The following is the first of a series of articles designed to discuss the serious issues that face Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling as we prepare for the return of Hulk Hogan to prime time pro wrestling television.
Hulk Hogan's partnership with Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling (TNA Wrestling) spells doom for the young company, as the announcement of his arrival and the speculation of his intentions have done zilch to solve the many problems TNA already face without him.
In fact, Hulk Hogan's name and reputation is the last thing the company needs, while Eric Bischoff could possibly be the true savior of the company.
In all fairness, and in the spirit of objectivity, one should also consider the positive things TNA has done in the past seven years of its existence.
By engaging in a fair and well-balanced palaver regarding the current direction of the company, we are sure to come to some gentleman's consensus regarding the health and capabilities of Dixie Carter's sweet, precious organization.
However, there is a little nagging troll that exists outside of fairness and dwells within objectivity.
This beast is called "the truth," and while I do realize that Ron Killings is no longer employed with TNA, I contend that his moniker still reigns supreme for not only his gimmick, but also the current downward spiraling direction of TNA.
Also, while one may argue whether or not yours truly is indeed a "fan" of TNA Wrestling, and I contend that I am, I cannot blindly or idly sit by and completely ignore the major issues that continue to plague this fantastic organization and its superstars.
A true fan of any organization or superstar will not only praise them for their successes, but also have the unmitigated gall to call them out on their mistakes. Remember: wrestling fans do not support mediocrity.
So, since we've already had numerous articles chronicling the good things that TNA continues to offer pro wrestling fans, let me smile heartily as I share with you all the things that TNA is doing wrong.
By the end of these pieces, you'll really be able to see where Eric Bischoff's presence is more necessary than Hogan's.
1. TNA Should Leave Spike TV
1. TNA Should Leave Spike TV
On Oct. 1, 2005, TNA aired its very first episode of Impact! on Spike TV. Since then, ratings for the show and the station have been consistently high (per Spike TV's standards) to the point where TNA's weekly one-hour show was increased to two hours in October 2007.
Before landing a television deal with Spike TV, TNA's weekly show, TNA Xplosion! aired on Fox Sports Net from June 2004-May 2005.
This deal only lasted one year, and through consistently bringing in a 0.2 rating, their deal with Fox Sports Net was not renewed.
In Alabama (where I'm originally from), Fox Sports Net was once known as SportSouth. Prior to its purchase in May 2006 by the News Corporation, the parent company of the Fox Networks, the station was known as Turner South.
At any rate, SportSouth was also home to Extreme Championship Wrestling's ECW Hardcore TV, which aired for one hour early Sunday mornings sometime between midnight and 2:00 a.m. This deal lasted for a good amount of time, even when ECW landed a deal with The Nashville Network (TNN).
The Nashville Network was a country music-themed television station owned by Gaylord Entertainment that operated from 1983-2000.
In the late 1990's, Viacom Entertainment (MTV Networks) purchased the company, and sensing redundancy with it's Country Music Television Network (CMT), changed the name of the station to The National Network.
This name change kept the TNN anagram, but drastically changed it's demographic.
In 1999, ECW owner Paul Heyman inked a three-year deal with TNN and in August of the same year began broadcasting ECW on TNN.
The program received the highest ratings for the entire network, albeit the content was toned down at the demand of TNN executives.
ECW on TNN was cancelled in October 2000 in favor of WWF RAW moving to the network. Consequently, ECW Hardcore TV aired its last episode on SportSouth in December 2000.
TNN's name change to The National Network was done to appeal to a much broader audience than it's former rural Southern, white-working class demographic. This change led to Viacom landing the television rights to broadcast WWF RAW on TNN.
WWF's programming, which had been a mainstay on the USA Network since 1993 (previously, Prime Time Wrestling from the WWF aired for two hours on the USA Network since 1985), spent five years with TNN, from September 2000 to September 2005.
By now, TNN began to be referred to as The New TNN, in another effort to appeal to a much broader demographic. Along with the WWF's RAW is WAR, the network hosted numerous sporting events and off-network shows, such as Mad TV and Miami Vice.
Most of the country-themed programming had been purged from the network, and by 2002 it began to appeal to a more youthful male demographic.
In early 2003, The New TNN once again changed its name to Spike TV and marketed itself as the first network for men. The name change didn't became official until August 2003, due to numerous lawsuits the network faced from very well-known people named Spike.
In March 2005, Viacom and the WWE decided not to renew their contractual agreement with each other, and in September 2005, the WWE aired their final episode of RAW on the network.
In October 2005, Spike TV aired the very first episode of TNA Impact! on the network, while WWE RAW returned to its two-hour time slot on the USA Network on Monday nights. The two companies have been with their respective networks ever since.
Why did I go through that elaborate explanation of TNA's television deal history? Why did I bother to include the WWE and the USA Network? It seems that after a few years of hell, TNA has landed in a perfect place for its programming.
October 2010 will mark the five-year anniversary of the partnership between TNA and Spike TV, and that is indeed cause enough for celebration.
TNA's television product has suffered since its days with Fox Sports South. Generally speaking, Fox Sports South and Spike TV have limited demographics which speak to a very narrow fan base, while the WWE's deal with the USA Network allows it to reach not only the same demographic TNA captures, but also several other demographics as well.
For almost 5 years, Impact!'s ratings on Spike TV have barely topped 1.3-1.4, which means that roughly 2 million people, give or take, are watching TNA on Thursday nights.
WWE Monday Night RAW averages 3.4, which means that more than twice as many people are watching the WWE product on Monday than there are people watching TNA's product on Thursday.
You'd be a fool to suggest that the history of the companies' relationship with the networks are responsible for that wide margin.
The USA Network's eclectic mix of programming allows men, women, and children to enjoy the movies, original programming, sporting events, and syndicated off-network shows that appear each and every day.
Movies such as Elf, original programming such as Monk and Psych, and sporting events such as The Westminster Dog Show, the U.S. Open (Tennis), and even the WWE's Monday Night RAW appeal to a wide variety of people spanning over several age groups and ethnic backgrounds.
Spike TV programming, including MANswers and 1000 Ways to Die, movies such as The Karate Kid and Marked for Death, and sporting events/themed shows such as Pros vs. Joes, UFC: Ultimate Fighting Championship, and even TNA's Impact! only speak to one demographic in a particular age group over various ethnic backgrounds.
That would primarily be the 18-34 male demographic. This is why TNA can only average a 1.4 rating at its best. It has nothing to do with the quality of the product or the fact that the WWE has been doing it longer.
TNA's ratings are low compared to the WWE because the network that airs Impact! sucks.
Don't believe me? In November of this year, Spike TV's broadcast of the preliminary bouts of UFC's UFC: 106 PPV brought in a 1.0 rating, which was also roughly 1.3 million viewers. Mind you the UFC is one of the highest rated programs that air on Spike TV.
Oh, it gets even better. The live finale of UFC's The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights , brought in 5.2 million viewers during a fight between famed street boxer Kimbo Slice and Houston Alexander.
Spike TV scored a 5.9 rating with the men 18-34 demographic during that fight alone. Sounds impressive, doesn't it?
What was the household rating for the entire finale? 2.4.
The third most watched fight card in UFC history brought in a little under twice as many viewers as the best episode of TNA Impact!
How much money does Spike TV spend on advertising the UFC, and even the third-best rated UFC fight card can't break the average rating for WWE Monday Night RAW? That's all the network, baby.
TNA's history with Fox Sports Net is the same way. The network balked at renewing TNA's TV deal because it only brought in 0.2 ratings weekly, but that's horror does not rest solely on the shoulders of TNA.
Who watches Fox Sports Net for professional wrestling? How often did the network advertise the product? Is Fox Sports Net "wrestling friendly" (think of AOL Time Warner and WCW in its failing days)?
Did the network air the product at a time that its key demographic could catch it (as controversial as it was, it was a dumb move to air the "old" ECW at 12:00 AM when most folks were asleep).
The history of Spike TV is no better. Paul Heyman signed ECW to a three-year contract with network, who at that time was probably too busy trying to court the WWE.
TNN had Heyman water down his product so much that he intentionally tried to get kicked off the network. In fact, Heyman made that a part of a major storyline in the company!
They did the same thing with the WWE. From what I can remember, the USA Network and the WWE couldn't come to terms on a new deal where Vince would get more money for the programming.
Those five years (in my opinion) were hell for the WWE, and by the time they renegotiated things with USA, they were foaming at the mouth to get off Spike TV.
During the final Spike TV episode of RAW, the network edited out anything and everything that the WWE did to mention their return to the USA Network. I believe the announcers managed to sneak one mention into the broadcast.
If TNA ever hopes on becoming real competition for the WWE, then they are going to have to get off of Spike TV.
Yes, the network has been very "wrestling friendly," but their demographic does not appeal to a national market nor does it seem fans are in a rush to catch Spike's programming anyway.
A dissolution of their partnership should be an amicable one, but the truth of the matter is that TNA cannot be a viable contender in the "Monday Night Wars" if they only appeal to a small demographic in a very vast and large audience.
In this sense, if TNA wants to compete on WWE's level, then they'll literally have to find a TV deal that can get them on WWE's level. Spike TV, bless its little heart, cannot do that.
And if that isn't reason enough to change your mind, I'll offer you this final tidbit of information. Reportedly, Eric Bischoff has been fishing for another network to air TNA programming.
Pay no attention to the rumor that it'll be for a Knockouts or X-Division themed show. The stone cold fact is, he is looking for another network to air TNA programming.
The beautiful part about that is, Spike TV is allowing him to do so...