Total Non-stop Action (TNA) wrestling hosted their version of WWE’s Wrestlemania on Sunday, but the Bound for Glory Pay-Per-View hardly caused a ripple – is it time for the money haemorrhaging grap-group to admit defeat in their mission to share the mainstream spotlight? Dom Kureen shares his thoughts.
Matt Hardy – not even the most talented wrestler in his family.
Matt Hardy – a career mid-carder more than a decade beyond his prime.
Matt Hardy – Your new TNA World Champion… Who vacated the belt two days later!
If proof were needed of TNA’s long sinking ship riding its final waves, it arrived at Bound for Glory on Sunday, October 4th, with Matt Hardy’s heavyweight title success, followed by a baffling video where he vacated the championship just 48 hours later.
When World Championship Wrestling (WCW) began its descent into the abyss (as in the void, not the chubby wrestler), the company lurched from one ill-fated catastrophe to the next; ridiculous scripted-shoot main events, major titles held by actors and egotistical writers, and talk-show hosts getting into the ring.
The fall and fools of WCW
WCW’s main strap shifted waists on no fewer than 19 occasions in the year 2000, also being vacated an unprecedented six times. The company was a rudderless shambles screened on a television channel desperate to remove wrestling from their schedule.
TNA have a similar issue in 2015, with Destination America ostensibly reluctant to extend their TV contract, and Panda Energy International, a multi-billion dollar company which owns 100% of the struggling group’s shares, reportedly considering pulling their funding after 13 years.
Bound for Glory attracted a live crowd of fewer than 300 people, of which at least 75 were freebies, and a staggeringly low 17,000 PPV purchases (Wrestlemania 31 in March reportedly had around 77,000 in attendance and 1.33 million PPV buys).
It had all looked so promising
It’s easy to forget that this is a company that once showed so much promise, utilising elite Indy talent from around the USA, UK, Mexico, Canada and Japan to showcase a high calibre product dedicated more to actual wrestling than pizazz.
The women’s division, led by Gail Kim and Awesome Kong, stood head and shoulders above the titillation WWE was promoting, and half a dozen or so star names complimented the stellar mid-card and throng of talented tag-teams.
Some wrestlers, such as Christian (Cage) even opted to ditch Vince McMahon and co’s Stamford behemoth to join the pugnacious little company that was revolutionising the business with its six-sided ring and X-Division. Exciting times indeed.
Despite the myriad of merits, TNA continued to leak money and lack viewers, Panda Energy continuing to foot the bill courtesy of CEO Robert W. Carter, whose daughter, Dixie, just happened to be the president of the Tennessee based wrestling company – nothing like a dose of nepotism to keep things bubbling along.
Even Daddy’s girl seems to have run dry of ideas now though; not that she hasn’t tried every feasible avenue to turn around literal and proverbial fortunes.
In 2009 TNA signed up a 56 year-old, battered, bruised and financially destitute Hulk Hogan to arrest the slide – a decision that cost the company over $100m in contracts and further dwindling television ratings.
Hogan came on board with former WCW chief booker Eric Bischoff, the pair armed with lucrative multi-year deals, and proceeded to hire a “who’s who” of his washed up pals to fill the spots previously inhabited by promising young workers.
Hogan and Bischoff’s masterplan was an ill-fated attempt to revamp the Monday Night Wars previously synonymous with WCW vs WWF, competing directly with the now WWE in a move which lost viewers, money and credibility (see vid below).
In came a ‘retired’ Ric Flair (by now in his early 60’s), lousy 1990’s tandem the Nasty Boys, annoying DJ Todd ‘Bubba the Love Sponge’ Clem, and worst of all Hulk’s disinterested daughter Brooke, who participated in a couple of pointless story-lines before heading back into the studio to record more albums for tone-deaf basement dwellers with a fetish for women who look like Hulk Hogan augmented by big, fake tits.
Bro’s before… young talent
The more talented members of the roster, with a few exceptions, were marginalised or used as vessels to boost obsolete old timers (see renowned family man AJ Styles’ run as Flair’s unconvincing jet flying, kiss stealing protege).
By the time TNA finally ditched Dad’s army, they had slumped more than $100m into the red over the course of four spendthrift years. Carter Sr had seen enough, drastically downsizing his daughter’s pocket money, and forcing Dixie to cut costs.
With almost half of a bloated roster released within the past two years, only bare bones remain on a once meaty carcass.
Hall of ‘meh’
TNA’s hall-of-fame, another pale imitation of WWE’s annual event, is characteristic of the way the company is now run, viewed as little more than an unwelcome afterthought, it is one of many aspects of the corporation held in what is so often the death knell of a wrestling organisation: indifference.
Matt Hardy, a perennial mid-carder so often plodding along in his more talented younger brother Jeff’s shadow, became the face of a major(ish) wrestling franchise for the first time; it’s a move in keeping with the malaise of the a once riveting enterprise.
No viewers = no TV deal
With no sign of a new TV deal, as well as dwindling funding from above, it may be time to take Old Yeller out the back and load up the pistol.
TNA Wrestling is less sinking ship than it is ruins at the bottom of a deep ocean, and even Dixie Carter, whose baby this remains, is surely losing interest in this futile project by now.