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Let’s talk about….TNA

Let’s talk about….TNA
I keep odd hours.
It drives my wife nuts, since she’s more of a 9-5 type
person. I, on the other hand, am not – I work nights, sometimes past midnight
organizing comics and such. I tend to sleep from about 6 AM until 1 PM, and
start my day from there.

About a week ago, I stopped off at McDonald’s at about 1 AM.
Early enough to beat the bar rush, but still able to get what passes for
dinner. Along the way, I decided that I desired some horrific, yet awesome,
apple pies and put those on at the end. Until I was told they didn’t serve
apple pies at 1 AM, and would I prefer something else?
I chose a cinnamon thing. But that’s not my point.
My point is, the choice was made for me in this particular
instance. One wasn’t available, so I settled for the other. No big deal, the
earth still turned.
Obviously, there’s no need to rehash the news of the past
week. It looks like TNA will be without television within the next few months,
at least on Spike. Considering the anemic attendance that seems to be a staple
of their house show circuit, I would have to believe that losing TV is a pretty
big blow, possibly of the lethal kind. I’ll leave that to others more skilled
to sort out.
But here’s my question for this week: Is the world of
professional wrestling better or worse without TNA?
Now, I will be upfront about something from the jump here. I
don’t watch TNA on a regular basis. I will seek out strongly reviewed matches
for viewing, or particularly well-staged shots of Miss Tessmacher’s very fine
posterior, but I am not a week to week viewer of the promotion. As
aforementioned, I work nights, and TNA has never struck my wrestling bone
enough to consider making them appointment television for myself. I watch
enough wrestling as it is.
But here we are, on the edge of the WWE becoming the only
place to watch televised wrestling outside of the syndicated ROH show and the
local indie promotions on public access. We have lived through this scenario
before, after the folding of WCW (some detractors of TNA’s on-air product say
we never stopped living through it), and we’ve seen that Vince doesn’t have any
real desire to compete with himself at this point, but rather simply wants to
make certain that his competition is crushed before him, much the better to
hear the lamentations of their women.
I fear several things may become true, as is my right as an
alarmist member of the IWC with only speculation and no proof to back those
things up:
1.       We will have further homogenizing of the North
American product, as NXT churns out wrestlers whose only unique traits will be
contained in their hairstyles and choice of trunks.
2.      
Even basic cable will be hesitant to try out any
professional wrestling on their networks that does not contain the WWE seal,
after the relative failure of WCW and TNA.
3.      
Directly relating to number 2, it will become
much more difficult to start a new promotion that could someday challenge the
McMahon empire – who would invest in professional wrestling if there’s no one
that wants it?
4.      
Wrestlers will be out of a job in the most
Darwinian sense – it will either be indies/ROH, WWE, or bust. There won’t be a
North American safety net for those wrestlers.
Point by point: as to 1, there is probably little doubt as
to this becoming true. Recently, WWE went out and signed 3 wrestlers with
international reputations – KENTA, Prince Devitt, and Kevin Steen (allegedly on
that last one). Their ‘development’ will be fascinating to watch for those of
us who have seen their matches already – I suspect that Kevin’s moveset, as an
example, will have to be slightly altered due to the WWE not being a current
fan of the piledriver. It would seem that outside of those who attempt to
distinguish themselves with ringwork in NXT (Mr. Zayn comes to mind), the WWE
has more of vested interest in creating the character than creating the
wrestler. Part of that seems to come with making sure the previously learned wrestling
gets thrashed out of the character in exchange for a variety of interchangeable
offensive weapons and a unique finisher. The idea that wrestlers could get over
on a unique moveset along with a unique character has most definitely been
minimalized over the last several years.
Points 2 & 3 are obviously related to financial matters,
but I find them most relevant in many ways. How do you sell the product if no
one wants to buy it? To challenge the McMahon’s at this point, a large amount
of cash must be infused to elevate a promotion to the league necessary to be a
part of that competition. In other words, if you want to make your promotion
seem like a big deal, you gotta put some bucks on the table; who in their right
mind would invest money in any professional wrestling company right now? WWE is
losing money like crazy, and they’re the SUCCESSFUL ones! No cable company is
going to give enough money to keep a national challenger to Vince afloat right
now.
But it’s number 4 that truly gives me pause.
We’re long removed from the territories. However, less
choice for the wrestler is worse for everyone. It’s a domino effect. When the WWE
can control everything about what ‘wrestling’ is, with no visible alternative,
the current and next generation is the one that is hit the most. Kids today who
watch WWE and say to themselves, ‘This is what I want to do when I grow up’
will be exposed to that homogenized style because they have no alternative.
TNA existing allows people who never would have made it in
the current environment of the WWE national exposure. It allowed AJ Styles the chance
to go out and put on great professional wrestling matches on a cable channel that
most of the country can watch. That is a net positive for wrestling as a whole
and as an art form. Wrestling is at its best when allowed different forms and
structures, and TNA provided that in many ways. It gave the wrestlers who maybe
needed a few more years before they were ready for Vince-land a chance to hone
their style as an individual. It allowed wrestlers to earn a living as
professional wrestlers, which in turn allowed them to become extremely strong
at their craft, which in turn allowed the fans even better matches to watch. How
many wrestlers might we lose, how many great matches might have already been
lost, if wrestlers who weren’t right for the WWE couldn’t make a living at
wrestling? How many would give up before their time, not because they wanted
to, but because they had to – after all, it’s hard to devote most of your time
to something that doesn’t feed your family.
Does TNA have problems? Of that, I have no doubt. I can
remember how quickly Scott turned on them after they had no idea how to finish
the Aces and Eights angle, and in talking to folks about their storylines, I
can reasonably ascertain that mistakes have been made to a huge degree in that
promotion. But TNA provides an important service to professional wrestling as a
whole. Even just by existing, they increase the talent pool in wrestling enough
to help the cream rise to the top. They give wrestlers who may have the skill
but not the look that the WWE needs, they give them the chance to go out there
and put on a show to the best of their abilities. And perhaps we’re being alarmists, and everything will work out just fine and dandy, although I somehow am skeptical of that happening. 
I guess, after all this, what I’m trying to say is that I
wish that TNA would get its shit together already, because losing them would
actually be a blow to the North American wrestling. I know that many people
have been anticipating this deathknell for quite some time, and the
grave-dancing may soon begin. Hopefully without being seen as too much of an
apologist for them, I must ask the question – isn’t the world of professional
wrestling still better off if TNA exists?
Much like my world would have been better if I got my apple
pies.
Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on twitter