A couple of weeks ago I posted about WWE’s inadequate developmental system. For a company their size one feeder promotion cum training facility is not enough. But at least they have something in place.
TNA, the company that so desperately wants to be taken seriously as North America’s number two wrestling promotion, has no system in place for developing its own in-house talent. They have (or have had) agreements with independent promotions and regularly hold tryout sessions for young hopefuls already working in the business (who have to pay for the privilege of being considered for a job, ludicrously) but there’s no official feeder promotion in place.
With the wrestling business the way it is it’s not a good idea to be operating without a reliable source for new talent. Any promotion hoping to operate on a national stage needs a training facility it can rely on to feed the stars of tomorrow onto the main roster. With no territories for wrestlers to work their way through, learning and improving along the way before making their way to one of the bigger companies, in-house training has become the best option.
When TNA first started up it used a mixture of established names from WCW and WWE and top independent stars. It was the best way to go: the big names got people tuning in so that the younger talent could gain air time and begin making an impression on the audience.
The number of big names being used should have gradually decreased as the younger wrestlers established themselves as the true stars of the show and moved up to the top of the card, being replaced by a fresh batch of new indy stars. That didn’t happen. Most of the young guys TNA brought in for its first few years are still there, and still being overshadowed by men who made their names in the mid- to late-90s. Nobody has really progressed much at all.
Admittedly, part of the problem comes down to the booking. Establishing the home-grown talent as the real stars of the show has taken a backseat to signing men and women released by WWE. That said there has been no effort to find a group of men and women that can be groomed to become the stars of tomorrow.
By starting a training promotion TNA would be able to promote matches featuring wrestlers that have not been seen in any other major promotion before. They would have stars of their own.
With talented veteran performers like Styles, Samoa Joe, Chris Daniels and Kurt Angle under contract Dixie Carter is spoilt for choice when it comes to trainers. Mick Foley remains under contract (until WWE dangles the Hall of Fame carrot in front of him at least) and is one of the best people to teach the art of cutting a successful wrestling promo. A developmental territory would even create a use for Hulk Hogan (beyond talking nonsensically for twenty minutes during each episode of iMPACT), as he knows how to get over and stay over as a babyface, something that is far harder to do than becoming a heel.
They’ve got the means to set this up, and it would only be helping themselves. So why aren’t they? With even Ring of Honor having a developmental system in place it’s time TNA started building for its future, while it still has one to build for.