After a day off, we're back with part four of our series on TNA at Ten. Today we talk about Dixie Carter and her leadership of the company. Feel free to comment and debate with me on Twitter!
Welcome to Part 4. I hope you’ve stuck with me for this read, and I hope it has been thought provoking for you. I know I said I planned three parts, but the more I look, the more I see. I am also not trying to inundate you with extremely long pieces at one sitting.
As it is in a position of leadership in life, in professional wrestling you need to be able to make decisions from experience. You need to be able to be firm, decisive, and professional. To coin a commonly used expression right now in WWE, you also have to “know what’s good for business.”
Dixie Carter, as pretty a southern belle as she may be, is not that person for TNA.
I refuse to be degrading and rude about Dixie, as many fans have taken to doing. But I will be fair in my criticism where it’s appropriate. My main criticism of her is simply this: Dixie lacks the experience in the wrestling business that it takes to be the “buck stops here” decision maker for wrestling matters in TNA.
Dixie’s experience and education is in business administration, marketing and promotion. At 27 she was promoted to a vice presidency in a firm in Dallas before striking out on her own in Nashville. That’s an astounding accomplishment for which she deserves to be lauded. But it’s not experience in being a decision-maker in a wrestling promotion.
In the second part of this series, I talked about Vince Russo and his booking decisions. One could easily make this point – Vince Russo overstayed his welcome in TNA Wrestling. At some point, the decision would have to be made to either terminate him, or bring someone in who could serve as a sound filter for the product.
This is where Dixie’s lack of wrestling experience hurt TNA. She could not make that hard decision to terminate him. As previously discussed at length, the lack of confidence in booking led to bad decisions that hurt the product and turned off fans.
The Jesse Sorensen Controversy…
Jesse Sorensen was a young man who competed in the X-Division. He was green, but developing. He had a good look and showed some promise for the future.
Then he had a match on pay per view with Zema Ion for the X-Division Championship. Unfortunately in that match, Sorensen suffered a serious neck injury that sidelined him for a year in rehabilitation. More than likely, Sorensen will never wrestle again given the nature of his injuries.
Dixie Carter, in that moment, made a promise to both Sorensen and his mother. She told them that Jesse would be taken care of and he would always have a place in TNA. TNA did that, finding Jesse a place in the production team as a runner. This allowed him to stay involved with the company and have an income as he rehabilitated the neck injury.
In all the recent budget cutting turmoil, however, Jesse was found to be expendable. He was released from the company and it set off a firestorm of controversy from fans and wrestling media alike. Most of that controversy landed squarely on Dixie Carter, as it should.
Dixie took a lot of blame for promising something that she didn’t deliver – a job for life. Then a report circulated that said Jesse’s mother was filing bankruptcy and Jesse’s medical bills were the reason why. Dixie again got slammed for promising something else that she didn’t deliver on – taking care of a young man who essentially risked his life for her product.
To be fair, by this point perhaps someone else was making financial moves for TNA, including the decision to cut or not resign talent. With TNA being a privately held company, that information is often difficult to pinpoint. Reports speculated that Janice Carter, Dixie’s mother, had taken the reigns of some of the financial decision-making because of the impact on Panda Energy.
Those considerations aside Dixie’s inability to deliver a promise or even extend a promise that she had no business extending in the first place made TNA look like the worst of carnies at the local county fair. This is the consequence of a leader making a decision out of emotion and sentiment rather than acting appropriately.
Before you’re ready to hang me for being cold hearted, please hear me out. TNA was obligated to do SOMETHING to help Jesse because he was in their ring when it happened. What I am pointing out though is the flaw in what Dixie offered him. Nowhere in the business world does an employee, contracted or not, get the promise of life-long employment for any reason. It just doesn’t happen.
There are so many numerous examples of leadership blundering that I could elaborate on, but that would be a book unto itself. In the end, it all points back to one key fact – Dixie Carter, while likely a wonderful person and well skilled at marketing and promotion, is inexperienced in running a wrestling promotion, and it’s showing in spades.
We’re into the home stretch. In our final installment, I look for solutions through the fan’s eyes. What do I see as possibilities that may help TNA not just survive, but thrive? We’ll discuss that in the next piece.