Saturday, October 15, 2011

Catching Up with TNA

By Chad Smart
@ChadSmart on Twitter
Photos from Impact Wrestling

With TNA IMPACT WRESTLING’s (did they ever clarify if they’re still TNA or officially Impact Wrestling) biggest show of the year happening this weekend, I figure this is as good a time as any to toss out some opinions on the company. I have not watched Impact in at least six weeks. Once it was clear they were going with a Hogan/Sting match, I pretty much wrote off the company. I’ve kept up with the goings on in the company through recaps of the show and wrestling news websites. I have to say, even though I’m going to check out Bound For Glory, I am at wits end trying to figure out this company continues to make decision after decision that doesn’t improve the product they’re trying to sell to fans. Let’s look at some recent events.

HULK HOGAN: It was recently reported that Hogan (and by association, Eric Bischoff) had signed new two-year contracts with TNA. My first question to TNA management is what positives have Hogan and Bischoff brought to the company in the 22 months they’ve been with the company?  We got a bunch of Hogan’s friends in the company at the beginning. Guys who were put in high profile segments and who were gone within four months. Way to build for the future. Second, Hogan is in no shape to wrestle. Well, we’ll see exactly what ring shape Hogan is in when he fights Sting at Bound for Glory. Even though he’s not wrestling, he and Bischoff have been the focus of the company since they came in and that hasn’t been too beneficial for anyone not named Hogan and Bischoff.  The authority figure role in wrestling is beyond played out. The focus of the company needs to shift from the so-called Powers That Be and back to the guys actually busting their butts in the ring. (This applies to WWE as well)

In addition to hogging the spotlight, whenever Hogan makes any public appearances he usually only mentions TNA when asked a direct question about the company. The rest of the time Hogan only promotes one thing, himself. In addition to not promoting the company he’s working for, Hogan made the following statement in an interview on Friday, October 14, just two days before Bound for Glory.

On Robert Roode: "Nah, he's not ready. He's not the next guy. Ya' know, they might think he is. Dixie Carter might think he is. The whole world might think he is. He's not the next guy. If I had to bet money on anybody and really be serious about betting money on anybody, I'd say Jeff Hardy is the next guy if he keeps his act together”

Robert Roode is challenging for the TNA World Title at Bound for Glory. Robert Roode is in the main event of the biggest show of the year and Hulk Hogan just told everyone who is interested in spending money on the show that the challenger for the “most prestigious” title shouldn’t be in the match. Now, I don’t care if Roode is “greener than gooses**t” (trademark Bill DeMott), if Hogan is going to talk about the match he should be putting Roode over as one of the greatest talents in TNA. The guy in the main event should be treated as a big deal. Instead Hogan chose to put over a guy whose selfish actions led to one of the worst matches in TNA history. Not to mention Hardy has been to the top of the mountain and has secured his place in the eyes of the fans. This reminds me of when I met Jimmy Hart at Wrestlemania 22 and asked him whom he saw as TNA’s breakout star. Jimmy claimed Sting would be the breakout star. Yep, a guy in the business for 20 years, multi-time champion was Jimmy Hart’s pick for a breakout star.  Not promoting young, fresh talent is one of the many problems in wrestling today.

I understand Hulk Hogan has name value, but how much is he really worth to a company when he reluctantly promotes the company and buries the guys who are busting their backs while he hobbles to the ring and rambles on in long winded promos? Do you build the company on the coattails of a past his prime joke, or on the backs of young and hungry talent?

Kevin touched on this last week, but I wanted to throw in some comments. Apparently TNA has promoted Bruce Prichard to Head of Creative and moved Vince Russo to Head Writer. Long time readers of this blog probably know my thoughts on Russo. For newer readers, you can find my thoughts here.  I am curious to see what this means for the future of Impact, but the cynic in me see this as nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Bruce Prichard is also the Head of Talent Relations. I don’t know what the two jobs detail, but based on titles I wonder if one person can do both jobs competently. That’s not a knock against Bruce; I just think both jobs require a lot of time and energy. 

Even if Bruce is mapping out the direction of storylines and feuds, Vince Russo is still writing the shows and it’s Vince’s writing that isn’t good. I would suggest Vince might be better to suggest who’s going to fight each other and allow a better writer to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B. I’ll save in depth critique for at least 2-3 more months. We’ll see if there’s any discernable difference in the presentation before I get too critical.

On Friday it was announced TNA had hired former WWE writer and IWantWrestling creator, David Lagana to focus on creating new wrestling shows outside of Impact. It was later announced TNA was looking to launch a new promotion in the Indian market that wouldn’t use the TNA name. While I can understand the desire to break into new markets or gain exposure in existing markets, this move confuses me. Why the need to create a new brand, yet not call it TNA, instead of building on the brand that you’ve spent the last 10 years building?

A few months ago, TNA produced a pilot for the Speed Channel called All Wheels Wrestling. Since there hasn’t been any mention of the show since the pilot taping, I’m guessing it wasn’t picked up. One of the concepts of the show was five-minute iron man matches. Just typing that makes my head hurt. It sounds like a typical TNA match design. Anyway, TNA is not WWE. They don’t have all the resources to be branching out with new shows. Also, in my opinion they haven’t established themselves solidly enough for expansion. I don’t want to make it sound like I know what TNA should be doing. I’m just saying it seems like TNA management needs to focus on building a better Impact instead of working on new shows.

I will be checking out Bound For Glory, more because I’m interested in seeing it in a theater than actually seeing the show. I think this could be a turning point for TNA if they want to build for the future. However, given TNA’s track record, I’m feel I’m going to walk out of the theater shaking my head and wondering how a company can be so clueless. I’m begging you TNA prove me wrong.

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