I’m going to tell everybody a story which begins all the way in 2006. In 2006, I was a wrestling fan that had started watching WWE programming just a few years earlier. However, this was a year in which I was really starting to lose interest in WWE. There were a lot of failed storylines and projects that was slowly sucking the enjoyment from watching RAW, SmackDown! and ECW. RAW was particular dominated by John Cena and the reunited DX, SmackDown! was ruled by King Booker, the “Animal” Batista and the underdog champion Rey Mysterio, and ECW was ruled by the Big Show. It was a very testing time to being a WWE fan. Have no fear though. On the Wrestling Channel in the UK, they were starting to show episodes of a wrestling show called TNA IMPACT.
I was interested, because it featured former WWE stars and even WCW legend Sting. I also noticed these new talents that were so exiting to watch that it was baffling why they weren’t signed with someone like WWE. This was the show I needed to regain my passion for wrestling. TNA was a hit. It was unique, it featured six sided rings and unbelievable talent. For me, this was a nice alternative from the “sports entertainment” of WWE.
TNA spread like wild-fire, even resulting in “TNA” being chanted during episodes of RAW. In a weird case of deja vu from the 1995 King Of The Ring, where ECW chants were bellowed out in Philadelphia, the fans were more interested in chanting the name of a “rival” wrestling company than the actual product in front of them. They might have good reason to do it. After all they chanted this during a miserable, and I mean MISERABLE, “Donald Trump” vs “Rosie O’Donnell” match.
What’s funny about this incident is that TNA and ECW are VERY similar in a lot of other aspects too. They were both innovative companies that brought a unique style of wrestling to the US. However, they both also had their issues that prevented them from reaching their full potential. ECW’s problem was a lack of funds which resulted in talent being stolen from WWF and WCW, which led to the company’s bankruptcy in 2001. The issues for TNA were more than just money…
While I loved the company when I first started watching it and then for years after, this company was running itself into the ground. TNA initially had a simple but effective product which was really taking off like a rocket. While they signed high-profile wrestlers like Kurt Angle from time to time, the main attraction which really made it different from the WWE was the X-Division. They were the stars. Hell, they were the main-event in a few instances. However, TNA soon seemed to completely neglect what brought them to the dance to make room for… “sports entertainment.”
They had great wrestlers but the powers-that-be of TNA ultimately decided that the only way to beat WWE… was to BE WWE. It was not about being an alternative WRESTLING company. It was about purely booking from an “entertainment” standpoint. Therefore, a lot of product was heavily reliant on angles in order to advance the stories. It was a product heavily reliant on swerves which really didn’t need to be there. The use of storylines in wrestling is fine, as that’s one of the most important aspects of the wrestling business. It’s about telling a story, whether you do it in the ring or in an angle. However, the use of storylines OVER wrestling is what really damaged the product.
It wasn’t just the decisions of creative that really dented the company. Many decisions by those actually RUNNING the company were very questionable. It’s almost that the company never realised the importance of the younger stars and put all their faith in the likes of Jeff Hardy in order to bring in the ratings. True, it wouldn’t hurt to have a bit of star power in their ranks. However, a BIT would do just fine. In 2010, with Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff coming in, so did dozens of new wrestlers. When I say new, I mean old. Old former WWE, WCW or ECW stars that are now part of the NEW vision of TNA!
Trust me, I’m not knocking those stars that came in. They’re stars for a reason but a lot of these stars served zero purpose in the future of TNA. What sort of contribution were the Nasty Boys supposed to bring to TNA’s future? What was the point in bringing Orlando Jordan to TNA? Why were all the ECW originals hired, other than to set up a ECW reunion show? Just… why?
Of course, the old dudes were not why I was still watching TNA in 2012 and 2013. During those times, the shows were actually great to watch. In the early days of this blog, TNA reviews were a common feature. The storylines improved following the implosion of Immortal but a new sense of attention to younger stars was finally introduced. Finally, stars like Bobby Roode and James Storm were able to properly develop. Those two produced quite possibly the greatest feud in TNA history. Austin Aries became a star and even became TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Bully Ray had been in wrestling for decades but at least he became a singles star in his own right. They weren’t just dependent on the older main event stars to advance the shows.
The point is, the potential was ALWAYS there for TNA to succeed. We’ll get onto the financial troubles later on but from a creative standpoint, the potential was there. They had all the means to create stars easily that didn’t need to break the bank. However, they didn’t. Not only didn’t they make the stars that they could have, they also broke the bank while they were at it. Which leads me to their financial troubles…
As mentioned earlier, TNA have splashed a fair amount of cash during their existence. As mentioned earlier, they hired a ton of wrestlers in 2010 believing that the driving force of TNA would be the stars… from TEN YEARS AGO! However, Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff’s plans with these stars was always going to fail. Not only were the stars just going to hold back the younger talent, TNA didn’t have the sufficient financial structure that could allow Bischoff, Hogan and Dixie Carter to just pluck these guys like plucking apples from a tree. According to Vince Russo he frequently warned Eric and Hogan that this was not like the days of WCW, where they could easily sign whoever they wanted. TNA’s financial structure was clearly not as great as they believed it to be.
We compared TNA to ECW, but at least Paul Heyman knew that ECW was not a great position to snap up the true stars of wrestling. He had to develop them, because there was not way that he could snap up the likes of Sting, Steve Austin and The Rock from WCW and the WWF. He was as realistic as possible, because he did not have seemingly unlimited funds like WCW. You know what’s funny, is that TNA was similar to WCW in its mindset with money. They didn’t think money would be an issue but really… it was.
There’s also the foolish decisions made by TNA which they believed would turn the product. We’re not talking about the expensive contracts. We’re talking about decisions like deciding to move TNA to Monday nights and go head-to-head with RAW. They decided to start a “Monday Night War” when they were never in a million years going to beat RAW in the ratings. It’d be like if Malta ever declared war on Germany. They would also never force Vince McMahon to change up his writing in order to beat TNA. The gap was just too big for Vince to care.
Ultimately, TNA’s failures backstage has lead to the company’s own demise. Quite honestly, this saddens me a lot. Even though I’ve not really watched the product in a few years, I still have a strong connection and appreciation for a lot of things TNA has brought to wrestling. The X-Division, at its prime, was sublime. The likes of Bobby Roode, AJ Styles, James Storm, Samoa Joe and others have provided great match after great match. We even got one of the greatest segments of all time, with Jay Lethal confronting Ric Flair in a woo-off! I’ll have so many fond memories of TNA, which is why it is sad that I might have just watched it’s final ever PPV.
So… did TNA go out with a bang or a whimper? Join me for the TRUE review of TNA Bound For Glory, and whether there were any glorious moments to be had during TNA’s possibly final hurrah!