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The race for second.

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ihatethatmonkee View Drop Down
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    Posted: 02/August/2014 at 19:49
With TNA no longer having a television deal in place, is there any hope of actual competition for WWE to drive a creative renaissance? Or can we only hope for a number two company who fights to keep that place, rather than trying to become number one?

Forgoing the current he said/she said about TNA and Spike for now, it has become readily apparent to all but the most hard-core of fans that there simply isn’t a company or promoter out there with the clout to challenge the McMahon clan. TNA’s attempts to go head to head with the beast back in 2010 were both a disaster and a stalemate, since the ratings for Monday’s live show were far lower than anticipated, while the Thursday night repeat still attracted the regular 0.9 Nielsen rating. That Spike called time on the contract within two months made a very clear statement; TNA might be the number two company in the States, but it was certainly no competition to WWE.

Since that point, Ring of Honor has gained its own television deal with the Sinclair Network, and WWE have also shifted focus from the traditional Pay-Per-View market to create the WWE Network online, in line with Netflix and other subscription-based services. The landscape of how wrestling is viewed has already radically changed. WWE are actually late comers to this new medium, since RoH and others have ran iPPVs for a considerable amount of time (regardless of whatever technical problems there may have been), and yet, despite this, WWE still hold the monopoly over the North American wrestling business.

So, it then literally becomes a race between TNA, RoH and any number of other promotions to see who can be the second best promotion.

TNA’s apparent lack of a deal could be seen to hinder them. However, it has to be remembered that this is a company that started out as weekly PPVs for its first two years, before getting airtime on Fox Sports in 2004. Fox then didn’t pick up TNA again once that contract expired in May 2005, meaning TNA was off-air. The fact that they survived then by showing their product in webcasts until Spike picked it up in October of that year shows that the company has the ability and the fan base to survive this. But, with how much TNA fans have had to endure, will they still be there when TNA returns to television? Could they now defect to number three?

Ring of Honor has actually been around for as long as TNA has. Both companies were started in 2002, and while some might consider TNA’s beginnings to be rocky, RoH’s could have seen the company go under before it even really began. RoH finally got a deal with HDNet to run weekly PPVs in 2009, before the company was bought by Sinclair Broadcast Group in 2011.

SBG is a major group, holding the potential to really be able to push RoH as a viable alternative to both TNA and WWE. That the product is shown stations owned or affiliated with SBG means that it has a secure home while in the hands of the company. However, the quality of the shows has meant many fans of RoH prior to the SBG buyout have turned their backs on the company, amid complaints that all the pushed stars are interchangeable, a complaint that has also been levelled at WWE, but has yet to really affect its television drawing power. The backstage conflicts also haven’t helped, with Jim Cornette having been slowly pushed out of the company.

Yet again, the company has survived all of these. It apparently pulls a similar rating to TNA in the North American market, so it again has a solid million people following week in, week out, and is in a better position than even WWE, since it can be shown in up to 30% of homes and has the safety net of being owned by its broadcaster. Of course, history has also shown us that such a safety net can get frayed too.

The problem with both of the above is that the audiences have rarely risen about the regular million viewers. While RoH at least has the excuse of not having been on any channel for almost a decade, neither company is growing. TNA particularly have an issue with persuading more than 15,000 of its viewers to pay for its supercards (1.5% of its weekly audience, compared to anything between 5-10% for WWE, however, the latter’s numbers are slightly skewered due to including international orders, not just home market numbers), and has done for years. Even dropping its PPV count from twelve to four a year has not helped this problem. Both companies have bought in “names” that have had no effect on viewer numbers (with the exception of the odd bump for one week).

TNA at least seemed to be partially aware of what the issue was; a simply lack of publicity. The problem is they decided to try and push their product through social media, mainly Facebook or Twitter accounts under various company names. This was all well and good, but the first problem with it was that the actual name talent weren’t always pushing the product or the events. Jeff Hardy has had two stints in TNA, from 2004-2006, then the period that is relevant, from 2010 onwards. Jeff has a social media presence, with 940,052 people following him on Twitter currently. This showcases the second problem with hoping to utilise any form of social media to gain an audience; Twitter is a truly global entity. While Jeff may have nearly as many people following him as actually watch TNA, there is no real way of knowing what percentage is in TNA’s North American market, how many might be idle accounts, duplicate accounts or following Jeff because of his band. His brother Matt has over 864,000 followers on his account, yet his RoH stint doesn’t seem to have inflated their audience share either.

The problem should have been obvious; social media only allows you to advertise your product to people who are already invested in it. While this hasn’t mattered to WWE, who after all can guarantee around four million viewers ever week for Raw, and roughly half that for Smackdown, it is a problem for any company hoping to be number two. Using only these forms to advertise or push your shows and products can be counter-productive (personally, I have seen on at least three occasions TNA fans tweeting that they have missed a performer doing a local show as they were unaware TNA were even in the area, and Jeff Jarrett only managed to get another couple of tickets sold to a show purely by tweeting about a show later in that town).

Cross promotion events have also not been good for TNA. The most recent Basebrawl event only pulled 500-600 fans. At a time when even WWE is feeling the pinch on house shows, this isn’t good. TNA could, and should, go back to its Asylum days. While Soundstage 20 at Universal Studios allows a regular audience flow, and perhaps keeps production costs down, it doesn’t allow them to generate the profit they could. A return to a TNA owned premise means they build up not only a stable audience, but a rabid one. For all its recent ECW nostalgia, one of the things that seems to have been lost by all is that the rabid ECW audiences made the product seem more exciting, and a viable and unique alternative to WWF and WCW. In a pre-internet age, the fact that ECW was popular overseas purely because it was different should really be a sign that TNA has now drifted far from what got them to the number two wrestling promotion position in the first place.

RoH could also be said to have become a victim of what made it successful. It was based on exciting matches, not the soap opera antics of WWE. While it was just live shows and poorly produced DVDs, this was fine. However, those soap opera elements are required a lot more once you have regular television exposure. You can have the finest wrestling talent in the world in your ring, but if they can’t work the crowd while on the microphone, or even act a little for storyline purposes, then any angle is going to fail.

As both RoH and TNA have stalled, it has allowed other promotions to begin to catch up and gain a foothold that could see them equal or surpass either company.

Perhaps the better known of these would be Dragon Gate USA. However, all the other companies have agreements with each other that allow talent to flow freely in much the way talent did back in the days of the wrestling territories. Now in its fifth year, DG:USA formed from the Japanese promotion, allowing its top performers a way into the States to work with the best the independent scene had.

CHIKARA, formed in 2002, is a Lucha Libre inspired promotion, which has given it an individuality in the States. Its other selling point is its emphasis on tag team wrestling, something that has become increasingly rare in mainstream wrestling. While it does include solo action, and has two singles titles, it is the tag team factor, and its sense of fun, that has made it a standout and must see for fans disappointed or disillusioned with WWE or the directions of TNA and RoH. CHIKARA also has another unique selling point; it runs its own wrestling school. While WWE has NXT and its performance centre, and TNA had Ohio Valley, for such a small promotion to have such a long term plan already in place shows a willingness to push further and higher, something TNA seemed to lose roughly three years ago.

While there are dozens of promotions out there that could fit into this article, the last one to focus on is the oldest out of these three. Combat Zone Wrestling essentially started in 1999 as a garbage wrestling promotion. Going more hard-core than ECW, CZW took the Japanese death match and introduced more blood and weapons than any ring could really handle. However, even as far back as 2001, the promotion was already showing its diversity, as it hosted the first of its now annual Best of the Best tournament, which focused on straight-up, technical and also high-flying wrestling styles. However, because of those trashy beginnings, the company has only recently started to garner more positive press.

There is, though, one more name that could not only join all of the above, but surpass them, as its owner does have form. Global Force Wrestling has still not released even a single talent roster name thus far, but owner Jeff Jarrett has been busy securing deal with the likes of Mexico’s AAA, Japan’s IGF and New Japan Pro Wrestling, as well as European promotions, and with Scott D’Amore either on board or helping with the search for talent, Jarrett could easily surpass what he managed to accomplish with TNA, and without the negativity of booking himself as top heel or champion for as long as he did from 2002 until 2006.

That Jeff Jarrett, and his father Jerry, so quickly filled a gap left by WCW and ECW, as well as XWF, and took a company from weekly PPVs to a major sports network within two years is the most exciting aspect of GFW. With the right talent pool, which is possible since many TNA Originals have been axed, had contracts lapse or simply quit the promotion in recent months, as well as fresh faced, younger talent, and the talent exchange deals with Mexico, Japan and Europe, and the networking potential of David Broome’s partnership (allowing access to television time on any NBC owned station), then, even without any announced talent, the next few months could be exciting for those disillusioned fans who crave something different.

Of course, perhaps it is unfair to think a company, any company, barely past its first decade of existence could truly hope to replace a juggernaut of over fifty years, let alone be viable competition to it. While a company like CHIKARA might have long term goals in place, it is always worth remembering that to jump into direct competition before you’re ready is a mistake, no matter how good your product might be. Is it perhaps a telling sign of a change in WWE’s outlook that the talents it has signed from CZW and RoH have been treated much fairer than those they plucked from TNA? Is Vince, or someone within the company, seeing signs of a new territory system, a new NWA model that could really be the true competition to WWE in years to come? Or is all this just the wishful thinking of a lifelong fan who genuinely would like what is “best for business”, even if that means two or more companies trying to kill each other off again?

Chances are we may not see a viable competitor to WWE for another decade, if at all. While as fans, we sometimes feel powerless, we need to remember that it is we, the fans, who make or break a company. It really is as simple as turning off the USA Network on a Monday, or avoiding SyFy on a Friday night, and turning on Sinclair, or wherever TNA end up, or logging in online to whoever is carrying the latest content for any other promotion, and getting behind what you want. That way, you may not just be deciding who in this article is number two, you may be making one of them the new number one.[/FONT=Arial]


Edited by ihatethatmonkee - 02/August/2014 at 19:50
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HBKDX97 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03/August/2014 at 06:30
tl;Dr version, TNA and ROH aren't competition to WWE despite having/had TV deals in place.

ROH's filming and production processes are atrocious. My high school football games were filmed better and looked more legitimate. They have "high paced action" that doesn't connect with fans in any way, and the fans they do have are drunk neckbeards who only like to chant "This is Awesome!" Every five seconds.

TNA has much better film work and their product looked better (when it was on TV anyway) but they are led by a woman who is laughably misinformed about the wrestling business. She deluded herself into thinking that her show's fanbase would rally behind them regardless of the wacky shit actually being shown and pull business decisions that contributed to the downward spiral the company now faces. TNA's ratings plummeted after switching to Monday nights and this woman was raving about how Sting reinvented himself as "Joker Sting". And now they have lost most of the originals that built the company by lowballing their contract negotiations, have reduced themselves to throwing any shit at the wall and seeing what sticks, and have lost the TV deal that was the only reason they were ever viewed as the number 2 company.

Wrestling is in the shitter right now, and will probably have to blow itself up and reinvent itself again after the countless untimely deaths and overdoses and double murder/suicides have tarnished its reputation. WWE is only surviving because it distances itself from the term "pro wrestling" and is only afloat because Wrestlemania pulls in monster profits every year and because they own 98% of the wrestling footage available today.

The next "number two" company needs to focus on branding and PR. Watch any regular John Cena match to know that wrestling skill is overrated when it comes to drawing money in the modern wrestling world.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ihatethatmonkee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04/August/2014 at 12:20
all true, and the reason why I wrote that there is simply no viability in any company trying to muscle in on the WWE.

but, what is worth remembering about the mistake of TNA trying to go head-to-head with Raw, is that the Thursday night re-run still retained the same audience figures. for me, this showed that the fans were loyal, but had no interest in TNA fighting against WWE, which makes sense.

after all, going head-to-head, especially when the number two company only really has the one show, can only mean bad things anyway, even if it provides a small injection of hype and interest and creativity while it goes on, as the smaller company is always going to be the one at risk of going under, and having nothing to fall back on.

personally, I feel that TNA shot itself in the foot years ago when it started having its contracted talent not appear on other promotions super-cards purely because the intent was to record and release them. we can all agree TNA is not that big a company to be able to do that now, and they really weren't in a much better position when they did this.

constant cross-promotion would have at least allowed them to inject new talents into the divisions they had. if they got to the point where they could viably have been a company within their own right, then they would have had the choice to pick and choose the talents that had worked with them, and expanded to four hours of television a week.

Dixie really does just surprise me. we keep being told she has a PR degree, and it just looks and feels like mommy and daddy paid for the degree, as she has shown little to no aptitude of how to push a company. yes, she made some good use of social media, but as I say in the OP, social media is just promoting in-house, those fans are already going to be aware of the news, and are also going to be less enthused when every build-up to an announcement is pre-fixed with "Biggest announcement in TNA history.." bull. while Vince himself may have surrounded himself with yes men, he at least has the money behind him so that if it fails, it's not a massive disaster, and he is also willing to fire those for his mistakes, Carter seems incapable of doing so, so the company lurches from failure to failure, only staying ahead because of Carter family money, and the loyal million fanbase that will see it get picked up at some point.

hey, does anyone want to start a whiparound and we can buy the company?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote John The Baptist Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05/August/2014 at 08:17
Theres def. a lack of originality, every start-up bills themselves as a 'true wrestling company' who places more importance in match quality than the entertainment aspect, yet they all change their morals when it starts bombing.

Also, wrestling has been out of the territory days for 30 years, and for only 3 of those were WCW a legit competitor to the WWF, they were trounced from 1999 onwards and before the Outsiders angle they were nothing too,......the argument WWE needs a competitor to bring the best out of them is a flat out lie....
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