On Sunday night, TNA presents their biggest pay-per-view of the year, Bound For Glory. Anyone familiar with TNA knows that this is their "signature event," the smaller company's version of WrestleMania.
It makes sense for them to have one giant event every year just like WWE does with WrestleMania. It gives each year a beginning and an end, which is why it is often compared to the Super Bowl or the World Series.
WrestleMania helped set the stage for professional wrestling pay-per-views, one of the most important revenue streams in the industry today. So it's no wonder that companies who wish to compete with Vince have a WrestleMania of their own, and TNA is no exception.
They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but has TNA gone too far? I'd like to take a look at two significant ways in which TNA seems to have come up empty when looking for new ideas: the Hall of Fame and the storyline around the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
TNA Hall of Fame
Over the years, people have debated the significance of the WWE Hall of Fame.
When you give guys like Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart the chance to share their stories and be honored in front of the wrestling world, you're going to end up with some nostalgia that you're unlikely to find elsewhere in the WWE. It allows fans to re-live a portion of WWE history that they may not have even been alive for.
Others feel that the WWE Hall of Fame is meaningless. From Hulk Hogan degrading his ring for a TNA storyline, to questionable inductions from the likes of Koko B. Ware and Drew Carey, some people blow off the WWE Hall of Fame completely.
WWE tried several different options before finding a format that made its Hall of Fame process really click. The first induction was Andre the Giant on an episode of Raw in February 1993. In 1994 and 1995, they moved the event to be a part of the King of the Ring pay-per-views and tried to match it up with Survivor Series in 1996.
It wasn't until WrestleMania 20 that they decided to make the Hall of Fame an annual part of WrestleMania weekend. And since that time, it has been successful.
TNA has skipped the trial-and-error part of the process and just took WWE's idea of having the Hall of Fame ceremony taking place during the weekend of their biggest pay-per-view of the year.
Just as WWE began its Hall of Fame with a single induction of one of the all-time greats, TNA begins its Hall of Fame with a single induction of an all-time great.
Just as WWE hosts their Hall of Fame as part of the biggest pay-per-view weekend of the year, TNA has done the very same.
In the WWE, in the way that terms like "Superstar" and "Diva" are very specific labels, so is the term "Legend," which they reserve for current or future Hall of Famers. On this week's episode of Impact Wrestling, I heard Tazz referring to Sting as a "legend."
If you ask me, the TNA's Hall of Fame feels way too much like WWE's Hall of Fame.
Austin Aries, Jeff Hardy and the TNA World Heavyweight Championship
Will Bound For Glory ever measure up to WrestleMania?
CM Punk's pipe bomb gimmick has changed the game. Knocking down the "fourth wall," we are allowed to see a little more of the "real side of things," as Punk is given freedom to voice concerns that are both true and dramatic.
The best example of this is when he points out that, despite the fact that he has been WWE Champion for nearly a year, John Cena continues to headline pay-per-views over Punk. He doesn't feel that he is getting the respect that a champion deserves, and he berates the WWE Universe for buying Cena's merchandise and allowing themselves to align with the leader of the Cenation.
At WrestleMania 28, more focus was put on a story that had no direct relationship to the WWE Championship (Rock/Cena) than the story around the biggest prize in the game today (Punk/Jericho).
Ever since Jeff Hardy won the Bound For Glory tournament, Aries has begun to show signs of jealousy. He's upset that, despite the fact that he is the TNA World Heavyweight Champion, Hardy still seems to be more over than Aries.
Just like Cena can sell bright-colored t-shirts and wristbands, Jeff Hardy sells his sleeves and gets over using face-paint. Double A feels as though he's not getting the respect he deserves as champion.
And which storyline is getting the most promotion for TNA's biggest show of the year? Not the title match. It's a match involving a legend and a bully teaming up against two masked thugs that are part of a group trying to take over the company, a storyline that feels like a mash-up of the NWO takeover and the mystery behind the Higher Power of the Ministry of Darkness.
The World Champion isn't getting the respect he wants as champion and takes it out on a face that seems to be over more than him. Are we talking about TNA or WWE?
The Hall of Fame ceremony is put in place to glorify "Legends" during the same weekend as their biggest pay-per-view of the year. Are we talking about TNA or WWE?
The match that gets the most attention for their biggest card of the year doesn't involve the company's world champion but will likely headline the show anyway. Are we talking about Bound For Glory 2012 or WrestleMania 28?
As I recently argued in WWE: What Vince McMahon Can Learn from Magic Johnson, competition is healthy for the industry. Without WCW, there never would have been the Monday Night Wars, Vince would have run unopposed, and the WWE product wouldn't be what it is today.
With WCW out of the picture, TNA is the closest thing WWE has to competition. For the sake of the industry, it would be great if TNA grew enough to make WWE sweat.
But if all you are going to do is mimic what Vince already has in place, you're destined to remain a distant second for a long, long time.