This is now the second fan column that I've written for this site. It was a little over one year ago that I wrote my first one. At that time, I was very disgruntled as a fan, and so were many others and justifiably so. However, later that night or the next day (I can't remember the exact day) Slammiversary 2014 took place and made me a happy fan again. From Slammiversary of this year to Bell-To-Bell on 7/1/15 I have been pretty satisfied for the most part. I didn't think it was perfect, but for the most part, TNA did what I hoped they would do as a fan overall. So, I couldn't really complain and realize the show isn't booked or written specifically for me only.
However, the week leading up to Slammiversary was a roller-coaster for TNA and their fans, especially the small amount of die-hard fans that they still have left. Jeff Jarrett returned to TNA amongst a good chunk of talent leaving the company along with two being released, rumors flying every which way, and a set of TV tapings leading into a Slammiversary card that was a filler show to an episode of Impact. I was pissed to say the least, I proclaimed doom for the company, and was extremely down, more down on the company than ever before (product-wise I was nowhere near as down on it as I was from April through June 2014, but from a company and business standpoint is what I am really referring to). I read the spoilers and was even angrier.
Now anyone who follows or interacts with me regularly or took the time to read my lengthy first column knows that I love TNA to death. I hardly even like wrestling anymore, but I absolutely love TNA. I've been around since close to the beginning, and being a lifelong wrestling fan and seeing WCW and ECW go out of business, and while I used to love the WWF seeing them ruin the best angle ever imagined made me want an alternative company more than anything, and while TNA had a good chunk of flaws, after one viewing I wanted this company to succeed more than any wrestling company ever. However, the days leading to Slammiversary made me feel disrespected as a TNA fan, it made me insulted as a die-hard TNA fan by TNA; I resented TNA, and didn't want to support TNA at all. I originally planned to order Slammiversary and then after learning about the matches being left off of the show I wasn't going to order it...then after the live Impact on June 24th I was sold based off of Davey Richards vs Austin Aries alone, and also wanting to see James Storm vs Magnus...then after all of the releases and wrestlers not being re-signed (especially Austin Aries) I was not going to support to TNA that weekend, or support this current regime. However, I was weak, on the day of Slammiversary I went down to the last minute undecided, went ahead and ordered Slammiversary and am currently very high on TNA right now just off of the buzz I got from Slammiversary and Bell-To-Bell. However, I know that reality is about to set back in.
But, right now, I am going to discuss the things about TNA that are just eating me alive before sharing my ideas with you all. As much as I've enjoyed the product the past few weeks prior to "The Reign Of Carter", and am intrigued as hell over GFW. There's just some stuff that I have too big of a problem with right now and I want to express them with the TNA community I call home, and believe that most of us here are fans and not fanboys and fangirls.
I want to reiterate that from Slammiversary 2014 until the day I started writing this (7/7/15) that I felt that TNA has put on a consistently good show, with only a handful of bad shows, a few average shows but for the most part either good or great shows. I don't want anyone to get the idea that I am not giving the current creative regime credit for the quality of the show. That being said, the talents on the show make the show good and this Gaburick regime has let a lot of top talent go without replacing a lot of them, and now just let a handful of some of the best talents leave the company. This section is going to be about my gripes with two people: Dixie Carter and John Gaburick. I will mention Billy Corgan, but it's minor as there isn't much to judge him off of.
FIVE YEARS OF HIRING THE WRONG PEOPLE IN THE MOST CRUCIAL POSITIONS
“One step forward, and anywhere from two to ten steps back.” That's a common saying that is typical of TNA. Unfortunately, that's happening a lot more often than not these days, and even worse, there aren't a whole lot of steps forward recently, especially in a very crucial point, and cancellation rumors bothering both the fans and wrestlers, along with other employees of TNA. Dixie Carter has done a lot of good for TNA, and she is the reason that they're still going strong today, but I feel for all the good she has done, she has completely overwhelmed the good with stupidity and bad decisions to the point that her company is damn near ruined if it isn’t already. Some of the bad decisions are so much worse because it seems any fan or spectator would have seen things coming and made a better decision than Dixie Carter.
The biggest problem that Dixie has had in the past seems to be hiring the wrong people to be in charge of the product or talent. From multiple stints with Vince Russo (although, I give him credit for writing for TNA at their highest peak for ratings, actually having the company's best interest in mind, and for the most part having something for everyone on the roster), Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, Bruce Pritchard, and John "Big" Gaburick. The worst and most frustrating part about these past two regimes is that at the end of 2009 seemed like an extremely easy fix: promote the product so more people know about it, eliminate the bullshit with the main event and world title with Jeff Jarrett where he kept putting the belt on himself and undercutting so many champions, and get rid of all the non-sensical and ridiculous booking that Vince Russo does so frequently.
TNA had an incredibly deep and diverse roster that arguably throughout most of its existence could have been the best and most talented wrestling roster ever, but was easily one of the best ever (very hard to compete with the 80's and 90's WWF roster, and the WCW roster during the Monday Night Wars). TNA also had three things that the WWE didn't have going for them that also blew the WWE out of the water: their women's division was vastly superior, the tag team division in TNA was possibly the best tag team division in the history of any wrestling company while the WWE had damn near eliminated the art of tag team wrestling, and perhaps most importantly the no-limits X-division which did resemble the highly acclaimed WCW crusierweight division but also had its own unique and innovative twist that seemed to bring fans something we hadn't ever seen before all the time. TNA also had two other things that stood out from the WWE as well, a six-sided ring and a rabid fan base that resembled a more sophisticated ECW crowd.
We all know what happened to that. In 2010 Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff came in at what was the perfect time for TNA to grow and take a huge step closer to becoming a legitimate competitor to WWE, and along with the came the second most popular pro-wrestler in the entire world at that time, Jeff Hardy. It was a catastrophic failure to say the least when it seemed damn near impossible to fail. A failure that I think most fans with a slight knowledge of the wrestling business in general from years watching, reading or learning about the business, and decent business comprehension could have avoided if they were in her shoes.
For one, Dixie Carter and TNA failed to advertise or market the product as did Spike TV, and when Hulk Hogan made national public appearances he failed to mention TNA too often, and a lot of times he didn't mention them at all and even talked more about the WWE and even their current product while continuing to collect huge paydays from TNA. On top of this, they eliminated all of the things that made TNA an alternative, the six-sided ring was eliminated, they turned away and alienated the loyal fans that showed up every week and provided an intense and special atmosphere, within a year and a half the X-Division became irrelevant and the talent depth was depleted (it was revived by Austin Aries in 2012 but faded out again as soon as he created option-C), the tag team division was treated the same way WWE treated it, and the Knockout's division no longer showcased the great women's matches fans couldn't see anywhere else but also eliminated the Knockout's tag team titles after making a mockery out of them and also depleting the talent pool so low that there was a time that I believe there were only five or six total Knockout's on the roster, all while eventually listening to and taking orders from Brooke Hogan, a failed musician and reality TV show actress. TNA lost damn near half of their audience, and also a lot of their die-hard fans over those three years too.
When the new regime finally took over we were expecting and were also told a new era was upon us. Unfortunately, I feel the first six months of this month did almost as much damage as the previous regime did in three years. Technically this regime started in October 2013 but the new era was promised to start in January 2014 at Genesis. I think most remaining fans expected TNA to return to their old ways, we got the six sided ring which was a start, but I think we expected the exceptional wrestling matches to return, and the X, tag team and Knockouts divisions to return to both relevance and prominence. We got none of that from January through the Impact before Slammiversary that year. Instead, we got very short, rushed matches that seemed to end before they even started, the Knockout's division was the only thing that was slightly focused on and improved; we were watching a show that looked and felt more like Total Nonstop Talking than anything else. We got over-exposed to Dixie Carter talking segments, and then after they toned her down a little bit, we got over-exposed to MVP talking segments. To add insult to injury we watched many big name talents that created the loyal fan base either leave the company or not get renewed by them.
Hulk Hogan was not a big loss, I think most fans wanted him gone so that we didn't have to see the show suffer or change for the worse any longer. Sting was fifty five years old and terrible in the ring and while he was a huge name who cared and worked hard for TNA, his time was clearly over with in TNA.
The biggest loss and biggest contributor at that time was AJ Styles. AJ was still in his prime, and in a lot of ways viewed as the franchise of TNA, he was Mr. TNA. These three were sent out the door looking superior to TNA overall. Hulk Hogan left without putting Bully Ray over and was last seen as the savior with Dixie Carter holding on to his legs begging him to stay although he absolutely damaged her company and set it back years and millions of dollars as well, all while obviously heading back to WWE television. Sting was out-of-shape, over fifty years old and it showed when he came out to perform.
On Sting's last appearance he was booked stronger than every heel on the roster. They had a big opportunity to put over their new star in EC3 but failed in his match with Sting, then they needed almost every heel on the roster to help the TNA champion Magnus (who beat Sting fair and square about two months earlier) defeat this old man...while everyone knew Sting was walking out and wrestling for the WWE as soon as he left TNA. The same thing happened with AJ Styles, it took almost the entire heel roster to help their champion defeat a guy leaving the company.
What followed there was even more big names being ran out of the company like Christopher Daniels, Kazarian, Chris Sabin, and plenty more. Many big names were ran out of the company, the shows contained way more talking than wrestling (and most of the talking came from Dixie Carter and eventually MVP), the talents that were so vital and beloved were replaced with talents like The Menagerie which was possibly the worst thing I've ever seen in wrestling, Samuel Shaw who never had a good match during his tenure and was ruined by creative by going too far too soon and made his character hard to develop any further than being obsessed with Christy Hemme, and pushed more former WWE guys to the top the second they stepped in TNA like MVP or back like Lashley.
During this time, TNA also disgraced their world title when they put it on Magnus and also killed all of the build-up for Magnus with it. The paper-champion gimmick ended up making the guy holding their world title be the biggest pussy on the roster who couldn't win one single match on his own. It was an awful reign that took credibility off of their world title (which had only been held by great wrestlers and didn't have any stains on it), and then he dropped the belt to Eric Young. EY is a great wrestler who deserved a championship reign, but the guy had no main event build leading up to the title win, and also spent the vast majority of his career as a comedic-relief character.
These changes with the new regime caused more viewers to tune out; another good chunk of the remaining die-hard fans tuned out, and possibly led to Spike TV dropping TNA when their contract was up. In a short amount of time, 'Big' John Gaubrick's vision for TNA had done close to the same amount of damage that Hogan's era did.
I will absolutely give credit where it's due as far as on-screen product goes. Slammiversary 2014 marked the end of that type of TV from the current regime, and we got a lot more wrestling, and the talking was reduced, and a drastic improvement occurred under Gaburick. From Slammiversary 2014 until now, the product has really been the best it's been since 2009. I haven't really complained because I have been entertained and think there's only been about ten shows or less that have been worse than decent, the shows usually range from decent to great, and they also gave me what I was asking for as a fan except for pushing X division and tag team talents a lot more, but I didn't find it necessary to complain until recently which was basically a solid year.
TNA has done a fantastic job pushing and establishing EC3. EC3 was an amazing find by Gaubrick, he has been booked and pushed very well, is possibly the most over person on the entire roster, and if there was advertising on either end, or Destination America was more available nationwide they may have a break through star. This may be the best find in TNA history, and also the best pushed and booked wrestler they've built up ever as well. The Wolves have been an excellent addition, and if we were to compile a list of the best wrestling matches in TNA from LockDown 2014-present today then The Wolves would likely be in the majority of them. Bram was another find from Gaubrick that has been pushed fairly well (although I feel that is fading fast), is a great addition, and has an extremely bright future if used properly. I feel both Bram and Davey Richards could be future TNA world champions.
Bully Ray elevated himself and really carried the company to watchable TV in the early parts of 2014 during the most insufferable wrestling product I've ever seen in my life (yes, worse than WCW in its dying days, fucking WCW Thunder in the dying days was better than that steam platter of pig shit TNA threw on our screens especially between Lockdown and Slammiversary last year).
Eric Young has been booked the way he should after losing the belt which eliminates the previous flaws of having him as champion; it no longer appears like a comedic, lower mid-card wrestler was champion. Bobby Lashley has new life as a wrestler and had a great title reign, MVP's talking was cut down and his talent WAS more easily visible without constant segments, James Storm has found the best character of his career, and the TV shows have been really good. My only dislike was the way some of the top talents have been booked during this tenure like Bobby Roode, James Storm, and Austin Aries but more on this subject at a later time. However, despite all of the improvements it was shamefully too late; too many fans never tuned back in to give TNA another chance, Spike TV didn't bring them back, and now TNA is on a much smaller network with much less availability, and it may or may not be in a rocky relationship with the new network already.
BACK ON SUBJECT AND BACK TO DIXIE CARTER:
I don't need to go into the criticism and hate that Dixie Carter has gotten over the Internet for years, we're all aware of it, some of it is justified and a whole hell of a lot of it wasn't. But, I think over the past twelve months or so she has proven that she needs to go in order for TNA to grow or ever find any success again. She needs to step down as president, and let someone else take the reins and hire the right people because she continues to fail miserably and right TNA is not taking any steps forward at all.