At the end of spring/beginning of summer, on the surface, professional wrestling appeared to be reaching heights not seen since the Monday Night Wars.
In addition to WWE’s Monday Raw and Thursday Smackdown shows, Wednesday nights were jam-packed with a variety of wrestling programs: NXT on the WWE Network, TNA Impact on Destination America, Ring Of Honor (in a peculiar move, also on Destination America), and Lucha Underground on Robert Rodriguez’ El Ray network. Even New Japan Pro Wrestling began presented an archived weekly show on AXS TV on Friday nights, and Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling conducting television tapings, searching for a home on cable.
Whether you wanted promo-filled programs, high impact in-ring action, episodic drama, or just quality matches, there was something for everybody.
Unfortunately, a high quantity of pro wrestling programs does not necessarily equal monetary success or increased viewership. Many of these programs may cease to exist by 2016, for a variety of reasons.
If possible, from the start, ignore the dumb name. Calling your organization TNA, when you’re well aware of the context associated with the phrase, puts you at an immediate disadvantage. Somehow, however, the company has managed to stay afloat for over a decade.
Impact drew solid numbers for Spike TV, averaging approximately a million viewers each week. An amazing talent roster, combined with Spike’s wide cable reach, allowed TNA to tread water for many years. Whether they were actually profitable, was another story.
Likely due to a cost vs. return on investment scenario, Spike decided not to renew Impact, leading to the company scoring a deal with the Discovery offshoot, Destination America. Though still considered a ‘national’ TV deal, the reach of Destination America was paltry compared to Spike. The ratings have supported this, with Impact scoring less than one-third of the audience that they had on Spike.
Further, a report was leaked, stating that Destination America had an ‘opt-out’ clause in the contract, and could cancel Impact as early as next month. Rumors flooded the Internet about TNA’s unsure future, leading to backstage discord, top-tier talent leaving for other promotions, and a potential merger with Jarret’s GFW promotion. The promotion is no longer running house shows or pay-per-views. Even the seemingly-bottomless pockets of the Carter family may not be able to save the company this time around.
Ring of Honor
I was super excited when I heard that Ring of Honor had secured a national TV deal. The company that has produced WWE stars the likes of CM Punk, Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan, and Sami Zayn never seems to panic, and just reloads their rosters consistently. Having ROH on television at a secured weekly timeslot (as opposed to the Sinclair-driven syndicated version) would boost the company to the level of officially claiming the #2 spot in pro wrestling, behind WWE.
And then I heard ROH was headed to Destination America.
Not only that, but ROH would air the same night as Impact Wrestling and, in fact, would serve as its lead-in.
This experiment would not last long, however, as Destination America quickly removed ROH from its 8:00 PM timeslot (after averaging approximately 150,000 viewers a week), replaced by the sasquatch-hunting show Bigfoot in America, and moved to 11:00 PM.
After diving deep in the pro wrestling pool earlier this year, Destination America seems ready to towel off. In addition to TNA likely being gone by September, Ring of Honor could be off its airwaves by the end of 2015, having only signed a 26 week deal.
It would be another roadblock for the Little Indy That Could.
Some of the biggest buzz in the wrestling industry came from Lucha Underground. The Los Angeles-based promotion had the superstar backing of producer Mark Burnett (The Voice, Survivor) and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, a unique soap opera feel to the storylines, distinctive camera angles, excellent in-ring work, and national exposure on both Rodriguez’ El Ray network and UniMas.
However, after a successful debut season, it seems El Ray is unwilling to renew Underground for a second season. An online campaign to get the show picked up by Netflix has begun, but the odds seem unlikely. I appears to be one-and-done for the upstart promotion.
Many of the stars of Lucha Underground came from the huge Mexican-based promotion, AAA. With the exposure to its stars, provided by Underground’s American TV airings, AAA seemed poised to gain a foothold in the States.
However, just two days after AAA’s Rey de Reyes mega show, one of the show’s headliners, Perro Aguayo Jr., tragically died following an in-ring accident involving Rey Mysterio Jr. The incident was viewed by millions online, and covered by media outlets around the world.
Even though the death of Aguayo did not occur at an AAA event, the negative press reached the promotion nonetheless. Even so, the company still had its premier event, TripleMania, to look forward to.
The event marked AAA’s first foray into the American pay-per-view market, and would be headlined by the long-awaited one-on-one match between Mysterio and Myzteziz (the former Sin Cara).
Unfortunately, severe audio and video issues plagued the English broadcast, with problems ranging from loss of commentators’ voices to a prolonged audible buzzing sound. The combination of technical issues and subpar matches led Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer to call it “one of the worst PPV shows of all time.”
With the WWE continuing to reign atop the pro wrestling throne, the only promotion that has been able to generate any momentum is actually under the WWE umbrella: NXT.
After buying its competition, WCW, in 2001, WWE is again looking to bury the ‘competition.’
ROH, trying to capitalize on the New York-area excitement surrounding this weekend’s SummerSlam event, planned their Field of Honor show at Brooklyn’s MCU Park, a minor league baseball facility, the night before SummerSlam.
Not willing to let another promotion capitalize on its grandeur, the WWE countered, selling out the Barclay’s Center (11 miles away) for its NXT: Takeover event, the same night.
To make matters worse, the WWE has even begun to dip its toe into the Japanese waters, booking Japanese legend Jushin Liger for Takeover. Sharing talent with the Japanese wrestling promotions had been a nice niche for ROH. However, if the Liger booking is a sign of things to come for WWE (especially intriguing for the Japanese promotions, given the WWE stars’ huge popularity overseas), it could be a crushing blow for ROH.
Turns out, wrestling’s ‘boom’ may have actually been a ‘bust.’