Scott Hudson

I was all set (and had, in fact, written) a column responding and supporting Mark Maddenâ<80><99>s take on gorilla directing of announcers (Mark was exactly right, by the way.)

But, in preparing the panel discussion and preview of this weekendâ<80><99>s Victory Road pay-per-view from TNA, I staggered into a good point.

In the match-by-match preview with Kevin Kelly, Eric Stein and Chris Cash that you can find from the homepage, I made the following observation about the World X Cup and supporting a pick that Team TNA would win:

â<80><9c>Only because it is a way to get the brand over, I gotta go with Team TNA winning the cup. But this belies a larger issue. TNA, in my humble opinion, presents the best wrestling pay-per-view product out there. Inside the ropes and between bells, TNA is the best. The issue is that even good wrestling (hell, even GREAT wrestling) will not draw a dime unless its marketed and especially booked correctly. Case in point – this match. Nowhere on the TNA website are the team members listed (nowhere readily accessible anyway). These matches should be incredible to watch but, in order to get impulse buys and/or casual fans, TNA should at least billboard the participants. These fans want characters (not the Umaga kinda character just a face to put with a name) to care about.â<80>

Wow. You would almost think I was sober when I wrote that.

When one pulls back the curtain on TNA, certain truisms simply cannot be refuted:

1) The wrestling is without peer;

2) The announcing team of the steady and knowledgeable Mike Tenay and the hyperactive-in-a-good-way Don West in concert with the character of talent of Jeremy Borash adds a LOT to the over all presentation;

3) The knockouts division is as well booked and developed as any womenâ<80><99>s wrestling ever and is all populated by a diverse, beautiful and talented core of performers;

4) The top of the card is bulging with the answers to the â<80><9c>where are they now?â<80> questions that clog the inbox of fanboy wrestling websites; and

5) The casual wrestling fan would be hard-pressed to name one homegrown TNA talent.

Ouch. Damn, everything was going great until number five. But with numbers one through four, repairing number five should be easy.

TNA has a laundry list of talents with a WWF/E, ECW or WCW pedigree (Angle, Booker, Christian, Steiner, Nash, Sting, BG & Kip James, Team 3D, Rhino) or an imitation of the same (Shark Cold, Black Machismo, Petey Williams). When it comes to talent brought up through the ranks, A.J. Styles, Abyss, Roode, Kaz, Shelley, Sabin, Devine, Hoyt, LAX and AMW stand out. But do they stand out to Johnny and Ethel Punchclock who lay around their humble home and bemoan the days â<80><9c>when it was still real, dammitâ<80> and when Nitro and Raw went head to head. Has it already been over 7 years since the last Nitro. Whoa.

Therein lies the problem. TNA is trying like hell to market their guys but they are marketing names that Johnny and Ethel know from the past. Granted, the guys are still awesome in the ring but the continual drumbeat that TNA is WWF/E-lite will always leave them in the dust in second place. Can they take over first place? Who knows, but TNA can make the race a helluva lot closer.

How, you may ask? Simple.

Offer an alternative to the WWE. Yeah I know, the six-sided ring, the Ultimate X, the World X Cup, the cross-promotion rub from other sports is different. But Johnny and Ethel still see the WWE-lite because the faces are the same. There is nothing wrong with pushing familiarity to spark your product (hell, New Classic Caffeine Free Diet Cherry Lemon Coke Zero Plus still has Coke in the name), but jeez! There is a point of diminishing returns with the approach of waiting for the next round of well-wished future endeavors before you book the next pay-per-view.

To coin a phrase, the bottom line is this: TNA has a well-spring of talent from which to draw. Tap that well and develop your own names. The WWE is not above taking TNA talent and at least trying to do something new (do the names Marquis Cor Van or Braden Walker ring any bells? I thought not). TNA should take THAT page from the WWE manual. The one that says â<80><9c>no matter what, the other guys do not exist. We are the only game in town.â<80>

With the talent in the ring, behind the mic, at ringside and in the booking room, you guys might just surprise yourselves at how successful you will be.

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