We all remember the prime years of the wrestling business. From 1995-2000, the WWF and WCW competed for the eyes of millions of passionate wrestling fans (don’t forget ECW though!). We all know who won that war, and since 2001, the WWE has remained the main product to watch.
Today, there are a few companies who have risen to moderate financial success. Ring of Honor is an independent promotion that prides itself on showcasing the best wrestling in the United States. Xtreme Pro Wrestling, or XPW, is an underground company that takes the extreme from ECW and takes it to a higher level. The biggest challenger to the WWE is a promotion owned by Panda Energy called Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, or TNA.
TNA has risen from weekly pay-per-views to a primetime time slot on Spike every Thursday. There are reports that for the first time ever, TNA will turn a profit this year. Lately they have been stuck around a 1.1 rating, but this is not relevant to my point of discussion.
No matter what TNA does or what they put on television, there will always be something that holds them back. The WWE, many still refer to it as the WWF, has been around since the 1950s, and it has been mainstream since the early 1980s.
Their victory over WCW and the length that the company has been in business has allowed Vince McMahon’s company to become a worldwide financial success. The wrestling business has periods of ups and downs, and even with large changes to their product, WWE has still set profit and attendance records. Tommy Dreamer recently commented on the extravagance of Wrestlemania and the success of WWE.
“Again, it's huge business. Me coming from the original ECW and trying to compete. I remember last year when we were doing WrestleMania, and we had a three-bus police escort from our hotel to downtown Detroit. They closed every highway. I sat back and turned to my wife, and I was like, `ECW could never have made this. Look at this. They're closing a highway for us just to get to a show.' That's a testament to how hard the guys work. There's so many office people who don't get enough credit. This is a huge, huge publicly traded, multi-conglomerate company, and when WWE is behind something, they go full-throttle.” (from the Miami Herald: click here for full article)
Dreamer goes on to mention how Wrestlemania has become a spectacle. So here lies the problem for TNA: WWE is ingrained in the minds of people around our country, and even around the world. Back in 1997, WCW was booming and people began to think of the letters WCW whenever they thought of wrestling. This did not last very long, and the WWF used Austin vs. McMahon to knock King Turner off of his throne.
During its period called "The New Generation", the WWF was not having economic success and it was vulnerable to a company that was willing to provide a fresh product. WCW was able to do this with its cruiserweight wrestlers and nWo main events. Now the WWE has a stranglehold on the business and is still making large profits. The company has become a marketing giant, while TNA does not have the skill or ability to get their superstars noticed by the public (credit to Paul Heyman for that note).
TNA cannot touch the WWE right now, no matter how much better the wrestling or storylines are. They need to stick to providing an alternative to the WWE product, and they are not ready to take on Vince McMahon like Eric Bischoff did.