Wednesday, 19 June 2013

TNA Analysed 10: Gut Check what you can't pay

Yeah crappy title but still the main focus here is Gut Check, TNA's answer to WWE's hilarious failure known as NXT.  I don't know what TNA upper management thought they were achieving by copying a failing show of their rival.  Maybe they thought they could somehow do better?  But then when you look at the original NXT it did sort of serve it's purpose.  The entire NXT series 1 roster were elevated to RAW and a majority of them still work for the company.

Skip Sheffield became the new incarnation of Goldberg in the form of Ryback.  Daniel Bryan who got fired originally came back and bigger than ever as the now lunatic neck beard we all love to shout YES! at.  Wade Barrett has gone on to become a multi time Intercontinental champion.  David Otunga was prominent in several major storylines in both RAW and Smackdown.  Heath Slater had a bumpy start but eventually became a regular player in the modern version of Too Cool in the form of the 3 man band.  Justin Gabriel became a popular high flyer in the midcard although his appearances have become less frequent of recent.  Michael Tarver who was the only member of Nexus to vanish completely, shot himself in the foot by speaking out against golden boy John Cena and leaving wrestling entirely to become a christian rapper.

NXT season 2 wasn't as successful but it did give us Micheal McGillicutty now known as Curtis Axel so it isn't all bad, unless WWE screw up Curtis by burying him in matches against Triple H and John Cena, Oh wait...

Anyway TNA obviously saw some merit in the idea of a kayfabe audition show with fan input but couldn't afford to run a completely separate show for this, so they debuted it alongside open fight night, another train wreck from TNA creative.  Gut check basically runs the idea of giving a  relatively unknown wrestler a chance at the big time (stop laughing) by having a match against a main roster opponent to impress the judges who we will come to later.  The winner of the match didn't matter since the TNA guy always buried them in the match.  TNA wanted this to be a little more real, acknowledging that the show is fake by having the judges discuss matches as if they were auditioning talent.

A later version of the show dropped the idea of the competitor against the TNA guy, instead opting to have two contestants who would go on to have generally lacklustre matches that neither impressed nor entertained.  I guess TNA eventually figured out that having your hopeful contestant get their asses handed to them each month wasn't the best way to put over new characters for the fans.

The problem with this mix of real and kayfabe was the fact that the gut check contestants acted both as themselves and their characters depending on the segment.  A more recent gut check saw a large amazon style female wrestler talk about her personal life and her ill mother, crying in the process and hoping she did a good enough job.  In the ring though she is a total heel and everyone in attendance hated her even though we just heard this story about how upset she is about her mother and how much she needs this job.  This mix was just weird and was probably one of the main reasons Gut check vanished from TNA in the last month or so.

The original gut check which featured Alex Silva as it's winner was a bad omen to begin with.  Ric Flair who was about ready to leave TNA after numerous backstage issues with management, was the main judge alongside Al Snow and Bruce Prichard.  The scripted idea was for Silva to not make the cut in the very first gut check to make it look like you had to be the best to get a contract.  Flair and Snow both gave their opinions with Flair saying no and Snow saying yes.  Silva was given an opportunity to "kick out" and state his case for why he deserved a contract.  His ad lib actually impressed Flair enough that he changed his vote to yes thus giving Silva the contract, making Prichards opinion pointless, to which prichard went off script also saying yes.

Apparently Silva was meant to fail as per the script.  Al Snow was supposed to be the babyface judge with Flair being the heel one and Prichard being the neutral guy.  I think personally that Flair wanted to fuck with TNA so he changed his mind just to mess up the segment, but what followed was both hilarious and confusing.

Gut Check is very clearly staged like all of wrestling in spite of the fact that TNA wanted to sell the segment as if was a reality TV show.  None of the gut check competitors are just randomly chosen by audition tapes, they are selected and then probably sign a short term deal for however many matches they will work for TNA.  They do the gut check and then leave or move onto OVW which is what they would have been signed to in the first place.  No wrestling company in their right mind would allow someone who hasn't been auditioned first, turn up on national television and potentially fuck up the show or cause a major incident.  So Alex Silva was likely only signed for the one match that night and then go back to the indies, but Flairs change of heart suddenly meant in kayfabe terms at least, that he was now part of the roster.

So what did TNA do?  They actually hired Alex Silva and moved him to OVW for a year.  Seriously they did even having him turn up a grand total of 3 times on impact as a heel with zero personality, charisma or wrestling talent.  The logic is impossible to understand here because TNA were under no obligation to follow their own made up rules.  Since they were moving all gut check winners to OVW anyway it wouldn't have made a single bit of difference had they just left it there without signing him to a contract.  maybe TNA felt that if they didn't they would get bad press from dirtsheets and wrestling websites, but all this did was bring more attention to the matter and hence my writing about it here.

Gut check changed a little after Flair left, with Tazz joining the judging panel as a slightly confused heel.  What I mean by this is he sometimes acted like a heel and other times seems wholly uninterested.  Since the original matches failed to make the grade they switched to the two contestant model, but this still didn't make the segment anymore interesting.  The problem TNA had is that they didn't have an entire show to debut and build these stars up.  Showing a brief vid package of the guy or girl with some home footage of their indie matches isn't going to suddenly convert a fan who has never seen or heard of them before.  WWE could simply buy up people from different promotions and essentially market them to their live audience to see how they worked out.  A majority are obviously going to fail but the ones who do make a connection are going to be added to the main roster.

TNA however had a single match and a weeks gap before having a 30 second backstage discussion segment, followed by a voting segment.  It all felt rushed and very uncoordinated.  There is the exception to the rule of course.  Christian York was a former TNA wrestler back in their early days and some fans remembered him so instantly wanted to see more when he made his gut check debut.  He was pretty good for a few weeks, but eventually declined and became something of a botch magnet and subsequently vanished from impact screens.

I don't count Joey Ryan's gut check because he was already signed and working as part of a storyline before his match so it was an attempt by the writers to try and emulate NXT.  It failed of course and the company had little idea what to do with Joey Ryan since they got him, other than using him sporadically in lame ref gimmicks or squash matches.  

The end result of gut check is poor to say the least.  The segment created zero stars or fan interest and the segment was ultimately used as a vehicle for Aces and eights to get Wes Brisco into the group.  I guess you could say they salvaged it a little, but even when they do remember to run a gut check segment it means little and the talent they show off isn't given a fair shot at making an impression so it's a waste of everyones time.  Really they should have debuted several new guys and over several weeks, maybe months, had them wrestle each other and main roster talent before finally judging them and picking two to make the grade.  At least it would have allowed fans to pick favourites and give TNA some feedback on these guys.


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