Tuesday 1 July 2014

Total Non-Stop Extreme Action Championship Wrestling

Remember back in late 2000 and early 2001 when ECW had a loyal fanbase but couldn’t get a television deal for love nor money? That’s basically like TNA now.

This isn’t to say that Total Nonstop Action is as popular or as influence as the Extreme outfit was. It isn’t. Even at the end of its life ECW was doing things that would influence the wrestling business at large and had access to numerous wrestlers who would go on to greater significance in other promotions. If TNA were to shut down tomorrow some of their roster would move on to work in other places and probably achieve more than they have under their current employer but there’s nothing being done by TNA that’s going to influence any other wrestling promotion.

Yet I still make the comparison between ECW and TNA. Because the situations are similar. TNA’s contract with Spike TV expires in October. A new deal has yet to be announced, which means it’s not been struck because if it had been Dixie and co would be crowing about it. The situation’s very ECW. Without a new TV deal TNA isn’t going to survive, because once a wrestling promotion has made the leap into producing regular television shows and become reliant on the level of notoriety and revenue that brings it’s very difficult to reformat.

This will be particularly true for TNA, who have never really been anything other than a promotion built around the idea of weekly broadcasts. Even when they started out with their weekly pay-per-views in 2002 this was the case, they were just making themselves available via a (slightly) different medium. If ECW, a company that had for a significant amount of time existed running monthly shows at a single venue, couldn’t overcome the lack of TV exposure and the inability to pay debts that that entailed TNA doesn’t stand a chance.

This is not exciting wrestling programming in 2014.
TNA has, bafflingly, a small but incredibly passionate and loyal fanbase. But that still won’t be enough to save them. Unless said fanbase organises some sort of Kickstarter project to keep TNA funded. But that’s unlikely and would require an obscene amount of money to work. To be honest I think most of TNA’s loyalists are smart enough to know that TNA simply isn’t worth that amount of bother. Maybe they could find a new home, but at this point that’s looking pretty unlikely too thanks to their humdrum viewing figures and uninspired creative direction.

There’s a very real possibility that Spike have, for whatever reason, decided to go with Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling as their new provider of wrestling programming. I imagine there’s some sort of contractual stipulation in place that allows a new deal being announced before a current one is expired. The closer we get to October the likelier I think it is that GFW are set to replace Impact. Ideally with a show called Feelin’ the Force.

This brings up the question of why Spike would want an untested group like Global Force over an established entity like TNA. The argument for TNA is that it can be relied upon to attract a regular viewing figure to the channel every week, and that it’s had success in the past which could, in theory, be regained at some point in the future with enough work. The argument for Global Force is that it’s something new, which means it can be presented as fresh and exciting without being tied to the preconceptions that come with TNA. Company founder Jeff Jarrett has a business history with Spike and, perhaps most importantly, could argue that he has plans and ideas that will attract fresh eyes to wrestling on Spike TV, something that TNA has failed to do in their years of struggle to present themselves as a worthwhile number two promotion.

Spike probably wants to keep wrestling on the channel. It’s relatively cheap to produce and will always get viewers. I suspect they’ll go with GFW. TNA have demonstrated that they only know how to tread water. With GFW there’s a chance of change for the better. And who doesn’t want that?

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