As for TNA, what can I write here that hasn’t already been said, over and over and over and over and over again?
TNA has spent more time promoting the fact their ring is six-sided, and advertising the anti-climatic debuts of former WWE color commentators than they have invested in the discovery of exciting new superstars who can capture the public’s attention. TNA-branded (an oxymoron if there every was one) headliner Samoa Joe turns heel so he can be the subservient second banana to former WWE main eventer Kurt Angle on TNA’s television
show. Then, Joe does nothing to make the audience hate him. Nothing to make the audience view him with contempt. Nothing to make the audience have disdain for his character. Nothing to make the TNA fan base want to pay to see him get his ass kicked, his face smashed, his shoulders pinned to the mat.
For crying out loud, didn’t anyone in pro wrestling learn from Brock Lesnar at UFC 100?
To make matters even worse, TNA had Taz(z?) on deck, ready to debut, and now there was no reason to anticipate the contributions the former ECW Champion and superb Smackdown commentator could make to TNA, because he was the non-mysterious mystery man, coming in to advise someone that just gave up his fan base to be Kurt Angle’s newest bitch on television.
Maybe Joe will move in with Jeff Jarrett and people will be more interested in THAT than in anything happening on TNA television or pay per views.
Can you imagine what the Return On Investment for TNA would have been if the company spent that kind of energy and imagination (or lack thereof) on a new talent that had never been exposed to their national cable audience? Where’s the next top guy going to come from? What’s the next new style to be implemented? How many times has this been said and written, ad naseum, until WWE and TNA wake up and realize the “first time clashes” between those in the top tier is wearing thin because fewer and fewer talents are in the mix to even have the opportunity to be moved up to the main events?
Here’s a perfect example of the arrogance shown by both WWE and TNA.
Dragon Gate USA debuts tomorrow in Philadelphia at the world’s most famous converted bingo hall. I wrote about this in THE UK SUN on April 15th. The Dragon Gate promotion, which features a mix of Japanese strong style wrestling, high flying lucha libre, and even a dash of WWE crowd psychology, is a youth-oriented, high energy, exhilarating product that can boast of almost 100% consumer satisfaction. heir shows, simply stated, are blow-away, and the paying audiences love the product.
And yet, when I spoke with my old assistant Gabe Sapolsky, who is now the go-to guy as the VP of Dragon Gate USA, he told me he hasn’t received a single call from anyone in WWE or TNA regarding dropping by the show to scout talent.
Broadway producers check out Off-Broadway plays. Talk show talent coordinators scour the comedy clubs for a breakthrough act. Football, baseball, and basketball scouts bribe, cajole, blackmail, coerce, and BS their way into talking with high school players, let alone college hoop stars. But professional wrestling, ever the closed society, can’t be bothered to check out a cutting edge young promotion with a great relationship with its consumer base, and a roster full of innovative stars that understand how to interact with the crowd.
Does any of this make sense to you?
Dragon Kid, whose work in the ring defines the style of the promotion in the same way Rey Mysterio was the embodiment of a then-modern lucha style when ECW first brought him and Psicosis in to the world of Extreme, is in one of the main events against Masato Yoshino. Look for this match to have the buzz the day after the show.
Shingo, a former powerlifter who emerged as Dragon Gate’s top star when CIMA was injured in 2008, will wrestle Naruki Doi, who many feel is being positioned as the new top star today. CIMA will team with Susumu Yokosuka against The Young Bucks, who have been building their reputation on both the California and Northeast independent scenes.
Then there’s Kenn Doane, the former “Kenny Dykstra” and leader of the “Spirit Squad.” This 6’2”, 220 pound veteran is crashing solidly into his 23rd or 24th birthday soon. What a has-been. There’s no future there, right? I mean, what if he has his head on straight, and is still showing the same promise that had everyone comparing him to Randy Orton when Randy first hit the main roster? Why check out his work, his backstage demeanor, his interaction with the crowd? He only has 15 or 20 years of being a “top guy” to offer WWE and TNA. Neither company needs someone like that, right?
Why bother checking out any talent away from the structured “television days,” when you know he (or she) is in “best behavior” mode, because that performer is clearly at an audition? Why should anyone see what that performer is like backstage and in the ring … when he’s on his own … left to his own devices?
The time has come for both World Wrestling Entertainment and TNA to stop only worrying about the next pay per view, and how this upcoming week’s television show builds to it. A long range, 5 year plan is needed by both companies. How much longer can HHH be counted on to be the Wrestlemania main event? Will Undertaker and Shawn Michaels be able to have another match in 5 years that compares to the all time classic they presented this year? Is TNA counting on Kurt Angle, Sting, and Mick Foley to be the poster boys for the product in the year 2014?
If the response to any of the above questions is “NO,” then the obvious follow up is “what are you going to do about it?” And that answer, to be blunt, is the most pressing issue facing both WWE and TNA today.
Thomas Jefferson was once approached by a member of his staff, who wanted to plant trees in the backyard of the President’s residence. The next morning, as legend would have it, Jefferson had everyone out of bed by 4:30 am because “we have to start planting immediately!”
When a staffer cried out, “but Mr. President, it will take 100 years for these trees to fully grow,” Jefferson shot back “all the more reason we need to start working on this project right this very second.”
Memo to Vince and Dixie: Start working on this project, now. 2014 is a lot sooner than you think.