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WRESTLING COLUMNS

A Cheatsheet to TNA Success
November 23, 2003 by Mark Rose


NWA TNA has gained a half decent level of popularity amongst the internet "smarks" mainly by booking some high profile indy favorites in their X-Division. Their shows have been confusing and a bit boring sometimes but they are definitely the most easily accessible alternative to the WWE. The one thing that is haunting NWA TNA right now is that they just seem to spinning their wheels right now trying to reach the next level of popularity. I'm going to discuss some of the reasons I believe this is the case and i'm also going to provide some solutions and of course what I consider to be good ideas to improve their product and their business as well.

Problem #1: The business plan of strictly PPV shows

Being only on PPV really hurts the potential growth of NWA TNA. Fans that have never seen the show before are far less likely to check it out if they have to pay $10 to do so. Most average fans will look at it and say "why should I pay $10 to check out some wrestling I never even heard of with mostly guys on it that i've never heard of". The free preview show and the 1 cent PPV were both great ideas by NWA TNA to attempt to get new fans. But that's not enough. Their syndicated show X-Plosion should help with this a little bit and the more markets they get it in the better off they will be. With X-Plosion they should be showing some more high profile matches to attract more viewers. Give away a match that was on PPV last month. Sure it's old but at least it's something with a name value to get people to check it out. I'd say the biggest problem with the PPV concept is KEEPING viewers. If fans are paying for it every week they are going to expect a lot more out of the show. You put a couple of really bad shows on in one month and someone who paid for that may not want to purchase it again. It sets the expectations way too high. Add in the fact that people are more likely to scam it by tape trading and downloading the show off of the internet and you get lots of potential lost revenue.

In terms of getting new viewers the expansion of X-Plosion and the preview show are both fantastic ideas. The 1 cent PPV was also a good idea and I hope they do it more often. They should even look at doing more promotional ideas like maybe offering a discounted rate on a certain amount of buys like maybe a buy 10 get 1 free sort of thing. And now that they are releasing DVD's why not use that as a promotional vehicle. Give away like 10 or 20 of them in a random draw each week to those who purchase the PPV. Now as far as TV goes, let's face it a TV deal like WWE has is going to be almost impossible for NWA TNA to achieve. Wrestling is a really hard sell on TV Networks and advertisers especially with the current ratings and business situation with the WWE. WWE ratings and buyrates are WAY down from the last few years and this is probably the biggest thing hurting NWA TNA's chances of obtaining a network or cable TV deal. Networks aren't going to invest time and money on some upstart unproven promotion when the biggest wrestling company in the world is hurting, especially without the big names. Speaking of which they need big names. Preferably cheaper ones. Sting is nowhere the drawing card he was years ago, he's been out of the public eye for too long. Lex Luger? Don't make me laugh. Hacksaw Duggan? Come on be real. Hulk Hogan if he really does work a show will only be good for one buyrate. Personally I think even Hogan's drawing power isn't as big as it was. He didn't do much to help the WWE in terms of ratings or buyrates during his last stint there. Before that XWF couldn't really get off the ground on Hogan's shoulders. More recently the show he worked in Japan had poor attendance. If NWA TNA could keep him around and get him to put talent over it would be worth it. But spending that much cash on Hogan to get one buyrate up is just stupid. TNA doesn't have the cash to keep him around and if you think Hogan will help TNA get some new talent over you are in a dreamworld. Hulk Hogan is a waste of money for NWA TNA. What NWA TNA really needs is some cheaper disgruntled WWE workers to jump ship.

If you ask me their best opportunity is coming with Rob Van Dam. RVD isn't happy with the WWE right now and has made it be known that he won't be resigning. Get on the damn phone right now and have a contract waiting for him as soon as he's done. RVD would be the best choice because the internet smarks like him, he had a cult following in ECW, plus he's also had great exposure being in the WWE for the last 2 years. And he has been one of the most popular wrestlers in the WWE the fans are always chanting his name and speaking along with his little R-V-D thing. Book RVD and Jerry Lynn and the internet fans will come in droves. I really think adding RVD would up TNA's buyrates by a couple thousand per week. And he'd cost maybe 1/10th of what Hogan would. Dustin Rhodes contract with WWE is up in January and WWE has made it known they won't be resigning him. Sign him too.

Problem #2: Running the same building every month

I can appreciate NWA TNA's sense of loyalty to their building and the Nashville area but running in the same small building every week is not going to allow them grow any. Those fans are decent but running there all the time has even taken it's toll on them in terms of their reactions to certain things they see. NWA TNA should run some shows in neighboring states to help increase their fan base. Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia are all nearby states that have fairly large urban centers. Why not tour around there to increase your fanbase? I'm not saying leave Nashville and The Asylum all together i'm just saying move it around a little. If their main worry is pissing off all of those loyal fans in Nashville well if they are loyal enough they can travel or buy the PPV. If they are loyal enough to buy a ticket the PPV price has got to be near the same. And if you're running Nashville at least once a month well that's about as much as most indies run.

Start running shows in Memphis, Louisville, Montgomery, Mobile, St Louis, Kansas City, Little Rock, or any major city in the south. You won't hit a national level of popularity but if you can hit the south then you have part of the battle completed. If it's successful they can look at moving to other territories like maybe further west. A bigger building sure wouldn't hurt either. The Asylum is nice and all but really has that small time feel when you see it on PPV. If they want to be a big time player in the wrestling business they need a big time building. They can paper the crowd enough to draw a decent crowd since they plan on obtaining most of their revenue through PPV buys. It'll look much better on TV.

Problem #3: The writing and the booking

Since NWA TNA doesn't really have any huge names to draw business they need to build them. The X-Division helped create a buzz but they need more than that. They are failing with AJ Styles right now due to horrible booking. Having him pin Lex Luger due to a bat shot from Sting made him look weak. He should have gotten a clean pin on Luger. Plus it's getting confusing each and every week as to who is the face and who is the heel. AJ Styles and Jeff Jarrett seem to be reversing roles every couple of weeks. Stop it. You're confusing the audience. And even though the high flying cruiserweight X-Division types are the darlings of the internet smarks they need to start pushing some big men. The average wrestling fan likes a big man. Abyss and Kevin Northcutt have that potential. Use it. Change Abyss's look now because when the average sees him they consider him a Kane ripoff. And this whole Red Shirt Security thing is stupid. Kevin Northcutt has some talent but this weak gimmick is not going to help elevate him. A wrestling security guard is just as dumb as a wrestling plumber or a wrestling repo man. The booking has been very confusing and aggravating at times. Vince Russo isn't around and hopefully that will remain permanent. Russo's booking style is awful and his stupid jokes and references that only hardcore smarks will get do not help business any. Wrestling is very simple. It's good vs evil. Dutch Mantel should help keep that focus.

And keeping the belt on Jeff Jarrett just won't work. The internet smarks know Jarrett runs the show and they resent his self pushing. The average fans still see Jarrett for what he is. Jeff is an upper midcard type. He's good to use to job in main event matches and to put future stars like AJ over but he's not a top man. America's Most Wanted should be on every show. They are perhaps the best tag team in the world and would get over with any wrestling fan. Another thing with NWA TNA is the fact then they do book a name for a nostalgia pop they should have it announced well ahead of schedule. Don't use surprises to sell PPV's. Surprise angles yes. Appearances no. And stop wasting Ron Killings. Last year they had him over like crazy. Push the man again already.

Well I don't claim to a be genius or a wrestling promoter but I really think if they tried some of the things I said it would really help them. I'm not sure if all them are possible for them to try at this point but they really need to try to do something. Running as they are right now there is almost no way they are making money. And how long will Panda Energy keep the funds coming in if they aren't turning a profit. The buyrates can't be good or they would have been released by now. If they were good they would have put them out there to say "Hey look, this really is working.". I really like NWA TNA for the most part and i'd like to see them succeed. I just don't see it happening as is. I'm really surprised they have lasted this long with the business plan and decisions they have made but good luck to them. Someone needs to compete with Vince and even though they are light years away from doing that with the right moves who knows maybe it could happen.

Please feel free to send your thoughts and responses,

by Mark Rose


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