This week, WWE announced they were taking the word "wrestling" out of their name, instead preferring to focus on "entertainment". Meanwhile, TNA has thrown many ideas into the media, from changing their name, and to having established wrestlers like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage return to action. I'm curious: why now?
WWE has been slowly working its way toward their goals of becoming an overall entertainment entity for quite a while. They have put out cartoons, several magazines, best-selling autobiographies, many TV programs and character-focused DVDs.
WWE has been partnering in or putting out feature films since the Eighties. Vince McMahon said it himself in "Beyond the Mat":
"From our success stories—a certain amount of respect comes with that," McMahon said. "But, hopefully that will simply will only be used as an entree to encourage someone's interest to then find out what we're really about. We make movies."
In short, WWE's move toward being an "entertainment" company has been a long time coming, and longtime fans know this is not news. Before controversies about violence, drug use, and sexism, the big knock on WWE was always that it's fake—usually scripted. They're only taking Vince's philosophy to its logical endgame.
TNA's recent ideas for change are a bit more risky. The show has only been in the public eye for a few years, and changing their name now might be the death knell for a promotion that's only seen modest success. That success has been mostly based on the appearance of established legends that some critics—myself included—have contended are using TNA as a basis to promote themselves, rather than to advance their company.
The idea to change the name to concentrate on the word Impact, the name of their weekly show. That's a logical step, given that would be what regular viewers look for when they pick up the remote.However, abandoning the TNA brand entirely may be too much of a risk for new viewers, who have been told it's TNA, only to be greeted with another name.
My bigger concern, however, is the creative direction that the company seems to be taking, by letting the talent make the matches and the scripting.
In regard to brining Randy Savage to TNA, Hulk Hogan recently tweeted:
"Man I wish we could get his butt off the couch he would add so much to the creative. HH."
Now, why would Hulk look backward, especially given he's intrigued with an idea he used some fifteen-plus years ago?
Being surprised by this is illogical, however, given the bent of the current active TNA lineup. When I say "active," I refer of course to the people actually making onto the TNA broadcasts.
Most Impact! broadcasts begin, end, or involve the entire Immortal stable being in the ring. That stable would include Hogan, Eric Bischoff, and Ric Flair—all former WCW employees, and all guilty of monopolizing camera time when they were in WCW, as they currently seem to do.
Bringing Randy Savage back to the ring is unlikely. He recently remarried, and has largely stayed out of the spotlight for the past several years. But just the notion that Hogan has even put that idea into the media frames the mentality that seems to be the ruin of TNA: recycling old ideas.
Though it was just a random celebrity tweet, there is a sort of warning in reading that entry. Hogan and Bischoff have a great deal of influence in the creative end of TNA, as evidenced in the amount of camera time they get, so it can't be necessarily be taken lightly, either.
In any event, there are changes a' coming to the two companies, and as viewers, it's best to prepare for said changes. I'll definitely be watching. The question is: will you?