I had been sitting there for what seemed like an eternity. Lateralus playing softly in my headphones as the sun ominously threatened to set in the fading sky. I could feel the chill of the evening wind cutting through my fleece. I didn’t have much time. I glared hopelessly across the fence to the field on the other side. I took a sharp drag from my cigarette and sat contemplatively, thinking. Should I brave the elements and take a really close look, knowing that I might well find answers that would not be popular? Or should I just turn off my headphones, turn my back on what awaited me, and amble home to continue my existence, never to know? The decision was ultimately an easy one. I arose in slow motion from my stool, threw off my fleece, and walked in a dramatic fashion towards the fence. I flicked my cigarette to the ground and stood firmly on it, twisting my foot for cinematic effect. As quickly as was possible, and with a degree of panic, I began to scale the fence. Struggling to maintain balance on the damp surface, I slipped and fell face-first to the ground. Briefly, my mission objective was forgotten. Feeling my mouth fill with a warm liquid, I placed my index and middle finger upon my lips. When I retracted them, I could see the unmistakeable red stain of blood upon my skin. Instinctively I reached down to clean my fingers upon the grass. What followed would destroy my very heart, my soul and my mind.
As soon as I laid eyes upon the grass my body froze and a vicious chill ripped through my spine. I stared in disbelief at what I was seeing. It didn’t make sense. My minor accident forgotten forever, a bigger picture had emerged. All that waiting, surely this wasn’t all that there was? No, no, no! I could not, should not, will not, would not accept what my eyes were telling me, despite the fact I had my contacts in. I began to maniacally tear handfuls of grass from the earth until my hands were green and had begun to hurt. With my last fading ounce of sanity quickly evaporating, I began to pound the ground with both fists. Rocks and sticks tore at my skin until they were bloodied. But I didn’t care. Nothing mattered. I gave up and started to cry hopelessly. My body slowly crumpled up and fell with a thud to the damp ground. I stared blankly at a few strands of grass in my hands and, as a bizarre wave of acceptance and serenity came over me, I began to laugh softly. My laughter gradually became louder and louder until I was in hysterics, my body convulsing to a disturbing degree. “Fools”, I cried at the top of my voice, “you’re all fools! Misguided, ill-advised, injudicious, erroneous fools! You cursed brats. Look what you have done. I’m melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world! Who would have thought good writers like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?!”
The grass was the exact same colour.
Now I’ve gone to outrageous levels to make a point before, but this time I felt I had to make an extra special effort. The word hyperbole was invented for a reason, and a damn good reason at that. It means ‘intended exaggeration for emphasis or effect’. An example would be if you were to hear someone say “This bag weighs a ton”. Obviously, no bag that any person will be lifting is going to weigh a literal ton, the term was just used to emphasise that the bag is excessively heavier than is normal. Now, obviously my little tale above is an example of hyperbole. There was no field, no fence, no bloodied mouth and hands; I don’t even smoke cigarettes for the love of God. In fact, with the exception of listening to Lateralus, none of what I have detailed above actually happened. So why on earth did I spend so much time stringing together what was ultimately a confusing and bordering on plagiaristic intro? I assume you have all heard the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side” at some point in your lives? The term itself is an ironic one as it is used to make the point that while something else may appear to be a more attractive proposition than what you currently have, it usually just appears that way from afar when, in reality, it is no better or different. As of late I have heard a lot of people in our beloved IWC declaring that they have been to the other side and found the metaphorical greener grass that awaits there. What they are talking about is a wrestling company called TNA. These writers will tell you that TNA is something new, innovative and completely different to WWE. Well, the point of my story was that I have looked at this allegedly greener grass and I have to say that I regrettably disagree. If you would like to know why, enjoy taking ‘The Pepsi Plunge’.
Now, let nobody declare that I am a biased writer who will only look at one side of the coin. I’m more than happy to admit that TNA has brought some very enjoyable material into the wrestling mix. The way the X-Division has flourished is undoubtedly a great thing not only for TNA, but also for wrestling in general. With WWE’s monopoly on the mainstream wrestling industry in recent years, and their apparent unwillingness to allow their flock of talented cruiserweights to display their great talent in full, TNA’s focus on their cruiserweight or “X” division has provided fans with a place where they can see some innovative high-flying. TNA has also given fans something else that many feel is severely lacking from WWE, namely gimmick matches. Big spots are few and far between on WWE television these days, of that there is no doubt. While some would say that is a good thing as wrestling is not about big spots, there is no doubt that big bumps and moves are generally a good way to get a crowd reaction. Plus, with the relative success of CZW over these last couple of years, there is no doubt a market out there for some spot-fest wrestling. I could list a number of aspects that are great plusses for TNA. A very strong tag division, the elevation of young talent like AJ Styles to main event and other aspects all make great plusses for TNA. However, this is not a column on these exhausted topics. We all know TNA has its merits, but I would like to look at some of the more intriguing aspects of TNA which, for some reason, seem to be overlooked by most columnists.
Let’s start at the top then shall we? Who is the top guy in WWE? I think you all know who I mean. Let’s look at his resume. He’s a man who has unquestionably fuelled the largest number of rant columns of any person in the history of professional wrestling. The charges against him include no-selling, refusing to job when he should, holding talent down, using his personal relationships as a means to get his own way, politicking and just in general being the anti-Christ not only of professional wrestling, but of the world itself. He has been the leading man on RAW, WWE’s flagship show for over two years now, some say monopolising it to an extent where he makes all the other talent look incredibly weak. Now let us contrast him with Jeff Jarrett, TNA’s main man and current heavyweight champion. A solid yet unquestionably unspectacular wrestler who just happens to be the owner’s son. A man who, like the cerebral assassin, has also monopolised much of the television time at his place of work. A man who has monopolised the TNA World Heavyweight Championship every bit as much as The Game has done to the World Heavyweight Title. Want some statistics to prove this? The NWA title under the TNA era was first won on the 19th of June 2002 by Ken Shamrock. If you compare the records of Jeff Jarrett and Triple H in regards how long each of these two men have held the heavyweight title on their respective shows since that date up until the first day of this month you will find the following. Triple H has held his belt for a total of 528 days while Jarrett has held his for… 565 days. This is over a month more than Triple H. However, while we see people slate and discredit Triple H on an almost hourly basis, Jarrett seems to get away with minimalistic criticism from the same group that dissect every action HHH takes and find something wrong with it. Add to this the fact that HHH is a vastly better all-round package and wrestler than Jarrett and you will start to see that, as far as the world heavyweight title picture is concerned, the grass in TNA is simply no greener.
Want to talk about the best all-rounder in WWE compared to the best all-rounder in TNA? Glad to hear it, because that’s what I was planning on doing anyway. Chris Jericho is, in the eyes of many, one of the most complete wrestlers ever to step foot in a professional wrestling ring. A superb mat worker and great in-ring psychologist, he possesses tons of charisma (see, there’s that hyperbole again), can fly with the best of them when the match calls for it, can play either the role of heel or face to brilliant effect, is one of the best mic workers in the business and just exudes that “x factor” that makes you want to see him on your screens. He’s either good looking or cool, depending on how tight you wear your t-shirts. Yet, despite his vast array of talents, Jericho hasn’t quite risen to the very top of WWE and managed to stay there. Some would point out that he was given a chance by being given the honour of being the first WWE Undisputed Champion when they unified the belts and failed to take his opportunity. Please. Anyone with an ounce of sense can see just how badly Jericho’s entire title run was booked. Having to fight the least over face in Wrestlemania main-event history in HHH, as well as fight a burnt-out Austin meant Jericho had very little chance. Since then, Y2J has been used primarily as someone who can put on a good match with anyone and help elevate that wrestler in the process. There are signs that Jericho has been moving more towards the main event level of late and, despite his desperate new hairstyle, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hold the WWE Title again one day.
So, in Jericho we have WWE’s most gifted all-rounder. While I would feel he is vastly underused, I don’t believe it is nearly as outrageous as the use of his TNA equivalent. Who am I talking about you ask? A man who may well go down in history as one of the biggest under-achievers in professional wrestling, something that both saddens and angers me. His name is Christopher Daniels, known as The Fallen Angel to those in the US and Curry Man (best gimmick ever) to our friends in Japan. If you can name me an aspect of professional wrestling that Daniels isn’t good at, I’d desperately like to hear it. From his appropriately named ‘Best Moonsault Ever’ to his beautiful to watch mat wrestling skills, Daniels just exudes class. Yet, what has he got to show for it in TNA? Two short tag title reigns and a consistent spot in the mid-card ever since he has been there. If that’s not misuse of talent, then I would love with all of my heart for someone to tell me what is. If HHH and the WWE creative team are such deplorable human beings who are unwilling to allow the likes of Jericho to hold the title, then what is to be said of the bookers at TNA and Double J himself? Why has the best talent on TNA’s roster not been given a shot to help take the company places that Jeff Jarrett simply isn’t good enough to? Perhaps at Turning Point we will see XXX lose to AMW in the ‘losing team must split up forever’ match and then Daniels get a big push to the main event. Looking at the main event scene in TNA, I am inclined to doubt it. The grass is certainly no greener in TNA than it is in WWE if you’re the most talented member of the roster, that’s for sure.
The RAW Diva Search and Smackdown Tough Enough segments on WWE television over the last few months have inspired a large amount of criticism from the IWC of late. Perhaps the most widely criticised aspect of either of these two was the Diva Dodgeball match at Summerslam. The greatest criticism was that, apart from being the exact antithesis of entertainment (slang in Ireland for “it sucked”), it took away valuable time from matches like Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero. While I do not dispute this and, in fact, agree completely with it, TNA aren’t exactly living up to their Total Non-Stop Action name as of late. At Victory Road, the X-Division title was on the line in a match that I considered a potential Match of the Year candidate for TNA. AJ Styles, the X-division’s most established and to some most exciting star took on one of the breakout talents of the year, Petey Williams. Had this match been allowed to run for 25 or 30 minutes in front of such a large audience for TNA and at such a well publicised and scrutinised event, it could have really put them on the map. It could have been an X-division match that would have had the same impact as the Lynn, Styles and Low-Ki ladder match two years ago, only to a newer audience. Sadly, this was not the case. We were treated to a ten minute rush job with Williams getting the win. And why was it such a short affair? Well, TNA just had to hype their Dusty Rhodes vs. Vince Russo election and their Outsiders storylines in what was a very time consuming pair of affairs. What made the whole thing worse was that both the election storyline and the Nash issue both had outrageously obvious outcomes, deeming the whole hype job a complete waste of time. Total Non-Stop Action they call it?
There are more examples, but if I go into them all in depth this will become a two part column. Want some quickies? How about the way WWE insists on shoving big men wrestlers down our throat by giving them squash match after squash match and just portraying them as unstoppable until we just have no choice but to accept them? Snitsky and Heidenreich are common examples of this offered. Consider Monty Brown for a moment. You see what I mean? Yet Monty’s mega push floats harmlessly along, criticised by none. Strange. The wrong folks such as JBL main-eventing in WWE and receiving too much TV time. Nash, Hall, Piper, Page, Hardy all occupy prominent roles on TNA television now, despite each of them being largely unable to produce an acceptable wrestling match anymore. Hogan will be next, mark my sorrowful words!
So, as you can see, the grass of TNA is just not any greener than it is in WWE at the moment. Perhaps the ascent to power of Dusty Rhodes will be a good thing for TNA and will help them break free of the mire they are currently digging themselves into. WCW went against WWE with more money, more big name stars and just a better hand of cards in general. They lost. TNA has less money, less stars and a poker hand consisting of the queen of spades, the eight of diamonds, the six of clubs, the three of diamonds and the two of hearts. In other words, a very poor hand! They are already believed to be in financial trouble and just aren’t causing enough of a stir on the mainstream audience with the money they have spent. Sports Entertainment is WWE’s game, and I believe that TNA were wrong to follow on the same route as them. In order for someone to really take it to WWE, I believe they need to produce a type of product that is a genuine alternative rather than just different people doing the same thing. At the moment, TNA just aren’t doing that. Their grass is just no greener.
Well, that’s the last of it from me. Sorry I’ve been so long with a column. Exams and all that sort of craziness going on. I hope to be back as soon as I can with a new column, although I can’t promise anything for a couple of weeks. Going to be very busy for me. Anyway, if you would like to offer any advice, criticism or whatever then shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org I look forward to hearing from you.