Next month, TNA celebrates one year of it’s much celebrated Knockouts division with the release of ‘Knocked Out’, a DVD featuring all of the Knockouts including recently departed Gail Kim and Salinas. It was at Bound For Glory in October 2007 that the division was launched with a 10 woman gauntlet match to determine the first Knockout Champion and this DVD comes precisely one year from that historic event. One could argue that it’s too soon to release a Knockouts DVD but given the reception from both critics and fans alike for this division, this feels like the perfect capitalisation on a hot subject.
From key Knockouts such as ODB and the Beautiful People, the DVD even features the likes of Lauren and SoCal Val, all this interspersed with seminal matches from the division’s one year history including the complete trilogy of matches between Gail Kim and Awesome Kong as well as the Makeover Battle Royal and more. It seems the DVD’s lengthy running time is more made up of these matches than actual Knockout chapters, the likelihood is that the type of fan this DVD aims to reach are the fans who have seen these matches already; it does make for a nice little compilation nonetheless. The DVD’s introduction features comments from the likes of TNA President, Dixie Carter as well as wrestlers Christian Cage, Kurt Angle and Jeff Jarrett which I felt was a nice touch to add to the legitimacy of the Knockouts division – having praise heaped upon it from top tier stars. Carter’s presence on the DVD particularly stood out to me as she touches upon my thoughts, the idea of a female president of a wrestling company. Carter comes across extremely passionate, protective and supportive of this division and so she should; in a male dominated sport Carter is in a position to promote talented women over men and she speaks with conviction in her support of the Knockouts.
The Knockout chapters begin with a similar introduction, almost ‘E! True Hollywood Story’-esque, “Hi, my name is Gail Kim and this is my story” and so forth for each Knockout. The women talk about their histories and wrestling backgrounds, the Knockouts division as well as their hobbies and after a while, you begin to get a sense that you’ve heard and seen it all before. The production budget for the DVD is probably revealed by the same set being used for each interview, unpleasant screen graphics and jarring techno music in the background, which wouldn’t sound out of place in a porn flick. For those who’ve watched the WWE Divas series of DVDs, it’s slightly hard to get past the poor production. There doesn’t seem to be any extra effort put into the DVD, likely it was filmed backstage at Impact with the Knockouts rocking up in their street clothes. From a presentation level, seeing the Knockouts directly on the screen without wrestling, you get a clear sense of their fashion tastes – or rather lack thereof – and bad makeup also is a turn off. The glitz and glamour that I am personally accustomed to with the Divas who have their own makeup artists and stylists, is lost with ‘Knocked Out’. To make a comparison to the Divas DVDs, there is no exotic scenery or photoshoots here, in fact ‘Knocked Out’ is more like an extended ‘Rough Cut’ that you would see on the company’s flagship show, Impact. This lack of variance can be off-putting.
The same crop of questions continue to pop up for nearly every Knockout and while some of the girls have interesting stories to tell, I couldn’t help but want to forward through chapters dedicated to Lauren, Velvet Sky and SoCal Val. The general gist seems to be these girls are real wrestlers who started out on the independents and yes, they are all BFFs and a big family in real life. That tends to be the standard answer from all but one or two of those interviews. Frankly, the DVD reads more like a pat on the back to the women’s wrestling in TNA with personal stories and experiences relegated to the background. In this sense, the DVD isn’t that interesting, I would much rather learn more about the girls and get a sense of their personalities than hear about how great the division is, the DVD has no real character. The sole exceptions being two, if you ask me, one of which is the chapter dedicated to Salinas – real name Shelly Martinez – who has since left the company. Here is a Knockout who came over really well on camera and exuded personality, though she sounded like a teenage high-schooler. I was pleasantly surprised by her fun and peppy personality and definitely feel that there is a character in her real personality. I don’t really understand why neither WWE or TNA pushed Shelly with her own personality, rather sticking her into fake personas such as Ariel and Salinas. ODB, just like her on screen character, came off larger than life and fun as expected.
Some of the other Knockouts delivered mentionable interviews also, such as Roxxi Laveaux, I was genuinely interested to know about her hardcore background and Sharmell, a former WWE Diva, came off well. However in all, the stories from the other Knockouts on their backgrounds tended to be the same: indies, some tried to get into WWE and ended up in TNA. This coupled with the to-be-expected Diva backhanding felt contrived and superficial. From Kurt Angle’s comments at the beginning to the Knockouts being asked why they’re better than the competition, the DVD feels more like a greeting card to themselves than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the Knockouts product and I am well aware that their wrestling is of a higher standard than WWE’s, but watching a three hour DVD of TNA praising themselves ad nauseum could have even the biggest TNA fan reaching from the ‘stop’ button.
‘Knocked Out’ felt more like TNA picking one thing that they do better than WWE and pointing it out… to the detriment of these hard working women. I got the sense this was a ‘Why TNA is better than WWE’ DVD, than TNA promoting their Knockouts. There are some threads in this documentary that could be pulled out and expanded on to make a more substantial DVD in future, how about getting the Knockouts to do activities? Or photoshoots? Let their personalities shine! I enjoy the weekly Knockouts action, but when it comes to marketing and such, WWE obviously has more vast resources. That said, the DVD is worth a watch for any women’s wrestling fan if only to satisfy your own curiosity.