Financially TNA is in a bad position right now but it doesn’t need to be the end. Smart handling and an aggressive business plan can save the company. That’s what I have here. I make no claim of credentials other than being an enthusiast, which you can see via my World Champions Podcast, my Weird of Sport podcast, or my many writings on wrestling. I consider myself a writer and writing, non-fiction and fiction, is a lot of what I do.
But let me be clear: this is not about TNA’s creative. What I’m laying out here is a business plan.
The thrust of the plan is that TNA has been focused too heavily on its TV product. There are reasons for this — according to reports, the majority of their money is coming in through TV — but what they’ve neglected is that their business has no base. No matter what anybody says about Lucha Underground’s success or Monday Night Raw’s big fees, pro wrestling doesn’t survive without a ground game. Again I’m going by reports, but Lucha Underground’s backers are reportedly investing very heavily in that product. That’s how they stay afloat without touring or managing contracts. I believe that TNA has gone far beyond that stage. They need to have an actual foundation as a wrestling company, not just a TV product, that can generate money and keep the ship afloat on its own.
TNA has not had meaningful touring for at least six years. They have very rarely made an impact on the wider wrestling world. Both of these things need to change in order for TNA to survive. That is going to take an approach that looks to the future as well as the present.
I will lay out these points in roughly the order I think they could be accomplished.
1. Create a Large Marquee Tournament
The Battle of Los Angeles is a huge buzz-getter every year for PWG. King of Trios is the same for CHIKARA, Cage of Death for CZW, and the list goes on. G1 Climax is a massive deal in Japan. CWC just dropped the world’s jaws. AAW, a promotion with a hell of a lot of steam lately, has just announced its own Jim Lynam Memorial Tournament. And even though WWE doesn’t run King of the Ring anymore, they’ve basically replaced it with both the continuing Royal Rumble and the newer Money in the Bank.
Why create a tournament? Because what we (we as in TNA) are promoting here is professional wrestling and a tournament gives people the best chance to see a lot of professional wrestling with something solid on the line. Not only that, the prestige associated with winning a grueling tournament counts for a lot on its own, and you can increase someone’s marketability even with an un-established tournament. As time goes on, every year you run it it’ll get more prestigious, more valuable, more marketable. It gives you something definite to advertise and to build up to, an event that can stand on its own as a draw and an accomplishment.
Lastly, as I’ll get into, a tournament that includes outside talent will help to strengthen TNA’s relationships. That’s something that will be very important to TNA climbing back into a strong position.
2. Focus on ‘Gotta Be There’ Rather Than ‘Had To See That’
I’ll be frank here in talking about the issues I have with the Hardys’ current #DELETE storyline: it delivers a lot of moments that will be just as good on the DVD as in person. It might be different in an age where we don’t have everything easily viewable on YouTube or even on tape, but even then, is this the kind of thing that will get me to pay repeatedly to see it or is it something that I would be okay seeing once?
I don’t use the #DELETE angle here to knock it, but I think it shows a flaw that a lot of TNA has to deal with: it’s based on creating moments that make you wish you had been there, rather than promising something that you should be anticipating. Rather than trying for flash title switches, TNA should be promoting big events that people don’t want to miss. It is very much a matter of presentation. The #DELETE storyline has gone on for maybe 5 months, the #DELETEorDecay part for around a month. Why didn’t we get three or four months before the first #DELETEorDecay match? In my view, it’s because the idea for this storyline was to create moments that we ‘had to see’, not ones that we ‘can’t wait to see’.
Both parts are needed, definitely. But there is too much ‘had to see’ in TNA right now and not enough looking for tomorrow. Too many swerves and not enough big fight feel. It’s the anticipation that gets people hooked, though. Even with #DELETE, the people that come on are those who want to see what happens next. Problem is that people generally don’t like sticker shock, so it’s much safer to build a ‘gotta be there’ than to hope people will spend on a ‘had to see it’.
3. Prioritize Live Experience
I think there are a lot of pressures that have resulted in TNA focusing very heavily on its TV product, dependence on rights fees being one, but TNA needs to make sure that its live shows are the major focus of its wrestling product. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, if a crowd is hot live, they’ll look good on TV. Secondly, and more importantly, if the show makes sense live then people will want to pay money to come back.
Monday Night Raw especially has created an expectation that a wrestling show will be live throughout but that’s really not realistic. TNA has tried several times to manage the two, chopping up its taping schedules or simply taping several episodes a night. The problem comes up when you change a champ and have to wait three weeks before you can update all your stuff. Again, in an earlier age maybe but today everybody knows all the results once they happen. What’s happened to TNA is that their live experience has suffered (from reports, attendance) as TNA does everything it can to make an okay product for television.
Ultimately, you should look at TV & all media as secondary destinations. Ideally, you want to bring people to the arena. If you give that all you’ve got, you’ll get not only those who are able to go but those who would love to go but can’t. If what you put on live isn’t worth going to in the first place, why would people be excited to watch it on TV?
4. Phase Out the ‘One Night Only’ Events
This is tied into the live experience point above but on a slightly different angle. The ONO events were begun as far as I can tell to fulfill obligations that TNA wasn’t able to do by putting on ‘in-sequence’ events. The idea was basically that the ONOs each existed on their own, not really a part of the rest of the TNA continuity. They didn’t do anything screwy like flash title changes on these shows but I’ve never heard them be strongly referenced. Lots of times they’ve included talent that only show up for that one event or that TNA knows ahead of time will be long gone by the airing. It’s that non-continuity which needs to stop.
When you don’t really know what you’re going to get when you go to a show, it decreases the ‘gotta be there’ element. When you have elements outside the usual continuity, you don’t know what you’re going to get between this time and next. The idea of separate continuities is very troubling for a wrestling program. If ONO events need to be filmed that’s fine but they have to be done in a way that doesn’t require breaking up the live show too much. They also need to recognize and be recognized by the ‘regular’ Impact episodes.
4. Partner with Jarrett’s GFW
It might be a little sour for some but, from what I can see, GFW has the best set-up to help TNA right now. What TNA is lacking is the ability to tour and show live crowds what its stars can do. That’s what GFW has. GFW does not have exposure. That’s what TNA has. We saw a bit of a relationship between the two before but there needs to be another exploration of it because TNA needs to be more aggressive with putting its wrestlers out there. Several TNA guys still work GFW shows, DJ Z being one.
I believe TNA does need to learn how to actually partner because, if I had to guess, the minor relationship before soured when TNA tried to big time GFW too much. I would try not to go halves with GFW on Impact but certainly giving them some sort of presence, perhaps as simply an affiliated league, would be a good enough get to trade for some sort of crossbranding/crosspromoting.
Right now I’m not aware of any other group that could really be a touring partner for TNA here in the states, but without that foundation, TNA needs to work with allies in order to get anywhere.
5. Create a Magazine Show
This sort of wrestling show was more prevalent in the 80s and, since Raw & Nitro, has pretty much fallen to the wayside. The best recent example I can think of is the way ROH on HDNet was usually presented, with frequent call-backs to the studio. But it should go further than that. Use the show to give updates on what’s happening within TNA and with its stars. Break ‘news’ in a way that furthers storylines. Give people a bit of promo & interview experience on it. There are a lot of pluses to using a magazine show format over the mainstream as-live product.
Two reasons stand out to explain why you should put energy into a magazine-type show. The first is so that you can focus your ‘taping’ dates on providing a top notch live experience. Because magazine shows are mostly studio produced and use clips rather than looking like it’s live, you don’t have to film things in the order that they’ll happen on the show. The as-live show format works best when you can capitalize on it fairly quickly, but it fails when you have a big wait between tapings and when you’re allowed to announce them. The second is that it’s much easier to cut in new footage to a magazine show, so if something happens last minute that doesn’t mean it has to be shoved aside. It also means that you can very easily give time to affiliated promotions and build those relationships.
Xplosion does some of this but it is more of a hodgepodge than a dedicated update show. The main destination of this show should be the internet, though getting it on TV would be great as well. Personally I would put more emphasis on this than on a two-hour Impact. A possible compromise would be to retain the two hour block, with the magazine show forming the first hour and an as-live Impact as the second hour. This would also let the taping events themselves become somewhat more compact and easier to sit through, so that you can retain your crowd heat which translates into a great looking crowd on TV.
6. Build Regional Relationships
As I said regarding GFW, what TNA needs in order to rebuild itself as an organization is to lean on its allies. What it has is a strong international name brand and a reputation, despite all the undoubted tarnish it’s built up over the years, as the number two promotion in the US if not the world. TNA needs to leverage this brand to do two things: get its stars on area shows and find new talent for TNA.
I believe TNA has really played badly with its talent recently. Rather than opening opportunities, it appears only to close them. TNA needs to make sure that its guys are very visible on the indy scene. That’s not to say that they should appear on PWG shows or AAW shows; those guys could be considered competition for TNA, especially since they have stronger links to other promotions (WWN & WWE, ROH & NJPW). On other regional indies, though? Should be all over it. And it should be TNA getting the credit for putting those guys there and putting on the great matches and helping more quality come to this regional promotion. That’s something that TNA can do but really has never done. Right now, it’s a must if they’re to succeed again.
It’s not just a matter of sending your guys out to do spots, though. Let them get in the mix for real. Especially if TNA itself isn’t running a lot of shows, let guys find places that’ll get them paid well and that they mesh with, and that they can form fanbases in. Those fans will start looking up to TNA as a big brother promotion, if not the top of the chain then certainly someone that they want their favorite local guys to get to, and a place they think they have a direct line to. That’s how a real base can start out.
And never snub your partners. A good name will always serve you. A bad name will hurt you once you don’t have the power to back it up.
7. Make Florida into TNA Territory
People say territories are dead. I say no way. What people forget when they say that is that it still costs money and takes time to get from A to B. If someone knows that a great live show is going on in in Placetown which is closer, they’re less likely to trek all the way out to Farburg to see a different show; they’ll see the Placetown show. The place to build up your base is the place where you’re filming your shows. For TNA, that’s Florida. So the plan is clear.
TNA will never outdraw WWE in the short term, that’s true. But TNA can damn sure outdraw ROH in Florida if they put their minds to it. That means making the people of Florida understand that TNA is there to put on a fantastic show in their area. This goes right back into prioritizing the live experience and it is key in creating an actual promotional base for TNA. Each live show is the best advertisement for the next one. If people actually enjoy their show, they will want to come back again, and again. But TNA needs to lower its focus from running everywhere. It has its TV, as long as it fulfills its obligations there that’s enough (and even in cases like, say, TNA touring the UK, TNA should make it a point to partner & cross-brand with a UK promotion rather than attempting to run themselves). TNA needs to make a place where they know that if everything else fails, they can run and make some kind of money. It needs a guarantee.
What I would do is find an arena or a small circuit that would allow me to run at least one show a week and do that consistently, barring major shows or foreign tours. This wouldn’t necessarily be TV tapings. This is just live TNA wrestling. Once that area can draw, it’s possible to branch out. But for the next 1-3 years the focus should be on promoting consistently in Florida.
8. Rebrand Away from TNA… in About 3 Years
I understand that there are several reasons that the letters TNA are toxic. Let’s start with it being a way to refer to tits n’ ass, which makes the company sound sleazy no matter how you explain the letters. Then there’s all the ill will that’s built up around the brand. Certainly there’s been a desire to move away from the ‘TNA’ name before, as we’ve seen in the prominence of ‘Impact Wrestling’ as the brand. But the reason TNA is still called ‘TNA’ is also the reason that we can’t just wipe those letters away: the brand has a value that the promotion itself does not. It is a harsh fact but it is the fact.
If you called this group the ABC promotion, no one would look at it twice. If you simply called it Impact Wrestling, not only is that less recognized as a unique brand than TNA is, you would certainly run into naming conflicts with other wrestling groups called Impact. They still need to be TNA in order to have the value of being TNA. If the brand is changed, the recognizability of the group will diminish, and TNA is not robust enough promotionally to withstand any decrease there. Their woes with television partners, draw, and revenue show that well enough.
So TNA has to stay. But it also needs to go. This is a process that will take some time. The first step to me is to split apart the Impact brand and the TNA brand. It might even be something as simple as going ‘TNA and Impact Ventures present Impact Wrestling.’ Let TNA be seen as the commissioning body of the promotion, similar to how NWA was when the group was NWA-TNA. Then, once TNA has rebuilt some internal strength, a new commission should be brought in to take the role that TNA once held. That way, in optics at least, we have not simply changed our name to something else. We’ve actually closed and pushed aside TNA and stepped into that void. That allows us to continue to use the TNA name & lineage, to use all of the TNA assets, while updating the brand to something easier to tell people about for the first time.
This is a plan that anybody should be able to follow and eventually bring TNA out of the badlands. However, to really make it work you need attention to the details and the day-to-day, and for that you want somebody like me.
Since there isn’t anybody like me, you should just hire me.