The TNA PPV Promise
I remember back in 2008 when TNA held their first tour in the UK – which drew their largest live audiences in the company’s history at that point – Jeremy Borash got on the mic and hyped the possibility of a future PPV in the UK to the Coventry crowd. The naïve fan that I was (hey I’d only just come off embarrassingly shaking Rhino’s fist instead of knuckle bumping, and rudely leaving my can of Red Bull on Jay Lethal and Earl Hebner’s meet and greet table) I thought this was huge news!
Turns out the duplicitous Borash said this at every show on the tour and would proceed to say the same thing for five more years across the world.
One Night Only Comes To Britain
Finally after all this time, there is truth to his hyperbole, as TNA have announced that they’ll be taping two PPVs during the 2014 UK tour. The January 31st show in Manchester, will be the debut of the British Empire Cup, a one night only King of the Ring style tournament where 8 stars will battle it out to be the champ of Britain. The winner will defend the cup each year, though it’s not yet clear how that will play out. The press release also mentions a Knockout’s Cup on the same card, which should mean a quality night of wrestling.
Then on February 2nd in Birmingham, TNA will tape Joker’s Wild 2 which: sees a first round of intriguing tag team matches, where old partners or bitter enemies may be drawn to work together. The victorious pairings then advance to a winner-takes-all gauntlet battle royal, where it’s every man for himself with a prize of £100,000 on the line to the last man standing.
The other two nights in Glasgow, Scotland, and London will be Impact tapings.
Of course because of TNA’s cutbacks the PPV tapings will not be live and will not for the most part factor in to the ongoing storylines, as they fall under the One Night Only banner. Presumably UK fans will get the events for free on Challenge, but that’s not confirmed.
UK Fans Deserve A Real PPV
Since 2008 TNA have consistently drawn their highest audiences during the UK tour, which have fluctuated between a couple of thousand, up to an estimated 8,000 at Wembley Arena in London. Comparatively this is in WWE’s lower range of attendance.
On TV because Challenge is a free channel and WWE airs on a subscription Sky Sports package, TNA also often beats WWE’s ratings. By those metrics the UK is TNA’s most successful market.
One thing the company should have learned from the “Impact on the road” experiment stateside is that the crowd makes or breaks the show. When they get a hot crowd, Impact is an absolute joy to watch. Homegrown talent like AJ Styles, James Storm, Bobby Roode, Bad influence – even Robbie E and Jesse – come across as stars that could easily make it up North. Yet when they get a small dead crowd they come across as any bush-league indy fed.
This year’s Bound For Glory which is supposed to be TNA’s Wrestlemania, was not only built badly (all those months and the only match with a proper build was AJ Styles vs Bully Ray), but the low attendance destroyed the big time feel you’d expect from such a “prestigious” event. Perception is reality.
I can’t help but think back to the last set of Impact tapings from the UK. For the first time TNA felt like a proper global wrestling company. The combination of the ruckus crowd and the visual of an actual large arena – full – brought the best out in the wrestlers and made the whole viewing experience a hundred times better than anything at the Impact Zone or around the US.
If Bound for Glory is the pinnacle of the TNA calender year, why not hold it where the most amount of fans come to watch? Why not hold Bound for Glory in the UK? Then when they go in to hype mode about how massive the event is, they won’t be lying, and when the second year roles around they’ll have all the footage they need to sell it as a big deal.
Would a Proper UK PPV Work?
The main issue with UK PPVs is the timezone differences (London is 5 hours ahead of the East Coast) so it wouldn’t work live unless the event took place around midday. This is why WWE haven’t had a proper PPV over here since Summlerslam 1992. However this is not so much an issue with TNA, because PPVs don’t air live over here anyway. I see no reason why fans couldn’t turn out at midday on a Sunday – nobody is at work or school – they’ll just have to wait for the event to air on Challenge like all other PPVs. US fans can watch it live as normal.
They could always offer UK fans an iPPV version for those that want to tune in live, though as we’ve seen with ROH they have to really do their research first to make it work.
The primary problem with a live UK PPV is likely the cost of lugging all the right equipment overseas to pull it off. Taping an event to air later on PPV is one thing, having a live feed is a whole different ball game. It’s not impossible – UFC have done it – but TNA aren’t UFC.
I guess there’s nothing stopping them from doing it as a pre-tape, though there’s something about the live atmosphere without spoilers that makes it more fun. Instead perhaps they could tape the slightly less important event Slammiversary in the UK on a Saturday night and air it the following evening in the US? The options are endless when you get brainstorming.
The audiences are there. Why not milk them for all they’re worth?