Source: Dave Richards from GoErie.com
– What: TNA Wrestling
– When: Tonight at 7:30
– Where: Tullio Arena
– With: A.J. Styles, Kurt Angle, D’Angelo Dinero, Awesome Kong and Hamada, “The Monster” Abyss, Desmond Wolfe, Beautiful People, “War Machine” Rhino, Beer Money Inc., British Invasion, Rob Terry, Amazing Red, and Dr. Stevie.
– Tickets: $36 (includes DVD), $20. On sale at Tullio Arena box office, Ticketmaster, by phone at 452-4857.
The Big Mo.
Sounds like the stage name for another muscle-bound, ripsnorting, ring-stomping wrestler.
Actually, it’s what Total Nonstop Action Wrestling might have on its side. Adding vintage, name stars such as Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair to its roster has helped the upstart professional wrestling organization gain attention and build momentum in its uphill quest to compete with the dominant World Wrestling Entertainment.
TNA Wrestling makes its first stop in Erie tonight at Tullio Arena with heavyweight champ A.J. Styles and Clarion University of Pennsylvania’s Kurt Angle — the former WWE star and U.S. Olympic gold champ — topping the card.
“We’ve been building for seven years so this momentum has been going on,” said Styles, 31. “Nothing’s changed for me. I’ve seen it coming.”
“It’s a building process,” added Jeff Jarrett, the TNA founder, who will also compete tonight. “We’ve had very good live attendance, and our merchandise numbers are through the roof.
“But the thing I’m most proud of is … our exit polls are just through the roof. A couple weeks ago, in Plattsburgh, N.Y., no less than 40 or 50 people told me over and over how happy they were that we came to their town and they’ll be back.”
Pro wrestling is littered with companies that went belly up, including the WCW, which tumbled after a strong start and was bought out by competitor WWF (now WWE) in 2001.
But TNA could be in position to give WWE a run for wrestling’s top belt, says Alex Marvez, who covers professional wrestling for Scripps Howard News Service.
“WWE has the market cornered in terms of worldwide popularity and being the No. 1 group. But they’re not everyone’s cup of tea and not ever wrestler can be with them,” said Marvez, who’s written on pro wrestling since 1989.
“There needed to be another place to spring up and TNA is the most viable of all these other groups. They’ve got a national TV audience and pay-per-view and international marketing deals, and exposure overseas. So, they have a legitimate shot of making it. But they have a long way to go to be mentioned as a competitor to WWE.”
TNA will soon know how it measures up with WWE. It moved “Impact” — which averaged about 1.6 million viewers on cable’s Spike on Thursdays — to Mondays to go mano a mano with WWE Raw on USA.
Their first showdown was on March 8. “Impact” culminated with Hogan and Abyss beating Styles and Ric Flair in a tag-team match.
“I love it,” said Styles, about squaring off against WWE on Monday nights. “It’s all about competition. It’s good for everybody. I’m excited about it.”
So is Jarrett, 42, a veteran of wrestling wars, who’s competed with WWF, WCW, NWA and WWE. With his father Jerry, he launched TNA Wrestling in June 2002.
“I’ve been around quite some time, and my family has been around wrestling promotion (for years). I knew there was a huge void in the marketplace and there was room for another organization,” he said. “So, TNA was born. And it’s been a long uphill battle.”
The rugged, good-looking Styles, who’s been with TNA from the get-go, emerged as its breakout star, winning multiple TNA triple crowns. He was with WCW when it was bought out by WWF but declined an offer to join Vince McMahon’s league.
“My wife was in college, and I wasn’t about to move to Cincinnati and leave home,” Styles said. “That wasn’t me.”
TNA came along at the right time and convinced him to climb aboard.
“I stopped believing what everyone was saying, that it was going to be over in a month or two,” said Styles, who is now managed by Ric Flair. “I realized this was something big and could grow into something special and it’s exactly what happened.”
TNA set itself apart from WWE from the start by placing wrestlers inside a distinctive hexagonal ring. Jarrett said the league also aimed to be as fan friendly as possible.
At each event, for instance, TNA officials look for the loudest fans and invite 20 to 25 of them backstage to meet wrestlers. TNA ring announcer Jeremy Borash hides a backstage pass before events.
Via Twitter, he discloses the location before the gates open, setting off a mad scramble. Wrestlers also meet fans and sign autographs before the card and during intermission.
“I’ve been in this business my entire life, and my family is in it for three generations, so that covers a lot of ground,” Jarrett said. “TNA is the most fan friendly and fan interactive show I’ve ever been a part of.”
Early on, TNA emphasized pure wrestling more than plot lines but that’s changed, says Marvez.
“They’ve become more of a soap opera than WWE,” said Marvez. “They use a lot of inside lingo that I think flies over the head of the average fan.
“I think, as much as anything, it has a fresh look — different style of camera and different styles of announcers who present the action as being much more legitimate, athletically. WWE, to its credit, has found a nice blend to wrestling and story lines. I think TNA is still in that feeling-out process.”
Ultimately, for TNA to survive and thrive, Marvez says it must groom new stars who excite wrestling fans instead of relying on faded-glory names such as Hogan and Ric Flair.
“In the long run it needs to create its own stars,” he said. “That’s what doomed Hogan’s last outfit (WCW). It didn’t create new stars, so the product got stale and it faded out.”
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Source: Dave Richards from GoErie.com