As I type this, we are slightly more than 24 hours removed from TNA quite literally, throwing away ratings, dropping the Nielsen score to a dismal, embarrassing 0.93.
Believe me when I say though that this article has not been the easiest thing for me to write, recently.
I don't usually rag on TNA very much, because it just feels like I'm kicking an injured animal. They want to have 10 different show concepts working at the same time, and yet they can barely work one. Last year at this time, they seemed to be on the recovery list, as those first few Russo-free months were actually fun to watch again. (Minus the Claire Lynch story.) There was decent action in the ring, and okay, the storylines made precious little sense, but hey, at least we had a pretty amazing champion in Austin Aries.
Gut Check in the beginning didn't seem like a bad concept either, but the execution needed aid.
For starters, it's just a sign of disrespect to tell pre-established wrestlers that just because they aren't with YOUR company, that their years of experience just magically "don't exist" and thus they are worth nothing more than a game show contestant. That's crass. You can lie and hide behind the fake and very weak excuses of "business" and "money" but the truth is that saying their experience only exists if YOU deem it so, is unprofessional, tacky, cruel, demeaning and above all else, disrespectful. It's the same BS I refuse to tolerate from the WWE, so don't expect me to tolerate it here.
Second, it's folly to let the judges wait an entire week for a decision. You need to judge while the wrestlers are still fresh in the minds of the fans. Otherwise, the judges can easily be swayed by anything from politics, personal (and childish) grudges, ect. If you need 7 days to say "yes" or "no" then you are unfit to tell anybody if they're good enough for TNA.
Originally though, these were the only two, major flaws. Each month, an Indy wrestler would jump in the ring with an established TNA wrestler of his choice, do his best and then await the judges' opinions. It was exciting, and a reason to tune in.
... And then in the blink of an eye, this promising contest became convoluted.
Suddenly the rules changed. Now instead of wrestling someone of your choice, you get to wrestle yet another Indy wrestler, also vying for the spot you want. Then you get to come back in a week, and like a reality show, one of you gets sent home backstage, while the other is judged in the ring.
Then as I've blogged before, they opened up a website. They register you without your notification, publicly posting your real name, photo, hometown and resume on the internet, for people to vote. Get enough votes and you may see yourself in the televised Gut Check contest ~ of course this is after you've paid $250 for a "seminar" to teach you what you already know about wrestling, and after you pay for multiple flights to and from the show, out of your pocket. (No refunds, m'kay?)
Then comes a fatal blow. "If" you win, they ship you to OVW to be re-trained. Only in most causes you are not being trained. In fact, you may not even be booked at all. you just sit in limbo, until either you are fired or TNA decides they need a filler for a triangle match.
Also, you only get paid IF you are booked. So if you're not on Impact, you're not getting paid.
And while even the freshest fan knows that it's the booking/writing department's job to figure out how to use you, TNA will blame YOU for why THEY aren't booking you.
Not much of a prize, is it?
Still, I watched every week, waiting to see what would happen. Of the Gut Check contestants, Christian York has had a select handful of matches, while Gut Check "loser" Joey Ryan is still fighting to keep the tiny low-card spot they gave him. But still they dangle that (seemingly) false promise that one week, one special day, a Gut Check winner will truthfully get his due.
Last night was far from your typical judging night.
This month's competitors were not even on the Gut Check ballot. The fans were never given the choice to vote for them. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, keep reading.
We had Adam Pearce, a world renowned wrestler and five time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, taking on Magno, who in his own right has a following.
The two appeared live for week one, in a 10 second backstage shot of them looking into the camera, week two had a five minute match that initially was taped as match #1 ~ but did NOT air until halfway through the episode, and then came week three, and if what I just typed didn't sound suspicious, it will soon.
We cut to the three judges. But wait! Since some of you out there might be a little late to the party, let me fill you in on who they are.
Danny Davis: An off and on wrestler in the 1970's, he initially had temporary work as "Nightmare" Danny Davis in Tennessee and in WCW, wrestling as one half of The Nightmares and The Galaxians respectively. He also used Tiger Mask's name and mask in Kansas, but it ultimately known as being WWF's least liked referee in the late 1980's. When he was done screwing up matches, he became owner of OVW in 1997, and has recently used his "fame" as the promoter of the ex-WWE developmental to promote himself to television, while his students and core roster remained untapped and unused in Louisville.
Bruce Pritchard: An ex ring announcer and referee under Paul Boesch in Houston, Texas, Bruce found himself in the WWF as Brother Love, a loud, obnoxious manager, who imitated Evangelical preachers. Briefly, he had side jobs as a heel commentator known as "The Wizard" and as Reo Rodgers, a shameful parody of Dusty Rhodes. But by the time he started annoying fans as Reo, Bruce was already a member of Vince McMahon's writing team, and was front and center when the team became known as "WWE Creative". After a few yo-yo firings and re-hirings, he was shown the door for good in 2008, and just two years later became one of TNA's writers. He is currently their Senior VP of Talent.
Al Snow: Starting his training under Jim Lancaster in 1982, Al first made Ohio headlines after defeating Lancaster for the belt belonging to his own promotion. An ECW alumni, Al has held the WWF Hardcore, European and Tag Team Belts, was the head trainer for WWF/WWE Tough Enough series 1-4, was an OVW trainer and has been producer and road agent for TNA for the last two years. Al also was the head trainer for a group called "Body Slammers" where he co-trained young wrestlers from 1995-97 with current Aces and Eights member, D'Lo Brown. Al still takes Indy bookings, having just dropped the GLCW title in Wisconsin back in October after a very long reign.
Pretty amazing backgrounds right? A referee, a ring announcer turned manager and writer, and a mid card wrestler. They totally know what makes a future star and champion, right?
These three were chosen to judge Gut Check in a fair manner, that would benefit TNA. So imagine my shock, when Al Snow says aloud, in front of the TNA cameras:
"CAN Adam Pearce even TALK? Does he HAVE a persona?"
Al, who the fans know has likely run into Adam more than once, knows already that the answer is "yes". Even TNA itself has acknowledged Adam's past, so you can't tell me this was said "just for TV" in this case. This was a dig to Adam.
But more angering was Bruce Pritchard. After they had already told Adam to go home, Bruce told Magno ~ in front of God and everyone with working ears ~ the following:
"You're having no experience is just as
→ BAD ← as Adam having extra experience!"
I could not believe my ears. Let me get this right.
You want a wrestler that doesn't have alot of experience, but has more training than a guy just starting out.
... You want someone who's smart... but not really.
No really I mean that. WHAT???
But I doubt many of you heard Bruce say that to Magno, as the fans legit stopped watching. As soon as Adam Pearce had left the screen, Nielsen says TNA LOST ratings. By the time Magno went out, Impact Wrestling was down to a 0.93.
Now don't mistake my words. I am not going to tell you to tell TNA to #OpenYourEyes on Twitter. They've made their decision, and the alternative is for these two men to be sent to OVW to NOT be used, NOT be booked, and to NOT be paid even minimum wage.
If you actually like wrestling at all, or at least Magno and Adam, then you should be smart enough to know that both men deserve better than several months of → NOT BEING PAID AT ALL ← while they sit at home, waiting for TNA to do something.
They deserve better than a random spot in a triangle match everyone will forget ever happened in an hour, or a Rob Terry squash match while Hulk Hogan whines and cries about people he doesn't like.
If this is the best TNA can offer any Gut Check winner or loser, then it's just not worth it.
But I'll end this with an answer to Al Snow's question: