“In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” – Andy Warhol
While the American artist’s iconic statement can hardly be narrowed down to a single interpretation, it has been regarded as prophetic by various sociologists and media experts. In the 21st century, the Internet age has opened doors for people of various backgrounds and socioeconomic environments to make themselves known through publicity channels which are always on the lookout for new sensations. What is “viral” today ultimately gets buried in a constantly updated pool of information and entertainment. The “15 minutes of fame” theory has also been linked to a short collective attention span, and with this phenomenon in mind, TNA Wrestling almost seems like a promotion which excels at catering to modern audiences. Almost.
The past three years of TNA programming have produced a total of fourteen World Heavyweight Championship reigns, with Bully Ray being the only name to hold the title twice. TNA main-eventers seem to come and go, often without the proper build-up to establish them as credible champions. Most notably, when Chris Sabin was granted a title shot in July 2013, he had spent nearly two years away from the ring as a result of consecutive injuries. His victory over Bully, who was at the time the top villain in the company, came across as contrived and illogical due to fast-forwarded storytelling which chose to skip Sabin’s progression up the ladder of success.
What is more frustrating is the creative team’s inability to capitalize on the little time and effort invested in a particular name’s elevation. Just when a titleholder begins to gain momentum, he has to step down and make room for the next short-lived champion. In an effort to keep Impact Wrestling exciting and dynamic, TNA has forsaken consistency and has turned its World Heavyweight Championship into a prop for one-hit wonders. The current on-screen roles of former champions such as James Storm and Magnus in no way indicate that the same characters were once regarded as “the top guys”. A look at the careers of Hulk Hogan and John Cena reveals that TNA’s approach is in sharp contrast to the way WWE builds top talent, through constant exposure and close attention to win-loss records.
An impressive title reign can make viewers forget a the missing months of build-up. Despite accusations of ripping off Daniel Bryan’s rise to superstardom in WWE, Eric Young has produced some good matches in recent months, particularly at last Sunday’s Slammiversary. When his shoulders carried the weight of both Bobby Lashley and Austin Aries, Young looked like a true champion. The disappointment came when several days later, on the June 19th episode of Impact Wrestling, the trigger was pulled on another title change, with Lashley scoring a clean victory over EY. By diminishing the importance of the big Slammiversary event and giving the belt to a name that has shown little to no character for the two months he has been around, TNA once again taught a lesson in taking a talent that is World Championship material, crowning him the champion, and somehow making the audience not care.
Lashley is a legitimate fighter with a great look and popularity which transcends the boundaries of professional wrestling. Whereas the in-ring competitor would be a good champion on paper, little about his on-screen persona has caused any kind of emotional investment. The Road to Slammiversary revolved around Young vs. MVP, with Lashley and Kenny King acting as mere lackeys. Without the necessary TV time for the newly crowned champion’s character to be developed, the only reason viewers should care about Lashley is because they care about the guy pulling his strings more.
Eric Young is currently the last name on a long list of people who have had fifteen minutes of fame as TNA World Heavyweight Champions. Whether Lashley joins it remains to be seen.
By the way, Bobby Roode is back, and he may be challenging for the title.