Thursday, November 20, 2014

TNA, Bethlehem and Moving Forward


It's been a fairly bleak period for TNA. The uncertainty surrounding the TV deal combined with the tiny crowd at the Bethlehem TV tapings have given the impression of a company on it's last legs. The atmosphere in that dark, empty building in Pennsylvania was toxic. Not so much because of how the fans were reacting (they were for the most part a perfectly fine, regular audience - reacting and not reacting pretty much how you'd expect) but rather how that building made the company seem. Thankfully TNA have managed to pull through their darkest hour in nearly a decade (the company has been  fairly stable since 2005, until this past year) and while it remains to be seen what form TNA will take in 2015 at least the company will actually see 2015. I'm going to take a look at the last few months of TV from Bethlehem and then talk about how TNA should move into 2015 with a new television partner.

Even if the atmosphere was toxic the Bethlehem shows were mostly at worst forgettable and at best very good. Often the shows were defined by some really good main events with a perfectly fine, if unremarkable, undercard. Those main events were a real highlight. In general the Bethlehem shows seemed to at least try to go for better wrestling. You had Full Metal Mayhem, which in my book was TNA's best match in four years, a really great Aries/Roode/EY/Hardy four way, a very good Bobby Roode/Bobby Lashley match and a fun Austin Aries/Bobby Lashley match. Add to that good undercard matches like Aries vs. Joe, The Hardys vs. JoeKi and JoeKi vs. MVP and King and watching iMPACT! every week usually at least guaranteed you one good match (something that could never be said for the first six months of this year). TNA still have a very talented roster, cut them loose, swing for the fences and they'll nearly always deliver.

Some other highlights of the shows. All the Spud/EC3 stuff has been great with both perfectly suited for their respective roles. I still have reservations about breaking them up mostly because I'm not sure what Spud will do or how he'll fare solo once their feud is over, but they're certainly making the most of their angle while it lasts. Lashley is still great, the tag title series was great and a brilliant way to use two of the biggest teams from the past to elevate The Wolves (even if it was wasted to put the tag titles on Storm and Abyss, two people who shouldn't even be a team nevermind tag champs), and Roode is as good a guy to carry the company as TNA have.

But in January TNA take a step into the unknown as they move to Destination America. It's a smaller channel but at the very least it keeps TNA alive. It gives them a chance to get things right and move forward again. And that's the key bit. They need to start getting things right. TNA came dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. They managed to avoid falling off. Now they need to rebuild. They need to move forward. They have a couple of years on Destination America to push the company toward stability. Because if they don't there's not likely going to be another chance.

TNA's approach in the past resulted in them obliterating their PPV and live event business and then being cancelled by Spike. So if that doesn't make you take a long, hard look at how you produce television I don't know what will. The company needs to approach things with a patient, disciplined plan for how they're going to move into the future and who's going to take them there. The company badly needs somebody with some vision. Somebody who can devise a strategy for taking TNA forward and actually deliver on it without panicking. Without throwing ideas indiscriminately at the wall desperately hoping one sticks. Without sacrificing acts with momentum and boundless potential to acts that they happen to be pushing, or who are perceived to be more important or bigger stars. Without a blinkered focus on the immediate short term much to the detriment of the long term. Without totally ignoring other portions of the business to focus on just one (failing to realise they all work together).

TNA have a second chance to get things right. Change needs to happen. There needs to be a new approach. There needs to be a laser focused eye on driving every element of the business. They need to create stars people are willing to pay to see. That sense of impending doom has been lifted from TNA for the time being. It's crucial that they make the most of this second chance and strive to finally be something special.

Any comments, questions, queries or conundrums? Tweet me @garrettkidney, comment below or email me at garrettkidney@gmail.com.