What Cody Rhodes Can Learn from TNA's Mistakes to Make AEW a Success
One of the most talked about stories in pro wrestling is the new promotion called All Elite Wrestling.
Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, Hangman Page and Jacksonville Jaguars co-owner Tony Khan are behind this new venture. The promotion has already started signing talents to contracts for backstage and in-ring roles, so it is hitting the ground running.
Indy promotions are nothing new, but the hype surrounding AEW feels different than past launches. Its preceding event, All In, was met with praise and likely solidified plans for the new company once it was a sellout.
If AEW can land a good TV deal with a decent network, it could grow faster than any other promotion, but we have also seen these things go the other way and lead to disaster.
TNA—or Impact Wrestling, as it's now called—went through an early period of success before losing most of its audience and moving networks more times than any other show in recent memory.
Let's take a look at the lessons The Elite can learn from TNA's mistakes while trying to get AEW off the ground.
Don't Book Yourself to Win Titles Right Away
When Jeff Jarrett created TNA, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship was the company's main title until a TNA title was introduced.
While he didn't crown himself as the first champion, he did end up winning the NWA title six times during his run with TNA. At a certain point, it felt like Double J made a company just so he could make himself the champion.
Rhodes and Co. need to be careful about how they book themselves. If they are the first world and tag team champions in AEW, fans might see it as a repeat of what happened with Jarrett.
If they want their championships to be thought of as prestigious, they need to err on the side of caution and put their egos aside.
Don't Try to Compete with WWE
One of the biggest mistakes TNA made was not only trying to compete directly against WWE but also doing it on Monday nights.
Moving Impact to Mondays was done before the company had enough buzz to steal viewers from the biggest promotion in the world, so it ended up being a bust.
It didn't take long before the show moved to another night, but by then, the damage had been done. Impact didn't even come close to beating Raw in the ratings and moved back to Thursdays within a few months.
AEW needs to be a complementary product, not an alternative. Competing against Vince McMahon is a good way to end up in the poor house.
Limit the Number of Legends on the Roster
Another critical mistake TNA made in the early days was bringing in too many WWE legends and castoffs in an attempt make a similar product.
Scott Hall was at one of his lowest points during his time with TNA and ended up no-showing the Victory Road 2007 pay-per-view.
Bringing in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff is seen by many fans as a turning point in TNA's history. The company went from a possible competitor to WWE to being looked at as a joke.
It's easy to see why a company would bring in former WWE stars who have name recognition and large followings, but those talents need to be selected carefully and used sparingly.
Build Your Own Stars Instead of Relying on Former WWE Stars
One of the few things TNA did right in its first few years was building new stars. It relied on WWE veterans to sell tickets, but it used guys like AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels to steal the show.
A lot of guys who got their big breaks in TNA have gone on to other promotions and in some cases ended up getting signed by WWE.
Xavier Woods spent three years with TNA before being signed to a developmental deal with WWE, and look at him today. He is part of one of the most popular tag teams in the world and runs the successful gaming channel, UpUpDownDown, on YouTube.
A lot of non-WWE wrestlers have made waves in the wrestling community in recent years. AEW management should be more focused on signing them than former WWE Superstars who will demand higher price tags just because of where they used to work.
Have Good-Looking Titles
Let's just come right out and say it. Most of WWE's championships are ugly. The WWE and Universal Championships look more like toys than titles, and the less said about the tag belts, the better.
The women aren't any luckier with their big WWE logo belts. NXT and NXT UK have significantly cooler-looking titles, which tells you all you need to know about who made the call regarding the designs. McMahon wants the WWE title to be an advertising icon, and that's what it became.
AEW needs to make sure its belts find a balance between classic designs and something unique so it feels both familiar and new at the same time.
We know it can be done because there are some beautifully designed belts out there. All Elite Wrestling just needs to find the right designer and come up with something wrestlers will be proud to wear.
Don't Be Afraid to Be Controversial
As Eric Bischoff said in the title of his book, controversy creates cash. If AEW hopes to succeed, it can't be afraid to ruffle a few feathers.
WWE's PG product limits what it is able to broadcast. If AEW decides it wants to appeal to a more mature audience, it should stick with that decision and not waver every time an angry parent complains on Twitter.
All Elite Wrestling needs to find the right balance, though. Simply being controversial for the sake of being controversial is going to come across as hollow. Fans will see through it right away.
TNA often felt like it was trying to be an edgier product than WWE without having to do anything controversial, and it's one of the reasons why it didn't work.
AEW can learn a lot from TNA, especially when it comes to the things it needs to avoid doing. If all goes well, it could be bigger than any other indy promotion within a few years.