News broke early this morning that TNA had to offer refunds for a house show Saturday night in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Apparently, some states still require professional wrestlers to get licensed and tested, much like MMA fighters, while other states allow them to fall into the “professional entertainer” category. To put this in perspective, WWE recently ran a show in Cape Girardeau without any newsworthy issues.
Now if that was true and TNA knew in advance of these problems than that is an even bigger issue. Letting fans show up to the building knowing that these issues were hanging over the show is completely irresponsible and disrespectful to the paying customers of TNA.
Some reports are saying that this responsibility fell through with the recent departure of Bruce Pritchard. But that shouldn’t make a bit of difference. TNA is supposed to be a major-league wrestling organization, and major league organizations don’t have issues like this.
Take a look at the NFL or NBA. Both have endured scathing lockouts in recent years, with NBA having to shorten its season because of broken player negotiations, and NFL losing credibility as a result of second-rate referees. These stories were widely covered in mainstream news, and everybody had a chance to chime in with their opinions. But both instances seemed like hiccups in their respective businesses, not the norm. They were the results of failed conversations between large player organizations and infinite corporate lawyers. The blame wasn’t shuffled to one man, as TNA appears to be trying here. Most importantly, the fans knew what was going on every step of the way.
Unfortunately, this is the latest in a series of debacles for TNA. They’ve endured a string of high-profile departures in the last few weeks, including Pritchard, Joey Ryan, Matt Morgan, Tara, Drew Hankinson, and D-Lo Brown. And these were all taking place immediately before their “big summer event,” Destination X.
It’s important to draw a line here between creative decisions, and business decisions. People like to criticize WWE for terrible booking sometimes, and rightfully so. But Vince McMahon is a businessman first. He understands that just because people don’t like John Cena as a good guy, that it still might be good for business. He knows that banning chairshots to the head keeps his company clean.
That’s why, even with falling weekly ratings, his WWE is a publicly-traded juggernaut. Vince is looking towards the future. People are buying Pay-Per-Views in record numbers because Cena vs. Rock has a universal appeal, if not necessarily a “smart-mark” appeal. We internet fans like our Daniel Bryans and Dolph Zigglers, but the casual public likes John Cena and Randy Orton. Plus, ideas like a performance training center, and a WWE Network, will keep the company relevant no matter how the media landscape changes. These are all smart business decisions.
Meanwhile, TNA debuts new slogans like, “Where Wrestling Matters.” You know what that is? It’s a tagline, not a sound business strategy. Sure, it makes sense to offer an alternative to your rivals “Sports Entertainment” product, but at the end of the day “wrestling” is still “wrestling” by any other name.
The biggest difference, though, is that WWE understands how to minimize bumps in the road, and maximize positive press. Company-wide pink slips are inevitable, but WWE chooses to announce them in December or May, not the week before Wrestlemania. They plan for the bad times accordingly. TNA, on the other hand, seems to have a reactive PR team. Everything about the company screams “impulsive.” They hire historical wrestling names like Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, but then fail to effectively leverage those names to promote their product in new and exciting ways. The company makes a splash with its decision to cut Pay-Per-Views to four a year, but then seems bereft of ideas on how this changes their creative direction.
I know that mentioning TNA on wrestling websites evokes flame wars like the iPhone/Android rivalry – you either love, love, loooove everything about TNA, or you’re waiting for that moment for the company to fail so you can say “I told you so!” This is not one of those moments. This is a call for TNA to start acting like a wrestling company that’s been around for 11 years. Dixie Carter, despite what you say every Summer, you’re past all the growing pains. Treat your company like an adult.