Monday, February 06, 2006

The Time is Now

When TNA Wrestling began, few gave it any chance to succeed. There were too many obstacles in its path, and the biggest question seemed to be how long until the promotion folded. Three and a half years later, just about every obstacle has been removed. TNA has proved its critics wrong just by surviving. Now, with the announcement of a prime time weekly time slot on a major cable network, TNA is on the cusp of true success. There are no more obstacles. There are no more excuses. It is time for TNA to give the public everything it has, and see if it just can’t make it.

The initial weekly PPV format was not going to work. The nature of pro wrestling is to build and pay off. The weekly format disrupted that basic dichotomy, and it required customers to invest money not for special events, but for all events. That problem is gone, with monthly PPV events the norm. TNA originally was built mostly around surprise appearances by former stars. Now the promotion is built around a regular roster of talented stars signed to long term deals.

The talent level of that roster has also improved. TNA at its inception was built around a host of name wrestlers who had little left to offer, and unknown younger wrestlers. Most of those unmotivated former talents are gone, and replaced with hungrier name talent. Scott Hall, Brian Christopher and the like appeared to view TNA as nothing more than a paycheck. Sting, Christian Cage, Team 3D and Rhino seem much more invested in the product, and their performances reflect that. Talent that wasn’t well known to national audiences now is, such as A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels, Abyss and America’s Most Wanted. Samoa Joe and Monty Brown seem future superstars in the making. The rest of the card has been loaded with real talent like Chris Sabin, Austin Aries, Alex Shelley and Petey Williams. TNA could still use additional talent, but it has a real core to work with.

Perhaps even more important is the turnaround in creative direction. This was the biggest problem for TNA from day one. It felt like clean finishes happened once every three months. The most ridiculous of gimmicks were introduced regularly. The promotion came across as incredibly desperate. Truth be told, the booking was still not very good as recently as a year ago. However, since the implementation of a booking committee in the middle of 2005, the promotion has real direction. The storylines are more compelling, the PPV lineups are better, and the characters are better defined. In short, it is a fresher product.

The best product in the world is not going to succeed if it does not have the proper promotional and financial alignment behind it. Luckily, TNA has just that. Panda has shown a real commitment to the promotion, even through the absorption of millions of dollars in losses. It isn’t about to quit on the promotion now. Advantageous business deals have been worked out. Excellent TNA DVDs are widely available, for casual fans to sample the product. Further merchandising and licensing agreements have been arranged. TNA has built a financial infrastructure.

This strength is not solely internal. Spike TV is solidly behind the promotion. It has promoted the product more strongly than many expected. It has given the promotion a time slot that shows even greater faith in the product. It has invested capital to acquire Sting, and presumably could assist in the acquisition of additional stars that will establish the promotion to casual wrestling fans.

Perhaps the strongest asset TNA has is a secret that has the potential to get out in a major way. TNA presents a drastically superior product to WWE. Wrestling fans have become so accustomed to the mediocrity of WWE wrestling, and the incompetence of WWE booking. TNA is not without its faults, but they are easy to list and correct. Jeff Jarrett needs to be out of the main event picture, they need to better define midcard wrestlers, and they need to slow down the pace of their shows. WWE’s problems couldn’t be contained to ten pages, let alone one such sentence. If TNA is available at a convenient time slot for wrestling fans, rapid growth is not out of the question.

TNA can stop worrying about “the big break.” The proper setup is in place. Now TNA simply has to produce the best product possible. Get people to tune into television, and get people to order the PPVs. Establish stars, and get wrestling fans excited about wrestling again. The battle with the rest of the world is over. Now TNA’s primary battle is against itself. Let’s see what they have got.


Blogger Swain said...


I agree that this thing has the potential to be huge. The problem is that it has the potential to be a huge success, or a huge failure. I just think there's a few things they need to avoid.

1) Moronic Finishes. Team 3-D vs. AMW blinded ref moronic finishes. 'Nuff said.

2) Too much sizzle, not enough steak. They've still only got sixty minutes. And while they pack a pretty good show into those sixty minutes, I think they need to avoid the temptation to do more with them. They're stretching those minutes pretty thin, and shortening matches to get Triple J more tv time is not going to help things.

3) Hot Shots. Yes, they're going to do something big for the premiere. Thats a given. But they can't get all Monday Night Wars and go hotshotting title changes or PPV quality matchups to make the ratings jump. Slow and steady wins the race.

If they can avoid these things, I think they'll be okay. And if they get an extra 30 minutes or an hour after a while, that'd be even better. But they CANNOT go up against Vince one-on-one just yet. Not even for another year at least. Cause he will do everything in his power to crush them.

PS. If you get the chance, and have some time to kill, check out my latest blog. Tell me how much I'm going to get sued.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

Thanks for the heads up on that. Interesting story. I very much echo your feelings on the situation. Dave is aware of that, and verified it happened. As to why it didn't get coverage from him, I don't know. I would like to know his feelings now before I comment any further. I would like to applaud him for his courage, but if he has decided in the meantime saying that was a mistake, I don't want to help spread a story that doesn't seem widely known and could have potentially negative effects on his career.

9:47 AM  

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