TNA at Ten, Part 5: An Eye to the Future, if it Exists.
Editorial Note: I realize that the “TNA at Ten” series apparently ended a bit abruptly. That was due to some pretty major shake-ups in my own life that prevented me from investing the time into the final piece. Here is that final piece now that things have settled down and allowed me to finish it. Enjoy!
I enjoy compelling wrestling and I think competition in the business is good for everyone. It makes everyone better, and everyone makes more money. So it’s in that spirit that I want to talk from the fan’s perspective about possible solutions.
A Change at the Top…
One of the first things that TNA really needs to do is to make some serious leadership changes. In part four of the series, I talked about Dixie Carter being (most likely) a wonderful person and good at marketing, but she lacks experience in the wrestling business. This is a business filled with history and tradition and if you don’t understand that, it’s hard to be successful.
Jerry Jarrett, a founder of TNA, said in an interview with Inside the Ropes that “the wrestling business was my mistress.” Dixie’s inexperience and lack of respect and knowledge of the history of the business is showing and the business is not in that “mistress” place for her.
Dixie likely would not step aside willingly, unless the company was to be sold off to another entity. In the meantime, she needs to bring in someone who has a substantial depth of knowledge in the wrestling business. That person needs to be the final authority on all things wrestling – not Dixie. Picture a person on the caliber of Jim Ross (he most likely is not available to TNA, but someone like him) who can evaluate and manage talent objectively and make hard decisions when needed.
Talent and Directions…
What are the keys to the greatest movies you’ve seen, generally speaking? The best movies of all time have four key ingredients: compelling story, great talent, a great producer and a great director. When you put those items together, you get great movies. If you only have the great talent, and nothing else works, then the film doesn’t work either.
Wrestling is very similar. One of the things we talk about a lot with TNA is bad booking, and it hurts. Whether it’s bringing in MMA guys and throwing them into a major storyline, the whole “Claire Lynch” saga, and dare I say the current story between AJ Styles and Dixie Carter, none of these are making for compelling television.
Fundamentally, there are things that TNA should do better. It starts with clear faces and heels. How many face turns can Mr. Anderson undergo? And Crash TV is fun at times, but it can’t be a staple for the booking department. Work through a clear, well-thought out storyline from start to finish. Yes, they won’t all be winners but the success rate for the overall product is much better when there’s thought behind the story.
Fans do care about continuity and logic. Picture a press conference with TNA would have to answer for their booking decisions. If they had to explain the choices and logic in the stories they book, creative teams may feel like they would be held to a higher standard.
Talent itself is also a key component. TNA has a number of homegrown talents on their roster – AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, and James Storm just to name a few. These guys are talent that can be superstars in the company. But their utilization hasn’t gotten them there.
TNA lacks that creative direction that turns their home-grown guys into stars. Part of that is identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the roster, and cultivating that talent into big names. If you can’t do that, then what happens?
You end up “recycling talent.” You end up being forced to bring in big names to generate the recognition for your product. That is a plus, but the fan is going to look at that ex-WWE guy as “yesterday’s news” when it comes to the talent roster. I’m not saying that it’s the worst thing in the world, but relying on WWE talent should not be at the core of the roster.
So what do they do to fix this? See my first point about corporate leadership. You need to have the right people who can strongly and firmly evaluate talent and cultivate it. Look at what Vince McMahon did with Ron Killings (now R-Truth). Truth is a much bigger deal today in WWE, even in his comedic undercard role, than he ever was in TNA. Vince recognized his abilities and worked to them, and TNA needs that talent evaluator for their own roster.
The Bottom Line…
By many reports they’re struggling financially. The move onto the road gave them a visual look that enhanced the product, but it’s been very costly. It’s been discussed in several sources (ProWrestling.net in particular) that TNA is considering coming off the road. We’ve all clamored for them to go on the road and leave the familiar iMPACT Zone crowd behind.
Perhaps moving back into a set location for the time being will be a part of stabilizing those issues. Unloading unnecessary high-end salaries (Hulk Hogan?) could also be beneficial to them as well. For one Hulk, you can invest in multiple fresh talents, both in the ring and behind the scenes to overhaul the product.
In the end, TNA has a lot of issues and more than I can evaluate and attempt to solve in five articles. I want them to succeed because competition is good for the wrestling business. But fundamentally, they need to solidify themselves financially and establish a strong, firm leader that is knowledgeable in the business before they can truly step up to the plate as the true number two promotion on television.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the read. Be sure to share, tweet, and comment on it. I’m always open for discussion, so hit me on Twitter as well.