Trash Talking: Gut Check

written by Rob Poulloin (@Robbie_G_CH)

Since 2004, 'Gut Check' has been apart of TNA. Starting off as a tryout program, the process has now evolved into what we see on Impact Wrestling once a month. But now that TNA's landscape has changed due to the shift in Pay-Per-View lineup, where does it leave Gut Check and in what format?

Gut Check started as a one off competition, with various categories testing the competitors. The winners were rewarded with a cash prize and an appearance on TNA programming. After a few years of development, the process moved into the seminar format, where independent wrestlers pay for a place on the course, to be put through their paces and show off their skills in front of TNA representatives, such as D'Lo Brown and Jeremy Borash.

Crimson was spotted through Gut Check
(photo by Lee South)
This process benefits both parties, as it allows TNA to witness the ability of new wrestlers, whilst also creating extra income. As for the independent wrestlers, they are in front of people who could make their dreams come true and sign them to either a developmental deal or even a full time contract. As beneficial as the seminars are, I can't help but feel that they are exploiting the wrestlers, as the company should be looking to sign the best and should be using their own resources to find those talented enough. Looking at the wrestlers to make it to Impact thus far; Crimson and Jesse Sorensen; would suggest that going out and watching other shows would be a better way of talent spotting. 

From April 2012, Gut Check has appeared once a month on the 'Open Fight Night' episode of Impact Wrestling. This is usually the second show after a pay-per-view, giving the opportunity of a contract to unsigned wrestlers, who would show their skills in a match against a roster member and then be judged the following week by Bruce Prichard, Al Snow and Taz (replacing Ric Flair). The segment of Gut Check seems completely unrelated to the seminar side beside the name. The talent picked for television have either previously been in TNA's developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling (Alex Silva and Taeler Hendrix) or independent stars who could have easily been given a contract without the segment (Sam Shaw and Christian York). The process being used as an angle multiple times, firstly to create hype around Joey Ryan, who was unsuccessful in his bid to win a contract and took to Youtube to protest and 'invading' multiple wrestling shows; and more recently, to add Wes Brisco to the roster, despite being seen as a masked member of Aces and Eights for months before his 'tryout'.

Joey Ryan failed in his Gut Check Challenge
(photo by Lee South
Officially, six out of the nine wrestlers to 'tryout' for a contract have been successful, with Ryan being the seventh as he had to fight for his contract in a match against Al Snow at Bound For Glory. Out of the seven only Joey Ryan, Christian York and Wes Brisco have been seen on Impact Wrestling on a regular basis with the others being sent to OVW to improve their skills, so it questions the need to have them taking up valuable television time where full time roster members can go without a match in months.

TNA will always need to be on the look out for the next stars to keep their product fresh but Gut Check doesn't seem to be the way to do it considering the best additions to the roster in recent history have been Austin Aries and Kenny King who have both come from Ring Of Honor. Comparing TNA's new recruits to those that WWE are assembling in NXT there is no competition, WWE are signing talent who are ready to go and have proved themselves as the biggest names on the Indy circuit, the likes of PAC (Adrian Neville) who has been Dragons Gate and New Japan, former ROH wrestlers including World Champion Tyler Black (Shield member Seth Rollins), Tag Team Champions Claudio Castagnoli (Antonio Cesaro) Chris Hero (Kassius Ohno) & El Generico; these wrestlers will not only be future stars but help improve the 'home grown' talent with their experience. 

With the wealth of talent currently on the Indy circuit TNA should be looking to those as the future of the business, Crimson was given a monster push on television whilst being relatively green where he wasn't actually ready for it where as someone who has proved themselves, Austin Aries, took the ball and become TNA World Heavyweight Champion within a year of debuting. 

Davey Richards is one of wrestlings
great unsigned acts
I have nothing against Gut Check or OVW but the future of WWE currently looks a lot brighter with wrestlers that TNA most likely overlooked who will also pass on their knowledge and experience. With TNA looking to move up to the next level they need to build a strong undercard; as the roster is starting to look a little top heavy; and rebuild the tag and X-Division who have gone unnoticed for far too long. Names like Adam Cole and Davey Richards would do this much better than Jessie Godderz and Devon. 

Gut Check will continue to hold seminars and recently launched an online voting process of former participants, but this has been suspended due to voting issues. The future of the televised version is unknown as OFN has not been apart of Impact since the January 17th show. I would much rather see TNA make more of a competition out of the process with a separate program in a style akin to UFC's Ultimate Fighter and early series of NXT which would allow the wrestlers to gain TV exposure whilst not taking away time on Impact. This would allow for a winner to be crowned and a deal offered but would be less frequent than the current process meaning that the roster and viewers wouldn't be flooded with a string of new names.  

I hope that TNA keeps Gut Check in one form or another but the seminars should be invitational rather than at the cost of the attendee, the cream of the crop can should then be moved up to the next level, either to be offered a developmental deal on the spot or entered into a separate television show. This would weed out those who are not yet ready for the big time and would mean fans can enjoy the best wrestling from the top to the bottom of the show.

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