My Message to Dixie Carter Part I – How to Rebuild TNA!
Dixie Carter has opened the floodgates to being taken advantage of by the many manipulators and masterminds behind many failures over the wrestling industry in the last 15 years. It seems with every turn around the corner when this promotion is gaining some momentum; it hits a snag when someone decides to push the “Nostalgia Act Button of Doom”. Being a TNA fan since the first show back in June 2002, this promotion has been about the nostalgia acts as they continue to grasp to short term ideas which worked in other promotions but do no work in their own booking environment. TNA needs a major shake-up from top to bottom rebuilding the brand at its core.
In this two part series, I will breakdown each aspect of how to rebuild their business model. TNA is in a sinking ship at the moment and hanging by a thread before SpikeTV or Bob Carter jumps in to give Dixie that much needed ultimatum. While Dixie claims she listens to the fans, she listens more to the wrong group of people.
REBUILDING THE MANAGEMENT TEAM
Being a wrestling fan for 27 years and having seen various styles over the years, this by far is a mismanaged ship with loads of potential that can be salvaged. The current management team is not taking this promotion in the right direction for success. If there is not a good core management team in place, there is no way that the rest of the promotion will function in a well structured environment.
I propose that Paul Heyman be brought in at any cost as your last ditch effort. Heyman has shown that he has the mind to take a promotion places as long as he is not touching any of the finances. Heyman has seen it all from NWA, WCW, ECW, WWE, WWEECW and OVW to name several promotions that he has been involved with. The man is a machine and has worn many hats at one time trying to push his vision. While at many times he may have been disillusioned by his own hype, he can talk the talk and in the right environment walk the walk.
This is where Dixie can allow Heyman to be the mouth piece of TNA and promote the brand. The man dresses professionally and looks the part of being as a part of a management team. If he can get into the mind of his former employees and have them believe in themselves with no limits, he can do the same with the television and live viewing audience. At this point, Heyman is allowed to make the day to day decisions for the company with some input coming from Dixie Carter. Heyman needs to be given that Dana White-like status which when you think UFC, Dana White comes to mind.
THE CREATIVE/BOOKING TEAM
The current team is shown their walking papers and booking team will be rebuilt from the ground up. There needs to be structure with this group as the current one just appears to be going through the paces and the belief that CrashTV still works in 2010.
Paul Heyman would be the lead of the entire creative team overseeing all storylines, scripts, etc. Reporting into Heyman would be Jim Cornette, Mike Tenay, Scott D’Amore, and Bruce Pritchard. Like Heyman, Cornette brings that old school flavor to the table and has an understanding of the basics needed to rebuild this promotion. Mike Tenay can be very valuable in creative since he has to call the matches which will make him better and more excited in the booth having a clue as to what will unfold. Both D’Amore has been in this position before with some moderate success. Bruce Pritchard would bring over 20 years worth of WWE experience to the table.
There is a nice mix of talent on the creative team ranging from veterans to youth. This will allow for many ideas to be passed around the table bringing experience and new emerging trends that to provide a more exciting product.
For things to work in this area, this team needs to strip all elements down to the very core foundation. All the previous creative teams have had issues with making storylines way too complicated. Even worse on top of complicated storylines are the many layers to stipulations in matches. At this point a lot of these old ideas need to be locked up in a trunk and buried forever.
Television has to be used as a way to sell your pay-per-views and continually grow the audience, even more important is to increase those stagnant buyrates. How does the team accomplish this? Focusing on 6-8 main guys building them up like UFC does with their stars across all their divisions.
This is one area where UFC has wrestling beat by a long stretch. It is very rare that in wrestling two lightweight wrestlers would ever headline a TV show like RAW or Smackdown, let alone a PPV. In UFC things are different and we see lightweights in the main event several times throughout the year. This is a perfect opportunity to sell the X Division as a main event 2-3 times a year on PPV. If people care about the focused talent, they will pay.
There needs to be continuity the week after a PPV and not be treated like nothing occurred the Sunday before on Impact. This is something that happens after every PPV in TNA which ends up hurting programming all around. At times there is a total drop off of a division after a PPV which also diminishes the championship and that division. This has happened multiple times with the X-Division not being promoted on television after a match just occurred several days ago on PPV.
Another problem that I have with the current TNA is that they allow dream matches to occur on television without any hype. This stops now, if there is a dream match to be shown on television, there needs to be several weeks’ worth of build-up for the match. These dream matches should not occur every week but maybe once a month or every other month, that is why there is something called a PPV where money can be made.
Promos need to be slowed down by many of the wrestlers in the promotion. With the current regime, I feel as if they are either talking to fast or they are really going into business for themselves not trying to push the direction of the current storyline.
Television presentation and overlays for the most part are good in TNA, but incorporating a bit more visual flair like UFC would be good. If wins/losses mean something for a rankings system, why not have those appear on the person’s profile card as they make their way to the ring to show the importance of the match. Taking wins/losses further, they can also be presented on the Top 10 rankings.
Championships should not be defended on television on a regular basis. The late 90’s to early 2000’s style of booking did damage to how championships are booked in promotions. They went from being a crown jewel that everyone sought after to just being a prop used on television to capture TV ratings.
The main title to be defended on television on a consistent basis should be the Television title and this should almost be done weekly. Back in the mid 80’s NWA and early 90’s WCW, those were eras where the Television title was used properly. TNA could also use the TV time limit aspect that they have been using recently, but they haven’t been effective or consistent. I’ll never forget how many times I was on the edge of my seat while Arn Anderson was defending the TV title and the countdown began as I was hoping his challenger would sneak out the win. Time limits need to be made real and feel believable, not just to be used because creative doesn’t want either wrestler to take the loss.
Also having the Knockout’s and World Tag Team Championships defended on television once a month does not hurt either. It helps these two divisions which have been a dying breed over the years in the industry. Most of it is either the lack of tag teams which then is mixed with promoters not caring for tag divisions or models using titles as a dress up tool that we have seen in other promotions.
The World Heavyweight and X Division Championships should be defended on PPV with the very rare title defenses on television. The only time that the creative team can get away with this is if one month they have the X Division showcasing the PPV main event, then sometime during the month on IMPACT the World Champ could defend the title. Even that is pushing it a bit as we do not want the title to lose its value. This way the World Heavyweight Championship is not defended monthly allowing to buildup anticipation as to when we will see the champ fight again.
The Knockouts Tag Team Championship would go vacant and longer be active. There are too many titles in TNA and not enough time to showcase all these belts.
For the PPV structure to work in TNA, this company needs to scale back the amount of PPV’s a year. Currently estimates are in the 10,000-20,000 range in monthly buyrates and those numbers are being generous. This company has had two times in its history where buyrates were through the roof, it was Raven vs. Jeff Jarrett first encounter for the NWA title and Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle at Lockdown due to proper buildup and intrigue. I find it rather difficult that they have not been able to slow things down replicating that type of story excitement and build for me to want to spend money on TNA PPV’s every month.
PPV’s should be scaled back to just having six a year spread apart from each other where there is 2-2.5 months between each one if possible. This would allow for storylines having proper buildup and the hype could nab more viewers. There would be no non-sense on pay-per-views like guys falling through a hole in the ring to close out the show and gimmick matches with 50 stipulations to cause the viewer confusion.
Bruce Mitchell has tossed around the idea of getting rid of the PPV names and just going with the main event as the name which MMA and Boxing have been doing for years. I think it would be a great idea, but I think keeping a PPV name and adding the main event to it would also work. Example: “Bound For Glory 2010: Kurt Angle vs. Rob Van Dam”.
Price point is another determining factor that needs to be addressed. TNA raised their PPV prices not too long ago from $29.99 to $39.99 in many areas and I have even read as much as $49.99 in some markets for an HD feed. For five of the PPV’s, they would charge the $29.99 price point. The $5-$10 decrease in price will entice people to purchase and with the card being built-up there should be no issue with them increasing their PPV buyrates. In October since Bound For Glory is their top show, charge $39.99 and make the card feel even much more special. Once PPV business is up again, slowly increase the prices when the product is good and people feel like they are getting a value.
Top 10 Rankings
The top 10 rankings are a great idea and a throwback to old NWA/WCW era on WCW Saturday Night where every week we would see the top rankings in the divisions. The rankings need to be believable for the fans to care about who is on them. If you become injured, you are automatically taken off the rankings until you come back. Once you come back from injury, working your way back into the rankings should be your #1 goal. If you lose a match, you should fall in the rankings even if it is against unranked contenders. As I mentioned under “Television”, wins/losses should also be represented on the Top 10 rankings.
It is 2010 and gimmicks should be taken seriously and thought out before given to an individual. The old mindset of “we do not have anything for you, so we will give you this gimmick, make the best of it” just does not work anymore. AJ Styles and Eric Young are good examples that have received gimmicks over the years by TNA which just do not work and only damage their characters further. The fans do not take them seriously and when they find that right gimmick, sometimes all hope is lost. Some input should also come from the talent on the gimmick; ultimately they are the ones that have to take on this persona or gimmick.
Jeremy Borasch is perfect as the ring announcer of TNA and makes a match feel important. All matches should not have any introductions until the wrestlers are in the ring. This is how it works in boxing and in mixed martial arts. It may take up a bit of extra time to do this, but there is consistency across all fighting venues making TNA wrestling feel much more realistic.
This is an area where TNA is sorely lacking in and instead of spending millions on former WWF, WWE, WCW, ECW, etc. talent they should be pumping that into this one very important area…….Marketing. Their brand is not that well known even after 8 years of existence which is not a good thing at all.
Join me for part 2 next week as I examine the TNA Roster, Rebranding the Promotion, and Enhancement Talent.