PHOTO CREDIT: Wrestling-Caps.Livejournal.com
Days ago, it was announced that Don West had returned to IMPACT Wrestling, years after leaving the company to become the Director of Sales and Marketing of the Wenatchee Wild, a junior hockey league in the British Columbia Hockey League in 2012.
Mr. West had quite the career in IMPACT Wrestling, formerly Total Nonstop Action, the decade prior. Originally a commentator, West spent 7 years as the color analyst of the promotion alongside Mike Tenay. After the arrival of Taz to the company in 2009, West moved exclusively to merchandise and has been hailed as an incredible salesman.
I mean, as a kid, I watched him on the Shop-at-Home Network selling Beanie Babies like it was nobody’s business in the 1990s. He single-handedly helped me persuade my mother to order me a Rocket the Bluejay in 1998. Combine that with baseball cards, autographed baseballs, and Pokemon cards, he significantly increased profits at Shop-at-Home and became world-renowned as a salesman. He had the voice and the hustle for it.
Personally, I believe West was tailor made to hype and promote. There is nobody better in the game today. Which is why I can’t believe people don’t remember his short run in 2009 as a “hypeman”.
In between the Jeff Jarrett Era as Head of Creative until September 2009 and the start of the Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff regime in 2010, there was a 3-plus month span of excellent television brought by TNA. Talent like Desmond Wolfe, Lashley, AJ Styles, Daniels, Samoa Joe, Matt Morgan, and Kurt Angle were prominent and being utilized to their fullest abilities. A lot of people forget how good that short time period was for the promotion.
Nothing to me was ever as exciting as seeing the union of Don West and the Amazing Red together within the X-Division.
The Amazing Red in the early to mid 2000s was among the pioneers of the Northeast independent wrestling scene. Helping develop Ring of Honor in its early days, Red was also a mainstay in NWA: TNA’s fledging X-Division. At one point, Red held both the X-Division and NWA World Tag Team championships. His Code Red powerbomb was a revolutionary maneuver on the scene. His running Shooting Star Press was breathtaking. Red was one of the premiere, and heavily imitated, light-heavyweights in wrestling.
Sadly, one of his big downfalls were his knees. Red suffered a multitude of leg injuries throughout that time and had to go under the knife multiple times. After taking some serious time off, Red returned to TNA in 2009. Would or could he return to the levels he performed at?
INDEED HE DID. After a few months of getting his ring rust off, Red shocked the world on the October 8, 2009 Impact, when he defeated Samoa Joe for the X-Division championship. The week after, mere days away from TNA’s signature event Bound for Glory, Red faced off with Suicide in a non-title encounter. Unbelievably, Red now had a manager with him at ringside: DON WEST.
Mr. West had a topsy-turvy 2009. After becoming curmudgeonly due to a falling-out with Mike Tenay, West lost his spot on commentary to the arriving Taz in the summer of 2009. Don West was off camera, helping with merchandise behind the scenes. However, he wouldn’t be off television for long.
If you remember from TNA’s early days, there was no bigger fan of the Amazing Red than Don West. Mr. West ALWAYS believed in Red and his abilities. Seeing that Red needed a jump, and knowing West was back in the sales game, the two men partnered up. West, letting go of the animosity he had with Tenay, became Red’s promoter.
Red and West had instant chemistry. Although Red wasn’t necessarily the greatest interview, West was the man who backed up Red with his hype and proper promotion. Adding onto the fact that Red held the X-Division championship, West made sure that Red had the confidence and the matches to be a fighting champion in TNA. Throughout the end of 2009, West and Red were becoming quite the duo.
Since this is the Professional 3, I have THREE moments that signify the connection of Red and West inside TNA. Without further hesitation…
WEST ACCOMPANIES RED TO THE RING FOR THE FIRST TIME: 10/15/09 - As Red was preparing to face off with Suicide, Don West followed him to ringside, seemingly unified as a duo. In spite of what happened during the match, at the end of it, West was giving words of encouragement to the X-Division champion. Backstage, next to Jeremy Borash, Don West laid out his intentions. He was a fan of Red. He BELIEVED in Red. And, thanks to the hype job by Mr. West, Red officially got into the signature event of TNA, Bound for Glory. Not only that, he got into the match that West stated “was MADE for Amazing Red”. The X-Division champion would be defending his championship...IN ULTIMATE X.
ULTIMATE X: 10/18/09 - As stated, Ultimate X was the match MADE for Amazing Red. Along with Suicide, Homicide, Daniels, and the Motor City Machine Guns (they defeated Lethal Consequences during the pre-show to get into the match), Red went in to defend his championship. With his “hype man” by his side, Red went to war. After all six men went all out (including Daniels being dropped on his head by Suicide), Red squeezed through the tight structure holding up the X, knocked Chris Sabin off the X and kept Alex Shelley at bay to retain the X-Division championship. Don West went bezerk by the commentary table, screaming how proud he was of his champion. West bet on Red making the most of his title defense in Ultimate X, and it paid off tenfold.
HERMIE’S HOTSEAT: 10/29/09 - On a YouTube exclusive video, NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler hosted a segment called Hermie’s Hotseat, a talk show type segment where Sadler would interview talents, just to get to know them better. Although Red exuded confidence, West really hyped up and promoted the greatness of Amazing Red to the fullest. You truly felt the passion of West as he talked glowingly of the X-Division champion. Having a mouthpiece, and one Hell of a salesman, hyping you up to that degree really bestows another level to you as a performer. Red and West were quickly gaining credibility as a pair and it seemed they were on the rise.
However, once the year turned over into 2010, Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff were in, handling the day-to-day of creative. West quietly was removed from Amazing Red and ended up back behind the scenes, handling TNA’s merchandise. Red sadly languished on Web Exclusives until he lost the championship on January 28, 2010 to Doug Williams. Although Red helped introduce Crimson to the company and lasted around for awhile, he left the company in August 2011.
I felt it was a damn shame. Red hiring Don West as his promoter was money. West was helping elevate the Brooklyn native to the next level as a character and performer. Sadly, the changes in creative in TNA were not kind to this strong act. I personally loved the concept of the Amazing Red and Don West together. It just worked.
Man, what could’ve been…