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September 26, 2008

Is art imitating life for Christian Cage?

While watching last night’s Impact, my initial reaction was to criticize TNA for using a plot device that it has done to death. But I can’t follow through, because I am legitimately interested to see how this one turns out.

In the past, TNA devoted a lot of TV time and built pay-per-view shows around which side Tomko and A.J. Styles were on in the Kurt Angle-Christian Cage feud. It all seemed like such a waste of time and the booking became convoluted. Now, the question being posed is: Which side is Cage on? Is he with the big-name veterans or the young TNA stars?

I’m a big fan of Cage as a performer, so anything that puts the focus on him is fine with me. This angle is compelling because, as Cage explained during an interview with Karen Angle last night, he has become a big star, yet he is not that far removed from being one of the young guys who was kept down by veterans.

It’s also interesting how this story line about having to choose sides mirrors Cage’s current situation in real life. It’s no secret that his contract is expiring soon and that he will have to make a decision whether to re-sign with the upstart TNA or return to the established WWE.

As far as the story line, while Cage might be better as a heel, I’m hoping he doesn’t turn again. Cage hasn’t even been with the company three years and he already has turned twice. The frequent turns only weaken characters and confuse casual viewers.

Other thoughts on last night’s show:

For the second straight week, Kurt Angle, Jeff Jarrett and Sting were very good on the mic. Angle’s line to Jarrett about telling his kids that their father was a quitter was reminiscent of the recent Shawn Michaels-Chris Jericho promos. I also liked Sting’s slide show, and he did seem a little more heelish this week. …

The one thing I didn’t like about Sting’s promo was how he kept “pulling back the curtain,” basically admitting that the business is a work. We all know that, but I thought the point is that we’re supposed to suspend our disbelief. He and Ric Flair were “confidants and brothers?” I thought they were sworn enemies for most of their careers. Jarrett called Sting and asked him to come to TNA? I thought Jarrett wanted no part of Sting when he arrived on the scene. …

Why do people keep saying that Samoa Joe and Styles have been with the company since the beginning? Styles has, but Joe has only been in TNA since 2005 (the company was formed in 2002). Speaking of Joe, he said that he wasn’t going to yell and scream anymore. That’s a good thing. …

The sound of airplanes crashing was absent from Sheik Abdul Bashir’s ring entrance. It’s great to see that someone in TNA came to their senses. …

Nothing against Hector Guerrero personally, but I think LAX is better off without him. He just didn’t fit in with two street thugs and it seemed like he was trying too hard to imitate his late brother, Eddie. LAX’s act was diminished at first without Konnan, but now I think Homicide and Hernandez can stand on their own. …

I’m guessing that a lot of younger viewers had no idea that Sonjay Dutt and SoCal Val’s “love-in” was a spoof of something John Lennon and Yoko Ono did nearly 40 years ago. Heck, I’ll bet most young viewers don’t even remember Julian Lennon. Or Sonny Onoo, for that matter. …

SoCal Val said that she didn’t owe anyone an explanation as to why she turned on Jay Lethal. I originally thought that was the TNA creative team’s way of saying that they couldn’t come up with one. It then was made clear, however, that Val is under the impression that Dutt comes from a wealthy family, so she’s a gold-digger. …

Except for the Dutt-Val segment, there wasn’t anything too silly on the show this week (in other words, no Prince Justice Brotherhood). There was one very funny line. When Booker T. said that “the ratings went through the roof” after he came to TNA, I laughed so hard that I nearly fell off my Baltimore Ravens recliner.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 3:34 PM | | Comments (7)


Kevin, you said that you nearly fell off your Ravens recliner laughing at Booker T.
Did it have anything to do with you wearing a James Storm "football helmet" ?
I was torn between watching TNA and USC / Oregon St . - TNA lost out to football other than checking it out during commercials.
The more I see Samoa Joe , the more I am disgusted by his "appearance".

Kevin, I'm a bit confused by your issue with Sting "pulling back the curtain", when this entire angle is doing just that.

I'm glad Joe is going to stop yelling, perhaps he can convince AJ to do the same....

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: I have no problem with using the politics of wrestling as an angle, as far as the idea of established stars thinking the young guys don't show proper respect, while the young guys feel the veterans don't want to pass the torch.

What I don't care for is totally breaking character and saying that guys are friends who have been enemies on camera for years. In a shoot interview that's fine, of course, but not within the context of the show. It would be like Jack Bauer on the show 24 killing a bad guy, and then saying later in the show that he's really Kiefer Sutherland and the guy he "killed" isn't really dead.

The Christian Cage interview was good but when did Karen Angle become his mother?

Is it me or is Booker T a cross between Robert Mugabe and Heile Selassie?

Speaking of Booker, I find it interesting he mocked AJ Styles for being from a small town. Maybe AJ should just call Booker a community organizer.

So Matt Morgan talked to Abyss' therapist. Doesn't that constitute a violation of patient-doctor privilege? I know this a wrestling show but come on.

I still think Sheik Abdul Bashir is a pale imitation of Mohammed Hassan.

I did like Roxxi incognito as Raesha although I was hoping for Cheerleader Melissa.

TNA is wildly inconsistent with their thinking on 'pulling back the curtain'. The same thing happened when Angle called out Jarrett's kids by name. A couple weeks ago AJ Styles made a point of talking about missing his wife and kids. In many respects, the Rough Cut series is entirely about 'pulling back the curtain'.

They really need to make some good decisions about how frequently they do this and in what situations. Refusing to allow fans to suspend their disbelief may be moving them in a really tough direction. How do fans decide what's real and what's fake?

I'm kind of torn on the whole Christian Cage issue. He is a phenomenal performer and ranks up there with Edge and Jericho in terms of charisma and talent and if he stays with TNA he might have another run as champ and maybe be one of the guys that make the company big. By going to WWE he might just get lost in the shuffle although he could have awesome stories with Edge or Jericho. Then again, I do think he deserves to go back to the "big time" and maybe even have a run with one of the titles.

To TP: I think Vince Russo wants to blur that line further between what's real and what's fake. It's the only way to regain some semblance of kayfabe in an age where everyone knows that wrestling is scripted. If they sometimes talk about things that are "real" on the television show (like in the "Rough Cut" segments) and then incorporate some of those realistic aspects into the script, fans are put in the position of saying, "Maybe it's not all fake." Which is what the wrestling industry would love. The bag is half-full of cat, not half-empty, in Russo's philosophy.

Which brings me to the UK Sun article with Kurt Angle that's been the buzz of the Internet and is now (according to wrestling spoilers) being incorporated into the TNA script. Everybody seems to be buying into this interview hook, line and sinker as if it's 100 percent real and not, very possibly, a work. TNA has been letting its wrestlers give interviews to mainstream media publications lately. Presumably these are "shoots." The actor who portrays a character on a wrestling show is giving an interview as himself and answering honestly. Like, to use Kevin's example, Keifer Sutherland giving an interview about "24." He doesn't do it as Jack Bauer. He gives it as himself and presumably answers honestly, and when he can't reveal something, he just says "no comment," he doesn't make something up to further the plot of "24." This Kurt Angle interview that is now a part of the show makes me seriously question the authenticity or genuineness of his comments. If I was the journalist writing that article, I'd feel burned and if I was the editor, I would ban future interviews with TNA wrestlers, because their veracity could no longer be trusted.

To Kevin: As a professional journalist who covers professional wrestling, how do you deal with wrestlers who may or may not be trying to put one over on you, put you in the work, so to speak. How can you tell if they are being honest or if they are still in character? If a wrestler starts to tell you something you think might be part of his gimmick, do you tell him to cut it out, this is a real interview?

I'd love to see you write something sometime on dealing with this problem, which I think is a major one for wrestling reporters who work for legitimate publications.

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: I try to do all of my interviews in "shoot" mode, but the thing is, even if guys are answering questions out of character, they still could be working you. For some wrestlers, Hulk Hogan for example, I think everything he says is a work to some degree. BTW, Angle is notorious for working people in his interviews, and I have no doubt that his recent comments are to further his angle with Jarrett. Russo has always loved "worked shoots."

i love you (.)(.)

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
E-mail Kevin.

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