Smart Marks 11.02.13: Selling TNA
Posted by Dino Zucconi on 11.02.2013
Let's Speculate on the Speculation about TNA Possibly Being for Sale, and Everything That Goes Along With It!
Hello again, and welcome back to another edition of the weekend editorial, Smart Marks. As always, I'm Dino, and I'll be the one handing out opinions for you to rally against.
Last week's column showed me that I'm definitely one in a very small group of people who want to see Jeff Jarrett back. Hey, that's fine, he's not for everyone. I still want to see him back, and with reports of TNA's situation lately, it appears that he *is* back, only not in front of the camera. Baby steps, I guess. He definitely was never the biggest star, so I wasn't surprised to see people not quite as stoked as I on the idea. I'll live.
Other than that, we had Daniel Bryan trying to remain relevant after falling short at Hell in a Cell, Dixie Carter trying to prove TNA doesn't need AJ Styles, and a whole lot of speculation about TNA's future with whispers of a possible sale coming up. A LOT of speculation. So, I guess I'll add to it with a whole column dedicated to the "TNA is for Sale!" madness.
Everything Must Go!
Everything I say- especially this time out- is opinion. I have no facts pertaining to the actual happenings. I have no sources. I just have what I've read online, which I take not so seriously. I'm stating this here so that I don't get any "businessmen" telling me where I've gone wrong in the comments. Not a businessman, not pretending to be; just gonna speak like a fan.
That said, the news that TNA is simply "up for sale" immediately got me as a wrestling fan worried. I know, it must be hard for some TNA fans to think that someone who likes WWE would actually give a shit about their poor, unappreciated wrestling show, but here it is! I was sad because I like TNA. I like when they deliver amazing wrestling matches- pure, athletic wrestling matches- and I like when they show me that they're absolutely capable of being different than the wrestling Vince McMahon and family provide for me.
Some people (who are more levelheaded than I) would point out that being for sale isn't a death sentence. TNA isn't rumored to be folding in the reports, they're simply for sale. I understand that. I also understand what happened the last time a wrestling company that I watched all the time for over ten years suddenly went up for sale.
The comparisons to WCW have dogged TNA throughout its existence. Whether it was picking up the guys that Vince didn't want after the purchase of WCW, or filming in the same Orlando Studios lot, or even having Mike Tenay be the voice, the comparisons have always been there, fair or not. Of course, some of the bigger wrestling fan jerks would also basically HOPE that TNA would continue that WCW, Jr. prophecy by burning out and dying in miserable fashion. Because, as we know, the one thing that wrestling fans REALLY want, is for wrestling promotions to die. Yep. Still, the second I heard TNA was possibly for sale, my brain immediately took me to the WCW comparisons one more time. I don't want TNA to go away.
I guess what drives me crazy, much like during the time when WCW was up for sale, is the amount of pure speculative garbage we're given as "news." This isn't to be taken as me ripping on this site- or any other that acts as aggregator. We can only report what we're given. However, when I see things like "The people involved are from outside the wrestling business and have been successful in a number of other businesses" or "It isn't clear whether only a percentage of the company or 100% ownership would be sold, but it is believed that the new group is unlikely to get involved without owning a controlling interest in TNA," or even "Also uncertain is who will actually run the company if the sale goes through," then yeah, I have a really hard time taking anything at face value. Is that reactive, and almost stupidly reactive? Perhaps. But isn't that what they're looking for when they feed us a bunch of non-information? Honestly, from what I've read, I've been able to piece that "someone" is interested in buying TNA. This person/group is "good at business" and "intelligent." Cool. What do they like for dinner?
The idea that everything is so anonymous makes me as a fan nervous. I understand that in a business deal, you don't let all terms and whatnot during negotiations become public, but we're literally being told the most basic stuff ever. Rich buinsess types may want to buy TNA? Oh, wow! In the brain of simply a fan, I sure would like to hear things like "the group has X ideas with what they want to do" or "the person who would run has already started planning out storylines" or "Hi we're the group that's buying TNA!" Instead, it's just absolute speculation wrapped up in fluff. And that drives me as a fan crazy. I want to know what's going to happen to TNA. I want to know that they're going to be okay. I don't want to know if the people looking to buy TNA all have nice laughs that you can get lost in.
I know, I probably just need a glass of milk and some Speculoos from Trader Joe's to calm down or something. Regardless, I would like to see a little more tact when it came to the reporting on this topic- we don't have to pretend that this is a 24 hours sports news channel where every tidbit even remotely related gets brought up. Let's just focus on the actual news, and until then, "TNA is still in negotiations with prospective buyers" should suffice.
Now, let's first assume that the entire above paragraph was just me freaking out at the thought of losing my beloved TNA Wrestling program. Let's say that instead of going out like WCW, that the sale of TNA was to go smoothly, to a group who gives a shit. They've now acquired a company that appears to be bleeding money at every turn, unable to bring an audience to any show unless it's in 'The UK.' We all saw the photos of Bound For Glory this year in San Diego. I can also attest to having attended a TNA House Show in San Francisco in November 2011, just a couple days after Bobby Roode defeated Cowboy James Storm for the TNA Title. The building it was held at- the Kezar Pavilion, has a capacity of 4,000 people, and there may have been like 600 people. SIX HUNDRED! I've been to house shows at the Cow Palace for AWA, WCW, and WWF/WWE, and I've NEVER been in such a tiny crowd. The only times I've seen a crowd that small was when a local Sacramento indy came to town and ran shows at what is historically a smaller punk rock venue. My point is, TNA has a real problem when it comes to drawing a crowd.
TNA's marketing (or lack thereof) needs to be identified immediately by the new ownership group as Problem #1. TNA has been in existence for over 11 years, and literally has created no product awareness. If you tell someone who doesn't really watch wrestling that you watched TNA, there's a REALLY good chance that you'll be asked what that is. You could even say "It's where Sting wrestles" and that might even yield something like "Oh, WCW" or "Fighting the nWo?" That's absurd to me. I remember as a kid where "wrestling = WWF" to most non fans at the time, but even then, you could say "Ric Flair" to some people and they'd know about "the other league". NWA/WCW never really, out here in California, had the same awareness of the WWF (before the nWo), but people at least knew there was other wrestling. Even when Hulk jumped to WCW, I still got "So he's back in WWF now?" But people knew about the Road Warriors. People knew Sting. TNA has done a horrible job up to this point of making their wrestlers seem like stars.
I'd say this is because they've catered so hard to the hardcore fans, that instead of creating transcendent personalities, they've instead looked to create solid wrestlers who give great matches. That's great, and there's nothing wrong with that being a part of your marketing strategy, but to simply sell out on that point and ignore anything else? That's what gets a couple hundred people attending your biggest show of the year. Samoa Joe, to me, is the best example of this. They built him up, they had him beat Kurt Angle, they had him as champ... but he never did anything to get to the next level of popularity. He was simply a really good wrestler who has great matches. Just like everyone else TNA has. It's really hard to stand out when your calling card is the same as nearly everyone else.
Compare that to how someone like Sting or Kurt Angle is treated. "The Icon." "The Olympic Hero." These guys are more than good wrestlers- they're legit stars. And just because that star was created elsewhere is irrelevant- TNA proves with Sting, Angle, and even Hulk Hogan that they know how to market someone who should be seen as a big deal. The problem is that they do not know how to CREATE someone who should be seen as a big deal. We need more than just "he's a really good wrestler!" This is professional wrestling- everyone in the pros should be seen as really good. We need more. Just like how CM Punk and Daniel Bryan needed to add character to their presentation to get the WWE Machine behind them.
Sure, in the short term, perhaps returning to one location for filming is for the good of the company. Cutting costs at this point is definitely necessary. Perhaps dumping some of the bigger money contracts would help. But as long as TNA continues to exist under the radar of pop culture, they're going to remain in this general situation. You can bring in all the names you want, but if no one knows what you are, no one's going to follow those names. TNA needs to market itself, at all times. When it travels to a new market, it needs to bombard the radio, the newspapers, etc. For the aforementioned 2011 House Show, my friend found out about the show basically on accident, with another friend of his telling him about it. It wasn't some huge announcement of "Hey! We're coming to San Francisco! Check out our wrestling!" When WWE comes out here, it's all over the local stations.
TNA needs to pretend that it hasn't been around for 11 years, and that it still needs to get noticed. If it doesn't change this one thing drastically, I don't think any sale to any group is really going to do much to help out with the finances. This isn't some "fix all" idea that I'm putting out there, either. This is just one step of many that I think is needed to help turn TNA around. However, this is, in my opinion, easily the biggest one that needs to be addressed.
What do you guys think about TNA's place in the market? Have I overstated the poor job of creating awareness for themselves they've done? You know the drill... comments!
Feat or Fired?
Now, let's say this sale of TNA truly does end up like the sale of WCW. It doesn't have to be Vince buying everything up again, but let's just say that TNA is sold and promptly shut down by the new group. Or Spike takes away TV. Whatever, the scenario is: TNA was sold, and is now out of business. This would, in my opinion, be catastrophic for many of the wrestlers on the roster.
Whereas in 2001, Vince was willing to take on many of the contracts of WCW wrestlers, I just don't see that happening today. Especially if he isn't even the one buying TNA in the first place. Thinking quickly, and not naming guys that have already been in WWE before, I could see the following guys getting a real, honest look from Vince McMahon and company:
Bobby Roode, Magnus, Hernandez, Cowboy James Storm, Abyss, and maybe Eric Young might get a Santino chance. You can probably assume Kurt Angle goes back, maybe Bully Ray gets an extended life in wrestling off the strength of his current run. And I fully admit that Eric Young, Cowboy, and Hernandez are weird, but I could see them being brought in as comic relief, a JTTS, and midcard muscle.
Still, guys like AJ Styles? Daniels, Kaz, Sabin? The BroMans? I just don't see it happening. That bums me out, too. I like seeing these guys on my TV. I like knowing that TNA is the place for them, because Vince doesn't like having "too many" small guys for whatever reason.
Sadly, due to the reason I just griped about above, TNA has done nothing to create anyone that fans would literally scream at Vince, "WE WANT _____!" I'd KILL to have Samoa Joe in WWE, but I don't see him getting much of a look if TNA were to go under. I really don't. I see most of these guys returning to the indies, where they can make a decent earning (and possibly a better living than what TNA afforded them), and wrestle for fans who know them and love them. Talk about look all you want, but the fact that Samoa Joe isn't someone WWE fans are dying to have on their show speaks more to the subpar job TNA did with him than it does about fans not liking how he appears physically.
That's what gets me down the most about this whole story that isn't really a story because no one has any real information: what we'd lose if we lost TNA. While most of the fans around here like to get into a dick swinging contest about which show does the dumber things while pretending that their personal favorite show does nothing wrong, there are those of us who love it all. I love the stupid shit TNA does. I love the stupid shit WWE does. It's like I end every column with... it's all stupid, and we all love it. Maybe each individual does not love each individual second of every individual show, but at the end of the day, we all love wrestling. I hate to see it go. I hated losing Global. I hated losing World Class, and losing AWA sucked. Hell, I was bummed when WSX shut down.
Yes, I've probably created this all in my head because TNA is most likely not going anywhere- they're simply being sold. Still, I can't help but worry about them with this kind of thing comes up.
I love TNA too much to watch it sold and scrapped. I just hope that whoever decides to front the bill, actually has an idea of what they want to do, has the tools necessary to get it done, and can carry TNA to new heights.
I hope you guys will tell me what you think about this whole TNA For Sale story, or anything you're worried about as it all unfolds.
Until next time, enjoy your TNA, your WWE, your Lucha, your Puro, and your Indies.
It's All Wrestling. It's All Stupid. We All Love It