I’ll let the room breathe for a second…
Good? Alright, now let me explain.
We all know the story. After years of mismanagement and poor business decisions, WCW closed its doors in 2001 and was subsequently sold to the World Wrestling Federation. The moment WCW closed its doors, professional wrestling and sports entertainment changed forever. There was no longer any competition out there for the McMahon Machine.
And there never has been, or ever will be again. Especially, if we’re talking TNA.
From the day Time Warner sold WCW to Vince McMahon for a reported, paltry $2.5 million dollars (closer to $7 million when you include lawsuits and archived footage), the WWE has been uncontested in terms of North American professional wrestling. While New Japan has a larger market share in Japan and AAA has a bigger base in Mexico, WWE is far and ahead of every other promotion in North America. And it forever shall be. The battle between WCW and the WWE had roots tied back to the early 1900’s, something no other promotion will ever had the luxury of again. But that hasn’t stopped people from trying….
After being publicly fired by Vince McMahon on live television, Jeff Jarrett was a man without a country. World Championship Wrestling was dead. Extreme Championship Wrestling was dead. The WWE wouldn’t touch him, and there was no other alternative in the US. So, what’s a guy to do? Hell, why not start your own company?
And that’s exactly what J-E-Double F did.
Partnering with his father Jerry Jarrett and the NWA, Double-J launched NWA: Total Nonstop Action (TNA) in June of 2002. TNA operated for its first two years as a weekly pay-per-view costing around $10 for fans. To their credit, TNA started with a pretty stacked roster. Jeff Jarrett, Scott Hall, Ken Shamrock, Ron Killings, Jerry Lynn, AJ Styles and Brian Christopher led the charge. With high production values and legends like Ricky Steamboat, Jackie Fargo, Harley Race and Dory Funk Jr. as ambassadors, it seemed TNA had all of the components to become a success….
Yeah, that weekly pay-per-view model didn’t work too well for them. Shocking, I know. The Jarretts quickly (and I mean quickly) ran out of money and were looking to sell TNA. All of my research shows that the WWE had zero interest in purchasing TNA in 2002, which could have saved us all years of headaches.
Instead, the buyer was a group out of Nashville, Tennessee known as Panda Energy. The owner of Panda Energy was a man named Bob Carter. After buying TNA, Carter placed his daughter in charge of the fledgling wrestling company. Her name?
Need I say more?
So from there, TNA admittedly had some success. In 2004, they left the weekly PPV business and landed on Fox Sports Net. That next year, they joined Spike TV and began airing their weekly program Impact! on Saturdays. Despite having plenty of amazing home grown talent, TNA chose to instead sign and subsequently push former WWE wrestlers over anything else. Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Booker T., Jeff Hardy, Rhino, Scott Steiner and Raven were all payed more and given more television time than TNA originals like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christoper Daniels, Robert Roode, James Storm and many, many more.
In early 2006, TNA made their biggest signing. After almost five years out of the wrestling business, “The Franchise of WCW” Sting joined Dixie and Jeff’s little rasslin’ company. And from there, the comparisons came.
“TNA is the new WCW!”
“Wow, TNA is just like WCW, but with a weird ring!”
“Man, Sting? Mike Tenay? Jeff Jarrett? Kevin Nash? Scott Steiner!? This is just like WCW!”
If you lived through this period of time, you heard it all. People thought TNA was the new WCW. And they could NOT have been more wrong.
WCW was actual competition. They were the definitive second biggest promotion in the world. And it was a close second, mind you. And for eighty-four weeks in a row, they were the NUMBER ONE wrestling promotion in the world.
The closest TNA ever came, was a very, very distant second. But bless their hearts, they tried.
In August of 2009, TNA signed Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. After the dismissal of Jeff Jarrett, Hogan and Bischoff were tasked to lead TNA and make it competitive to the WWE. There was however, an additional man with power in TNA. That man? Head writer, Vince Russo. Oh Dear God, what have they done?
For those not in the loop, the demise of WCW is commonly blamed on three particular men: Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo.
With the Hulkster, Easy-E and Vic Venom at the helm, TNA then made their riskiest, most bold decision to date.
Their flagship show Impact! was moving to Monday nights, live on Spike TV. Yes, TNA was trying to recreate the Monday Night War between WWF Raw and WCW Monday Nitro.
As stupid as that sounds on paper, it was… kinda exciting! This was the perfect time for TNA to do something different. Their first Monday night show on January 4th, 2010 was so heavily promoted, they should have taken that unique opportunity to showcase their own talent. Sprinkle in some recognizable faces, have Hulk Hogan cut an in-ring promo and above all else, show how they were different from the WWE; that was their best bet to achieve success.
Alas, that did not happen. We instead saw the entire show focus on old farts like Hogan, Nash, Hall and X-Pac. They also debuted new-to-TNA wrestling dinosaurs such as The Nasty Boys, Jimmy Hart and Val Venis.
Oh, and the main event was a recreation of the Montreal Screwjob.
So less than six months later, TNA was back on Thursday nights. Due to the lack of cooperation between Russo, Hogan and Bischoff, the booking quality of TNA was at all time low. I’d list some examples, but the problem with them wasn’t their stupidity. The problem was their over complexity. Legit, an episode of Impact was harder to follow than an episode of NOVA: Science Now. I’ve followed French lessons from 10th grade easier than your average Impact main event.
Fast-forward to the end of 2014, Hogan, Bischoff and Russo are all gone. TNA was hemorrhaging money and more talent was leaving on a weekly basis. The only thing keeping TNA alive was their Spike television deal. Aaaaand then they lost that too. Why did they lose that? Oh ho man, strap in for some shit now, boys.
Remember how I said Vince Russo was gone from TNA? Well, he was. Publicly, at least. In reality however, TNA was still secretly employing Russo to be a consultant for their creative team. Russo essentially stooged himself off to the media after he sent an email that was meant to go to Mike Tenay to Mike Johnson of PWInsider. Yes, an accidental email was TNA’s undoing. After catching wind of this, Spike TV, not wanting to have anything to do with Russo, pulled the plug on Impact. TNA was now without talent, money and a home. All because they insisted on employing a man whose track record included partially killing WCW and being partly responsible for the death of Owen Hart.
So now TNA lost its biggest source of revenue and its only exposure on American television. Fantastic. After several months of shopping around their product, they eventually struck a deal with Destination America. Destination America was in about 50% of the houses as Spike TV.
One year later and suddenly, Destination America opted out of their deal with TNA. Once again, Dixie and the Boys were homeless. Not too long after, they inked a deal with a new channel, Pop TV. In comparison to Destination America, Pop TV was a step up, being available in more homes. However, the new deal payed less. TNA was still out of money.
Enter Billy Corgan, the lead singer of the rock band Smashing Pumpkins. Corgan, a lifelong wrestling fan, reached out to Dixie and TNA, offering them some moolah in exchange for a partial ownership in the company. Carter…um…”agreed.”
2016 also brought about the rebirth of the Hardy Boys in TNA. “Broken” Matt Hardy and “Brother Nero” Jeff Hardy with their unique brand of pre-recorded and heavily edited matches/segments breathed new life into TNA. Billy Corgan was a huge supporter and financial backer of these endeavors. So naturally, Dixie Carter and TNA eventually decided NOT to sell their failing dying company to Billy Corgan, a man who had previously been promised a partial (though some reports say majority) ownership in the company.
Instead, Dixie Carter and Panda Energy sold their “beloved” (?) wrestling company to a Toronto based company known as Anthem. Dixie Carter was officially out of power, and out of wrestling.
A few months after the sale, Anthem made two huge decisions.
- Bring back Jeff Jarrett back to lead the charge in TNA
- Get rid of the Hardy Boys, the only two men who brought eyeballs to their television show the previous year
Well. That turned quickly.
Still, the positives of Dixie Carter being gone and Jeff Jarrett (the only guy who ever brought a semblance of leadership to TNA) being brought back was a good thing. Also, Anthem was flush with cash. The negatives, thoug? Nothing. Else. Changed. For a while.
During his absence from TNA, Jeff Jarrett had ended up founding a new independent wrestling promotion called Global Force Wrestling (GFW). By this point in 2017 though, the names “TNA” and “Impact Wrestling” were nothing but tarnished, dead brands. No one would ever take those letters seriously again. With the Jarrett partnership, this gave TNA an opportunity to officially and finally re-brand themselves for good. Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling had its own struggles as a promotion and was never going to become legitimate anyhow. So, why not put all of their eggs in THAT basket?
Then… alcohol happened.
Earlier this September, GFW announced Jeff Jarrett was taking an “indefinite leave of absence.” Which is a fancy way of saying he’d been suspended. The rumors began to swirl that Jarrett was struggling with alcohol addiction and had been popped with a few DUI’s. Then, in late October, it was announced they had parted ways with Jeff Jarrett and Global entirely.
Who is “they?” I DON’T KNOW.
When TNA re-branded as Global Force Wrestling (which included changing their logos, ring skirts and thousands of dollars spent on championship belts) they were simply using the name on loan from Jarrett and never bothered to trademark the name for themselves.
When Jeff Jarrett left GFW, he took the fucking name with him.
Let’s review the history of TNA’s name, shall we?
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2003-2011)
TNA Impact Wrestling (2011-2015)
Impact Wrestling (2015-2017)
Global Force Wrestling (2017)
Impact Wrestling (2017-???)
15 years… six name changes. That’s just pathetic, folks. There is no other way to slice it. For comparison, in the fifty-five years the WWE has existed, they have changed their name FOUR TIMES. Sweet Lord.
To me, the constant name changes and lack of identity is truly the biggest problem of TNA. Any marketer or business owner will tell you that branding is the most important aspect of business. If you don’t have an identifiable, constant branding or name that folks can point to and tell other people THAT’S who you are, you may as well not have a business. You need an identity to succeed. Guys, you need a fucking name.
Now stuck between a rock and a broken guitar, Anthem has decided to now simply refer to the company as… wait for it… “Impact.”
No matter the name, the narrative is the same: this company is cursed. You know the old saying, “I’m here for a good time, not a long time?”
TNA is here for a long time, not a good time.
The latest faux pas from Impact has came in just the last week. Bound For Glory, Impact’s equivalent to WrestleMania or Starrcade, which took place in Ottawa, Canada on November 5th. The show, which was met with mixed reviews, emanated from what looked to be an airport hanger that was decorated to look like the Impact Zone at Universal Studios in Orlando.
The coup de gras however, was at the television tapings the following day. Smyth Casting, a local talent agency in Ottawa, put out a listing asking for paid extras to be audience members at the Impact tapings.
Impact paid people…to sit in their audience.
Not only that, they also enlisted the help of fans and indie wrestlers to set up their ring for them. Yes, they couldn’t afford a fucking ring crew. Do you realize how dangerous it is to have people who may not be qualified to set up a ring…set up a damn ring!? If something is incorrectly done, it could lead to the ring breaking which could then lead to wrestlers being injured. How irresponsible.
Ted Turner bought WCW in 1988. The company closed in 2001, making its lifespan thirteen years. While its roots trace back nearly a century, the Turner owned WCW only lasted a mere thirteen years.
TNA just celebrated their fifteen-year anniversary.
There is no justice in this world.
Say what you want about WCW, but the bottom line was this: it was a stable source of income for all of its employees, and it had a rich, deep history. TNA has none of that. TNA as a matter of fact, has done some horrible, dirty things.
In 2011, TNA fired Daffney while she was recovering from an injury suffered in THEIR ring. In 2005, they withheld Chris Candido’s final paycheck from his widow, Tammy Sytch, after his death. They fired Konnan in 2007, after Konnan accused their employee, Terry Taylor, of giving him tainted pills that caused him kidney failure. Yeah, they fired the accuser, not the accusee. Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey should put in an application with Impact if they want to keep working somewhere.
Then there is the Hardy situation from earlier this year. TNA is saying they have ownership of the “Broken” characters the Hardys created last year, despite the fact the Hardys and Billy Corgan (none of whom are with the company anymore) bankrolled the whole thing.
Their most recent scumbag move however involves The LAW: Live Audio Wrestling, a podcast/radio show discussing a variety of wrestling topics, including Impact. The LAW’s parent company, Fight Network, is owned by Anthem, who also own Impact. Without going into too much detail (there’s a great Deadspin article covering this better than I ever could), the Fight Network cut ties with several of The LAW’s hosts and announced a “new format” coming in the next few weeks. Which roughly translates to, “Anthem doesn’t want us to talk shit about Impact, even though it sucks.”
Look, I know WCW wasn’t totally innocent of things like this. I mean, they did fire the British Bulldog while he was in the hospital, but they never conducted business with such a petty, vindictive attitude. After all, they did continue to pay and employ Randy Anderson and Brian Hildebrand after their cancer diagnosis.
Folks, I mean no ill will to Impact or their employees. And no, I don’t want to see them die. I just want change. I want them to attain some level of stability and success. TNA’s greatest downfall was trying to be like WWE. They were attempting to fill the void the death of WCW left in pro wrestling. But it was never possible.
TNA never had the roster to be like WCW. TNA never had the production value to be like WCW. And most importantly, TNA never had the money to be like WCW. It’s quite simple guys; to be a successful wrestling promotion, you need a shit load of money. TNA never had, and never will have that.
I take offense when people compare TNA to WCW. Why? Because aside from a few of the same roster members, they are nothing alike. WCW had money, talent, history.
WCW had a personality. TNA doesn’t. WCW was different. TNA isn’t.
White hummer enthusiast, Tony Schiavone super-fan and the youngest WCW fan on the internet! Though my memories of watching WCW live are very few, my love and admiration for the company and brand run deep. I’ll be writing all sorts of interesting (hopefully) columns and opinion pieces about various WCW shows, many of which I may be watching for the first time. Proud to be on the website, where the big boys play!