In the evening of June 24th, one hour prior to a special live broadcast of Impact Wrestling, TNA’s Twitter page was flooded with posts hyping at least one major development on the show. Dixie Carter and Billy Corgan of TNA management expressed their excitement over the episode, while referee Brian Hebner in particular addressed the presence of “old faces” backstage. Despite a history of big promises and disappointing payoffs, the company went on to deliver a memorable moment which caused genuine shock among wrestling fans. The big surprise of the night was the appearance of TNA founder and current Global Force Wrestling owner Jeff Jarrett.
The self-proclaimed King of the Mountain’s relationship with the very company he started has been a turbulent one since his relationship with Kurt Angle’s former wife Karen went public in 2009. Concerns over tension between the two men led TNA President Dixie Carter to relieve Jarrett of his backstage duties months before the arrival of the Hogan-Bischoff regime in January 2010. Jarrett continued to wrestle for the promotion and his marriage to Karen was acknowledged on television, with TNA eventually booking him in a compelling yet ethically questionable feud with The Olympic Gold Medalist. The Jarretts were written off Impact Wrestling in December 2011, and following brief involvement in the India-based Ring Ka King, Double J’s backstage stroke seemed to gradually diminish.
Perhaps it was Jeff Jarrett’s undisputed input in creating TNA that kept his name attached to the promotion till late 2013. In reality, the company’s founder was neither involved in business matters, nor featured on television for nearly two years, before news of his resignation broke in December. The departure was announced after an alleged attempt on behalf of Jarrett and country star Toby Keith to purchase TNA from the Carter-owned Panda Energy. With no agreement reached, Jarrett and Keith shifted their focus to the creation of Global Force Wrestling. Fast-forward to the summer of 2015, and GFW is in the midst of its first tour of the United States, with television tapings scheduled for July 24 in Las Vegas.
Even though Global Force Wrestling has a long way to go before its name is done justice, the amount of energy and resources the Jarretts have been investing in the project is evident. As declared in numerous early promotional materials, GFW prides itself on scouting the best talent from all over the United States in addition to establishing relationships with leading foreign promotions. In August 2014, the company announced working agreements with New Japan Pro Wrestling, the Mexican Asistencia Asesoría y Administración and the British New Generation Wrestling among others. More importantly, there is a sense of scale to the concept of GFW, and the ambition behind it led wrestling fans to believe that the Jarretts had moved on from TNA Wrestling.
Furthermore, the first signs of competition between the two companies appeared when Tyrus, a member of the TNA roster, was announced for a number of live events on GFW’s Grand Slam Tour. Even though the wrestler’s deal with Global Force Wrestling reportedly excluded television tapings, a detail which would render his appearances rightful by TNA’s contractual standards, he was pulled from the tour earlier this month. The incident resulted in a Tweet by Karen Jarrett, which has been interpreted as a shot at TNA President Dixie Carter. Mere weeks ago, any sort of collaboration between the two promotions seemed unthinkable.
So how is it that GFW owner Jeff Jarrett appeared live on Impact Wrestling this past Wednesday?
“No matter how bright our future is or how good things are right now, Jeff didn’t leave here on his terms,” Karen confessed in a TNA ring on behalf of her husband. Her voice cracked as she spoke and her delivery came across as heartfelt and sincere as she looked into the former World Champion’s eyes and explained his motivations publicly. The segment focused heavily on The King of the Mountain’s personal need for closure, and it made perfect sense, not only in the context of Jarrett’s history with the company he built, but in the context of a business with such emphasis on legacy.
Regardless of how real Jeff Jarrett’s desire for a proper exit may be, however, it would be naïve to ignore the business implications of the wrestler-turned-promoter’s appearance on Impact Wrestling. The fact of the matter is, Jarrett showed up at the Impact Zone wearing a Global Force Wrestling t-shirt and plugged the brand on numerous occasions throughout the segment. From this perspective, his decision to return to TNA for one final match at Slammiversary is as logical on a personal level as it is on a business one. In some capacity, the young promotion has already been featured on television before it has even announced its own television deal. In combination with TNA fans’ familiarity with Jeff Jarrett’s face and career, the result has been a solid head start in publicity.
What was more surprising than Jarrett’s agreement to work tonight’s event was his revelation that the offer had come from TNA management. The situation from early June surrounding Tyrus’ scheduled appearances had more or less established Dixie Carter’s reluctance to have her company linked in any way to GFW. Even with the rocky relationship with the Jarretts aside, why would a wrestling promotion widely regarded as “America’s No. 2” be willing to acknowledge an organization with virtually no history and a following yet to be established? The likely answer is survival instinct, arguably mixed with a fair amount of concern.
The addition of Ring of Honor programming to Destination America’s Wednesday schedule may have forced TNA Wrestling to reconsider its place in the industry. TNA management was reportedly caught off-guard by the network’s decision to feature two different wrestling promotions on the same night. Despite the plausible long-term benefits of block scheduling, this recent development has indicated that there are alternatives to TNA’s product. Dixie Carter’s company is going through a period of scaled down operations, talent departures and a television deal inferior to what had previously been offered by Spike TV, and this crisis happens to coincide with a period of dramatic increase in weekly wrestling shows. With ROH’s latest progression up the ladder, GFW’s planned television tapings, the emergence of Lucha Underground and the success of the WWE Network, TNA is under huge pressure to remain relevant.
Jeff Jarrett’s return to TNA Wrestling has already benefitted the build-up to Slammiversary precisely due to its unusual and spontaneous nature. Interpromotional relations are not common in mainstream American wrestling and that is precisely what TNA is banking on to generate interest for tonight’s pay-per-view. Considering the recent departures by performers such as Low Ki, Austin Aries, Gunner, TNA Original James Storm and rumors of more to come, the company has arguably secured a special attraction to hold the attention of its fanbase as the big event approaches.
Unfortunately, Jarrett’s participation in the King of the Mountain Match is an extremely short-term solution to an issue which plagues TNA’s future in the long run. Management has tried to compensate the thinning roster by bringing back names from the past in Hernandez and Matt Morgan, yet the brand is likely to be facing an identity crisis over the next few months. An environment so fragile, creatively and business-wise, demands a careful calculation of the extent of the rumored talent exchange between TNA and GFW. With so many wrestlers and other employees of TNA fame joining Jarrett and Keith’s promotion, as well as the sharing of the once unique six-sided ring, questions surrounding TNA’s direction and appeal will remain once Slammiversary is in the books.
Then again, these are obstacles the upstart Global Force Wrestling has to face as well.