As the new week started, news started to leak out of TNA’s potential sale – and although (at time of writing) nothing has been finalised, the details coming out seemed to indicate that the company destined for a warehouse was veering into yet another PR crisis.
With TNA set to run their latest run of Impact tapings in Orlando, FL at the end of this week, the vibes coming from the usual news sources sounded increasingly ominous. Delayed reports about how late tickets were bought for TNA’s last set of tapings made people jittery, and all of a sudden, talk of TNA being sold started to resurface. It got worse – as POP TV revealed that Impact would no longer get a same-night replay, instead moving it to an unforgiving Saturday morning timeslot, the PW Torch newsletter released details of just how cheap it was to advertise on an episode of Impact: $335 (on average, for a 30-second spot). Although wrestling is notorious for being cheap to advertise on (due to the perceived poor quality demographics that wrestling attracts in general), the Torch’s data was staggering.
Looking at the Impact that aired on March 29, the Torch reported that the channel collected advertising revenues of little over $18,000. In comparison, Impact’s lead-in show – a replay of “Days of Our Lives” – drew a revenue of over $44,000, averaging at around $1,100 for a 30-second spot. Even worse, it was reported that a thirty-second spot in an airing of the 1998 movie “You’ve Got Mail” would have set you back $406.
Add in news of TNA’s latest financial woes and impending office relocation, and reporters started to do the other kind of math: just what sort of deal did TNA have with POP? Regardless of whether it was an ad-revenue sharing deal or a firm licensing fee, TNA losing a West Coast prime-time replay timeslot (in exchange for an 11.30am slot on Saturdays, or 8.30am Pacific Time for those who aren’t able to get a West Coast feed) isn’t a great sign, particularly if you remember what happened with TNA and their last TV partner, Destination America, last year.
Now, we go back to the start of TNA’s time on this planet, and what was their raison d’etre? “We’re not WWE!” – and for a while, it worked. When the company was warm and as on-fire as they could get, they could get away with fostering the “us vs. them” atmosphere. Whilst not a large chunk of the audience, there was definitely a section of the TNA fanbase that took great offence at the idea that people could watch TNA and any other product. You had to pick – it was “us” or “them”. Unfortunately, that siege-like mentality seemed to come from within.
Going back to TNA’s issues, on Monday evening, the rumour mill spewed out another entry: TNA were on the verge of being purchased by a company called Aroluxe – a marketing and production company who counted on it’s staff, Ron and Don Harris (formerly WCW’s Creative Control, WWE’s Blu Brothers, and many other gimmicks… including “that team in TNA who wore t-shirts with the SS logo and Nazi tattoo’s”). Other variations on the rumour included a wacky “if TNA missed a payment to Aroluxe, then they automatically forfeit a share in the company to them” stipulation – which if true, would go down in history as the dumbest contract stipulation of all time.
As we stand now, I can’t help but wonder if TNA is just reaping what they sowed? Whilst in various stages of attempting, being, and then pretending to be a major national promotion, whilst running an ever decreasing number of house shows, the company has been schizophrenic to say the least, particularly in their handling of talent. As recently as last month, the company pulled EC3 and James Storm from WrestleMania weekend appearances, for an unspecified “network commitment” (which, if you believe rumours, was a tryout for the latest season of “The Amazing Race”). Granted, in wrestling, bookings fall through all the time, particularly when you’re working with another promotion. However, these changes seemed to annoy more than most: at a time when TNA were running zero house shows, removing talent from a third-party booking seemed to be petty (even if it was an audition for another TV show; the appearance of Brooke Adams and Robbie E on the 25th season of The Amazing Race didn’t exactly send Impact ratings through the roof, did it?)
But I digress. By not cutting their cloth as they went, TNA found themselves playing WWE whilst having the budget of a small independent group, and with even less goodwill than most.
Compare them to other indy groups: EVOLVE and PROGRESS. Granted, EVOLVE was founded by Gabe Sapolsky, a guy who had his fair share of TNA-induced headaches, but PROGRESS had had involvement with TNA as recently as 2014, with some of their shows even being taped and used as part of TNA’s British Bootcamp series. Both EVOLVE and PROGRESS set about doing business their way, without any audible attempt to segment the overall wrestling fanbase. In an episode of his “Tuesday Night Jaw” podcast, PROGRESS’ Jim Smallman even noted that people who go to his company’s shows are more likely than not to also be WWE fans; and as fans of both PROGRESS and EVOLVE know, that doesn’t mean having to openly acknowledge or pander to WWE in their own product.
Where’s the sense in the “us vs. them” mentality?
By embracing the culture of “togetherness”, both PROGRESS and EVOLVE have managed to get some form of relationship with WWE. On the other side, TNA have found themselves virtually persona non grata within WWE, to the point where they are as airbrushed out of wrestling history as Chris Benoit is in 2016. In the same planet where WWE is willing to acknowledge outside companies like New Japan… hell, even WCW were acknowledged in some weird form back during the Monday Night War – so perhaps TNA’s constant and needless barbs towards the WWE, in an effort to differentiate themselves, and their constant aping of prior gimmicks and storylines didn’t go unnoticed. As shocking as it may be for some to believe that WWE just didn’t see the Voodoo Kin Mafia, they were paying attention, and making sure that the company behind it didn’t enjoy any WWE-provided oxygen of publicity.
So, what’s next for TNA? If the widely shared belief is true, that something has to change in the next few days in order for the company to pay the bills and even make it to Orlando for the next set of TV tapings, then we’re unlikely to get to May with TNA in its current state. Different bookers? Different owners? Different creative direction? Hell, maybe even a new look?
Unless Aroluxe (or whomever) comes on board with a whole load of money, and a willingness to invest, we’re just going to see the same old product, with perhaps a slightly different logo and colour scheme. After 14 years, the TNA brand at this point is beyond toxic, with even the tweak to “Impact Wrestling” a few years ago yielding more confusion than anything else. If the budget is limited, then the only sure-fire thing that needs to be done is a rebrand of the company, as the talent roster, whilst not as plentiful as it was even three years ago, can still be built upon. Once a deal has been completed, we’ll be joining the legions fantasy booking TNA’s new beginnings, and where they go from there.
One thing’s for sure, if the new owners really are Aroluxe, there’ll be a lot of talk – and not all for the right reasons. Especially if the mainstream media pick up the twins’ SS-tattoo’d past.
– We’ll be keeping a close eye on developments within TNA in the coming days, wherever their future lies.