Last week, I previewed Genesis, last Thursday’s edition of TNA television, as though it was going to be the first half of a four-hour pay-per-view style show. Instead, Genesis Part 1 was a two-hour advertisement hyping Genesis Part 2 masquerading as an episode of Impact. It claimed to be something special but delivered only the standard fare available on any given Thursday night. In this era of branding, franchising, and marketing, names like Genesis mean everything. So when you promise a special named that and deliver an infomercial, you are gambling with the fundamental trust customers put in your product.
People actually got excited for the idea of Raw being a “Supershow,” when all that really meant was “Smackdown doesn’t matter anymore.” That’s how fundamental branding is to the way we watch television . Consider the difference between a standard feature on SportsCenter versus “An Outside The Lines Special Report,” or when an episode of your favorite family sitcom was suddenly “A Very Special Episode of [Title].” Names carry expectations, and TNA shirked their responsibility not only as a wrestling company, but as a marketing body with what they presented last week.
Leading into the show, I summarized and analyzed three weeks of Impact because it was the best way to preview a big super-card, PPV-style show (the way that TNA’s new programming cycle works): to consider its build in total. I asked myself which feuds were working and which weren’t; treated the shows as building up to the culmination of something. What did I get? A lot of “OH MY GOSH, ISN’T NEXT WEEK GOING TO BE SO EXCITING?!” The use of the name “Genesis” just felt like a desperate attempt to pop a rating above 1.0 two weeks in a row rather than just one, and if Vince Russo has taught us anything, popping ratings is the heroin of sustainable television writing.
I wasn’t personally insulted or anything. Sure, TNA made my preview essentially worthless, but it was already laughably insignificant.
This IS, however, exactly the type of betrayal of the way wrestling, and entertainment in general, works that can make someone feel personally insulted (See: WCW). Imagine you decided to spend two hours of your time checking out a performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III, only to get to the theater and find out that the first hour and a half of the two hour performance was just a sales pitch for NEXT WEEK’s performance, after they told you HAD TO watch the three parts of Henry VI beforehand to know what’s going on in the final part of the series.
Now imagine if, at the end of the hour and a half sales pitch, they THEN and ONLY THEN gave you “Now is the Winter of Our Discontent” part of Richard III. Only, towards the end of the scene, you find out that it wasn’t actually the scene you had been promised you would see an hour and a half earlier, but a new scene that takes place in the summer. Or, in the case of TNA, an Ethan Carter III-Sting match with a DQ finish done entirely so that they can write The Icon off to Stamford on NEXT WEEK’S EPISODE in a title match against Magnus.
When a wrestling company promises a big card that is supposed to be so different that they literally change the name of their television show and deliver a main event whose finish is just the set-up to next week’s suddenly-bigger main event and a grudge match that represents the third half-hearted blowoff of a feud that was supposed to end three months ago, it’s beyond “annoying”.
The sad part of all this is that Genesis Part 2 actually has a strong lineup, and if last week’s episode of TNA television had been simply titled “Impact Wrestling” instead of “Genesis,” I might have thought it was a solid go-home show. Instead, however, I’m left feeling bitter and pre-disposed towards not trusting TNA’s ability to build, advertise, and deliver a show that is any way special.