The Reality of Wrestling: TNA on SpikeTV
By Phil Clark
Note: Any people who want another reason why computers suck, here’s one for you: My friend and co-writer on this column J.D. Speich was unable to complete his part of the column this week due to a computer error (freezing) with no time to get it done. Our apologizes as hopefully I’ll do just fine going it alone this week.
NWA-TNA was given little chance for survival when it was formed in 2002. The weekly pay-per-view system was something new in the industry, but no one really paid it much bother. Three years later, and the company that nobody thought would be around is still around. So much so that they will make their second venture onto television in less than a week. Last year, they inked a deal with Fox Sports Net that lasted exactly one year. Since then, they’ve been dark, minus episodes of IMPACT! that have aired on their website. While TNA has anything but a lucrative time slot (10PM CT on Saturdays and re-runs the following Monday at 11PM CT), there is still wonder as to how far Spike is going to with the little company that could. The possibility of a Monday night timeslot has been the subject of speculation since the Spike deal was first announced. Whether or not it will actually happen is left to any ratings success that the first month or two of IMPACT! has.
P.C. Says: TNA will get a Monday night slot in six months
TNA has gained a lot of momentum in the past year with both fans and with the IWC (internet wrestling community). It used to be that next to nobody (minus Scott Keith for a few months) other than Larry Csonka did reviews or rants for TNA pay-per-views. Once Fox Sports Net came into the picture, the IWC began buzzing. People began making a similar buzz, which resulted in ratings that ranged between 0.3 and 0.5 for each weekly episode. While these numbers didn’t set the world on fire, for it to gain this while being on a basic cable network with next to no advertising building up to the debut and being aired on Friday afternoons, it says a great deal about the popularity the company had gained from 2003-2004. Now, look at the fact that Spike has been airing TNA adds for the last month and the fact that TNA’s pay-per-views have stomped the E’s (quality wise) nine out of ten times that they have gone head-to-head in the same month. That is one fact that will get to people eventually, especially considering the Internet’s impact in wrestling over the last few years. Another reason that I believe TNA’s popularity will continue to increase is because of how opposite it is from the E. They’ve almost taken on a ROH mentality (“Sports Entertainment is Dead”) as the only soap opera type angle the company has done in the last year was Abyss being manipulated by Goldilocks into beating up disciples of Erik Watts. They emphasize the product itself as all of their IMPACT! tapings and pay-per-views have consisted of the matches, interviews, video packages for the big matches, and that’s it. The only “backstage segments” have involved a fake Vince McMahon and fake HHH, and Dusty Rhodes talking from his pickup truck. Another plus is the use of their junior heavyweights. Fans do love cruiserwight wrestling, but with the E they aren’t allowed to see a great deal of it. TNA on the other hand puts emphasis on their X Division, which uses some of the most talented junior heavyweights on the planet; Jushin Liger has been inked for their October pay-per-view. Enough said. The innovativeness of the company is enough to get people to pay attention. The six-sided ring, the Ultimate X match, the Clockwork Orange House of Fun match, the King of the Mountain match all of which have helped draw new fans to the company. There is no doubt in my mind that when all of these things come full circle, that this company will gain a level of popularity they could only dream about when they were doing this every week in Nashville. Hopefully Jeff Jarrett and Dixie Carter won’t f*ck this up.
The reality is…this is judgment day for TNA. Up until the Spike deal was signed, they were basically a really big Indy promotion with a T.V. deal. Now, they are in the big leagues as a possibly lucrative cable T.V. deal has landed in their lap. This officially makes TNA competition to the E, something there hasn’t been for nearly five years. With that title (competition) comes the problems with competing against Vince in the T.V. market and the pay-per-view market. TNA didn’t really have problems before with their weekly pay-per-views as no one really paid them much attention. Of course, everything that TNA is hoping to achieve as a company (doing house shows, bringing in new talent, the New Japan talent trade, etc.) comes down to the T.V. ratings. If the ratings don’t come around, the promotion is dead. If the ratings do come, it’s skies the limit.