Rivals: Ten Areas Where TNA and Dixie Carter Are Beating Vince McMahon's WWE
Having just returned from a TNA house show, it made me think of just how impressive some aspects of Dixie Carter's organization was. As with any new company, it has made some mistakes but they do have many qualities that can bring with it, future success. And if used effectively, the monopoly of the WWE is under threat, long-term.
What follows is my interpretation of TNA's strengths. As always be sure to add your comments.
Dixie Carter: Charm of a Southern Belle
In my opinion, grossly underrated in terms of her presence in wrestling, Dixie Carter is a massive asset to TNA. Unlike her northern counterpart, Dixie adopts a hands on approach and at the recent house show, spent in excess of an hour signing autographs and taking pictures in the arena. Even as the show was about to start, Dixie was there meeting fans. Her approach provides an important figurehead for the company.
She has undoubtedly made some mistakes, as all owners or CEOs have done, but her recent work regarding TNA has helped increase brand awareness, especially in Europe.
By contrast, Vince McMahon is the King of Wrestling. And like many Kings, prefers aloofness rather than a hands on approach. Without McMahon, wrestling would not be as strong as it is. And it's arguable that he was the unsung hero of the Attitude Era, playing the fall guy to Stone Cold.
Montreal and the controversy over drugs will always count against his legacy but with the former, fences have at least been mended.
There is no right or wrong approach. But what Dixie has done has vastly increased brand awareness in TNA. They may not have the same number of fans as the WWE, but the passion of TNA fans is as strong as any other organization.
The Key Battlegrounds of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Europe
The ability of both companies to take their shows on the road is an important reflection of success and power. And there is perhaps no greater battleground than in the UK and Europe. The WWE is still the bigger draw and its recent tour will have eased financial burdens, but TNA has shown that it too has a presence.
One area, though, where TNA may have a crucial advantage is in regard to television. UK fans will attest that the shut down of the Bravo network has badly affected their viewership. However, this week's news that the Challenge Network will take over TNA's schedule starting next week is a huge development.
Well with the digital conversion in 2012, Challenge will be available via Freeview in every house in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Contrast this with the WWE and its relationship with Sky television and TNA has potentially a bigger audience share of up to 6-1 (Sky having 10 million customers as compared to Challenges potential 60 million).
Whether the UK and Ireland will switch on when programming begins next week is questionable, but with enough quality there is potential to pick up some new fans. And if TNA is able to maintain a larger share of viewers, they will at least be able to have bragging rights in terms of the UK/Ireland market.
Tag Team Division
It remains one of the biggest differences between TNA and the WWE. Where one has matches of Guns/Beer Money quality, the other is significantly lacking in teams. Tag Team gold means different things for the respective organisations.
Tag team wrestling, if organised properly, has the ability to do different things. It can provide new performers a chance to learn the trade, it can offer veterans a chance to pass on experience and it can add some colour to any card.
History is full of legendary tag teams. From the Legion of Doom to the Hart Foundation, Beer Money to the British Bulldogs. In many cases, the teams will provide at least one of the superstars a springboard to singles success, but sometimes, the team is better than any one performer.
For PPVs, tag team wrestling can provide something a little different. The example of the Guns and Beer Money highlighted just how brilliant it can be. Cross over to WWE with teams being formed and then disbanded in the space of weeks, shows how poor it can be.
One wonders why the WWE treats the tag team division so poorly but maybe with the Corre-Nexus angle - the tag team division will find some new momentum.
At present though, TNA is the superior show for any budding tag team.
When Kaval left the WWE, there was great shock amongst fans. Having won NXT Season Two, he had momentum as a new superstar and could have added a great deal to a somewhat stagnant Intercontinental and United States midcard divisions.
The likes of Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan and Jack Swagger are effective performers but there is simply no depth in the division. The likes of Kaval could have provided for more colour and stronger matches.
But the problem for these superstars is that they do not conform to the McMahon image of a world champion. The traditional steroid ripped superman is the WWE's image of a champion. And the likes of Kaval, Evan Bourne et al. are often relegated to the midcard or main event jobbing.
Cross over to TNA, and the X-Division is a distinctive success. The likes of Kazarian, Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley, Doug Williams, Jay Lethal, Amazing Red et al, give the smaller wrestler a chance for mainstream success.
Some will say that the division has suffered under Hogan but the potential is there for some high quality matches. If this distinction is to remain, 2011 must be the year of the X-division superstar. Some high flying remains in the tag team division but the likes of Amazing Red provides a luchador style excitement that the WWE simply does not have, barring the ageing Rey Mysterio.
Of note, TNA may look to two new superstars in Mark Haskins and Lionheart who excelled on the recent European tour.
Knockouts vs. the Divas
Again a notable difference and one that puts TNA well ahead of its northern rival. For too long, the WWE has treated women's wrestling with utter contempt. Maybe it has never recovered since the Alundra Blaze incident but the WWE has simply not developed its women's division.
One of the problems, especially in the PG era, is that the performer is expected to be good looking with wrestling ability as a secondary concern. The fact that the WWE auditions prospective divas as supposed to wrestling try-outs, is an indication of just how they see the role of women.
The likes of Natalya, Beth Phoenix and Awesome (Amazing) Kong, when she arrives, will hopefully lead to new momentum but it is questionable.
Contrast this to TNA, and the quality is noticeable. Good looking but wrestlers as well. TNA has made their Knockout division a stand alone part of their company. The addition of Mickie James and Christie Hemme has only increased the gulf in TNA's favour. The loss of Kong will hurt if she is able to fire the WWE in a new direction, but with the Knockouts regularly representing the highest ratings for Impact, TNA will continue to invest in its lucrative division.
The Fan Power of TNA?
Having attended a number of wrestling shows by both companies, it remains questionable as to who has the best fans. In terms of number and merchandise revenue, it might be said that it is the WWE. Use enthusiasm and passion as a measure, and it could be TNA.
The differences that exist between the companies and their particular approach to wrestling, means that it is hard to take an effective measure. Living in the Impact Zone with a crowd that are largely tourists makes TNA look amateurish. Put them inside an arena outside Florida, and fan power increases hugely.
It is often said that TNA needs to get out of Florida. It needs to make the leap to becoming a truly national company and that requires major shows to go on the road. Given the arrival of Matt Hardy, together with the prominence of Ric Flair and Jeff Hardy, the Carolinas will surely provide a fanbase.
TNA needs a big 2011 and if Hogan and Bischoff can justify those salaries, then progress towards 2.0 is needed. Having a vacation in Florida is not an option any more. TNA needs a full time and professional approach because it has a product that will sell if given more investment.
TNA fans are some of the best in wrestling today, their passion leads them to return time and time again, to buy merchandise and to watch the shows each week.
Whether they are the best is open to debate, but they are an asset to the future of the company.
Quality of the Card
The WWE has had many legendary performers. It is a question of taste as to who they may be, but it is certainly a who's who of professional wrestling. Each one has a large fanbase and could sell PPVs and even tours, simply by themselves.
But time has not been kind for the WWE. Many of its main event stars are nearing the end of their careers, and together with the retirements of Shawn Michaels, Batista and Chris Jericho, has left the WWE too reliant on John Cena and Randy Orton.
While the WWE may have some new young and exciting talent coming through, I would be concerned as to how many have the potential to become main event superstars. Case in point comes in the last two WrestleManias, where, in the shadow of the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels match, parts, or the rest of the card, were weak.
How many times on Raw or SmackDown has time been given to woeful squash matches, promos or guest hosts?
For TNA, developing a brand required an all new approach. TNA could invest in younger talent, because they came from nothing, there can be no failure.
By taking on the likes of Matt Morgan, Elijah Burke and Christian Cage and making them stars, together with TNA stables like Beer Money, Samoa Joe and of course, AJ Styles, made TNA something distinctive.
With success comes recognition and this allows new arrivals, which in turn creates more recognition. The arrival of the Hardys, Flair, RVD and Anderson has created a new main event contingency. This has had the effect, like it or not, of relegating some of the TNA originals.
With AJ down the order, it is a travesty but has the effect of ensuring that middle card matches (I.E. Television Title has strong wrestling). TNA cards can therefore have a lot more depth than the WWE.
The Question of PG
The debate around the question of PG is well known. Economic concerns against ones of realism, pandering or family fun, welfare against entertainment. There are many issues for debate.
However, one thing that TNA has that the WWE simply doesn't is the ability to do whatever they want. There are no restrictions and so they can have blood, chair shots and cursing.
How much this is used, if at all, is a question for TNA creative, but it potentially rules nothing out. With Bischoff and Russo in control that can be potentially worrying, but it does mean that the direction they take TNA can be radically different to the WWE.
It is a question for the future as to whether TNA can control its "excesses" but still create a gritty and realistic show, that gave similar success to WCW Nitro. If it can, then new fans, especially those from the Attitude Era, could be persuaded to come back.
By not committing to an economic or politically motivated ideology, TNA means that wrestling is the first concern when deciding its creative direction.
History Counting Against the WWE?
History can provide legitimacy. It can also provide a heritage. But if success is not maintained, the question of whether the company is relevant anymore can begin to be asked.
The WWE, in the mid 1990s, came under considerable pressure because it failed to develop its product after the massive success of Hulkamania. Attempts to continue as planned but with changed personnel did not bring the success needed.
When faced with near bankruptcy, the WWE realised that change was needed, and it went to Attitude. The success of this created a new era, one even larger than the Hogan-led era before.
Nearly a decade on, the WWE has begun to fall back on itself. Accusations of complacency have been made and with a generation of superstars retiring, questions are once again being asked of the company.
In contrast, TNA has little to lose. Its ability to go to a more edgier approach as seen in the last slide, can lead to it being able to have a factor that is not available to the WWE. And if it can find that spark of interest for fans, then the WWE might begin to worry.
The next generation for the WWE needs to stand up and be counted. The talent is there, but is the creativity?
Triple H: Wrestling Royalty or Undeserving Prince?
For Dixie Carter, success is gained by hiring whoever is required. If Bischoff and Hogan fail to deliver, then they will be sacked. Someone new will get the chance.
For the dynastic rule of the WWE, this is not possible. The McMahon legacy is a rich one, and one that Stephanie and Triple H will surely continue.
But for the third generation of McMahons, the problem is that they are crowned rather than elected.
Triple H is a popular superstar but he hasn't been without controversy. Angles, steroids and accusations of favoritism have been there since his career began. Whether he has the authority to lead the company is questionable.
And if after their arrival, they begin to struggle, the WWE may have a serious problem in regards to their longevity. Failure to develop a long-term plan might in turn lead to serious downturn in terms of sponsors, superstars and ratings.
Alternatively, we may see a third generation of McMahon rule, one that surpasses the former, by introducing new and revolutionary ideas.
The question remains as to whether either Stephanie or Triple H can bring this to the WWE.
TNA is not anywhere near the WWE at present. The differences that exist do so for a reason. One major factor is time and the history of the Connecticut-based operation. TNA has potential to flourish as any new company has, if it realises the mistakes of the past.
Success can breed success.
Some will say that this is impossible, and who knows, it may be. But TNA has many positives on which to base their long-term survival and success. The WWE too has long-term potential to continue, but it must also realize the mistakes of WCW.
It was never meant to die either, so the WWE cannot be complacent.
2011 will be a massive year for wrestling and give us an indication not only of the respective companies, but also wrestling in general.
It is often forgotten that TNA is only eight years old. It has achieved much success and failure in this time.
At present, it has many qualities on which to found a new era of wrestling. Whether it can do this is dependent on their future direction and creative success.
This year is a massive year.