Making an Impact: Analyzing TNA's Past and Deducing Its Future
Note: References to WWE will be made not with the intention to compare the two promotions but to highlight TNA’s effectiveness as an alternative broadcast.
On June 19, 2002, Jeff Jarrett and his father, Jerry, introduced TNA (Total Nonstop Action Wrestling) to the world of wrestling enthusiasts.
It first debuted as a weekly pay-per-view event and it would not be until two years later that they would expand to provide a weekly broadcast known as Impact!
After nearly seven years of weekly programming, TNA has come far from being an incomplete business plan; it has become one of the two national promotions in the United States, the other being World Wrestling Entertainment.
While TNA has had its fair share of success with the ever popular X-Division (cruiserweight division) and a solid tag team division, it has unfortunately been a victim to poor writing and bad booking at times.
But like any other promotion, TNA will have to go through the process of trial and error before they find their secret BBQ sauce of success.
TNA aims to be the alternative to the WWE, and thus they should strive to create a difference between them from the “other company.”
It must be a positive difference, so they may appear more appealing to wrestling fans in contrast to WWE’s weekly soap operas.
As a child, I was taught that you should practice what you preach.
If that is the case, TNA should fire their image consultant right away for suggesting a blatantly clear slogan that promotes what the company should be doing.
Crossing the line doesn’t mean poking fun at the WWE all the time or referring to them as the other company.
If you really like to, then show the stones and address them by their name: WWE.
Crossing the line wouldn’t necessarily mean showcasing excessive violence on TV, and it definitely doesn’t mean quibbling about who should apologize to whom.
TNA is chock-full of potential; that is no joke. As far as in-ring competition is concerned, I applaud the roster for putting in so much effort and dedication to perfecting the fine art of wrestling.
When it comes to handling its superstars or for that matter, story lines that might affect aforementioned superstars, TNA has a lot to learn.
Let me provide you with a comment from our Co-Community Leader, Shane Howard:
“TNA fails to do what they said they are about. They claim they are an alternative but in reality, they look like WWE-lite. It's a damn shame they aren't trying to be alternative except for when they make up their gimmick matches.”
I believe this comment was right on the mark, it couldn’t have been put better.
Why does TNA fail to capitalize on their homegrown talent and instead cling to the stars who should be in the alumni section?
What are the current issues of TNA and how can they be resolved?
Let’s take a look, shall we?
It is the heart and soul of TNA, this division which was once the focus of the entire show, it was what made me a TNA fan and I was stunned to hear that such notable stars as Johnny Devine, Sonjay Dutt and Petey Williams were released.
In this area, I would have to say that TNA had created a successful alternative to WWE’s mid-card by providing wrestlers with agility and athleticism so much so that not only were they successful in high-flying spots, but their in-ring skill is also quite the spectacle to witness.
A three-way feud over the X-Division title between A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe, and Christopher Daniels would eventually see the three of these athletes in the main event scene, with both Samoa Joe and A.J. Styles holding the company's top titles.
Many of its current stars are part of the tag team division and now that the X-Division champion, Suicide, is involved in a feud with the likes of Lethal Consequences and the Motor City Machine Guns, it seems that the division will be getting a fair amount of coverage.
The division is hell bent on using gimmick matches, and almost every title defense involves four competitors.
Whatever happened to a good old singles contest?
If there are four wrestlers in the ring, it is twice as hard to effectively showcase every single one of the competitors’ abilities and put them over with the fans as opposed to having two wrestlers giving their all in attempt to attain the division’s prized possession.
Currently, the only storyline involving the X-Division is the “Who is Suicide?” program. While having one storyline involving multiple stars promotes the idea of having everyone participate isn't necessarily a bad idea, it does leave a lot to be desired.
It is granted that time constraints are set in place, that is why I would suggest the company stop airing those ridiculous "Cross The Line" promos every other five minutes.
Instead, they should offer to have all the webographies of wrestlers exclusively on the company website in order to better utilize the remaining time and build compelling story lines that force the viewers to stay tuned.
That would prevent the regular channel surfing disease viewers are prone to catch whenever watching TNA or in this case any pro-wrestling broadcast.
Women’s Division: TNA Knockouts
When the Knockout division was started at Bound For Glory ’07, TNA acquired a lot of exceptional talent with both beauty and wrestling skill.
Most of these women had not only great in-ring talent but they had what the majority of the WWE Divas were and are still lacking, characters and personas.
When a superstar debuts on TV, his/her responsibility is to take their character and work with it in order to get themselves over with the crowd thus ensuring their employment as well as their future in the company.
While the fans embraced both Divas and Knockouts, it was the latter that must be commended on their effort to actually make their characters stick out of an ordinary crowd.
A great example of how TNA capitalized on this is The Beautiful People.
When Angel Williams and Talia Madison first debuted, they were generic pretty face baby face divas. But then TNA turned them heel and created possibly the most despised female tandem in wrestling today.
After having done well in the past two years, things have drastically changed and for the worse.
TNA has turned Kong into a face without regard for her bloodthirsty ways, and have made The Beautiful People a bunch of dumb blondes whose stupidity knows no bounds.
I could understand why they turned Kong into a face, capitalizing on her increasing popularity would be a healthy source of income.
But true to her core, she is a monster who knows naught but destruction. It’s funny, now that I’ve said that I will be cheering the next time she gets in the ring simply because these people are here to see a TV-14 show and if they get what they want, why won’t they cheer?
A recent trend has emerged which consists of taking very talented and developed characters and shifting them around in personality (Kong to being a face, Roxxi to the "Hardcore" Knockout who swore all the time, ODB to being out there looking for a date through video submissions and then being held off TV)
If TNA’s Knockouts are to once again become the alternative to WWE’s divas, they would have to go back to the drawing board and approach feuds and characters involved in those feuds very carefully.
Engaging the fans is one of the essential ingredients of a successful feud, the others are in-ring competition and legitimate and logically sound story lines.
Although, there must be a variation of little to a lot of suspension of disbelief but never reaching to the extreme highs as that would just leave a bad taste in the mouth of the viewership.
This has not been stressed enough before by my fellow writers, but celebrity involvement in the world of wrestling must be kept to a minimum.
Although it may give TNA a little publicity, the focus of the show may be diverted in favor of these Hollywood stars and that would make for an unsatisfactory product overall.
Tag team Division
When it comes to TNA’s tag team division, I can say without a doubt that this section of the company has excelled and continues to do so.
With past teams like XXX (Senshi, Elix Skipper and Christopher Daniels), Team Canada (Eric Young, Petey Williams, Johnny Devine and Bobby Roode) and America's Most Wanted (James Storm and Chris Harris), among many others, the company developed a solid foundation.
Teams like LAX, the Motorcity Machineguns and Lethal Consequences among others are participating in tag-team matches.
New teams are being introduced regularly as well.
In two hours of weekly programming, TNA continues to highlight more tag teams and more respectable tag team wrestling than WWE does across all its shows, and it’s hard for anyone to argue otherwise.
Random pairings such as Jay Lethal and Consequences Creed have resulted in not only new exciting but entertaining tag teams as well.
Sure, the tag titles will never be the company's top belt, but treating that as if they are two separate divisions with equally prestigious championships helps keep the tag titles relevant and helps develop new stars at the same time.
Continuing this focus on tag team wrestling, which has been a crucial part of TNA's past as well as present, will allow the company to continue to differentiate itself from its future competition.
Talent acquisitions and the main event scene
Acquiring talent and creating stars out of them has always been the focal point of TNA’s progress.
When the company first started, young talent such as Styles, Joe, Daniels, Storm, Lethal were being recruited in order to provide entertainment and build stars for future inclusion in the main event scene.
What TNA has done so far with all these superstars is nothing short of commendable.
However, you also have to take into account how these superstars’ characters were morphed for better or for worse.
Will the real Samoa Joe please stand up?
Grrr…the nation of violence!
See what I mean? They took Samoa Joe who had great appeal and the TNA World Heavyweight Championship and turned him into a twisted vigilante who has murderous intentions.
Is that the best you could come up with?
Couldn’t Joe oppose the MEM (Main Event Mafia) by being exactly the same as he was before?
I could understand why they would opt to change his character a little in order to give him an advantage over the Main Event Mafia but this is just plain disturbing.
What TNA is doing with its current main event scene is the exact reason why some of us have turned away from the product.
Having four veterans competing for the company’s top prize and with three of them being executive shareholders defies logic.
The main event of a show is where an upcoming or already established star defends the top tier title against another rising star or a fellow established star.
Having the belt on Mick Foley was a bad decision, in my opinion. It only further strengthens my theory that suggests that every established star that signs with TNA is bound to have a title reign sooner or later.
Why not build Samoa Joe or the phenomenal A.J. Styles to once again reclaim a top title?
Or better yet, begin working out a plan to push a newly signed talent to become the flag bearer of the company.
WWE had Hogan, Austin, etc. TNA needs to hands the reins to the young talent if they are to truly succeed in building superstars.
The one obstacle that seems to be in the way in this sort of progress is the Main Event Mafia. Rather than the usual spot where I would raise my fist to the heavens and ask why, I’ll state why the unstoppable MEM is a great obstacle for a new star to cross.
Isn’t that the usual drill?
An underdog against a world filled with obstacles, a rocky start, an even harder journey and final vindication.
This is the perfect opportunity for a young superstar to rise to stardom. TNA needs a flag bearer to represent not only the youth movement but to provide clear evidence that the company is more than willing to push talent a few kilometers shy of the moon.
After successfully capitalizing of said established star, he will need a new nemesis.
What better way to provide the champion with a worthy opponent than to build a heel star?
Progress may be a slow process, but it will only help the company in the long haul.
Ratings and future competition
The ratings for Impact have been increasing but not a rate that would allow TNA to jump to Monday nights because they have yet to achieve their goal of being an alternative, thus they will have to refocus their priorities.
An episode of TNA will likely have 30 minutes of wrestling, and with a two-hour time slot this is quite the opposite of what you’d like to have.
The key to gaining viewership is to strike a balance between the two; however, exceptions could be made in case of building feuds for an upcoming PPV but at the same time, we must keep in mind that it must never completely dominate TV time.
As I’ve mentioned before, there needs to be a cutback on the webographies and the “Cross the Line” promos.
Another example of bad storytelling would be last week’s episode of iMPACT! In which we were practically following Jeff Jarrett in his day-to-day activities.
Instead of cutting to the final act, the less than mediocre buildup to what should have been an extreme altercation between Foley and Jarrett ended up a huge disappointment and it caused the show to end in a rather anti-climatic fashion.
Like I said, a balance of segments and in-ring storytelling will benefit both the buildup of the stars and will boost ratings.
People have credited TNA’s failure to attract viewers to their inability to successfully advertise their promotion.
This is another area where management might like to look into, get superstars to advertise themselves, get them on radio shows (Here’s looking at you, HTR), and please do something to promote the company.
When the question of whether TNA will ever be a legitimate threat to the WWE comes up, I feel it is matter of perspective as well as time that is a factor here.
If TNA is to step back and redesign their blueprints entirely for the better, it won’t before long that they catch steam and pose a threat to WWE.
Please forgive me as I tend to get theoretically fantastical in my articles at least once, let me present forth a piece of science that I had stashed away in my top shelf.
The term Black Swan comes from the assumption that 'All swans are white'. In that context, a black swan was a metaphor for something that could not exist. The 18th Century discovery of black swans in Western Australia metamorphosed the term to connote that the perceived impossibility actually came to pass.
Theoretically speaking, it could happen.
The defense rests, no further evidence.
A big thanks to Adam Testa for being an excellent source of information.
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