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When TNA crowned Matt Hardy as their world champion on Sunday, heads were scratched and eyes were rolled. Hardy is one of the most popular talents on TNA's roster and the event was in North Carolina, but still, taking the championship off of a young champion like Ethan Carter III and putting it on a 41 year old former WWE tag champion who was likely to either retire or leave the company within the next couple years was seen as kind of a backwards move by TNA.
Well, the discussion about it didn't last very long, because just one day after the event, TNA introduced a bizarre storyline concept. EC3 had filed an injunction against TNA, Matt Hardy had vacated the title as opposed to fighting the injunction since EC3 threatened to bring up Jeff Hardy's previous criminal history, even though by doing so Matt essentially brought up Jeff's history anyway. So Matt was the champion for barely 24 hours before vacating the championship.
Ideally this whole storyline would have played out on the first post-Bound for Glory episode of Impact Wrestling, but TNA was unable to do that. For whatever reason, either Destination America isn't willing to fund anymore domestic TV production, TNA couldn't book enough talents, etc. TNA has no TV tapings scheduled until the UK tapings in January. So instead of having fresh programming for the audience, TNA is forced to just air previously taped matches that they randomly taped months ago, probably just in case something like the current situation were to occur. Because they are just showing matches taped from months ago, TNA is forced to tell their story through backstage promos; as far as anyone knows, no actual allusions to the current storyline will be made in front of a live audience on episodes of Impact. After all, nobody knew that this was the storyline they would be using months ago when they taped all the matches.
TNA could never just show random matches from previous tapings with no explanation for anything, so they came up with the idea to crown a new champion. Dixie Carter and Billy Corgan introduced their new plan, a wrestling world cup featuring 32 wrestlers, with eight groups of four wrestlers. The wrestlers will wrestle all of the other competitors in their group, earning points for a win or a draw. The top two finishers in each group will advance to a 16 person knockout round, which will lead to a final match between the last two wrestlers, the winner of whom will become the new world champion. Carter and Corgan explained that they came up with this idea as opposed to waiting to fight EC3 in court because they didn't want TNA to go months without a world champion.
So now that all the details have been explained, let's make a logical examination of this storyline. Carter and Corgan chose not to fight EC3 in court because they didn't want TNA to go so long without a world champion, which makes sense since a promotion without a champion isn't much a promotion at all. The issue is that Carter and Corgan's solution to the problem was to introduce a huge and complex tournament to crown a new champion, which is probably going to take months to finish anyway. If TNA was on a normal taping schedule, they could just have a rematch between Hardy and EC3 on Impact, maybe a steel cage or ladder match. TNA can't do that because they have to stretch this storyline out until perhaps the end of the year, so they were forced to come up with one idea that would occupy two hours of TV time a week for the rest of the year.
Another fallacy is that EC3 apparently has the greatest legal team in the history of the universe because he was able to get an air-tight injunction against Matt Hardy in 24 hours. EC3's explanation for getting the injunction is that he felt that Jeff and Matt conspired to illegally take the world championship off of him, and that as the plaintiff he deserves to get his title back. EC3 doesn't even want to bother around with getting a rematch; he wants that title back around his waist without having to step in the ring. Despite that original complaint, EC3 is apparently willing to get involved in this tournament to crown a new champion, which using the same logic that he used to filing the injunction, makes no sense. At least if he had a rematch EC3 would have a 50/50 chance of winning, now he has to compete against 31 other competitors to get his title back. Why couldn't his crackerjack legal team stop TNA from doing this?
Also, at Bound for Glory, Tyrus won a gauntlet match to become the new number one contender for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, so he should be upset about this new formula since as a heel number one contender, he should feel that the vacated title is his. Strangely, TNA hasn't mentioned Tyrus winning the number one contendership at all, even though he won it just 4 days ago.
From a viewership standpoint, I don't know how successful this formula is going to be. I'm sure we will see some pretty strong wrestling matches, but putting on decent matches has never been a problem for TNA. As I already pointed out, the matches were taped long before the storyline was enacted, so the fans will have no idea that the match that they thought was just a normal one-on-one encounter is actually a match that will have a big impact on the next world champion. Not only do the fans not know, but the wrestlers don't know it either, so who knows how good the matches are going to be.
Taking random old matches and piecing together a tournament out of them is pretty unique to say the least. Imagine if you watched a bunch of random Nitro matches from 1997 and on a sheet of paper kept track of wrestlers' wins and losses, with the wrestler with the most victories becoming the world champion, even though none of the fans or the wrestlers in the matches have any idea what is going on.
As easy as it is to count this storyline out as a ridiculous ploy, what exactly were the alternatives for TNA? They were caught in a situation where they couldn't tape TV, yet they still had time to fill. They could have shown a series of "Best of…" matches, but that would have gotten old fairly quickly. As wacky as this storyline is, at least it gives fans a chance to watch matches that actually matter from week to week.
It is unclear on how long TNA plans to go with this. Obviously, TNA doesn't have any matches taped where the winner is holding up the world championship, so whenever the final match is going to be, that will have to be taped. TNA hasn't made a peep about new TV tapings in 2015, the next scheduled tapings are not until January in the UK. TNA does have some house shows coming up in Louisiana at the end of the month, so those could become TV tapings, although TNA hasn't mentioned anything about that. They also have a One Night Only PPV taping in New Orleans on Oct. 30. The theme for that PPV is a one-night tournament called the "Battle of New Orleans" but I assume they could potentially convert that into an Impact taping. If not, it appears that this storyline could last all the way through December, which seems hard to believe but I guess they could stretch it out that far if they had to.
TNA has gone through a lot of turbulence pretty much since their inception, but right now things have gotten pretty low for them. They are rumored to being cut by Destination America, a C-level cable channel, and it appears that Destination America is no longer funding their TV tapings, hence why they have none. TNA recently went back to house shows leading up to Bound for Glory, but unfortunately they did wretched attendance, suggesting that their fan base has mostly abandoned the brand. TNA has been down for the count before and have managed to hang on for longer than most people expected, but at the current rate they are going I seriously doubt whether we will see TNA around this time next year.
You can follow Jesse Collings on Twitter @JesseCollings