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Pondering with Plumtree - Who is the (Baby)Face of TNA?

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.


As many around are hunkering down in preparation for final exams, I figured I would partake in the educational and thought-provoking festivities with an exam of my own to you, the TNAsylum reader. Don't worry, it's an easy one. Open ended. Two questions. And yes, please show your work. Here goes:

"Who is the current face of TNA Wrestling?"

Ponder that and finalize your answer. Got it? Sure? OK, here is the final question:

"Who is the top babyface of TNA Wrestling?"

Odds are, your answer to both questions were different. And if they aren't, I'm highly intrigued by it, and will ask that you post it in the comments section below. As for me, I answered "I don't know" and " Eric Young", of course after scratching out the name of "Jeff Hardy" since he is now Willow.

Now again, there is no right or wrong answer, because quite frankly, TNA is in a transitional phase, and both questions are clearly not definitive. However, over the course of TNA's twelve year existence which has been a "Grind", a description so awesomely described by Jason Blade in the latest "Blade's Edge" (check that out!), those two questions NEVER have had the same answers. Something which has always been the case through pro wrestling.

Bruno Sammartino. Jerry Lawler. Ric Flair. Hulk Hogan. Ultimate Warrior. Sting. Goldberg. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. John Cena. And I'm sure there are many more who can be added to this list. All of them carried the torch for their companies, and all of them were in fact the top draw. The top babyface. THE guy. Again, two criteria that usually go hand in hand for such an accolade.

For TNA, if we talk history, AJ Styles is the guy. Regardless of his departure and exit, and despite the current parallels of his career and Bret Hart's, AJ Styles was the face of TNA Wrestling. Yet, again, as stated above, Styles was never truly the top babyface of the company. He had his moments, but Styles never was the overwhelming and definitive favorite of TNA fans. Some days that moniker could have easily been Samoa Joe, or Kurt Angle, or Jeff Jarrett, or Beer Money, or whom ever. A babyface, but never THE babyface.

I'ts an odd conundrum. Especially, in a time in wrestling where opinions are stronger than ever, and universal babyfaces are tougher to find, create, establish, and maintain to fickle wrestling fanbases.

So, enter the recent hot topic of "Showtime" Eric Young. I'll be straight forward and admit it, I like Eric Young as World Champion. I've read all of the arguments (and complaints) in the comments section of this very site regarding EY's sudden prominent role, and I can see both sides. The most bantered is the similarity to Daniel Bryan, and is an argument heavily used against his reign, which is a point I can somewhat understand.

I understand that specific fans of a company would like to boast of authentic originality of their guys and gals. It offers bragging rights and boosts the sense of pride in your product. However, while the win was similar and both sport heavy beards, the tossing around of the verb "copying" is out of control among wrestling fans.

Can you imagine if the "Don't Fire Eric" hand motion, which is awfully similar and was a thing long before "YES" chants started? Some wrestling fans would lose their mind in complete hatred for TNA. Either way, I'm not sure why the slippery slope of similarities are so steep and over-reaching in pro wrestling among us fans.

In fact, why are the similarities used as a reason to discredit one, the other, or both. I actually find it quite interesting to see both as the top guys in pro wrestling. Who would've ever thought two guys who look the way they do would be carry world title belts?

After all, we've seen this before with Goldberg and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. It wasn't too long ago wrestling fans complained and claimed that Goldberg was WCW's response to Steve Austin. Because you know, the fact that they both are bald with blonde goatees and wore black trunks and black boots solidified it. Obviously, a dead rip off. Yes, that was a touch of sarcasm. But the true irony here is that Ryback now hears Goldberg chants every time he wrestles and he doesn't don black trunks or has a blonde goatee. But I digress on the silly topic of "ripoffs" in pro wrestling...

Regardless of the intent or backlash, with the comparisons to Bryan, EY already has a leg up in terms of intrigue and attention among wrestling fans. He has the respect of the diehards from "paying his dues". He is adored from the casual wrestling fans who absolutely love his quirky, fun loving personality. And he is beloved and cheered from kids who seem to really be into him. All components of a great and leading babyface, no?

As Young has referenced in a passionate promo prior to his big win, there hasn't been a program he hasn't done that wasn't a success. From turkey suits, super heroes, global villains, and a brief knockouts tag champion run with ODB, Young has successfully pulled them all of.

Along the way, we even forget Young is now a TNA Grand Slam champion, and has held more titles in TNA than anyone. And he's an original, which always seems to be a stick in the mud for some wrestling fans.

And this is all without discussing his crossover appeal and successful career outside of TNA as the host of Animal Planet's "Off The Hook: Deadliest Catches" program.

TNA's history is littered with epic heels. Actually, TNA does the heel character very well. Some could argue, too well. The reason? There has never been that super hero to combat "the bad guys" in TNA. For every "Sports Entertainment X-treme", there was a generic group of TNA babyfaces. For every "Planet Jarrett", there was a generic group of TNA babyfaces. For every "Main Event Mafia", there was a generic group of TNA babyfaces. For every "Immortal", there was a generic group of TNA babyfaces. For every (here it comes, so prepare to groan...) "Aces and Eights", there was a generic group of TNA babyfaces.

TNA babyfaces have always seemed to be a flavor of the week, month, or period type of thing until they do their next horrible deed.

TNA has never had the ultimate good guy in the role of the simplest form of storytelling in pro wrestling - good vs. evil. TNA has never had their own super hero to save the day. The one we want to see continuously overcome. TNA's go-to guy. Again, THE guy.

So, if you slowly pull apart the pieces which make up the legacy and package that is Eric Young, one has to truly compare him to the answers you (and myself) provided as the top babyface of TNA Wrestling. And of course, the face of TNA Wrestling.

Let's take it one step further, how does Eric Young Stack up to AJ Styles, the long-standing face for TNA Wrestling of the past eleven years? It's not as obvious as you think, and one could argue Eric Young is better equipped to be the top babyface and torch bearer for a company than Styles was, or is currently.

Young has a passionate, charismatic personality that is entertaining, magnetic, and infectious. And of course, he's loyal to the company, even through this massive change.

This is not a PA announcement in support of Eric Young in the middle of spirited debates, but one to begin wondering and spurring further discussion on if in fact TNA (and wrestling fans as well) have had the one name AND the answer to both crucial questions mentioned above right in front of our eyes this entire time. The name which would give TNA it's torch bearing babyface superstar it's been in search of for twelve years.

Eric Young? Who would've thought?

Random Rhetoric

Who else is going to the New York City taping in late June?

Is anyone else hoping TNA goes on the road, with selective locations of course, becoming more of a reality?

Seriously, what happened to the enthusiasm that used to be in the old Impact Zone?

Speaking of the Impact Zone, anyone else adores that lady with the "Magnus" T-Shirt and sign every week? Such loyalty to the product...

Isn't Bobby Roode always a solid segment?

How funny was Dixie leaving in fear of Bully?

Anyone else want to admit they enjoyed that evening gown match?

Did you like me, have to feign the "oh this is ridiculous" statement with a slight smirk, the way I did watching that match with the wife?

Wasn't that ladder match the type of fast paced-action that would get a casual fan to stop channel surfing?

Doesn't Kazarian look seriously out place without Daniels?

And didn't seeing him bget eaten by Knox remind you of how much turnover in talent there has been recently?

Speaking of talent, don't you miss Norv Fernum and Dewey Barnes?

How unique is The Managerie?

Aren't you intrigued if the guys on stilts are wrestlers as well?

And again, isn't the roster in a place where you feel like you know everyone's character?

Anyone else wondering what the next step for Samuel Shaw is?

I'm not familiar with this Bram fellow, but damn, doesn't he feel like a huge pick up and an asset for the future already?

It was different, but wasn't the segment of Angle getting news regarding his surgery, fresh and something we rarely see in wrestling?

And finally...

Hasn't MVP been a better addition than originally thought by many?

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