TNA is one embattled company, which they have been from day one, struggling to keep everything together and prove to skeptics they would last. Miraculously, they did last albeit under new ownership — Anthem Entertainment — and a new name, Global Force (GFW). That is due to a merger with another floundering endeavor by Jeff Jarrett and gives critics the impression the company is barely hanging on and doing everything it can in desperation to stay afloat.
They fought hard to be the number two or three wrestling company in this modern post-Monday Night War era, doing anything possible to stand out (showcasing a more competitive women’s division than anyone with TV time, updating Cruiserweight wrestling with the X Division and its unique rush of adrenaline). They grew and the doors remain open for business nevertheless, but unsurprisingly, it has not totally been smooth sailing.
A glimmer of hope they may have been for a time in the business as that “New Alternative,” and to those in it seeking work and exposure in addition to a place to call home, mistakes were made. Money was wasted, the wrong people were booked, people lied, and not everyone was treated fairly. To say also that blood was spilled would be far from an understatement.
Some of these events were denied, others they tried to keep under wraps to no avail. Here are 15 dark secrets about TNA revealed by people who worked there at varying times since its inception.
15. The Food at the Impact Zone
This one comes from the infamous James E. Cornette. According to Cornette, even though Impact films at Universal Studios, TNA cut corners with the catering during his run. While the quality of concessions at any amusement park is questionable, it paled in comparison to what amounted to little more than airline food and TV dinners for crew and the roster in the Impact Zone. Reportedly, the aroma wafting in from the rest of the park made Cornette envious and was one more thing that made his time with TNA Wrestling miserable.
No doubt reflecting poorly on the preparedness of Dixie Carter, if the paltry menu was meant to cut costs, the effort makes little sense. This was not the only area where she could have saved money. You would afford catering if you don’t spend so much on Hogan and Bischoff. It is a trifle but another sad case of Dixie’s mismanagement.
14. Money Wasted Building Sets
Speaking of money and bad judgment, Dixie Carter, known for spending with little return to show for it, engaged in lots of useless expenses. One such expense was allocated for television and the purposes of Vince Russo. When he worked an on-air role, Russo was the kayfabe Director of Authority and he thought he needed an office because it would look good on TV. So, Dixie spared room in the budget to build him one. This news didn’t escape the notice of Jim Cornette, who found out about it during his tenure as a talent and member of Creative.
Having an office for an official sounds reasonable but the problem is IMPACT is filmed in a soundstage on the backlot of Universal Studios Orlando. It’s a small space without an office area and that info does not take long to uncover, which Cornette scathingly noted on an episode of his popular podcast.
13. The Initials “T-N-A”
It is pretty clear the name of the promotion is a pun and it was coined by Vince Russo, who is famous for his gimmicky plays on words as much as his silly concepts and inflated sense of self. As it turns out, there is more to the story than Russo trying to be tongue-in-cheek. Originally, the company was going to be called NWA: T&A and showcase a more risque adult product since they would be on Pay-Per-View. The NWA and Russo didn’t get far with that but stuck with the double entendre for a name.
Of course, the company grew and received national exposure and TV deals despite it. Dogged by misconceptions they were a renegade outfit and feelings internally the name needed to change, they started calling themselves strictly IMPACT in 2017 until the merger with GFW. Two decades of giving the wrong idea were enough.
12. Failing to Turn a Profit
In the early years, many of TNA’s expenses were covered out-of-pocket and they weren’t making a lot of money. Dixie and Jeff, needing financial backing, went to her father who headed Panda Energy, a privately-held company specializing in eco-friendly power plants. Panda became the parent company and was for the majority of the promotion’s life.
Keeping business in the family has its advantages but also runs the risk of abusing privileges, which is exactly what Dixie did. Obviously not learning from WCW’s mistakes, she wasted millions cumulatively on things mentioned in this list and big-money deals to acquire Sting, Kurt Angle, Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Christian, and anyone she thought would be a boon to her brand.
At its lowest in the late 2000s, before any rumors of a sale had concrete proof, TNA was $20 million in the hole. That is more than ECW’s debt when they closed and were purchased by WWE. Is Ron Simmons nearby? Because…
11. Knockouts and Second Jobs
It’s almost the stuff of legend at this point. TNA was so frequently late on paying its roster and the pay was so meager wrestlers had to take second jobs. This was a dismal fact of life when it came to the Knockouts Division most of all.
When Daffney left in 2011, she filed a Workers Comp suit against the company, most notoriously, for all the injuries she sustained while under contract, including neck trauma and concussions. Allegations were lodged, which they denied, TNA failed to pay for medical expenses, and forced wrestlers to perform dangerous spot. Vince Russo directly fell under scrutiny and so did Terry Taylor who headed Talent Relations at the time.
Think of the irony, a promotion run by a woman priding itself on breaking ground with its superlative women’s roster can’t be bothered with concern for the health and well-being of those same workers. Shame.
10. Bounced Checks
Already mentioning TNA’s grievous and absurd habit of not paying wrestlers on time (you could probably do a top 20 and a half alone of guys and gals who were not paid), circumstances really took a turn for the worse in the past two years. Billy Corgan (see below) had to lend Dixie money and she was spending and cutting costs in all the wrong places.
People are still parting ways with the organization after the transition to the GFW banner because the money (more than not being right) isn’t there. The most recent examples are Cody and Magnus — two guys brought in as big deals last year. Live events aren’t drawing so that won’t cover it.
Until they figure something out, they will continue to be the butt of jokes on Twitter to former employees Matt Hardy and Mike Kanellis, who had it out with fans recently questioning their decision to bail.
9. Billy Corgan’s Deal
Rockstar Billy Corgan was brought in to help right the ship which had run aground at that point, after treading tempestuous financial and broadcasting waters for so long. Corgan had promoted wrestling before in his neck of the woods, the Chicago area so he and Dixie formed a partnership. He had some good ideas, his hand was in the Broken Matt stuff, and the company appeared to turn a corner.
Then out of nowhere seemingly, Corgan was embroiled in a legal dispute with Dixie and TNA. The nature of his agreement with Dixie soon leaked, Billy revealing it was verbal and his position with the company as President was nominal. Not only did he have no formal contract but he loaned Dixie money to keep operations going, which he thought bought a stake in the company.
8. Vince Russo’s Secret Employment
When Dixie Carter was in charge of TNA she went back on her word several times and kept some things close to the vest, in vain. The one secret she couldn’t keep, and that came back to bite her the worst, was her working relationship with Vince Russo, whom she was advised — most authoritatively from Spike TV — to stop consulting and stay away from. He did so much damage to the product so it seemed a reasonable request.
While saying she would to everybody, she continually sought his counsel on creative matters privately. Spike execs weren’t too happy when they found out and dumped Impact in 2014. Negotiations with Toby Keith to buy the company also fell through as a result. IMPACT drifted from Destination America to Pop TV until Dixie relinquished power. Russo admitted his role in this blunder, one that might be the biggest black eye on Dixie’s reputation and veracity.
7. Allegations of Racism
Based on accounts from Konnan relaying his experience during his initial run in the mid-2000s, and keeping track of the product thereafter, racism was rampant backstage among officials, including Jeff Jarrett. Konnan reported seeing stereotypes invoked and hearing racial epithets used out in the open by staff, and even some of the boys, who were mostly Caucasian toward and in front of wrestlers such as Monty Brown and performers who hailed from Latin America.
Konnan was another name on the payroll that dealt with medical issues — kidney problems in his case, requiring dialysis and a transplant. After leaving the company, he made it his mission to speak out publicly and make it known what went on and what their business practices were like. He quickly became and remained one of the most outspoken critics of TNA for a number of years, until his return to IMPACT with LAX this year.
6. Matt Hardy’s Broken Experience
Matt Hardy reinvented himself in TNA in 2016, selflessly putting time and effort into the company at his own expense, often placing it ahead of his family. While altruistic and certainly being a company man, Matt’s wife Reby Hardy was pregnant with their son Maxell amidst the Broken One’s busy schedule. She had to watch him leave to get on a plane to be at IMPACT shortly after giving birth.
Consequently, to be closer to his family, Matt, like Kurt Angle and a slew of others before him, brought Reby and son on TV with him and opened his home up to TNA cameras and storylines. Unfortunately, in spite of his work ethic, Matt and his family became embroiled in a very public legal battle for the trademark to the Broken gimmick when IMPACT found new management under Anthem. A Twitter feud between the parties ensued and before long the Hardys were back in WWE with litigation ongoing.
5. The Masochism of Abyss
One thing that’s no secret about TNA is stalwart Abyss’s use of violence. The Monster’s penchant for tacks, broken glass, pretty much anything sharp and pointy, and for putting his body on the line was on full display regularly throughout the years. He carries the banner of hardcore with reckless abandon like Mick Foley, Sabu, and others before him.
What is less common knowledge is Abyss is more than a willing participant in the carnage and stunts. He really admires Foley and the hardcore style, admitting as much in an angle with Mick a few years ago, taking up the niche because he wants to.
Showing a rare glimmer of sense, Abyss was taken off TV periodically to keep him fresh and give him time to heal. Jim Cornette desired to bring him back from a sabbatical and go in a direction with him that toned down the risk-taking. That didn’t work out, naturally, and Abyss was going through a flaming table his first night back.
4. Papering Events
Burt Prentice is a wrestling promoter in Tennessee who ran the building that would eventually become the Asylum in TNA’s weekly PPV days. When Dixie and Jeff started using the venue, they slavishly repainted it and began one of the questionable practices they became most renowned for.
Admission to the Impact Zone is free but that has been going on one way or another from the start. At the Asylum, they gave away 20,000, tickets to fill the seats, according to Prentice, and did that every week. Prentice was paid handsomely but his business suffered when he tried to charge for other shows he promoted.
TNA was giving throngs of people stars of the past (Jarrett, Sting, Curt Hennig, Lex Luger, Dusty Rhodes) and of the future (AJ Styles, CM Punk, Christopher Daniels, James Storm, Bobby Roode) for free. Backed into a corner, there was no competing with that or topping it.
3. Attendance Figures
Live show and PPV attendance took a nosedive in recent years. Tentpole shows such as Lockdown and Bound For Glory drew (maybe) 1,200-1,400 people when they went on the road. Photos were taken and, unfortunately for everyone involved, got out.
Crowds were so heartbreakingly small how empty the arenas looked compared to WWE became a meme. It was all over the Internet and Dixie could not simply explain things away. She became a laughingstock.
Yet there were, and there remains, die-hard TNA defenders boasting how superior they were to WWE. In-ring, that may have been true at one point, even earlier in this decade, but it is hard to argue with facts, figures, and (especially) photographic evidence. Small audiences aren’t the fault of talent, obviously. It’s more irresponsibility and mismanagement due to bad ideas employed to attract crowds — another reason your locker room has to jump ship.
2. TJP’s Split Personality
Suicide, or Manik, is one of TNA’s most bewildering ideas. For one thing, it is amazing they still use it to this day when he originated in a video game that is mostly forgotten and futile to promote now. Second, the gimmick was involved in one of the most astonishing and bizarre faux pas in their history.
The wrestler who donned the mask the longest, and most associated with it, is TJ Perkins. When rechristened Manik exclusively, the creative team ran it by Perkins they wanted to treat the character like a split personality for him. He vehemently refused, citing a relative dealing with a multiple-personality disorder.
TJP, sensitive to the topic, didn’t want to exploit it. In vintage TNA fashion, this news didn’t reach Josh Mathews who kept teasing the scrapped angle on commentary. Perkins wasn’t happy and sought greener pastures in WWE shortly after Mathews bid him farewell in a tactless tweet.
1. Tension with ROH
In 2004, RF Video and Ring of Honor founder Rob Feinstein was busted for soliciting a 14-year-old boy online. He was caught in a sting by TV cameras and resigned his post and stake with ROH and RF. This upset a flexibility wrestlers working for ROH and TNA enjoyed.
AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, CM Punk, Low-Ki, Kazarian, and others could commit to dates with both, going back and forth. An equitable working relationship existed between the two promotions. Dixie, however, took the opportunity in the fallout to become territorial with her roster.
She locked as many as she could in long-term contracts. Styles and Daniels became exclusive to the TNA roster and she eventually acquired Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, and Homicide. Punk ended his run with the company over the issue and stuck with ROH before heading to WWE.
To this day, you seldom see anyone work both places at the same time.
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