Monday, July 28, 2014

TNA Canceled

So the word on TMZ is that Spike TV is not renewing its contract with TNA Wrestling; if that's true and they don't get another deal they're going to die a slow death.  And with them gone, then unless Jeff Jarrett's Global Force Wrestling catches on we could finally be at the point where there's only one game in town, the WWE. That's not a diss to Ring of Honor; a lot of great stars have come through there, most notably CM Punk, but they make no illusions about their place on the totem pole.  TNA, built from the ashes of WCW after it's demise in 2001, was the last company to make a go at challenging the WWE head on.  And while they never got close to overthrowing the WWE for a brief moment they were doing some real damage to the 'E.  But that faded quickly and they returned to also ran status.  Now they're in danger of going under for sure.  Even though I don't watch TNA (I tried a few times and just couldn't.  If just felt  like a low rent WWE to me headlined by a few WWE castoffs, WCW survivors, and dudes I never heard of.), I do see it's possible demise as a bad thing for the business.  Even if most fans do seem content with only one major organization.

If you weren't around as a fan before the 90s you missed a lot of variety.  In the old territorial days you had regional organizations all over the country and each had its own distinct character.  And for the first few years of the cable TV explosion you got to see almost everything out there.  At various points from 1985 through 1988 I got to watch shows from the NWA, AWA, WWF, Mid South (based in Oklahoma), World Class Championship Wrestling (based in Texas), Southern Championship Wrestling (Memphis), Southeast Continental (Alabama), Championship Wrestling from Florida, and Central States Wrestling (St. Louis).  And that's not counting Pacific Northwest (Oregon) and Stampede Wrestling (Canada).  Ever major star of the decade traveled through several of these companies, adding a different wrinkle to their character to fit in with a new audience.  By the time people like Jake Roberts landed in the WWF, he'd spent years perfecting his character in front of different crowds in different parts of the country.  During his early days as NWA World Champion Ric Flair was literally crisscrossing the country defending against the local territorial favorites in as many as seven or eight different places a year; as things consolidated he had the skills to entertain people anywhere.  It was a really fun time to be a fan.

The business is hurt by having fewer places to work.  What happens now is that a guy (or girl) knocks around in some obscure small potatoes organization, gets to NXT, and then is put on Monday Night Raw with a short window to impress a national audience or get sent to jobberville, followed by a quiet release a few years later.  Some guys knocked around various territories for years before finding something that worked, and if your act starts to get stale in one place you could pack up for another place to stay fresh.  Having TNA around gave a few guys a chance to do that.  Christian is an example of guy who had a good WWF/WWE run but needed to get out of town for a little while.  He was able to put together a remarkable run in TNA before coming back to the WWE to close out his career.  It was also a place for people like Kurt Angle and the Hardys to go after they'd worn out their WWE welcome but were still capable of putting on a good performance. 

I hope TNA finds a lifeline; if not, we need Jarrett's Global Force Wrestling to do something.  The business needs places for guys to work (on a real show and not in a developmental league) before getting thrown in front of a WWE audience, and to work if WWE doesn't have a place for them anymore.  I personally don't have the time to devote to more than one league but those of you who do deserve options.

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