The “Rise” and Fall of TNA (Part One)

Everyone knows by now that TNA is flirting with death. Despite
the fact that they do have content and finance, they are two months away from
losing their distribution. As ECW and WCW both quickly found out, it is almost
impossible to keep a company alive without that component. Although the reports
stated that Spike TV was not interested  in renewing Impact, those rumors ended
up being false. Spike TV’s President was live at one of TNA’s New York tapings,
speculating whether or not a renewal would be worth it. Even if the renewal falls
through, TNA still can find another network to show their television show – although
one must assume that it would be a significant downgrade to their primetime
timeslot on a recognized Network. Let us look at TNA’s history with Spike TV, and how it has
led up to this fiasco in this three part installment of the “Rise” and Fall of TNA. 

In 2005, FSN declined to renew Impact’s contract for the next year, leaving the show without a network. They decided to air
their shows online by using Bit Torrent, but shortly after, received a deal
from Spike TV. Even though Spike TV was a step in the right direction, TNA
still found themselves in a timeslot that made it hard for people to find the
product.

Although the company was struggling to find additional
viewers, it was still doing a good job of pleasing their hardcore fans. In addition
to that, the product had a sound strategy: they placed an emphasis on the wrestling in the mid-to-upper card and had the recognizable top-names in the
main event. The top names were making people watch, but the upcoming talents were the ones stealing the shows. In sum, the wrestlers of the past were bringing in wrestling fans to see what the foregone future of TNA was going to be (or so we thought).
TNA’s main commodity, which made it an alternative over WWE, was
its X-Division.  Kindred to the Cruiserweight Division, the X-Division had a
high-flying and fast-paced style. But unlike the Crusierweight division, it had no weight limits.
Even though there were a lot of talents who stuck out from this division, none of them stuck out as much as Samoa Joe did. Joe was someone who mainstream wrestling never really seen anything like before. He was an overweight and husky wrestler, who could move around and fly
like someone half his size, with had an outstanding work ethic.
TNA’s main event scene resembled a cast of over-the-hill
talents, but that somewhat changed when they signed Christian – a talented wrestler who was
misused in WWE.  They quickly added him
into the main event scene, and not too long after that, he became the TNA champion
by defeating Jeff Jarrett (who the fans were sick and tired of due to him
constantly hogging the title). As if it couldn’t become any better, TNA made its biggest
signing yet – The “Icon” Sting. 

Unfortunately, though, TNA could not come to an
agreement with the head booker Dusty Rhodes – who was tremendously helping the
company. Even though year 2006 took a dip in quality the department as a result, the company still had a lot
going for them. After all, their PPVs continued to be better than WWE’s PPVs, and they kept continuing to grow. In fact, Sting’s return to the company led to Impact’s
biggest rating ever, and because of that, Spike
TV gave them a primetime slot on Thursday nights.

Even though Sting winning the title at Bound for Glory was a big deal, TNA’s newsworthy signing of
Kurt Angle overshadowed that moment, as well any moment in the company. In spite of being around for only four
years, TNA made more strides than some wrestling companies ever had and were on track of becoming legit competition with
the flagship wrestling company.

It appeared that nothing could slow them
down from expanding to higher levels. However, TNA brought back a familiar face to the creative team – someone who was referred as a genius to some people while an idiot to others – Vince Russo.  This sparked a lot of controversy on the
internet about the decision. Some people thought it was a good idea, some thought it
was a terrible idea, while others didn’t think it would matter all that much.
Even though this had nothing to do with Russo, TNA
made a huge mistake with the Samoa Joe character. Joe – who was undefeated in his tenure in
TNA – jobbed to Kurt Angle in Angle’s first PPV match ever in the company. To make matters worse, Angle made the “Samoan Submission Machine” tap out to the Ankle Lock. Joe ended up getting
his win back in their rematch, yet Angle won the blow off match. Within three months, the biggest dream match people wanted
to see in TNA was already over. The feud could have been an epicly built up one,
yet it was instead poorly booked and hotshot.
Creatively, there were some recognizable changes within the
company. They were starting to have crazier gimmick matches, more wacky segments,
more focus on overbooked finishes, and less emphasis on wrestling. The pace of
Impact was also on speed – trying to fit in too many things in a short amount
of time. It was evident that Vince Russo was the new head writer of the show
and his booking philosophies hadn’t changed a bit.
While the Against All Odds 2007 PPV looked like a good show on paper, it ended up being one of TNA’s worst shows ever. In what was supposed to be
a heated feud, LAX and Team 3D ended up having a goofy-looking brawl. Austin Star
and Senshi, who are capable of stealing any show, had a toned down match with
most of its attention being on Bob Backlund. In an unlisted tuxedo match (I
wonder why), Hemme wrestled “The Big Fat Oily “Guy in what was a trainwreck of
epic proportions. Abyss and Sting had an over-the-top “Prison Yard” match. And
the main event between Christian Cage and Kurt Angle had the following: Samoa Joe as the guest
enforcer, a ton of run ins, a referee bump, and an anticlimactic finish. Russo
officially ruined one of TNA’s PPVs with gimmicks that hindered rather than
elevated matches, unpleasing finishes, run ins, overbooking, and angles that were either convoluted, muddled, trivial, or all of the above.
A month later, fans began to refute
against the company at Destination X. They chanted “that was weak” after Kurt Angle and Scott
Steiner’s match and then chanted “Fire Russo” during a goofy Last Rites match
between Sting and Abyss. However, much like 2007 in a nutshell, the roster did
a good job of overcoming the terrible booking and that resulted in a perfectly watchable
PPV.
Dixie Carter was upset from the fire “Fire Russo” because he had nothing to do with the angle. Even if it
was not Vince Russo – which it was – there still was a big problem: the fans were becoming tired of the booking. In spite of her being so
concerned about it, she did NOTHING about it. Consequently, another
“Fire Russo” chant broke out a month later at their Lockdown PPV. This time, it
was because of an “electrified” cage match between Team 3d and LAX, and I use
the word electrified loosely because it ended up being the saddest display of
effects ever. They turned off the lights off and lit the ring with a light
bluish color, and whenever a wrestler touched the cage – the light flickered
and the wrestlers fidgeted around as if they were tased. There were other times
where the wrestlers touched the cage and nothing happened. And, laughably, Hernandez wore gloves to climb the cage and miraculously could not be shocked
because of them. Meanwhile, Harris and Storm were forced into wrestling
a blindfold match on the same exact PPV, and the crowd managed to chant “Boring” and “We Want
Wrestling” during it.

Despite Vince Russo becoming an enormous problem, neither Jarrett nor Carter wanted to admit it. In fact, they were more
concerned about defending the booking rather doing anything about it.
And because the product wasn’t growing, they brought in as much former WWE
talent as possible – which caused the wrestlers who were supposed to be the future
of TNA to become afterthoughts in the main event scene. They also decided to
put the title on Kurt Angle at Slammiversary and then devote most of their hour of Impact around him. Thus, critics and fans began calling TNA “Total Nonstop
Angle”.

The company then signed Pacman Jones – who was suspended from the NFL for an entire year because he slapped a stripper in the face – with them thinking that any exposure is good exposure. To make matters worse, they gave Jones 250,000 DOLLARS before they realized that he could not do anything physical. This was arguably the worst decision the company ever made. 
Meanwhile, the overexposure of Kurt Angle started to become worse. For their
Hard Justice (August) PPV, they named Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle, with every
title in the company on the line as well the IWGP title. Logistically,
everyone thought TNA would build this up as an ultra-serious and important
match. Vince Russo, however, did not believe that was what this feud needed –
and for that reason – the main storyline was about Karen Angle dating and
sleeping with Samoa Joe. In what could have easily been hyped up as the biggest
match in TNA’s history ended up being a ridiculously overbooked episodes of “Days of our Lives”. Joe – who was a freakish monster a few months ago – also was turned into the
biggest fool in the company when Karen Angle cost him the match. It was a
swerve that literally everyone (yes, EVERYONE, Fuj) saw coming.

Angle was then forced to defend every TNA title at No
Surrender. And out of all the wrestlers that he could have picked to
co-hold the tag titles, he picked Sting – the same guys he had problems
with in the past. To no one’s surprise, they did not get along and it caused
them to lose the titles to R-Truth and Pacman Jones (the same “wrestler” that
cannot do anything physical). Angle lost the X-Division title to Jay Lethal, cleanly, in a hard-fought battle. But moments later, Lethal was saddled into
being one of the wrestlers that came out to stop Samoa Joe from killing
Christian. Joe ended up throwing Lethal out of the ring as if he was
a jobber – which hindered his definitive clean victory over Angle. Lastly, Angle
defeated Abyss to retain his TNA world championship, and after the match, Judias
Medias pulled Abyss down under the ring – which started their carbon copied
Undertaker vs. Kane feud.

Fans were becoming more and more frustrated with the
company’s development (or lack thereof). They were especially frustrated with
all of the former WWE/WCW/ECW talent hogging up the spotlight over TNA’s
homegrown talent and Vince Russo’s illogical and silly writing. But instead of taking the responsibility,
Dixie Carter started to blame it on the lack of airtime on Spike TV. She said that if
they received two hours, they would then be able to focus on other talents.
But even with the two hours they finally received, AJ Styles was still booked as a
goober, Samoa Joe was no longer the monster he once was, MCMGs were jobbers,
Chris Daniels was back in a spot he was in three years ago (one of the members
of Triple X), LAX were being improperly used, and the X-Division champion, Jay
Lethal, was being beat up on TV every week.

TNA, meanwhile, signed any former
WCW or WWE talent they could get their hands on – including Dustin Rhodes, Test, and Rikishi.  In sum, the X-Division title
lost most of its credibility, there was no more emphasis on the in-ring
product, wrestlers that could barely move in the ring were given higher spots
in the card than the talented wrestlers, and the booking, as a whole, was a disaster.
Everything that made TNA an alternative was quickly vanishing before its diehard fans’ eyes.


That concludes part 1. Part 2 will look at the downfall of Samoa Joe, the signings of more former WWE talent, the worst ECW reunion ever, failing to sign Paul Heyman, Jim Cornette vs. Vince Russo, the calm before the
storm, the entrance of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, and the short-lived Monday
Night Wars. Sorry in advance for errors I may have made. Most of this information came from what I could remember.