As a great rock band once said – “It’s the final countdown!”, but unlike the rock gods known as Europe, TNA is not heading for Venus, but a closer place known as Spike TV, the hours are ticking as this really is the final countdown for TNA ( the debut may have even been and gone by the time you read this) . In this week’s column, I will be looking at the night that could change the face of TNA wrestling, plus much more.
*For fans from the US, this column will not contain spoilers from any spoilers of the ‘iMPACT!’ tapings *
– Making a big ‘iMPACT!’
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last 2 months or so, you probably known by now that TNA Wrestling is taking a huge step on 1st October when they debut their flagship TV show on Spike TV. So, for the main part of this week’s column I am going to look at the debut of iMPACT!, but more specifically, what I would do to make TNA successful on Spike TV!
Step 1 – Making TNA Different!
Firstly, and maybe most importantly TNA needs to make its product different from anything else on the market today. If TNA go into Spike TV with the attitude of making TNA similar to the WWE it will probably not be as successful as it could be. If TNA produce a WWE style show week after week, fans will soon turn off and watch the WWE, why would they want to watch a WWE rip off, when they can watch the real deal. TNA needs to be creative, innovative but most importantly be different.
It may seem an odd example, but look at when WCW sky rocketed in 1996, that didn’t just happen because Hogan, Savage, Nash & Hall were at the top of the company, it happened because what WCW did with the New World Order was different and unique, something fans had never seen in wrestling before, WCW showed their creativity and it paid off in a big way.
I’m not saying what TNA needs is a New World Order of its own, because to be quiet frankly TNA has done that on more than one occasion, and lets face it, that wasn’t really all that successful. What TNA needs is to do something that will differentiate TNA from the WWE, something that will be ground breaking and attract fans, I know its easier said that done, but its what TNA must do.
I am not claiming I have the answers on how to make TNA different, but fundamentally, I am a wrestling fan, and I would rather see TNA produce something that was a few steps away from the form of wrestling called “Sports Entertainment”, than a few steps behind it. At the end of the day, “Sports Entertainment” is the WWE, and TNA needs to be different.
Step 2 – Making the best use of what you have!
Look at the regular TNA roster you will see a perfect blend of youth and experience, from the youth of AJ Styles, to the experience of the veteran Jeff Jarrett. In my opinion, the TNA roster has never looked as all rounded as it does now, TNA have some of the best workers in North America on their books, and they should use them to push TNA to the limit.
Take Samoa Joe for example, the guy is simply an awesome wrestler, nothing more, nothing less. TNA could make him into one of their number 1 guys if they use him correctly, they need to make him into an unbeatable monster, much like the WWE did with Brock Lesnar in 2002. Joe has all the tools to make it big in TNA, and thus helping TNA make it big on Spike TV. TNA need to create their own characters that fans will connect with straight away, someone like Joe could be one of them people. The fans in the ‘iMPACT!’ zone are already raving about Joe, who has already built a firm cult like legacy working for Ring of Honor, plus various other independent promotions.
The TNA roster is full of guys with youth and talent, 2 attributes that will get them far. If TNA really want to succeed, they need to use what they have to the best of their ability. Make guys like AJ Styles, Chris Daniels, Samoa Joe, Rhino, Chris Harris , James Storm and Monty Brown, just to name a few, the focus and centre of TNA. These guys are not only the future of TNA, but also the future of wrestling.
TNA need to learn by the mistakes of World Championship Wrestling, a company that pushed guys like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. Don’t get me wrong, both these guys helped WCW in the short term, but in the long term, these two guys were also a part of WCW downfall. So many guys who were well past their prime were the focal point of WCW, and coupled with bad management, this meant no new stars could rise in WCW, which was a key factor in its downfall. This is a mistake that TNA cannot afford to make.
Step 3 – Don’t make the mistakes you have made in the past
To say that TNA had not made any mistakes in their last 3 years would be a huge understatement; they have made a hell of lot mistakes, from the infamous early Russo booking days, to the even more infamous Dusty era. What TNA needs to do is learn from these mistakes, and not repeat them in their current product.
TNA does not need to focus on the cheap and tacky “T & A” or WWE “Attitude” style, which TNA adopted when Vince Russo was booking for the company. This style is outdated, it may have worked in 1998, but its 2005 now, and the whole wrestling world has changed a lot since then. If TNA went down this route, it would further people’s opinion of TNA being a poor man’s WWE, something that I firmly believe it is not. Same goes for the “Dusty Days”, TNA don’t want to fall into that trap again; I mean who wants to see The Harris Brothers and Phi Delta Slam on a Pay Per View, certainly not me!
TNA have made some big mistakes when it comes to pushing the wrong talent, giving belts to the wrong people and just not thinking about their audience and product. TNA will do well to learn from these mistakes.
Step 4 – Make every ‘iMPACT!’ episode have an Impact!
TNA have 1 hour of national TV a week, just 1 hour, and really, they only have about 45 minutes if you count the commercial breaks. So with 45 minutes every week, TNA need to produce some solid wrestling, and give the fans a reason to tune in the next week. For me, WWE Raw & Smackdown in the last few years have lacked cliff-hanging endings which they did during the great “Monday Night War”. When a wrestling show ends with a cliff-hanging climax it instantly gives the fans a reasons to tune in next week, its just logic, and most of the time it works.
Using a cliffhanger ending is not the only way to get viewers to tune in the next week. If TNA can produce a show that from top to bottom that is solid, and if they can do it consistently, then they can guarantee viewers that each and every week they will see a great show. WWE Raw tends to be peaks and troughs, generally the show is quiet abysmal, but they are certain points which are really good, then on the same show, you can have something really horrid, like a Diva Search segment or even worse, a Gene Snitsky match, and as for Smackdown, well where to start.
Getting to the point, TNA need to make every show special, they need to make every show feel important, even if it isn’t. I’m not saying go out and give Pay Per View matches free on TV, what I’m saying is go out and build feuds and matches so well, that people will not only tune in next week to see what happens, but so they’ll also buy the Pay Per View. TNA cannot take a lackluster approach to TV, simply because they have so little time, and with the time they do have, they must make an impact with the fans.
Step 5 – Where others lack, TNA need to capitalise
Okay, so when I say “others” what I mean is WWE, in the areas where WWE lack, TNA need to shine. The main example where TNA is currently doing this is in the tag team ranks. Lets face it, WWE tag team wrestling sucks , RAW has about 3 actual tag teams and Smackdown has about 3 teams, with both shows also having other random teams consisting of wrestlers who have nothing else better to do than work in a tag team that might last as long as a Kevin Nash hair dye. A prime example of WWE’s current incompetence in the tag team ranks is seen in full living colour as WWE have recruited Road Warrior Animal and teamed him with Heidenreich in a rehash of the Legion of Doom. Not only are the new Legion of Doom the centre of tag team wrestling on Smackdown, they are the WWE Tag Team Champions, which can only be described as ludicrous. Animal & Hawk were and probably forever will be the greatest tag team of the last 20 years, but that doesn’t mean we need to see The Legion of Doom name return in 2005, we need fresh teams and new faces.
TNA seem to be well on their way with tag team wrestling, I think it is fair to say that TNA Wrestling have the best tag team division in North America today. With teams like America’s Most Wanted, Team Canada, The Naturals, Diamonds in the Rough, and the soon to be debuting Team 3D, you can see why TNA are excelling in this field
Plus, can someone tell me the last time a WWE Tag Team Title match actually meant something? I am sure the match you say will not have occurred in the last 6 – 12 months. Its not only WWE tag teams that are not important anymore, it is the belts as well. At least the belts mean something in TNA, and are not just a fashion accessory. To be fair to the WWE, they seem to be trying to bring back tag team wrestling to at least some level of dignity, but still, they are far from the days of teams like The Hart Foundation, The Rockers and Demotion having great battles over the tag belts.
So where the WWE lack, TNA need to capitalise on this, much like they are doing with tag team wrestling. Some may say that the reason WWE don’t care about tag teams is that tag teams can’t draw, if that’s the case, the only reason they don’t draw is because the WWE seems to have forgotten how to push a team!
Anyway, that is it for me putting the world to rights. Its easy for a person who has never promoted a show in his life to tell companies what to do, and what not to do, but that’s the nature of the internet, anyone can say anything, anyone can be an armchair booker, and don’t you just love it.
– Planet Jarrett ruling the stratosphere
As most people will know by now, we have a new NWA World Champion, and it is none other than everyone’s favourite blonde haired, country singing, guitar swinging, Nashville native, “Double J” Jeff Jarrett. Jarrett won the belt at a BCW show promoted by Scott D’Amore in Canada, with help from the most unlikeliest of duos. The title exchange has come as a surprise to many, but I guess all shall be revealed in the coming weeks as ‘iMPACT!’ debuts on Spike TV. I am still reserving judgement on the decision, initially I was disappointed with the title change, but I am just keeping an open mind for now.
Also interesting is that the BCW show promoted by D’Amore featured a packed TNA roster, and many believe it was a test run for TNA to do some shows on the road. In some recent interviews, Dixie Carter has already stated that she would like to see TNA on the road by 2006, here is hoping!
– Sean Waltman
It is looking like Sean Waltman and TNA have parted ways. Waltman recently no showed a TNA event, which he was due to play quite an integral part of, they are quite a few reports going about as to why he wasn’t at the show and what actually happened. It’s such a shame things have worked out this way, since returning to TNA earlier this year Waltman has enjoyed a lot of success, having some tremendous matches with the likes of Raven & AJ Styles. Waltman’s career seemed on a downward spiral after leaving the WWE and having some troubles with his former partner Chyna, however since rejoining TNA this year he had somewhat of a revival in his career.
Personally, I never been a huge fan of Waltman, but I really enjoyed his recent TNA work, and think he can really be a great asset to TNA, he is a good worker and has name value to fans, lets hope that TNA & Waltman can mend any broken bridges.
– Spike TV
Spike TV has been promoting TNA a fair amount this past month, although it’s probably not as much as most would like. Spike has been running TNA promos during RAW, which is good, but the frequency of the promos has to be questioned. Nevertheless, at least Spike TV is doing a better job than when they were known as TNN and were carrying ECW TV.
From what I understand TNA will be getting a lot of air time during Spike TV’s Ultimate Fighter marathon on their debut night, plus hopefully they will get some air time for the 12am Replay on Monday Night during the UFC event which will be broadcasting on Spike going head to head with RAW.
I suspect that Spike TV may have much more of an incentive to promote TNA after the debacle of the final Monday Night Raw on Spike, which must have had Spike TV executives spitting feathers.
The ratings from the first run of TNA on Spike and the Monday night replay are going to be some of the most anticipated ratings for quite some time. It’s not expected that TNA will score massively in the ratings as this really is the first time the product has been exposed to a national audience, but for TNA to be taken seriously they must get a decent enough rating. WWE Velocity’s ratings for this time slot recently have varied from a 0.3 to a 0.5, so I’d say anything less than a 0.5 rating would be disappointing for TNA.
– TNA End of Year Awards
Its nearly that time of year again, End of Year Awards time. As it will be the first time, I have done these awards I thought I better find out some categories and stuff. If you have any suggestions for TNA awards and nominations please email [Dan@Wrestling101.com], please don’t bother sending nominations for the “The Best Name” award, Kipp James/ Billy Gunn / Mr Ass / The Outlaw has won this already.
Sorry for the rant this week folks, I got a little carried away. It’s going to be a very interesting time for TNA in the next few months, I’ll be here next time with a look at TNA’s ‘Bound for Glory’ PPV, plus much more.