Pop-Ed: If I Bought TNA Wrestling

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The rumors have been swirling of TNA Wrestling’s demise since the summer. Recently, the Internet Wrestling Community have been abuzz with the rumors that the Carter Family, who took the company over in its fledgling days, are putting the company up for sale. Names like Eric Bischoff, Jeff Jarrett and yes, even Vince McMahon have been bandied about as potential buyers of the company. TNA President Dixie Carter denies all the rumors (of course she does), but this is professional wrestling and if there’s one constant in this industry it’s this — expect the unexpected.

Photo Credit: TNA Wrestling
Photo Credit: TNA Wrestling

The IWC seems to be in lock step pronouncing the company as good as dead…our own Michael Dworkis, whose hate for TNA knows no bounds, even said the company is in a worse state of affairs than World Championship Wrestling in its final days.

I’ve been a fan of TNA since its inception. Even though I never had the chance to watch their weekly pay-per-views that were filmed in Nashville, NA, I was a fan. I liked the fact there was an alternative to WWE that had mainstream and national potential. I was a fan of the fact they were giving some of my favorite indie workers a chance to shine on a larger platform and (hopefully) a larger pay scale. I’ve seen this company present some amazing matches and do some of the dumbest shit ever (Pacman Jones as one-half of the tag team champions…and he wasn’t allowed to wrestle by the NFL…come on man!). I feel this company still has a lot left to offer the professional wrestling world.

So I’ve decided to create a dream scenario…I’ve got an absurd amount of money and I’m going to purchase TNA. Now that I “own” TNA Wrestling, I’m going to fix it and make it better, so here’s how…

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1. Screw Sports Entertainment, It’s All About Wrestling…Spelled W-R-E-S-T-L-I-N-G (Thank you for the quote Terry Funk!): Despite all the aforementioned “stupid shit” TNA has done in its run, the in-ring product has always absolved TNA from all its sins. Sadly, in the waning days of the Hulk Hogan/Eric Bischoff regime, it’s all about sports entertainment. It’s shenanigans and gaga and The Hulkster on the mic. Even the Aces & Eights angle, which started out red hot, fizzed into an NWO-lite mess. It seems that Hogan and Bischoff’s grand plan was to turn TNA into a WWE clone. Well the plan didn’t work. So it’s time to go back to what brought you to the dance — wrestling.

TNA is loaded with great talent who can deliver great in-ring action — AJ Styles, Austin Aries, Chris Sabin, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode…even guys like Kurt Angle who’s nearing the end of his career can still go. And yes, you can get good matches out of Jeff Hardy. Let’s not forget Bully Ray, who’s probably one of the most underrated workers in the business right now. These guys, in the ring, can work wonders and blow people’s minds and it was their work and not any angle or storyline that made TNA special.

So let’s remind people that TNA is your destination for “total non-stop action” by filling two hours of Impact Wrestling with solid in-ring work.

2. Finding a Face for TNA: If I’m running things, I will take a page out of the WWE’s book — I’m going to make my company revolve around unique personalities that can wrestle. CM Punk and Daniel Bryan are the hottest commodities in the WWE — they are crazy over with audiences, they move a lot of merchandise and they’ve become ambassadors for the WWE in mainstream media and pop culture institutions. Outside of these two, you’ve got John Cena, The Big Show, Randy Orton and to a lesser extent Hornswoggle, Sheamus, Rey Mysterio and Kofi Kingston — all wrestlers who can represent the WWE and put them in a positive light outside of the world of wrestling.

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As of right now, TNA has no face to speak of. The company has tried throughout the years tapping the likes of Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, Hulk Hogan, Sting , Mick Foley and Jeff Jarrett. Do you see a pattern here? These are all older stars who’s glory days came while they were in the WWE. TNA has done a great of taking terrific indie workers and making them their own stars, but they’ve never really fully trusted these guys to be “the guy” in my opinion. AJ Styles has been dubbed “Mr. TNA” for years, but is he out there at the forefront as the point man for the media or guest appearances on talking head shows? No. Samoa Joe has been lauded as a “top guy” for years but again has never been given the chance to carry the company on his shoulders. Eric Young has his own TV show and Bully Ray is a favorite for NY radio but despite all this … the company hasn’t really put their complete faith behind them.

By establishing a homegrown “face of TNA” you’re establishing an identity for TNA, something I feel they’ve lacked. Look at other promotions throughout the years. World Class had the Von Erichs, Memphis (USWA) had Jerry Lawler, the AWA had Verne Gagne and ECW had everyone from Sabu to Tommy Dreamer to Taz to Rob Van Damm. Can we say TNA has those guys of that caliber, wrestlers who are intrinsically linked to the promotion? Wrestlers, who if they left the promotion would take a little bit of said promotion’s soul away from it? I honestly don’t think so. It’s time that TNA finally take the chains off these guys and create iconic members of the roster.

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3. Make The Promotion A Destination For Indie Workers: TNA was the destination for every indie worker worth his or her salt at one point. Now, guess who’s snatching up the best indie guys? That’s right, the WWE. El Generico, Chris Hero, Sami Callihan, PAC … all top indie guys that are now under WWE developmental deals. Who has TNA brought in as of recent — TJ Perkins (now Manik)? I like TJ Perkins but he pales in comparison to those the WWE has brought in. Also, TNA has done a rather poor job of developing its own talent from the OVW system — Wes Brisco? Garret Bischoff? Woof. What they need to do is start grabbing guys from hot indie promotions like Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Evolve, Dragon Gate USA and the old Chikara promotion and sign them to deals. Give these guys legit money and a national platform. By infusing new blood that has a track record of performing at a high level and is hungry to prove themselves, you’ll have a fresh, exciting new product.

4. What New Names DO you Bring in? One major stumbling block for TNA is that Ring of Honor has locked up a number of its talents to contracts. This prevents you from bringing on a number of top guys. However, if you could get around these contracts you’d definitely want to give Adam Cole, the current ROH champion an immediate call. The guy has future star written all over him — he can work, he has a natural heel charisma and he can talk, talk, talk. Then there’s Kevin Steen. If you want to establish a unique face for TNA give it to the most unconventional looking wrestling machine out there. While he’s a bit on the heavy side and rocks a t-shirt and shorts as ring gear, there’s the one undeniable fact — the man can wrestle man. He’s a monster in the ring, on the mic he’s unparalleled and he flat out is the best guy on the indies today. If you want to reinvigorate the tag team division, once a bright spot in TNA’s world, then you need The Young Bucks. Yes, they were once in TNA and were horribly misused as the terribly named “Generation Me.” These guys can are absolutely amazing in the ring and if given the chance they could print money.

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The X-Division is probably where TNA needs the most new blood. Wrestlers like Jigsaw (TNA sparingly uses him as Rubix), Green Ant, Fire Ant, Johnny Gargano, Chuck Taylor, ACH, AR Fox, Rich Swan, Ricochet, Brian Cage, Chuck Taylor or even agile super heavyweight Willie Mack would make this now dormant division a thing of beauty.

However, if there were only one wrestler that I could sign to the TNA roster, it would be Colt “Boom Boom” Cabana. He’s an universally beloved wrestler with an international fan base. He’s got an infectiously charismatic personality and would be an amazing ambassador for TNA. He’s got a mainstream outlet to promote the brand with his Art of Wrestling Podcast. He also can work with any kind of performer on the roster and deliver a high quality match. This is a guy I’d build my company around.

Bring ‘Em Back: You know who TNA dropped the ball on? Matt Morgan. The dude is a freak of nature, he can talk, he can wrestle and he’s another guy you can build a company around. TNA never knew what to do with him and as the new owner of TNA, he’d be the first guy I’d bring back. Others I would consider bringing back would be: D-Von, D’Angelo Dinero, Alex Shelley, Jay Lethal, Sonjay Dutt (fulltime) and Mickie James.

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5. Make Legends Mean Something: TNA relies way too much on stars from days gone by. With that being said, I think there’s a place for legends in TNA. I think if you use them like the WWE uses Chris Jericho and Rob Van Damm — bringing them back for brief, intense runs, you’d get more value out of them. So as “owner” I would allow Kurt Angle some time off and let him work maybe half of the year or maybe four months out of the year. This way we can let him stay healthy and not run risk of further injury. Keep Jeff Hardy out of the ring half the year and he’ll deliver high-quality matches. Reconsider bringing his brother Matt back and keep him on the same schedule as his brother and you could get him to help develop some younger talent. Hell, even bring Ric Flair back and have him as a manager for a few months out of the year. Make these guys special and not erode their value by having them work every week.

And maybe it’s time to tell Sting he should hang it up. Make him the commissioner, director of authority, what have you and allow him to be a guy on the mic who appears on TV every week and then maybe at most have him step in the ring once or twice a year. It’ll mean a lot more than having work every PPV.

6. Keep Everything Simple: Tape television in Florida, Las Vegas or the UK where you’re proven to draw. When it comes to touring work areas you know you can find an audience — the Northeast, Nashville and possibly the old Crockett Territory. Run four big PPV’s a year and add two “Clash of Champions” supershows twice a year to air on SpikeTV. Spend the money on the talent and not foolishly on touring in markets where you’re drawing half-full houses.

My suggestions are not perfect, if executed they could fail…but hey, it’s better than what’s going on in TNA right now.

My ultimate hope is that The Carters or someone takes the reigns of TNA and turns it around for the better. For the sake of wrestling we need a second promotion like TNA. We need an alternative to the WWE and wrestlers need a place to work.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites