As I've slowly descended into my late twenties, life has taken some strange turns. As you add years to your back catalogue, the way you view day to day life begins to change, and the way you view the things you love changes too. I no longer watch sports just for the heck of it, watching more now to complain about the amount of money involved. Films aren't just films now, they are pieces of art there to be dissected and judged. The news actually became the only show on TV that I try to keep vaguely in touch with.
Somewhere along the highway, my biggest love stopped being fun and became tough. Don't get me wrong, professional wrestling is a serious business; lives are made and broken in its hypothetical four walls. Physically speaking it is very serious, as seen by the injuries endured and careers ended way before their time for whatever reasons. That isn't the tough I'm talking about however, what I mean is that it has become tough to watch as a television product.
I am constantly frustrated at WWE and TNA for their seeming lack of patience (brilliantly examined in Brandon Lasher's debut column 'The Importance of the Slow Build') and frequent well, dorkery. Yes, that isn't a word, but there we go. Watching the different programs gradually stopped being fun with every fast forward, every painful 'this is the worst year of my professional life despite main eventing most pay-per-views and making Dolph Ziggler look like a tool constantly' promo. Watching Hulk Hogan hobble out to the stage, put on a strange Jamaican accent, and proclaim Sting to be the best wrestler of all time? No, it wasn't fun.
Last summer, there was a particular storyline in Impact Wrestling that really took the cake, the type of story where you are just a little embarrassed to be a wrestling fan, as much as it pains me to say. This was the infamous AJ Styles-Dixie Carter-Claire Lynch-Christopher Daniels-Kazarian cack-storm. For those who missed it, I envy you. The basic gist was that Daniels and Kazarian had a secret hanging over AJ, this was that he was having an affair with Dixie, which in turn led to the reveal that they were helping a crack head fool called Claire Lynch, who in turn was or was not pregnant with AJ's baby, which was turned over when AJ won the chance at a paternity test and everyone died a little inside.
This was professional wrestling creative at its very worst, the type of story that has no place around such talented workers. Despite the sheer televisual atrocity that it was, two good things came out of it. One was that we continued to see AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels on professional wrestling television. I swing on this, because they seemingly have been wrestling each other since the debut of Matt Classic, but they are also the anti-Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston, as every time they wrestle it is complete magic and somehow fresh. The second and best thing to come out of the storyline was the funnest pairing on wrestling television today, the only people who seem to be having a good time in all of Impact Wrestling, and the best damn tag team in the world today. This was the pairing of Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian, now dubbed 'Bad Influence'.
More so than most guys and gals on that god forsaken show right now, these guys understand the nuances and subtleties of pro wrestling. They understand wrestling, they understand pop culture, and they understand the position of wrestling in pop culture. They have put together the perfect modern mix of pro graps entertainment. The fact that they were able to thrive out of what can only be described as an abysmal angle is testament to their ability and dedication to their characters. They single-handedly saved the traditional terrible Santa Claus segment at Christmas time, making James Storm look like an arse in the process. Why would you superkick ol' Saint Nick?
Whether it’s coming out in full on zubaz pants with bum bags, or parodying the Legion of Doom (The Legion of Boom) or even dragging a good match out of Chavo Guerrero, Bad Influence are the best thing on Impact Wrestling TV right now by a long way.
Inside the ring, the ability of Frankie Kazarian and (in particular) Christopher Daniels has never been in question. Sure, Kazarian had a tendency to be a bit stale from time to time, but he would definitely be considered a very good worker on a roster full of them. Go back and watch any of his matches versus Kurt Angle, AJ Styles or Samoa Joe and you'll watch a damn good wrestling match.
Christopher Daniels is simply one of the best professional wrestlers in the entire world. He's really that good, and he has been for a very long time now. He's up there with your Daniel Bryans, your CM Punks, and AJ Styles etc. How he has missed out on a World title reign I do not know, and being 43 now it would seem his chance has passed. Still, you wouldn't think he was 43; he comes across constantly as a man starting out his career as opposed to one who doesn't have too long left. 43 or not, the guy is a wonderful in ring worker. His open hand thrust strikes are a thing of beauty, up there with those thrown by Kane or even the Big Boss Man. His moonsault is exactly what it says it is, the Best Moonsault Ever.
These guys can work; this isn't in doubt. Their ability to entertain however has often been questioned. It's not an accusation that has been leveled at Daniels too much, but Kazarian has often grappled with it, whether he works face or heel. His promos would often be plodding, boring affairs. Both guys however, have 100% found their place, their niche. They are playing their characters perfectly, that of seemingly newly single middle aged men who are back at university, and they are obviously having a lot of fun whilst doing so.
They are literally the only part of Impact Wrestling right now that I look forward to, with the possible exception of occasional Joey Ryan sleaze. They can bust out Gangnam style in the middle of a match and it is just pure unadulterated fun. Daniels can refer to Kazarian as 'Francois', or Jeff Hardy as 'Jefferson', and it is just so much fun. They can take what I can only assume was a mistake and make it absolute gold, the term 'World Tag Team Champions of the World'. Indeed, I want them to be tag champions for all eternity just to hear it being said.
All of this would point to them being cheered like heroes, or at least it would to my estimation. Well, up until very recently, these guys have been heels. Not just that, they have been provoking some of the best heel reactions on a show where the crowd is traditionally ambivalent to all and sundry. Once again, it is all about the little things. Who knew that things that are throwaway at first glance could be such clever devices for setting out the characters in a story?
Take a survey of everyone in the Impact Zone at the time; ask if they would prefer a cold beer or an appletini. I’d bet my admittedly meager bank funds that the overwhelming majority would go cold beer. Heck, I love these guys, and I’d go cold beer. Maybe I am reading too much into it, but wrestling fans love being able to empathise with their heroes, and the majority will get behind the beer drinking cowboy as opposed to the appletini drinking smug git. I love the use of the appletini by Daniels; it just gives him that extra level prickness that sets these guys aside on a roster full of grey. Add this to coming out at the London tapings dressed as a couple of extras from ‘Braveheart’, and you’ve got more help for Magnus as a character than the company managed in years. The joy on their faces as they embrace the ever loving life of out their characters is glorious, enough to make the average fan want them to get their buttocks handed to them, and helping their opponents out in the process.
I want Impact Wrestling to grow. There is a heck of a lot of reasons for this, one of course being the hope that it would improve WWE television through competition. More so than that however, I want Impact Wrestling to grow and improve because I completely adore a large chunk of their roster. As with most fans, when you look at the roster they have had over the years it’s tough to explain why it hasn’t happened for them. I mean, yeah, obviously, Hogan and Bischoff haven’t helped, plus Dixie Carter knows as much about wrestling as I do country music, but surely with the talent at their disposal even a pillock could book it successfully?
I want the company to improve because I want to see Samoa Joe where he was a few years back, and to give the impression of enjoyment. Right now I only see that from Daniels and Kazarian.
So if that’s how it is, that’s how it is for now. They might be the only fun part of the show, but I’ll keep watching, if only to see who they parody next. Demolition please.
I should end this with a few notes about myself. I’m 27 years old, from the land of Wales, home to such legends as Rob Terry and Mason Ryan. I spend 6 months of my life here, and my summers are spent out in the former Yugoslavia, where I work in a couple of hostels in Belgrade (Serbia) and Mostar (Bosnia). It’s a pretty beautiful part of the world, truth be told. I fly out next week. I’ve been a wrestling fan since a vague recollection of Dino Bravo years back, but the first thing I really remember is WrestleMania VI, with yes, Warrior v Hogan. I’ve been an avid reader of the site (and John's work) for a while, since the Rajah days. Indeed I can clearly remember reading a question on a ‘For Love or Money’ that was about whether Carlito or Chris Masters would get a world title run first. I always thought Carlito would. Win some, lose some.
I also write a blog of my own at penguinorchestra.wordpress.com, mostly travel, wrestling and music. We do a Mania predictions column every year, myself and 7 friends who know nothing about wrestling. Always fun. I look forward to writing here, and go easy on me; I’m from the cowardly part of Wales after all.