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Pondering with Plumtree - Weathering the Storm

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.

While the change of the calendar feels fresh and symbolizes hope and new beginnings, it seems that some things regarding TNA remain the same. Here we are in 2014 and the rumors, the controversies, the number-crunching, and the should-of-could-of-would-of opinions are reaching a fever pitch. We all expected 2014 to be the beginning of some sort of renaissance for the company in the midst of a (another!) regime change, but TNA's issues with hearsay and uncertainty in 2013 is now spilling over into the new year.

Without question, there are causes for concern, yet at the same time, the winds of change often causes high alert from fans, from doubters, from the know-it-alls, and from those who enjoy the scene of any of life's turbulence. Some people love negativity. Just a fact.

TNA, and to be honest, it's fans, find themselves in an awkward place of trying to weather this ongoing storm. It almost feels as if we all have our backs against the wind and that proverbial bowing, opening door, as we try, as we hope, as we continue to logically think that the worst is over. After all, let's be honest, from the broad scope of the situation, TNA just lost Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, AJ Styles, Jeff Jarrett, and several other names. No one can deny how bad that looks from the simplest outlook. Especially, when it's compounded with the financial rumors and other events which have taken place recently.

The hot button topic of course is the situation regarding AJ Styles - his departure of TNA, his appearance with ROH, and his latest "shoot" interview set to be released soon. It's quite baffling how many have attempted to diminish his value as a wrestler and his importance to TNA now that he is no longer under the banner. It's ridiculous. Actually, just sophomoric, and downright petty. Some have gone so far in their reactions that they now sound like bitter divorcees in what seemed like a mutual and organic business split of both sides.

Styles was the franchise of TNA. He was their Peyton Manning. Their Derek Jeter. Their Cal Ripken Jr. Their homegrown guy. The homegrown guy. And if you were a fan of TNA, he was your guy as well. His intrinsic value to TNA far outweighs any analysis or breakdown from critics. TNA lost a future Hall of Famer, period. Is AJ's departure the end of TNA? Absolutely not. The company will move on. But attempting to justify his loss by diminishing his legacy through far-reaching justifications of ratings analysis, not "being a draw", and other tactics is unwarranted.

AJ is allowed his side of the story. Is he possibly burning a bridge? Sure, but it's still his story. He's given much of his professional life to TNA, and he's at least earned that. For all we know, at this point, AJ has no intention of ever returning to TNA. Ask yourself, have you ever been disgruntled with an employer, or the decisions made at your employer? We all have been. Now imagine if you were part of an upstart company from the very beginning and grew tired of the way things operated? You'd be a bit unhappy as well. I honestly wished the relationship between AJ and TNA didn't come to this, but it did. It's still a bit stunning to see clips of AJ in an ROH ring, almost like seeing one of those athletes mentioned before in different uniforms, but I can't blame him. As a TNA fan, I just wished things were different.

And of course, there is Jeff Jarrett. With all of the rumors of a potential new promotion with Toby Keith (whom I never knew had THAT much money until this rumor) along with Jim Ross, somehow, everyone seems to be taking this highly speculative rumor and running with it as "Jeff's new monster out to destroy his old one". While I still find it very (VERY!) concerning that both Jeff and AJ have decided to leave, it doesn't mean the end of TNA is near. Wait, let me repeat that - it doesn't mean the end of TNA is near. I know that might be sacrilegious to much of the illogical and egregiously influential IWC, but it's true. TNA, again, will move on.

In Dixie's feature piece by Sports Illustrated, she stated "You had this one monster with over a billion-dollar cap and worldwide appeal with tons of potential revenue streams. Even if you just pick up 10 percent, you become a 100 million dollar company".

Contrary to the belief of many pro wrestling fans today, there is plenty - PLENTY - of room for multiple companies to exist. If Jeff and Co. wants a piece of that pie, more power to them. I hope they get it. But the truth is they are well behind the race TNA has run so far. And even more so, as noted from TNA's press release regarding his departure, Jeff still has stock in TNA. Logic would dictate that Jeff more than likely still has many friends (money as well) and loved ones who are still employed there, and I'm sure he wouldn't want them to be unemployed. This really doesn't seem like a Vince McMahon, "I'm going to kill my own creation-NWO" type of deal. My assumption, of course if this is all true, is that Jeff wants something that is his, and this is probably his chance to do it. Once again, pro wrestling needs more options.

There is also the issue of Orlando, Florida and Universal Studios. Where will TNA go? Does it need a homebase? Can it survive on the road? Is this the beginning of the end? Oh my gosh, TNA is homeless! This is the end!

From the story reported on this very site, it looks like it was something the company was well aware of going into the Holiday season. They have until March to really land something, and who really knows, maybe going back on the road is in the cards? Maybe the One Night Only tapings in Massachusetts and Poughkeepsie were trial runs of how TV could work in a smaller, more intimate setting? Regardless, while the uncertainty just adds to the angst of TNA fans and adds another log to the "TNA is doomed fire", TNA will survive.

And finally, there is the huge elephant in the room that is the renewal of TNA's deal with Spike. A necessity is U.S. programming, and that is very much up in the air. We've read reports of Spike being very fond of TNA and very happy to be business partners. After all, TNA has done everything Spike has asked of them from plugging Bellator, involving Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz in their product, and even moving up an hour which hurt their viewership.

And as always, there is the rumored potential of WWE moving in again with Viacom and bringing Smackdown with it. And even further, the heavily rumored and again, highly speculative idea of Jarrett's new promotion being on CMT, another Viacom entity. And yes, all of the above is again, rumored, speculative, and very much inflammatory.

Of course, no big deal was signed immediately, and this could all work itself out with Spike re-upping with Dixie and Friends.

Yet, despite the slim rationale of silver lining in all of these situations, TNA finds themselves in a rather interesting situation - still trying to hold that door shut amid this constant storm. More than ever, the TNA brand is damaged. We're now to the point where some fans just spew negativity about the company without watching it. Possibly without even knowing what it is or without even giving the product a chance.

I truly believe one of the biggest mysteries in life is this question: what has TNA ever done, or not done, that no other wrestling company hasn't, or has, to deserve the constant and unfair criticism it receives?

For some reason, TNA is now that company that some just want to see die. No reason at all - just because. It's hard for me, a fan of the company since that June summer night in 2002, to admit, but it's very much the truth. For some reason, there are fans that just want TNA dead.

Further compounding the problems are the "reputable" sites who also cater to this criticism and illogical standing for the usual Twitter follow, or for the cool-crowd tongue in cheek moments. Because you know, "we think TNA sucks too, come check out our site."

Even TNA fans, a collective unit who once bubbled with pride and confidence that this company was the gospel of the pro wrestling business has contributed to this storm. Once upon a time, everyone had to see the product, because it was great, because it was innovative, because it was fresh, and damn it, because it was the best product out there. Even that once unified group now is splintered into segments of those who embody similar traits of those that want the company gone. A once collective TNA group now fragmented, each shouting should-ofs-would-ofs-could-ofs as fact, believing that their opinion, or hindsight, or signing, or storyline, or "need-to scenarios" will play out in real life the way it did/does in their minds.

There are also those that still love the company, who still cry out and believe a return to it's roots of six-sided rings, x-division-must-see television, and old TNA concepts is the missing link. They believe whole-heartedly in this philosophy as if the company has been shoving a square peg into a round hole these past years. They could be correct, but at this juncture, surviving, being reactionary to the extreme and not planning, is the priority. At least everything in pro wrestling now feels that way.

And of course, there is TNA, the company. As I stated in a comment section on this very website, I love TNA, but there are times they make it tremendously hard to do so. Really hard. And sometimes I wonder if they are so consumed with garnering new fans, they forget, and possibly take for granted the fans who remain loyal, who stand up for their namesake during times like these, and the ones that help carry the torch for them.

So what is next for TNA? What is next for TNA fans? I honestly don't know. This fan is tired of the recycled "new" recommendations, the crazy suggestions, the "what ifs", the unending bickering of what happened in the past, the countless hyperbole statements, the snark comments from "journalists", the unfair and biased reports, and yes, the seemingly popular (and so redundant), "sign new knockouts!" statements. I don't mean to get up on a soap box, and I apologize if it sounds that way, but like most die hard TNA fans these days, I'm just trying to weather the storm. I'm growing weary of the constant iffy, bad, or questionable news regarding TNA. I'm just longing and hoping for the sun to shine again.

There is a quote in one of my favorite baseball movies, "Major League II", where Cleveland Indians manager, Jake Taylor, says the following to a struggling Rick Vaughn:

"You're the problem. You used to be the toughest guy on this team. Now you're trying to prop yourself up with the right woman or the right shrink or God knows what else. You want to be a major league pitcher? You have to find something in yourself that's yours and nobody else's. You had that once, Rick. And if I were you, I'd spend the rest of the night trying to find it again. Without it, you're no good to me or the team"

I'm hoping TNA somehow applies that message. Quite frankly, the ironic part in this whole thing is that with all of these negative issues and rumors swirling about in this storm, TNA TV has been entertaining. And oh yeah, there is a sold out UK tour awaiting this company! Not to mention various new international television deals with Dixie's drying signature on them. Go figure.

It's funny, I used to think the storm, the entire thing, would be over when TNA finally rivaled WWE, whenever (and if ever) that day would arrive.

Now, this TNA fan doesn't care if that ever happens. I just want great wrestling and an entertaining show every week. Screw the naysayers. Forget trying to find the next "white bronco" to you know, "get to the next level, brother!". Don't try to be WWE. Don't try to be ROH. Don't try to be New Japan. Don't try to be "different" or an "alternative". Heck, don't even try to be "old TNA".

Just find that...that "something", that aspect that used to be TNA's and no one else's. Find it again and keep it. And hold onto it moving forward with whom ever is with the company.

Until then, I'll continue to weather the storm and the bearings that comes with it as a TNA Wrestling fan.

For someday, hopefully, long fully, the storm will be over.

Random Rhetoric

How much fun was the opener of Impact with Dixie, AJ, and Magnus?

Wouldn't you say Magnus is the best dressed wrestler in the industry?

And isn't Dixie reaching levels of being tremendous in exposing the vindictive side of her character?

I'm sure Liam would agree, but how awesome is the air horn gimmick for the Bro Mans?

Does the DQ against EC3 officially end his undefeated streak?

How ambiguous are the roles for Gunner and Storm in their feud over the Feast or Fired briefcase?

And doesn't it add to the intrigue?

Does Bobby Roode just have a tremendous feel for the moment or what?

Didn't you laugh out loud with his classic repeating of "STING?" in Dixie's office?

Kurt must reaaaaaaaaaaaaally trust Al Snow, huh?

How unique and eerie is the Anderson/Bully Ray feud?

And doesn't it add an interesting and different dynamic to what feels like a very intense feud?

How crazy, frenetic, unpredictable, and out of control was the main event?

Wasn't it a segment where you simply were locked into to see how crazier things could get.

Can we get a name for Bobby Roode's finisher, and not "the move we've seen over the past several weeks" as so smoothly named by Tenay?

All in all, wasn't Impact, collectively as a show, a terrific story?

And speaking of stories, I'll get plenty of criticism for this, but isn't the story of AJ Styles/Dixie Carter one of the best heel boss/babyface wrestling storylines you've seen in a long time?

And finally...

How weird is it to know this past Impact show might have been the last time we'll see AJ Styles in TNA?

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