The errs of Sting, the fighting champion

TNA is really making it hard for themselves with this one.  My self-imposed exile from TNA programming ended last week and, as I had predicted, I returned to a far different place than I had left from.  But one thing had stayed well in place during my absence and it was the thing that had initially turned me from TNA to begin with – Sting as the TNA champion.

As I put together the state of TNA, I learned that Sting had become something of a fighting champion, willingly putting his title on the line against all comers anywhere, anytime.  So last week on Impact, he had defeated Matt Hardy (who apparently is still carrying around the Jeff Hardy belt) and this week it was a triple threat between him, Mr. Anderson and Bully Ray (who apparently is now in Immortal).

But this plot for Sting is not only over-utilizing the star (and will likely lead to him getting injured) but is also a rare example of giving too much to the fans.  The role for Sting that would not only make him a bigger attraction but also even heap some much-needed prestige on the nearly ridiculous TNA Championship is far simpler than anyone might consider.

Icon or not, it’s a harsh fact that Sting is 52 years old.  He’s been wrestling for over two decades now.  Even the most talented of wrestlers are eventually slowed and even hampered by aging bodies.  Hulk Hogan has a terrible back.  Undertaker can’t go two months without getting injured in the ring.  Sting was brought back to TNA and tossed directly into the most important role of the company (or at least it should be) on the rather misguided thought that fans desperately wanted to see him anywhere, rather than just the WWE.  And with Jeff Hardy drugging himself out of the picture, TNA has had to improvise since Victory Road and that meant more Sting.

But what TNA doesn’t realize is that they don’t actually have to deliver Sting defending his title week after week.  In fact, the LESS they offer of Sting defending his title, the more exciting it becomes when it actually does happen.  For example, TNA currently has Sting taking on any comers for his title.  That means that there is no set #1 contender for the title, nor is there any way to determine how one would become the champion.  Thus anyone can walk up to Sting and say “Hey, I want a shot” and depending on Sting’s respect/hate for the person, it’s a pretty good chance that he’ll give it to him.  But that means that in two weeks (I haven’t gone further back than that) you’ve knocked out Matt Hardy, Mr. Anderson and Bully Ray from title contention for a possible PPV match.  After all, why would fans pay to see the match again after you gave it away for free?  (Yes, I’m aware they’ll probably do it anyway.)

With less than two weeks away from Sacrifice, the build up should be between Sting and Rob Van Dam.  They should be working on giving fans a storyline that would make them want to see the match on PPV – that’s the point of having them.  But instead, Sting’s busy messing around with all these other contenders, and thus once RVD’s scheduled match comes around it feels like just another match – and certainly not one worth shilling out 40 bucks on.

TNA’s right about one thing – Sting is a big deal in wrestling.  But unfortunately they have no idea of how to utilize that popularity aside from “toss him out there as much as possible”.  His popularity soared back in late ’90s WCW because fans WANTED to see him so much and WCW gave infrequent tastes.  When Sting did appear, it was so special that fans would keep coming back in the hopes that they might see him do something again.  But had Sting showed up at Uncensored 1997, challenged Hollywood Hogan for the WCW title, defeated him and gone on as a fighting champion week in and week out for anyone from Kevin Nash to Kenny Kaos, he would have lost his intrigue – what made him special.

Refining a Title
But the TNA Championship has problems of its own, even without Sting’s overexposure.  Something that American professional wrestling seems to have lost in the past 15 or so years is the sense of prestige and importance in its championships.  In theory, every single competitor on the roster should be looking to pick up one (or more) of the available championships.  TNA in particular seems to avoid this by having its competitors seek out more “real life” goals.  For example, Hulk Hogan wanted control of TNA.  Jeff Jarrett and Kurt Angle are fighting about their love lives, both involving Jeff’s wife Karen and her jealously over her ex-husband.  Matt Morgan and Hernandez were fighting over a beat down that happened months ago (I don’t know if they still are), which itself led to them losing their tag team titles (which neither particularly cared about).

But another rather strange matter is that TNA has three people running around with world titles.  Months ago, someone thought it was a good idea to present Jeff Hardy with a title based on his face.  So the old TNA championship eventually came to gag-character Eric Young.  Once Jeff Hardy managed to dope himself out of his star role in the company, TNA quickly put a new title belt on Sting, but the old one eventually came to Jeff’s brother Matt, who’s gimmick apparently is him happily living in his brother’s shadow.  Now why would either Eric Young or Matt Hardy go after Sting’s title belt?  They have their own.  Basically, it’s more about not letting Sting have a belt rather than actually winning one for themselves.

The Attitude Era of wrestling was certainly the biggest boom and had a lot of enjoyable moments in it.  But a lot of the bad things for the business that came with it are the things that TNA seems to be willing to repeat in a quixotic attempt to recapture the former glory.  Rather, they should look back into the older days of wrestling and relearn how to build up championship belts.  Learn what would make fans excited to see them defended.  And perhaps even try to add some prestige to their histories.

And in Other News
Was I the only one watching Raw waiting for some kind of storyline pay-off to the Rock’s birthday party?  I kept sitting there, desperately awaiting the sneak attack that never came.

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