For a free-market conservative such as myself, this article is hard to write. If you do or don’t follow politics, let me explain why. One of the core principles of the conservative ideology is the notion that competition breeds success.
The primal instinct to survive and prosper is something that conservatives hold as a given in life. Think of it as a political version of Darwin’s theory of evolution that adaptation is the key to survival.
That’s why it seems that TNA seems to survive (at least for now) despite defying this common law of both the conservative mindset and the evolutionary theory. TNA’s only saving grace, for the time being, is that they are not WWE.
Yet that can only stave off the end for so long. Don’t believe me? Jump in a DeLorean, set it to about 2001, and go ask Eric Bischoff, Vince Russo, and Ted Turner.
This article is not intended to be a premature obituary for TNA, though it might read as such. Rather, it is to highlight some of the biggest missteps TNA has taken over the past few years, and to give a few pointers on how they can actually recapture the threat that they were to WWE a few years back, and avoid the fate of WCW.
1. Ditch the Main Event Mafia
This storyline was worn out when it was The New Blood vs. The Millionaires Club in 2000.
Sadly enough, TNA management thought that one of the worst storylines during the death rattle of WCW was good enough to brush off and bring back nearly a decade later. And, let’s break down the MEM and find out how “main event” they actually are.
- Kurt Angle? OK, he’s legit.
- Sting? He’s always been overrated. He stood out in WCW because of strong charisma and an above-average ability and work ethic in a sea of duds. People talk of his ability, but it is ability unfulfilled. He’s the epitome of someone who can have a five-star match, provided his opponent is capable of the same.
- Kevin Nash? How can someone be “main event” when their body won’t even let them start the opening match?
- Booker T? Some good matches, but never higher than a lower-level member of the top tier.
- Scott Steiner? Really? Scott Friggin’ Steiner?
The problem with the MEM is not necessarily the fact that they barely main-evented back when they were in their prime. It’s the fact that it puts the focus on the past. People don’t watch TNA because they miss seeing the Big Bad Booty Daddy.
It’s supposed to be the new thing, cutting edge, and all that jazz. It’s why you saw Christian Cage jump onboard in 2005. Yet, Jeff Jarrett and Co. seem to forget this logic, and push people who lost their right to demand a push about five years ago.
2. If you’re going to have a storyline, have a storyline.
This one would seem to be elementary. Not every feud has to have a backstory. Even the top feuds usually boil down to nothing more than finding out who’s better in the ring. If you’re going to have a storyline, ask yourself a question: would I pay money to watch this?
Would anyone really pay money to see The Beautiful People and Cute Kip constantly talk about how Sarah Palin is coming to TNA?
And, if there’s not a feud, then there is very little reason to be cutting non-stop promos. Focus on the wrestling. The backstory is simply gravy.
3. Let the stars be their own “creative” team
This has been one of the main suggestions of many retired wrestlers, most notably “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. People can recognize regurgitated talking points and memorized lines. Only a very few can go out there, use a pre-written promo, and get away with it.
The Rock often said that creative came up to him maybe a day before, if that, and say: “OK, Rock, we’re in Houston. You’re going to be doing a program with Billy Gunn, and we need about 5 minutes of promo time.”
Granted, The Rock had a natural gift, but even that was developed through trial and error. Stone Cold has put a great deal of the reason for his success with WWE on the time he spent in ECW, where he did very little ring work, but had Paul Heyman let him loose on the microphone.
The reason so many of the “established” stars seem to have a knack for cutting killer promos is because they came up in a time when there was no “creative”; rather, they went out and learned the hard way on how to cut a good promo.
4. Differentiate your product
I remember growing up in rural America. I had a favorite record/CD store in the big town over (pop. 8,200). One day, I go in and they are complaining to me about how Wal-Mart moved in and it’s cutting off their business, and they would probably go under in about a year.
I looked straight at the owner, a good friend of mine, and said, “And if you do, it’s your fault.” He asked why. I told him that it was simple. His store was located on the city square, which gets very few shoppers and even fewer people that fit the demographic he was going for.
I told him if he wanted to stay in business, rent out a spot on the strip mall across from Wal-Mart, and cater to the type of music Wal-Mart didn’t carry. Christian, maybe the “parental advisory” set of music, or whatever. If you can’t beat the competition head-to-head, run around them.
That’s the key reason TNA is failing right now. They are recycling too much material. I don’t think I’ve seen something in TNA (early X-Division notwithstanding) that makes me do a double take because I’ve never seen it before.
The greatest differentiation they’ve done is a six-sided ring. With regards to everything else, it comes off feeling like a low-rent WWE or WCW. And, given the choice, I’m going to go with the actual WWE (or watch a WCW tape) if for no other reason than the fact that they at least have better production values.
5. Pass the freaking torch already
Don’t get me wrong—there is plenty of room and reason for older stars. But, when you are in the process of rebuilding a football team, you don’t do it by making half the roster be over the hill and past their prime.
You get good, established, yet current stars, and then focus on building a nucleus of younger players that will soak up the knowledge of the current group. You put two young guys in there, or one of your established wrestlers with a wet-behind-the-ears green wrestler, and you let them go.
TNA seems to have an identity crisis: they want to be the wrestling promotion of the new generation, yet they bring some of the oldest acquisitions to the roster to accomplish that goal.
When TNA was on the rise, they were doing things differently. They had stars you had never seen before, putting on matches you had never seen before.
They were wise, at first, to bring in some established talent. It allowed them to get heavier amounts of televised time in order to put their product out to an even greater market.
But something happened between that point and today. They’ve given those stars too much control and too much time.
It almost echoes back to the words of Vince McMahon when WWE introduced the nWo…the older stars have become a cancer of TNA.
There is still time to save the company. However, they are at a point where they cannot afford to make too many mistakes.
Here’s hoping that they work on seeking the treatment they need to beat the disease.