Sunday, 28 July 2013

Ask Dixie... Sort Of

Early last week TNA President Dixie Carter announced that she would be answering questions on Twitter. It was nothing particularly unusual. It’s something she’s done many times before. But this time was different. This time it was spurred to combat the rumours of TNA’s uncertain which had sprung up as a result of wrestlers being released and paid late. The Twitter Q&A was intended to be a way for Dixie to assure fans that TNA has a bright and prosperous future ahead of it and that it’s still very much a company worth supporting.

In typical TNA fashion things went wrong. The Ask Dixie hashtag fans were encouraged to use was flooded with questions, both genuine and not. Matters were made worse when Dixie didn’t answer anything, even the ones that were clearly real. An announcement was made later that she would get around to answering them but no timescale was given.

It’s left TNA looking amateurish. Again. So I thought I’d step in. I’ve wanted to do a Twitter Q&A of my own for a while but, well, I’m not sure I’d get enough responses. This seems like a good alternative.

Compiling questions wasn’t easy. #AskDixie has deteriorated into a seemingly endless stream of jokes at TNA’s, Hulk Hogan’s, and Dixie’s expense. I’ve trawled through and found some genuine questions. They’re reproduced here complete with poor grammar and spelling mistakes, along with the listed name of the asker (Twitter address in brackets). No permission has been sought or given from the original posters or anyone else.

So let’s begin!

Rob_WWEchamp (@WWE_ApexFella)
#AskDixie Why have Gutcheck if you've released several Gutcheck contestants in the past?

I don’t think there’s any reason for TNA to continue with Gut Check either. The segment has not seen ratings increase or produced any new stars for the promotion. The closest it came was Joey Ryan, and he famously didn’t win Gut Check. He was given an alternate storyline route on to the roster that could have seen him become a star for the company. A combination of his own shortcomings and TNA not having a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve with the master of the moustache ride meant that he fizzled out quickly.

For almost its entire run Gut Check has existed to fill air time. That’s not the approach TNA should be taking with their weekly show. I imagine they’ve stuck with it through a combination of habit and having no idea of what to replace it with.

The question specifically makes reference to Gut Check’s future with regard to previous contestants having been released. I don’t think the releases are reason enough to cancel Gut Check: the format could conceivably still produce a bankable star. But I don’t think it will and that’s the reason it should be cancelled.

Shawn Alexander Cage (@Legend_SAC)
#AskDixie When is Alex Shelley coming back as a heel to battle it out against Chris Sabin?

Alex Shelley returning to TNA is a long shot.

Since leaving the company last year Shelley has returned to New Japan where he’s formed a team called Time Splitters with Kushida. They had a six month reign as junior heavyweight tag champs and won the company’s second Super Junior tag tournament. As a singles wrestler Shelley has also had his first shot at the promotion’s junior heavyweight strap, held by Prince Devitt, arguably New Japan’s top junior star. These accomplishments actually mean something in Japan.
 
Alex Shelley's doing fine without TNA
 
In the States Shelley can work for any number of small indies and also fronts a rock band, so he’s not short of work. If he were going to sign up with a US outfit at this point both WWE and ROH look like better options for Shelley, for financial security and booking freedom respectively.

If Shelley were to return to TNA I think it would be to team with Sabin as the Motor City Machine Guns rather than challenge him for the title. Shelley v Sabin does not feel like a world title programme or match TNA would promote. It’s also not something that would benefit Sabin. If he’s to succeed in the champion role he needs to be booked against established names and defeat them convincingly. Shelley would return with the mid-card aura he left with, so all Sabin would be doing in beating him would be defeating a mid-carder, albeit one he teamed with several years ago. Hardly an accomplishment for a world champion

This brings me to…

W. Parks (@W__D__P) 
#AskDixie Why is Chris Sabin booked as world champion? You do know you have some of the greatest wrestlers in Angle, AA, AJ, Bobby, etc...

I agree with the sentiment here. Sabin does not come across as a convincing world champion. His victory was presented as a fluke and he’s already been overshadowed by both Bully Ray and the Main Event Mafia. At a time when TNA’s public perception is that of a company on its last legs they should be keeping the world title on guys who are proven to do well in the role (such as Styles, Roode, and Aries) or be doing a better job of building new guys up. That means not presenting title wins as flukes or chucking their top prize, completely out of the blue, on someone who’s been a mid-carder for years.

As far as the “greatest wrestlers in the world” line goes: Sabin is a good enough wrestler to be the TNA world champion. He just doesn’t look or talk the part. There’s more to being a world champ than in-ring skills.

Rave (@RaveHound)
#AskDixie Why is ODB restricted to refereeing and not wrestling? Certainly the division needs everyone now since people are getting fired...

ODB being the Knockouts official is a holdover from TNA’s attempt to rejig the division last year. Taryn Terrell was promoted to active wrestler when a feud and spot were found for her and I imagine the same will happen to ODB. I don’t think TNA will stick to having a dedicated ref for female matches when they’re making cuts. ODB is of more value as a wrestler.

Rave (@RaveHound)
#AskDixie Why do the Knockouts need a separate authority figure? Can't one person oversee the entire roster?

They don’t need a separate authority figure. But TNA does need an excuse to have Brooke Hogan on TV because she’s still “married” to Bully Ray. She’s locked into storylines for a while. I expect she’ll remain the Knockouts GM until she leaves the company or swerve turns and reunites with Bully, whichever comes first. When she vacates the role it’ll probably be dropped.

Sam Coolsome (@CoolsomeXD)
Could Lex Luthor slam Yokozuna? #AskDixie

I don’t think so but Dixie would say yes. She’s a massive Lex mark.

Glenn V Iseghem (@GlennVIseghem)
@TNADixie Will you sign Sting for another Year ? #AskDixie

This is a question I’m interested in too. Sting’s contract usually expires in the latter months of the year, which brings about the now traditional rumours of him jumping to WWE (which usually includes a mention of the Dream Match™ he could have with The Undertaker). Rumour-wise, this year will be no different because ‘The Stinger’ only ever commits to one year with TNA at a time.

I’ve written before that I think TNA should cut their losses and let Sting move on or retire. He doesn’t attract the ratings they need and is past his prime physically. He’s also a massive drain on their budgets, which are well known to be getting looked at right now (although it’s possible that Spike covers, completely or partially, Sting’s wages, which makes this point less of a concern).

There’s no reason to keep the guy around. But they will if they can. TNA has always been keen to have Sting around as a former employee of one of The Big Two. It makes them feel like they’re in WCW’s league.
 
I don't think he's going anywhere
 
Turbo (@JTurbo_420)
I can't stand #JosephPark & can't understand why #TNA is still goin w it. It's the worst gimmick in wrestling. A joke. #AskDixie @TNADixie

Joseph Park has proven to be a popular character and given the man who plays him, Chris Parks, something fresh to do. It also makes use of his impressive verbal skills, something the Abyss character wasn’t good for. Overall, Joseph Park has more to offer TNA in his comedy role than Abyss does in any role he could conceivably be brought back in.

As for the worst gimmick in wrestling: no. It’s not even the worst gimmick in TNA. Taz gets that award.

JMS (@OGTslay1974)
#AskDixie @njpw1972 now works with both @ringofhonor and @nwawrestling isn't this a mistake for@IMPACTWRESTLING 4 allowing this to happen

Strange phrasing aside, this is a good point. TNA should have been trying harder to establish working relationships with other promotions. They actually had an agreement with NJPW years ago but it just sort of fell apart.

Having a Japanese federation to send wrestlers to would be great for TNA. It would help their wrestlers to improve and grant them access to foreign workers. Those workers may not have name value to the majority of US wrestling fans (on whom TNA rely for TV ratings and pay-per-view buys) but that’s the case with any wrestler that gets brought in. If they were treated as important stars they’d be perceived as such. Using foreign talent is something that WWE doesn’t do. That alone makes it a good idea for TNA as it helps them to create their on product.

They could try getting something together with New Japan again. Failing that they could try NOAH or All Japan, both of which are having a hard time of things by all accounts. I’m sure they’d welcome access to TNA wrestlers, and TNA’s roster would gain an instant and much-needed boost. Working with any Japanese promotion could help them get a TV deal in the country, which would bring in some much needed cash.

Striking up working relationships with indies closer to home would be good too. It’s what should have been done instead of using OVW as the developmental system. TNA isn’t big enough to warrant a dedicated satellite federation, it’s another example of the company feeling it has to ape WWE in order to succeed. OVW a drain on resources that could be put to better use elsewhere. Allowing well respected independent promotions access to TNA’s bigger stars in exchange for regularly booking guys in need of improvement (basically the wrestlers currently posted to OVW) would be better for all involved.

Thomas Montgomery (@thomas_d_m)
#AskDixie Can we have no more Taz and keep Jeremy Borash on commentary?

How about no more of either and bringing back Don West?

Two J’s and 1 F (@jimmyyadig)
King Mo and Rampage Jackson, you signed them to TNA for what but you release Matt Morgan #AskDixie

Again, look past the strange phrasing and you’ll see that Two J’s and 1 F brings up a good point. For good measure he also tosses in a second completely unrelated one. Matt Morgan’s release and the hiring of King Mo and Rampage Jackson are completely separate issues with no bearing on one another.

King Mo and Rampage Jackson could work out well for TNA in my opinion. People against their signings will point out that they’re not trained wrestlers and that the money paid to them could instead have been used on the likes of the Young Bucks and-or retaining the services of people who’ve been released over the last month. Good points that are I don’t want to argue against, but I think they’re just outweighed by the potential for crossover.

If the wrestling matches of Mo and Rampage are promoted correctly they could attract a portion of the MMA audience both are known to. If Bellator, an MMA organisation that also has a show on Spike, advertised these wrestling matches on Impact then that would obviously help as well. Trying to attract a fresh audience to increase their viewing figures is what TNA should be doing, and one way of going about it is dipping into the MMA fan pool (because the sports are similar). King and Mo and Rampage Jackson stand a better chance of attracting new fans than the Young Bucks.

As for Matt Morgan…

Ed Kidney (@edk86)
@TNADixie any comment on @BPmattmorgan leaving TNA? He was great for you guys and patient but never got rewarded #AskDixie

His most recent run as the bodyguard of Joey Ryan didn’t make the best use of him but Matt Morgan had received plenty of chances to get over as a headliner in TNA before being released from his contract on July 9th. He never quite managed to do it. Which is a shame because if they’d given him a sustained push Morgan could’ve been great for TNA.

The release will allow him to head back to a mid-card spot in WWE or try his luck in Japan. Either is preferable to doing nothing in TNA.

Travis Hayes (@wrasslinfan2009)
@TNADixie any chance of you rebuilding the KO division? as there's only 6 girls there. #AskDixie

Throw a random question mark into the middle of a sentence and the finish with a full stop! Rock ‘n’ roll! Apologies if you’re reading this, Travis. It’s a good question.

TNA should have never stopped making the Knockouts a priority. But they did, around the time that Hogan and Bischoff came in. As Travis points out, their female roster is depleted at the moment. They could bring in new wrestlers from SHIMMER and SHINE but introducing them to the roster and turning them into recognisable faces would take time. If TNA decided on a batch of four or five new Knockouts now they could probably have the division looking pretty good within four months. Sadly the slashed budgets make a Knockouts revival unlikely any time soon.

Stacy Tyler (@bleedthefreak)
#AskDixie also push x division more and maybe bring jarrett back find a balance of old school tna with new ideas you can do it Dixie

You can do it, Dixie! That’s the spirit, Stacy. Never give up.

The X Division is about the only thing TNA has ever done that WWE doesn’t have a direct equivalent of. They had their cruiserweight division for a few years, but that was mainly there to give Rey Mysterio a surrounding in which he could shine. Once he was promoted up the card it quickly fell apart. Having a thriving X Division would allow TNA to present matches that WWE doesn’t. The XD can allow TNA to present themselves as a genuine alternative to WWE.

A Jarrett return isn’t something I’m desperate to see but it could freshen TNA up a little. He’s been gone for so long that he could come back as either a face or a heel. There are a handful of new matches waiting for him and even the tried and tested bouts with the likes of Joe, Angle and Styles would be things we’ve not seen in years. I’m surprised ‘Double J’s’ not been brought back to tangle with Aces and Eights. As a company founder he’s the natural choice to face off with them. There’s still time though…

Dylan Vickers (@dylan_217)
Is @August1Warning Low Ki. Sure sounds and looks like him. #AskDixie 

He’s done some voiceover work over the years so it’s not impossible that he’s been used to provide the voice here. That’s the sort of swerve Eric Bischoff loves. More likely though is that the speech has been put through a modulator to disguise who its owner is.

Who’s behind the videos? It could be Low Ki. It could be Jeff Jarrett. It could be anyone really. There are no obvious big names available right now. Everyone that’s not Ki or Jarrett that could create a stir is working elsewhere. So basically I think it’s going to be an underwhelming reveal. As usual.

Pro Wrestling Addicts (@prowrestlingsit)
@TNADixie are you a Jim Cornette girl #AsklDixie 

I think she’s more of an Eric Bischoff girl.

Blacktus Jack (Blacktus Jack)
Do you think a Cyber Sunday-esque PPV would be a good idea for TNA? Or would it end up like #AskDixie?

#AskDixie hasn’t been a complete failure for TNA. At least people are talking about them!

I think this could be a great idea. If promoted heavily as a night that would allow fans to “take control of TNA” it could net an above average viewing figure. Matches or options would need to be announced in advance for it to work and fans would need to be convinced that it would be a meaningful and memorable show but there’s nothing to stop TNA there.

Of course, it would need to be a live broadcast too (because everyone would expect it to be done via Twitter these days) and TNA has stopped those (Impact is now broadcast on a minimum delay of two hours). It’s worth noting that WWE stopped doing Cyber Sunday and Taboo Tuesday (the same interactive gimmick… but on a Tuesday!) after only a couple of years and never really attracted a massive audience, so perhaps it wouldn’t be as good an idea as I think.

The key is advertising really, as opposed to promoting a gimmick. Any episode of Impact could be loaded with big matches and be a success if promoted heavily enough. As TNA has trouble doing that I think the interactive idea would probably fail.

David Rooney (@TheRoonMeister)
Are you satisfied your company has made zero progress in a stale industry since bischoff and hogan joined? #AskDixie

The answer that Dixie would give to this would obviously be no. How could she be satisfied with TNA’s lack of progress?

Dixie has probably convinced herself that Hogan and Bischoff are still the best option she has. She likely has advisors and family members that say the same thing, and obviously the men themselves would tell her they know exactly how to sort TNA out.

Both men trade on past glories. Bischoff signed big names to big contracts when he was running WCW and had a hand in creating two phenomenally successful properties: the nWo and Goldberg. Hogan was the biggest star of the WWF for seven years, which made him the first of the industry. While his star has dimmed considerably over the years he is still a household name. That’s attractive to a promotion in TNA’s position.

In truth it’s obvious that neither has a clue how to make TNA successful. If they did they’d have done so by now. They’re there for paycheques. In Hogan’s case he’s also there to stay relevant.

Alexandre Lopez (@AlexandLopez)
#Ask Dixie @TNADixie @ShotimeEY Can we please give all titles to Eric Young and bring back @TheLethalJay

Yeaaaaaaaaah… this is here for the Jay Lethal part of the question. I don’t think I need to talk about why putting “all” of TNA’s titles on EY would be a bad move.
 
World championship material? I think not
 
Jay Lethal is under contract to Ring of Honor. He couldn’t return to TNA even if he wanted to. His spot in that company is better than the one he had in TNA, so I doubt he’s desperate to return. Money-wise he’s probably about as secure in either promotion. He’s not the sort of wrestler who gets paid megabucks. Lethal would be a boon to a reconfigured X Division but it’s not going to happen anytime soon. If TNA survives long enough maybe he’ll be back there one day.

Hunter Todd (@floowombat)
#AskDixie @TNADixie is there a chance that you would try to bring @FightSteenFight to Impact Wrestling. #killsteenkill

It’s the same deal here as with Jay Lethal: Kevin Steen is under contract to ROH. Personally I think Steen has the right mix of charisma, look and wrestling ability to be a star in TNA. That they’ve had the chance to bring him in before and never have makes me think the good people of TNA management disagree with me. His weight is almost certainly the issue. Steen himself has said that’s what he’d need to fix if he wanted to get a WWE contract. It will be that that’s holding him back from a TNA spot too.

That and TNA’s finances. It’s entirely possible ‘Mr Wrestling’ can earn more where he is than he would in TNA. And he may prefer the freedom.

Steen doesn’t need a move to TNA though. He’s fine in ROH and PWG.

Dillon Wilson (@DillonWilson13)
@TNADixie After Y'all Get Rid of those Thugs @TheAcesand8s Are Y'all Planning on Invading @ringofhonor . If So That Would Be Epic #AskDixie

A cross promotional storyline with ROH could work. Both companies have weekly TV shows and are based in the United States. Logistically it’s a sound idea. The time TNA stars Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels, among others, spent working for ROH could create some interesting scenarios in a TNA v Ring of Honor programme. Kurt Angle would probably mesh very nicely with the ROH roster too. In theory it’s a fine idea.

In practice it simply wouldn’t work. Both ROH and TNA are struggling to redefine themselves right now. ROH has culled its internet pay-per-views and TNA has cut its number of big shows from twelve to four. Both are public signs of downsizing, which is never a good sign for a wrestling company being in a position to work with outsiders.

On top of that it just seems unfeasible. The companies have very different approaches in presentation. ROH focuses on the sport of pro wrestling while TNA is happy knocking off WWE’s sports entertainment vibe and mixing in hefty dollops of reality TV. The matches we could see would be great, but the two companies wouldn’t mesh.

It’s not going to happen.

Mr Rab (@iTzRaBx)
#AskDixie why is Hogan still the GM?

Because he’s under contract and they’re desperate to keep him on TV, brother!

Clint Bracey (@CJB01_CHIKARA)
@TNADixie #AskDixie Why didn't you do shit with @JoeyRyanOnline? He was the next big star but I guess Hogan was jealous of the Stache

Joey Ryan got a good introduction thanks to his Gut Check-inspired feud with TNA personnel. It lasted three months and culminated with a contract-bestowing win for the moustachioed one at Bound For Glory 2012. The match was basic and a win over Snow didn’t exactly get him off to the best start but TNA did the best with what they had.

Sadly it all fell apart for Ryan after he got a contract. He slipped down the card and wound up forming a partnership with Matt Morgan that went absolutely nowhere. It’s true they didn’t make the best use of him but they didn’t have a reason to. Had fans been clamouring to see Ryan after his initial programme ran its course TNA would have used him. Ryan’s lack of exposure was for a reason.

I can’t say whether or not they were right to release him. He could have been a solid mid-card act under the right conditions but if they needed to save money he was an obvious candidate to go. As far as being the next big star goes that was never the case.

I cannot comment on Hogan’s feelings towards Ryan’s facial hair.

C├Ęzar Punker (@PunksBarrage)
who is biggest talent in tna ? #AskDixie 

Dixie wouldn’t touch this question. If she acknowledged it she’d say that the entire roster is talented. But I’m not Dixie and it’s a decent question.

This is something I touched on when I wrote about AJ Styles not being TNA’s leading man. There’s no obvious “right” answer. It’s a subjective question. If you think of the biggest talent in terms of name value then Hulk Hogan is the man I’d point to. As I mentioned earlier he’s still a household name and the face of the industry to an entire generation.

If you think in terms of wrestling ability alone then there are lots of people on the roster who could be the biggest talent. Bobby Roode, AJ Styles, Austin Aries, Kurt Angle, Chris Sabin, Chris Daniels, and Samoa Joe are all good enough to be considered the promotion’s best wrestler. But in-ring ability alone doesn’t make a star. Nor does TNA’s central criteria for roster additions: past employment in WWE. If it did then the answer would be a choice between Jeff Hardy, Bully Ray and Mr Anderson.

There is no one name that stands out when looking at the TNA roster. That the company has done such an appalling job of building up its own batch of stars (and it’s had more than enough to pick from despite the plethora of former WWE talent hired over the years) is the reason for that. In WWE the biggest talent is John Cena. He has no equivalent in TNA.

Rob Butler (@robbutler1984)
#AskDixie why was heyman not brought into the company when the big announcement was made. He could have made tna great.

I’m not sure which big announcement Rob is referring to. There have been a lot over the years and they’ve never really delivered on the hype.

I think this probably refers to the period in 2009 when it looked as though Heyman was going to be working in TNA. Although the subject of him working there has come up several times over the years it’s then that the two parties seemed the closest. Heyman wanted complete autonomy with regards to creative content. He wanted to be the guy the buck stopped with and he wanted to have input into all other areas, such as marketing, television deals, and expansion. I believe he also wanted to have TNA leave the Impact Zone and go on the road although I may be wrong there.

During the same period people at TNA were also talking with Hogan and Bischoff. It was those two who wound up getting the TNA gig, at which point Heyman pulled out because he had no interest in working with them. Presumably he believed that if they were involved he would not have had the creative freedom and lack of interference that he sought. If so he was probably right.

Think Heyman’s requirements sound unreasonable? I don’t think they do. Having worked in WCW and WWE, and having run his own promotion, Heyman would understood that what TNA needed (and, in fact, still needs) was one clear person in charge. That WWE has always had one man (Vince) in charge has to be one of the reasons the promotion has been so successful. It’s one man’s vision carried out as he wants. Heyman sought the same arrangement in TNA because he realised that a wrestling company cannot be booked or managed by a committee.

Could Heyman in TNA have worked out, then or at any other point? It’s impossible to say for sure but I think he’d have been in with a good chance of making it work. Free of the constraints of trying to manage everything, as had been the case in ECW, Heyman would have been able to focus more on the creative direction. As ECW closed down because of a combination of poor financial management and a failure to secure a new television deal, rather than bland or uninteresting creative content, I think the setup would have worked. Heyman would have had his say in the promotion’s financial decisions but there would have been a team to manage the minutia for him.

He could have made TNA great.

2 comments:

  1. Hey, two of my questions got on here!

    The Knockouts GM question is one I've been asking since Traci Brooks was established as the first one in 2008, so it's not just because Brooke's there. Plus they've already mentioned Brooke's RL engagement to a football player, so it wouldn't be too hard just to write her off at this point.

    My ODB question was actually answered on Impact last week, looks like she's gonna be feuding with Gail. Problem is, TNA only has three regular referees (Hebners and the bald one), so they'll prob'ly stunt cast refs for them again or something.

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    1. I think with a larger roster there's an argument to be made for a KO GM. Obviously the roster at the moment doesn't stretch to that. Basically we're stuck with Brooke until she's bored of the role. Is she even under contract?

      ODB and Gail I missed. I thought Gail was feuding with Mickie. Maybe they could build to a three-way or even a four-way with Taryn (she's surprisingly good). As for refs: I think they'll rotate through their current three on KO matches. I really hope they don't go for another tiresome Knockouts and referee storyline. Played. Out.

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