for some warped version of affirmative action or for passing over the supremely talented wrestler if he/she doesn't help provide diversity. No. Not at all. I really want to make that clear as some folks pull from pieces what they ultimately want to.
Neither am I attempting to use wrestling to heal the world and make it a better place. Although, that would be fantastic as well.
However, I would prefer TNA take their time and use their due diligence in their recruiting efforts rather than sign guys out of the sake for a need of depth. Attempting to diversify the roster in many ways with the correct wrestlers could appeal to various audiences and would also help in freshening up the product. Not to mention, they can probably offer a few different things in terms of a product that other organizations aren't right now.
I've been beating the drum throughout this series for TNA to return to being innovative and different.
Diversity for a pro wrestling roster could very well be that innovation. Diversity could very well be that something that helps sets TNA apart.
Wouldn't a heel Chris Sabin with an edge be intriguing?
Doesn't Jay Bradley seem like a guy TNA can really keep around as a building block for their future? Especially in how classy and professional he carries himself outside of the ring?
And did Hernandez lay him out in the gauntlet match or what?
Don't you think TNA should just have Wes Brisco embrace a psychopath gimmick?
Afterall, doesn't he naturally look the part?
Is it me, or does AJ Styles/Austin Aries sell any show?
And how stacked is next week's show?
How awesome is the spot of Bully ripping up the canvas to expose the wood?
And isn't that totally a TNA Wrestling thing now?
How cool was the return of the old Mr. Anderson?
Of all the bickering and debating about creative direction, shouldn't they get some props for telling that story and having it reach this point in a successful manner, despite all of the company changes?
Wasn't the past episode of IMPACT just a fun show to watch?