The other day one of my roommates mentioned how TNA is packed with “washed up WWE wrestlers” and we had a brief discussion about it. My argument was that TNA is not filled with washed up WWE wrestlers as much as it has become the landing ground for castaways from WWE, WCW, and ECW. For example, while Kurt Angle and Mick Foley achieved their highest levels of success in WWE, Sting and Kevin Nash achieved their highest levels of success in WCW. I would also argue that Scott Steiner and Booker T are, essentially, WCW wrestlers who had “stints” in WWE. Then you have guys like Raven, Stevie Richards, and Team 3D who, even though they were all in WWE or WCW for a number of years, are all essentially ECW guys.
Do you get my point? TNA has, essentially, become the retirement home for a number of these former world champions and guys who cannot find work in WWE. Which brings me to a recent piece of commentary posted online by ECW Founder and former WWE writer, Paul Heyman. In a post about Tommy Dreamer winning the ECW championship, Heyman comments on how he approached building local star power to invigorate his brand:
My goal was to make new stars. Our own stars.
Use the television-established [WWE and WCW] stars to make our own ECW crew more important than the castoffs we could find on the open market.
Easy concept, right?
Just because you’re on Vince McMahon’s TV show doesn’t mean you should mop the floor with our guys.
OUR guys are the pushed commodities. In other words, set a trend for the entire industry to follow, except for TNA, which still to this day has yet to learn the simple concept of having “branded” superstars on your own brand.
And in those few words I think that Paul Heyman has summed up one of the major problems with TNA. Namely, they are not creating their own stars as much as they are squeezing the last glimmers of light out of a variety of fading stars from other promotions. They are creating, for all intents and purposes, a WWE/WCW/ECW Lite product.
The problem as I see it is that they are creating this “Lite” product when the market doesn’t want it. Vince McMahon has already given the fans a “Lite” product in ECW and Superstars with talk of another show possibly coming on for Wednesday nights. There is no need for a two-hour show on Thursdays that gives you the same product that you’d find on every other night of the week, but with characters that you haven’t seen in a while.
TNA needs to “brand” itself with its own wrestlers. Sure, AJ Styles wrestled a little bit in WCW, but his major fame came from TNA. And while Samoa Joe made a huge name for himself in ROH, his national fame came from TNA. The same can be said of Awesome Kong, Velvet Sky and Angelina Love, the Motor City Machine Guns (best tag team ever), Beer Money, Taylor Wilde, Abyss, and even Matt Morgan. You have guys like Consequences Creed, Petey Williams, Black Machismo, SoCal Val, the British Invasion, Daniels, and Eric Young who are all waiting to sit at the top of the card and run the promotion.
I’m not saying that the promotion should write off Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, Sting, Kevin Nash, Scott Steiner, Booker T, Team 3D, or any of the other major stars that it has under contract. But there is no reason why these guys should dominate the top of the card. Look how long Kurt Angle has been at the top of the TNA scene with no substantial increase in their television ratings.
TNA should take the Heyman approach and use the major stars that it keeps signing to contracts as long-term enhancement talent for its own “brand” of wrestlers. What does that mean? Well, it doesn’t mean that these major stars need to always lose matches. They can win from time to time, but the TNA branded star needs to win the feud in the end. Almost like the bastardized form of the Heyman approach currently used by WWE to constantly have Triple H win whatever feud he’s in when it’s all said and done.
So here is the average fan’s challenge to TNA: build your house on the backs of AJ Styles, the Motor City Machine Guns, Awesome Kong, Samoa Joe, and Daniels. Use Eric Young and Black Machismo as the foundation of the future for your promotion. Don’t rely on the established stars of yesterday to make tomorrow; instead rely on these men to use yesterday’s skills and knowledge to enhance today’s stars so they can be the megastars of the future.
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