Saturday 23 August 2014

The Purpose of Impact

What is TNA’s Impact Wrestling show for? Most weekly wrestling television shows have a reason to exist. They’re there to encourage viewers to spend money on tickets, merchandise and upcoming pay-per-views, achieved through a combination of commentary team plugs, ads, compelling storylines and good matches. From the perspective of the channels they air on they’re there to be cheap to produce content that gets a decent rating.

How many of these criteria does TNA’s flagship programme actually achieve? Tickets to most Impact tapings and pay-per-views over the last few years have been free. That’s what happens when you base yourselves at Universal Studios where you can’t charge admission. TNA runs so few house shows that they can be covered by the announcers in a matter of seconds and they’re generally in venues that seat only a few hundred people. Not exactly a thriving area of business for the Total Nonstop crew. Even when these shows are mentioned, which is infrequently and in a pretty haphazard manner, it’s not like TNA is making money off them.

TNA merchandise is similarly downplayed. In fact I can’t bring to mind a single TNA T-shirt. My overall impression of the company’s clothing output (which is a significant money-maker in wrestling) is that swirls and drab colours with the occasional bit of diamante lobbed in for the covered market look. The sort of thing you might find in River Island.

TNA DVDs are non-existent beyond the bog standard PPV releases. When was the last time they put together a documentary on someone? I know it costs money but if it were done well enough it could actually get them – gasp – a profit. TNA has shown aptitude with video packages in the past and has more than enough former WWE staff who would have knowledge of doc production. They should put their resources to better use. If they stay in business that is.

Tune into Impact and you can see such fresh matches as the Hardy Boyz v Team 3D.
Some people would be adamant that TNA has compelling storylines. I disagree, and would point out that TNA doesn’t get a strong enough viewing figure for their current approach to be deemed a flourishing success. Their plots are either a swift jump onto the latest WWE bandwagon or something overly drawn out and not interesting enough. They’ve got a pretty good roster and could put on good matches most weeks, but don’t do so nearly enough. There’s not a coherent style and approach that sets the company apart. I’ve written this before.

Impact does hit a couple of the criteria. It’s relatively cheap and easy to make (as all wrestling TV shows are compared to dramas and documentaries) and was, before the move to Wednesday nights, attracting a healthy, growing audience. But is this enough of a reason for a wrestling company to exist? Trading week to week just to get a decent TV rating? I don’t think so.

The only companies it's reasonable to compare TNA to, operating as they do in the same country with weekly television shows aimed at the same demographics, are WWE and Ring of Honor. Both of those promotions use their programming for a wider variety of things than does TNA. Both, in their own ways, plug merch, house shows and pay-per-views, with their respective style clear at a glance. People knock WWE for plugging the Network too much and while it can be overbearing that’s exactly what a free to view wrestling TV show is for: to make you aware of products on which you’ll spend money.

Impact doesn’t do this. And that’s part (but only part) of the reason TNA’s never caught on enough to turn a profit. From the outside it comes across as little more than a vanity project run for the fun for those involved at the top. There is no obvious reason for it to exist.

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