Why the TNA Cancellation Leak Will Be Good for TNA
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 08.03.2014
With the majority of wrestling sites abuzz with TMZ's revelation that SpikeTV has no plans to renew IMPACT Wrestling in October, 411's Wyatt Beougher looks at how this situation can actually benefit TNA.
Introduction: So one of the downsides of being a "Sunday guy" here on 411 is that if news breaks either late on Sunday or early in the week, it's usually been beaten into the ground by the time it'd be my turn to cover it. As such, to this point, I've tried to focus on either stuff that doesn't have a direct connection to current events, or stuff that might've slipped through the cracks. That all changes this week, as the TMZ-leaked news story about SpikeTV opting not to renew TNA's television deal is easily the biggest story of the week. And while it's been discussed at length by other writers this week, I'm going to try to offer a unique perspective on the whole situation by suggesting that the leak, no matter how factual or erroneous it might've been, was a good thing for TNA.
Alright, first and foremost, let me address the elephant in the room - regardless of how inaccurate the story may end up being, the most important thing that it did for TNA was GET VINCE RUSSO FIRED.
Getting rid of Russo is easily the best thing TNA could have done.
I cannot stress that enough, as Spike was completely soured on Russo, so if they were in fact the ones who leaked this story to TMZ (which is my current hypothesis), it absolutely had the desired effect, as a few short days later, Russo was fired. If you are an Attitude Era apologist, then you probably disagree with this being the best thing for TNA, but the simple fact of the matter is that a large measure of the homophobia, misogyny, and overall carnival quality of TNA over the past twelve years has come from the brain of a single man: Vince Russo. Without writing an entire column about how awful the Russo of 2014 is for the wrestling industry in any capacity, let me just say that while he was one of the guiding factors behind the revitalization of the then-WWF and one of the reasons why Vince McMahon did not end up selling his promotion to Ted Turner, he has also never progressed past that "Crash TV' mentality that was popular a decade and a half ago.
If TNA is to continue on as a functioning wrestling promotion, especially if they want to improve their numbers between now and October, when their contract with SpikeTV is up, then it is absolutely critical that they position themselves as an alternative to the WWE. It would have been next to impossible for TNA to do that with a man stuck in the late-90's WWF mentality calling the creative shots. Sure, with Russo at the helm, TNA has remained "edgier" than their PG-rated counterpart; however, a lot of that edginess has garnered a negative reaction from fans and critics alike. The promotion would be better served to focus their attentions on their in-ring product, as at the peak of their goodwill with fans (prior to the hiring of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff), TNA was known for the outstanding action they featured in the X Division, the Knockouts Division, and even their World title scene when it was populated by guys like Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, and AJ Styles. In recent years, the actual wrestling has been increasingly overshadowed by the outlandish booking, nonsensical character turns, and faction after faction of people trying to take down TNA.
Let's just do away with storylines like this for a while, huh TNA?
Fortunately, in recent weeks, that trend has started to reverse, as Dixie Carter and MVP have lost any and all kayfabe power in favor of Kurt Angle. Angle, in turn, has put the focus squarely back on the wrestling, and the run of shows that the promotion taped in Pennsylvania and in New York City have been vastly better than anything during the Bischoff/Hogan era. Combine that with a streamlining of the roster that saw TNA clear out a lot of dead weight (along with fan favorites like Styles, Christopher Daniels, and Frankie Kazarian, unfortunately), and you have a promotion that appears committed to actually turning things around. (Note: I would have much preferred they kept some combination of Styles, Daniels, and Kazarian over bringing back Devon and possibly Matt Hardy, but I can recognize the value the latter two have in getting other talent over.) And fortunately, with someone other than Vince Russo in charge of creative, it is entirely possible that that turnaround can happen.
The set of tapings scheduled for New York City this week will go a long way towards determining just how bright TNA's future is, as well as how the company has reacted to TMZ making public what I am sure Dixie Carter had wanted to remain private knowledge. I would imagine that the next few months will feature the majority of the TNA roster doing their best work, either because they're hoping that it will help to ensure TNA has a broadcast deal going forward after October, or because they're using their last few months on national television to audition for other promotions. More importantly, if the Carter family is committed to keeping TNA a viable promotion, the creative team is going to have to bring their A-game. With public outlets ranging from ESPN to The View in an uproar over the apparent slap on the wrist that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice receiving in the wake of an ugly domestic violence incident back in February, it would be prudent for this coming week's IMPACT to feature the last act of man-on-woman violence in the company. (Note: I don't feel like that's a spoiler, because if you watched Destination X, TNA or SpikeTV basically spoiled that already.) From there, the writers should also look to tone down any other hallmarks of Vince Russo, be it homophobia or sexism or over-the-top violence for the simple sake of violence. I realize that professional wrestling at its simplest is two or more performers looking to inflict bodily harm on one another, and that a good many fans do not care for WWEPG, but it would behoove TNA to keep their figurative nose clean while they are shopping for a new broadcast deal.
What that means is that, with their backs now firmly against the wall and potentially only two-plus months left to live, the promotion is going to need to find a way to create compelling television without resorting to the same tired tropes that Russo has recycled for the past dozen years. Continue giving the fans characters that they can invest in, and make their character turns actually mean something in the context of a larger story. TNA can now assume that October is the drop-dead date for the promotion and determine where they want to be when that date rolls around. This allows them the ability to plan every aspect of every storyline and have them all wrap up neatly in a little less than three months' time. If this does prove to be the death knell for the company, at least they can give the fans the satisfaction of paying off all of the angles that they have introduced over the past eight months. The elimination of all of Russo's needless (and ultimately predictable) swerves should bring about a simplification of the company's storylines, which can only benefit a company that has long been roundly mocked for overly complicating things.
A simple, effective storyline built around earning respect, and the fans LOVED IT.
And should IMPACT be renewed by SpikeTV or find a home elsewhere? The writers will have a clean starting point for the beginning of the new television deal, which would allow new and returning fans to come into the company without feeling like they have missed months (or possibly years) of storylines. With a string of shows that have gotten progressively better over the past six weeks and positive buzz around the company's latest change in direction, TNA should be looking at this leak as a positive, as it gives them a chance to prove their doubters wrong and earn a new television deal in the process. Will it be easy? Absolutely not. But if the Carters want to see any return on their investment at all, they'll do whatever it takes to right the ship, and I can only assume that the Carters are looking at this story leaking as egg on their faces. That should be not only a reality check, but also a powerful enough motivator to make the necessary changes to make the promotion a success. I know that I certainly wouldn't count them out.
But remember: Watry called it.
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.