Re-inventing TNA. It is quite ludicrous, really. TNA has been purportedly "re-booted" so many times that DC Comics is starting to take notes. That hasn't stopped people from trying to crack professional wrestling's Rosetta Stone, hoping that one day the much-maligned "number two" promotion will stand up to the WWE's corporate juggernaut model. The mighty Kayfabe Commentaries makes a valiant attempt in its newest installment of their Guest Booker series, bringing aboard former TNA booker Dutch Mantell to put his unfettered & creative spin on TNA's January 2010 Hulk Hogan/Eric Bischoff-fueled model that briefly touched off a new "Monday Night War."
Here, Dutch shares his old-school philosophy, that while it may not be foolproof, it is to the point and did not take three weeks to figure our. Seriously, the January TNA re-boot supposedly took Vince Russo & company almost a month to put together. It only takes Dutch approximately thirty minutes with nothing more than a current roster in front of him to choose from.
Without giving away too much, Dutch's ideas are based on a crucial ability that he believes all good bookers must have: foresight. To Dutch, it is equally important to know what direction you want to be headed in a month, as it is what it you are expecting that night. Get it out on paper and work backwards, deconstructing & fine-tuning as you go along. This is evident in Dutch's plans for the TNA Knockouts division based around Awesome Kong & Hamada, putting the bigger picture in perspective, so you can have solid Pay-Per-View matches waiting in the wings later on.
Dutch is also a big proponent of the "less is more" philosophy. This comes into play in his booking of the TNA debuts of Rob Van Dam & Jeff Hardy, where it does not involve having a huge star win a meaningless nine-second match over another huge star and then receives a twenty-minute beat down. He also recognizes that status of certain wrestlers who are past their prime and what role they could play in helping TNA builds a better product. I really dig Dutch's practicality; it feels fresh & simple, and yet it shows that you don't have to compromise creativity just because someone was a huge star fifteen years ago and purposely book around them. Just take a stance, give someone something to do, and watch it work.
My biggest issue with Guest Booker with Dutch Mantell: Exposing TNA is that the booking session feels rather short. The bulk of the DVD is mainly a shoot interview, although to Dutch's credit, he accomplishes the booking task so effortlessly that it makes it look easy. Chances are if you are buying this DVD, you already know the circumstances surrounding Dutch's departure from TNA and the chaos brewing within. He touches upon the volatile relationship between head writer Vince Russo & Jim Cornette, as well as how he became involved with TNA's booking committee. There are a lot of references to Dutch's reoccurring gig as booker for IWA in Puerto Rico, in which he points out a number of TNA angles that were originally tested out down there. Dutch also shares his early memories of wrestling, amongst other interesting tidbits.
So, if you have a smart-mark TNA fan that cannot help but to know everything about their favorite upstart wrestling promotion, then I would highly recommend Guest Booker with Dutch Mantell: Exposing TNA. The interview portion does lag somewhat, but Dutch is absolutely surgical in his re-booking of TNA. He is honest & direct, and it is a damn shame that he had been muscled out of the TNA brain trust in favor of Vince Russo and his overly dramatic & nuanced-booking ideology.