Let me begin by saying that I have always been a WWE fan – the first wrestling program I ever watched featured WWE wrestlers, so growing up it was all that I knew in regards to wrestling. As I grew older and into a wrestling career of my own, I started to branch out into different wrestling promotions to see what else was out there. While I did find some spectacular things, I also came across another company in 2003 called NWA: Total Non-Stop Action, or TNA for short. When I first tuned in, I saw some things that instantly captivated me, such as the featured, high-flying X-Division matches, and specifically a wrestler by the name of AJ Styles (perhaps you have heard of him before?). I quickly became interested in the product, and began to order their weekly pay-per-view wrestling shows to stay up to date with their matches.
Unfortunately, as time went on, some strange things began happening on the TNA shows – they started focusing on wacky story-lines, the wrestlers that I had started to become attached to were put in odd situations that did not showcase them well, and the overall product seemed to be declining in quality, so I tuned out as a viewer. While I thought this was just due to personal taste, it seems that many people felt this way, as TNA viewership has rapidly declined over the years, and the company has been on the verge of financial ruin many times.
The question is, why is that happening? Let’s review some of the decisions that TNA has made that will surely put them out of business if they continue:
15 Hogan is Not Good for Business, Brother!
I am a wrestling fan who began watching when I was a young child in the late 1980s, which means that I was undoubtedly a Hulk Hogan fan (said my prayers, took my vitamins and everything!). During his nostalgic run in WWE during 2002, I was at the front of the parade cheering him on because I was excited to see Hogan back on my television screen. Unfortunately, since that time, Hogan has overstayed his nostalgic welcome in professional wrestling by featuring himself so heavily when he receives TV time. When Hogan, along with Eric Bischoff, entered TNA in 2009, they began working as executive producers who quickly left their stamp on TNA programming. Things began changing rapidly, such as the six-sided-ring that TNA had become known for, and the focus on X-Division wrestling became less and less, which were complete changes to how TNA had operated in the past, leaving fans to be concerned that their product was changing.
Ultimately, all of the ideas that Hogan and Bischoff had promised for TNA did not fulfill any grand prophecy – no changes that were made benefited the company, and ultimately both Hogan and Bischoff overstayed their welcome and left the company in 2012.
14 Incorporating Personal Lives in Storylines
The old saying of “mixing business with pleasure” also holds true in professional wrestling, but with an update – don’t mix business with pleasure and air in on television. Anytime that real-life issues squirm their way into wrestling programming, it can become very uncomfortable for audiences to watch. This was exactly the case when the real-life Kurt Angle and Jeff Jarrett family drama became a fixture on TNA programming. In 2008, Karen Jarrett divorced her previous husband Kurt Angle, which would normally be a sad story on its own due to their two children, but it hit a new low when it was revealed that Karen had become romantically linked with Jeff Jarrett on TNA programming.
It would be one thing if this had remained private and did not appear on a wrestling program, but it was made a fixture of a feud between Jarrett and Angle. These types of reality-based angles that are deeply rooted in others personal lives do not have a place in wrestling, as it takes away from what makes professional wrestling special. If TNA continues to incorporate these types of stories, it won’t be long until they fall under Chapter 11.
13 Losing Focus on X-Division
I remember hearing about this “new wrestling promotion” in 2004, and the one thing that was constantly mentioned about it was the focus on smaller, athletic wrestling competition, specifically called the X-Division. The division featured wrestlers I had never seen in WWE before, such as AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels and Petey Williams, and they were performing moves that had not been on wrestling programming since the WCW Cruiserweight division. The focus on the athleticism and competition between the wrestlers was refreshing, and provided fans with the opportunity to witness spectacular matches (I can distinctly remember seeing this match between AJ Styles, Low Ki, Psicosis and Jerry Lynn when I started watching TNA programming and it leaving a lasting impression on me).
While the focus on “no limits” in the X-Division provided some memorable moments and matches through most of TNA’s run, the company has lost focus on the essence of the division – currently in 2017, the X-Division features more gimmick matches and story-line driven moments than the displays of high-flying, breath-taking matches that made it famous. Losing focus on the one, true thing that set them apart from WWE is a point of unravelling for the promotion.
12 Failed Monday Night War
Anyone that was a wrestling fan during the period of 1996-1999 fondly remember the feud between WCW and WWE because of the popularity boom that it created for wrestling – you would be hard-pressed to throw a stone and not hit someone who was enthralled with either the New World Order or Stone Cold Steve Austin, depending on their allegiance. While we have fond memories of the “Monday Night War”, I think most wrestling fans would rather not remember that TNA attempted to recreate this by going head-to-head with WWE in March of 2010. Once Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan (don’t worry, there will be more on them later) entered TNA in 2010 and developed influence with TNA management, the decision was made for TNA Impact! to move their time slot to Monday nights to compete directly with Monday Night RAW. Without going into too much detail, TNA programming was (and still isn’t) not on the same level as WWE, and quickly moved back to another time slot weeks later. TNA needs to recognize that they are not a direct competitor of WWE, but rather an alternative wrestling product for people to enjoy. If any decision like this was attempted again, TNA’s demise would come much quicker.
11 Geriatric Matches
If we were to go back in time to 1996 and look at the success that WCW enjoyed, one could argue that it was created on the backs of former WWE stars, such as Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall when they formed the NWO. While there were clearly home-grown WCW stars as well, such as Sting and Ric Flair, the thought of tuning in to see former WWE wrestlers on WCW programming was enticing for fans, and they turned in by the millions. Fortunately for WCW, these wrestlers were in their prime when they acquired them, so they were still able to draw big money at the time. Alternatively, TNA must have missed this lesson, as they have continued to focus on aging former WWE wrestlers over the years – coincidentally Kevin Nash is also part of this club – who are well past their prime.
TNA heavily featured wrestlers such as Randy Savage, Scott Steiner and Booker T after they left WWE/WCW, but due to their age their longevity in the business was compromised, and they were not able to perform at the level that fans expected, so they quickly tuned out.
10 Losing Focus on the Knockouts
While we earlier spoke about the X-Division as one of the highlights of TNA programming, the other crown jewel of the promotion was their focus on Women’s Wrestling. While the WWE was featuring women in non-wrestling roles, or talent with *ahem* limited wrestling ability, TNA’s Knockouts Division was flourishing with stars like Gail Kim, Awesome Kong and Taylor Wilde putting on excellent matches. Seeing female wrestlers given the change to perform made the division special, and the women took full opportunity of their showcase on TNA programming, and were a bright spot during the company’s dark periods. Unfortunately, the division is now a shell of its former-self – with the exception of Gail Kim, there are no recognizable women on the TNA roster with the star-power that was previously enjoyed.
While there are some bright spots of Rosemary, the lack of spotlight the division has now does not equate to the success that it previously had over WWE’s current roster. Without this strong division, TNA will continue to unravel.
9 Aces & Eights are Not the NWO
Everyone remembers just how vital the New World Order was to the Monday Night War. Even non-wrestling fans would wear nWo t-shirts or throw up the “too-sweet” sign (until they received a cease-and-desist from WWE like The Young Bucks) because of how cool they were in pop culture. Unfortunately for TNA, the old saying of “lightning doesn’t strike twice” holds true when it comes to wrestling popularity, and their attempt at recreating this cultural phenomenon was met with unsuccessful results. Also attempting to capitalize on the popularity of the Sons of Anarchy television show, the biker group Aces & Eights was formed in 2012 with the idea that they were going to conduct a hostile takeover of TNA programming.
While this angle was initially intriguing, it was quickly recognized by fans that it was a rehash of the nWo, which they had already seen played out before – segments were full of sneak attacks, “surprise” reveals and matches with too much interference – and quickly tuned out. Sorry TNA, but fans have read this story before, and already know the ending.
8 Sometimes They are Let Go For a Reason
At the time of this writing, WWE has had several wrestlers – such as Austin Aries and Neville – leave their company recently in order to pursue their career in other avenues, and are creating quite the buzz as a result. When a certain wrestler leaves the WWE under the right circumstances and at the right time, they are able to turn their debut in another company into a spectacle. To their credit, TNA has been able to do this in the past, such as when Kurt Angle initially debuted with the company. When Angle debuted with TNA, he was fresh off his WWE run at the top of the company, and fans were clamoring to see more of him.
What TNA has failed to realize is that this is the key to this success is the timing and star power of the wrestler – in 2017, they have attempted to apply this same logic to much lesser-talented/popular wrestlers, such as former WWE wrestlers Damien Sandow and Hornswoggle. Not all former WWE talents are created equal, and scooping up all former wrestlers is not a recipe for success, it is a recipe for spending needless amounts of money.
7 Recycled WWE Storylines
We have already discussed how bringing in each and every former WWE star will not lead to success for TNA, but it is also appropriate to bring up how this is not the only way that TNA has borrowed from WWE in the past. In 2013, without exaggeration, Daniel Bryan became the most popular wrestler in professional wrestling during his run leading up to WrestleMania XXX – his storyline of realizing his dream and overcoming The Authority was picture-perfect, and captivated fans in a way that has not been apparent in wrestling for years. The entire storyline of Bryan overcoming adversity was included in WWE programming for months, which made the payoff of him becoming WWE Champion that much sweeter – it was the perfect recipe.
To try and replicate this success, TNA branded Eric Young – one of the original TNA roster members – as the new TNA Champion in 2014, and positioned him as a sympathetic babyface who had finally achieved his impossible dream, much like Bryan. Unfortunately the connection and feelings of the moment were not in the same ballpark as they were for Bryan, and the angle fell flat.
6 Not Holding On to the Ones That Got You There
Some of the most talked about wrestlers in WWE at the moment are AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and Bobby Roode – they are currently setting the wrestling world on fire with their athleticism and charisma. In the case of Joe and Roode, both of these wrestlers got their first big break in TNA as former Heavyweight Champions and main-event level wrestlers. Both were members of the TNA roster for years, and were considered home-grown, mainstay talent for the company. Unfortunately for TNA, due to numerous reported backstage issues regarding paying talent on time, these mainstay talent could not afford to stay in the company, and began shopping themselves around to other companies, like WWE, where they are currently flourishing.
Surely it was beyond their control, but TNA should have done everything possible to hold onto talent like this, as it was one of the sure-fire methods to separate themselves from WWE. Now they are left with a talent roster that is hardly recognizable, and does not have the same value that these mainstays did.
5 Bad Celebrity Cameos
Incorporating celebrities into wrestling is always tricky business – it can either be incredibly successful and help boost the business, such as when Floyd Mayweather appeared at WrestleMania vs The Big Show – or it can turn into a disaster. Given the overall theme of this article, unfortunately we are discussing the latter when it comes to TNA. On numerous occasions, TNA has featured various celebrities (a term I use fairly loosely in this case) on their programming, with it often leading to a less than favorable situation for them.
For example, leading up to Victory Road 2009, former Survivor winner Jenna Morasca was featured on their programming, and without any wrestling background was featured in a feud with Booker T’s wife, Sharmell. Unfortunately for all of us, this lead to a “match” between the two at the event, which is something we would all like to forget (but in case you are a glutton for punishment, you can watch it here. Putting a non-wrestling character and someone who has no business in a wrestling ring is not a combination that creates success, it is one that will push TNA out of business.
4 Complicated Match Ideas
In its simplest form, professional wrestling is an athletic contest between athletes who are competing to win in a wrestling contest where the winner is decided by pinfall or submission. Over the years, wrestling companies have proceeded to add to this idea with new rules and regulations that require further understanding, such as count outs, disqualifications and other basic rules to help structure the contest.
However, things have become much more complicated with the addition of gimmick matches. Some gimmick matches are very simple to understand, such as the ladder match. For every ladder match that exists, TNA has also taken it upon themselves to create incredibly complicated match concepts that are very difficult to understand, such as the “Reverse Battle Royal” that took place in 2006, which is considered one of the worst matches in wrestling history due to the idiotic concept – it even won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter “Worst Worked Match of the Year” award. Keep it simple TNA, and maybe fans will stick around.
3 Not Hiding the Negatives
One of my favorite wrestling DVDs ever produced is The Rise and Fall of ECW, where those that were involved in the company give their take on what caused Extreme Championship Wrestling to gain so much popularity, but ultimately flounder as a result of bad business decisions. At one point in the documentary, the former owner of ECW Paul Heyman mentions, “accentuate the positives, hide the negatives. Well, the negative is that we don't have the budget to compete with WWE and WCW on lighting and pyro... why go there? Hide it!”, which perfectly captures the mentality that made ECW so successful. The grittiness of the production made ECW special, and a true alternative to WWE programming.
On the other hand, TNA has always tried to play on the same level with WWE in regards to production value. I ask a simple question – when there is talent complaining about their pay coming in late, is it a good idea to have pyrotechnics and specialty lighting on your wrestling show?
2 Diet ECW
Speaking of The Rise and Fall of ECW, it was the spark that reignited fan interest in the ECW brand, which ended up creating one of my favorite PPV events of all time – ECW: One Night Stand was an ECW reunion show that WWE produced in 2005, and featured ECW style matches, commentary and angles that helped reinvigorate the brand and provide a sense of pride for long-time ECW fans (let’s not talk about how it all ended though, okay?). One Night Stand was lightning in a bottle, and is considered a very special night for all ECW talent.
Well, what has been the case when WWE captures something special? TNA must try to reproduce it! In 2010, TNA produced the Hardcore Justice event, which was an event promoted similar to One Night Stand, featuring a group called E.V. (Extreme Version) 2.0 full of ECW original members. This event was not anywhere near the quality of the original One Night Stand, and came off as ECW-lite, and almost as a slap-in-the-face to ECW fans. Nice try TNA, but it is things like this which alienate wrestling fans from your program.
1 Letting the Phenomenal One Go
We already discussed the TNA mainstays and how important they were to the brand in its early days. None of these home-grown talents were more important to the TNA brand than AJ Styles. Styles was the first wrestler from TNA to gain true stardom from his appearances with the brand, and he stuck with them for over eleven years due to his loyalty. Styles’ TNA resume is incredibly impressive, spanning all of the active championships and crazy gimmick matches that TNA would throw at him, Styles is a true legend in TNA’s eyes. If that is the case, TNA should have bent over backwards (and forwards, and sideways) to keep Styles in their company.
Styles is the type of wrestler that could have continued to carry TNA through any troubles they would come across (including all of the ones mentioned in this article), but they did not hang on to him. If TNA management watches WWE on a regular basis (which is clear that they do due to the mentions in this article), they are able to see what they let go when Styles left the company.