I was working this last Thursday night and had to DVR TNA Impact. I made a point of getting to it tonight so that I’d be caught up on the events for tonight and that I would be up to speed for the PPV. Not a bad show, but really a pretty weak one for the show heading into the PPV.
But one match derailed the whole thing for me as both a wrestling fan and as a critical observer. Beer Money, the TNA Tag Team Champions, lost their titles to Jay Lethal and Consequences Creed. Now, just having Beer Money drop the straps to Lethal and Creed in and of itself wouldn’t have bothered me. No, it was how TNA Creative wrote the title changes into the program.
With Beer Money you have TNA’s two best “home grown” heel talents. James Storm, once considered by many as the lesser half of America’s Most Wanted, has gone on since their break up and his heel turn to outshine his former partner in every way and perfect his arrogant, cocky, good old boy persona to the point where he can make an audience respond to him in any way that he wants them to. And Robert Roode… Robert Roode is one of the great, under appreciated heels in the industry right now. He’s taken a gimmick that started out looking like TNA creative wanted to clone “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase (and then couldn’t make up their minds if he was Ted 2.0 or Diamond Dallas “Rags to Riches” Page 2.0) and created a heel so smooth, so great and so in control of the fans in attendance that I have no doubt that, if you could drop him into the NWA of the late 80s and early 90s, he could easily have become one of the Horsemen and been remembered as one of the great Horsemen. And both men know how to work inside the ring in a manner to bring out the best of the faces they’re against while drawing as much heel heat as possible.
So, of course, TNA books them as the Faces in Peril of the match. A quick recap for those who missed it.
Beer Money has a scheduled match where Roode faces off against one half of their PPV challengers Matt Morgan and Abyss in the form of Morgan. Morgan and Abyss are supposed to be, despite their recent booking, an unstoppable powerhouse team. The perfect set up for the match going into the PPV. Roode cheats to win on free TV and you either have the faces win on the PPV or lose to Beer Money so that they can go on to feud with the next team. Easy booking to do.
But TNA being TNA has to go and create a mess. Roode gets “injured” in the match and can’t continue. His knee is blown and he can barely stand on it. The match is ended and awarded to Morgan due to the inability of Roode to continue. A little strange I thought given that TNA has had matches continue before with a wrestler likewise injured. But I took it for what it was and decided that it wasn’t that bad a warm up for the PPV.
And then Creed and Lethal, two up and coming faces in TNA, come running to the ring. They announce that they’re going to cash in their “Feast or Fired” chances at the Tag Title Belts under the anywhere, anytime and any place rules. The match is started and the faces beat the crap out of Beer Money and win the belts.
I don’t even know where to begin on the details of everything that was wrong here. Let’s start with the two obvious ones first I guess. You have a match that was stopped midway through because the ref says that one contestant can no longer continue and then that same injured man and his partner compete in a full match that isn’t stopped for the same reason we just saw the previous match stopped for just minutes earlier. Uhm… Okay…
I also have some issue with the concept of faces, the good guys, being written into the position of being what would have been pretty much exclusively the territory of the cowardly or opportunistic heels of old. I mean, you have two faces who see an injured man who can barely move and decide that now would be a good time to have a match with him and his partner? You have two good guys who decide that now would be a good time to double team one guy and beat on a borderline crippled man while their at it?
Dumb, dumb, dumb booking.
The match itself was actually rather good, but the vibe in it was total bass ackwards. During the match you had Storm valiantly fighting two men, moments resembling the classic face in peril hot tags (but done by the heel team) and Roode struggling to help his partner even at the cost of his own well being. At one point Roode actually gets into the action and pulls off some come behind moves before the double team of Creed and Lethal destroy him by, amongst other things, targeting the injury he had from the prior match. You know, that injury that stopped the other match just before this one started. After a few minutes of opportunistic actions, two on one double teams and targeting an adversaries injury the “faces” win the match and the titles.
Oh, and they also used a cheap shot to win.
Like I said above, it was totally bass ackwards. The heels were playing the traditional roles of the faces and the faces were working an almost full heel style. And not only did the dynamics of the match not really make sense, but the booking around the match doesn’t make any sense when related to a match like this.
Is this the beginning of a Beer Money face turn? It’s doubtful because there’s been nothing else to indicate that they would do this. And besides, you don’t face turn a heel team by having them beaten down, injured and taken advantage of by a face team. The logical motivation and reasoning that most fans would relate to is absent from the equation. Well, it could be there if the match was a heel to face and face to heel double turn, but…
Creed and Lethal aren’t going heel. They were treated like faces at the end of the match, acted like faces at the end of the match and embraced and cheered for their victory by the fellow wrestlers and fans after the match as though they were full on, 100% faces. Even the backstage segments afterwards were the typical face celebrations and interview bits. They were straight up faces and it would appear that they’re staying that way.
Oh, and they’re now weak champions. Why this works for heels is that heels can go on and lie, cheat and steal their way towards holding on to those titles in their next series of title defenses. Heels can use an opportunistic cheat like this and still safely come out looking like a weaker team than the former champions because you know that, unlike the faces, they’ll resort to cheating in their next matches and, if that doesn’t work, they’ll just up and walk away for a count out loss where they still retain the belts.
Faces can’t do that. Faces can’t go out there and be the weak, cowardly heel act and look like credible champions. Creed and Lethal look like two guys who double teamed a tired wrestler and beat up a cripple to win the titles. They look like weak, fluke champs right now. Beer Money, the heels, look like the guys who were screwed over by a team that knew that they were so inferior to Beer Money that they couldn’t beat them in a fair fight. But Beer Money are still the heels and Creed and Lethal are still the faces.
TNA creative didn’t think this thing through logically or sanely and it shows. They’ve devalued their face team as champs, made their heel team look like guys who the face team are afraid to fight fair and square and TNA made their officiating look even more clueless and random than they sometimes do thanks to their stopping a match because of a serious injury that apparently wasn’t serious enough to stop another match for two minutes later.
Nothing about this seems like it was given more than two minutes of thought. Nothing about this title change works towards increasing the storyline credibility of anyone involved and may actually lower it for some.
TNA seems like it treads water far too often and this is, to me, a perfect example of why. Too many times TNA creative seems to take two steps forward with characterization, concepts and execution and then they turn right back around and take two steps backwards. They did it again here. They took two guys that they were trying to build into a strong face team and made them weak champions while taking two heels that were becoming one of the greatest heel teams of their era and made them look like strong, valiant and even sympathetic fighting champions. And they made their officials look clueless and random in the process.
WWE can afford to make these mistakes a bit too often because WWE is so large that it can tread water where it’s at. TNA can’t. TNA has to grow and it has to stop taking the good opportunities that it has and booking them into sheer stupidity. I’m not going to be one of the chorus of voices who say that TNA won’t be around by next year if they keep this up, but if they keep this up they will be exactly where they are now and not one step forward from there.