Redesigning The TNA Knockouts
TNA could find themselves in a difficult position coming up very soon. The contracts of some of their major stars are expiring, and they need to find the money to sign all of them. They also need to treat the negotiations as serious as WWE, as evidenced by Gail Kim’s departure. Of the contracts that need to be negotiated, the most important is that of Awesome/Astonishing Kong.
TNA can take some credit in turning Kong into a legitimate draw, and the television ratings back this up. Her segments are almost always the highest rated on the show no matter what timeslot she is placed in.
She had her foil in Gail Kim for much of this run, and the argument can be made they played off each other so well it made for real, compelling television. An argument could also be made though that she is the draw as her other segments, most notably her $25,000 challenge, drew very well. It also helped create a fledgling new star in Taylor Wilde.
The influence of Kong in TNA’s women division has been significant. Sure, she shares some of the praise with Gail Kim, but a hero cannot be great without a great threat. Looking at the landscape of women’s wrestling, there was no one that fit the mold of a monster heel. This is not to say there are not a bunch of legitimate female athletes out there, but none have quite the same level of intimidation as Kong.
If TNA negotiates with Kong in the same fashion as they did with Gail Kim, we will be seeing Kong in WWE. WWE may not know exactly how to treat her – and hopefully it will not be on the same level as a Kamala or Umaga – but they will offer her more money and much more exposure. They will offer more than TNA not just because they are the big bully, but that they can see a special talent and will grab it.
Now, if Kong were to leave TNA, it would create a significant void for TNA’s Knockouts division. Their top heel and top babyface will no longer be with the company, but with some easy change booking they can sustain and possibly thrive.
TNA currently has a significant crop of talented and unique female performers on the roster. Even if they didn’t there are plenty of viable female wrestlers they could bring in to keep things fresh. They are also a diverse enough bunch that they can cover for the losses of Gail and Kong.
Currently their TNA Knockouts Champion is Taylor Wilde. She spent a significant amount of time in WWE’s developmental group and was released without ever making the main raster on Raw or Smackdown. It was never a matter of talent, but Taylor never connected in the matches I saw. WWE apparently saw the same thing and allowed her to move on.
Taylor became TNA champion by defeating Kong in a seemingly fluke happening, but she went on and defeated her again in the same manner a month later. TNA has done little to establish Taylor as a legit champion as she continually uses a roll-up or a backslide to defeat her opponents.
As the champion – and a long-reigning champion – now, Taylor needs something that will make her seem legit. A finisher is the first way to accomplish this and now, with the possibility of Kong leaving, is the time to have it happen. She has the spunk and crowd appeal now but her lame ending to her matches will eventually lead to a bad taste in the audience’s mouths. This is the first step in making Taylor a legit talent and draw. She has to show she is supposed to hang with the other wrestlers instead of just getting by. Especially with the absence of Gail Kim now, it is crucial in establishing a new top babyface.
On the heel side of this all, TNA already has a pair of strong heels in “The Beautiful People.” Angelina Love and Velvet Sky are the top of the heel chain if Kong is to leave. Angelina is another WWE developmental talent that never got her chance at the main roster and it always confused me. She is a good hand and a decent interview so it really never made a lot of sense. In TNA she has flourished and has established herself as the narcissistic challenger in the, dare I say, Ric Flair mold.
Angelina presents herself in a confident manner and has the talent in the ring to make her case as well. Her sidekick – and this is how she is portrayed by TNA’s booking – Velvet fits the mold as an equal to Angelina but without the in-ring prowess. They are a strong group, and this is the key to TNA if they have to recover from the loss of Kong.
At the next TNA PPV Taylor faces off with Angelina in a title match, and this is the perfect time to put the strap on Angelina and have give her a nice long run with all of the babyfaces chasing her. Yes, this means taking the title away from Taylor and in turn taking away her only identifiable trait but in the long run it is what is best for the division and in turn the company.
Angelina can play the vulnerable heel champion and people will continue to tune in to see if “this is the match.” Continuing with the Ric Flair model, she doesn’t have to win all of the matches. In TNA, when they remember, a title changes hands on a DQ but not on a countout. If they change the rules or just continue to forget them, Velvet can be the catalyst for some countouts and DQs, which will enable Angelina to retain the title but make the babyface look that much stronger. It is a win-win, and her personality alone can carry these sort of decisions so nothing becomes repetitive. Eventually, when one babyface does the unthinkable and defeats her for the title, it will seem like a big deal. Much like when Kong lost her title. It was a big deal and handled over months of build-up.
The TNA Knockouts also boast ODB, Roxxi Laveaux and Traci Brooks, just to name a few, so there is enough talent there for feuds centered on the title or around personal issues. There is, as stated before, plenty of talent in the indies that can be brought in as well.
So, even if Kong leaves, all hope is not lost. The Knockouts division will be different but it doesn’t have to suffer. New talent can be brought in and existing talent will and should be elevated. The presentation of the division will be significantly changed. No longer will it be the faces chasing the monster heel. Instead it would be the faces chasing the arrogant and crafty heel. Regardless, with all that talent, the division shouldn’t skip a beat.
Contact Jeremy Maes at email@example.com
I’d love to be in a hotel lobby and see Angelina walking around the halls in nothing but the big gold belt. (She can decide what to cover up)