Just when I think I've made TNA's condition clear, I find comments like "TNA's a dying brand" and "WWE has the right direction and that's why they sell out shows and TNA has empty arenas".
*FACE PALM* *sigh*
This is a reaction, and one that comes on the heels of Daniel Bryan's impending demotion, the re-insertion of the Big Show into the main event mix, and the release of former Ring of Honor talent Chris Hero, who had been performing under the name Kassius Ohno in NXT. Combine that with comments about TNA's future and WWE's current direction and I find myself unable to remain silent.
Since I've already addressed the "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson in an earlier column, let's start with the Big Show. At 41, the Big Show has been placed right back into the main event scene. This comes as the beginning of an initiative in WWE to de-push smaller performers and put the straps back in the hands of those of larger stature. Since there is no one larger, Big Show is re-pushed. What makes little sense to me, at this point in the game is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the mindset that WWE Creative now has. So let me get this straight....the bigger you are, the larger your audience is going to be to see you perform? Can we ask this question to Chris Jericho or Shawn Michaels or Rey Mysterio? Maybe Eddie Guerrero would have something to say in response if he were with us today.
The point is, WWE has reverted back to an audience that is massive by virtue of their age, NOT their ability to purchase products for their own OR their ability to give reliable or intelligible input as it relates to improving their brand. Why is this important? The Attitude Era was HUGE. There is simply no denying it. Why? Because it gave an outlet not only for kids to see some good characters emerge, but for adults to have a vicarious experience, sharing frustrations with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin or The Rock as they whooped on anything with a pulse. WWE will never see the same kinds of numbers drawn again under their current direction. NEVER. You know what made the Attitude Era big? It wasn't the child-friendly content. It was because, as indicated by the name of the program, Monday Nights were RAW. It was that content that made a connection to an entire culture and made wrestling "cool" to watch and not just something that the kids are into.
TNA, on the other hand, is suffering from a two-fold curse. On one hand, old school TNA fans are very slow to returning to a brand that was "puppeteered by the man who drove WCW into the ground". The confusing part of that statement is two-fold as well. Are we talking about Eric Bischoff, who stood on the Creative Team for the past 3 years or Vince Russo, who held that position for the majority of years prior? In any case, the team of writers and executors of current angles is comprised of WRESTLING people these days. A couple are former WWE writers from the Attitude Era days and shortly following and there's also the founder, himself, Jeff Jarrett.
As for the second part of the curse....visibility. We have covered this at great length. TNA needs to be seen and the avenues through which this happens are expensive. Commercials and marketing for this brand of entertainment are expensive. It was believed that sending the show on the road would bolster the numbers and aid in the visibility of the brand, which it may have done on the short term, but in the long term, it hurt the financial pads that had held things together when they were stationary. Now that TNA is home and they've allowed a couple of high dollar contracts to expire, they have the chance to reinvest in their roster and build back up what has been lost.
Is TNA what they once were? No. The fact is, however, they don't need to be. If TNA continues to recruit from the indies as they have been, works towards setting themselves apart as something different, and innovating their brand and keeping things fresh, the audiences will come. Make no mistake. Hogan, as it turns out, didn't help as much as he claimed he'd be able to. Neither did Bischoff. HOWEVER, TNA was given valuable information about how to shoot television in a way that was organic, unfrivelous, and future focused. When Eric led the Creative Team, storylines had been planned as much as 6 months ahead of the shooting schedule at times. Up until he had joined up, this was RARELY the case, which is why often plot points would fall apart and stories would feel thrown together.....because they HAD BEEN.
Consider this....Universal Studios LEAPT at the chance to have TNA back INSTEAD of taking WWE up on their offer.
CM Punk's contract expires VERY early next year and sources close tell me he's been frustrated with how he's been booked since his year long reign as champion ended. What's more, it's been teased that he may not re-sign once a new contract has been offered.
TNA's been marketing themselves among the indy circuit harder than ever, going so far as to send Bully Ray to the recent House of Hardcore event, hosted by Tommy Dreamer. The event was said to have been a decent sized crowd and he was joined by Devon to make an invitation to Dreamer to a match at the One Night ONLY PPV in New York on December 30th. This marks joint activities with Dreamer's projects, Wrestle-1 and New Japan, AAA, and CMLL in Mexico, and others on the landscape, proving that TNA is serious about a different demographic than WWE is catering to these days.
Hulk Hogan is going on record these days claiming he "quit" TNA when in actuality, he contract expired in the week or so leading up to Bound for Glory. To me, that sours my impression of the guy I defended so often this past 3 years. It's a sad thing to see the shift so soon after giving praises to the brand only days prior to the PPV. Good riddance.