To be perfectly honest with you, I can't see how any observer of the wrestling profession can objectively say, without hesitation, that 2012 was anything other than an outright awful year for the business as a whole. Virtually every company at every level of the business spent the year being crippled either by a bad economy, a shrinking number of venues, waning fan interest, a loss of talent (either to injury, or to another company), or due simply to their own laziness or incompetence. From the silver stage of the WWE to the Indy show at your local armory, just about everyone took a beating in 2012, and now, we're going to talk about it, company by company, this time, treading back into some familiar territory...
Around this time last year, I posted this video recapping my thoughts on TNA over the course of 2011, as well as explaining my reasons for giving up my role as resident TNA reviewer for this website. For those who don't want to sit through that hour of me screaming about the Hardy Boys, Mr. Anderson, and the Angle/Jarrett fiasco just to find out what those reasons were, here's the Cliff's Notes version -
"I essentially came to the realization that TNA is intentionally trolling its fans."
That sentence right there is the only logical conclusion I could come to after sitting back and watching, over the course of 2010 and 2011, as TNA went to great lengths, and seemingly took immense pleasure in raping and murdering every single possible thing that TNA had ever asked its fans to invest anything into whatsoever. The 6-sided ring, AJ Styles, the X-Division, the Knockouts Division, AJ Styles, Beer Money, King of the Mountain, Awesome Kong, Abyss, the Beautiful People, the Main Event Mafia, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles... you get the point, right? Unfortunately, TNA wasn't just content in raping and murdering everything they had asked the fans to care about
before Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff blew into town and torched the entire village. No, they had to go and start raping and murdering everything Hogan and Bischoff asked us to invest in, as well. They spend half a year, supposedly, building up Bobby Roode as the greatest thing since sliced bread, with a media campaign over the course of that final month that made Roode out to be more awesome than Jesus, Han Solo, and the Beatles, combined. Roode then blows the big match against Kurt Angle at
Bound For Glory, just to see Roode's then-tag team partner, James Storm, who hadn't been built to sh*t, beat Kurt Angle and win the World Title instead a mere 4 days later. Fast Forward 3 weeks, and Bobby Roode, the guy we had just spent the last 6 to 8 weeks being told was the greatest thing to happen since sliced bread, the combined awesome of Jesus, Han Solo, and the Beatles, turns heel. All of this happened because Hulk Hogan and Eric Bishcoff wanted to "swerve the swerve", if you will, and rile up the smart marks. Or, in other words, Hogan and Bischoff did it simply to troll the internet.
Now, call me crazy, but I don't particularly like being trolled by my wrestling shows. I don't like it when the people who put together these shows have such an obvious contempt for me, and people like me, who's only real crime was daring to research and discuss wrestling critically on the internet at any given time, that they go out of their way, to the point of ruining their narrative, simply to f*ck with us. When wrestling shows do this, my natural reaction to this is to turn off the show. It's what I do to WWE somewhere between an hour or 2 into the endless marathon that's become Monday Night Borefest. And, for the most part, it's what I've actually been allowed to do with Impact this year, because, thankfully, I don't actually have to stick around and watch this show when Hogan and Bischoff choose to troll me in order to review this bullsh*t.
With that said, I've actually managed to tolerate this year in TNA. I've even managed to make it through entire episodes of Impact, and even a few pay per views, without wanting to shoot my TV while screaming "F*CK THIS SHOW!" I can also say with 100% certainty that the
only reason I have been able to do so is because there's no obligation on my part to sit through one second more of this show and its incessant need to troll its fans than I absolutely have to. Unfortunately, not one single bit of that has stopped TNA from trolling its fanbase by continuing to beat the ever loving crap out of its poster boy, AJ Styles.
When it comes right down to it, the only thing that happened in TNA that has any real significance is their treatment of their first, and strongest, homegrown superstar. Everything else that happened this year was either an ill-conceived rehash angle that did not and apparently will never have any sort of endgame attached to it, a scam to convince you that TNA was, in fact, not completely out to f*ck with you, or an utter waste of time and resources. So, before I scream about AJ Styles' crappy year, let's go ahead and talk about those other 3 things I just mentioned, starting with the Aces & Eights...
A long time ago, in company called WCW, there were a group of big-name invaders, presumably from the World Wrestling Federation. They came in, wrecked stuff, and forced WCW to band together and fight the invading faction. You remember this group as the nWo. Fast forward to 2012, replace the big-name invaders with a gaggle of no-names you only just barely remember seeing on WWE's ECW, all of whom are wearing masks, so it's not like you'd know who any of them were anyway, presumably led, or at least co-led, by Devon Dudley in the midst of a singles push that actually makes his days as Reverend D-Von seem competent by comparison. As you can see, the threat... not so much. Then again, this is TNA. At this rate, the company could be taken hostage by a pair of teenagers carrying Pez dispensers, for all we know. So, you have this minor threat, kind of acting like the Nexus, burning the village and raping Joe Park... who may or may not be Abyss. Don't worry, we'll get to that. Anyway, you have this minor threat whose most high-profile members include that guy who used to stand behind CM Punk when he'd whine about your drug and alcohol problems on TV, and that guy who used to stand behind Bubba Ray Dudley as he screamed obscenities at people at ringside during ECW events. You have these guys f*cking TNA up. So, of course, 8 months later, with every major name TNA can muster rallied to take the Aces & Eights down, the most anyone has managed to do is unmask a few of them. They're not gone. Oh, no, instead, they get to come and go as they please, now. We
have yet to be given any clue as to what they actually want or why they're even here. Hell, after 8 months, we still don't know who half of them even are! It's amazing that, a year later, I can actually find something good to say about the Immortal angle, as at least Immortal had an expressed goal, as well as an eventual endgame planed out in advance. Sure, the goal was silly, and the endgame was executed terribly, but at least we knew what Immortal wanted, and we understood that TNA knew where the story was going and how they wanted it to end! Aces & Eights doesn't even have that!
This brings us to the scam that TNA pulled on you this year in order to fool you into thinking this company's days of trolling you are over - Austin Aries' World Title run. Going into the
Destination X PPV, Austin Aries was, quite frankly, the hottest character in professional wrestling going. Inexplicably turned babyface just a few months earlier, because... I don't know. And neither does TNA. They just did it, and for whatever reason, it seemed to work, because everybody and their mother was talking about Austin Aries in TNA. TNA saw this and decided to add a new gimmick to the
Destination X show which will now allow the X-Division champion a choice each year either to keep his title, or forfeit it for a shot at the World Title. A Double, obviously, chose the latter, defeating Bobby Roode at
Destination X to win the TNA World Title. This, of course, wasn't enough to quell skeptics, who knew all too well that TNA had already planned, well in advance, to have Bobby Roode and James Storm headline
Bound For Glory for the title. So, TNA decided to have Aries beat Roode again, this time with the stipulation that were Roode to lose, he'd not be able to get another shot at the title so long as Aries held it. With that, the critics were silenced, as there was no possible way Roode could be in the Main Event of
Bound For Glory, leading fans to think that Aries would now headline against Storm. Except, of course, TNA had invested too much time, in their minds, to the whole Roode/Storm feud, so instead of having Storm ultimately win the Bound for Glory Series and earn the title shot, they gave it to Jeff Hardy. Now, surely, the critics had no reason to believe the beloved Aries was going to drop the title to the guy who screwed TNA over at
Victory Road 2011 by getting wasted before his Main Event showdown with Sting, right? HA! See, that's how the scam works. TNA works you, and works you, and works you to the point where you can't help but to believe exactly what they want you to, and in that moment, when you finally believe, and TNA is just about to give you want you want... they f*ck you. In the weeks before
Bound For Glory, Austin Aries once again turns heel. Actually, he not only turns heel, but he takes the turn towards the CM Punk "Voice for the Voiceless" shtick, representing the voice of the disgruntled wrestling fan that simply wants this goddamned show to stop trolling them for five seconds and entertain them! Come
Bound For Glory, a newly-heel Aries lost his title to the guy that f*cked over the company at
Victory Road 2011. Yeah, yeah, I hear you bleeding hearts whining about how everyone deserves a second chance and blah, blah, blah, but after the 97 or so Jeff already had, and blew, including being primarily responsible for the single-lowest point in your company's history, no, you do not, EVER, give a guy that much trust again. Not unless you're really f*cking stupid, and hey, this is TNA, so go figure! Fortunately, Jeff Hardy hasn't decided that this is the moment he relapses, again, and all appears to be well... for now.
Which brings us to our complete waste of time and resources, to which, there were several. To save me some time, let's go ahead and just list off a few, starting with an obvious one - Joseph Park, who may or may not actually be the Bruce Banner to Abyss' Hulk. Debuting earlier this year after Abyss disappeared for some reason, Chicago lawyer Joe Park came to Impact Wrestling in search of his brother. Now, me, I actually remember this whole bit where Abyss was actually in prison for allegedly murdering his father, a rap he took to protect his mother, who apparently killed the man in self-defense. In fact, the prison stint is how TNA explained Abyss' mask and his apparent fear of barbed wire, claiming that he had severely cut up his face on some barbed wire during an attempted prison break. See, funny thing about wrestling fans... we're kind of nerds, and we tend to remember things that occur throughout your show's continuity. So, of course, Joe Park, a lawyer, mind you, was never once brought up in all that mess between Abyss and his former manager, James Mitchell, years ago, when it was revealed that it was Mitchell that somehow managed to get Abyss freed from prison, and thus owed Mitchell a debt and "how dare you betray me?" and yadda, yadda, yadda. You'd think that Joe Park, were he actually Abyss' brother, and a freaking lawyer, would have been involved in that, somehow.
Anyway, Joe Park is looking for his brother, Chris. Chris Park, by the way, is Abyss. This is yet another bit we learned from the issues with James Mitchell about 5 years ago. Unfortunately, over the course of the next several months, it becomes increasingly clear that Joe Park and Chris Park may, in fact, be one in the same. Now, there are some problems with this, mainly surrounding the prison stint, to which, we even have an alleged witness - Tomko, who was supposedly a prison guard at the time Abyss attempted his escape and scarred up his face. If Chris and Joe are, in fact, the same person, where are Joe's facial scars? Once again, TNA established that there was at least one somewhat credible witness to the event in Tomko. Could he have lied? Sure, but he had no real reason to, and even if he did, Joe Park could have easily confirmed the truth. If Joe Park and Abyss are, as TNA is implying, the same person, either Tomko was wrong about Abyss' face being scarred in the prison break, or there simply was no prison break. My point is that, should Joe Park and Abyss turn out to be the same person, all along, everything we've ever been told about Abyss up to this point is a lie. If that sounds familiar, I'll leave you with one final word on the matter that should explain just how all of this has been a colossal waste of our time - Kane.
Another massive waste of our time involves Joey Ryan, who received a Gut Check try-out live on Impact Wrestling over the summer. He was ultimately rejected when Taz, seemingly upset that Joey felt Taz's support was all but guaranteed, decided to reject Joey after all, leading to Ryan not winning a contract with TNA. What follows is either the most pointless work/shoot angle in the history of forever, or, Joey Ryan being the biggest crybaby in the universe, and managing to get a job because of it. Ryan, pissed off that Taz rejected him, takes to YouTube and Social Media, demanding his legion of fans take up his cause to get him a spot in TNA wrestling. He goes as far as to show up for future Gut Checks and disrupting the proceedings (the greatest evidence of all that this was merely the most pointless work/shoot angle ever produced) , before eventually getting a match with Al Snow (because, after all, Taz's neck is so screwed up at this point that it actually hurts him just to move) at
Bound for Glory. This match ends with Matt Morgan, who had previously seen his contract run out with TNA, returning to the promotion to help Joey Ryan get his contract. Why Matt Morgan? Who the hell knows! Joey Ryan then goes on to do f*ck all in TNA afterwards, making his incessant bitching on social media over the summer, and this entire f*cking angle
Then, we have the feud between Bobby Roode and James Storm. Hogan and Bischoff crowed for weeks on end that the Internet had our panties up in a twist about nothing, that we needed to give it time and let the story play out to see the whole picture. Well, Hulk, Eric, it's been a f*cking year. James Storm means entirely f*ck all in the world of wrestling, despite being your de-facto top babyface for a calendar year. He still only just barely feels like a Main Event guy. Half the year, the guy is gone. You supposedly spent this entire year trying to make him Superman or whatever, to build up to
Bound For Glory. Instead, he gets trounced by Bobby Roode at
LockDown, disappears for months before being
Deus Ex Machina'd into the points leader in the BFG series, only to lose out to Jeff freaking Hardy. All the while, Storm's big bad basically gets demoted to undercard status, all so you could dick with Austin Aries to troll your fans. By the time Roode and Storm have their big blow-off, clearly a match that deserved to be a semi-main, you put it at the end of the first hour of the PPV, making Storm's big revenge moment seem, you guessed it,
entirely pointless! And just to make it worse, the very next month, James Storm wins a World Title match, only to lose it a mere 4 days later, once again, to Bobby Roode. Why? Because Jeff Hardy is a babyface, he's the champion, and we can't go and have the fans cheering for someone else, now can we? Of course not! So, really, Hulk, Eric, I'd like to thoroughly thank you for wasting my, and every other TNA fan's time in 2012 dicking around with James Storm when we knew from the offset that you never intended to do a goddamned thing with him, whatsoever!
And now, our Main Event - AJ Styles, the alleged affair with Dixie Carter, Claire Lynch, and the Baby Mama Drama Saga. To say that I hated this angle with a fiery passion a billion suns would be something of a massive understatement. It begins, as all AJ Styles' rapes do, with Christopher Daniels, because who the hell else is AJ Styles going to feud with, huh? An over-bloated roster of 30 or so guys, half of which you almost never use, and yet, the only person AJ Styles can ever seem to fight in this company is Christopher Daniels. Wait, no, that's not true. TNA was nice enough to include Frankie Kazarian in all of this. After all, it was either this, or yet another year of Kazarian standing in the background while other people actually did stuff. Anyway, last year, Christopher Daniels got a bug up his ass about whether or not he could beat AJ Styles, and when he wasn't able to, he went completely insane and decided to go about ruining his life bit by bit. The first thing was to turn Kazarian against AJ, which he apparently did by telling Kaz that AJ had been having an affair with TNA President Dixie Carter. Apparently, this also meant that a certain amount of favoritism was shown to AJ Styles, which, of course, explains why he was forced to drop the World Title he was holding at the time in order to start over in the X-Division every time TNA would jump a network, why Hulk Hogan still regularly refers to the guy as an "up-and-comer", why he was made to be both Christian Cage and Kurt Angle's towel boy when they came into the company, and, of course, why he only ever seems to work feuds with Christopher f*cking Daniels anymore!
So, anyway, Kaz and Daniels then go public with their claim that AJ is hiding the salami with the company president. They show us photographs, videos, and even recorded phone conversations between the two, inferring that AJ was giving it to Dixie behind her husband's back. The accusations go so far that Mr. Dixie himself, Serg Salinas, actually makes an on-screen appearance, just to knock AJ Styles on his ass. Oh yes, a former World Champion got knocked on his ass by the guy who sang Beer Money's theme song. At this point, even the fans began to believe that the AJ and Dixie affair was legit. Unfortunately, this isn't what TNA wanted, so, as they usually do in these kinds of situations, they go into panic mode, and swerve so hard in the opposite direction, you're practically thrown from the vehicle.
Enter Claire Lynch, the single worst actress in the history of professional wrestling. It turns out, everything that was going on between Dixie Carter and AJ Styles was, in fact, AJ attempting to get a friend help with her drug addiction. How or why Dixie Carter needed to get involved, who the hell knows! Apparently, it was enough to keep Serg from knocking AJ on his ass again, so, whatever. Seeing that their plot had been foiled, Christopher Daniels and Kazarian concocted another plan. See, Claire Lynch was pregnant, and according to Kaz and Daniels, AJ was the father. Claire Lynch even provided photographs of her in bed with a sleeping AJ Styles to prove that they had, in fact, slept together. AJ Styles responds with, quite frankly, one of the stupidest lines ever uttered in a wrestling promo - "you got to put a P in a V to make a B, and I didn't do that." Place face in palm, and hold.
The next few weeks see Kaz and Daniels, along with Claire Lynch, taunting AJ and demanding that he do the right thing. You know, instead of waiting for the child to be born, going to Child Services, and having a paternity test done, like you do in real life, in order to determine paternity of a child between unwed parents in disputed cases such as these in order to determine what legal obligation, if any, the alleged father has to the child. There is then a match made where, if AJ loses, he has to take a paternity test. You know, because Claire can't just go to Child Services and have them get a court order for AJ to be tested or anything. So, AJ loses. The next week, Claire Lynch, the so-called "actress" whose most notable role included dressing up as Olive Oyl at Universal Studios Florida, where TNA tapes Impact, quits the company after claiming to be harassed by wrestling fans online who revealed her day job to the public. This then forces TNA to end the angle altogether with a written confession by Lynch, claiming that she had lied about the pregnancy all along, and was put up to it by Christopher Daniels and Kazarian. And, of course, instead of being arrested and put on trial for fraud and sh*tload of other serious crimes, like anyone else would have been in this situation, Kaz and Daniels are instead forced to put their tag team titles on the line against AJ Styles and Kurt Angle, because, in all of this mess, Kaz and Daniels became the tag team champions.
So, of course, you're thinking this all ends with AJ as half of the tag team champions, right? Of course not! Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez won those from Kaz and Daniels in a 3-way at
Bound For Glory! All AJ Styles got out of this was a chance to lose a 3-way at
Turning Point which cost him a shot at the World Championship for a year, then he got to lose the supposed "final match ever" against Christopher Daniels at
Final Resolution! Because why on Earth put your protagonist through all of the hell AJ Styles went through over the past year and a half, just to have him finally able to overcome his enemy in the end? Don't you know just how cool it would have been if Darth Vader turned Luke Skywalker to the Dark Side and slaughtered all the rebels at the end of
Return of the Jedi so the Empire could remain intact? Of course not, BECAUSE THAT'S NOT HOW YOU END A F*CKING EPIC HERO'S JOURNEY!!! You simply do not put a hero through that much bullsh*t, just to let the bad guys win in the end! But hey, this is the same company that felt it right to let Raven win his "final match ever" against Tommy Dreamer, and there are idiots reading this right now that actually believed that was a good f*cking idea, so what the f*ck do I know? I just wasted a year and a half of my life watching AJ Styles get butt-raped by TNA booking, yet again, and now, I get to look forward to AJ turning heel, yet again, because this company simply hates the fact that fans see him as their poster boy!
And thus, 2012 ends the same way 2011 and 2010 did before it, with TNA Management's middle fingers stuck out right in front of you as they laugh in your face. I swear to God, if any movie studio, or record company, or television network, or radio station ever came close to showing half, HALF, the contempt that TNA does for its own fanbase, they'd die in a millisecond. Yet, TNA still lives, to which we can thank Panda Energy, Spike TV, and the collective ire of nearly every single decision maker in TNA, who feel that trolling you, the wrestling fan, is worth spending millions upon millions of dollars funding a wrestling company to do. I mean, hell, you could have just started a website for, like, a couple hundred bucks, if that?