By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
Last week on From the Rafter’s radio (past episodes available on iTunes) a question was asked whether TNA would get four straight weeks of a rating of at least 1.5 or higher by the end of 2013. Today on the My123 Cents Facebook page, I asked what does TNA need to do to get more people watching. Based on the answers received, I got the feeling a lot of people haven’t watched Impact much in the past 6-9 months as a lot of the criticisms don’t apply to the current product. Being a fan of TNA and wanting to see them succeed, I felt I should address some of the answers and try to clear up some misconceptions about TNA.
GET RID OF ANYONE FANS ASSOCIATE WITH WWE/WCW/ECW: Two years ago I would have agreed with this assessment. Back in 2007 when I was living with my cousin, after watching the Victory Road pay per view, he thought Vince McMahon owned TNA because of all the ex-WWE guys who were on the show. Today, while there are still several ex-WWE/ECW/WCW guys on the roster, I feel for the most part they are being better utilized.
Of all the ex-guys, Mr. Anderson is the only person I can think of that I would cut due to just not being a fan. I also think Kurt Angle needs to freshen up his act as he’s very repetitive these days. Sting is being used in a way that helps elevate younger talent. Bully Ray has reinvented himself and created a completely different persona separate from Bubba Ray Dudley. Devon has been used to help mentor newer talent. Jeff Hardy is arguably the most popular guy on the roster and seems to be motivated and trying to re-establish his reputation after a couple of down years. Chavo Guerrero is still relatively new to TNA but after the way he was used for the last couple years in WWE, I’m hoping he wants to show what he’s capable of inside the ring. Rob Van Dam, while a step slower than he was in his prime is still popular and can put on good matches.
I do wish TNA would not relay on putting titles on ex-WWE guys as soon as they come into the company. For the most part though, established guys are being used to help establish the next generation. That is something I think a lot of fans overlook. If TNA didn’t use any established stars, a lot of fans wouldn’t see the homegrown talent as being very good because they haven’t been in the ring with anyone of note. I once had a friend ask me why he should care about Jerry Lynn appearing on a local indy show because “Lynn didn’t do anything important when he was in WWE.” While I think wrestlers should be able to cement their stature based on their work, there is a section of the fan base that doesn’t care how good a match guys have, if they haven’t heard of at least one of the wrestlers in the match, even though they’re on TV the wrestlers are on the same level as the local indy wrestlers who wrestle on the weekend in front of 30 people.
In a perfect world, TNA’s roster could exist of only guys they’ve made but this isn’t a perfect world. So TNA uses ex-WWE who fans know as a way to draw an audience and bring in wrestlers who may have wrestled in WWE but didn’t achieve much success and (hopefully) uses them in a way to make them bigger names.
DITCH HOGAN AND ALL THE GUYS OVER 50. FOCUS ON THE YOUNG GUYS: I believe Sting is the only other TNA roster member who is over 50. I just looked up Stings age and was surprised to find out he’s 53. Sting is definitely no spring chicken but he’s also not a broken down relic. To repeat myself from the last section, Sting has been used to help elevate newer talent and he’s not embarrassing himself in matches. Hogan if the General Manager but what separates him from a WWE GM is rarely does he get 20 minutes of in-ring talk time. I feel TNA has done a good job of relegating Hogan to backstage segments, which help propel the storytelling aspect of the show. Even though I wasn’t crazy about Hogan taking out three Aces and Eights members at Bound For Glory, the reaction from the crowd showed fans still like seeing him do his act. Hogan isn’t dominating the show and, say it with me, he is being used to help put over new talent. When he says Matt Morgan, Joey Ryan or Austin Aries are the new generation that tells fan to pay attention to these guys.
I also wonder how many of the fans who complain about the use of ex-WWE guys are the same ones clamoring for Steve Austin to come back to fight CM Punk or cheer every time The Rock and Mick Foley show up on WWE TV.
GET RID OF THE DUMB STORYLINES: I don’t think that’s TNA specific. I’m trying to think of all the ongoing storylines in TNA and the only one I would throw into the dumb category is the ODB/Eric Young story. The main reason I think it’s dumb is because once Vince Russo was fired, I was hoping the Knockout division would regain some focus and importance. Instead Eric Young is one half of the Knockout Tag Champions. Other than that, since the Claire Lynch story was ended all the stories in TNA make sense, are logical and put an emphasis on either being champion, wanting to be champion or wanting to be in TNA. Even though I don’t understand why TNA has a camera in the Aces and Eights hideout, the story being told is the A&8s want to be in TNA and will do whatever they need to to get a spot on the roster.
Compare TNA to what’s going on in WWE. If fans aren’t watching TNA because of dumb storylines yet continue to tune into RAW every week, well maybe it’s not the storylines that are dumb.
THEY NEED TO CHANGE THEIR BOOKING STYLE: Again, anyone who has watched TNA in the last 6-9 months should have seen a change in booking style. Stories have logical advancement and a focus. 90% of what happens on Impact has a reason for happening. Instead of throwing random guys into a match or having the same match week after week, there is purpose and story advancement to the majority of each segment on Impact.
HIRE YOUNGER GUYS. SIGN MORE INDY TALENT: There are several wrestlers on the Independent level I would like to see get a shot at national exposure. However, there are several factors into bringing them into TNA. First off, TNA can’t just sign every talent that’s out there and have them appear on Impact. That roster should remain at a level where everyone can be properly utilized and honestly, that’s one of TNA’s problems. There are several wrestlers already on the roster who don’t get airtime for weeks or month at a time. Bringing in more wrestlers would only add to the problem unless TNA cuts several talents. In which case fans would probably complain TNA cut the wrong people.
Even if TNA is interested in talent, the talent may not be interested in TNA. If talent as heard WWE may be interested in signing them in the future, they will be less likely to take a TNA offer and not being available when WWE calls. If they are top-level indy talent, being able to control when and where they work could be more enticing then having a company dictate where you’re going. Money could also be factor. Someone who works every weekend could potentially make more money working indies and selling merchandise than a TNA position pays. Would it be worth bigger exposure to take a pay cut?
FINAL WORD: After looking at the reasons fans seem to not like TNA, I think a lot of people need to take another look at TNA. And I don’t mean tune in for ten minutes and as soon as you see someone you don’t like change the channels. I mean actually watch an entire show for a few weeks. Learn the story lines and see the action in the ring. I will make a challenge to anyone. Watch TNA for a month. If after a month, you think WWE is better than TNA, well, I don’t know what I’ll do. Plus, I’m still skeptical that with the Thanksgiving episode of Impact next week that we’ll see AJ Styles in a turkey costume again. Seriously though, today’s TNA is not the same TNA that a lot of fans claim to hate. I honestly believe that if you are a wrestling fan, I said wrestling fan not WWE fan, and you can’t enjoy Impact, then the problem isn’t with TNA.