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Mat Matters: Time to save the Knockouts division
By DANIEL WILSON - SLAM! Wrestling


Two of three Beautiful People - Velvet Sky and Madison Rayne. Photos courtesy TNA.

When Eric Bischoff started WCW Monday Nitro, his goal was to do everything he could that differed from what the then WWF was doing on their Monday Night Raw program.

Fifteen years later, he has forgotten his own mission statement and has let the once flourishing Knockouts Division fall into disrepair and begin to look similar to WWE's Diva offering.

Recently, TNA Knockout O.D.B. wrote on her Facebook page: "Just watched from my DVR the Knockouts match. Wow, WTF is happening to our division?"

She was referring to the match last month that pitted Velvet Sky against Angelina Love in what was supposed to be a Leather and Lace contest, but basically turned into Sky trying to strip Love to make her say "I Quit."

The week before, Impact featured a Lock Box Showdown between Knockout competitors that turned into a complete mess in the ring and outside it, with Tara losing her title and Daffney being forced to strip (although Lacey Von Erich took it upon herself to replace her).

Women wrestlers being used for tits and ass, not Total Non-Stop Action, is the path the Knockouts Division seems to be on since Bischoff and Hulk Hogan arrived on the scene, replacing the likes of Dutch Mantell and Scott D'Amore, who were architects of the division.

Before the Bischoff and Hogan era, enough time was devoted each week to two Knockout segments, one usually featuring The Beautiful People and whoever they were feuding with and another spotlighting other competitors in the division.

Since Bischoff and Hogan took over the reigns of TNA's creative direction, the Knockouts, as a group, have seen their TV time limited, which has led to a concentration on just a few of the promotion's women, namely The Beautiful People.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of The Beautiful People. They're three attractive women and their gimmick is entertaining, but they do lack the in-ring skill that many of the other Knockouts bring to the table.

Hogan and Bischoff were blessed with the return of Angelina Love early on in their "re-launching" of TNA. They booked her homecoming well, turning her against The Beautiful People, but despite concentrating on the rivalry over the last few months, they've failed to capitalize on it and have also been unsuccessful in creating secondary storylines for the division, although they briefly had something interesting going between Daffney and Tara, but muddled it up during the aforementioned Lock Box Showdown.

The Knockouts Division has also suffered some great roster losses since the backstage changes. Gone are Awesome Kong, Alissa Flash, Roxxi and Traci Brooks, all long-serving members of the group. Add to that the decreased roles currently being experienced by Sarita, Ayako Hamada and Taylor Wilde and the division is looking quite paltry.

And the bad news continues to pour in: Love and Daffney were recently injured and there are rumours of Tara's departure from TNA. Now, you're looking at a roster of only a handful of girls.

So, how can TNA dig themselves out of this hole and return the Knockouts Division back to its glory days? For starters, bring back Sarita and Wilde as a regular team and challengers to The Beautiful People (which it looks like they are working towards given recent Impact happenings).


Is Hamada praying for a new partner?
Next, find Hamada another partner and give her a shot at the tag titles she never lost in the ring. Most importantly, don't bring these women back for rare appearances. Make them prominent figures, once again.

Now that Bubba the Love Sponge has been terminated, try to make peace with Awesome Kong, one of the top female free agents on the market. With Kong back in the fold, Alissa Flash -- who had a great character going before she left TNA -- may return as well to join her close friend.

With the division stabilized, it's time to add some fresh faces. Mickie James would be a perfect addition to the Knockouts Division, with her blend of beauty and athleticism. She would be the biggest name TNA has ever attracted to the unit and would be an apt replacement if Tara did in fact leave.

WHAT YOU THINK
Following Daniel Wilson's Mat Matters column, we ask what TNA's Knockouts Division means to you.
It is the reason I watch. 10%
It's all part of the bigger show. 17%
I despise it. 9%
It was better before. 64%
Lastly, TNA should go back to their roots, bringing in women from the independent scene and giving them a shot to excel on the national stage. Say all you want about the company's early days, but it was largely built by previously unknowns, like A.J. Styles and America's Most Wanted, to name a few.

This was the same premise that the Knockouts Division was created on, giving an opportunity to women like Kong, Wilde, ODB, Love, Sky and others, who had up to that time, flown under the radar.

The talent is still there, it just needs to be utilized better -- sadly one of the most commonly heard complaints of wrestling fans.

The Knockouts provide an amazing opportunity for TNA to make themselves different from WWE.

And hopefully Bischoff takes a page from his own playbook and realizes this before it's too late.

RELATED LINKS

  • Past Mat Matters columns

    Daniel Wilson reached at dk_wilson@hotmail.com.