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Who Should Buy TNA? (An Analysis of TNA’s Future)

Liam DunneSeptember 29th, 2016BlogComments Off on Who Should Buy TNA? (An Analysis of TNA’s Future)

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Will WWE Purchase TNA? A Look Into the Potential Last Days of Impact Wrestling

“Total Nonstop Action”. A brand of pro wrestling that, at one time, was seen as an exciting, young, fresh alternative to the WWE brand. A company that prided itself on the young stars it had, the identity of the X-Division, and the six-sided ring as things that set it apart from all other promotions in the country. For years, it was the most popular wrestling promotion in the UK. TNA had one goal; to beat WWE by being different.

But a mere 13 years after the company’s inception, and 10 years after its boom period, the company is in financial turmoil.

In 2010, they brought in major star Hulk Hogan, and WCW mastermind Eric Bischoff, to give the company a fighting chance against WWE. Within days of their signing, TNA declared a “Monday Night War” on the WWE, by moving its flagship show, Impact, directly against RAW, and on RAW’s old channel of Spike TV nonetheless. However, Hogan and Bischoff turned out to be smoke and mirrors – the duo’s idea wasn’t to give TNA its own identity, but to copy the structure of the financial failure that was WCW.

They removed any and all of TNA’s most interesting and unique personalities, and demoted the X-Division from being a legitimate World Championship to being nothing more than a Cruiserweight division belt, that was seen as more of a way to get the crowd pumped at the start of a show than to main event pay-per-views, which AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels had managed to turn it into. On top of that, they brought in all of their old buddies from the 90’s; stars that were overweight, and couldn’t really do much aside from take up TV and ring-time from the new generation that greatly needed it. They tried to copy the WCW model, but with a tenth of the budget…

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This was the start of the slow descent for the company, as they lost both credibility and fans. Suddenly, the money being used for old main event talent from previous federations prevented the ability to pay younger and newer talent, with many of the wrestlers in that category having to live on food stamps just to make ends meet. Things went from bad to worse – in recent years, TNA have been late to pay stars, the company has channel hopped for a number of years, unable to find a new station that is willing to invest time and money into them. Their most prized fighters left for a newer brand that had more promise, appeal and audience… that brand was NXT.

By the start of 2015, the writing was on the wall: Matt Hardy had vacated their World Championship via YouTube. The belt remained inactive for 2 months before Ethan Carter III won it after a drawn-out tournament, only to drop the belt back to Matt Hardy three nights later. Dixie Carter, the woman who led the charge for TNA around 2008 after it was purchased by Panda Energy, was also responsible for creating this mess. Eventually she was pushed out of the company (something she did to the original founders and owners, Jerry and Jeff Jarrett), leaving a collection of debt, and an empty bank account.

This isn’t the first article I’ve written on the potential demise of the organisation; back in the Summer, the company almost had to fold days before its Slammiversary event, due to lack of funds. It was only saved at last minute, after money was wired to the company, and since then has been kept afloat through the personal money of the current President of TNA, Billy Corgan. But Corgan can only fund the company for so long, and the end is near. It’s do or die for TNA, and by Friday the 30th September, the company has to make a decision regarding its future, if it even has a future.

So, what can be done about this? Let’s have a look at the options that are on the table…

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WWE Purchases TNA

The most likely scenario in many people’s opinion; TNA was once WWE’s closest thing to a rival, to the point of even being confident enough to take the company head on in a new Monday Night War. However, the move proved that TNA had a long way to go before being a legitimate threat to Vince McMahon’s empire, with the second war lasting a little over 3 months, before TNA had to throw in the towel and move to a new night.

Whilst it’s not secret that Dixie greatly admired the McMahon family for paving the way for pro-wrestling (even Dana White cites McMahon as an influence for how they market and produce UFC events), she always claimed that she would never sell the company to the WWE. She always maintained the perception of “I’d rather the ship sink then give it to Blackbeard”, but it’s gotten to the point where there isn’t much of a choice anymore.

Whilst WWE is likely to be the one to purchase the company, it would also result in the saddest outcome for the legacy of TNA. WWE has utilised many of the stars that put TNA on the map, such as Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode, and current WWE Champion AJ Styles, and with the creation of the WWE Network, it’s not like the company is fighting to get space on television. Look at NXT, a brand that can sell out arenas across the country, and is shown exclusively on the network! Put that into perspective; a brand of wrestling that can only be watched via an online subscription-based platform can draw a bigger crowd than a national wrestling company with a television slot.

If WWE were to buy TNA, the company would be dissolved. Most of their employees would be let go, with only a very few handful of stars being offered contracts for NXT or the main roster. This would be a huge loss, considering that TNA has only just signed names such as Aron Rex (formerly Damien Sandow), Cody Rhodes (who left WWE after being disgruntled with his position in the company), and potentially Alberto El Patron, who was in a similar boat as Rhodes. Whilst we have PWG and ROH, they don’t match the level that TNA still is at. Even Lucha Underground would be a stretch for these guys, as it’s a brand built up on Lucha Libre wrestling, something only El Patron has experience in. Who the WWE would keep? It’s unsure to say at this point.

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The only thing we can be fairly sure on, is that both Matt and Jeff Hardy would be offered a position with the WWE. Rumours state that the position would be similar to the Dudley Boyz, with them being used as the veterans to help elevate the young teams in the company. However, with the popularity of Final Deletion, and Matt Hardy’s career renaissance with the “Broken” gimmick, one has to ponder if the brothers would even be interested in packing all that in, with no storyline resolution, only to earn an easy pay check? After all, Matt Hardy has full creative control over his character in TNA, and that’s not something I see him easily letting go of after working so hard for so long.

One thing we won’t see is the “Invasion 2.0”. TNA’s stars just aren’t mainstream enough for it. Even if there was an invasion, it would be with NXT, and not the main roster.

WWE never really acknowledged TNA’s existence in the past; however, there have been a handful of occasions where references have been made to former stars who started working for the promotion. One of the earliest was back in 2006, when Shawn Michaels referenced stars “who couldn’t make it, so went and jerked the curtain elsewhere”, around the time that Kurt Angle joined the company. Then, in 2011, during the WWE’s Summer of Punk story, when McMahon threatened to fire Cena for not defeating CM Punk at Money In The Bank, he responded by saying that he would “go somewhere else, brother”, a direct reference to the fact that Hulk Hogan was playing an on-air GM role with Impact Wrestling at the time.

However, in recent months, WWE has been referencing the company far more, particularly on the WWE Network. JBL interviewed Road Dogg, and they discussed the Voodoo Kin Mafia gimmick him and Billy Gunn had during their time in TNA. Edge and Christian invited AJ Styles onto their comedy skit show and referenced TNA by asking if WWE would ever acknowledge his time with the organisation – Stone Cold really did acknowledge Styles’ time with TNA during his podcast, and went fairly in depth with his discussion, to the point of asking AJ about his relationship with Dixie Carter. On top of that, on the screen behind them, was a still taken at a TNA event of Styles during his years with the company. At the time, it all seemed a little odd that WWE was happy to reference the company so often, but with the Observer reporting that WWE made an offer months prior, it all sort of makes sense.

WWE would have absolutely zero interest in keeping the brand alive. Why would they? It would offer nothing for them. All they would want is the tape library, to add matches and highlights to the WWE Network. They would likely sell TNA’s office space, and who knows what the 2 hours on Pop would end up showing. Would WWE want to air anything there?

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Sinclair Broadcast Group

However, WWE are not the only game in town. We previously mentioned ROH, who’s parent company is the Sinclair Broadcast Group. ROH was often considered the third major brand in pro wrestling back during the WWE/TNA rivalry in the mid-to-late 2000’s. However, it too has gone into a bit of a rut as of late; whilst production values have risen, the company hasn’t put on a five star match since 2012. But in general, fan mockery for the product hasn’t been as bad as it has been for TNA. There is, however, one thing that TNA has that ROH needs (not a Women’s championship, apparently), and that is a TV deal. Only a few years ago the two products shared a home in Destination America, before the station decided to remove all pro-wrestling from its station. Now it’s in flux, and desperately needs help to get itself and its stars over with the general audience.

TNA and ROH have a better working relationship than they have had with WWE (AKA very little), and both companies work in a very similar fashion, with on screen talent being available to work independent dates to earn extra money, but also being contracted to the main company of ROH/TNA, whose commitments come first. Absorbing TNA wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for the company, and it’s highly doubtful that much of the way things are ran would be different.

If Sinclair bought TNA, we’d more likely have an invasion-style angle happen. Whilst one could argue if that is good or bad, it would no doubt be the most obvious narrative option. TNA was bigger than ROH at one point, much like how WCW was bigger than WWE at one point. How could they not want to work with the likes of Lashley, Drew Galloway or Ethan Carter III? On top of that, this is probably the safest option for all the employees, both on screen and off. Acquiring TNA would give the company more production value, bigger named stars such as the Hardy Boys, and the much sought-after television deal.

One thing is clear though; TNA would die if this was the case, but it wouldn’t be such a quick death like it would be if the WWE took over.

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A Third Party Purchases TNA

The final, and least likely, option is that somebody else, such as Billy Corgan or another individual/company, jumps in at the last minute to save the day.

TNA is a toxic brand. It’s a joke to the very audience it tries to cater to, it tries too hard to reach as many people as it can, but at the same time doesn’t try hard enough. Final Deletion plays out very much like a badly edited YouTube clip, almost a parody of pro-wrestling. Something somebody who had never watched wrestling, but was told what it was like, would create. But in the same episode, they try to have a UFC style contract sighing between Lashley and EC3? What are you guys? A car crash parody of pro-wrestling, or a “legit” sport? You can’t be both.

What TNA would need in this instance is a complete reboot… heck, a complete rebranding! Get rid of “TNA”, get rid of “Impact Wrestling”. Everything needs to go. I understand that WCW tried to reboot itself in its last days, and fell flat on its face, but TNA is in a far, FAR, worse position. The only option IS to rebrand. You can acknowledge that you were once TNA, and that way you can continue any lingering storylines you may have, but use this opportunity to try something new, try something radical. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom in order to climb yourself out of your hole, and right now that’s where TNA is. A reboot would give Billy Corgan the chance to do what he wants, make the sport of wrestling feel like a sport again. This new MMA style belt that has been created, whilst I’m not a fan of it, genuinely has people excited for it. It could be the new X-Division if it’s handled with care and respect!

But let’s be realistic; the company is bleeding money, and it’s in absolutely no position to turn down any money that it’s given. No businessman in their right mind would end up purchasing a company that hasn’t turned a profit in years, has a toxic brand image, zero direction, and is considered a joke to their target audience – it would be far too much money and hard work to fit into a business that is dominated by the McMahon family. It’s sad that we won’t ever see a new and credible Monday Night War again, the WWE has become too large and too powerful to combat, and people know this. Whilst this would be the best outcome for the TNA’s employees, it would take more than a miracle (sit down, Mike Bennett) to save the company, and keep it afloat for more than a year.

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For me, I’d rather see the company in WWE’s hands. Whilst it would be the end of TNA, and one less place for disgruntled WWE stars to go to in order to rant, I believe the company would treat it with respect. WWE could do an unbiased documentary on the failure of the company, and it would allow newer fans, who didn’t know of the epic clashes that AJ Styles and Samoa Joe had during their run, the chance to see it. Even older fans like myself would probably enjoy re-watching these with a new perspective.

Regardless of what will happen, this can, and probably will be, the most exciting and devastating time for TNA, and wrestling fans alike.

What are your thoughts on the potential demise of TNA? Are we witnessing the end, or shall it carry on like always? Comment below!

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