Wrestling fans are finding themself in something of an odd position currently, with competing televised wrestling companies competing with opposing ‘invasion’ storylines: I think it all started with the group now known as the Nexus invading Monday Night RAW, and since then, a group of ECW ‘Originalz’ have taken to invading TNA, with the incomparable Mick Foley as their leader.
Now, I think the natures of both invasions reflect the differences between the two companies pretty accurately. I must admit, I haven’t been drawn to watching TNA since RVD won their World Championship in what was, to me, a highlight of an otherwise uninspiring, slightly backward night of wrestling. I have watched iMPACT! in it’s entirety twice. The time I have already mentioned, and the famous 4th January show when TNA (headed by Hulk Hogan) went head to head with WWE. I’ve always maintained that is TNA can draw me, I will always give it a chance, and this is something I will certainly be doing this Thursday, mostly out of respect for Foley, ECW, and it’s ethos.
However, it is pretty clear to me that the more interesting, more intriguing ‘invasion’ is coming from WWE, and there are several reasons why this is the case. The most prominant is the actual story. The WWE/Nexus invasion has essentially been built-up since the NXT brand started out in February and, while retaining intrigue in to the group’s reasoning behind their attacks, it is clear they have a sincere and even relatable reason for what they are doing, being treated as inferior to WWE superstars and treated like lackeys. Their problem is with WWE management and is fundamental to the idea of what makes a WWE superstar. In that sense, it represents a genuine change and threat to a status quo. This was best summed up during their initial attack in which they tor up everything and everyone WWE, as they have continued to do since attacking the company’s top star, chairman, and legends (the legends being the most taboo).
Now, the TNA invasion has yet to become fully formed. Indeed, Foley has only shown up for the first time at this week’s iMPACT! tapings, though other ECW Originalz, such as Tommy Dreamer have been hovering around for some time. Apparantly, the ECW guys (and ex ECW TNA guys) had a crazy brawl with people like RVD and other TNA guys. That’s fine in itself, and the bedlam, nostalgia and novelty will certainly be a draw initially. But then what? Why would ECW guys want to attack TNA now? There’s only so long big brawls will be interesting. An invasion requires some sort of ideological dispute, but unlike between WWE and Nexus, there is no such clash here, especially considering many of the TNA guys, RVD foremost among them, are former ECW guys themselves. Admittedly it’s early on to say this is the case for sure, but it typifies the TNA ethos: rather than doing something original, they prefer empty sensationalism and poorly-developed, very thin points of tension, filled in by excesses of the ‘adult’ approach to wrestling of the attitude era that is now outdated.
This brings me to the second reason the ECW invasion is less interesting/entertaining. The original ECW which TNA are invoking (and dare I say, trying to milk) ended in 2001, and so, all of the top guys from the promotion are, shall we say, ‘veterans.’ Invasion storylines always become unibquitous, and the ECW faction will be centre-stage, which means that TNA will be dominated by old (and, respectfully, past their prime) ECW stars. This has always been a major problem with TNA, and it will only be worse during this invasion. While some younger guys might get a boost from this by being booked against people like Foley, it is clear that the real interest in this will be the ECW guys, necessarily limiting the interest in the guys that need the push like D’Angelo Dinero, and Hernandez. It’s pandering to nostalgia rather than doing something fresh, and it’ll be guys like this that get hurt.
Meanwhile, WWE is doing the exact opposite. The Nexus is all about young stars forcing themselves upon the establishment and asserting their right to an opportunity in the industry. It had long (and justifiably) been levelled at WWE a couple of years ago that their main event was monopolised by four or five guys. They have since moved to change this, and NXT and the Nexus shows the complete rehabilitation of the roster for young talent. Most of the Nexus guys hadn’t even been on television before NXT, and here they are challenging the top, established stars in the indusrty; people like Cena, Orton, Edge. It is a youthful revolution if nothing else (though as i’ve explained, it is more than that). Seeing new talents, with new gimmicks and the hunger that comes with being young is more interesting, more vital than seeing (though Gold bless them) people like Foley, Al Snow and Tommy Dreamer re-hashing what they did much better a decade ago.
Despite these pre-conceptions, it is certainly something worth a watch, at first at least. So I will be watching on Thursday, and it may even draw me to the next week, but I can’t shake my suspicions that it will become uninteresting very quickly.