Thursday, 12 September 2013

TNA Analysed 22: A Critical Reflection


I may not have been watching TNA since it's inception but I know enough about it's past and from when I started to watching to see the gradual decline of the product over it's relatively short eleven years of existence.  Eleven years isn't anything to sniff at in today's world of competing media outlets, especially with the ever growing presence of online digital viewing channels and on demand services.  TNA has survived worse states compared to what it's in now when it was still being run by the Jarrett's and the show had to go online for a brief time, but things today are different.

Dixie Carter certainly saved the company from complete failure but only because at the time she had plenty of money to do so.  She spent like there was no tomorrow and yes it ensured the company got a deal with Spike and secured it a weekly slot on a popular network but it also brought in the likes of Vince Russo and eventually the tag team of Hogan and Bischoff.  Russo is infamous for his poor writing and completely batshit insane idea's about what should be used as material for professional wrestling.  Jim Cornette has made his opinions abundantly clear about the ineptitude of Russo and you only have to look at what happened to WCW to see what his influence did to a company a hundred times more popular when compared to TNA.

If nothing else you could at least say Russo made TNA fun to watch in that "it's so bad it's good" kind of way.  In fact many fans probably sprung up to watch the hilarity on screen but also to see something a little different from WWE.  The six sided ring was certainly the companies most distinct visual difference and the emphasis on it's lightweight or X-division made it stand out as a televised product.  I'm not saying TNA were unique in their promotion of smaller, faster and more athletic wrestlers as I am sure many other promotions do the same, but for a wider television audience it was a far cry from the burly seven foot, jacked up monsters of the WWE.  It also had talent that could give WWE a run for it's money seen in what is now known as the TNA originals.  I find this moniker somewhat telling that even the company know it's pushing it's homegrown talent aside when it has to label them as 'originals'.

It seems though that when Bischoff and Hogan arrived, Dixie really started to show her utter lack of knowledge of the wrestling business.  With their arrival we saw the six sided ring vanish, a group of old broken down talent come in and eventually the ousting of even Vince Russo from the writing staff.  Fans of the older product even started to stand with their backs to the ring in a sign of defiance to the changes and it seems that today's fan of TNA aren't the hardcore wrestling fan you are likely to see at a CZW event, but a more casual fan.  These fans cheer when prompted and hold the signs they are given to wave about when the camera pans across.  Hell we even know that TNA view the audience as "cast members" which is truly bizarre.  Attendance for live events is telling of the number of dedicated fans the company has when they bring in a few hundred on average, very rarely getting into the thousands.  The company book large arena's only to fill a tiny fraction of the building and claim success when they manage to get middling numbers for the tiny area anyway.

The company make odd decisions that cost them sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, hiring Z list reality stars for one off appearances or even run matches.  TNA have the dubious honour of hosting possibly the worst match to date in the form of Jenna Morasca versus Sharmell.  Backstage they make sponsorship deals such as the one with Direct auto insurance, only to then fire the person responsible for the deal.  They make agreements with Bellator MMA to basically advertise Bellator for free and get almost nothing in return.  They sign MMA fighters from the same company even though they can't use them in any matches because they are contracted to Bellator as well.  They run promotions to find new wrestling talent only to fire them months later as cost cutting measures, but keep paying the tired old wrestlers huge amounts in some belief that guys like Sting still draw big crowds.

It's was no surprise to find that with all the crazy spending that Dixie's own mother stepped in to keep track of the accounts.  The show suddenly went from wacky cameo appearances and bizarre stunts to utter tedium and bland storytelling in a short time.  Dixie continues to put faith in the creative vision of guys like Eric Bischoff who still thinks he turn TNA into the next WCW despite having less money, less fans and less talent at his disposal.  They rehash old WCW stories periodically as if they expect lightning to strike twice in the hopes of creating the next NWO but only succeed in creating another throwaway faction no one cares about.  It wouldn't be so bad if they could book talent properly but they fail at this constantly.  They bring back AJ Styles as a sort rebellious bad boy character similar to Sting back in WCW and fail to book him strong.  Instead they have him lose his return match, keep him out of the Aces and Eights plot and have him scrape past the points threshold into the bound for glory finals.  Not exactly the best way of putting over a guy TNA regularly claims is the future of the company.

But then that statement is another post in and of itself.  The future of TNA has been many people but it seems none of them are the real saviour.  Jeff Hardy, Sting, Bully Ray, AJ Styles, Rockstar Spud, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode, James Storm, Kurt Angle, Chris Sabin, Garret Bischoff, Ken Anderson and probably more have been at one time the future of the company and maybe in multiple realities these statements are true for each person listed, but then Hogan's mind probably does exist on several planes of existence, the fucker is so mental he still thinks he can draw a Wrestlemania sized crowd today. 

It isn't just the constant promises of big announcements and industry shaking changes that have supposedly made TNA the biggest wrestling company in the galaxy that bother me, it's the way they shamelessly put over talent during contract negotiations to ensure they sign.  Jeff Hardy was pushed so hard he left this planet, smashed through the moon and landed on Mars during his negotiations.  TNA were so fucking terrified that this has been, over the hill, self obsessed, charisma vacuum would leave and go back to WWE, they gave him everything on the show.  He got backstage segments, the power of telepathy when we could hear his thoughts mind numbingly dull as they are, won match after match after match and became the champion.  He squashed Austin Aries who was over with the fans through you know being good at his job, which then resulted in Aries becoming a run of the mill heel who needed to cheat all the time to win when prior to his title loss was winning matches as a heel without underhanded tactics.

It's this flippant decision making that pisses me off the most sometimes.  They book someone strong and they get over.  TNA then ignore the fact they managed to book a person well by then having either go through a goofy series of matches or simply squashed for the next guy they are pushing.  Could you imagine if they took CM Punk as he is now and then decided to squash him to push say Santino Marella?  It would be fucking tragic and people would call bullshit on WWE.  TNA does this all the time for no real gain.  In my last TNA Analysed I went through some of Dixie's recent answers to an interview where she basically admitted that new talent is too hard to build from the ground up and she would prefer either buying MMA fighters (WHY!?) or hire WWE's former wrestlers because these two types of professionals come with fans already.  Crazy thinking but there you go, this is the mind of the owner of TNA.

It doesn't really get any better for the female division which in the past was considered a much better destination for actual female wrestlers because WWE had more focus on models rather instead of wrestlers for their diva division.  The Knockouts had huge appeal and was actually at one point more popular and had higher viewing figures when compared to the male wrestlers on the show.  But today's product has slipped considerably from it's admittedly superior position over WWE and it's Diva's.  Gone are the likes of Awesome Kong, Hamada, Daffney and more (sadly I forget many of the names which is a disservice to some of those women who are now fired) leaving the Knockout's division with a paltry four competitors.  Mickie James is basically a part time performer but still has the belt?  ODB, Gail Kim and Tessmacher basically make up the remainder of the division which has been slowly torn down over the last couple of years.  Madison Rayne was fired because she was pregnant, Tara dropped out because they didn't want to pay her anymore, Taryn despite having a much lauded match with Gail was fired because... no one knows.  The financial issues have already gutted the company and if reports are to be believed that backstage the feeling is like that of WCW or ECW in it's dying days then we may not be seeing TNA for much longer.

Do I want the company to vanish?  No it doesn't deserve to shutdown at all but there are people within the company they need to either step down or leave for the betterment of the company as a whole.  I know my posts always seem to picture Bischoff and Hogan as these maniacal evil-doers when there are many other people working and fucking it up also, but when you see the past issues with WCW you have to start worrying when put Bischoff in the position of Executive producer.  Matt Conway as head writer?  No wonder it's so bland at the moment. 

I guess we will see what happens to TNA in the coming weeks and months but at the moment it's looking like a fatally wounded animal dragging itself toward shelter with no hope of survival.

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