Dixie's Rebellion: 7 Ways TNA Can Right the Ship and Overthrow WWE (Eventually)
Much has been said on this site disparaging the TNA product. They decry it is a direct ripoff of WCW's dying days. They complain about the lack of air time for emerging stars. Most of all, they whine about the "dinosaurs" running the show.
However, TNA does have some positive things going for it. It has a strong tag team division and a shocking heel turn has boosted the interest in TNA. Also, you would be hard-pressed to find bigger names in the wrestling business than Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. AJ Styles is ranked #1 in the entire world, sorry Chris Jericho.
TNA has all the tools to become a better product than WWE: talented wrestlers (AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy, RVD, etc.), the hottest story lines (like it or not, TNA has the hottest story line in the business today with the nWo revival), and it appeals mainly to the male 18-35 demographic, an area that WWE has struggled with due to the PG Era and the childish stories.
This slide show will explore how TNA can compete with the monopoly that is WWE, if not take them down completely. It will encompass not only the wrestling product but the business side of things as well.
Now remember, this process will take at least 5 years to occur, if not longer. If TNA can gradually improve day after day then they can reach the top.
Here are some quasi-specific solutions to get TNA back on track.
Market to The 18-35 Male Demographic Exclusively- Then Kids Will Follow
This is the one thing that TNA has the edge over WWE. They have appealed to the demographic that will most likely watch something like Pro Wrestling or MMA, the 18-35 male demographic. Also, that particular demographic has been the most vocal against the PG rating of the WWE ever since it was enacted in 2008. They have also been the most vocal against a certain John Cena, unsurprisingly. Maybe it's because they are jealous? I don't know.
TNA has kept the TV-14 rating to appeal to that audience. I believe they should keep that rating if they choose to continue to appeal mainly to that aforementioned demographic. However, this is where they need to step up their marketing game. What they need to do is to heavily hit the airwaves as an alternative to the stale, boring product of the WWE.
It's no surprise wrestling fans don't think the WWE is at its peak right now. Now is the time to strike, TNA. If they can monopolize on that particular demographic, they will have a chance to force WWE to go either back to TV-14 (not viable due to political and financial reasons) or shake up some major story lines (which they have done already with Nexus and Cena's possible heel turn).
If TNA can get that demographic, then they can make TNA "cool" rather than WWE. The problem is, not a lot of people know about TNA. When people think of Pro Wrestling, they automatically think of Vince McMahon and WWE. It's because WWE has had a monopoly on the industry ever since they purchased rival WCW in the earlier stages of this century.
When TNA becomes "cool", then the kids will inevitably watch what their older siblings or parents are watching. It will be like the height of the glorious Attitude Era. If TNA has a great product, then kids will start asking their parents to buy the PPV's, which leads to more cash which leads to...
Go On Tour More Often- Make the Fans Want to Come Watch
The one thing that WWE does exceptionally well is their travel schedule. Although it is brutal on the wrestlers, for the pocketbook it is anything but brutal. Vince McMahon can count on a Raw or a Smackdown drawing enough fans to make a profit. House shows make him a fortune as well.
For example, Wrestlemania in Phoenix drew over 72,000 fans and there were very few empty seats in the University of Phoenix Stadium. I know, I was there. To contrast, TNA's 2010 Bound for Glory event drew a measly 3,500 fans in Daytona Beach. Plenty of empty seats littered the exact same arena as Hulk Hogan joined the outsiders and created the beloved nWo. This disparity in attendance is something TNA needs to bridge the gap on.
Here's how to bridge the gap: get the message out to fans throughout the US to come watch.
Now that's easier said than done. So here's how TNA can do that.
1. Set your headquarters to Nashville and Orlando. Have your tour based off these cities. Ensure that travel schedule can be feasible yet profitable. For example, be based out of Orlando during the winter months. Be based out of Nashville during the summer. Go on tour on the West Coast during the fall months. Hit the East Coast during the spring months. Perhaps go on a European tour in the summer.
2. Set your pay-per-views outside of the Universal Studios headquarters. Set your Impacts outside of the headquarters as well sometimes, especially leading up to a PPV. The problem is the Impact zone is in Universal Studios. Having all your PPV's in a theme park is bad for business.
3. Have your house shows be located in the same area (i.e one show in New York and then in Newark).
If they can draw enough fans to pay-per-views, Impacts, and house shows, then people can realize how good of a product TNA is. And here's how to do that...
Have Five Star Matches Week In and Week Out
Total Nonstop Action must live up to its moniker. If there is great wrestling going on, not only the diehard IWC fans will notice but the casual fans. For example, the Attitude Era was only great because there were awesome promos delivered by The Rock and Stone Cold. There is not a single wrestler out there today anywhere close to their mic skills or popularity. Instead, go the early 90's route with having five star matches week in and week out. Similar to when Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were the faces of the WWE.
They have plenty of guys who can put on a show. For example, AJ Styles is the #1 wrestler in the world. Why not have him wrestle as much as humanly possible? Push him as a top guy in the business and actually make him defend his TV title every week. What about the Motor City Machine Guns? Their match with Generation Me at Bound for Glory was the second best match I saw all year behind HBK vs. Taker at WM 26. Of course, they have Kurt Angle. Although nearing the end of his career, Angle is still a phenomenal wrestler who can play face or heel equally well.
Here are some guys who can put on five star matches in TNA: Kurt Angle, AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy (if not high), RVD (see Jeff Hardy), Desmomd Wolfe (if healthy, haven't seen much of him), MCMG, Beer Money, and Jay Lethal is joining that list soon. He's fun to watch. That's ten guys in total who can put on a show. Five are face and five are heel.
Countless combinations of feuds are possible. Amazing wrestling can take place on Impact week in and week out. Even guys like Matt Morgan, Samoa Joe, and Mr. Anderson can put on a show. In addition, women wrestlers like Mickie James, Tara, and Angelina Love are all excellent in ring workers. Madison Rayne and Velvet Sky are also improving weekly.
So TNA, stop trying to be like WWE with its stupid story-lines, and put on tremendous matches week in and week out. Besides, AJ Styles and Kurt Angle can outwrestle anybody in the WWE.
Allow The Best of The Best To Flourish
All right, we have some fairly simple solutions so far. But this is something that may seem risky at first. I love the idea of having big legends such as Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan on your payroll. It gives TNA more exposure. I don't love the idea of ECW oldies (Dreamer, Sabu, Raven, etc.) being anywhere near the Impact Zone. Perhaps have Dreamer and Raven work backstage instead. When a high-paid legend such as Sting or Kevin Nash's contract expires, unless if you are convinced they can play a MAJOR role in the company, don't renew their deal.
However, STOP burying younger stars (AJ, Desmond, Anderson) in favor of Social Security recipients (Flair, Hogan, Foley, etc.)
Here is an interesting solution to deal with the over-saturation of ECW, WCW, and WWE legends. Allow ECW guys such as Raven and Tommy Dreamer to have complete creative control over the X Division. Let the X Division be like ECW. Enable rising stars like Jay Lethal and Desmond Wolfe compete for the X Division belt. Take advantage of your TV-14 rating to have plenty of violence in those matches.
Give your WCW guys such as Hogan, Flair, Russo, and Bischoff free reign over the rest of TNA. However, they should make a vow to push the younger wrestlers. AJ Styles should be the face of the company, not a henchman for Ric Flair. Perhaps TNA can turn him face and have him feud with Immortal. Make Mr. Anderson your top antihero. Give him plenty of opportunities to work the mic. Let Matt Morgan be another antihero lone ranger type who feuds with Immortal and Fortune. Shove these guys down our throat. Let them shine. This is how you can build your company moving forward.
You have your shocking heel Jeff Hardy. With his new evil persona, continue to give him those disturbing, evil promos to build up his character. Of course, if he goes to jail, sign his brother Matt to replace him. There is so much talent that is untapped. Maximize all your talent. Let them play to their strengths. Give them gimmicks they can master. Go out and sign guys that are talented in the ring and on the mic.
Also, you have the clearly superior women and tag teams to WWE. Take advantage of them. Which leads me to my next point.
Aggressively Push the Tag Teams and the Knockouts
You have THE BEST Tag Teams and Knockouts in the WORLD. Especially if you sign Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas (I think they are ROH bound), you have an incredible tag division. The MCMG, Beer Money, Generation Me and even a potential Hardy Boyz reunion can trump any random pairing the WWE throws out there. The TNA Tag Team belts are the most prestigious tag belts in the world.
At Bound for Glory, the best match on the card was MCMG vs. Generation Me. It wasn't a whole lot of buildup. It was just twenty minutes of total nonstop action. That's what TNA needs at each and every PPV, a five star tag match. If the tag division is strengthened, individual stars will flourish once the teams are inevitably broken up.
TNA's knockouts are way more talented than the WWE Divas. Mickie James, Tara, and Angelina Love can perhaps only be surpassed by Beth Phoenix and Melina in terms of overall talent. Vickie Guerrero should NEVER wrestle again. It's a disgrace to the Guerrero family. But, it shows that the Divas lack talent. Also, WWE misuses its Divas. TNA should focus on great Knockouts wrestling.
It can be like that infamous Miller Lite commercial of "More Taste, Less Filling" type of fight. Opening up Impact with that brawl between the Knockouts was worth watching. Fans like to see catfights, not thirty seconds of models with fake implants awkwardly trying to wrestle. Fans want to see real women's matches, not garbage matches on Raw. TNA can take advantage of WWE's weakness in Divas wrestling and make that a focal point of the company.
If TNA can focus on making strengths such as the Tag Division and the KO's division a focal point of the company, then it can slowly have a strong foundation to eventually compete and overtake WWE. Even have a PPV main event be a tag match or a KO's match. What a concept!
Give Short Term Deals And Be Smart With Your Money
This is a two-pronged solution. Oftentimes, I would hear people saying "Oh, just fire so and so." It doesn't work that way. Since wrestlers are independent contractors, their contracts must be honored even if they are fired. Therefore, instead of releasing them outright, let them be sparingly-used jobbers or even referees. I believe TNA only has three full-time refs on their payroll. Let little-used guys who still have lots of years on their contract to becomes referees. I believe they are doing this with Shark Boy.
Since TNA signs wrestlers based off a pay per appearance contract, make sure in the future that the contracts are relatively short term, especially for guys like Matt Hardy and any contract extension with older wrestlers. The only wrestlers who should be signed long term are AJ Styles and Mr. Anderson. Those should be your top two guys. The rest must be signed to relatively short-term deals to give you financial flexibility.
Another thing I recommend they do, make ALL contracts exclusively to TNA. Like WWE does, TNA contracts should be exclusively contracted to the company. TNA is too big of a promotion to have guys like RVD and Abyss wrestle in WUW wrestling in Tucson.
Just like in the NBA, the art of the expiring contract is a valuable deal. Once big deals such as Dreamer and Sting go off the books, use that "cap space" to go out and sign guys like Matt Hardy and Charlie Haas. For the little used wrestlers, use them as exclusively jobbers or change their gimmicks to give them one last chance (Orlando Jordan, Eric Young).
The current problem with TNA is the fact they just cannot get out of their own way. They used up their "cap space" on should be retired stars (EV 2.0, perhaps Hogan and Bischoff). Instead of moping about the situation, just don't spend millions of dollars on guys who are on their last leg.
Going back to the NBA example, say a team with cap space such as Portland signs past their prime legends such as Shaq to a long term, high money contract. Instead, Boston was smart enough to pick guys up like Shaq on the cheap with something to prove. Just replace Shaq with guys like Matt Hardy and even Bill Goldberg.
The Miami Heat got to nWo-like infamy because they cleared the books. They ensured that they can sign guys like Chris Bosh and LeBron James to big deals. This is what TNA can do.
Some day, a future WWE megastar will say, "I have decided to take my talents to the Impact Zone. I will join TNA."
So TNA, honor thy contract, but be smart with it. Use it to its full potential. Don't waste money on guys like ECW dinosaurs and Orlando Jordan.
Aggressively Play the Game Of Business and Get a Developmental Promotion
This might be an unattainable idea. How about this TNA. Think about buying or merging with Ring of Honor. ROH has an excellent training school. They always have strong wrestlers (CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Tyler Black, and I can go on and on). A lack of a developmental system is TNA's achilles heel. WWE has FCW and all the indy circuits to recruit talent. TNA gets all the leftovers WWE doesn't want (Wolfe, Morgan, Pope, etc.) They have no chance to get any
If TNA can get a minor-league type promotion, two things can happen. One, new stars can develop with less pressure on them. Current wrestlers can practice their new gimmicks (like Shad in FCW) and improve their in ring skills. If TNA can buy ROH, they have a whole gold mine of hungry and cheap talent to develop. Even if they can't buy ROH, they can still create a developmental league to sign younger stars and to give current members of the roster more reps in the ring.
Maybe even steal some promising wrestlers from FCW. Shad would be a nice fit in the Impact Zone as either a face or a heel. If they let Sting go, they can save let's say one million dollars. That is forty wrestlers they can sign to developmental deals. If ten of those make it to the main show, that is a well-spent one million dollars. All the money invested in a developmental school will pay you dividends in the long run.
Also, be smart in your industry. WWE has a monopoly right now. However, in the business world things always change. If WWE continues to push stale, repetitive stories that fans do not want, TNA can possibly get a foothold in the market. If TNA can compete with WWE, all wrestling fans benefit because competition will force the products to improve.
Dixie Carter is a decent businesswoman. While she is nowhere near the caliber of the businessperson Vince McMahon is, she is smart enough to follow my seven solutions TNA can follow to compete with WWE. She should focus on long term instead of short term goals. She has the capitol behind her to keep TNA afloat.
For the fans sake, I hope TNA can follow my business model of "Wrestling first, Stars based only off pure ability, and financially sound business decisions."