Song for Whoever (Bonus Track): Daffney edition

I have something else in mind for my Song for Whoever this week, but I wanted to make quick mention of something that I read yesterday and this seems as good a place as any.

Other than the odd rant, we’re not generally a “serious” blog here at Wrestlegasm, but some things need to be said. We also try to refrain from swearing when possible, but I’m afraid this will be an exception: TNA are fucking awful. I know… I know… preaching to the converted. Big suprise, Andrew hates TNA! But rather than my general deep-seated loathing of a company that wastes amazing talent in favour of overpaying and overexposing ancient has-beens like some kind of Wrestling Antiques Roadshow, there is something specific that’s, frankly, appalled me this time.

Over at cagesideseats.com, a report has turned up describing some of the details behind the recent TNA release of Daffney and her treatment by the company prior to that.

“Yesterday my picture was taken down off of the TNA roster page. My contract expires today and TNA did not renew it. I do not know if it has anything to do with it, but I’ve filed a Workers Comp claim against them for injuries I’ve sustained in the ring and my lawyers said to not go into anymore details.”

This quote from Daffney’s Facebook and Twitter accounts is only the tip of the iceberg. The catch-all term of “injuries” covers a list that is pretty substantial (to quote from the article):

1. a serious concussion at Bound For Glory 2009 after she was chokeslammed from the ring apron by Abyss onto a barb-wire board
2. a deeply bruised sternum, a severe stinger and yet another concussion in the now infamous try-out, dark match for indie wrestler Miss Betsy
3. another concussion in her program with Tara after she got clobbered on the head with a toolbox

Concussions are scary enough, but in pro-wrestling today you would hope that the supposed Number Two company in the world would be especially aware of their consequences after the added media attention following the Benoit murders and the work done by ex-WWE wrestler Chris Nowinski at the Sports Legacy Institute but apparently not.

The first injury on the list, after being chokeslammed from the second rope to the floor through a barbed wire table, is probably the most shocking on first glance. Certainly it was a move that was arguably unnecessary at best, and positively manipulative at worse. According to the article (via a “long term employee” of TNA) Daffney was unsurprisingly hesitant to take the move, but was persuaded by Director of Talent Relations Terry Taylor that she would be taken care of and it was important for the storyline. Of course, the move happened and she was injured and taken to hopsital and billed for it. TNA then neglected to pay the bill, despite months of emails between the two parties, in the end denying they had any reponsibility to pay.

To literally add insult to injury; all this was for a spot that didn’t lead anywhere storyline-wise, was never allowed to be shown on TNA Impact as it breached the networks policy on violence towards women, and wasn’t even caught on camera live and was only shown on replay!

As for the second injury on that list, it’s probably pretty well know by now, but just in case: Miss Betsy was a very inexperienced trainee of Team 3D. In her tryout match she landed on Daffney’s chest, leading to sternum bruising – a move followed by a powerbomb which left Daffney with another concussion. As the article mentions, anybody else who injured a full time member of the roster in their tryout match would have been rightly run out of the building. But this is TNA, who have shown time and time again that they couldn’t care less about the welfare of their roster (especially, it seems, the Knockouts.) So of course they signed Miss Betsy (as Rosie Lottalove) to a contract, and actually showed the footage of the injury on Impact in an attempt to get her over.

I should point out that I (and I believe Daffney) aren’t about to start criticising Betsy/Rosie for the injury. It was another unfortunate example of ageing wrestlers politicking behind the scenes, in this case Bubba Ray Dudley. In fact, when TNA realised that even they couldn’t justify having her on the roster, Bubba Ray allegedly blamed Daffney and gave her the cold shoulder backstage. Oh, and it should probably go without saying that TNA didn’t pay Daffney’s medical bills for this one either.

The third injury, although it sounds almost innocuous up there in the list, is certainly the one which shows TNA at their most petty and heartless. TNA tape their shows in advance: rather than filming each week like WWE, they will film a block of episodes over a number of days to fill the upcoming month. In this case, it was Day 1 of a five day taping schedule when Daffney received yet another concussion. Daffney was told again by Terry Taylor that she should work the next two days (with a concussion remember) and she’ll be fine. After consideration Daffney quite rightly decided against wrestling and risking worsening her condition. This is where TNA’s petty side comes out, as they announced she would be unable to take part in a photoshoot that would have been useful income for her (given TNA’s notoriously low pay for female wrestlers) if she wasn’t prepared to wrestle.

Not only were TNA asking Daffney to wrestle with a concussion for a further two days (all while still refusing to pay her medical bills from the Rosie incident; this was all while they were happily running a concussion angle with Ken Anderson – to the point of going on air and singing the praises of the Sports Legacy Institute and constantly reminding the viewers that “Dixie Carter has always looked out for the welfare of her performers.” Hey kids! Can you spell “HYPOCRISY”?

So, Daffney, quite understandably, has had enough and contacted her lawyers. Shortly after TNA remove her from their website and allow her contract to expire. Reports are circling that she is not the only wrestler considering legal action against TNA for unpaid medical bills, and hopefully this is true. Strangely, I don’t want TNA to fail – I want another large wrestling company giving wrestlers international TV exposure. I want competition – without it the industry will stagnate and mainstream pro-wrestling will slowly become unwatchable. I hate TNA as it stands, but I genuinely hope they can turn things around and become a company that appreciates and respects some of the amazing talent they have, while ending their seeming obsession with re-enacting the final years of WCW.

As for Daffney, if even if only a third of the claims in that article are correct, that’s enough to justify my support. This songs for you, good luck!

The original article can be read at: http://www.cagesideseats.com/2011/4/21/2125160/the-sad-story-of-shannon-daffney-spruill and is well worth a read if you care about the wellbeing of wrestlers in anyway

new mnw: the post-mortem

Leading up to Monday, I was asked by several people how I felt about the new and supposed Monday Night War, which was about to begin between the WWE and TNA. For the most part I kept my answer brief and vague because I didn’t really have an opinion. When in doubt, say nothing until you’re sure of where you stand. Admittedly, I don’t always play by that rule, but having nothing to go on but hype and anticipation, I wanted to see what happened first. Also, I was pretty new to wrestling when the original Monday Night Wars were drawing to a close. I didn’t fully appreciate what was happening until much later.

Raw was guest hosted by Bret Hart this week and it was a huge deal. After twelve years of hurt feelings, bruised egos and ever-increasing dollar bills hanging like a carrot from a stick, Bret Hart finally returned to the WWE and it worked. It was exciting. The fact that I was as excited as I was took me by surprise. I wasn’t just worked up about Bret’s return, I was actually looking forward to Raw as a whole. That hasn’t happened too often lately. I’ve mentioned before that Bret Hart is one of the very few wrestlers I remember as a kid. I have no overt  affection for him but, to a point, he is my oldest wrestling crush.

His moment of recompense with Shawn Michaels over the Montreal Screwjob at the top of the show was fascinating. It was like that family member you fell out with at so-and-so’s wedding coming up to you at some other family function and offering to make peace. When I first started watching wrestling, one of the things I loved about it was that you were never truly sure what was real and what was being played out for a storyline. It was neorealism before neorealism was cool. Often the lines were blurry, mixing genuine personal events with fictitious storylines. That still goes on but with the arrival of social media, secrets are harder to keep under wraps. One slip of the fingers on someone’s iPhone and a whole month of feuds could be blown. But it was different when I started watching. Ahhh life before the internet. Remember? Yeah, I’m struggling too.

The opening gambit where Shawn and Bret agreed to bury the hatchet without bringing it down on each other’s heads felt real. It fed off real emotions, yet you knew a story had been penned and agreed in advance. The whole show had a flow it’s been sorely lacking in recent months. Even down to the way The Miz entered the ring while Maryse was leaving. And that’s something that can continue regardless of whether Bret Hart is there or not. It wasn’t all wonderful. They could have done a lot more. But if Bret Hart’s got a floating contract to run until after WM26, the potential for interaction with young talent, specifically The Hart Dynasty, might still exist.

Moving on to less congenial television, TNA iMPACT was painful. I’ve made no effort in the past to hide the fact that I always find it painful to watch TNA. It sets my teeth on edge more than once every single week. It’s not that their wrestlers are bad. In most cases they’re pretty talented. Their Women’s Division alone is stacked with excellent workers and strong characters. But the lack of effort that goes into the production makes me want to yank my hair out from the follicles. Even little things drive me to distraction; the incessant crowd noise and awful acoustics, just for a start.

I explained how I felt about Hogan’s signing to TNA when it first blew up. I haven’t changed that view in the past couple of days. No, I don’t like him. I think he’s an awful figurehead for any company and he signifies everything I don’t want new fans of wrestling to buy in to. There’s no doubt his name is still a draw, but unless TNA make plans to progress the young talent begging for structured storylines with equally worthy wrestlers soon, they’ll do nothing but re-hash old feuds between wrestlers who can’t make the matches believable any more. The older statesmen should be used to put the younger talent over. If they refuse to do that, the whole company will become famous for being nothing more than the free night-bus for those with nowhere else to go.

TNA bookers are like magpies,  picking up every mildly sparkling free agent available but with no plans for how they might polish them to a brilliant shine. It was anticipated that Hulk Hogan’s debut on iMPACT  would force the show to be largely about him. But the fact that he’s making the entire company about him and his grotesque friends is appalling, and I still believe Dixie Carter will regret having him on board. At the very least I think she’ll regret giving him so much power. Eric Bischoff less so. He understands business. But Hogan’s there for a retirement party and a pay-cheque. I’m all for ‘jobs for the boys’. We all like to look after our friends, but this level of  nepotism is pathetic, both creatively and in a business sense. If I never see Brian Knobbs’ hideous face again, it’ll be too soon.

I have my own views on Jeff Hardy and Ric Flair’s bookings on Monday night and they revolve around loyalty. I’ll keep them to myself unless anyone actually wants to know what I think. Otherwise, hey, they’re both free to work for who they please. Who am I to be their moral compass? If Ric Flair needs to pay his electricity bill, it’s not for me to say he can’t keep his heating on at night. But purely on a booking level, they make no sense. Jeff’s in court for drug offences soon and Flair can’t possibly have anything to offer in-ring.  Use what you’ve got. Seek out your best assets and plug them to the hills. It’s not rocket science. Don’t grab at everything left on shell because it’s a brand everyone recognises. Have the self-confidence to turn people down from time-to-time. If the good stuff gets sidelined because the ‘names’ want an undeserved slice of the airtime pie, you should be outraged.

TNA are akin to teenagers having sex. All the mechanics are there and they’re sure they know how to do it, but they’re nervous, over-enthusiastic and they rush their way through the parts they should linger on. There was something very mature and confident about Raw this week. And I recognise the irony in calling any show with a  Hornswoggle segment ‘mature’, but it managed to deliver a well balanced show in a methodical and experienced manner. It was easy. It had rhythm and a gripping ending. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve shouted at the screen watching Raw too. But Raw’s problems are largely creative. They can easily be fixed. Also, WWE has other brands and business off-shootsto fall back on if one element of its product isn’t working.

There’s no doubt that TNA put their stamp on the industry on Monday night. In many ways, I admire their pluck, the fact that they had the courage to stand up to Vince McMahon and demand his attention. It certainly worked.  But to sustain the momentum they kickstarted this week, TNA are going to have to try harder. The novelty factor will wear off very quickly; not just for the viewers but I suspect for several of the newly signed roster too. Hulk Hogan in particular.

(I will recap Raw in the usual way before the end of the week. I promise I haven’t lost my sense of humour. Honest, guvna!)