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Pondering with Plumtree - "That Was Awesome" - Thoughts, Lessons, and Ponderings From TNA's NYC Tapings

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.

"That was awesome!"

I can't tell you how many times I uttered those words over the last few days during the Impact tapings at the Manhattan Center's Grand Ballroom this past week. Not in the typical (and sometimes overused and undeserved) chant, but in a manner of simply falling back into my seat, exhaling, and trying to sum up what just occurred.

"That...was...awesome!".

Out of respect for those who exemplify the type of restraint and self-control most of us wrestling fans will never have, I'll save the details as to not spoil the coming weeks for you. And by the way, good for you on keeping things exciting and not letting the pressure of our microwave culture persuade you otherwise. For those of you who have peeked in on what's to come, rest assure, this summer will be exciting. I'm very sure, just like I kept falling to my seat in sheer entertainment shock, on your couch, you will too utter that very same sentiment - "that was awesome!"

For more of an inside look of what it was like inside of the Manhattan Center, be sure to check out Will Cross' "Crossfire" columns as he's been documenting a detailed series of his experience. It's a good read, and as always, Will is pretty passionate about his experience. And he'll be there for Friday's taping as well.

I briefly mentioned this in the comments section, but Thursday's tapings were probably the best, if not, in the top three, shows I've ever been to as a wrestling fan. I've done live shows, taped ones, WWE, WCW, ECW, plenty of TNA house shows, a handful of indy shows, and a Wrestlemania, and Thursday's taping trumped many, if not, all of them from a sheer entertainment value and overall atmosphere vibe. I still remember looking at my phone to see 10:35PM and wondering where the last three and a half hours went? It felt like such a blur.

Of course, an added perk to the rush are the TV cameras. Cameras really bring out the crazy in people, huh? I'll most likely be seen on television as I sat by the entrance for day two of the tapings - a thought that is a bit mortifying to tell you the truth.

Regardless, I never understood why TNA hadn't explored (and exploited) this market so much more in the past. Sure, I'm biased as a native of Brooklyn and a fan of TNA, but dating back to their shows at the Hammerstein Ballroom, the crazy show that was once held at Webster Hall (this show was a good one as well), the always filled Westbury Arena in Long Island, the recent shows in the Poughkeepsie area, and of course, the packed houses at MCU Park here in Brooklyn every summer, NYC has been fairly beneficial for the TNA product. Maybe they just took us for granted. Another "TNA mistake"? I'l leave that up to you.

Nonetheless, besides uttering one phrase to exhaustion on Wednesday and Thursday night, as a wrestling fan, there were so many things that became clear to me upon leaving the building. Here are a few:

Wrestling Fans vs. Studio Audience

Go ahead. I'll give you a moment to throw your immediate and sarcastic reply. Pick one - "duh?", "really?", "you don't say?" But during the taping, as a living, breathing body in the building, you have to wonder if the people in the Impact Zone had a pulse?

One of my favorite things to see at wrestling events are casual fans or those who accompanied fans (mostly parents with their kids) really becoming engaged in the product throughout the night. On Wednesday night, two grandparents appeared to have brought their wrestling-die-hard eight year old to the tapings. In the opening segment, the grandparents were taken back, probably out of sheer unexpectedness. But, by the middle of the night, they were laughing and getting into it. At the end of the night, the grandmother was yelling and even trying to start chants to the amusement of some in our section.

It's clear as day why TNA stayed and possibly burned out their presence in Orlando - finances. But c'mon!

We'll see it soon, but it was nice to see fans react to the wrestlers as superstars, as the big deal they are. It was cool to have fans react to theme songs, to chant the right things, to know the wrestler's stories, moves, and overall, to know the product.

Orlando Studios, you were great to TNA, and helped it become what it is today, but it's probably a fact now, you're a detriment to the growth of the company.

Then again, I'm sure paying for a ticket also has some accountability tied to having a good time.

Go ahead, say it - "you don't say?"

Wrestling Tabloids vs. Wrestling News

This was briefly mentioned on Wednesday night following the first set of spoilers, but the inaccuracy of some of these spoilers, and how they mislead, perpetuate, and misinform results are truly unfortunate. Maybe I'm getting tired of the negativity, or merely older and wiser in age, or whatever, but I really have streamlined my exposure to much of the "news" information on pro wrestling from the internet. Pretty much slimming it down to a select number of sites with accurate news, as well as those with columns and writers I feel are accurate, subjective, entertaining, or at the very least, back up their unique opinions.

For the sake of curiosity, I checked around my usual small circle of sites and columns and was insanely amused by some of the reports coming out of Wednesday's tapings. Negativity sells. Plain and simple, cut and dry.

No Moneyball in Wrestling

On the other end, I also found it very interesting to see the reactions of many as they read the spoilers of the shows and there comments which followed. As someone that was there live, it really convicted me as a fan in something we all do. We read spoilers, judge, and then make up a mindset on where things are going without the whole picture being revealed. With that, we've already altered our expectations.

I'll be the first one in line to admit I'm an offender in this. I read spoilers, and figure, "eh, this doesn't like that great", or "wow, that's looks really good", and a good percentage of the time I'm wrong. Dead wrong.

Unlike Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A's in Major League Baseball, who does not watch the games and just wants to see the results on paper for fear of making decisions based on emotion, we can't do the same in pro wrestling. It's an industry built ON emotion. Attempting to trivialize it through words, results, and hearsay isn't doing the product due justice. You need to see it, live, or on your television screen to watch it and to most of all, feel it.

After being there live, the spoilers posted felt cheap. Again, I read the brief, inaccurate, soulless, description of what happened, shook my head in disgust while mumbling quietly before my laptop screen. With my joy robbed, that same joy I couldn't wait to share with everyone in a few weeks, I uttered confusingly, "But, but, but...that was awesome..."

I don't expect spoilers to be tremendously detailed, and you can't expect them to be, but I do think they change the perspective and the mindset of some, maybe all of us, who attempt to get ahead of the curve by judging the product by a few words on a screen.

Wrestling is so much more than that.

House Show Revamp?

We've all seen the the disparaging photos of low attendance figures at recent house shows for professional wrestling. We've seen them for TNA and even a few for WWE lately as numbers seem to be dipping everywhere.

These tapings were far and away the best TNA shows I've been to, even more so than the once record-breaking, MCU Park show (then Keyspan Park). Call me crazy, but with so much television, and an ever-growing pressure, demand and competition for meaningful television and events in our society, could the idea of a small "house show" be outdated? Heck, I doubt anyone gives reports on house shows unless something significant occurs like a title change.

Obviously, TV tapings are in demand because it means the stars will be there, and yes, there is a chance to be on TV. Also, it means things will progress, surprises can happen, and well, honestly, everything matters!

I won't disparage or even second-guess the effort by everyone involved as that is ignorant and downright insulting to their profession and what they do as professionals. However, is a there a possibility to begin tying the concept of house shows into the actual product without having them feel so remote?

Maybe include more footage from house shows in the television program? Possibly tape matches for a webshow? Who knows?

House shows are beginning to seem more like pre-season sporting events - Okay to attend, but not the real thing. This is not just an impending TNA problem, but I think the entire wrestling industry as a whole has to find a solution to this.

TNA Support

If you don't frequent lesser subjective places on the internet, one would think TNA is some company which no one really has interest for. These tapings were an eye-opener that there are lots of people who do believe in the product, or at the very least, are aware of it.

Especially the six-sided ring. The first night, Jeremy Borash briefly mentioned that 87% voted for the return of the six-sided ring and it received a loud ovation. The next night, in front of a sold out crowd, he did so again, and a "Six-Sides" chant broke out.

As for nostalgia, "TNA" chants were loud and prevalent throughout both sets of tapings I attended, and to be honest, for a fan of the company since day one, it really felt good to hear that sound again. The wrestlers seemed really invigorated and energized by the crowds.

Of course, you're still going to have your haters. On Wednesday night, in his vertical jump to the apron during his entrance, Lashley slipped and didn't quite make it. Of course, the crowd let him have it, and to Lashley's credit, he stayed poised and in character, stared at some fans who were giving it to him, and accomplished the feat in his next try. In what has become the classic TNA cynic, a young twenty-something year old fan behind me suddenly says, "See, it's stuff like that why I stopped watching this company".

You just can't please everyone.

Speaking of Lashley...

Lashley is a Beast

There really isn't any creative sub-headline I could come up with because the above really says it all. I know many aren't huge fans of Lashley and some downright don't like him. I was in the former for a long time. He was a give-or-take in my eyes. I'm not sure if it's the athletics professional in me or simply someone who really appreciates athleticism when it's present, but Lashley is...well, a beast!

A guy his size shouldn't move like the way he does, with the power he does, and the speed he does. And again, that vertical jump from the floor to the apron is so damn impressive.

This is not PSA for Lashley, but all I will say is, in the coming weeks, the guy should win you over. He definitely did for me.

And without becoming too controversial, there was a sizable and noticeable support for Lashley among minorities in the building.

Ahhhhh, gotta love diversity! After all, it is 2014, right?

Hide Yo Wives, Hide Yo Kids...

And on a fun note, I tend to gauge "casual fan interest" through the intrigue of my wife to the product. I know, not the largest sample size for a study...however, after skipping the product well throughout last year, she's been into the product again since the Impact following Lockdown, and called Thursday's tapings one of the most fun events (not just wrestling - all events!) she has ever been to. I also learned THE most important thing regarding the TNA product on Thursday night.

"What's the name of 'That Wolf'?" she said following the awesome Hardys vs.Wolves tag match (Must see!) and pointing towards the ring in eagerness for an answer.

"The Wolf?" I responded. "Like, Desmond, Wolfe?". "What are you talking about?"

"NO!! No, no, the taller guy of The Wolves."

"Ohh! That's Eddie Edwards."

"Cool! Eddie Edwards! He's my new favorite. He's pretty dreamy, and he's a damn good wrestler. I'll be watching for him."

She continued to stare, along with many of the other women in our section on the ramp, all reaching over the railing for a high-five from "Die Har"....err "Dreamy" Eddie Edwards.

There you go everyone, Eddie Edwards - home wrecker. Hide your loved ones.


Random Rhetoric

As Talon briefly mentioned regarding the inclusion of an IMPACT intro package in his latest column, shouldn't TNA show off a bit of it's history in a quick opening fifteen second clip?

After all, when you think of the names that have walked through a TNA curtain, including The Great Muta this past Wednesday, isn't there a very impressive list to do so?

Especially, if you take Bully Ray's advertising advice in doing late-night infomercials?

Despite the quirky logistics for airing/taping, isn't Bound For Glory in Japan a pretty cool and innovative idea?

Isn't this an exciting time for TNA? Heck, for all companies in pro wrestling?

With no BFG Series, isn't it safe to say the new regime wants very little to do with well, ummm, the previous regime?

And for the health of the company, don't you hope there is finally some stability moving forward?

With all the hate she receives from some fans, wouldn't a Dixie Cater book be a hot seller?

And finally...

How excited are you for TNA this summer? 

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