Friday, November 03, 2006

TNA Impact

I frequently watch TNA Impact after Ultimate Fighter, but it's never been a show I particularly look forward to or pay close attention to. Now, it always seems like Impact is too packed with stuff coming at you really fast and too much like WWE, but this week's show seemed over the top in that regard. Just stuff being thrown at the wall in rapid order with all the earmarks of Vince Russo. Worked shoots, stipulations abound, non-finishes...it's absolutely the wrong direction for TNA. It's really a shame, because the Kurt Angle deal has the potential to draw new fans in, and I don't think they're going to stick. If it were up to me, I'd do a 180 from what WWE is doing. No run-ins, period. No cheap DQs, period. Clean finishes in every match. Focus heavily on wrestling and interviews, with realistic characters and logical booking. Every week there is a quality main event that goes a substantial period of time. I've just had all I can take with ridiculousness in wrestling, and want a product that takes itself seriously. I don't think I'm alone as wrestling fans become MMA fans instead. And TNA is not on the right side of this issue.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Charlie Kane said...

My guess is that TNA is going to go down, fairly soon, as a missed opportunity. All the points you make in what they 'should' do are valid, and would likely draw a much greater audience than their numbers so far. There is a reason that Impact loses so much of the audience from it's lead-in show. It's because many of the MMA fans who watch Ultimate Fighter have lost interest, due to any number of factors, in the product of pro wrestling. The bare bones of wrestling, characters and story lines, are still a major part of the MMA success, but it's all of the peripheral crap which WWE has beaten into the ground (matches which mean nothing, tiresome and predictable angles, booking by ego, etc. )that has turned away a huge number of fans who, in the past, would likely have stayed tuned into Impact, if for no other reason than a few laughs. Because TNA made the disastrous decision to hire Russo and his trunk of old hats, they have essentially offered up MMA fans, who are looking to MMA specifically for something new, just a B-grade version of what they turned away from the WWE for in the first place. Titan Towers will continue to do well for the same reason that people buy Big Macs; there'll always be somebody who considers it to be nutritious despite reports to the contrary. TNA should have looked ahead instead of to the past, and used their young, talented roster as a means to build a fanbase. Instead, they have Jarrett and Sting as champs, and they are already giving away the best match-up they could ever hope to have in Angle/Joe within Angle's first month, and try to drop hints that Chris Jericho may sign with them (note to all: he won't. Even if he did, who would really care, anyway?). The only group which seems to have any sort of exciting combination of workers and storyline is ROH, and unless you live back east, you'll never see that ever. I think it's clear, Todd, that the wrestling fanbase has completely lost interest in WWE and TNA both, if the feedback to your blogs is any indication. It's usually either a shrug, a sigh or, even worse, silence. How do you fix that? Facts is facts, the reason the WWE blew up the way it did was because of two guys, Steve Austin and Dwayne Johnson, who were so blessed with charisma and skills that there was no way that Vince could drop the ball. It is clear that there is nobody even close to them anywhere in any of these companies, and without a real star to build around, then I'd guess the malaise will just go on and on...and MMA will just get bigger and bigger, because, down the line, you will eventually see 'legitimate' sports coverage of UFC, which caters towards men within the desired advertising demographic, and more fans will be drained off the wrestling circuit and towards MMA, or just towards the established sports leagues, until all that's left is little kids and aging marks who see the Vince McMahon 'Kiss My Ass Club' as something for them to legitimately aspire to join. Just as you stated, TNA could have made some sort of inroads into bringing some of those old-style fans back into the fold, but instead is just presenting the dinner theatre version of WWE's tired shtick. The same old shit in a different box is still just the same ol'....

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I think both Todd and Charlie are exactly right in their assessment of TNA. Here's a question: given the strength of Panda's core business (energy, especially non-petroleum based energy) and the obvious opportunities to expand therein, why is Panda possibly still bothering with TNA? As I understand it, the company is still very unprofitable (if I'm wrong correct me, but I don't recall the WON or any other source refuting this at all recently). The pro wrestling business is the opposite of the alternative energy business: no apparent growth opportunities and very few success stories. Only WWE has managed to run a profitable wrestling company, long-term, in the US over the last 20 years.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"No run-ins, period. No cheap DQs, period. Clean finishes in every match. Focus heavily on wrestling and interviews, with realistic characters and logical booking. Every week there is a quality main event that goes a substantial period of time. I've just had all I can take with ridiculousness in wrestling, and want a product that takes itself seriously."

Todd, let's be honest, wrestling hasn't been presented like this on the mainstream level in the US in 20 years. The last promotion to run this style of wrestling was the NWA in 1989. It hasn't been like that in the WWF since 1983 (and that's stretching it as you can make the case they have never really promoted wrestling "seriously")

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Charlie Kane said...

Phil and 'anonymous' (it'd be kind of cool if that is yer real name, although it seems to be more appropriate for the name of a bassist in a Norwegian black metal band or something) both make good points. I'd suggest that, for Panda, TNA is somehow a tax write-off (considering the numbers TNA pulls in, it probably qualifies as charity) or some other sort of business loophole because, if it's not, than yer right, and I cannot fathom how they justify the cost to their stockholders. I'd guess that the cash flow will be shut off in another six months, and you'll be seeing Kurt Angle back on Raw by next summer, likely to continue his feud with the Tiki Warrior, or whatever name they use to humiliate Joe. Anon's comments are also, sadly, on the mark--the problem I have is that I was a huge NWA mark in the mid-late 80's, and while wrestling seems consumed with marketing nostalgia it's unlikely they'll harken back to the days when Ron Garvin was NWA champ (at least, I'd hope not).I always found the 'Attitude' era to be rather difficult to take, and my only enjoyment of WWE product over the last few years had been yer Rock, Austin, Angle, Jericho and even pre-marriage HHH. The dormant 'Lethargy Era' of WWE and wrestling in general has left me entirely cold, and I cannot see anything on the horizon which will bring me back to something which is more of a guilty pleasure than anything else. If Todd's reports weren't so well-written, I doubt I would even pay attention to Raw any longer, and I am getting the feeling that even Todd's patience for writing this stuff is coming to a close.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

Fantastic posts, Charlie. You nail it pretty much across the board. I have very little than I can add to what you said.

Phil, I don't think Panda will be giving up on TNA any time soon. The hiring of Angle demonstrates that they are still very much in this thing. My impression is that the Carters are marks (I'm not making normative judgments in saying that; it's purely meant to be descriptive), and they enjoy the idea of running their own wrestling company. It's sort of a fun novelty and they are willing to take some losses in running it. The problem is they need to really get hot at some point or they're going to miss their chance. And I just can't see them taking the next step without offering something different from WWE and presenting compelling headliners.

I know that what I said about how I would run TNA is radical. And I fully admit that there would be a learning curve on that style of promotion. But I think wrestling has gone so far in the other direction that you have to do almost a complete 180 to distance yourself from the nonsense. The key to the whole thing is making match results matter. Everything I suggested is oriented in that direction. The problem is wrestling has become so absurd that it will take very strong steps to make those match results matter again. The vision of wrestling I'm thinking of isn't so much NWA of the 80s. I'm thinking of sort of a cross between All Japan of the early to mid 90s with UFC and Pride of today. And this isn't even my ideal vision of wrestling. I grew up on WWF. I'm happy with story oriented, larger than life wrestling. But mainstream wrestling again has gone so far that I think it's almost reached the point of no return where you can't move back just a little and have people care. Too much damage has been done. You have to essentially do shock therapy and jolt people back to what wrestling is. Then after you have gotten people caring about the match results again, then you can start back with the gimmicks.

12:14 AM  
Blogger brian said...

"Steve Austin and Dwayne Johnson, who were so blessed with charisma and skills that there was no way that Vince could drop the ball"

I'm not sure I agree with this, WWE did start Austin off with the lame Ringmaster gimmick, and a few key losses here and ridiculous angles there and I think you could sink any up and coming star, as WWE has done a lot over recent years.

I agree with the other points tho. As time passes it becomes clearer just how big an impact of the loss of WCW has had on the US wrestling industry. When one of the big two companies was going down, the other was always there as an alternative, which promoted the first to get it's act together. Now that insurance isn't there any more. And Vince, despite any amount of rebranding, relaunching or roster-splitting, just can't present wrestling any other way than he knows. At least WCW (and ECW) offered something genuinely different from WWE.

Finally, it always amazes me what a missed oppotunity wrestling can be sometimes. It combines all the athleticism of 'real' sports, yet can be scripted to create the most dramtic stories. What major league sports promoter wouldn't kill to be able to book his season to maximise the excitement and drama!

4:41 AM  
Anonymous mean dean said...

For all the flaws I previously went on about for TNA, I would be about 1,000% more interested if there were just two changed. One of them is much easier than the other, but still. One is to not just have people turning face/heel all willy nilly. Other than the very very recent hires and Sting, I can't think of anyone off the top of my head who hasn't already been a face and a heel. They had Joe as probably the hottest heel in the company with the whole bloody towel deal, and then just had him start teaming with Sting all of a sudden, and dropping his program with Styles/Daniels.

But still, for my money, the most egregious mistake TNA continues to make is keeping Jarrett in the limelight. That's likely never to be fixed, but if I had any assurance that Jarrett wasn't going to be beating Sting, Joe and Angle, all on consecutive PPVs in the near future (and all with ref bump/guitar shot finishes, no less), then I would actually probably watch with some regularity, and I'd wager there would be many other people that would as well.

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Charlie Kane said...

Brian's points about Austin and Johnson are right; I would actually give all the credit to both of those guys for getting over despite the system, as both were originally handed lame gimmicks which the fans either ignored or loathed. It was only through their sheer will, and forces of personality, that they were able to elevate themselves above the Gobbedly Gookers of the time. A lot of this credit, of course, also needs to go to the fans who understood clearly what they wanted, who they wanted to cheer for, and McMahon was smart enough to alter the company's original plans to appease the fans desires. It is clear, as Todd and many others have mentioned on more than one occasion, that this is no longer anything the company has any interest in--and I would put TNA in that same category, as Mean Dean illustrates so clearly. Jeff Jarrett's overwhelming shadow over his company, while certainly not a first for the business, has done TNA no favors whatsoever, and the sort of tiresome booking that his dominance has entailed has always been just enough to help quash any enthusiasm that a fan of wrestling who was looking for TNA's 'alternative to Stamford' may have had. Outside of ego and the usual politics, I just don't see why it has to be this way, but I could say that about just about anything in the world these days.
Okay, I'll let it go here, but I've enjoyed the give & take these last couple days spared the usual anonymous-blogger acrimony.

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Dave S. said...

No comment on the Redskins win?

9:21 PM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

Eh, the season's pretty much toast at this point anyway, and the win was more Dallas' fault that the Redskins' triumph. But it was nice to see them get a win, and the ending sure was exciting. Also on the plus side, I finally got a strong performance from all of my fantasy football teams in the same week. It was a shocking turn of events, as they have largely stunk up the joint this year.

12:41 AM  

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