Shore's Blog: Everyone is comparing TNA to WCW in 2001, but they are off by about 13 years
By Chris Shore
As the recent wrestler cuts, bad press, and jumbled storylines continue to choke the life out of TNA in the eyes of many, comparisons are being made to WCW and 2001, when the company finally collapsed and was sold off in pieces to Vince McMahon. It is an understandable comparison. Many of the faces that have been inextricably linked with the fall of WCW are in TNA, most notably Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, and there are a number of business moves that mirror WCW moves at the time.
But I think it is more likely that people are looking at the wrong end of WCW's life cycle. TNA is not like WCW in 2001, they are more like WCW 13 years earlier. In 1988, Ted Turner purchased Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) and changed the name to WCW. If any comparisons are to be made to TNA and WCW, I think it is this period in WCW's history that is most like what we are seeing today.
Poor leadership: WCW's early days were plagued by poor leadership, just like TNA is today. WCW paraded a host of people in and out at the top of the company, some who knew nothing about wrestling, and others who had great experience, but were stuck in an old way of doing things that simply failed to build their audience.
TNA is no different. Dixie Carter continues to fumble around with her limited knowledge, and those she has hired to help seem ingrained to the WWE way of doing things. There's nothing wrong with what WWE does in the general, but the fact that TNA continues to try and be WWE shows they still don't understand their market. (And they are trying to be WWE, regardless of protests to the contrary.)
Great but misused talent: When Turner bought JCP in late 1988, the roster was full of great talent. Ric Flair, Sting, Lex Luger, and others led the card while names like "Mean" Mark Callous and "Stunning" Steve Austin were signed (and relegated to the mid-card) within a couple of years. Sting ended up in a feud with Robocop as his second (no lie). Luger feuded with "The Blackmailer." And Callous and Austin went on to have pretty good careers in another promotion. It's worth noting Flair (and others) had some good feuds in these early days, but the first few years of WCW are not known for using the talent as a whole correctly.
Compare that with TNA now. Bully Ray has a good story right now, but who else? AJ Styles had something, but that died a horrible death during his in-ring promo last week. The X Division is a joke. The tag division would be a joke but there aren't any actual tag teams in TNA, just random singles characters stuck together with zero logic behind the pairings. Most of the card is adrift in nothingness. Even the usually captivating Knockouts have lost their charm. This isn't a talent problem, it’s a management/creative problem. There's plenty of talent on the roster, just like WCW had, but they are being used poorly, just like WCW did.
Expanding too fast and a media giant purchase: As mentioned above, JCP was ultimately purchased by Ted Turner once the company was about to collapse under its own weight and debt. Crockett's money problems were many, but expanding too fast was one of the driving factors of the company's collapse. Turner, not wanting to see wrestling disappear from his channel, purchased the company for that reason.
It certainly looks like TNA may have expanded too soon. It pains me personally to say that because I was one of many voices calling for them to get out of the Impact Zone and take the show on the road. For whatever miniscule influence I have on the wrestling world, I feel bad about that now because while it has made TNA look better, it hasn't shown any increase in viewership while certainly adding a huge cost to the company. Lots of things are to blame for that, including the aforementioned terrible booking, but there is no question that the budget is much tighter than in the past and the biggest cost increase is in taking the show on the road.
Now TNA has not been bought by a media giant like WCW, but consider this: Viacom, which owns SpikeTV, bought Bellator and are seriously trying to make it a credible promotion. They have gone so far as to use their influence to get Bellator fighters to appear on TNA and be involved with the very top of the card. With all of that investment, would Viacom be willing to let TNA die off if the promotion reached that point? I don't believe they will. The relationship between Viacom and TNA is much more symbiotic than WWE's relationship with NBCU, and Viacom has a vested interest in making sure TNA does as well as possible. That may include purchasing the company should Panda Energy decide they have had enough.
Whether you think TNA is the WCW of 2001 or the WCW of 1988--or even some other struggling promotion from whatever year--there is no question that there are major problems in TNA. The lack of public information makes it difficult to pin down what the top problems are, but these are problems that are apparent just from watching the show each week. I am not predicting gloom and doom. After all, WCW of 1988 went on to become WCW of the mid-1990s that almost destroyed WWE. But there can be no question that TNA continues to struggle right now, and there are many who worry about the long-term health of the company because of it.
Questions? Comments? Anyone, anyone? Let me hear from you. Email me at email@example.com or tweet me @TheShoreSlant with whatever is on your mind.
And read my first work of fiction: The Following Contest is a Dark Match available exclusively on ebook for all eReaders, smartphones, tablets, and PCs for only 99 cents.
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