Following wrestling online, it’s a certainty that you’ll have witnessed arguments between groups of fans. Whether it’s on message boards, Twitter, Facebook, or even in the comments of YouTube videos, every day there’s debates between fans about wrestlers, storylines and promotions. That is not unusual – however, there are certain groups of fans who make the entire process a farce.

Last week I wrote about my experiences watching the 1PW promotion in Doncaster, England – a group which started out as a fun time, but quickly descended into chaos both for those in the company, and made the product no longer fun to watch. One of the comparisons made against 1PW was that it was “TNA-lite”. Unfortunately, that comparison would prove to be more than just a throwaway comment.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that the ongoing story behind TNA’s mere survival. From its inception in 2002, TNA was living hand-to-mouth, as their weekly shows drew in far fewer viewers than they’d initially thought, sparking the first of many reshuffles. In recent years, TNA has become nomadic as far as their television presence, moving off of Spike TV in 2014, to Destination America for 2015, before finding themselves on POP TV in 2016. During the same time frame, the company has seen their TV audience drop by around three-quarters, with some episodes of Impact drawing less than a quarter of a million viewers in the States, compared to the near-one million they were routinely getting in their Spike TV heydey.

When you add in the fact that TNA’s recent television tapings – save for their annual UK tour – have all been announced with just days advance warning, resulting in sparse crowds and a reliance on sound sweetening when it came to broadcasting those shows. Continual cutbacks in addition to the changes of broadcast partners saw the company put an end to their house show schedule, whilst some of the bigger names from their roster left for pastures new: Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Sting, Austin Aries, MVP and the (former/now) Dudley Boyz to name just a few. TNA had gone from “the place where you could see the guys WWE used to have but didn’t want” to “the place the guys used to be before going to NXT”.

All the signs were – and still are – there. Losing big name stars on big money contracts, and replacing them with guys who are still talented, but perhaps don’t have the same name value. Much like 1PW had when their financial woes forced them to cut back, losing the big name stars has also left TNA with a reduced audience. But it wasn’t always like that.

In 2010, TNA had their biggest chance to break out of the pack. The arrival of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff led to a lot of fresh eyeballs on the product. TNA had a chance to become something big, and perhaps even rival WWE when it came to touring. However, reliance on stars from the 1990s (and some even from the ‘80s!), coupled with bad storylines put a stop to any hope TNA had of growing. Val Venis may have been a somebody in the Attitude Era, but in 2010, TNA fans were not happy to see him… especially when his first match in the company saw him defeat cult hero Christopher Daniels. Many more moves like that – where “imported” guys beat performers that TNA fans had taken on as one of their own – followed.

Fast forward to 2016 then, and TNA found themselves in a situation where Matt Hardy held their World title for around two months (before recently dropping it to Drew Galloway; some seven years after he’d been declared as the Chosen One in WWE), whilst Beer Money reunited, won the tag team titles, then split up as Bobby Roode requested his release from the company. From the outside looking in, it’s very hard to look at that without wondering just how far TNA has fallen. As talented as Matt and Drew are, they have never been “the guy” in any company, and as the Hardys are on a collision course with each other once more, there’s seemingly nobody else in the company with mainstream name value. Sure, there’s Lashley – who has built a name for himself as a two-sport star, with his MMA career in Bellator – and of course EC3 (who has reinvented himself exceedingly well in TNA after being let go from WWE developmental hell as Derrick Bateman).

In the second half of 2015, James Storm was something of a regular on NXT television, but opted to return to TNA on a guaranteed contract. Previously, the vast majority of the TNA roster were (and still are) on pay-per-appearance deals, which don’t offer performers much in the way of security. Now, those select TNA wrestlers have some security, knowing that they’ll be paid a set amount, regardless of whether they’re used on TV or injured. The downside, of course, is that that puts extra pressure on the company to be able to make these guaranteed payments – and from a company who have repeatedly gotten headlines for being late on pay.

Of course, if you mention any of this to a certain section of TNA support, and you’ll instantly be confronted with naysayers. People who insist that everything is fine. That the stories about late payment were blown up. Low ratings? That’s because rainstorms must have affected a load of satellite viewers. Or perhaps everyone’s suddenly started streaming TNA to avoid being counted in the Nielsen ratings? Or perhaps it’s because the current broadcast partner du jour perhaps is too low down people’s TV guides.

And what about TNA’s nomadic status when it comes to broadcasting? The company leaving Spike TV in 2014 got a lot of play, particularly when it came to a theory that Spike wanted no part of Vince Russo. When an e-mail from Vince Russo was forwarded to Mike Johnson of (who then broke the story), all hell broke loose within TNA, as they sought to cover up Russo’s status in the company, before ultimately releasing him. Again, among certain sections of TNA’s fanbase, this was never the case, and TNA “wanted to leave Spike for a bigger broadcaster”.

Whilst the Discovery-owned Destination America was theoretically a bigger partner, and gave TNA more scope to expand, the cutbacks that TNA were forced to make really cut their legs out from underneath them. Starting with several airings of Impact, and extra weekend programming, Destination America did give TNA a platform to grow on. Unfortunately, TNA’s ratings started to slide – which led to the station getting rid of every TNA show bar Impact.

After months of stagnant ratings, reports started to emerge that Destination America had a get-out clause, which would have allowed them to cancel their contract after just one year. At around this time, rival promotion Ring of Honor started appearing on the same channel, acting as lead-in programming for TNA. Some thought that this was a sign of the channel looking to replace TNA with ROH (a product that they’d be able to get for far less money, since the ROH shows were already airing elsewhere in the US in syndication). The pro-TNA crowd were trying to believe that instead of replacing TNA, Destination America were going to build a “block” of wrestling content, and have each company build off of each other.

In truth, neither happened. ROH left Destination America and instead took their show to COMET TV (a station owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, who also own ROH…), whilst TNA were given their notice. For the second time in a year, TNA were looking for a new home.

Which leads us to today. Coming off the back of the company’s annual tour of the UK, including a show at Wembley Arena that drew a reported paid-crowd of 2200 fans (at a building that was once a 10,000-sell-out for the company), the company left just eight days notice for fans to plan to get to Universal Studios in Orlando for a new batch of TV tapings starting on March 15. With new reports of TNA looking for fresh financial investment emerging, it’s easy to join the dots and suggest that the reason behind the late notice for TV tapings were all down to the almighty dollar. Whilst taping a block of Impact episodes in short notice may save the company money on repeat flights for talent and production staff, it also opens them up to an increased expenditure for talent that are paid per-appearance (with each episode of Impact they appear on counting as an appearance – not bad for those guys who appear on three episodes taped in the same evening!)

If that were the case, then this would likely be the worst that TNA has ever been. In spite of constant cutbacks, and taping increasingly-long fate-tempting blocks of TV, looking from the outside in, TNA seems to be in even more dire straits. As a wrestling fan, any promotion closing is bad news – regardless of any feelings you may or may not have for TNA. However, for a company that started out as a true alternative to WWE, TNA has spent the last six years morphing into a clone of WWE – which is ultimately the root cause of their failure. There are undoubtedly wrestling fans out there who’ll watch anything; but to grow you need to be unique. At no point, nobody in TNA seems to have thought “there’s already one WWE, why does the world  need a second, poorer version of it?”

For a company that’s had fourteen years to figure this out, it’s quite hard to watch. TNA may not be dead, but they’re certainly circling the drain – and until their very culture changes, no amount of format relaunches or high profile signings will change things.