The problem TNA faces here is the same one it’s always faced. It needs to find itself an identity.
It’s possible Spike is happy for TNA to be a very low budget imitation of WWE, getting the low viewing figures you’d expect such an uninspiring mission statement to generate. It’s possible that a new TV home would feel this way, happy to have a relatively cheap pseudo-sporting programme to attract a sliver of a specified demographic.
This attitude would explain a great deal but it’s not really much of an identity for TNA. And it’s not one that’s going to lead to a strong business model. If the last few years are any indication it’s not even enough to be a workable business model.
There are a variety of directions TNA could take to hook some fresh regular viewers. The first is getting rid of the bulk of their roster, hiring a bunch of young lucha-influenced guys and presenting themselves as the home of daredevil wrestlers who will thrill and excite with their planchas and rotation splashes. Then they could frame the introduction of new wrestlers with realistic, relatable characters and gimmicks with video packages in which the newcomers explain their character’s motivations and goals, keeping things clear and simple. The in-ring style is what the group flirted with in its early years with the X Division, although it ultimately took the route of building around ex-WWE and –WCW names instead.
|A picture of Low Ki. Because why not, eh?|
They could embrace their rep as a WWE tribute promotion and attempt to emulate the style of what is arguably WWE’s most successful period: the Attitude Era. On the surface that would mean more chair shots, swerve turns, blood, swearing and a greater emphasis on gimmicks. At a deeper level it would see the group understand the need to elevate new stars and have everyone on the roster doing something. Enough people argue for a return of the Attitude Era that it has to be a feasible option for TNA. It wouldn’t allow them to grow a great deal, but it might attract fresh eyes and allow them to increase their audience as their work out a direction in which to develop, taking their existing and new fans with them. Just as importantly, it’s an approach that WWE are definitely not going to go back to.
The direction I personally think they should take is emulating the early years of Ring of Honor. There the matches were what was important, rather than gimmicks and storylines. That more simplistic approach would allow TNA and its writers to strip away the fripperies that currently clutter up Impact. It could also allow them to trim a name or two from their writing unit. That’s probably desirable to a company looking at shrinking (again). And it would fit their current roster nicely.
Emulating old ROH they could make offers to guys like Paul London and Brian Kendrick to work alongside their existing crop of former Honor talents Low Ki, The Wolves, TJ Perkins, and, of course, Samoa Joe. That roster coupled with TNA’s underrated production values and backstage approach could allow them to look fresh and new. It wouldn’t alienate their existing fans (certainly not in any concerning number) and would stand a chance of attracting new eyes. The style such a roster would work is also one wholly compatible with the standard indy style, meaning that new hires could be slotted in with a minimum of concern and fuss.
None of these ideas are long term solutions for TNA. But they would provide a more coherent, recognisable identity than what the promotion currently offers. That would allow them to stick around long enough to come up with something original with a wide (preferably wider) appeal.