Thursday, May 28, 2015

#TNAWatch2015: Honorable Destination Edition

By Dustin T. Hull

I am very happy as a wrestling fan. I have more to find whatever flavor I desire. Having variety brings about a sense of gratification like nothing I have experienced before. If I want mainstream wrestling, I have 8+ hours of consumable content. If I want to see developmental talent before they hit mainstream, I have that option. If I want to see alternatives to the mainstream options, I have 4 promotions on television within my reach. If I want to see something more eclectic, I have a vast range of options on the worldwide independent scene. This is a wrestling “boom” period that so many clamored for and I really feel like I am living in it.

So with that said, this year’s #TNAWatch2015 has been even more interesting than last year's. Unproven claims of demise, reported emails with legal threats, and now the addition of a separate promotion on the same channel as TNA – things have been “busy” to say the least. Unfortunately, we are at a point where nothing is actually proven and we’re living off speculation at this point… And I am okay with that so long as we look at both sides of the coin. So let’s dive into a few “hot topics” that are being spread about the Interwebs as we speak.

“TNA will be canceled by Destination America”

This kicked off the festivities of #TNAWatch2015. A report inside the Koran of the IWC known as the Wrestling Observer Newsletter saw Mr. Meltzer saying that he was informed of Destination America’s intent to cancel TNA in September. Dave also went on to state that this was not official; simply something passed along to him. Unfortunately for TNA, it seems to be the Internet’s version of truth at this point while Destination America has remained mute on the subject. The only thing I know for certain after following this whole thing is that Ring of Honor will kick off a 3 hour block of wrestling as the lead in to TNA – a win for wrestling fans, regardless your passion for or against either promotion.

“Ring of Honor on Destination America will kill TNA”

First let me get my logical opinion out. The decision to bring in ROH by Destination America can be seen from multiple perspectives. One valid perspective drowned out by the sea of trolls is that DA wants to grow their channel. They have seen a rise in viewership since the addition of Impact due to the wrestling fans' willingness to follow talents they love. If one promotion brought more viewers, why not assume bringing in another would do the same?

The market is cornered by the WWE Network, but with proven market share still out there, it would be a wise decision to try gaining more. The channel isn’t worried about people on the internet bickering about the two companies on their station… On the contrary; they love it because chatter translates into traffic and that is their ultimate goal. Now onto the ranting…

I take offense when people express the desire to see TNA die. It’s not that I’m a die-hard who only wants to see TNA as the TOP promotion, but rather that I see the people who work for the company as just that: people. For whatever reasoning you dislike Dixie Carter, people such as TJ Perkins have a family that is provided for in part with TNA checks. If you will TNA into death then these good people and their families will suffer for that, and I personally consider that way of thinking to be the exact opposite of what a “wrestling fan” should be… Or at least what I would like us to be.

This also leads me into my biggest issue: lack of communication. If you have yet to see it, I highly suggest checking out MVP’s Session 16 where he explains his stance on ROH as well as many other things involved with #TNAWatch2015. One thing he explained is being an independent contractor and how things like the addition of ROH needs to be communicated to them as they control their own brand as a performer. He also has a view I completely agree with in that there are some things we as fans don’t have to, nor need to know about what goes on in their business relations.

I am an outsider on this situation, but my personal take on this is that while I can understand the appeal of Destination America and ROH keeping this secret, for them to blindside TNA as a company is a very shady business practice with someone you are partnering with. If they made this information known to TNA officials yet THEY chose to keep it a secret, then that is complete BULL in my opinion.

The talents at TNA, the workers, and their families have remained loyal – almost to a fault. These are the people who are affected most by this situation, not us fans at home reading these things. For them to sit blindly while TNA and Destination America remain quiet on the home front is very disheartening from a fan's perspective, and I imagine it would be heartbreaking as an employee. I understand that there may be legal issues involved. I understand the idea of not wanting information leaked out to the masses. What I don’t get is causing stress to those people who work for and with you. As I stated, I don’t know the whole story so this perspective is simply my opinion, but whoever made the decision to blindside these people, it was a bad one and you should feel some sort of shame for doing so.

“This could lead to TNA and ROH Cross Promotion”

I love being a wrestling fan at times because we try to make the best out of what others see as a bad situation. This idea is something that, as a fan, I love but I am uncertain how TNA and ROH officials feel about it. I personally feel it would help freshen up BOTH products to see a cross promotion while each company maintains individual identities. Taz spoke about this in his React podcast – which props to Taz for dropping that so fast; it was a great listen that you can check out here or on the Play.It website – and even touched on the fact that ROH and TNA management have been in contact in the recent past, but he did not know anything outside of the fact that they talked.

We can speculate how great it would be from a fan's standpoint of booking dream matches, but there’s TONS more to consider. From trying to figure out which creative team writes what kind of angles to the notion that Taz touched on with who “goes over” in the scenario, as individual companies these people have a lot more to factor in. It’s not just “hey, wouldn’t Bobby Lashley vs. Moose be awesome”? (And yes… Yes it would.)

I think Jim Ross is correct in saying that a working relationship between these two companies would be great for both promotions with many benefits for both sides, but I don’t think it is as close as fans might hope; regardless if they are on the same network and night now. The good news, however, is that Joe Koff (ROH COO) does feel like TNA is a great neighbor for ROH and I have yet to see any visible tension between the two companies at this moment.

All in all, #TNAWatch2015 has proven more interesting than last year. More moves, EC3 talking to Roderick Strong about his “shitty little boots”, the potential of Destination America being smart enough to tap into the worldwide wrestling fan base and its potential reach, potential game changing shifts in the fabric of the wrestling industry as a whole: this is what we are looking at in 2015.

Much like in 2014, there are unanswered questions to ponder about the future of TNA. Many are writing them off as if what one source claimed is the only future to come. The only certainty I know is that Ring of Honor will lead into TNA on Wednesday, June 3rd for the first time in the history of wrestling. Here’s hoping that the 3 hour block proves to be such a success that Destination America chooses to sign both companies to 5 year deals… That way, we won’t have the doom and gloom of #TNAWatch2016, everyone can just sit back, and we all enjoy the weekly wrestling that all members of this industry strive to provide for our entertainment.