I, Mike Walpole, am a wrestling fan. Its no secret. But more specifically, I am a WWE fan. Growing up, I did not care for WCW and the aging bores they called wrestlers. Flair, Hogan, Nash, Hall and Savage as WCW Champions? No thank you.
Fast forward over a decade later and I now realize something I didn’t as a child and that is that WCW made WWE better. Having a competitor challenged them to make their overall product more enjoyable.
Now in 2010, the WWE is the clear cut leader in professional wrestling with no other promotion on their radar.
Which brings us to TNA, the only real hope at one day challenging the big bad WWE. They have some good stars, a nationally televised show and the money to make the push. But something is just missing from their product that is holding them back. I’ll admit, I don’t watch every episode of Impact!, but its not that I’m not trying. It’s because the show is absolutely brutal at times.
I want TNA to get better, hell, I NEED TNA to get better.
In the PG era we're in with the WWE, this is the time for TNA to strike and capture an audience that normally wouldn’t give them the chance. And that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for WWE. Maybe it would force them out of this PG rut they're stuck in and push them to make the product better. With all this said, here are 10 ways to help TNA close the gap with WWE.
1) Trim The Fat
In the current economical climate, everybody should be looking to save money. I’m not saying this because I think Dixie Carter & company should be looking to save money, rather I’m saying they should be spending their money more wisely. Instead of spending it on aging vets and “big” names they think will add a boost to the ratings, they should be using it to get their show on the road and upgrade the production value.
What moves would I make? I’d send Brother Ray and Brother Devon packing before I even finished writing this piece. Abyss, Eric Young, Hernandez, Kiyoshi & Okada, Orlando Jordan, Rhino, Shark Boy, Stevie Richards and Tommy Dreamer would all be jobless as well.
As for the legends, Sting, Hogan and Flair would be gone. As much as I used to think Eric Bischoff was creative and entertaining, I’m starting to think he has nothing new to offer, which is why I’d let him go as well.
These moves would save the company millions upon millions to use in other places. One last note, as much as I would LOVE to cut Jeff Jarrett, the guy has ownership in the company so I think that may come as a bit of a problem to do.
2) Raid The Indies
With all the guys I just theoretically cut loose, that creates a lot of space to fill. Could they fill the holes with former WWE superstars like Matt Hardy, Shelton Benjamin, Gregory Helms, Mike Knox, MVP, Carlito or Luke Gallows? Sure. But I don’t think that’s the answer here.
While there are some ex-WWEers that I would bring in, such as Kenny Dykstra, Shad Gaspard and DJ Gabriel, I feel their best option would be to turn to the indy promotions and pick some fresh faces. I’d make strong offers to Davey Richards, Eddie Edwards, Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, Jimmy Jacobs, Mistico and the Briscoe Brothers.
Had I written this about two months earlier, I would have said to put all my eggs in the Tyler Black basket, but TNA dropped the ball there. One last guy I’ve always had a thing for is Teddy Hart. I know the guy's a head case, but damn does he have some talent.
3) Create Their Own Stars
On June 2, 2004, Jeff Jarrett won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, which at the time was TNA’s top title. Since that day, only three men without pre-TNA national backgrounds have won the company’s championship. Three! In six and a half years!
Abyss held the title for 56 days in 2006. A.J. Styles has held it twice spanning 246 days. Samoa Joe held it for 182 days back in 2008. The other men to have held the title were Jarrett, Raven, Rhino, Christian, Sting, Angle, Mick Foley, RVD and now Jeff Hardy. All nine of those guys made their name in either WWE, WCW or ECW.
It's about time TNA puts some time and effort into creating their own stars. Guys like Robert Roode, Rob Terry and D’Angelo Dinero (I know he started with WWE, but he really doesn’t come off to me as a WWE made guy) have what it takes to be top singles guys. Amazing Red is Rey Mysterio 2.0 and same with Gen Me being a Hardy Boyz clone. The Machine Guns are the best tag team on the planet and should be pushed as such.
4) Complete Overhaul of Creative Team
Like a post holiday sale, everything must go!! The writing is terrible. The booking is god awful. Everything feels stale and rehashed. How many times will they create a heel stable looking to take over control of TNA?
S.E.X. (Sports Entertainment Xtreme), The Main Event Mafia, Fortune, Immortal—it’s the same thing time after time. Bischoff and Russo found lightning in a bottle with the NWO almost fifteen years ago! Time to let it go.
Heel factions are fun, but the “company takeover” angle has run its course. Abyss acquiring Hogan’s power through a stupid ring? Jeff Jarrett just randomly becoming an MMA specialist at the age of 43? This stuff is just dumb, plain and simple.
5) Take It To The Road
For TNA to fully become nationally recognizable, they MUST get out of the Impact Zone. I’m not saying they need to move out for good, but to hold all your events in the same building with free admission is just not good business.
They end up with the same core of fans coming to every show, with a few tourists sprinkled in. If you want to get a certain star or angle over, and the crowd isn’t buying it on Monday, guess what? They won't be buying it on Tuesday either.
More importantly, with hitting the road, you're giving the fans throughout the country a chance to see these guys live, up close and personal. You're expecting these same fans to keep investing their time and money into these characters you're selling, why not let them be there instead of thousands of miles away?
6) Create a Developmental Territory
As much as I bash TNA for not developing their own stars, it’s a problem that isn’t entirely the bookers' fault. If they get a young talent in, what are they supposed to do with him, throw him right onto TV and hope things work out?
That’s not exactly sound strategy. The creation of a developmental territory would work wonders for TNA. Cena, Orton, Miz, Sheamus, Barrett—the list goes on of WWE megastars who made their way through the developmental ranks before debuting. It really is a must these days and the fact TNA doesn’t have one is a joke.
7) Upgrade The Entrances
If you’ve ever been to a live WWE show, you know the second a particular superstar's entrance music plays, the house is going to erupt. When Triple H’s guitar riff hits, things are going to get loud. When you hear “AAAAWESOME!!” prepare for a chorus of boos. The Austin glass shattering, The Undertaker’s gong, even down to the midcard with Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston or Jack Swagger.
The entrance music is loud, enjoyable and most importantly, distinguishable. I’ll admit I’m not a TNA diehard or anything, but I sometimes find myself not even knowing who's about to come out until I see their name on the ‘tron or see them walk out. The music just sounds generic and the pyro consists of random lasers (what are we in 1998?). You win half the battle by grabbing the viewer's attention and excitement with a great entrance.
8) Find A Big Gimmick
You may read this title and think, “Ugh, another cheesy gimmick?” But that’s not exactly what I’m talking about. When you think about WWE, they have events and matches you look forward to all year.
WrestleMania sends chills down your spine. The event isn’t just an event anymore, it has its own week in the hosting city. TNA has Bound For Glory as its big pay-per-view, but honestly, is anybody that much more excited for BFG than any other generic PPV?
The Royal Rumble. The match itself is the most anticipated match in wrestling every year, hands down. The Elimination Chamber. I don’t know about you, but this match is always captivating for me. The structure is breathtaking and the chaos which ensues is always just as good. The Hell in The Cell used to be the same way, before WWE started watering the matches down.
TNA has nothing like these matches or events that really grab your attention and draw ratings. They need to come up with something better than the Ultimate X match.
9) No More Celebrities
I think I can speak for every wrestling fan in America when I say this. I watch wrestling for the action and the storylines involving the wrestlers. I don’t want to see JWoww in the ring doing anything. I don’t want to see Toby Keith sing, let alone suplex a guy.
I’ve never watched a wrestling program and thought to myself, “This action is great, but you know what would really spice this up? Johnny Damon!”
I’m not saying TNA is alone in this horrid practice of attempting to grasp ratings through pop culture stars, but if I was running the company that just wouldn’t happen. In WWE’s defense, they aren’t even paying their celebrities, while TNA is shelling out $15,000 on JWoww for a one night appearance.
10) Bye Bye Dixie
She may be a part owner of the company, but let her be that, an owner. She is not entertaining in any way. She’s an authoritative figure who has no authority. She’s constantly getting over stepped and really has no place on TV.
I agree with the fact that a good wrestling promotion should have an on-screen authority figure a la McMahon and Bischoff. But an older, cutesy woman doesn’t exactly cut it as that role. The head guy should be just that, a guy.
Call it sexist if you’d like, but I like my owner/GM figure to be an egotistical, unfair, heartless human being—a man that you hate with all your passion. That is something Dixie will never be able to be. If she wants to stay on as an owner, have at it, but she should never be seen on television again.
Well there you have it, 10 ways to bring TNA into relativity. These aren’t quick fixes by any means, but this isn’t a problem that can be fixed in a week or a month. It’s going to take time and commitment to turn TNA from a painfully watchable program to a commodity worth investing yourself into. I feel like my ideas are just the way to do it.