Impact Wrestling is in the doldrums, with many on lookers and fans liking the company to the dying days of WCW. TNA face an uphill task to negotiate a national TV deal in their home market that affords Dixie & Co the opportunity to move forward and progress the company.
Always marketed as their biggest Pay-Per-View each year, Bound for Glory 2014 from Tokyo has ended up being far removed from what was originally planned and without even a follow up impact or set of tapings scheduled, many TNA fans are concerned – very concerned!
I believe that true wrestling fans want an alternative to the WWE with podcasts, radio phone in’s and dozens of online articles pining for competition within the business again. Even fans have signs about WCW Nitro visible on WWE Raw.
TNA took a chance in 2010 to tackle the WWE, but with Dixie’s blind faith in Hogan and Bischoff it amassed to nothing more than a two month trouncing in the TV ratings. Just as important for TNA as it is for the WWE, is the need to pull back fans from the bygone attitude era and create new fans, as stagnant TV ratings of 1million (plus or minus 200k) each week, poor pay-per-view buy rates and the horrendously marketed live events and the appalling fan attendances.
All these point to a company needing an overhaul from top to bottom but how did they get into this? I put pen to paper on five big mistakes TNA and Dixie Carter have made in recent years. I must say these are based on my opinions and the negative changes that have affected my enjoyment over many years of watching TNA.
5 - Storylines
“Suspended belief” is a key phrase you’ll hear with wrestling TV shows and storylines. I don’t have too much of an issue with this, as we all witness plots that could be planned out and executed a lot better. Take the above photo that Brittany posted on her Facebook and Twitter, following on from their altercation with Madison Rayne. All of this happened prior to TNA’s summer in New York City. Where there was no follow up what so ever to the two knockouts’ falling out. In fact, the story hit a deadend and has been forgotten by those within TNA creative department.
We’ve also witnessed this scatty booking with MVP and his forgotten investment in TNA. That’s two clear examples from the last few months – don’t insult the viewers with this or you risk losing them all together. For me the issue here is that the writers need to be aware of the simple story writing techniques we are all taught in school, Beginning, then middle, and onto the end. If the stories are built and told in the fashion we had with Dixie and Bully Ray leading to #itHappens in New York, most fans would not have a problem.
My advice would be to keep in mind the goal of the story your trying to tell via TV and keep it tied in with the wrestlers ultimate motivation. Wrestling as we have said before is a unique product that allows more or less anything to happen, test this and push boundaries a bit more than a PG company can do. Keep a log of talents on screen relationships so we see less of former foes coming together without resolving prior feuds or issues first, keep it logical! I see potential with the TNA roster and its in ring talent that they have recruited in the last year. The likes of EC3, Rockstar Spud, Samuel Shaw, Havok, Crazzy Steve and Brittany have all got characters, traits and mannerisms to go on and create larger than life wrestling personalities that fans will tune into watch.
4 - Reliance on Old Stars
Kevin Nash, Booker T, Sean Waltman, Scott Steiner, RVD and many more have all had major pushes in TNA. A lot of the time this has come at the expense of home grown talents like James Storm, Samoa Joe and Austin Aries. If TNA management had shown some faith in them to carry the company forward, rather than trying to buy success, ratings and notoriety quickly and expensively with WCW and WWE alumni. We may be looking at a different wrestling landscape with some completion, opposed to the one we currently have that’s dominated by financial issues. Give TNA credit they have started to push and focus on younger stars in recent months with talent such as Bram, EC3 and Magnus all receiving more TV time and prominent storylines on Impact.
3 - Authority Figures
Currently TNA have Kurt Angle as their Director of Wrestling Operations, whilst he recovers from injury and as he runs down his current contract. Kurt has taken a far more relaxed approach to the role and hasn’t (thus far) been part of a major angle. On the flip side Dixie Carter, Jim Cornette, Hulk Hogan, Mick Foley, MVP, Eric Bischoff, Jeff Jarrett and many more have been on screen authority figures and all without fail, have been involved in major angels, power struggles and big matches.
The company seems to have lurched from one power struggle to another, each more ridiculous and time consuming than the last. Back in 2010 TNA built up, fairly well the 10-10-10 Bound for Glory pay per view. Upon this date we witnessed a swerve heel turn by Jeff Hardy and Hogan, Bischoff and co assuming power of TNA. Hogan had what he wanted and that was the spotlight once again on him. The storyline ran a full year until Hogan lost to Sting at Bound for Glory 2011 giving the power back to Dixie Carter.
Recently Dixie, once again was involved with MVP in a battle to run the show at TNA, a story line that they all seem to have forgotten about, as MVP completely forgets he is supposed to be an investor in the company. The problem that fans have, with these types of storylines is that we know TNA is owned by Dixie Carter and ultimately until that changes we don’t want to see the annual TNA power struggle or hostile takeover storyline again. Instead give more time to matches, other angles and the wrestlers after all it is a wrestling show.
2 - Hogan/Bischoff Regime
Any owner of a business does background checks and references, don’t they? Surely Dixie Carter does this when taking on other employees within the TNA business? TNA and Carter seemed to overlook this back in October 2009 and became star stuck with Hollywood Hulk Hogan and the prospect of landing the biggest name in pro wrestling history. However Hogan is no longer the huge draw he once was. He wasn’t in his last WWE run prior to TNA, he wasn’t even in the latter years of WCW, and as the WWE have found out since re-hiring him to host WrestleMania 30 he is not a draw now! Coupled with this, Eric Bischoff was added to the mix and he was the helm of WCW in its latter painful months. That CV/resume apparently didn’t bother Dixie as she brought both of them in to battle WWE.
After much build up TNA took on WWE Raw on Monday 4th January 2010, and Dixie’s plan worked out for exactly one night. Hogan’s debut in TNA drew a great rating with an average of 2.2 million viewers and at the highest point 3 million viewers. As well as Hogan, TNA approved the hiring of has been acts such as The Nasty Boys, Bubba the Love Sponge (more on him in an upcoming article) along with other former WWE talent including Ric Flair, Val Venis (Sean Morley), Sean Waltman, Scott Hall and Orlando Jordan. That night did however bring us Rob Van Dam and the returning Jeff Hardy, they both as opposed to the other mentioned names, worked hard and has delivered for the fans on their TNA paychecks.
Shortly after Hogan’s arrival in TNA, Impact changed to look a lot like WCW Thunder or WWE Smackdown with the removal of the 6 sided ring to the more traditional 4 sided model with blue ring ropes and logo changes. The change however didn’t affect the in ring product but storylines started to centre around one man as TNA built to 10/10/10 and Bound For Glory. This run and focus on older talent or themselves instead of building the company up, came at a huge cost. During Hogan’s time in TNA he received far and away more TV time than anyone else. Predictably ratings started to fall even with the return to Thursday nights, the product has changed since his departure but still need to take on a different form to compete with the WWE.
Much like Hogan and Bischoff’s time in WCW, the duo were hopelessly dated and put over all the wrong talent. His daughter Brooke was also hired! Why??? So she could head up the Knockouts Division of course, despite having no prior experience in wrestling), and later received a major storyline push with Bully Ray. One of the issues fans have with Hogan and Bischoff in TNA is the needless waste of money, taking Impact on the road instead of filming in one location, which ended up being a bit of a financial train wreck!
It cost thousands of dollars every time they went out and unfortunately the live show would only draw a couple thousand of fans at best, which was a fraction of what WWE Raw and SmackDown do every week. Instead of looking impressive, it just didn’t unless it was within the full UK arenas. They where also responsible for a name change, turning Total Nonstop Action into Impact Wrestling and the mimicking of WWE. Consequently hard working employees and acts that were over were all suffering as a result, including the X Division and Knockouts Division, that as of yet are still in recovery.
Around that time, Dixie could have hired two of the greatest wrestling minds in the history of the business, and yet she failed to bring in either one. Jim Ross and Paul Heyman who had fallen out with Vince over at the WWE, and Dixie approached both of them to join TNA.
Heyman stated he wanted full creative control and to be able to hire and fire any talent that he wanted to. He was going to cut the budget, get rid of most of their 40-year-old and up wrestlers, and he wanted a small piece of the ownership. Essentially, he wanted in on the company. However Dixie was uncomfortable with these demands and passed. JR met with Dixie, and they couldn’t agree terms for him to join the company.
Another missed opportunity as Ross was a key architect behind the WWF Attitude Era’s roster. He could and most likely would have assembled a new TNA roster with new and exciting talent, instead of them all sign developmental deals with WWE NXT. I believe a lot of wrestling fans would have rather seen JR and or Heyman in TNA opposed to Hogan and Bischoff, but I guess we’ll never know.
1 - Abandoning the X-Division
I get fed up of hearing Taz & Tenay saying that the X-Division is the calling card of TNA. It was! It’s not now and they need to stop claiming that it is. The X-Division was systematically taken apart under the Hogan-Bischoff era to the point where we had Kenny King Vs Suicide Vs DJ Zema Ion under their 3 way rules for what seemed like months on end. We now get the X-Division slogan of “It’s not about weight limits, it’s about no limits!”
Back when TNA did weekly PPV shows and they introduced the X Division most people thought that it was just going to be a continuation of the awesome, often amazing WCW cruiserweight division. But with a notable exception TNA made sure that there would be no weight/size limits in the division and it was all about promoting a more exciting style of wrestling not normally seen in US or UK wrestling promotions.
We all took to acts like Shark Boy, AJ Styles, Kaz, Christopher Daniels, Elix Skipper, Petey Williams and Chris Sabin to name but a few. The constant spot fests impressed fans in attendance and around the world on TV with the boundaries pushed further with matches such as Ultimate X, Steel Asylum and Xscape. Fans again, took to these matches and the many highlight reels they produced, that often stole the show away from the main event scene. When TNA was at its best in the mid to late 2000s it was the X Division that was the best part of the show.
If you were watching then you already know this. If you weren’t watching you should do yourself a favor and check out some X Division matches on YouTube from that era. If TNA is to get back on track the X Division is a vital ingredient to any future success. Adding Samoa Joe for name recognition is a correct move, but not the way forward in long term. Instead they need to invest in new talent from the independent scene and continue to add returning talent such they have done with Homicide, Sonjay Dutt and LowKi. The division for me needs to continue playing homage to it’s spot fest roots that gave it notoriety through out the 2000s. When the division was hot, general wrestling fans and pop culture media had real hope for TNA.
Other mistakes have been made throughout TNA’s relatively short existence but the above five count as the most significant and had a immensely negative impact on TNA. Thankfully the product is on the right track now with the return of the 6 sided ring and a renewed focus on the in ring offering. However the next TV deal they strike is vital and here’s hoping that its a step forward rather than step back.