“Without Impact Wrestling, what is going to happen to professional wrestling? It seems like everybody else is ashamed of wrestling, they want to forget that it is WRESTLING, it’s almost like they’re making it a footnote or a sidebar.” – Christopher Daniels
“Wrestling Matters” was the tagline of an entire campaign to promote TNA iMPACT!’s transition to Impact Wrestling two years ago, basically designed as a response to WWE’s directive to eliminate the word “wrestling” from its programming in favor of “sports entertainment”. I bought it. Even when TNA’s booking fails to make any sense, the company has always had some of the best pure wrestlers in the world and especially since their weekly show has been repackaged as “Impact Wrestling”, they have been given more chances to shine than WWE’s best in-ring performers.
Over the past few months TNA contracts have been offered to some, to put it lightly, bland workers. I have not heard of anyone impressed by Alex Silva other than the Gut Check judges. Mike Knox was not exactly popular with the fans during his time in WWE. Wes Brisco and Jay Bradley still have a lot to work on, and Garett Bischoff’s push is a downright slap to the face of wrestling fans.
Enter Lei’D Tapa.
On the February 28 edition of Impact Wrestling, she squared off against fellow Gut Check competitor Ivelisse Velez, a charismatic competitor who was willing to sacrifice everything she had to make it in the wrestling business. Ivelisse impressed with her MMA training, her high-flying skills, the more technical aspects of her wrestling style, and most importanly, her heart. It did not take long before the crowd was firmly behind her back.
Lei’D Tapa, on the other hand, entered the Impact Zone impressing with little more than her look. She had a definite size advantage over Velez, but every single movement of hers, from her entrance to her wrestling and all the way to her interaction with the crowd, reeked of inexperience and uncertainty. Despite Velez obviously being the one carrying the match, her talent was unable to make up for Lei’D Tapa’s lack of ring awareness. Even when Velez had a submission maneuver locked on Tapa, it looked as if the larger woman was tripping over her own legs rather than being taken out by the intensity of the hold.
One week later, The Gut Check judges eliminated Velez in an ultimate sign of disrespect, giving Lei’D Tapa the opportunity of a lifetime for her size and look alone, much to the dismay of the Impact Zone audience. Later the same night, she walked out to the ring and delivered one of the most unconvincing promos I have ever heard, which she then repeated nearly word by word when she was given the chance to “kick out”. A couple of minutes later, Lei’D Tapa was announced as the newest member of the TNA roster.
Are TNA trying to be more “sports entertainment” now? Or are they simply out of touch with what the fans want?
What happened to the pride the company had in the Knockouts Division, labeling it as the best Women’s Division in wrestling?
Most imporantly, however, we need an answer to the question: Does wrestling still matter in TNA?