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Dixie Carter and the State of TNA

TNA Dixie CarterLong time fans of TNA Wrestling have always hoped that they could progress to the point of being viable competition to WWE, or at least a successful and distinct alternative to the corporate monopoly. However in recent months a spate of wrestler departures and speculation about financial issues have created great concern, which has not been alleviated despite the comments of company President Dixie Carter.

In light of Carter’s recent heel turn and last week’s setup for Hulk Hogan’s likely departure, it’s worth recapping what she really thinks – or wants us to think – about the current state of TNA, and whether this stands up to scrutiny.

Carter outlined recent company changes in an open letter to fans in July, writing:

“This has been a big year for TNA. We took IMPACT LIVE on the road, exactly where it needs to be – where you’ve asked us to be – in your backyard. We also changed our Pay-Per-View schedule, shifting from 12 to four live Pay-Per-View events each year, in order to increase the value of these events for you. To grow TNA, these are moves that needed to be made. And, part of changes like this, includes structural changes within TNA to align with this new business model.”

Why Did Impact Go On The Road?

This statement is somewhat contrasting when you peel away the PR speak. First off she essentially lumps the blame for Impact going on the road at the door of the fans, which was perhaps just a poor choice of wording. If going on the road means considerable roster cuts and an unclear financial situation, Impact is neither “where it needs to be” nor where most fans would want it to be.

Carter then says in order to “grow” TNA, these moves “needed to be made”.

Growth is an interesting phrase. While she doesn’t define exactly what she means, usually in business, growth means a rise in earnings and positive cash flow.

Taking Impact on the road has forced them to coil up and tighten their belt because of the massive expense. Touring a TV show instead of staying in the same location costs hundreds of thousands more each week. Drawing from a few hundred to a few thousand fans at these shows is a drop in the bucket in terms of recouping the money lost, thus they needed to make savings elsewhere.

Also the cut in PPVs is obviously down to a lack of buys.

So any way you slice it, this is the exact opposite of growth.

Of course you could say that she means that these changes are part of a long term plan for growth, and in the short term things need to be reigned in for overall success. This logic makes sense for the cut in PPVs, however taking Impact on the road is still a massive head scratcher.

TNA Impact ArenaThey didn’t “need” to take Impact on the road and in no way has it helped “grow” the company. If the move was part of a long term strategy, why such a sudden and crippling jump? Why not have only one Impact taping on the road every month, or even every two months, to test the waters first? Why not tape more than 2 episodes at once?

Unless there’s something we don’t know about, like Universal Studios literally giving them the boot, there is no logic behind the move. And even if they were forced out of the Impact Zone, what sense does it make to immediately swim with the sharks instead of finding a new permanent location or easing in to touring for the first few years? Is this all just a badly executed PR move to mask that they really have no idea what they’re doing?

Taking Impact on the road should always be a long term goal. It helps creative figure out who is over with their audiences, and allows the wrestlers to keep on top of their ability to work varying crowds. Over time it also helps develop the fan base in different markets. However the question as to why Impact was taken on the road now is totally up in the air.

After all most people assumed that when they decided to tour Impact they’d already determined the expenses … instead of frantically cutting talent after the fact while pretending this is what the fans want.

Judging from wrestlers’ public statements about how great the move was, they were just as fooled as the fans. Many of those wrestlers are no longer with the company.

Why Were Wrestlers Released?

Discussing the roster cuts themselves, Carter wrote an even more contradictory explanation:

“The relationship that fans have with wrestlers is unique and one of the many great aspects of the wrestling business. And, for this reason, releasing talent is never easy – not for you and not for us. But, bringing in fresh faces and the best wrestling talent in the world is what you expect, and what TNA will always strive to deliver. Recently, we have brought back some talent favorites (Sonjay Dutt, Petey Williams and Homicide), and you will continue to see this and new talent that we are excited to introduce you to in the coming months.”

She says fans expect “fresh faces”, then immediately contradicts this by touting the returns of old faces “Sonjay Dutt, Petey Williams and Homicide”, who as we now know were paid a pittance and were only used for a few appearances to bolster the new X-Division 3-way format, which they flip-flopped on anyway, once again because us fans supposedly didn’t like it. If there’s one thing Carter needs to learn from this saga, it’s to stop laying every decision at the door of the fans. We just want you to be honest. Don’t pretend this is what we asked for like a politician.

As the roster gets thinner and thinner we’re still waiting on the “fresh faces” and “best talent in the world” to show up. Lei’D Tapa? She was the most inexperienced out of all the Gut Check females. Jay Bradley wasn’t a bad choice, but the internet was abuzz when veteran Adam Pearce was thrown around as possibly being the August Warning mystery man. Instead we were force-fed MMA crossovers to help boost Bellator, which to me demonstrates Impact is second in the eyes of Spike TV and the fans are second in the eyes of everybody calling the shots.

Either the company has a very poor eye for fresh talent, or they can’t even afford good Indy stars anymore. Either way it doesn’t say much about the future of the product.

Expanding on the topic of roster cuts during an interview with Ministry of Slam, Dixie said “the fact that you let talent go is not any indication whatsoever of problems.”

We don’t believe you Dixie. Why? Because you let go a lot of good talent, including most recently Knockout’s Champion Mickie James. These departures coincided with the move to take Impact on the road. To deny that this is a strong indicator of problems is infuriating to those fans that want to see TNA succeed.

Even more bizarrely she said that TNA has “got to get some more programming”, which would presumably cost even more to tape, and force them to cut even more costs!

Tito Ortiz TNAHer explanation for bringing in Tito Ortiz and Rampage Jackson was that they are “major major superstars”, though she conveniently forgets that their stardom comes from MMA not wrestling, and therefore they mean nothing to most hardcore wrestling fans. It’s also worth noting that their MMA stardom is in its latter stages.

While they may be “working their butts off to be in the ring”, what about all the great Indy talent that has already worked their butts off? Tito and Rampage’s recent departure from TV was certainly not treated like that of “stars”, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they didn’t come back after their MMA fight in November. So do fans chalk this up to another bad decision, or was it our decision again?

Dixie Carter’s New On Air Character

As I wrote in last week’s Impact review

Dixie comes across as an incompetent businesswoman in real life. The answer to that is not to stick her on camera and give her an incompetent businesswoman character. The answer is to fix the company and be honest with fans about what’s going on. Just because it can, doesn’t mean the on camera product should reflect real life, especially when in real life it looks like the company is going through tough times.

WWE’s storyline works because they’re a successful multimillion dollar company with stockholders, and Triple H and Stephanie are confident in their roles. TNA is going through financial troubles and as surprisingly well as Dixie is doing, she’s not a seasoned performer nor making millions in real life.

Apparently next week Hulk Hogan quits because of his real life contract situation and the segment closes with Dixie holding on to his leg like a toddler pleading with him to stay.

Perhaps we should cut Dixie some slack because it’s clear she’s clueless. Not only is she embarrassing herself on TV, but burying the company to fans that are watching.

The End of TNA?

It should be stressed that this is not the end of TNA. There’s no sign that Bob Carter of Panda Energy is going to pull financing, and Spike TV are more than happy with TV ratings. But it is the end of an era. It’s the end of talent being paid well, which likely means the end of big names signing after they depart from WWE, and top flight Indy wrestlers that command a respectable wage getting a shot as well.

It’s also the end of the illusion that TNA are any kind of competition to WWE. They failed going head to head on TV, they’re failing to draw large audiences on the road and because they’re on the road, they also cannot afford the talent needed to compete in the first place.

If the rumors are anything to go by, this whole touring experiment may already be over, as it’s been suggested the company are trying to find a new permanent location to tape from.

Dixie Carter Interview Highlights:

What do you think? Is Dixie Carter not being honest with fans? And was taking Impact on the road a bad idea?

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  • Kent Walker

    tna have never and will never have the money needed/required to compete with wwe, at best they will remain an alternative ( for how long remains to be seen ), it would be great if they could compete with wwe, its what is needed to keep things interesting.
    tna have the potential to compete.
    the Bully ray turn at first was some of the best work ive ever seen bubba ray do and succeeded where wwe failed with him as a singles competitor , his character has been a bully over the years and he kinda looked like a bully ( a funny one at times ). so we know they can actually do some good storys for a bit.

    the x division was f’n awesome in its heyday, those guys were crazy as bat shitte flinging themselves all over the place in cages and off them to boot, now its an afterthought.
    the tna originals as it were. aj, chris daniels, kaz and joe how many cool matches have we seen out of them over the years. time now me thinks for them to work with any indy guys coming in to help the transition to tna + if they do a good match with aforementioned stars then it will help boost their standing in the company with fans ( we are a fickle bunch to please but can be easily pleased by a good match between two talented wrestlers one whose been with the company for a while and who we know are good and a new guy that we have never seen/ heard of before ).

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