Wrestling Column: The Current State Of TNA Wrestling
Monday, 20 January 2014 12:41
Submitted by Joe Babinsack
For the first time in a long time I actually found myself tuning into TNA last Thursday. Maybe it’s the undercurrent of hope, that someone somewhere sometime soon will actually try to do some professional wrestling that makes sense, doesn’t insult my intelligence and otherwise attempts to counter the WWE, instead of copying it.
Sure, I know that TNA has actually been the copied, and not the copier, in several situations, but the momentum of long years of aping the 800lb gorilla does not turn so quickly.
Sure, I also know that the “Don’t hate on Dixie” campaign is underway. Let’s be clear: hating Dixie Carter is all about her not knowing anything about the business; for hiring Russo, Bischoff and Hogan; for spouting niceties while pretending to be a strong #2; for this obvious business approach of trying not to anger the WWE while being a bad copy of the WWE.
Hating Dixie for all that isn’t pleasant, it isn’t fun and it really isn’t fair. But then again, she’s the boss and for a decade TNA pretended to be something it never was: a professional wrestling promotion that could blend the timelines and histories of WCW, ECW, NWA and the top Indie talent into an ALTERNATIVE to what the WWE produces.
(I’m already writing down the path of frustration, not the path of rage, and already I’m annoyed at myself, at TNA and at Dixie. So let me stop before I start writing and sounding like a bad professional wrestling book retelling history for an audience that already knows it).
Here’s the problem: TNA has had talent galore. TNA has the same Cable platform that launched (arguably or not) the ratings of the UFC and maintained the ratings of the WWE for a number of years. TNA has had the ability, which has diminished over the past two years, to hire any Indie talent, any WWE cast-off and make deals with Japan and Mexico. But TNA hasn’t just had talent galore, it has (arguably, and that argument diminishes every year) some of the best wrestling minds of the modern era: Hogan, Bischoff, Flair, Russo.
It also had guys vastly more capable in booking and developing talent: Jim Cornette and Jerry Jarrett. It also has had a strong supporting cast of agents, creative types (even if WWE associated, which can be both a positive and negative) and production people. What TNA never seemed to have was direction. There’s only one person who can be blamed for that lack of direction.
And despite the Hoganesque word gymnastics, obviously enhanced in many ways by many things, there’s no logic to a reality that Hogan “opened doors”, “did the best he can”, “helped talent” and “was involved in decisions” unless you realize that Hogan’s participation in TNA was an undeniable failure. In which case, who’s to blame? Professional wrestling history is filled with examples of owners and decision makers and creative/booking done by individuals who aren’t quite grasping the product or the fans or the ability to generate revenue.
In the modern era, this is beyond obvious, and every year the professional wrestling industry moves another step or two beyond any connection between fans and what happens on the TV screen. Maybe the WWE Network will change things on different levels. Maybe not.
Meanwhile, TNA is a year or so into the repeating of history that has afflicted most promotions where there is a dire financial problem, and we can tell by the fact that the BOSS is a character. Most of the time the boss gets trotted out to stroke their ego, but sometimes they get trotted out because they are a valuable character, already getting paid, and it doesn’t make sense for them to be losing that money while they stand behind the scenes. That’s an argument for Bill Watts making appearances when a few bad booking decisions went by and when the Mid-South economy went bust. That’s an argument for when Vincent K. McMahon became an on-screen, evil owner character.
After all, Vince wasn’t going to sell out to WCW, so him being a character made a lot of sense.
What intrigues me with Dixie’s on-screen, evil owner character is that the bumbling seems to be leading to something. I can’t say I marked out for Davey Richards/Eddie Edwards like I may have for the NWO, but there’s a good sense that this is all leading to something big, and we all know wrestling is desperate for that.
Has TNA turned it around?
Well, what they’ve done for this utterly jaded critic is give another glimmer of hope. I don’t want the Dixie Carter stuff to be a dream (I’d reference Dallas but that’s 30 years old) or just an interlude before someone hits the “reset” button (I’d reference Russo but wow, that’s two references and I’m already hitting Jim Cornette blood pressure warnings). What I am hoping is that TNA weaves together this obvious ownership clash, maybe ties in some new twists, enhances the old/reliable concept and makes it all meaningful.
Maybe TNA creative types will realize what worked and what failed and hopefully will give both sides enough talent to make it meaningful, and will bring back AJ Styles in a proper manner (yeah, again) and considering the Jeff Jarrett mystery quit and the Toby Keith rumors and the vast potential of having an excellent Cable TV network as a foundation…..well, there goes one more TNA hope.
I’m stuck in it now, and I’m truly interested now, but let me say up front, if TNA botches this and destroys the glimmer of hope I’m feeling, if anyone (Talent, talking head, internet peer) comes back and cries a mighty river because everyone is mean to Dixie, I’m not even bothering. TNA (and I haven’t even decried the stupid initials they use) has been down this path, in a few ways, in a few different directions, with a few different faces. I’ve been there before, and really, truly, really, seriously, very much want them to succeed.