Wow! My first article for Bleacher Report. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long, but I’ve had just the roughest time coming up with something to write about.
After all, I’m surrounded by a lot of great writers who have just the most impeccable insight at professional wrestling and about playing the Devil’s Advocate. So, my first article is just going to be an opinion piece.
In March 2004, I was sitting in Lumby, British Columbia, with a friend of mine. It was spring break, I had left Surrey for the vacation, and I was looking forward to seeing WrestleMania XX, which I was promised would be the “grandest of all the spectacles”.
After some horrid car trouble, my friend and I made it, only to find that WrestleMania XX didn’t live up to the hype that we had hoped for. Disappointed, disheartened and irritated, we found an alternative on pay-per-view. It was a little company called TNA.
They were doing weekly pay-per-views at this point, having not yet scored its deal with Spike TV. Excited, we checked it out.
There, I was entranced by Abyss, who was doing things that I had never seen a big guy do before. There was Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe, who were just legit butt kickers, and then there was AJ Styles, who blew my mind when I saw the Styles Clash for the first time.
I was in love; to me it was like the reincarnation of ECW (without the explicitness and hardcore action of it all), as in the fact that TNA seemed to be the little company that could.
Before I knew it, I was catching onto the company more in my wrestling magazines, knowing more names and faces. As a female wrestling fan, I was completely stoked to know that there was a woman who was running the company by the name of Dixie Carter.
In September 2006, they got their one-hour deal for Impact. Christian and Kurt Angle left the WWE for the greener pastures of a lightened work schedule and a different work environment.
I was crushed, unsure if I was going to follow them into TNA, which I was struggling to catch, as I was in college at the time.
I was excited to see TNA growing, evolving from the weekly pay-per-views to the six-sided-ring to the deal on Spike.
Then, I heard about Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff arriving, promising to help “Take TNA to a whole 'nother level” (Hogan’s words). Fans who had lived through the Monday Night Wars were in panic mode; after all, these two are widely regarded (with Vince Russo) as the Unholy Trifecta who killed WCW.
People wondered if Hogan and Bischoff would inflict the same kind of damage here. I had a feeling they would. Truth be told, when I heard the news, my boyfriend and I face-palmed. We both had a strong feeling no good would come of this.
Hogan, Bischoff and Dixie announced that they would be putting TNA Impact on Monday nights. I double face-palmed this time; after all, TNA had done some considerable growing at the time, but I just didn’t think they had grown enough to take on Vince right away.
A part of me questioned whether Hogan and Vince had a falling out, if they were pushing some kind of agenda.
The six-sided ring was gone. Fans were outraged; Hogan buried it by calling it a “playpen”. I, for one, did like the six-sided ring. I felt it set them apart. To me it wasn’t a huge deal, though; but the fan outrage was downright surprising.
Then came the rumblings of changes. Was TNA going to change its name? Talk has resurfaced of it recently, but so far nothing has come of it.
At the time, TNA drew its highest rating the first time out. It looked promising. But it just fell downhill from there. The stuff that we were seeing got progressively more awful...Daffney doing stripteases while Angelina Love won the Knockouts title in a lockbox?
Abyss and Hulk Hogan’s Magical Hall of Fame Ring? Using Orlando Jordan’s sexuality to garner heat?
On a side note, while I like that TNA is taking part in the anti-bullying campaign, they kind of shoot themselves in the foot. Wrestling is bullying, people!
That’s what it’s built on. The heel torments the face, and vice versa and they fight. But I digress.
TNA was forced into retreat when its ratings plunged to a 0.5. Back to Thursday nights they went, with the introduction of Reaction, a show that I thought was really well done, but sometimes made no sense from a logical standpoint (like why would Abyss still be at the arena after almost killing RVD, knowing that everyone is looking for him?).
Knockouts started leaving in droves, which was unfortunate for TNA, as the Knockouts were their biggest draw, and at the time, far more superior to the WWE Divas division.
Gail Kim, their pioneer, went back to the higher paying pastures of WWE. Awesome Kong punched out the lights of Hulk Hogan’s friend Bubba The Love Sponge and was shown the door (he would be, too, down the line).
Roxxi Leveaux showed up at a pay-per-view to be informed that it was a loser leaves the company match and she was fired. Alissa Flash/Raisha Saeed left. ODB took off. Taylor Wilde decided to hang up her boots.
Hamada went back to Japan. Daffney is gone. Traci and Tara left for brief periods of time, before both made their way back, though I can’t speak for Traci’s status now.
A while back, I had read an article talking about how Dixie Carter’s treatment of the Knockouts (at the time the highest ratings draw for the company) was downright appalling. To read it, I was disgusted.
I understand that the women’s division will not be treated equally in regards to the men. After all, most people pay to see the men, and wrestling is generally a male dominated sport.
But if what the article had said was true, about Knockouts finding side jobs (as I’ve heard was the case with at least two Knockouts), and being so underpaid they couldn’t make it to the shows, then it’s just downright appalling.
Especially seeing the women treated like that with a woman in charge of running the company. It makes me scratch my head.
Then, I came across a new article the other morning, tweeted in my live feed by former TNA Knockout Daffney. It was an in-depth look at Daffney’s case, about her worker’s comp claim that she filed, and the treatment she received in her time with TNA.
It really is saddening, and it’s pretty appalling. My only hope right now is that Daffney gets the justice she is seeking, because it’s really unfair what they’ve been doing to her.
TNA’s lows have been outdoing their highs for the longest time, and I just don’t see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel anymore. After all, how many times can we be promised “big surprises”, and then be disappointed with the follow-through?
Let’s take a look at the Victory Road debacle. Could you imagine Vince McMahon giving you an 88-second main event? (Granted, the Cena-Miz match at Mania wasn’t very good, but still, it was longer than 88 seconds) Of course he wouldn’t, because he knows the fans would riot.
And Dixie and crew were very lucky backstage that none of the fans were angry enough to riot. Is it because they’ve come to expect this sort of thing out of TNA? Or did they know that they had just witnessed an enormous train wreck right in front of their very eyes?
The least that TNA could have offered their fans was an apology. Same with Jeff Hardy. And I understand this is beating a dead horse here, but I’m taking a look at everything as a whole. The classy thing TNA could have done was offered refunds to fans who were angry.
Instead, they were told to send their pay-per-view receipts to them and they would give the fans six months free on their $3.95 a month video vault. Which, if you add it up, doesn’t even add up to the price that some people paid for the pay-per-view.
And just because not everybody sent it in, who knows? Maybe some threw out their receipts, or others just didn’t care enough to want six months of free TNA video when Impact plays for free already. Either way, just because not everybody sent it in, does not mean that the fans are happy.
I understood at that point that TNA was in damage control mode. Or they should have been, anyway. Instead, the fans were treated to three weeks of main events where there were no contests between Ken Anderson and Rob Van Dam.
Jeff Hardy hasn’t been seen since, and rightfully so. Top star or not, I have no doubt Jeff would have been fired anywhere else had that happened.
In 2007, after the Chris Benoit tragedy, as some will remember, 15 WWE Superstars were suspended in the Signature Pharmacy scandal. Some went to TNA.
At that point, TNA was earning its reputation as the place where people go when they wanted to escape the drug testing.
In her shoot interview, Dixie Carter confessed to drug testing herself, calling it a “waste of $350.” I guess nobody told her that the best idea would be to drug test her talent, so Victory Road wouldn’t happen. Again, I digress.
To me, Dixie Carter is an enigma. I want to like her; I really do. The feminist in me wants to be inspired by the fact that she is a woman running a wrestling company. But after watching her shoot interview, the only conclusion I can come to is that she is completely and utterly clueless about things.
She informed everyone at the interview that people hated Russo because he was a “polarizing character.” He is a writer! He is not supposed to be polarizing; the wrestlers are!
She also admitted that she told the writing staff she would fire one of them if she heard another “Fire Russo” chant. I’ll let that stir around in your heads for a few minutes.
People have been comparing TNA to WCW for a while now. Some people have been proposing ways to change the company, some involving Paul Heyman or Jim Ross. I’m going to be the first to admit; I have no answers on how to improve it; after all, I’m just a fan.
I want to be entertained; I just don’t want the product to suck. That’s all I ask.
I want to turn on the TV, be entertained and a) not have my intelligence insulted and b) I want to be able to invest in the characters. I can’t do that here.
My feelings on TNA as a company right now is that it’s dead. It’s not treading water, it’s not sinking into the abyss, it’s dead. And at this point I don’t even really care if they resuscitate it.
It sucks for the talent that wouldn’t have a steady job in TNA, but at the same time, perhaps they can go somewhere where their talents will be appreciated it. Because I don’t feel like it’s in TNA.
I want to hear what everyone thinks about this. Am I being too critical on TNA? What are your plans on fixing it, if you have any?
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