TNA: Open Fight Night

April 27, 2012

I've been making an effort to watch Impact Wrestling of late and give them a second chance. I've watched almost every week since they let Vince Russo go, and as I've mentioned several times I feel the show has improved. The show has slowed down, reduced a lot of the asinine comedy, and as a result been a much easier show to watch. Last week they announced a new concept for Impact, which was to be a once a month "Open Fight Night" edition of the show. Their announcement of what "Open Fight Night" would be was quite terrible and after listening to Hulk Hogan explain it the only thing I knew for sure was that Hulk Hogan didn't understand the concept of the show either.

While I commend the people at TNA for trying something new, after watching the first "Open Fight Night" I was reminded of a few age old sayings that TNA should have observed before launching this new concept show: "Make sure you have all of your ducks in a row", and "If you fail to prepare, you are prepared to fail". In my opinion TNA did not think this concept through all the way and were not ready to debut it but did so anyway and as a result seriously damaged their show and any future potential this concept might have.

Rather than ranting about all that was wrong with the show I'm going to try to break it all down and pitch alternate ways the show could have been done, in hopes of venting my frustration in a more constructive manner.

I think the biggest problem with last night's show was that they tried to do too much too soon and thus everything came of confusing. There are actually three different concepts in OFN, none of which were sufficiently explained and TNA needed to do several more weeks of introduction and explanation before debuting such a complicated show. This show was rushed in so fast Hulk Hogan didn't even appear to understand the concepts and he seemed to get lost in his promos explaining and often made no sense what so ever, which really damaged him as the authority figure of this company.

So let's deal with one concept at a time. The first concept is Gut Check which is where they take a non-TNA guy and give him a shot at the big leagues. The way Hogan explained it last week the new guy would wrestle someone off the TNA roster and there would be 3 judges and himself evaluating the new guy to determine if he deserved a TNA contract. So the idea here is American Idol but with wrestling. We take a nobody that wants to be a star, put him on stage, and let the judges evaluate him. My first problem with this concept is that on a wrestling show shouldn't a guy winning a match be more important than judges evaluating him? This is supposed to be a sport not a talent show. All this does is draw attention to the fact that this sport is a work. Further more if it was "you have to win to get a contract" there would be importance on all the near falls and the potential to build drama in the match. At the very least combine the 2 in that if he wins he's guaranteed a contract but there are judges to offer him advice and potentially offer him a contract if he had a good enough showing. To make matters worse they didn't even follow through on the judges, Al Snow was the only judge there, and he didn't do any judging; we were told that the judging would happen next week. Are you kidding me? Can you imagine American Idol making us wait a week after seeing the performance before we get to hear what the judges had to say? Instead of evaluating the guy when his performance is fresh in our minds and we might have an opinion to compare, we have to wait a week and hear what they have to say after we've all no doubt completely forgotten his match. I think this idea had potential but they have severely damaged it by doing it so poorly the first time out of the gate.

The second concept of the OFN show is the big Title defense. On each show one of the reigning champions will be chosen to defend their title that night. This excludes the TV champion because he has to defend the title on every show. This to me is a pointless distinction; if the other titles are defended on TV what is the point of a TV title? Not to mention that if we get a TV title defense on every single show OFN's Title defense doesn't really stand out as unique. That is a small point; they screwed this up on a far grander scale. The show opened with Hulk Hogan meeting with all his champions... oh wait, that's what Hogan said, but not what actually happened; with no explanation as to why, ODB and Eric Young, the current Knockouts Tag Team Champions, were not present for this meeting. Here in this segment Hogan cut another confusing promo, where he actually called Samoa Joe and Magnus the greatest tag team of all time. No offense to either guy but I doubt they've won more than 4 televised matches together as a team. The line was so absurd Joe himself laughed when Hogan said it. Once Hogan selected the Tag Titles would be defended tonight he explained that he selected 4 potential challengers for them and each potential challenger world get the opportunity to plead their case as to why they deserved the shot. Hogan then went on to describe this process as him listening to a bunch of guys whining and complaining. That's one hell of a sales pitch there Hulkster.

So later we get another Hogan meeting, this time with the 4 potential challengers that Hogan has selected. Hogan gives each team the chance to pitch their case on why they deserve the shot over the other Team and he narrows his choice down throughout the show. I can see where initially the thought of this providing a running storyline through the show might sound good but for me it just made Hogan come off like an incompetent general manager. For starters Eric Young and ODB were one of his selections, why are they considered challengers and not champions? Secondly since Hogan is the one to select the 4 and ultimately the guy who selects the one, he comes off as a guy who just can't make up his mind and needs the challengers to remind him storylines and their win loss record to help the poor guy make the decision, he had all month to make on his own. For this to make any sense at all someone else needs to make the final challenger selection. Hogan picks the Title to be defended and the 4 potential challengers and then the challengers plead their case to a panel, or the fans or someone other than Hulk Hogan. Even drawing a name randomly out of a hat could be fun especially with the Tag Team titles because you could put the names of any current or former tag team whose members are still employed in the company regardless if they are still a team. This opens the door for a one night reunion for teams like Team 3D, Beer Money, or Team Canada etc. The Title selection and drawing of the challenger could be done at the start of the show and then throughout the show leading to the Main event we can get a promo from each guy and a video package or 2 giving any history or conflict between the two from the past that might add interest to the pending match. It would certainly be more interesting that hearing EY explain to Hulk Hogan that if he gives them the title shot ODB will sleep with him (Insert Hogan sex tape joke here). Also, the Title shot needs to be the Main Event on the show, not play second fiddle to a going away party for a guy who was supposed to have been banished from the company 2 weeks ago and never allowed to show his face on the show again or ever use his name again.

The third and final concept on this show is the open challenge gimmick, which to me is what made the explanation of OFN show so confusing. In Hogan's explanation of the show he kept mentioning how anyone could call out anyone else on the show out, and the person called out had to answer the challenge and fight. The problem is he mentioned this several times while also talking about Gut Check and the Title shot deal so I was left thinking, why doesn't everyone just call out the World Champion? On the show we had several people calling out other people and I was confused as to why these specific people were afforded the opportunity for a callout while others weren't. To make matters worse, Jeremy Borash went to the ring and explained this rule didn't just apply to wrestlers but to all employees of Impact wrestling, and then proceeded to call out Eric Bischoff, who I could have sworn was FIRED from Impact wrestling after his loss at the PPV 2 weeks ago.

For me this idea is by far the dumbest of the 3. What does it accomplish? It leads to a match between 2 people that have an issue; isn't that what all matches are supposed to be? Did we really need a new concept in order to book matches like Brooke vs. Gail? Could that match not be booked just because it made sense? With Gut Check and The build to the Title shot deal already on the show do we need another new concept running throughout the show to make it more confusing? Don't answer that, we all know the answer is NO.

Well that's my take on Impact Wrestling's "Open Fight Night". They had 3 ideas, one was very bad, 2 had potential but were not well thought out or executed well. On top of that the most pushed theme of this new show was Eric Bischoff a guy who was fired 2 weeks ago and we were promised would never appear on this show again. In spite of that he was featured throughout the show and even granted the main event spot. Here's hoping over the next month they find some judges, read this column, and put a lot more thought into OFN 2.

Lance Storm

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