What do the dates August 20, 2009 and October 24, 2020 have in common? They are the two dates on which TNA/Impact Wrestling announced that they were introducing Knockouts Tag Team Championships.
As someone who derives maximum enjoyment from wrestling when it’s presented as a sport, titles have always been very important to me. They improve the presentation of the product and they make matches and feuds matter. However, I also firmly believe that titles need to be used appropriately – not every feud needs a belt, and every active belt a promotion has should matter. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no point creating a belt, even if you had great intentions at the outset, and then having no plans for it and letting it fester away in the ether.
By and large, US companies not named WWE looking to introduce women’s tag belts have always concerned me as there’s rarely the depth to sustain them properly. In previous years that could have been an indictment on the quality of the scene but more realistically it was a matter of numbers – if you only have 10 women under contract and two title belts, that’s six of the 10 involved in two title programs off the bat with little room for maneuver or other feuds, character development, etc.
Back in 2009, introducing the Knockouts tag belts made sense. TNA had received real praise for the development of their women’s division, spearheaded by Gail Kim and Awesome Kong, they had the roster depth and a ready-made faction to build it around in The Beautiful People. Yet within four years, the belts had been vacated three times and eventually deactivated.
The fact that Angelina Love, part of that Beautiful People team expected to win the whole tournament, left the company before the inaugural champions were crowned should have sounded the alarms. Taylor Wilde and Sarita were the winners of that tournament, and both would go on to win the belts again with differing partners, but the belts never really got proper traction. The causes? A combination of odd circumstances, a lack of dedicated teams to cement the division, poor booking and regime changes.
Awesome Kong and Hamada were the second champions and it could have gone somewhere under them but then Kong got released in early 2010 and they were vacated for the first time. They were vacated again later that year when, in turn, Hamada was released and the final one came shortly before they were deactivated in June 2013, ending Eric Young and ODB’s record-setting reign at 469 days. That’s right, one-half of the longest-reigning champions in the Knockouts Tag Team division was a man.
Digging deeper highlights the issues– of all 29 Knockouts Tag Team title matches to take place between 2009 and 2012, just one went over 10 minutes and 22 of them had a run time of under five minutes. Belts can never grow properly when they’re clearly seen as an afterthought. That presentation both stank and stuck and their general perception now, looking back, is a negative one.
Fast forward to 2020 and the return of these belts has been teased for months.
The promotion has booked more tag team matches involving the women and developed short programs involving Kiera Hogan & Tasha Steelz, Taya & Rosemary and Havok & Nevaeh. They’ve mentioned the belts repeatedly on commentary with Madison Rayne and the social media sentiment has been good. However, goodwill can’t build a division and if the promotion is serious about bringing these belts back and washing away the stain of their previous run, they need proper plans of how they intend to book and build it.
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) October 28, 2020
The eight-team tournament to crown the new champions begins in three weeks, with the final taking place at Hard to Kill on January 16th 2021. Looking at the existing roster, you’ve got those three teams mentioned above as well as the likely tandem of Deonna Purrazzo & Kimber Lee. Beyond that, Impact have got Jordynne Grace, Alisha Edwards, Madison Rayne and Tenille Dashwood to book. That’s 12 people out of the 16 needed. I’d personally love to see them bring back Taylor Wilde (who announced she was coming out of retirement earlier this year) and Sarita (who got released by WWE last month) to tie in with that canon, and also make a couple more additions to expand the division and add a wildcard element.
Ultimately, there’s no reason why the Knockouts Tag Team titles can’t work. Using the crowning of new champions as the early hook for the new PPV is a positive step, and their booking over the next three months will be indicative. It’s often said in sports though that you should never go back. Only time will tell whether these belts are a poisoned chalice that the promotion should have left well alone or a golden opportunity worth capitalizing on.
The Week in Review
- The first post-PPV Impact was very up and down. They planted a lot of seeds, many of them positive, but there was also a lot of dross, most notably the closing wedding segment that saw John E. Bravo get shot. Nope, me neither.
- I’m not a fan of Eric Young losing in five minutes to Rich Swann again but it gets the rematch clause out the way I suppose. Here’s a thought – why not scrap automatic rematch clauses?
- We saw quite a lot of Scott D’Amore this week, and in general we’ve seen more of him over the last few months. I’m not a fan of visible authority figures and I’d definitely like a lot less segments like the ones this week with RD Evans.
Well, until next time…