So. What do you do when your big pay-per-view match is a match that’s already happened? The first Eric Young vs. MVP matchup may have been a schmoz, a way for MVP to “turn” heel for realsies, and not just be a guy that was obviously awful to everyone except those around him, but this one is the real deal, right? How do you make it fresh and exciting, and turn what can be seen for free on YouTube into a Very Big Deal™?
I…don’t think this is it.
If you look at the story that is seemingly being told at glance, it seems pretty simple. MVP fancies himself wrestling’s modern-day Edmond Dantès: also imprisoned in his early life, MVP has found fortune, and returned to wrestling a wealthy man, ingratiating himself into the lives of those he was looking to seek revenge upon. The revenge part doesn’t have a completely obvious in-show target (MVP just doesn’t have enough history with TNA), but Dixie Carter serves nicely as an overall representation of the greed of corporate wrestling, should you like to infer that everything is always (and will always) come back to WWE. If not, then I guess he was just real mad about those jobber squashes years ago, I guess.
Allegories aside, the revenge aspect and what MVP is trying to prove is still muddy. Then that leaves his only motivation as that one part of David Otunga’s theme I always get stuck in my head: it’s all about him, and it’s all about the power. But then what? What happens should MVP become champion?
Then we have Eric Young. Poor mistreated underdog Eric Young. Young uses this segment to talk a lot about respect, and how he’s earned it, and maybe also about his new television show that proves how committed to wrestling he is no wait sorry it’s about fishing nevermind. Has Young really earned it, though?
A lot of what makes Eric Young’s current character is blurring the line of locker room opinions and on-screen happenings. If you know anyone, or even pay attention to non-kayfabe opinions in TNA, Eric Young is genuinely well liked. Everybody seems to love the guy, on-screen differences or not. The problem is that we’re expected to take that piece of reality and accept it as a canonical fact, when really he’s done very little to prove that he’s likeable, let alone friends with every real man wrestler to ever wrestle and be a real man on the show. Bully Ray and his biker friends beat his ankle to mush with that TOTALLY NOT FAKE hammer, but yet there’s no one in the world Bully Ray respects more. Eric Young has been there ten years, so he’s earned it. But so has Bobby Roode, and everyone hated that guy. James Storm and Abyss have been there for longer – why isn’t Eric Young trying to get the belt on either of them as a show of respect? Outside of TNA, Bobby Lashley has been wrestling for ten years, and both Kenny King and MVP having wrestled for twelve. No one is new to this game (the TNA motto, after all). If respect is earned over time, then everyone is kind of on a level playing field, you know?
Worst: Eric Young
The answer to all of this, of course, is that no one on Impact is actually a good guy. Everyone is selfish and rotten. Eric Young pretends to live on a moral high ground that just does not exist in this universe, and we’re supposed to accept that he’s a good guy because he tells us he is, even though he’s never done anything to actually prove it. MVP’s motivations may not be the purest, but he seems to be the only one who’s making any sense at all.
The problem with these kinds of opening, besides the slack delivery and self-congratulatory “cheap plugs,” is that they don’t effectively tackle the biggest problem of long-term sequential storytelling. Every week the audience joins the story in media res. As such, the expectation is that they have to reiterate enough of what has already happened so as to not completely confuse new viewers, but also not over-explain what lead to this week’s episode for people who have been watching up until this point. It’s a delicate balance of characters not explaining what the other characters already know, expository segments explaining why they did just what they did, and fancy video packages that are usually above reproach because that seems to be one of the only things Impact seems to nail on a consistent basis. But if we walked into this show fresh, not having any idea what lead up to it, would Eric Young be that likeable guy? It’s clear that MVP is in a position of power and abusing it, Kenny King is a brash young upstart MVP may have issues with in the future because he just can’t seem to reign him in, and Bobby Lashley is…there. But without knowing how many people on the roster would invite Eric Young to their house for a barbecue, is there anything that truly stands out? Between his real-man posturing, his faulty logic when it comes to how respect is earned, and the utter lack of conviction in his delivery, I don’t think there is.
Going into what they consider to be a major pay per view, that’s a big problem.
Best: Bobby Lashley
No no, hear me out. It’s not actually for anything he does, it’s for what he doesn’t do. I mean, I’m certainly not going to give him a best for his wrestling, my goodness. No, the best lies in his inaction. By not attempting to speak pretty much ever again, Bobby Lashley comes out of this looking the best. Kenny King looks immature and inexperienced; someone who is certain to be undone by his rash decisions and lack of self-control. MVP, while remaining the person who applies to most logic to everything, is still a total shitheel. Eric Young, see above. Bobby Lashley, as I said, is just there.
Thanks to Eric Young, we’ve established that he’s a respectable wrestler who has served his country and has a family. He’s just in it with MVP to get a fair shake. That’s an untouchable amount of character depth for someone who rates in the negative on a measurable scale of on-screen charisma. It also adds more to MVP’s group dynamic than “black guys.” It allows room for their future implosion, should that be the route Impact chooses to take. It also adds enough nuance to each non-MVP member that either King or Lashley could reasonably be split off from the group when everyone joins together and rises up against MVP for the good of the company or whatever.
If he keeps this up, and never picks up a microphone (please never pick up a microphone), he could come out spotless in all of this.