TNA wrestling plans an action-packed Show Me Center debut

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wrestling fans, it's time to get ready for a little TNA — and that's not what we're talking about! TNA — Total Nonstop Action — is coming to the Show Me Center on Sunday.

"The Phenomenal" A.J. Styles, former TNA world heavyweight champion Christian Cage and Olympic gold-medal winner Kurt Angle are just a few of the superstars who will take part in Total Nonstop Action's Cape Girardeau debut. Founded by veteran wrestling superstar Jeff Jarrett, TNA started six years ago as an alternative to other wrestling brands deemed by many as "too much of a male soap opera." These days, some of TNA's biggest stars are household names in the wrestling world: Mick Foley, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and current TNA world champion Sting.

In 2002, TNA began beaming its product into homes via weekly pay-per-views that were far less expensive than monthly ones offered by the competition. Slowly, momentum began to build, and now TNA has a national touring schedule, a weekly television show on the SpikeTV cable network, monthly pay-per-views and a video game, making it professional wrestling's second-largest promotion.

It's a status that TNA publicist Chris Thomas is comfortable with. "The growth we've seen in six years is just incredible," he said.

And his reason for that growth? "Wrestling — pure and simple," Thomas said. "Other companies focus so much on dramatic elements and what we've done is bring it back to basics which is 'total nonstop action' — period."

That action is fueled in part by the X-Division and its current champion Sheik Abdul Bashir, who grew up watching his hero Shawn Michaels and hard-core legend Mick Foley — aka Dude Love, Mankind and Cactus Jack. When he started in the wrestling business with another company, one of his first angles (a storyline) was with Mick Foley — which, Bashir said, "Didn't go anywhere." He said now that both he and Foley are in TNA, "Hopefully, someday on TV we'll get to meet up in some sort of storyline and do something that, you know, will be more memorable than just a one-shot, one-show sort of deal."

Bashir is the current TNA X-Division champion. He said the division put Total Nonstop Action on the wrestling map. "The X-Division is part of the original concept of TNA," Bashir said. "Every Wednesday, they would have a pay-per-view and at the time it was difficult to run major storylines from week to week. So the X-Division was, kind of, the backbone of the company — just the best athletes they could find to go out there and put in 10, 15 or 20 minutes of nonstop action." Once a regular TV deal was in place, storylines were fleshed out and more widely known names were secured to enhance an already viable product.

As for his character — an anti-American sympathizer — Bashir said, "I don't think anyone takes it too seriously. I think the fans in 2008 are pretty smart and know exactly what's going on. So when they're in the building, just like I'm playing my part, they're playing theirs."

Total Nonstop Action starts at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Show Me Center. Tickets are on sale at the Show Me Center box office, at all Ticketmaster locations, www.ticketmaster.com or charge by phone at 651-5000.

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