There was a point in TNA’s history when the highlight of the federation was its women’s division. Coined the Knockout division, the early version of it featured females that were not made from the same cookie cutter mold the WWE preferred. Instead, it wasn’t who looked best, it was who was the best.
Over a period of time, however, it began to change. While it is impossible to connect the dots to an exact moment or reason for it, the Knockout division has been in a decline for some time now. That’s despite having an incredible talent like Gail Kim on the roster, and a few other women with solid potential at their disposal.
This free fall into a lesser variant of the once strong aspect of TNA was highlighted on Thursday night. While improved in the ring over the years, and with there being nothing inherently wrong with her, Maria Kanellis winning the Knockouts Championship is a negative move for the already struggling division.
For some clarification, this has as little to do with Kanellis herself. It has everything to do with the way it was booked and what it might represent.
The then champion, Allie, who is/was also her apprentice, was in the ring celebrating the fact that she became the top women’s performer on TNA. Kanellis came out as the Knockouts division commissioner and bashed her.
Long story short, Kanellis explained that Allie winning the gold was bad for the business, then threatened her with a firing if she did not lay down in the center of the ring. An in tears Allie did so, and the segment culminated with part-time in-ring performer Kanellis pinning her, resulting in her being the new Knockouts Champion.
Kanellis has mostly made her bones in the wrestling business being a manager, not an in-ring talent. She has had her moments here and there throughout her career, even some of great success, but to put a major belt on a (relatively speaking) barely-a-wrestler is absurd.
In fact, it’s something that would only ever happen in a women’s division. No such mockery would ever be made to a male world championship. Well, save for the guy from Eight Legged Freaks winning the WCW Championship back in the Vince Russo days. But you understand the point.
If a division is meant to be taken seriously, the people at the top of it should carry some credibility. Furthermore, you wouldn’t go to a talented foot surgeon to have a bone marrow transplant. Simply because one is talented in one specific area that is a part of a larger overall grouping does not mean that person can apply their specialty craft in other areas of that same grouping.
This is where the discussion becomes a bit more complicated and needs some nuance attached to it, because Kanellis is very good (to great) in every other role she has been tasked with over the last several years. Her improvement as a character can’t be overstated.
So, yes, there is a chance this works. The commissioner of the Knockouts division holding the championship might end up being a net-positive, but only because Kanellis has shown in the past that she can transcend certain roles and can improve in areas when needed.
The concern, however, isn’t really with her, but with what TNA is planning to do moving forward. Or, really, why they felt the need to have her capture the title instead of someone else.
If there’s a larger story — mind you, one that has ACTUALLY been planned and this isn’t an on-the-fly situation — the assumed step backwards can be to take several more steps forward in the near future. But that would be trusting TNA’s creative process…
Anyway, ODB isn’t walking through that door. Nor is TNA capable of using a superb talent like Kim correctly, and showcasing her as a legend in the business as they should. In their place is a fine performer in her own right, but the problem remains the same — TNA currently has a non-wrestler holding one of its major belts.
And believe you me, this is something that should insult the many who have applauded the women’s revolution that happened in a different federation.