Last Monday night, WWE decided to copy some of what they recently saw on TNA television and put it to use in the Daniel Bryan/Randy Orton program. This astonished me to no degree because if there is one wrestling company whose angles you do not want to copy, it’s TNA.
What makes this even more surreal is that there is some sort of blatantly transparent competition now between WWE and TNA as to which organization can copy each other’s angles from their respective weekly television shows. It’s like we’re watching two wrestling companies competing in a reality show to see which group can emulate the other better. Wrestling is a business where angles get copied often but never have we seen high-stakes weekly recycling of angles, both good and bad, to such a degree in real time.
Why on earth is this happening?
God bless the Salt Lake City fans who showed up for the TNA show on Thursday night. SLC, you did a great job of bringing the heat. The TNA audience was largely given a two-hour angle talkathon with only a main event (AJ Styles/Bully Ray) that actually brought some in-ring action.
The “hook” for Thursday’s show was to see just how exactly AJ Styles would make Dixie Carter “pay.” Dixie Carter, who admittedly is recreating what she sees every Monday on RAW, is living it up as a copy of The Authority. There were four booking options for the Ray/AJ match at Bound For Glory and they went with the right option — Styles went over and won the belt. That’s the good news. The problem? How does a wrestler who trashes the boss of his company decide to stick around and take the abuse after winning the promoter’s title? He turned down money on countless occasions, so how is he going to make a female boss pay without physical violence?
TNA has decided to copy the CM Punk angle from two years ago. Styles, who didn’t get over as a lone wolf character, was attached to the Main Event Mafia to go babyface. Then Dixie Carter spent weeks trashing him on television as a guy who just couldn’t survive without daddy’s money or else he’d be living in a trailer. And now that Styles won the TNA belt, how was he going to make her pay? Well, given his contractual situation with TNA, he had reportedly signed a short-term deal.
On Thursday night, Styles beat Bully Ray after Ken Anderson saved the day. He then told Dixie Carter, who offered Styles a new contract, that he was leaving the company.
What makes the angle interesting is not what’s happening on camera but rather off camera. On camera, it’s a CM Punk angle. However, if TNA doesn’t have an agreement with Styles while he’s holding the belt, he has a chance to pull a Brian Pillman renegade jump to WWE with the belt. That’s the kind of rib that Vince McMahon would get a kick out of. For all the talk about how beneath TNA is to those in power in WWE, they sure seem to watch each other closely.
As for the aforementioned Ken Anderson, he’s been brought back as a goofy, spaz-tastic babyface looking for revenge on Bully Ray. The opening segment on Impact was Dixie Carter trying to kiss AJ’s ass with a “welcome back AJ Styles” banner in the ring only for Bully Ray to attack Styles, go for the powerbomb, and then allow Anderson to run in to the save the day. Just like Daniel Bryan, Styles is inexplicably sometimes the third wheel in top angles. In this case, Ken Anderson is playing the role of Big Show to Styles playing the role of Bryan. Perhaps the next role AJ Styles can play is the role of Mickie James and walk away from TNA without a new deal. Remember her?
So, the plan going forward is Dixie will have an 8-man tournament to crown a champion… to face “the people’s champion” AJ Styles title for title? As Jim Ross wrote on Twitter, “I’m ready to admit that I don’t understand sports entertainment OR pro wrestling any more. #OutofTouch.” You’re not alone, brother.
On top of the surreality copying of angles between WWE and TNA, TNA has some other… unique… ideas on booking. They’ve put their tag titles on BroMans and their ‘cele-bro-tion’ promo was as cringe-worthy as those “Bro-surance” health care ads that Colorado unveiled this week. Sting and Magnus still can’t figure out why their ‘passing the torch’ angle isn’t working. Here’s a clue: if you telegraph a ‘passing the torch’ angle, the fans aren’t going to give a damn because it doesn’t come across as organic. Dixie Carter’s ‘nephew,’ Ethan Carter III, nearly broke Twitter when he faced a squash jobber named Dewey Barnes. Dewey Barnes, a skinny redhead from Muscle Shoals, Alabama with the Clemson Tiger cat paw on his ass, did a better job in two minutes of being the underdog babyface than TNA has done with the useless Abyss/Joseph Park angle for the past year. EC3 is going to get the hard push because, hey, “I’m a Carter and the world needs us.”
“Look at what the brilliance of Dixie Carter has done for you.”
Who wants to ride the Dixie Train?
This real-time surreality playing out on television is fascinating to watch for all the wrong reasons. At least it’s an unusual twist to what we’re accustomed to watching on wrestling shows.