Welcome to this week’s edition of Headlines & Scrutiny. Today, a look at TNA business and how to survive, a review of the past week’s TNA show and all of the week’s news including Jeremy Borash’s weekly Shill and Alexis Laree signs with WWE. Before we get started, new email address: email@example.com. You’re encouraged to get in contact with me and send feedback, comments, criticisms and rants.
As has become almost a matter of public record, TNA business is suffering in several key areas. PPV revenue (I’d estimate about 43-45 cents on every dollar) and live event revenue (sellout in the Nashville Fairgrounds is about 1300, even when the show is at 700 that’s with at least 300 comps). The profit margin is non-existent and spending outpaces growth. It’s unlikely that other small revenue streams help balance losses in the end.
Most of this is unavoidable growing pain. Few months are given for something to get off the ground, but realistically, much more time is needed. In business, being able to attain a healthy profit margin in the first year is incredibly rare. In wrestling, it’s impossible. The losses are usually so great (multi-million dollar debt) that the companies are forced to go out of business. Not understanding how to promote wrestling was even more deadly.
So looking at that, one could say that TNA is doing well, or at least better than other similar startup promotions, namely the Jeremy Borash (“we gave them chicken sh*t and they gave us chicken salad”)/Andrew McManus-backed failure in World Wrestling All-Stars sad while TNA too big for its britches in the beginning, they have made significant changes over the past year, have decreased spending, and kept losses under the $1 million mark. Panda Energy gave a significant shot of adrenaline to the company with its investment in the TNA. The may be genuinely enthusiastic with the company but they’re generous investment in the company may become more conservative in the future, with Panda reporting significant losses over the last several years. Nonetheless, TNA has been able to adopt extremely well and provide a product just as consistent and original or even more consistent and original than WWE.
Within the company, they are said to be waiting for a miracle that won’t happen, hoping that overseas television deals and hoping that the one-cent idea will bring more people to the promotion and immediately help pad losses so far. Well, it’s a smart idea, but it won’t be worth a damn if they don’t give it mainstream advertisements. Mention in an email mailing list and on the broadcast is helpful, but they still aren’t reaching people outside of the company. That’s the only way, and there isn’t a shortcut. Since they’ve, embarrassingly, come close to giving up entirely on getting a TV deal, they want better buys on PPV. Just hoping for it won’t help them.
This past week’s show was the best booked of the last several weeks, was worth every penny, and helped to set the stage for future shows.
The part of the show hyped biggest going in was the Ultimate X match between champion Chris Sabin, Frankie Kazarian and Michael Shane. Anyone who’s been watching TNA from the beginning would agree that the X-Division, which originally brought notoriety to the company, has been underwhelming. I believe that’s because it’s been sacrificed for the sake of shows being booked way too full. The total nonstop action feel of every show wouldn’t be stifled in the least by having less matches, longer matches, with the same volume of angles interspersed between. As for this match, it quite frankly could’ve gone anyway but TNA prevented this from going down in the annals of “Wrestlecrap.” The poles and line were very sturdy and were able to handle 250 pound grapplers. By necessity, TNA has stumbled into a very successful format of starting the show off with cage and Ultimate X matches, it brings a new element to the shows instead of the increasingly stale method they use on WWE RAW, which I think has helped hurt their ratings. As for this match itself, it was very very good and it’s nice to see that for one, so many matches are going into the hall of must-sees for the year, but also that TNA is making as much a contribution to that as WWE. Yes, as you can see from past shows, they have ups and downs, but even as the underdog, they are coming through with shows that often tie with and surpass the quality of WWE shows. Shane would surprisingly win the match against champion Sabin and Frankie Kazarian, who I expect to disappear in the near future.
There actually were three small segments on the show that I didn’t like. First was Aj Styles cutting a promo next to Vince Russo at a hotel pool. I think NWA:TNA needs to understand that Vince Russo’s manager, not his father. The segment actually ended with Aj taking off his robe, saying, “look at me” and then doing a flip in the pool. The people need to understand that Styles is Russo’s pawn, but again, not his 15-year-old son. Conversely, their presence later in the show was well done. The Erik Watts interview was poor, not because Watts is bad, that’s not what I’m trying to imply, but it was incredibly rambling and confusing in writing. The purpose of the interview, apparently, was to explain why Eric Watts has the position he has, and what exactly the position is. That would’ve been nice information to present up-front. He compared NWA-TNA to AOL Time Warner which is wrong (1) because the example he then presented wasn’t anything like AOL Time Warner and (2) because their business is doing poorly. Basically he said TNA is a promotional company that decided to do wrestling, they own 51% of NWA:TNA. So they got the NWA company to do the wrestling as they take care of the promotion. TNA, however, wasn’t satisfied that NWA was doing everything well so they hired Callis to look up on NWA. I’ll try to forget that was said. Tenay asked how he got the job. He said they didn’t want a old guy that played favorites like the “politics up North” so they brought him in. A young guy who plays favorites? Seriously though, isn’t the fact that Watts still has a job the result of politics? No, he was right, that’s just stupidity. He said something about Jarrett being his brother because they both had promoters for fathers and then went about explaining his actions over the last few months (heel-face turn) even more illogically than the rest of the interview. He said Jarrett helped to hold him down or something. He also said Don Callis was gay. The last segment was forebodingly disturbing with Roddy Piper’s music and “He’s coming.” Actually I don’t mind Piper if he doesn’t decide it’s a forum for his beliefs and if he doesn’t wrestle. Otherwise, Piper and legends like him do have something to offer. Piper is established and will help TNA become a legitimate WWE competitor. If he’s used effectively, than it’s to build up new people. That’s a smart formula.
The least effective big angle on the show was Sonny Siaki bringing a hearse in, claiming it represented the dead career of D’Lo Brown before Brown came out of the coffin and attacked him. Siaki can be extremely limited at times and he comes off like a low-rent version of the Rock.
Some other matches from the show saw Johnny Swinger and Simon Diamond go over America’s Most Wanted in a good eight-minute non-title strap match. AMW is a very good asset and they are worth the long-term contract they were offered. The new New Church (see news item after review) comprised of Slash and Sinn went over CM Punk and Julio Dinero in a passable seven-minute match. After seeing Punk in Ring of Honor, Major League Wrestling and here, I can say he’s the most underwhelming here but I think that if given the shot, he can make it work very well. He can’t be stuck in a tag team forever, but you have to start somewhere. He will be worth the investment down the line, from where I sit. Shane Douglas did the run in, and him and James Mitchell, I hate to say it, are and can be even more so, dynamite. Douglas’ match last week with Raven was OK and average in the ring is the best Douglas can do. As a midcarder, they can keep him and he can be effective. However if it comes down to him vs. the company, TNA needs to make the decision that one bad apple spoils the bunch. Jeff Jarrett and Erik Watts went over Christopher Daniels and Legend (not a good name) in a pleasant (how about that…a pleasant wrestling match) eight-minute match that got over and sold what needed to be sold. Raven then won the 12-man gauntlet (13 except Jarrett was abducted a few minutes earlier). It was better than I expected, but I didn’t like the idea of having it as the main event. Small grievance.
Next week: Aj Styles wrestles the winner of the Gauntlet match…none other than Raven, Dusty Rhodes goes, uh oh, one on one with Glenn Gilberti, D’Lo Brown against Sonny Siaki and Michaels Shawn (Michael Shane) defends the X title for the first time.
Show value: $11.50. This was one of TNA’s good shows because the booking was good and the wrestlers were allowed to, who would’ve thunk it, wrestle.
There is some late-breaking news coming out of Wednesday’s show. Brian Lee, of the New Church group managed by James Mitchell, did not show up to the building. His match, in which he was to be teamed up with Slash against the Gathering, did not take place as planned, with Sinn, a wrestler recommended to the company by one of their newest agents, Scott D’Amore, taking his place. On the PPV, Mike Tenay described him as the “new member” of the New Church, but without much elaboration.
With this event, and past transgressions against the company, including some drug-tied allegations, Lee was borderline close to already being out of the company. However, due, apparently, to his relationships and close ties with people like Don Harris, who works in an administrative capacity with the company, he was able to continue earning his pay as a member of the New Church.
Jeremy Borash news and commentary. Borash says that “TNA Xplosion has improved to the point where we are thinking of renaming the show Xpansion. Stations are being added weekly, and we hope to have some very good news to cable television subscribers in New York City and Philadelphia soon.” I admit that TNA has done a good job of adding more markets but as someone who has looked into the value of every channel and market, things are not as good as it seems. Most of their national exposure comes from one out-of-the-way channel, Urban America Television Network Affiliates, that has access to several markets, and the same dilemma UPN did which was having high-number channels that people would rarely look at. As for the top 10 markets, they have cable and a small non-cable station in New York, nothing in Los Angeles (huge issue as not only is LA the second biggest TV market, it is a very important wrestling city with the fifth-largest viewer ship for SmackDown and three fairly large active indy promotions), nothing in Chicago, small independent in Philly, nothing in the San Francisco Bay Area, nothing in Boston, UATNA affiliate in Dallas, nothing in Washington DC, UATNA affiliate in Atlanta, nothing in Detroit, and finally Houston, TX, which is #11, but the largest SmackDown market, where they have, again, only a small low-frequency station, a UATNA affiliate. TNA is comparable to Velocity but if they want it to work, it needs to be national and on good network affiliates. But, risking sounding like a broken record in only the third column, it’s for naught if people still have to come up with the ten bucks based on nothing like a RAW or SmackDown. It’s also obvious that despite TNA begging to be added in new markets and “Xpanding” buys have not increased similarly, much less exponentially with that exposure. “Xplosion also has a new look and feel to it,” writes Borash. “as we now have lots of backstage interviews that are shot during the show with the wrestlers as they come back through the curtain. It is a bit different, and really is worth checking out.” I don’t watch Xplosion, but I still don’t feel as if I’m missing something. Maybe that’s just me.
Since DirecTV viewers won’t be getting the one-cent special, TNA is offering a 10 dollar special for them (instead of no PPV at all) with the Best of TNA Championship Matches which will be a preview of an upcoming DVD. Borash says this, “Last weekend Jarrett spoke before a large gathering of cable television operators in Canada. Getting the word out on TNA is the absolute key to our success. I think the product is thereº the awareness now needs to grow.” If the goal is to promote your best product on PPV each week, TNA is far from “there.” What Borash is saying is that if people heard about TNA, they’d watch it every week. The product isn’t that good, let’s not kid ourselves. It’s pretty close to 50/50 but people don’t pay $40 a month for 50/50. TNA, as mentioned last week, is expecting to close a video game deal with a “certain video game company.” The Dish Network doesn’t want NWA:TNA programming because they feel they have “enough wrestling,” according to The Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter.
Alexis Laree, who is one of three members of TNA’s the Gathering (Raven’s flock with Ms. Laree, CM Punk and Julio Dinero), has been signed to a WWE Developmental contract and will likely move, soon, to the Lexington, KY area to report to OVW. Laree, 24 as of the end of this month, is one of a select group of people consistently booked with NWA:TNA since the first show over a year ago. She was fundamentally schooled in wrestling at the KYDA Pro Wrestling Training school but also was a part of the infamous Dory Funk Jr. “Funking Dojo” as well. Her first major promotion to be affiliated with was Maryland Championship Wrestling (MCW) but has since performed with many of the largest indy promotions, including the GLORY women’s wrestling promotion and Ring of Honor. She has had a tryout with WWE recently.
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