Mark for War

Mark for War: No Guts, and No Glory

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I know a lot of you hate TNA across the board. Last week, however, was their tenth annual flagship pay-per-view event, Bound For Glory, and thus, they’re sort of worth talking about. I usually like to have a pay-per-view event sink in before commenting on it, frankly to see if it was really as bad as I thought it was when I initially watched it. Well, after a week of analyzing it in my head, I think it may have actually been worse than I initially thought.

For those of you who don’t follow TNA (again, probably a lot of you), this year’s Bound For Glory took place in Tokyo, Japan, and was essentially a co-promo event with Japan’s Wrestle One.  It was a PPV that lacked proper title defenses, culmination of feuds, and for the most part, wrestlers TNA fans knew. All the makings of a flagship pay-per-view.

In 2008, I attended Bound for Glory IV in Chicago. It was a packed house with attendance roughly at 5,000. I had followed TNA since it’s inception in 2002. There were growing pains along the way. But by 2008, it had really seemed like TNA had claimed their place as the legit wrestling alternative to WWE. That particular Bound for Glory was the first TNA PPV I remember having a “big show” feel.  Smashing Pumpkins did the PPV theme (ha). They had elaborate vignettes leading up to the event, with a Chicago-style mafia theme (cheesy, but you could tell thought and money went into it at least). It was also the first Bound for Glory that was numbered (It was billed as Bound for Glory IV, mimicking the Wrestlemania formula). And, most importantly, it was reiterated by commentators Mike Tenay and Don West during the several week build-up that Bound for Glory was indeed TNA’s “Flagship Pay-Per-View.”

I loved everything about TNA anointing Bound for Glory as their flagship pay-per-view. Any legit company should have one. It provides a platform for all of the best of the best feuds and match buildups to be realized. It also allows a company to wrap up a wrestling year properly and start a fresh one essentially the following day.

Bound for Glory IV was a success. The crowd was unbelievably hot, and TNA booking was smart about handling their hotness. Having ex-Chicago Bear/ WCW superstar Steve Mongo McMichael show up to intervene in the match featuring wrestling’s then-hottest heel tag team, Beer Money, was a stroke of mid-card genius with a Chicago crowd.  It had a low-grade “Wrestlemania moment” feel. All the matches were great representatives of what TNA was at the time: a hard working, wrestling-first product that still respected old school theatrics and character development. The only slight grievance I had with the card was the main event between then-champion Samoa Joe and Sting. It reminded me a lot of the John Cena/Shawn Michaels match at the previous year’s Wrestlemania. It was the perfect opportunity for a company to make Samoa Joe “The Guy.” I questioned TNA’s booking when Sting defeated Joe for the strap. Even though Sting winning left a good taste in the mouth of the Sting-friendly  crowd, putting Joe over, only to have him later usurped by another home grown player like AJ Styles (ideally at another Bound for Glory program), would have probably been a better move. Nevertheless, I left the venue that night thinking that the company was on the cusp of great things, all backed by a great flagship PPV.

Now it’s six years later. After watching this year’s Bound for Glory, it’s safe to say TNA has seemingly thrown in the towel with pushing the event as their flagship pay-per-view. The number system is gone (there was BFG IV and V, and then people stopped counting). Attendance for said event has plummeted by the thousands since 2008. Again, this year’s show was in TOYKO, JAPAN! Tokyo is not only a huge wrestling city, but literally THE LARGEST CITY IN THE WORLD. They should have been in front of a crowd of 10,000. It ended up being for somewhere around 1,500 attendees. That alone is an atrocious failure. TNA could have done the show in Miami, Florida, right down the road from their home offices, and drew 2,000 people, instead of 1,500 on the other side of the world.

Attendance aside, this was an unbelievably dumb card that had little to no buildup for any of the matches. For those not aware, the card basically consisted of several matches where TNA stars faced Japanese wrestlers unknown to the average TNA viewer. WCW did this in the 90’s (WCW/New Japan Supershow), and it was cool. But the WCW version made sure to not only showcase the vast majority of their wrestlers (then a thin roster), but also made sure to be essentially a transitional filler pay-per-view. For TNA’s version, several legit full time TNA wrestlers did not make it on to the card. Davy Richards and Eddie Edwards, as well as the Hardys, are two that stick out off the top of my head. Them not being on the card is mind-blowing to me. So yeah, the booking was odd on the front end.

Rest assured, though, there were several faux pas once the show got rolling as well.  Seriously, WAY too many to list. Take for example the Team 3D match against Abyss and Tommy Dreamer.  This, if you could imagine, was a hardcore match. A hardcore match that started with a handshake between Team 3D and Tommy Dreamer. In what world does it make any sense for a handshake to precede a hardcore match where four dudes are about to kill each other?  I also loved when Bully (Bubba) Ray said over the mic that the Japanese wrestling fans are “the best wrestling fans in the world.” Here’s a tip: If you’re a wrestler, don’t say fans are the “Best in the World” unless you mean it. When Bret Hart said it in Montreal this past year, I believed it. When CM Punk said it this past year in Chicago, I believed it. Something tells me Bully was lying, trying to get a cheap pop, or forgot about those Philly fans in the late 90’s/early 2000’s that made the Dudleys the most over heel tag team since The Freebirds. Or, Team 3D are indeed on their way to Japan full-time. Either way, dumb comment.

And for your main event, we got an eleven-minute match pitting The Great Muta and Tajiri (yes, Japanese legends, but currently irrelevant in American wrestling) against James Storm and The Great Sanada (two dudes who might sneak into the PWI Top 100). I love and respect all the wrestlers that were in the main event, but I’d probably send this match back if I got it as the main event at a house show. Also, approximately eleven minutes of in-ring action for a main event is unforgivable. Even on a low-grade pay-per-view, it’s unforgivable, especially in a tag format. Once again, improper booking.

I’ve heard many people argue that TNA didn’t bill this as their flagship PPV this year, so we shouldn’t hold the unfulfilling show against them. I question this stance. I don’t see how any US company going to the other side of the world for a PPV doesn’t automatically raise that show to a flagship level in some way.

But this years BFG show wasn’t a total loss. A mid-card three-way match between Samoa Joe, Loki, and Kaz Hyashi stole the show (even though that too was an eleven-minute match).  What should be noted is that TNA shot their post-BFG programming prior to this PPV airing. Confirmation of a title change post Bound for Glory had already hit Japan prior to the Bound for Glory event taking place (Japan takes shit seriously still). So yeah, that sucked.

If someone saw something in this year’s Bound for Glory that I didn’t, please weigh in. At this point, like it or not, we very well may have seen the last of Bound for Glory. I’m cool with that.

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Match of the Week: Jeff Jarrett vs. Kurt Angle (with Mick Foley as special guest enforcer), Bound For Glory IV, Oct, 12, 2008

Every legit flagship PPV needs a great “Grudge Match.”  No titles. Just the culmination of feud where two guys want to kill each other. The 2008 Jeff Jarrett/Kurt Angle feud was a great one, featuring a lot of below the belt comments during build-up promos, where Angle took swipes at the recent death of Jarrett’s real life wife, as well as Jarrett’s three young daughters (using their names). Then-recent WWE transplant, Mick Foley, was put in the special enforcer role. Foley had a history with Jarrett in the early Attitude era, and a history with Angle in the later Attitude era, but never with both around the same time. He was the perfect guy to facilitate said match, and have both wrestlers warn him “not to get in their way. “ The ending is a smidge weak, but Foley taking one of the most brutal chair shots of his career at the 22:30 mark makes up for it. Also, Jarrett selling the ankle lock reinforces my opinion that Double J is one of the best submission sellers in the history of the game.

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