The Return of TNA Wrestling
I spent a good portion of my high school years debating with other wrestling fans what dream matches we'd want to see if WCW wrestlers could take on WWF. The Giant vs. Undertaker, Sting vs. The Rock, Hulk Hogan vs. Stone Cold... these fantasy matchups were discussed daily while waiting for the bus.
A few short years later, the WWF bought both WCW and ECW, effectively killing all of the pro wrestling competition in the United States. At first, it seemed like a good thing. Finally, all of these stars would be under one roof and we'd get to see all these fantasy matchups. Then... reality set in and there wasn't enough room for all of the stars, or they were happy getting paid to sit at home. The wrestlers that did take a chance like Diamond Dallas Page, were treated like lower mid-carders and jobbed out. I was crushed. This wasn't what I wanted nor was it how I imagined it. The storylines got lazy without competition, the wrestlers I liked in ECW/WCW weren't used, and I stopped watching wrestling.
I still read the rumors and glanced at the results, but I was heartbroken. My hobby, my passion, just went away. I wanted an alternative and luckily, Jeff Jarrett and Jerry Jarrett were working on creating one, TNA Wrestling was coming to pay per view weekly. It was an interesting approach to offering wrestling at a sort of subscription basis, but one that placed a major hurdle between myself and being able to watch it. There was no way my father was going to let me charge that much pay per view a month, even if I did pay him back.
So, I read about TNA. I followed it loosely, but I didn't think I'd ever get to see it. Then in 2004 it was announced they signed a deal with Fox Sports. They'd air one hour of wrestling a week and despite having a little trouble catching it (I believe it aired in the afternoon at like 3 PM) I fell in love the moment I saw it. The six sided ring, the great lighting, the small venue, the commentary team... the show just popped. It looked nothing like the WWF and I was 100% on board for that.
I caught TNA on FoxSports as much as possible and fell in love with the unknown stars like Monty Brown and America's Most Wanted, and was thrilled to see some old favorites like DDP and Raven. Then on October 1, 2005, TNA made it's debut on Spike TV following the WWE's return to USA and I was ecstatic. Finally... TNA was going to be seen and I felt there were plenty of fans frustrated by the WWF and they'd be all tuning in.
TNA's debut wasn't that strong, but it was strong enough to run nine years on Spike TV. The peak TNA for me was 2009-2010, right before Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff came in. I won't recap that mess, but it was TNA that made me care about women's wrestling. It was TNA that showed me how to promote new talent alongside older talent in a responsible way. It was TNA that shocked me with some amazing debuts of the likes of Kurt Angle and Christian. And as much as it ultimately ended in disappointment, the night Hulk Hogan debuted was one of my favorite moments. It was a huge show, with a big feeling, and tons of surprises. By the end of it, I realized it wasn't going to end well, but it the excitement I had watching that live was worth it.
I bought tons of TNA DVDs and t-shirts from 2007-2010. My friend Jimmy and I attended Genesis 2009 in Charlotte, NC and then I attended an IMPACT Taping in 2011 in Fayetteville, NC and saw Sting win the World Title.
Despite some bad financial and booking decisions, TNA has always been there as a backup. It was something else to watch when mainstream wrestling irritated me. Even recently, as AEW moved more into the sports entertainment realm, I found myself watching more IMPACT to get my wrestling fix. And so, this past weekend, when they announced the return of TNA Wrestling I was thrilled. Sure, I respect the Impact name, but TNA has history. It's easy to chant, it familar and it instantly takes me back to the memories of AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and Samoa Joe. Beer Money and Americas Most Wanted. Gail Kim and Awesome Kong. Mike Tenay and Don West.
I know it may not be everybody's cup of tea, but TNA is alive and that is a good thing for wrestling fans. I've been saying it for over a year, but I haven't seen a better booked wrestling organization. The booking is logical and fulfilling, which is the two things I want most out of wrestling and something the Big Two both struggle with.
I'm not 100% sure what to expect with the TNA relaunch. It may just be new graphics, new belts, and a few different venues, but it'll make watching it that much better to hear Impact referred back to what it should have always remained, TNA... Total Nonstop Action.