OPINION: HOW TNA CAN BECOME THE TRUE ALTERNATIVE

Posted March 22nd, 2013 by 1Wrestling News Team

It seems not a day can go by in the world of professional wrestling without someone – be it fans, employees or even actual wrestlers themselves – passing comment on exactly what TNA/Impact Wrestling need to do in order to become the true alternative to WWE. Usually when remarking on the subject, these people are referring to TNA eventually becoming competitive with WWE, rivalling them in terms of TV ratings, merchandise takings and Pay-Per-View buys.

Ever since buying over WCW in 2001, as well as with the demise of ECW that same year, Vince McMahon’s global juggernaut has stood tall as the only giant in the wrestling world. The intricacies surrounding this monopoly are up for debate; many fans and industry experts feel the lack of credible competition has hampered storyline direction and overall character development within WWE. The promotion, it is argued, have less haste in creating bankable main-event stars now than at any point during the past 25 years, something which can be directly attributed to the lack of a competitive edge.

So, what can TNA do to become ‘competitive’? This writer would like to pose a much broader question; why do they need to be competitive?

An explanation may be in order. TNA wrestling are a privately held limited liability company, which means they do not need to make accounts or business dealings public – something WWE (as a public company) must do. Therefore, a lot of what is said is pure speculation – Pay-Per-View numbers leaked onto the internet are often estimations, as TNA are not bound by law to provide this information publicly. Furthermore, as of the writing of this article, TNA operate on a much smaller scale than WWE. In 2012 alone, WWE programming was broadcast in more than 145 countries, translated into 30 different languages. TNA’s Impact Wrestling flagship is viewable in 130 countries, translated into 17 different dialects. On the surface, those numbers don’t appear massively different, but it’s in the show schedules themselves and overall mass of production where the real differences lay. WWE produce on average several hundred live events each year, with a number of worldwide tours into the bargain. On the flip side, TNA have a more limited house show schedule, with the only non-domestic tour occurring annually in the UK and Europe. Indeed, that more limited touring schedule is a selling point to many performers when joining TNA; names such as Rob Van Dam and Kurt Angle have widely praised this set-up and decreed it crucial in extending their careers.

Of course, WWE as a whole are the much bigger operation, which is clear to anyone with even the most rudimentary of knowledge regarding the pro wrestling industry. Having been in business since 1952 (going corporate in 1980), there’s a bit of a head-start there when compared to TNA’s formation in the early Summer of 2002. This is exactly where the earlier question comes into play; TNA need worry less about going head-to-head with WWE, and more about building their own audience. As a relatively new company, ‘competing’ with WWE is wholly unrealistic.

When Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff joined forces to enter TNA in October, 2009, they quickly announced intentions to take the company to that magical ‘next level’. What they were basically saying was that they held the key to being able to compete with Vince McMahon, something which became clearer once the Impact show was moved into the same timeslot as WWE’s Raw on Monday evenings. Of course, this bombed spectacularly. Ratings started encouragingly (Impact drew over 2 million viewers for the very first head-to-head broadcast on January 4th, 2010 – a new record for the show), but had dipped sufficiently once the shows started going against one another weekly in early-March. By the final head-to-head in May, TNA were back to pulling in the same million or so viewers who had been tuning in anyway before the experiment.

In a nutshell, this failed experiment proved it would take much more than big names and aggressive fighting talk to compete with Vince McMahon’s WWE. Despite many wishing for a renewed “Monday Night War” (reliving WCW’s Nitro vs. WWE Raw feud from the 1990′s), this was nothing of the sort. TNA going up against WWE didn’t make a blip in the latter’s ratings, and it was almost like it hadn’t happened.

Thankfully, TNA appear to have learned their lesson. In the past year and a half, there has been a remarkable shift away from referencing WWE on-screen (something which always made the company appear like an independent promotion, trying to get the rub by mentioning their more famous peers), with more energy being put into expanding the TNA brand itself. With the Ring Ka King promotion set-up in India, and the British Bootcamp show hitting the UK, there’s been a more conscious effort to champion TNA, rather than chase the coat-tails of WWE.

Simply put, TNA (and every other wrestling company in the world) will always be in the shadow of WWE. It’s striking to think that TNA have been now almost been in business for as long as WCW (Turner Broadcasting bought over the company from Jim Crockett in 1988, eventually running it successfully before going bust in 2001). The parallels in success between the pair are themselves interesting. Running for close to 11 years now, TNA have barely made a scratch on WWE, whereas WCW between 1996-1998 overtook them as the number one wrestling organisation in North America. Obviously, the industry is in a different place now than it was back then; a new generation of fans have been conditioned to believe WWE are the only show in town.

Living in the shadow of WWE does not mean TNA cannot be successful. Cutting back on the amount of Pay-Per-View events has been widely applauded by the wrestling world, as the on-going argument of product saturation rages on. The overall direction of the company has also seen much acclaim; TNA is now seen less as the guilty pleasure, there to be ridiculed and poked fun at for similarities to the dying days of World Championship Wrestling. It is this writer’s firm believe that should TNA continue on the path they’re on (provided they are financially solvent), the audience will grow. It may not grow to rival that of WWE, but TNA should not gauge the success of their company on that of an ability to outshine Vince McMahon.

No, TNA’s success should be gauged on creating an enjoyable product, one enjoyed by a steadily increasing audience. An audience who have for years been crying out for an alternative to WWE. That true alternative need not threaten WWE’s business, merely enhance it’s own, leading to a far more profitable pro wrestling industry as a whole. If you can pardon the lame pun, there is time yet for TNA to make an impact.

Category: Wrestling.

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Comments

  1. By Joe, posted

    As some one who grew up watching WWE since the late 80′s have watched their shows lose luster. What I think is one thing that hurts them is the fact they have a Pay-Per-View every month it was better when there were less and they were able to develop story lines, something TNA is changing in the new format it will be interesting in seeing how TNA does in growing their product.

  2. By Clif May, posted

    I watch Impact Wrestling and it’s the wrestling product I prefer. I got so bored with WWE that I was just over it. I purposefully avoid watching any WWE to cleanse myself of it. I’ve taken a peak at RAW on TV, didn’t know what was going on with the few familiar faces I saw, and thought good, I’m flushing it all out. Watching WWE just felt like work to me. Just doing some task for some required amount of time. It was no longer intense or edgy. It felt like every aspect of it, from the music to brand logos, were product placements and promotional advertisement. Trying to make us buy products. And all of the actual content seemed to be subdued. No more super shocking choice of words or “holy s***” moments in the wrestling action. Even CM Punk’s promo that was supposedly cut off, which I saw on YouTube, wasn’t that exciting to me. It’s like some underground activist internet show host gained a following, only to join CNN or MSNBC to make money and everything on his or her show is tamed down and overseen by a team of family entertainment ‘on the safe side’ writers and producers.

    While I find Impact more exciting and I think it communicates more to wrestling fans, treating them like wresting fans, I find some faults in it. Not enough to make me stop watching. But some things that I hope will be fixed. The whole Bully Ray heel turn is a repeat of when they did that with Hogan, Jeff Hardy, Eric Bischoff, and others. I hope this isn’t a repeating trend that has become a routine part of their brand of pro wrestling. A formula that is standard and accepted. I hope that’s not the case. There are times when, to me, it feels like what’s happening in the Impact Zone is really happening for real. But there are also times when it feels so staged, it feels like I’m watching one of those stunt stage shows at Universal Studios. Just something about the dialogue and timing and overall presentation. I don’t mean to sound like one of the many people who go on the internet and act like they know more than the people who actually work in the wrestling business. This is all from my perspective as a viewer.

    As a contrast, I remember seeing footage of Jerry Lawler and Jim Cornette invading the ECW arena years ago. That is something that felt more real when seeing it for the first time. Or when Hall and Nash ‘invaded’ WCW Nitro years ago. I watch Impact hoping for that renewed feeling. Like if they somehow nabbed John Cena and Randy Orton and brought them both together to ‘invade’ Impact. Otherwise, I’m more than happy watching the actual wrestling on Impact.

    I also like how I can see some wrestlers on Impact that I used to watch in person in California like Joey Ryan, Kazarian, Samoa Joe, and others. This is just a personal plus to me. But it’s nice to see those familiar faces without going to some venue in Los Angeles and be bombarded with a bunch of under aged scrubs trying to bum a free car ride home from me. That’s why I stopped going to events. I can just watch Impact now.

  3. By Shaneo, posted

    Agree with the general tone of your article. TNA doesn’t have to be as big as the WWE to be a successfully long term fixture of the wrestling industry.

    Going on the road every fortnight (taping two shows in one night) and limiting the PPV schedule to 4 are steps in the right direction. Thing like giving an explanation for why cameras are filming the wrestlers backstage is one of those minor moves I think deserves praise.

    The alternative I am after is realistic storylines while remembering the show is meant to be about a fictional sport and it should resemble that.

  4. By Larry Evans, posted

    this article nails it–TNA should NOT try to compete with the WWE or try to copy them–but do what they do best-wrestle, WWE has better promotions, but they are greedy and many of their shows are stale and “phoned in “–way over-hyped and over-priced, TNA has the much better wrestling and pay per view shows!

  5. By Big Ray, posted

    Ok, this is what I have been saying for almost the past year on the show I prouce for 1wrestling.com. People have to stop comparing and just enjoy what is right in front of them. I look at it like this… How many people have been in past relationships, jobs and can not stop thinking about either the good ol days what they had or what they wish they had instead of just appreciating what they have in their lives at the moment. You will never enjoy TNA unless you take it for what it is… An ALTERNATIVE to WWE programing. I beleive that match for match TNA puts forth a comprable and sometimes better in-ring product than the WWE. Fans just can’t get past that TNA is not WCW or the WWE. My point is simply that is you just have fun watching and stop judging the product you may find your self enjoying it. I just find that variety is a GREAT thing especially when it comes to Pro Wrestling.

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