Since moving to Pop, TNA has been (reportedly) offering good contracts to free agents. Many have not been taken up, and the reasons why will be varied, but one factor that must be included is trust. 2015 was a tough period for the company. After learning Destination America wasn't going to keep them in the New Year, TNA decided to go into hibernation.
They held several days of tapings for a huge tournament, then shut down and hoped to get a new channel. Many wrestlers left during this time, including some big names, as TNA couldn’t afford to offer them new contracts (and nor could those wrestlers trust that the company could pay them anyway) and even though TNA has a new channel there is still a feeling that things aren’t all that stable yet. The first few shows have been good, with new storylines, alliances and characters, but it will take time before TNA gets back on its feet, and it will take time before wrestlers look upon them as company that will be safe to sign on with again.
Since NXT has started expanding signing wrestlers, whether they’re young up and comers or experienced pros, it has become a whole lot tougher. It’s obvious that NXT is no longer a training facility; it’s now a separate brand. Experienced and well known indie wrestlers are being brought in to top the bill, and then being funneled onto the main shows. This means TNA will have problems signing new talent, especially well known guys, as the money from NXT is guaranteed while TNA is still trying to re-establish its credibility as somewhere that will pay well and consistently.
One benefit of NXT’s change for TNA will be with the youngsters. The likes of EC3, who went through the NXT system, will be stuck in a traffic jam of talent. The reason I brought up EC3 is because I think he knew what was coming. He left because he knew that he could do better in another company or least gain some rep in the indies and maybe go back in a few years. Coming to TNA has enabled him to become the wrestler he thought he could be, and that’s a great advert for the company. Mike Bennett will be the same (if his push works out), someone who, although happy with the company he worked for, wanted to achieve more and do something different.
TNA should still try and sign big name talent from other companies, or at least guys who they can afford to sign, and as the year progresses and TNA becomes more established again, some of those wrestlers will sign up. But they can’t just sign well known wrestlers. They have to bring in youngsters as well, and trust, again, is the problem.
Although EC3 is a great example of what a youngster can accomplish in TNA, in reality young wrestlers have a lot more pressures on them than just creative direction. Money is the main issue for them, how much and whether they’ll definitely be paid. This is also a consideration for older wrestlers, but since these guys are young and probably unknown, being shafted for pay, or not being paid much, is much more likely.
The comfort of knowing your employer will pay you when they say they will, cannot be ignored. WWE may have many problems, but its pay is second to none, and its established name means you can trust its pay structure. TNA has to do the same, become somewhere the pay can be relied upon and is pretty good. Its creativity is its trump card, though.
TNA can offer new creative directions to people, and the space to establish them. This is not in question; they have to establish new talents or go out of business. The new people coming in know that, but the associated pressures also go along with it. If you don’t do well, or try and swing the led, out the door you go. But people are always willing to take these opportunities as they feel they are talented enough to do so, but nobody takes a major chance like switching companies without feeling they have a reasonable chance of success. They trust that the place they are going to can support them, both creatively and financially, after the switch.
TNA can claim to support one (although that claim is a bit shaky) and point to people like Bram and The Wolves, but financially it is has a bigger hill to climb. This could be why the reports of TNA becoming more aggressive in merchandising have come to light. TNA fans do buy the t-shirts put out; it’s just TNA have become lackluster at designing new ones and marketing them properly. If they can re-establish their merchandise sales it will say a great deal to new talent about the viability of the company.
Overall, TNA has ANOTHER long road ahead of it, that of re-building itself as a credible alternative to wrestlers and fans. I’ve concentrated mostly on the wrestlers because of all the contract offers and people leaving recently, plus I talk about fans enough anyway. This move to Pop seems to have been a lot less hyped than the move to Destination America, primarily because the move to DA happened after years of being on Spike while the move to Pop happened after only one year on DA.
But things seem settled. They have a set night they seem happy with, and they have a set creative direction they can begin to build. It remains to be seen whether or not they can keep moving forward, or in a few months we’ll have another crisis, but things seem to be more low key and TNA is getting on with the business of growing rather than grabbing ratings with new signings. We’ll see how things go (and maybe I’ll write more columns).