Thomas Golianopoulos of Grantland.com has a new piece online titled Can TNA Get Over? The article is detailed and features a lot of material, so I've decided to pull some of the notable quotes out of it. Due to the extensive nature of the piece that is very well-written and researched, I recommend reading it in its entirety at this link.
Below are our highlights:
Golianopoulos wrote that Dixie Carter claimed TNA is profitable but acknowledged their "annus horribilis" (year of disaster or misfortune). He added a footnote to the profitable statement with, "That groaning sound you hear is every wrestling reporter losing their shit." Specifics of TNA's annus horribilis:
- 2013 was the first year since 2006 that Impact Wrestling averaged below a 1.0 rating
- Talent departures including Sting, AJ Styles, Chris Sabin, Christopher Daniels & Kazarian
- Creative departures including Bruce Prichard, Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan and Vince Russo
- The resignation of Jeff Jarrett.
Carter had the following response to TMZ's report that Spike TV canceled Impact:
“TMZ asked me, ‘Hey, is this story real, should we run with it?” Carter says as she settles into a couch. “I was watching a movie and didn’t see it until some little wrestling site ran it. Then I gave TMZ a quote, which said we’re still negotiating. That never made it to print.”
Golianopoulos wrote that a Spike TV rep wouldn't comment due to ongoing negotiations but added, “The relationship has always been tremendous and collaborative with Dixie and her team.”
Dixie Carter expressed the desire to add more programming:
“We will die a slow death on the vine if we just stay as one two-hour show in the U.S.,” she says. “I have big decisions to make. I want this to be a big play. I don’t want this to be a status quo play.”
Bobby Roode offered this quote:
“I’ve [worked] 95 percent of the shows this company has run, and from day one the Internet, the public, has tried to bash TNA,” says the wrestler Bobby Roode. “We’ve been here for 12 years and after all the negativity and all the bullshit — ‘They’re going down, they’re going under, they’re done’ — we’re still here.”
Golianopoulos dove into the Vince Russo controversy, noting he worked for TNA from 2002-2004 and 2008-2012 before being secretly rehired last October as a creative consultant. Russo spoke on the Internet wrestling community:
“The Internet wrestling community thinks in-ring wrestling action should take up every minute of every show,” Russo says, practically shouting. “That’s what they believe the business is. That’s what they are fans of. I mean, they rate fake wrestling matches on a star system. The matches are fake! They are not real!”
David Schwarz, senior VP of communications with Spike TV, is quoted as to having the following reaction to Russo:
“He had nothing to do with negotiations. Nobody cares about Vince Russo at Spike TV.”
This, a claim Russo disputed. He claims his employment was kept a secret because Dixie Carter was afraid of backlash from the IWC:
“It’s because Dixie was afraid of what the Internet was going to say,” he says. “She puts heavy stock into the Internet wrestling community and all of the dirt sheets from day one. She’s obsessed with reading them, reading what they say about the show and what they say about her. She didn’t want the backlash of hiring Vince Russo, who the Internet hates.”
Golianopoulos then backed up and detailed the first TNA show on pay-per-view and covered HealthSouth Corporation, the Jarretts' main financial backer for TNA, pulling out. The story goes on to cover Panda Energy's investment and Carter's rise to TNA president. Regarding her relationship with Jeff Jarrett, Carter commented:
“I will always give props to Jeff,” she says. “Out of the thousands of wrestlers out there he’s the only one who decided to create something with his own money. I have mad respect for that, always have and always will. I love Jeff as a person. I wish him and his precious family nothing but success.”
Jarrett seemed to agree:
“To this day we are fine,” he says. “It’s professional. I’m a strong-willed, wrestling-minded person.”
The author once again backed up to mention how tension between Dixie Carter and Jeff Jarrett came to a head in July 2009 when it was learned Jeff had begun dating Karen Angle (with a footnote, explaining how the story ended with the Angles and Jarretts being great friends). Jarrett's return to TNA -- to head up Ring Ka King -- before eventually moving on is detailed. It's also mentioned that Jarrett doesn't have to divest his "minority stake in TNA," even with the launch of Global Force Wrestling.
The piece mentioned GFW hiring Dave Broome from The Biggest Loser and scouting venues this month in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Las Vegas. Toby Keith is mentioned as a conglomerate backing the promotion. Jarrett commented:
“We are in the midst of negotiations on every level with networks, with sponsorships, with venues — everything that goes into launching a wrestling organization,”
As for why Jarrett feels GFW could land a TV deal when TNA may not be able to do the same, Jarrett commented:
“Wrestling is Shakespeare for the masses — storytelling, good vs. evil — and that has always worked on television and will always work on television,” he says. “I think there is room for three or four wrestling shows on television. I think it’s narrow-minded to say there is only room for one. Competition breeds success, and the only winners will be the fans.”
Carter claimed to know nothing about Global Force Wrestling when asked if she was preoccupied with it:
“Not at all,” she says. “Not even a bit. Don’t know what it is, don’t understand it, and don’t need to.”
Golianopoulos then covered TNA bringing in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff for their debut on Monday, January 4, 2010. After detailing their failed experiment to move Impact to Monday nights, AJ Styles offered this comment:
“I don’t think Eric and Hogan knew the roster at all. In fact, I don’t even know if they watched the show before they came in, and if they did it had to be very little,” says AJ Styles. “No one knew who I was. No one knew who [Samoa] Joe was. We added Rob Van Dam because everyone knows him.”
Eric Bischoff declined to comment for the piece but it's mentioned that his BHE TV company with Jason Hervey still produces Impact.
Joey Ryan spoke of dysfunction from TNA management experienced during his time there, commenting:
“I never really knew who my boss was,” says former TNA wrestler Joey Ryan. “I wasn’t sure if I should listen to Eric Bischoff or Bruce Prichard or Dixie Carter. They were all giving me advice and telling me different things. Then the agents at the matches are telling me different things.”
Russo commented on his relationship with Eric Bischoff:
“Eric and myself would butt heads because we have two totally different philosophies and at the end of the day Dixie was supposed to make the final call,” says Russo, who quit in early 2012. “Well, she couldn’t make that final call. She didn’t want to make that final call. Then she brought in Bruce Prichard [as senior vice-president of programming and talent relations] so Bruce could make the final call between me and Eric.”
Golianopoulos wrote about TNA taking Impact on the road in March 2013 before failing and making severe budget cuts. The contract extension offered to AJ Styles was also mentioned:
“It was insulting,” Styles says of TNA’s final contract offer, which he says would’ve constituted about a 40 percent pay cut.
Carter said it was a great offer and felt AJ made a mistake:
“I hate that we lost AJ. Are you listening?” Carter says, speaking directly into my recording device. “I hate it. I felt like we gave him a great offer. I really did. I felt like we gave him a great offer and I think he made a mistake.”
Hogan was described as a team player in the piece, with Joey Ryan offering this:
“Hogan would seek me out to say hi to me and talk to me,” Ryan says. “He didn’t have to. He would see how I was doing and if I needed anything, which was really cool and a dream come true. Obviously I grew up with him as my favorite [wrestler]. By the end of my TNA run I looked at him as more of my friend.”
Golianopoulos wrote something we've heard from Dixie Carter before, admitting they overexposed Hogan but said he was a "great investment."
It was written that Carter suffered fractures to her L2 and L3 transverse processes in her spine and broke a rib in the table spot with Bully Ray. The article mentioned how -- in poor taste -- TNA is selling commemorative packages from the spot including a photo, shard of wood from the table and cloth from the ring apron for $199.99.
Golianopoulos highlighted changes [for the good] to TNA, including:
- Overall product improvement
- The return of the 6-sided ring
- Gail Kim leading the Knockouts division
- United Talent Agency being hired
- A renewed spotlight on the X-Division and tag team wrestling
- New young talent like Ethan Carter III
“It’s the exact opportunity I was ready for a long time ago that I never got over there,” Carter III says. “I have a chip on my shoulder to shove it up their ass. Every second I’m out there, every chance I get, I’m motivated to make this company succeed.”
The article then featured a quote from John Gaburick about TNA benefitting from a creative change:
“I think the audience was challenging us to give them something a little more straightforward — good old-fashioned wrestling instead of laborious talk or long, drawn-out stories,” says executive VP John Gaburick. “The long-form story lines that take forever to play out were not that effective.”
Hurdles remain and Golianopoulos was clear to point them out:
- Bully Ray's future with TNA remains uncertain
- Bound for Glory won't be airing live [it will be taped in Japan]
- TNA doesn't have any live events booked in the US past September 19 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Dixie Carter's words end the piece, with her addressing the critics that are rooting for TNA's demise:
“All these people say, ‘I hope you go out of business’ — why would you ever want that? You don’t think we make wrestling better just by exposing more people and giving people more options? It’s the most ludicrous, shortsighted thing — the sheer absurdity and stupidity of it blows my mind,” she says. “I feel sorry for the wrestling business if we’re not around.”
As you can see, the piece is quite extensive. It features a brief look at the most important moments in TNA history. You can read it at this link. Thomas Golianopoulos, the author, can be reached on Twitter @Golianopoulos.