Kickout Fatigue: A look at ROH, WWE, & TNA
by, 10-17-2012 at 11:37 AM (6474 Views)
Any fan of pure, absolute wrestling should be watching Ring of Honor. Not since the incredible ECW product of the late 90's has there been a collection of such amazing, pure, talent rich wrestling going on for us to enjoy.
Of course, after watching a replay of the recent ROH ippv, Glory by Honor XI, I was struck by a thought. While ROH inarguably contains the best wrestling, it is not the best wrestling promotion.
My reasoning for this is that ROH exists at one extreme of the Wrestling Industry spectrum. ROH contains matches that are awe inspiring. You'll see moves you've never seen before on a nightly basis, you'll again and again have to take back your snap judgements of wrestlers who start off looking boring and turn out to be incredible, you'll see back and forth wars where it's impossible to know who's going to win. And a lot of times, beyond the simple enjoyment of the physical wrestling, you won't really care.
That's because ROH is awful at storylines. Let me rephrase. They care very little about creating storylines. Maybe it's because they only have a single hour on TV each week to do it, or maybe it's because they're so attached to being the only "pure wrestling" product around, but whatever the case is, the fact remains that of an entire ppv card, there's usually only substantial story to back up 1 match. That's followed by maybe 2 other matches that have the bare minimum of story backup (your typical, "I don't like you" or "I'll prove I'm better than you" thing.)
When a match has no story, there's no emotional investment. When there's no emotional investment, there's just us watching some great athletes and then politely clapping when one bests the other. Entertaining? Sure. Impactful? Not really.
Now let's look at the other end of the spectrum, the WWE. On this side of the Wrestling Industry, you have the opposite problem. All they are here are story. At some point, the idea of "wrestling" completely took a back seat to the idea of "entertainment". It went from the fantastic Sports Entertainment product that we all knew and loved to an Entertainment Sports product that exists today.
Just look at any broadcast of RAW or Smackdown. It opens with a 15 - 20 minute talking segment. Most matches it contains last under 5 minutes and are just a squash. Most meaningful matches that showcase actual wrestling feature bullcrap finishes (Sheamus vs Wade Barrett, anybody?), as actually having one guy beat another guy seems to be the worst possible outcome in the mind of WWE creative.
Instead of awesome wrestling, WWE is obsessed with creating awesome characters, and awesome interviews, and awesome comedy, and awesome dancing, and awesome social media. The wrestling ability of these stars takes a backseat to their charisma, their likability, their talking skills, their social media impact.
That's not to say I don't enjoy WWE, because at times I do. Whenever the company gets out of its own way and allows amazing talents to really go to war, you see something special. If they could just learn to ease back on the 25 minute long conversations in the ring, and the 6 mandatory backstage talking segments, and the 95% b.s. finishes in the matches, this company could be truly great. But instead, one of the greatest talents they've had in decades is busy yelling "I am the tag team champions" for the 100th time, because if something is funny once, WWE will keep shoving it down your throat for at least the next five months.
This brings me to TNA, which exists somewhat in the middle of the spectrum. Over the past year, TNA has been my favorite wrestling to watch, because it showcases much more wrestling than WWE does, but still takes some time for storylines unlike ROH.
The mixture of story, talking, b.s. match endings, and full on great wrestling is pretty perfect on any given episode of Impact. That's not to say it's a perfect product, because it clearly isn't, but at least they operate with a great recipe.
Talent are unleashed in TNA to do what they do best, wrestle. Sure, there are some great talkers, and they do a great job when given the opportunity to shine in that regard, but the focus at the end of the day always seems to come back to the ring. It's the opposite of WWE, where so many times the focus of their stories and characters feel so far removed from a wrestling ring.
TNA does humor, they have funny characters, but they don't reduce them to SNL skits. They allow them to weave humor into their storylines which lead them to the ring where they have amazing matches. Even through the abysmal Clare Lynch/A.J. Styles storyline, Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels were gold on a nightly basis. They shined with great material amidst a storyline that started out bad and got progressively worse until it reached awfulness of historical proportions. And oh yeah, they delivered on some amazing matches during that time.
For all my analysis and all my criticism, I watch and enjoy all three of these wrestling promotions. I love professional wrestling, and thus I wish for the industry to be better than it currently is. But I also love that there's some varying degrees of the product available out there. Want just pure talent and "shut up and wrestle" action? Then ROH is going to blow your mind and deliver top shelf matches every single time. Want a show where comedy and story are showcased more than the wrestling? Then the current WWE product should really excite you. Want something in between, with some incredible talent putting on incredible matches while there's still some story and humor? Then TNA is what you want.
No matter what choice you make, you have to admit, it's a good time to be a pro wrestling fan. There are some amazing young talents in the business right now, some new legends cementing their legacies before our eyes (CM Punk, Austin Aries, Kevin Steen), and some old legends giving us the last of their greatness. I may analyze and I may complain at times, but one thing I also will be doing is tuning in every single night that wrestling is on my television.