KELLER'S TAKE KELLER: What TNA could have done to save Bound for Glory on a budget, plus Random Thoughts on Vickie Guerrero, Raw-Smackdown brand split, least favorite match of the year
Oct 12, 2014 - 12:29:35 PM
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By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor
Last Wednesday, TNA aired the final Impact Wrestling show before Bound for Glory, tonight's formerly annual signature TNA PPV event. The program paid lip service to tonight's PPV. TNA could have done a better job, without spending any more money and without sacrificing TV ratings, at making this event more highly anticipated among its fan base.
First, let's look at the fan interest in BFG among PWTorch.com poll responders. Of over 500 voting in our poll, 47 percent have ordered BFG in the past, either always, often, or sometimes. The 47 is made up of 11 percent who plan to order it this year and 36 percent who plan to skip it.
The majority of those voting never ordered TNA BFG in past years, but an encouraging 18 percent said they will start with Sunday's event. So that's a net loss of 18 percent in buyrate if 36 percent who used to order don't and 18 percent who never ordered it do.
If you don't follow TNA closely, the reason for the dropoff is that BFG is pre-taped this year in Japan, and the line-up is quite independent of what has been promoted on TV in the preceding weeks. TNA, sensibly, has been focused on their long-term future, which means drawing the best TV ratings possible on a tight budget on a new night as they try to convince a Spike TV to renew them at a decent programming fee or woo a new cable network to ante up enough to keep them in business making current payroll.
That means they headlined Impact on Wednesday with a 24 minute Full Metal Mayhem tag team match that is likely more compelling to most TNA viewers than any single match on the BFG line-up, and perhaps more compelling than the entire line-up. BFG's main event is Great Muta & Tajiri vs. James Storm & Great Sanada with a Knockouts Title match (Velvet Sky challenging Havok), Team 3D vs. Tommy Dreamer & Abyss, and an X Division Title match (Samoa Joe vs. Low Ki vs. Kaz Hayashi) as the top three matches. The rest are inter promotional matches featuring TNA vs. Wrestle-1 talent that TNA has never or barely featured on TV at all.
TNA, to save money on producing a PPV that would likely have been a money-loser, decided to tape BFG this year in Japan in a co-promoted show with Wrestle-1. It was smart in that it saved TNA the trouble and expense of trying to fill a major looking arena setting for their annual super-show. By running the event in Japan, the BFG brand name is protected from being filmed in a barely filled major market arena or a crummy looking small market arena. The downside, though, is that BFG isn't live, includes talent TNA fans don't know or care about, and is pre-taped, so many fans can see results before the show. (We posted full results on our Main Listing this morning.) But at least when they show highlights on Impact, it'll look like a major show with enthusiastic fans in an international setting. TNA also saves substantially on the cost of running the live show here, since ticket sales would not likely have been more than the building expense and local marketing to try to fill the arena with a respectable number of fans.
A few things could have helped BFG despite the handcuffs of being taped in Japan:
-Make sure the World Title was defended on the show. I don't care if they had to give MVP a TNA Title win so his match against Kazma Sakamoto was a World Title match, or if somehow EC3 ended up with the World Title so he could defend it against Ryoto Hama, BFG's tradition in the long-run and marketability in the short-run is damaged by the title not being defended on the show.
-Focused more in TV hype on the X Division Title match. Low Ki is an international and indy stand-out performer who has never reached his potential due to his well-earned rep for being quirky and difficult to work with. TNA has him now, and they could have really made it seem like this was a big career moment for one of the most talented X Division stars in TNA history. Samoa Joe didn't even have any mic time on Wednesday's show to promote this title defense. TNA could have sold their viewers on the idea that this was the biggest X Division Title match ever and created a storyline that in Japan, this is seen as one of the biggest matches of the year because they respect and appreciate Joe's style and the history of the X Title. A music video showing X Division highlights and a brief mini-documentary video on the prestige and history of the X Title would have made BFG's match seemed like a selling point instead of an afterthought.
-There were no promos from Team 3D or Tommy Dreamer & Abyss regarding their tag match. How tough would it have been to, say, have Dreamer as a guest commentator for a few minutes during the Full Metal Mayhem match on Impact so he could have talked about what's at stake at BFG and how as much as he respects Team 3D, he sees this as his chance to make a statement in Japan that he & Abyss are future tag team champions by beating Team 3D the night they get inducted into the Hall of Fame. Sell viewers on the idea that at stake in this match is Dreamer & Abyss putting a damper on Team 3D's big night and Dreamer & Abyss can show that they've earned the tag match.
-There were three inter-promotional matches. Why not establish a College Football type of gimmick where TNA is fighting for the pride of winning a trophy of some kind if they win two-out-of-three of the matches, but then have EC3, MVP, and Manik be so obnoxious about it that they actually make TNA fans want to see Wrestle-1 win that trophy. It's not great, but it's something more than just listing the matches and showing a picture of the Wrestle-1 talent they're facing.
-Finally, really really drive home the Great Muta-Great Sanada storyline. TNA is assuming way too much when they talk about what a great star Muta is. They needed on Wednesday to show us, not just tell us, with a photo collage and highlights. Then, more than anything, we needed to see an obnoxious James Storm at his best on the mic just verbally tearing apart Muta and Tajiri to the point that fans can't wait to see Muta and Tajiri show them up on Sunday. Ideally, since Muta and Tajiri can't talk, have someone like Robert Roode speak for them by getting in Storm's face during that promo and telling him how much he'll look forward to Muta and Tajiri shutting him up on Sunday.
I get the logistical issues of TNA pre-taping their TV even before the line-up was finalized, but through post-production, a little more planning, phoned-in (literally) color commentary, and even hand-held digital selfie videos, TNA could have thrown some extra backstory and hype into BFG so at least TNA could make a little extra money on the PPV. Maybe they don't care, and maybe they tanked it on purpose for some reason to try to get below some butyrate threshold so they can get out of having to even do PPVs in the future, even if they get a new TV deal. I wouldn't be surprised given how unimaginative and uninspired their hype was for this event.
Check out Pat McNeill's preview of the entire BFG line-up on the Main Listing right now. He will also be live blogging during the PPV tonight.
Bram vs. Samuel Shaw on Impact last Wednesday almost made me angry. It's really hard to praise anything about that match. Bram, after being sunset flipped off the top rope onto four chairs, was back up seconds later acting like nothing happened. That's inexcusable, and it's where the term "garbage match" comes from. It's just bush league inefficient garbage when wrestlers do big spots like that but don't sell them. It's disrespectful to the entire roster and industry because it makes it so hard for wrestlers in other matches to sell the idea that other more basic moves actually hurt. I'm not sure if the unprotected blows to the head with the trash can lid, the complete reliance on foreign objects, or that non-selling of the top rope sunset flip onto four chairs by Bram was worse, but it's probably my least favorite match of the year for those collective reasons. What made it even worse is TNA headlined with Full Metal Mayhem later in the show, but because they featured a no-rules match with a bunch of foreign objects earlier in the show - in a truly needless match relatively speaking - it took some of the edge and excitement away from the main event... I'm proud of Vickie Guerrero for not appearing on the Smackdown 15th Anniversary special because she couldn't ask for time off from her new regular job. I suspect she would have truly liked to be there, but she didn't jeopardize her new job by asking for time off to be there and get back on TV. It shows she is grounded enough to have her priorities straight. She was so good at her job as that obnoxious heel manager type, and I think she could have been better utilized, but I know the impression in WWE is that she was mid-card comedy not to be taken seriously. It's too bad, because she could have meant more than that if presented slightly differently because she was so good on the mic... I am surprised at the lopsided poll results when we asked last week if you'd watch Smackdown more if the roster was entirely different. Over 90 percent of over 1,000 of you who voted said you'd watch Smackdown more if there weren't any of Raw's top stars on it, but instead it was a separate roster. Matt McCarthy, ex-Creative Team Member in WWE in 2011 and 2012, was my guest on Friday's PWTorch Livecast and he talked about the attitude within WWE regarding the brand split during that stage and why it went away. Based on our poll results, Vince McMahon might want to rethink the end of the brand split. I know I miss it. That said, unfortunately sometimes Network execs get involved in business they shouldn't and push for all of the shows to have "all of the top stars," not realizing how backwards that is when it comes to maximizing ratings. Three hours of Raw is plenty of time to see all of Raw's top stars, and if Smackdown had a mix of overlooked Raw mid-carders and guys in NXT ready for a larger stage, plus two or three upper-tier Raw talents whom are out of the main event mix at this time, Smackdown could end up being destination viewing for more fans - and maybe give Raw a challenger for weekly ratings superiority...
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He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)
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