How Jarrett Can Truly Become a Global Force
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 07.13.2014
With more details being revealed about Jeff Jarrett's new promotion, Global Force Wrestling, 411's Wyatt Beougher weighs in with his thoughts on how Jarrett can actually live up to that name.
Introduction:Last week, I took a look at what I thought TNA was currently doing right, and the response to the column was significantly more positive than for the column that preceded it. I'd like to thank everyone who commented - the most exciting part about writing columns for me is generating discussion, and I've seen a few commenters who appreciate that I join in on the discussion (and one that very vocally doesn't). The way I see it, I write these columns to express my opinion and hopefully, to make you, the reader, think about or see something differently than maybe you already have. If there's any question as to why I feel the way that I do, I'm going to answer it, and I'm also going to make every attempt to meet rational discourse with rational discourse, and hopefully we can turn the comments sections for these articles into a hotbed for actual wrestling discussion. This week, I'm going to look at a promotion that hasn't even run its first show yet, and look at what I think they need to do going forward to be successful.
Can Jarrett live up to his company's name?
On April 7th, 2014, after weeks of teasing a big announcement, former WWF and WCW wrestler and TNA owner/booker/wrestler Jeff Jarrett announced the formation of Global Force Wrestling. While they don't currently have a television deal, Jarrett and his production partner, Dave Broome (creator of The Biggest Loser) are shopping a "52 weeks per year" mix of "live events, unscripted and reality fare".1 At this point, GFW also doesn't have a roster, they don't have venues booked, and their website is more or less barren. I'm choosing to take that as Jarrett moving slowly and going about setting up everything the way he wants it, rather than rushing into unfavorable deals or situations. With his experience in getting TNA up and running, I tend to believe that Jarrett isn't going to make any of the mistakes that he made in TNA's early days. That said, here are some do's and don'ts that I think will make this process smoother for Jarrett. Some of these are going to seem like common sense, but I still think they're worth putting to the page.
DON'T: Try to Compete With the WWE
Realistically, this one should go without saying. At this point, Vince's company is an unassailable monolith of resources and talent. Regardless of their struggles with the WWE Network, the simple fact is that they have an unparalleled library of archival wrestling footage, they generate roughly eight hours of new content every week, their financial resources far ourstrip those of any other professional wrestling company, and they have a diverse and talented roster with an unmatched developmental program. There's honestly no way Jarrett can hope to compete with that, no matter which non-wrestling personalities he gets involved with his fledgling promotion (short of, say, Ted Turner, and I don't think he wants another run at Vince).
DO: Provide an Alternative
That said, Global Force Wrestling can certainly fill a niche in the North American wrestling scene. Over the past two weeks, I've first suggested and then lauded TNA for actually putting the focus on the wrestling, and if Jarrett does that like he did in TNA from 2005-2009 or so, then GFW could certainly be successful. This builds off of my first "Don't", actually - there's no way he's going to be able to out-sports entertain the WWE, so don't bother calling Vince Russo or Eric Bischoff. Get someone who knows wrestling and is willing to tell old-school stories with a modern spin. If Jarrett doesn't believe that he can do that on his own, the best suggestion that I can offer is Scott Levy, but I'm not sure if he and Jarrett are on good terms or not. Levy, like Jarrett, came up through the territories, spent time in all of the major national promotions, and has been, by turns, a wrestler, a manager, and a booker.
DON'T: Go Too Far to Be an Alternative
While I was researching GFW, I found a statement from Dave Broome, Jarrett's production partner, that troubled me - "It just won't be a bunch of wrestling matches; we have exciting announcements to come. TNA or WWE right now is match after match after match. Global Force Wrestling is not going to do that. There will be matches but there will be a lot more and a lot more variety placed into the actual events that will be really innovative and fresh."1 With Jarrett witnessing the death of WCW (the real WCW, not the WCW-owned imprint) firsthand, I sincerely hope that GFW isn't going to make the same mistakes that WCW did in its waning days by putting too much focus on things like the Nitro Girls and musical performances IN THE MIDDLE OF A SHOW, especially on a weekly show. I can understand wanting to have more than just match after match after match - for a weekly wrestling program to succeed, you need to attract a wide range of fans, and not all of them are going to be wrestling purists. But it is still professional wrestling, and Jarrett would do well to remember that.
Easily the best thing about GFW's working relationships - Bullet Club in America.
DO: Play Up Working Relationships
This falls under the umbrella of providing an alternative as well, but before they've signed a single wrestler to their own roster, Global Force has put talent agreements in place with both Asistencia Asesoria y Administracion (AAA), one of Mexico's premiere promotions, and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), one of Japan's most venerable promotions. Not only does that give Jarrett access to a bevy of up-and-coming talent, it also gives him the ability to promote a guy who's been a "Jarrett guy" pretty much since day one in current IWGP World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles. Even more so, he has access to the hottest stable not in the WWE today, the Bullet Club. The Bullet Club brings not only the potential for exciting matches, but because the stable is largely made up of gaijin, the majority of its members speak fluent English, eliminating one of the biggest problems facing a company trying to import a stable that's over in an international promotion. If Jarrett plays up these connections and develops a roster full of talent that can work with these varying international styles, that truly gives him the opportunity to provide a promotion that offers an alternative to the WWE's largely homogenous "Main Event" style. By leveraging these relationships properly, and making the international talent feel like a vital and important part of the promotion, Jarrett and company can truly make their promotion a "Global Force".
DON'T: Play Up Non-Wrestling Relationships
If you believe the internet, the only reason Global Force was founded was because Jarrett and Toby Keith were unsuccessful in their bid to purchase TNA from the Carter family late last year. To Jarrett's credit, if Keith is a partner in GFW, he's thus far been a totally silent one, as there have only been rumors of his involvement thus far, with nothing actually confirmed. Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped Jarrett from making public the involvement of some people that I believe he would've been better off to leave completely behind the scenes. First and foremost is Hermie Sadler, a retired NASCAR driver with a fairly lengthy history of involvement with TNA. He feuded with Ron Killings in 2002, was briefly sponsored in his racing career by the promotion, and promoted his own events both with and without TNA's cooperation. While Sadler obviously has a love for professional wrestling and has acted as a wrestler, an interviewer, and a promoter, he's still known primarily as a NASCAR driver, and that's an association that did nothing for TNA. Quite honestly, I feel like an association with NASCAR is the last thing a promotion that's striving to cultivate a global image should be aiming for, but in Jarrett's defense, Sadler joining the Board of Directors did bring GFW some attention from the NBC Sports website, the Newsday website, and also the official NASCAR website. I just don't feel like enough people know about Sadler's wrestling history to make this something worth publicizing. To make matters worse, those that do will associate him with TNA, and I feel like Jarrett should be trying to cultivate his own identity with Global Force Wrestling, rather than making more ties to the last promotion that he founded.
The other person that I feel like Jarrett is emphasizing when he should be downplaying is his wife, Karen. While it's true that Karen has been both a valet and interviewer (and briefly, the commissioner of the Knockouts division), the negative stories and perceptions surrounding her, whether they're true or not - ex-stripper, adulterer, ring rat, etc - make her more of a liability to the company than an asset. Jarrett has arguably the best hope of any promoter at bringing back the NWA fans who stopped watching wrestling when WCW ceased operations, but he's not going to do that by featuring his wife so prominently. The simple fact of that matter is that Jarrett has the history and the pedigree in the business, while Karen simply has a bad reputation. As a newlywed, I can appreciate doing your best to make your wife happy, but at some point, especially when you are in business with her, you have to make the calls that are best for your shared business. Considering Jarrett got real-life suspended by Dixie Carter because of his relationship with Karen, I don't necessarily think that he's able to do that when Karen is involved, and I'm afraid that that's going to negatively affect the overall perception of Global Force.
DON'T: Be Afraid to Sign ex-WWE or ex-TNA Talent
...on the condition that they can actually bring something to the table. The only wrestler (besides Jarrett) who is currently featured on GFW's website is Hurricane Helms. I think Helms can actually bring a lot to GFW, as he's a veteran performer and hopefully fatherhood will preclude him from any further alcohol-related incidents, but honestly, I think he needs to ditch the Hurricane gimmick and just focus on his wrestling. He just turned forty, and dropping the superhero comedic gimmick and going back to being a serious wrestler (WITH VERTEBREAKER PLZ) would do wonders both for Helms and for GFW. Similarly, Jarrett would be wise to sign a guy like Camacho, build him up as a legitimate Tongan Death Machine (in the image of his father), and then let him hold down GFW for the Bullet Club while they're fulfilling obligations in NJPW. Considering his brother is Tama Tonga in the Bullet Club, it's not even that much of a stretch. I read a lot of "Jarrett needs to sign Drew McIntyre" immediately after this year's "Black Thursday" cuts, and I don't disagree with that, but, like with Helms and Camacho, I think it'd be a waste to saddle him with a comedy jobber gimmick. I'm not saying there's no place for comedy in professional wrestling, but, with the three guys that I mentioned, I think they have more to offer in serious roles. Contrast that with guys like Scott Steiner and Kevin Nash, who bring nothing to the table but inflated salaries, and I certainly think Jarrett would be further ahead with guys like Helms, Camacho, and McIntyre.
Make your swerves make sense.
DO: Commit to Gimmicks, Storylines, and Continuity
One of the bigger issues I've had with both WWE and TNA over the past decade or so is the glut of random, short-lived heel or face turns, and an unwillingness to let characters get over organically. If someone debuts (especially in the WWE) and doesn't get immediately over, they're written off as a failure, shuffled to the midcard, and more or less forgotten about. Sometimes, this isn't a bad thing (Xavier Woods, Adam Rose), but sometimes, it can seriously stunt a wrestler's long-term potential (look at the aforementioned McIntyre and how long it took Wade Barrett to finally, truly get over after Cena defecated all over the Nexus and his first Intercontinental Championship reign). Sometimes you have to let a guy fail as a character until he figures out how to make it work, with the biggest example of this being Rocky Maivia's transition into the Rock. Obviously, not every wrestling performer is as talented as Dwayne Johnson, but NXT is probably the best example of how this can work out, as they've taken characters who were dull or absolutely reviled by the fans and let the performers make small tweaks until they became interesting parts of the show (Bo Dallas in the gimmick that has gotten him back to the main roster and CJ Parker's tweaked modern hippie gimmick are perfect examples of this).
Along those same lines, while I'd prefer Jarrett to highlight the in-ring action rather than ludicrous Vince Russo-styled swerves, wrestling is better when it tells a story, and nothing kills a good angle more than forgetting what happened before. I hate to keep highlighting Bully Ray negatively, because he's done some of the best work of his career since coming to TNA, but hasn't he spent the past two years trying to destroy TNA? He's still locked in a blood feud with the owner of the company and her family, but because she doesn't control the day-to-day wrestling operations, he suddenly doesn't want to see it all go down in flames? Another example that bothered me is that rather than making Bryan/Kane about their shared history in Team Hell No, we got a crappy one-week explanation (while Bryan was still primarily feuding with Triple H) and then cartoon villain Demon Kane trying to kidnap Bryan's wife. That angle didn't need Brie Bella involved in it at all, and if they were so hell-bent on involving her in Bryan's post-Wrestlemania antics, isn't there a backwoods cultist lurking around who would've been better served going back after the goatman who spurned his cult and embarrassed him?
If Jarrett wants to avoid those same issues, he should hire an editor who will keep track of all of the company's storylines and make sure everything makes sense. And make sure they have final say over what actually makes it to the air, so that when a segment gets proposed that contradicts with something that happened a week or two ago, it's either credibly explained in a rewrite or instantly thrown out. I don't need Miz turning heel on Kofi one week, then going back to being respectful of him the following week, and then turning on him again the week after that - consistency and commitment to character and storyline go a long way towards making wrestling much more enjoyable.
DO: Have a Defined Power Structure, On-Camera and Off
Another lesson that Jarrett should've learned from his last two employers was the importance of set and defined chains of command. In both WWE and TNA, there is an unclear power structure with owners and directors and general managers and COOs all overruling one another from week to week. Authority figures have vague duties and responsibilities and varying power to actually follow through with those. One thing TNA has done exceedingly right the past two weeks is to establish that Kurt Angle, as the Director of Wrestling Operations, has complete control over/responsibility for everything that happens during IMPACT's two hours. Jarrett would do well to mimic this setup, and set either himself or an on-screen authority figure up as the be-all, end-all on GFW broadcasts.
Perhaps more importantly, Jarrett himself needs to decide if he's going to be a wrestler or an owner, because his dominance over TNA was one of the least enjoyable aspects of the company. At 46, his best days in the ring are behind him, and if he is going to wrestle, it should be sporadically, like Triple H has done in 2014, and for the purpose of putting other talent over. He also needs to make sure that other active wrestlers aren't on the actual creative staff, because that's been proven time and again to be disastrous, from Hogan's creative control over his character to Nash booking himself to end Goldberg's streak to Jarrett's aforementioned domination of TNA. It's just not good business.
In conclusion, Jarrett needs to take a long, hard look at what has worked and what hasn't during the twelve years TNA has been in business and reflect about the chaos and excesses that marked the end days of WCW, and then take that firsthand knowledge and use it to make Global Force Wrestling successful. He's laid a solid foundation thus far, and if he focusing on providing an actual alternative to WWE and TNA without turning half of the show into a rock concert, I feel like GFW could thrive in today's wrestling landscape. While I doubt any company is going to be able to challenge the WWE any time soon, Jarrett's experience leads me to believe that this promotion actually has a chance to be something special. Let's hope he realizes that before it's too late.
1Goldberg, Lesley. "'Biggest Loser' Creator to Bring New Wrestling Venture to TV (Exclusive)." The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media LLC, 15 Apr. 2014. Web. 10 July 2014.
Wyatt Beougher is a lifelong fan of professional wrestling who has been writing for 411 for over three years and currently hosts MMA Fact or Fiction and reviews Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.