I’m writing this because about one year ago the brightest spark wrestling had to offer died out but I managed to catch a glimpse just before it faded.
In the summer of 2009 I found out TNA was doing it’s second UK tour at the start of 2010. I missed the first one at the beginning of the year and being a massive TNA fan I couldn’t wait. Like a lot of wrestling fans I had been getting a bit jaded and tired of the same old WWE product but TNA reignited my passion somewhat. I would tell anyone who would listen TNA was coming and it was or at least seemed to be. I saw more adverts for them not just on UK TV but also on the web, they had a videogame coming out and the word seemed to be spreading and momentum building. It was settled. I was going and nothing was going to stop me so I instantly booked tickets for two of the shows. One in Bournmouth just over an hour away South West by train on the coast and another in London just over an hour North East in the capital at Wembely Arena, a famous music venue where anyone who’s is anyone in popular music has played and holds around 12,000 people. It was also going to be the site of the first Ultimate X match outside of the US and the first in a while in TNA altogether. Words can’t describe how much I was looking forward to the shows. Unfortunatley for me, TNA fans and wrestling in general some terrible news came in the mean time that changed TNA forever.
On October 27th 2009 it was announced Hulk Hogan would be joining TNA. My heart sank. I may be more cynical than most, but we all knew what would happen and what it meant for TNA. Some of the optimists out there (Mr McElvaney) tried to remain positive and look at the good points that might come from this. Everyone prayed Hulk Hogaan at this point in his life would try and give back to wrestling, the thing that had given him…..well everything he had but alas it was not to be. Instantly clips and interviews appeared of him talking about how he didn’t like the six-sided ring, the two entrances and….well pretty much everything TNA. We already knew he is controlling, bullying, not a fan of small guys and much more interested in promoting himself and his buddies that talent youngsters but now he is just coming out and totally dissing the product. The whole arrangement was weird. Would Hogan wrestle!? No one knew what his job was a really for the last year we still havn’t known what he is meant to be doing. I doubt he does or cares as long as the checks keep coming.
Hogan was also bringing Eric Bischoff with him. Great. Hogan,Bischoff and Russo all back together again. What could go wrong?
Well for one thing they announced they were going to take the fight to WWE, live and on Monday nights away from their established time slot on Thursday. Naturally WWE waited a while before totally blowing TNA out of the water by trumping thier Hogan card with a Bret Hart return. Ooops. That didn’t matter though because lots of new eyes would be on TNA thanks to Hogan. Not as many as some (Kev) might have thought given Hogan had spent the last few years doing everything he could to whore himself and his family to the point the mainstream was sick of them. The three hour live show was a 95% disaster with virtually everything going wrong from conception to exectution, and Hogans buddies who had no business being anywhere near a ring showing up.
None of this would have been too terrible if it hadn’t happened a few week before I was meant to see TNA!!!
One of the wrestlers I and a lot of people were most looking forward to, Awesome Kong left the tour before it began thanks in large part to Hogan’s pal with the least reason to be in TNA (Or any other broadcast medium) running his mouth, offending Kong among others and causing a giant mess. A great start.
Anyway, January 26th rolled around and I hopped a train to the coast (that must be a song lyric). I had a podcast downloaded of Wolfe and Styles talking about the changes Hogan and co were making and Wolfe’s decision not to sign with WWE but rather TNA. They say its always 20-20 right. They didn’t sound thrilled but hoped the new attention would help TNA in the long term. It didn’t matter to me because I was finally going to see them live and in person. I got to the Bournemouth International Centre quite early. Partly out of not knowing how long it would take to get there but mainly out of excitement. The first thing I saw there was a notice saying Bobby Lashley would not be appearing. No great loss. It also said Matt Morgan had been injured the night prior. That wasn’t good because I really wanted to see him with Hernandez and knew the card would need to be moved around quite a bit because of this. Still things weren’t so bad. They even used the six-sided ring! The show started and the night was great. Earl Hebner came out in a jacket and shades doing the Bret Hart pistol walk. The crowd went nuts and gave him tons of abuse but it was still good natured and he gave as good as he got. Other higlights included the Beauitful people making an appearance since Kong wasn’t there and someone needed to go up against Taylor Wilde and Sarita. The plan for them to make an appearance at the merch stand during intermission was a stroke of genius. Eric Young defended the Global Title aganst Hamada which was fun. Kurt Angle took the place of Morgan in a 4-way tag team match against Beer Money, Team 3D and the British Invasion which rocked. Samoa Joe vs Daniels in a submission match (remember them?). And finally Styles vs Wolfe in the main event. Styles is my favorite wrestler of this era and a huge reason for me going. He didn’t disappoint.
The main downer was seeing so many people buying the Hogan ‘Change’ shirts. I really wanted to say to them ” You claim to be a TNA fan but you know what Hogan will do right? We have seen it all before” I voted with my hard earned and brought a Styles and a Joe shirt and even a TNA scarf because I was aware of the journey home (Try walking round England, in the winter, literally next to the sea) I did my part and looked forward to Saturday night for the final big show of the tour in London.
On Saturday, thanks to some poor navigation on my part, I wound up at the wrong subway station and had to quickly jog a mile or so through one of the rougher parts of London in order to make the show on time. I got there with literally sixty seconds to spare. I know this because as my ass hit the seat the countdown for the show began. Again the show was great. The 5-Man Ultimate X Match for X-Division Championship between Doug Williams (c), Suicide, Amazing Red, Chris Sabin & Daniels was insane. So too was the Kurt Angle v AJ Styles main event. The bigger capacity Saturday night crowd helped make the whole thing a really special night. When the show ended and all the wrestlers and Dixie came out to thank the fans I felt really sad. I knew a lot of the great things I had seen over both shows I would probably never see again. That may sound melodramatic but I wasn’t wrong. I cheered and left knowing when they next toured so many of those men and women would not be their.
Like I said the reason I wrote this is because a year has passed since then. TNA just finished another UK tour which will be remembered mainly for the wrong reasons. I didn’t go and won’t again until things in TNA actually change. I take no pleasure in that. It means I won’t get to see many talented men and women who under any other situation I would. I know boycotting TNA is the only way I can make a difference. I don’t buy their products, I don’t pay for their PPVs and only watch Impact if I hear something great has happened like the Beer Money vs MCMG best of five. Worst of all it means I miss AJ.
So I put it to you, what is your biggest wrestling disappointment? Do you still try and follow TNA or have you given up like so many others?
Thanks for reading and hope to hear from you.