A Beginner’s Guide to TNA
The Guide to OVW we did a few weeks back was one of the most successful articles we ever posted, so we thought we’d do it again. TNA is now on cable TV for all to see, so now is the perfect time to run down their roster from top to bottom. As you’ll see, it’s quite an amazing array of talent. In alphabetical order, let’s do it.
3 Live Kru
(Konnan, BG James, & Ron “The Truth” Killings)
Everyone knows the guys in 3LK, and they provide the needed star power for TNA. Konnan is practically immobile these days, but he knows how to get over and he’ll be forever “hip.” He’s also one of the few in the company that can do promos, and everyone watching knows who he is. In short, he’s positioned exactly as he should be. Given Konnan’s political connections in Mexico and Puerto Rico, TNA should consider themselves very lucky to have him on their side. He’s an invaluable asset, and an added bonus is that he would make a fine addition to the booking team whenever he chooses to retire.
BG James is one of the stars from WWE’s glory period of 1998-2000. He can still wrestle okay, just not on par with the rest of the roster. Still, he has a face that fans recognize, and it’s very important he remain in a key position. I estimate his slow building reunion with Kip “Billy Gunn” James will either pop a very big rating or buyrate for TNA when the time comes in 2006. The significance of that event cannot be understated. James has had personal issues in the past, and again, he’s another guy who is being utilized properly. 3LK are very over with the crowd, but TNA has been wise to not feature them on top for the obvious reasons. They provide the balance needed between star power and up and coming stars no one has heard of yet.
Ron Killings is unfairly linked to James and Konnan in some ways, because his best days are still ahead. People compare him to Booker T, which is a flattering comparison. Booker has slightly more charisma and talent, but Killings is far more agile and nowhere near as stale. Killings is also incredibly strong on the mic, and even though he was with WWE, he wasn’t featured enough to where he is seen as a mid-carder. He’s guaranteed a good spot in TNA, and right now 3LK needs to be left alone because they are doing just fine. When the time comes to break them up, Killings will get his chance to shine, James will re-form the New Age Outlaws, and well, I don’t know where that leaves Konnan.
A1 hasn’t gotten much TV time yet, and thus far is still being trained and used as the enforcer for Team Canada. When his time comes, he has potential to be a major headliner not just for TNA, but for WWE.
Why hasn’t WWE signed A1 yet?? He’s green, but he’s got the look and the body of a superstar. If he ever learns how to wrestle, and that’s a big “If,” then this guy has as bright a future in TNA as anyone. And with his buddy and trainer D’Amore as head booker, his spot is very safe
ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky, who has lots of respect among hardcore wrestling fans, said Abyss is one of the most underrated guys around. And he’s right. Abyss is the best “big man” in wrestling right now.
Everyone who has worked with Abyss has raved about him, including Jim Cornette. The problem with Abyss is that casual fans see him as a Mankind/Kane rip-off, which is too bad because he deserves better than that. Truth be told, Abyss is a better wrestler than either Kane or Foley, but as an overall performer and brawler, is not in Foley’s league. He also doesn’t have Kane’s aura, and his mic skills are non-existent. And his physique? The pits.
Luckily, TNA has hidden those weaknesses by pairing him with Jim Mitchell, the best manager in wrestling today and one of the best talkers around. He’s a big guy, and he gets to work with guys like AJ Styles and Raven who bring out the best in him. Abyss needs to form an identity of his own, and once he does, he can be a headliner forever.
AJ Styles right now is the “talk” of wrestling the same way Jushin Liger was the talk of 1990 and Rey Mysterio was the talk of 1995. He’s the face of TNA’s X Division, and he’s going to get the monster push for the foreseeable future. In other words, he’s the “man” right now.
There isn’t one thing AJ can’t do in the ring. He is unmatched when it comes to innovative high spots and pulling them off smoothly. He proved with Abyss that he can brawl hardcore style. He proved with Jeff Jarrett that he can work a heavyweight style. He proved with Chris Daniels that he can work a 30-minute Iron Man match and work psychology into his matches. And he proved in the Ultimate X matches that he is spectacular beyond belief. And the crowd loves him.
The drawbacks to AJ are his size, but as long as he stays in the X Division, it won’t hurt him. He’s not a good talker, but good enough to get by. His look, in my opinion, is his weakest feature, which is too bad because it can be easily changed. Styles looks like a well-conditioned frat boy, with that silly haircut every college boy seems to have. He’s too clean cut, which is a reflection of his real life lifestyle as a religious, good natured young man. But unlike Bob Backlund, AJ has enough respect for his work that he can win over any possible critic. He’s that good, and he’s going to get the opportunity of a lifetime as TNA grows and expands its business. With a clear head on his shoulders, he’s a can’t-miss guy.
America’s Most Wanted
(“Wildcat” Chris Harris & “Tennessee Cowboy” James Storm)
AMW are simply the best tag team in the USA right now. MNM is good, but as good as they are, AMW are better. And they keep on getting better.
AMW were the breakout stars of TNA during the company’s early days in Nashville. They had the classic Southern tag team look, they worked like demons, and they drove the women crazy. Old-school babyface tag team wrestling was alive and well in TNA, thanks to AMW.
Once TNA moved its base to Orlando, their star faded somewhat, but they turned their ring work up several notches. Their December ’04 match with Skipper and Daniels became a near ***** classic, best remembered for Skipper’s tight-rope walk on the top of the cage (the best move of the decade). However, their January PPV match against Roode & Young was, in my opinion, the best tag team match I’ve seen this entire century. It has gotten overlooked by other high-profile matches, but it was tremendous. Non-stop action, insane crowd heat, and near falls galore. You really need to see that match to see why AMW deserves every accolade they get. I don’t care about the rumors going around how they got and kept their spots. The fact is, they deserve to be on top.
Those matches “made” AMW in TNA. They became babyfaces and continued to work good matches. Now on Spike TV, AMW are fresh off a heel turn and aligned with Jeff Jarrett as the company’s top heel group with Gail Kim. They just won the tag titles, and the excellent Team 3D funeral segment did more to make them superstars than any match on TV would have.
Individually, James Storm broke out of his shell with his performance at the funeral. People who wrote him off as a Robert Gibson or Marty Jannetty (ie, playing second fiddle to the more talented and marketable Chris Harris) were proved wrong, because he has the goods to hang with anyone. Chris Harris, who for awhile was thought of to be the next babyface star of TNA, is a better physical worker and has experience in WCW. As a personality, he’s got the goods as well, and will get a chance to show them over the next several months. He’s a classic 80s babyface character, and while I don’t know if it would work today as a singles, it’s working today as a tag team. I say keep AMW strong, push them to the top, and let them deliver kick-ass tag matches with the Dudleys.
Apollo (seen here with D-Lo Brown)
Apollo is a big star in Puerto Rico, and is being used to expand TNA internationally. TNA is making really good use of their wrestlers when it comes to positioning. Apollo is a solid worker, and his size is WWE level. However, you don’t see WWE guys his size doing running flip dives like Apollo does in TNA. He’s not the best worker, but he generally delivers in the ring as expected, even with marginal workers. If Apollo gets the chance to work with some more talented guys, he might prove a lot of skeptics wrong.
When we interviewed Canadian indy promoter Matt Henstock a few years ago, he predicted Roode would be one of the next big stars to make it out of Canada. Now that everyone has seen him perform, we realize just how correct Henstock was.
Roode is a very underrated work horse, and a bumping machine the likes of which would make Bobby Eaton proud. I see Roode as a very solid ring technician, sort of like a Canadian Arn Anderson without the mic skills. I thoroughly enjoy his work, and he never disappoints.
I can’t over emphasize how important Team Canada is to TNA’s future. Spike has strong penetration in Canada, which is currently a goldmine of a market for WWE. If TNA can steal just a smidgen of Canada’s WWE fans, they will make a lot of money up there. Team Canada has the potential to be to TNA what the Hart Foundation was to WWE in 1997. And if WWE didn’t have the Canadian market in 1997, it’s questionable if they’d have survived as a company.
Sabin is a high-flying rookie who is destined to be one of the decade’s better workers. He’s naturally shy and quiet like Chris Benoit, but he delivers in the ring to an overwhelming degree. Sabin has enough great matches under his belt already in his short career that I can say with confidence he’s here to stay. He needs to stay healthy, develop a personality, and work on his ring psychology. But his match with Samoa Joe (which you can see for free if you have Comcast OnDemand right now) showed that he is going to give us loads of **** matches while he’s in TNA. D’Amore is high on him, so look for Sabin to be a mainstay for the foreseeable future.
More than anyone else, Chris Daniels embodies the spirit of TNA wrestling. As an overall worker, I rank him in the top 5 in the country right now. Only Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, Shawn Michaels, and Kurt Angle have him beat on talent. Daniels is that good.
The problem with Daniels is that he lacks charisma, size, and a superstar look. You really have to be a wrestling student to recognize his talent, unlike an AJ Styles who has enough charisma and flash to where it’s obvious to anyone how good he is. Daniels is in tip top physical shape, and his moves are as crisp as Kentucky Fried Chicken. He leads his matches like a ballerina leads a dance and like a war general leads his military to the battlefield. That’s how good Daniels is, and at long last, he’s getting the forum to strut his stuff.
Before you do your match of the year balloting, check out Daniels’ Iron Man match with AJ Styles from earlier this year. And before I speak too soon, check out his re-match with Styles at Bound for Glory on 10/23. If they have a good night, they’re going to tear the house down.
Some say Daniels is the most respected guy by the fans in Orlando. If that’s the case, then those fans know their wrestling. Chris Daniels may never be the star his peers are, but as a technician, he’ll always have the ability. I’m thrilled he’s getting this break now, because he deserves it more than anybody.
David Young is not at the level of most people on this list. He’s got a job because he’s friends with the bookers. He’s not bad, but I’d reserve his spot for someone more deserving. Don’t expect much from him in TNA, but since he’s surrounded by so many great workers, he’ll do okay.
“Prime Time” Elix Skipper
Skipper, who got a push in the dying days of WCW, was a star in the early years of TNA has Chris Daniels’ tag team partner in Triple X. The rap on Skipper is that he can’t put together a coherent, singles match on his own. Instead, he relies on high spots that, on occasion, defy reality. His rope-walk from December will forever be remembered as the spot of the year, perhaps the decade. But beyond that, Skipper needs to develop his ring skills.
In tag teams, Skipper shines. His mic skills are decent and he’s got a good look. He needs polishing, but on PPVs, he’ll wow you more often than not.
What goes for Roode, goes for Young. That’s a good thing. There’s not a weak spot in Team Canada’s bunch.
I recall one PPV earlier this year in which Young suffered an in-ring bump to the head and swelled up. Like a trooper, he gutted out the match and turned in one of the year’s most memorable performances. He’s a small guy, but he’s got personality (and again, that Team 3D funeral segment brought it out) that TNA needs to cultivate. Young will have a spot in Team Canada for as long as he wants, and that’s good enough for me.
Frankie is not signed with TNA as of this writing, but he likely will be very shortly. I sure hope so, because he’d be another solid addition to the X Division.
Frankie was one of the first people I ever saw in TNA, and was immediately impressed. He formed a good tag team with Bentley, and when they were paired with Traci, they made a good act. I’m surprised WWE bothered to sign him, because while he has the ability, he doesn’t have the size or physique they like. Kudos to him for quitting WWE and refusing to cut his hair. Frankie belongs in the X Division, and fans will not be disappointed.
The jury is still out on Gail. I’m not sure what their plans are for her, but her hiring surprised me. She’s not that big of a name, and TNA has no history of successfully pushing a women’s division. If they can build a women’s division on par with the X Division (using Japanese women), then they might have a winning formula. If not, then I’m not convinced yet that she can pull this new role of hers off.
Hardy has the most recognizable name on the roster, and thus, will be a featured headliner for as long as he wants to be. He has no-showed on a few occasions, and they always take him back. What is the lesson? Star power trumps loyalty.
Hardy has been hit and miss for a year now, but generally he’s done okay. Many fans in Orlando don’t like him, but you can’t let those fans do the booking for you. The truth is, on TNA’s Spike debut, Hardy’s name meant a lot. His name still means a lot, especially to women. Don’t ignore women. They have money to spend, too.
Jeff would’ve been a huge asset had Matt Hardy taken TNA’s offer (and what a fool he was for turning them down). As it is, he’ll be stuck in these hardcore matches. When that runs its course, I’m not sure what else he can do. But if TNA can expand outside Orlando and run PPV shows on the road, Hardy’s name on the marquee will draw some non-TNA fans, and that’s what counts.
I can’t stand Jarrett, and most of you reading this would agree. I respect his passion for the business, and he’s a talented performer, but he puts himself on top and pushes himself to a sickening degree. He’s a mid carder for life, and refuses to accept that. He’ll forever be an albatross to TNA, even with his considerable name recognition. Everyone knows who Jeff Jarrett is, but they don’t necessarily like him. Much like HHH, it’s the nature of the beast. We just have to accept that as long as TNA is around, Jeff will be its shining star. Well, there’s always the undercard to look forward to.
TNA is wasting their money on Nash, but what else is new. What they don’t get is that while some fans think Nash is cool, we’re not seeing that Nash. We’re seeing a better dressed version of Oz and Vinnie Vegas. If you’re going to give us Nash, give us the Nash we love. Where’s the biker hair and biker clothes? Where are the funny, witty interviews? Where’s the spray paint? With those elements gone, so is our interest in Nash. And thus, TNA will spend a lot of money on him and get no return on their investment. I’m telling you, Nash is a friggin’ genius.
The former Billy Gunn is back in TNA, yippee. Seriously, if he re-forms the tag team with Road Dogg, they’ll draw money. But without Road Dogg, I see no value in Kip (and that’s a dumb name, too).
Here’s a guy who understand how to get over. Hoyt-mania runs wild in Orlando because he hangs out with the ringside fans after the shows. This is brilliant, because fans at home usually copy fans at the arena. So when TNA runs PPVs outside of Orlando, they’ll react strongly to Hoyt. If management sees this, they might give him a headline spot.
Hoyt started out as a tag team partner of Kid Kash, and I loved the pairing (Kash is an awesome performer in every way). He resembled Diesel, and his appearance on Impact last week showed that Hoyt knows how to dress like a star. He’s not ready in the ring yet, but he’s improving. It’s a safe bet to assume Hoyt will become, over time, a bigger star in TNA. Look out for him in 2006 for sure.
The former Michael Shane and current cousin of Shawn Michaels, Matt Bentley, is a good little wrestler who works his ass off in the X Division. He’s terribly miscast as a babyface, but maybe one day they’ll learn to keep him heel. Bentley is too small to be the star his cousin is, but he’ll always be a good worker. I look forward to how they work in the Kazarian storyline with him.
Monty Brown has been protected for a long time now, because TNA has big plans to make him a heavyweight star. And they’re smart to do that, because Brown has something special.
With Brown’s legit athletic credentials (a 2-time SuperBowl champ), the fact he’s not with WWE right now shows just how different things are with Laurinaitis in charge of talent instead of Jim Ross. JR would’ve signed Brown in a heartbeat. With Johnny Ace in charge, TNA will now reap the benefits of Monty Brown.
Brown is not a good wrestler, but his charisma is in abundance. His promos, which have not yet been utilized correctly on Spike yet, developed him a cult fan base in Nashville. His mannerisms, persona, and star aura are major league level, and TNA knows it. Expect a huge push for Brown for the NWA title.
Known for his Canadian Destroyer (the best finisher in wrestling), Williams broke out in 2004 as a future light heavyweight star in TNA. He had that dorky college haircut, but thankfully has grown it out and looks umpteen times better (he has also bulked up).
Petey’s a smart-ass heel, and another standout in Team Canada. Again, look for some great matches out of him in the near future. The fans in Canada are going to love him when they start getting exposed to him.
The former NWA champ and former WWE/WCW/ECW superstar is potentially one of TNA’s top draws. He hasn’t yet been featured on Spike, as he’s in the storyline of being outraged that Nash is getting the title shot and not himself.
One of the best things about TNA since Dusty was fired was just how smartly Raven was used. Quite frankly, he’s the only guy in the company (besides Jim Mitchell) who can cut a big money, big match promo. His mouth is money, even though his body is banged up.
When the storyline plays through and Raven gets his eventual rematch, it will draw. The best drawing match in TNA history is Raven vs. Jarrett back in Nashville, and they have the chance to top that in 2006. Raven has seen better days, but his ability to talk and his strong mind for the business will forever be an asset to TNA. Thankfully, they realize that.
Fresh off a WWE firing, Rhino is pissed, angry, and back in top form. I see him as a little stale, and if I were TNA I’d give him more mic time to vent his frustrations. But TNA is short on heavyweights with star power who can work, so Rhino is a very welcome addition to TNA. He works well with brawlers like Sabu, and no one doubts he’s as tough as nails.
Sabu isn’t seen as an indy legend by fans who started watching wrestling during the Austin/Rock era. But for those longtime ECW fans, Sabu is a guy who gave himself to the business and never got much back. He’s banged up beyond belief, but he’s holding up surprisingly well. He’ll never give you less than 100% percent, and his recovery this past year has been nothing short of a miracle.
Sabu’s name recognition is limited, but if I were booker, I’d give him a job. He’s not financially stable, and I personally feel bad for him because he deserves to be after all he has done. These matches he’s doing will not lengthen his career, but at least he still has a career. I hope he’s saving his money and having fun. Sabu sacrificed himself for my enjoyment way too many times, and as a fan, I want to give back.
No one has more potential to be a star in TNA right now than Samoa Joe. He’s the one guy who can be the face of TNA and not let anyone down. TNA can make a lot of money with Joe, and they will.
Joe deserves every superlative you can think of. The first time I saw him, the name Shinya Hashimoto immediately came to mind. It turns out they trained together, and it’s no surprise. Joe is not muscular, and in fact, has quite a bit of flab. But one you see him wrestle, he wins you over in a matter of seconds.
Joe is physically intimidating in that Samoan way. His body frame is enormous, and all his weight is in his legs and ass. What makes him a great wrestler is his stiff style and “world title match” aura. The only other guys who have that aura are Hashimoto, Kobashi, Flair, Hogan, and HHH. You’re drawn to his matches, and you wince with every kick he throws. He’s awesome.
Joe had a phenomenal year in 2005, and there’s more to come. His work in ROH is legendary, and he just had a ***** match with Kobashi. He’s had a ***** match with CM Punk, and just had another ***** match in the 3-way with Styles and Daniels. On 10/23 he faces Jushin Liger, and if the match turns out well, then he’ll be well on his way to cementing his own legacy in this business. In another era, he’d be Wrestler of the Year this year. He’s world champ material, and his eventual feuds and matches with Jarrett, Raven, Rhino, Brown, and perhaps (please!!) Lesnar and Puder will be things of beauty. Joe needs to be TNA champ, but they first need to build him up slowly for Jarrett. Once a national audience sees Joe, they’re going to fall in love with him. HE NEEDS TO BE NWA CHAMPION.
Shannon is not in TNA at the moment, but will be very soon. He’ll be a great addition to the X Division, although the bar has risen greatly since he was last doing matches like this.
I’m sorry, but I’d never let this guy on TV with a costume like that. He screams “indy” and anyone who flips channels and sees a skinny guy in a shark outfit is going to think TNA is the minor leagues. He’s a good flier, but if that’s the case, wrestle without the costume. When the luchadores like La Parka did it on Nitro, it was okay because they were cool heels. Shark Boy is a babyface and it comes across so embarrassing. And at least Nitro was established with major star power, while TNA is trying to make a name for themselves with first impressions. Shark Boy is not the guy you want on your precious air time when trying to make a first impression as a challenger to WWE.
It’s hard to watch this guy without being pissed at him for wimping out of our interview, but we got to Mock his Brain, which sort of makes up for it. Diamond brings ring experience and locker room leadership. Thank goodness he dropped the Pat Kenney and Empire Saint gimmicks, but that’s what happens when you have bookers who aren’t complete lunatics. Simon made a good tag team with Johnny “HHH has never heard of me” Swinger, but has been lost in the shuffle ever since. I’m no fan of David Young, and his Diamonds in the Rough gimmick is sort of blah. But he has a use in TNA, I guess.
Sonjay is a favorite of ours, because he’s a fan of this site and isn’t afraid to admit it. Dutt will open major doors for TNA in India, and he should be given a solid push because of it. He’s improving by the week, and the fans are taking to him. With Dusty gone, Sonjay will get a chance to shine, but he is still doing too many jobs. I’d like to see him in more prominent matches so he can get more experience working for longer periods of time and working complete matches. Slowly but surely, Dutt will work his way up the X Division ranks. Sonjay, you’re on our side, so you’re cool with us!
For awhile, I was advocating making Siaki NWA champ. About a year ago, I saw a lot in him because he has the size, the look, and the confidence. These days, I wouldn’t necessarily make him a champion, but I think he deserves better than what he’s getting. He does need to improve, and his promos are nothing special. But if he can nail down either of those qualities, he’s got potential.
Siaki had a WWE developmental deal, and everyone said he looked exactly like Rock. Personally, I don’t see any resemblance aside from their body types and shapes. He’s a tough looking Samoan, but not as tough looking as Rikishi or Samoa Joe. I hope someone takes the time to mold him, because he has what it takes.
Everyone knows the Dudleys, so I won’t spend too much time on them. Without a doubt, they are the biggest name stars TNA has and the two guys who truly do give TNA a major league look and feel. They’re fresh and hot off a 10-year run as a tag team act, and one of the most famous teams in history. They can wrestle, and they can promo. TNA made them main eventers, as they should be. TNA lucked out in getting them, and it’s signings like these that will make or break the company.
(Chase Stevens & Andy Douglas)
When I first saw these guys, they were half the size they are now, and looked nowhere near ready for prime time. Since that time, they’ve bulked up, gotten a super look, and are/were NWA tag champs. Quite a turn-around.
As good as that sounds, the Naturals had three major misfortunes. The first was the bar fight, in which Stevens was stabbed legit. Next came the untimely death of their manager, Chris Candido. The Naturals were heels, and after the death, became sympathetic babyfaces. The Naturals are hard workers, but I think they were inexperienced working as faces, and obviously they went through a lot emotionally. The role never worked for them, but they and the company had no choice, and I would’ve done the same thing. They got another break when Jimmy Hart became their mystery manager, and now that too is also done with. One bad break after another.
Still, the company has faith in them, even though they just lost the straps. They are a very important component in TNA’s tag division, which is leaps and bounds ahead of WWE’s pathetic tag teams. These guys always give it their all, and I’d keep them in a strong spot on the card.
Traci is the colorful manager of Matt Bentley, and I’d like to forget her angles in early 2005 and 2004. She could pass for a WWE Diva, and more than that, she has good athletic ability. A legit stunt woman, Traci was tailor-made for the wrestling business. She’s doing fine now, and with Gail Kim in tow, will probably be in the ring very soon. Along with OVW’s Shelly Martinez, I see her as this generation’s Sherri Martel. For those who aren’t quite sure, I meant that as a compliment.
So there you have it. It’s a loaded roster, and be sure to tune in every Saturday night at 11pm on Spike TV to see them in action. Now more than ever, WWE needs some competition to shake things up.