TNA: Current Thoughts. . .
Tuesday, July 1st, 2008
I almost feel guilty that I watch so little of the current pro wrestling product out there. . .everyone involved in wrestling should watch as much as possible to study trends, even if most of them are negative right now. WWE 24/7 is still the most enjoyable wrestling available to me. Keep in mind, I'm not some guy in his mid-50's that used to mark out for Bruno at the Boston Garden in the 1960's. . .I'm smack, dab in the middle of TNA and WWE's target demographics. . .
TNA frustrates me to no end. . .so many great athletes. . .so many mind boggling scenarios put on national television. There are many positives for the company. . .they have two hours of primetime television each week on Spike TV. International is picking up. Merchandising is expanding. House shows usually do good business the first time they come to town (difficult to judge long term as they haven't hit the majority of the markets more than once). Negatives?? No ratings growth. PPV buys are a complete embarrassment when comparing the number of fans that watch WWE buying their PPV's (never mind UFC).
So what's the problem?? TNA comes off like WWE-lite instead of trying to be something different. For better or worse, WWE is WWE. TNA needs to be TNA. . .
In 1995, WCW launched Monday Nitro. If WCW's vision was to be "just like" what WWF was presenting on Raw, we would have had one main event type match each week, an interview segment, some enhancement matches with a couple of angles sprinkled in. Instead, WCW created a program that was larger than life. Big stars competing in big, PPV quality matches. It was live each week. WCW not only talked about but jobbed out the competition. They were fresh, they were different. . .for a (very) short period of time, they were better than WWE. . .their demise couldn't just be written in a book, but an encyclopedia.
I felt like TNA was ready to get to the next level in the fall of 2006. They had signed Kurt Angle. . .Spike TV gave them a better time slot. The athletes were younger and hungrier. The product was fresh, it was different. Joe was over, Abyss was over, AJ was over, LAX was as hot as a motherfucker. They drew back to back strong PPV numbers (for them) with Bound For Glory and Genesis. And then, it went down the toilet, and in a hurry. Angle and Joe was so rushed no one wanted to see it anymore, never mind pay for it. Abyss went from a dangerous monster to a sports entertainment routine. AJ Styles went from being one of the best athletes in the sport into a heel comedy routine, wearing a crown and taking away from everything he did to build himself up as one of the best. People point to that period of time as when Vince Russo returned to working the creative aspect of the company, which is 100% true, but, he's far from the only decision maker in the company. . .
Quality wise, they bottomed out in the first half of 2007. It's improved since then, but not to the point where a larger percentage of fans watching free TV are willing to spend money on the product. Even when they put together solid PPV's, there's still nonsense involved that people don't care to see. How many 18-34 males really had an interest in seeing Black Machismo marry So Cal Val?? How many full blooded males want to see a show featuring female after female after female after female?? It's like WCW in 2000, where EVERYONE had a valet. How many three way, four way, six way X-Division matches do you want to see?? Did you like seeing the X-Division go from one of the few things TNA had to separate themselves from WWE to the jobber division?? Was LAX over as a main event act being themselves with Konnan cutting promos, or sports entertaining with Salinas and Hector Guerrero?? Do you want to pay to see Abyss get torn up by glass and thumbtacks, becoming a bloody mess on PPV when you can see it for free on TV?? Do you want to pay to see the Angle family drama with the backstage interviewer thrown in?? How many weeks in a row can Robert Roode continue to point his finger at a woman on Impact?? How many 18-34'ers want to see Eric Young dressed up as a super hero?? Why are 18-34'ers so much more interested in UFC than TNA or WWE?? How many more of these questions could I ask with answers that all paint the same picture??
How about this one?? If you've been to a TNA house show (non-televised event), how much more did you enjoy that experience than watching the TV shows or the very few that order PPV's?? If you've never been, TNA house shows are a great experience filled with great action from bell to bell. I can't put over TNA house shows enough. When I watch Impact, I find myself wanting to throw my remote control through the television set I get so frustrated with the stupidity and booking that never builds to anything meaningful. . .it's like a circle, no beginning, no end. . .every TV show feels the same. . .a lot like WWE's TV's. . .
Booker T was a nice pick up but hasn't inspired anyone. Awesome Kong is a great gimmick. TNA has done a much better job with their women's division than WWE. Kaz has looked good when his on again, off again push is "on" again. Motor City Machine Guns are one hell of a tag team. The talent is there. . .the possibility is there for this promotion to really take off, but it would take a complete change in their thought process of what it's going to take to see themselves succeed. . .
Until then, as one current TNA wrestler recently said to me "it's so bad I can't even watch myself on television anymore."