What is TNA's biggest obstacle right now? Divisions? Talent pool? How about TV time? I offer that TNA's largest hurdle right now is selling their product to an increasingly fickle casual wrestling fan. I would like to qualify that before we move on.....these are a few qualities I would suggest would be parts of the makeup of today's casual wrestling fan:
- Strong face booking
- Short term storylines
- Monthly episodic PPVs
- Glint and glam (Production, lights, cameras, etc.)
To go any further with my assessment would do a disservice to those who are loyal to the WWE brand and that isn't my intention here. To go a bit further into it, TNA's product is grittier, darker, more edgy, and has a FAR more over the top heel character development and deeper characters in general. Since the reduction of PPVs TNA is putting out in the episodic style, the emphasis on long term booking has been in full swing and, in most critics' minds, successfully so.
What DOESN'T help is something I have to concede to those same critics. Hulk and Brooke Hogan being squarely in the middle of the biggest storyline on camera. Quite frankly, it makes Hulk look larger than the stars of the show he claims to support. NOW, if he were to be relegated to the background somehow as he was during the tenure of Sting as the acting General Manager, things might look a bit differently. To the credit of the doubters, Immortal was a black spot. Couple that with the Victory Road debacle and you have an alienating factor that is hard to overlook. History can be amazingly unforgiving and, to put an even finer point on it, so can fans.
Time hasn't helped. Despite the many readers of columns just like this one, and there are a few out there.....the numbers haven't changed here in the United States. So how do you sell the current run of programming to a new generation of fans looking for something to sink their teeth into? The first thing is consistency. TNA MUST continue to put on a respectable show each week for their own sake. If there's a more perfect side by side pairing than time, I'm not sure what it is. Simply having a consistently great show isn't enough.....it must hold the course. And lastly, there must be balance. I'm referring to balance in divisions, storyline, character development, pacing, and everything in between.
If fans are having trouble with the one show they CAN watch right now, a second show isn't going to help one bit and those sitting on the sidelines are just going to have to wait their turn. You can coax; you can offer great deals on merch; you can even meet them where they are, but if you can't convince the old school fans that there IS something out there worth getting a look at, the entire enterprise is a fool's errand, and nothing can change that.