Finally, after a very busy schedule, I can post a column and hopefully, can continue to do so on a regular basis, but considering that I’ve written columns for over five years, I guess a slight break is ok. However, I hope since you were brave enough to click the link that you will find this column insightful, educational, and/or entertaining. With that in mind, I want to discuss, a complex and quite frankly disappointing situation, Total Nonstop Action wrestling. Twenty year wrestling veteran, Jeff Jarrett founded the company using what’s left of the National Wrestling Alliance as a link to provide some recognizable name value and from a small building in Nashville, TN weekly PPVs were broadcast to fans seeking an alternative for $10 to watch the two hour event. Some people thought this might be the reincarnation of the National Wrestling Alliance on a semi national stage, but just as it has been since Ted Turner bought the company from Jim Crocket, the NWA remained a non factor, at least on a national level. TNA, however was able to create some buzz among the wrestling fans that were left following the boom of the late 90s and with the X Division being the primarily reason most fans followed the company, TNA began to slowly build a following. However, weekly PPVs with basically no real advertisement were not what was going to lead to success for TNA and with the company struggling financially, Dixie Carter and the Panda Energy company invested into the Nashville based promotion. From moving the shows to the “Impact Zone” to a terrible time slot on a syndicated network to a national TV with Spike TV today, TNA has certainly survived longer than most people expected, but with the company approaching eight years of existence, it’s obvious that they just can’t seem to get the right pieces of the puzzle in the right place at the right time to truly make the TNA product a real alternative to Vince’s McMahon’s monopoly of pro wrestling in the United States.
Before I discuss anything else, let me say that this column in no way is a claim that I know what could fix TNA, but if I could make a suggestion, it might be for the company to start over again. However, my opinion on what they should do is irrelevant so let’s examine what has taken place within the company since a “new beginning” for the company was declared by Hulk Hogan. First, just the fact that TNA was willing to undergo a massive overhaul tells you that obviously, the company needed a change in direction, but if Hogan’s direction is the right direction remains to be seen. January 4th was something I discussed in a previous column so I’m not going to mention details again, but it certainly could be emphasized that it was shocking to see some of the WWE’s biggest stars appear on Spike TV. Ric Flair made his way back into the spot light and while the subject could be an entire column of its own, I just say that Flair really is tarnishing his legacy when he appears on Impact looking completely desperate to seem relevant to the company and he also ruined the greatest retirement of all time. Scott Hall stumbled his way back to TNA and is actually a current TNA tag team champion, which is ironic considering that according to reports, Hall was arrested for intoxication recently so it seems like TNA trying to use ANYTHING that worked ten years ago has worked well so far for the company. Let’s not forget Shawn Waltman, who is a joke and he recently no showed a PPV, which lead to his release from the company. Jeff Hardy made a return to TNA and up until recently, was only appearing sporadically for the company, which has actually minimized the star power he had from his most recent run in the WWE. Val Venus also stopped by the Impact zone for a cup of coffee before deciding that returning to wrestling in Mexico was probably a better decision for his career and judging by what has happened within TNA since the Monday Night show, he probably made the right decision. All of that took place in one show, which received a 1.0 rating and apparently the 1.0 was enough to convince TNA or Spike TV that moving the show to Mondays on a regular basis would improve the visibility of the company. Four months later, TNA is waving the white flag to surrender “The Monday Night Wars Part 2” and if anything, McMahon proved that he owns Monday night wrestling, along with most of the video libraries and copyrights to almost every major promotion that existed in the United States. The critical mistake the TNA made during their brief stint on Monday nights is basically the same mistake they have made for years, they sign a former WWE star and some buzz is created around it, but they have no idea how to use the particular star to benefit the company. It’s impossible to have major WWE stars “jumping ship” every week and what TNA needed to keep viewers from changing the channel was good storylines and good matches. Well, Russo booking will make people pause to wonder what is going on before they change the channel and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a good match involving The Nasty Boys so obviously, when the Bret Hart saga was unfolding on Raw, the majority of wrestling fans were tuning in to see what would happen next during Hart’s return. There’s no doubt that TNA did not have the ingredients to continue on Monday nights and even now, it would appear that they aren’t any closer to figuring out why they couldn’t hold a Monday Night audience.
Fast forward to today, Rob Van Dam is the world champion, which he won in a match on free TV and I don’t understand why they would give away the AJ vs. RVD dream match for free when they could have had the title change on PPV to attempt to draw some buy rates from the match. Yes, I know the rematch was on PPV, but considering the circumstances of the match, the rematch didn’t seem to have as much anticipation as the original match. Also recently, Samoa Joe returned to the company and has been repackaged yet again. It’s almost unbelievable that someone as talented as Joe is a victim of TNA’s botched booking over and over again, but when you consider that TNA released Christopher Daniels, who is one of the most talented champions in TNA history, I guess it isn’t all that surprising that they couldn’t put Joe in a decent storyline. Now for all of TNA’s botched booking, they have a great roster, which is what as a wrestling fan, it’s so frustrating to watch the company has no real direction for the product, which lead to the main point of this discussion.
In my opinion, TNA tries to take something from ten years ago and going in the complete opposite direction with it in an attempt to make it something new or unique to the company, but in the process none of it actually makes any sense. The examples are numerous, but I will just mention the main situations. Pro wrestling has its share of performers that once they reach a certain point in their career that they will always be cheered by the fans because of how respected they are for their accomplishments. Mick Foley has certainly reached that particular point, because so many people recognized all that he has given to the sport and to the fans, but during his feud with Abyss, it seemed as though TNA was trying to turn Mick heel and more specifically, Mick’s alliance with Stevie Richards during the feud made no sense. Why try to turn Mick heel at this point in his career? It didn’t work for TNA and in hindsight seems like a total fumble on a feud that could have been memorable. Sting also belongs in the category where he will always be cheered by the fans and TNA’s most recent attempt to turn Sting heel is actually the company’s second attempt. If you recall, Sting was part of the main event mafia and was the one member that was consistently cheered, where as this time around, Sting is pushing Dixie Carter and attacking people with baseball bats, but if you watch Impact, you can hear the crowd cheer for him. Why go against the grain when TNA could use the fact that Sting is so over with the fans to help create new stars? Along with that, TNA’s attempt to recreate hardcore wrestling has not only been a lack luster attempt and Abyss is destroying his body, most recently bleeding from his arm on Impact, while TNA’s nonsense booking continues to destroy his character, which was one the really well portrayed characters in wrestling a few years ago. The point of this rant is that TNA is trying to reinvent the wheel and more specifically, market to an audience from ten years ago that doesn’t exist today. Speaking of marketing, as I said before, I think Bischoff could really help the company from a marketing stand point. However, from a wrestling stand point, the Attitude Era is over and TNA trying to use generic solutions to fix the company is not going to work or draw ratings in the current wrestling audience. Vince Russo was known for being a writer for WWE and later WCW during the wrestling boom, which seems to be why TNA decided to hire him as part of the creative team, but again the “if it worked ten years ago, it could work today” theory isn’t always the way to improve a company. Even the signing of Hogan, who is known more for being a tabloid circus today than a wrestler is a generic attempt to improve the company.
In conclusion, I will say it again, TNA has a great talent roster, but they just don’t seem to have any idea how to use stars. If TNA could market to the current wrestling audience, it could provide competition to the WWE and competition could improve the wrestling business, but at this point it doesn’t seem like the TNA is going to improve the company.