A Good First Step
By Ben Miller
The ratings are in for the July 18th iMPACT-as-PPV experiment, and it was a success. The two-hour show, headlined by Chris Sabin's first World Championship win over Bully Ray, drew a 0.5 18-49 demo rating (up from 0.4 the week before) with 1.49 million total viewers (up from 1.19 million).
It's great news all around. A relatively large audience saw their new torchbearer get his win. The result was unpredictable
. The show was well received
. TNA won the night, and that is good for them.
But what of the future? Conventional wisdom is that WWE is number one, and always will be. And that TNA is struggling and that Spike TV is the only thing keeping them alive and a half dozen other problems piled on.
If there is one thing that fans and followers of the wrestling business can agree upon, it is that TNA must start doing something different to survive and (some day) thrive. It must be better or cooler or more fun than WWE. It must be 2001 Apple.
Apple is the largest technology company in the world today, but in 2001 it held about 5% market share in the computer world. So Apple decided to by and large forget about beating the entrenched number one in the corporate world, and instead focused on consumers, education and creatives. Apple also had a lot of brilliant folks who were able to recognize what the public wanted before they wanted it, but an essential part of their success was forging their own path and forgetting about impressing the nerds who worked at CompUSA. (I love ridiculing CompUSA because when I bought my first personal computer, I went there and asked about the redesigned Apple iBook. I was told by a salesperson that Apple computers were for little kids and women, so I went to the first Apple Store
two months after it opened and never visited the now-defunct CompUSA again.)
TNA/iMPACT ain't gonna be Apple, but if it is going to be a successful wrestling company it needs to figure out what wrestling fans want before wrestling fans know what they want. Chris Sabin as World Champion may be part of that. But what else is? It's not fewer PPVs or skankier women or wilder matches. It has to be a concept. It has to be a complete vision of what iMPACT Wrestling is; along with the patience and attention to detail required to execute that vision.
Yours truly still thinks that the vision should be anti-bullshit. WWE is a tough show to stomach for most wrestling fans because the entire concept is bullshit. There is no pretense whatsoever that pro wrestling was once derived from competitive sports. WWE is just a continual re-hashing of the once-great concept that wrestling should be a walking cartoon. TNA/iMPACT should take wrestling back to the days when it was a fake sport, but with a twist. The instant replay, excessive focus on officiating and long-term scheduling that are signatures of real sports should be used in TNA/iMPACT. Pro wrestling at its best is not some theatre show. It's a fake sport. So the foundation of sport should be there.
The fact that TNA/iMPACT has been around for nigh a decade without making a real mark on the business is often cited as proof that they never will. Well, past performance is no guarantee of future results. WWE makes a lot of money promoting bullshit, so they won't be solving their problems any time soon. TNA/iMPACT doesn't make a lot of money, so there's less to lose. They took one risk with Sabin. Now it's time to take the greater risk and stop producing a show that is just another take on cartoon wrestling.