Since the WWE began to focus toward a different demographic and went to a PG rating for its programming in 2008, older wrestling fans have been looking for an alternative, more matured product for their sports entertainment needs. Many fans turned to UFC, which has a lot of the qualities a more seasoned viewer of the WWE product may look for – violence, adrenaline, excitement, feuds and characters. However, with UFC fighters only fighting 2/3 events a year (particularly for the big names) these characters are hard for a viewer to invest in when compared to a wrestling show which gets the chance to establish their characters on a weekly basis.
This is where an alternative wrestling product is needed. One which can give the fans all of the above that UFC offers with the addition of characters that can be seen on regular occasion. This is where Impact Wrestling should be aiming its product.
So what does TNA need to get the fans attention? A roster reboot? The Impact Wrestling roster is actually already deceptively strong. Angle, Hardy, Sting are all household names even if the latter is in the winding down stage of his career. Older wrestling fans know Anderson, RVD and the Dudleys from their time in WWE along with the familiar voice of Taz on commentary from Smackdown in the latter days of the attitude era. Mix this with the TNA home grown talent of Bobby Roode, James Storm, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Abyss and Austin Aries and already you have a very well rounded main event and mid card scene. Of course you can’t go without also mentioning Hulk Hogan in this conversation who, despite many Internet fans becoming tired of him over the years, still has a strong presence and can be an asset when used in the correct role.
Is a rethink of how these names are used required? Impact Wrestling, or TNA, has been with us for 10 years now. Granted, they haven’t reached any giddy heights nor have they really raised their television rating in the U.S in these years, but they have had their fair share of great feuds showing they can get it right. Angle/Joe, Styles/Daniels/Joe, Kong/Kim, Machine Guns/Beer Money were all fantastic programs and proof that with the right mixture of writing, booking and talent the company has the ability to create TV that gets people talking for the right reasons rather than the wrong.
What Impact Wrestling needs now more than ever is a brand identity. And a particular match at this year’s Slammiversary Pay-Per-View event could be the basis for that identity.
The opening match of Slammiversary 2012 pitted Samoa Joe against Austin Aries for the X Division Championship. Many called this match of the night and rightly so, but what made this match even more special was not only the way in which it was booked but the way the talent performed and paced the match. The match itself actually began very similar to a Mixed Martial Arts fight, the feeling out with the kicks, the range finding jabs. Immediately this felt like a legitimate contest, not just a series of memorable spots that some of the more talked about matches in TNA’s past have been criticised for. This accompanied with the stiff work of Joe and Aries really made this match stand out, and go above and beyond other well paced matches of this kind previously.
The post match was also very well done. Although it was nothing new, the match that preceded it made it also feel like the end of a closely fought MMA bout, with both men standing and congratulating each other on a great contest. Imagine if, for example, Taz had entered the ring post match and got the thoughts of both Aries and Joe respectively, with each giving their opinions on where the match went right/wrong and where they were looking next. Aries actually had this promo with Jeremy Borash backstage later in the night, so this idea may already be in TNA’s thoughts. It would be wrong to think TNA should copy every aspect of UFC or other MMA promotions production, but there are certain aspects that could be adapted to give the company a modern edge and stand out from the other, bigger company they have no chance with competing with by following their approach.
TNA began in 2002 with their own flavour, but over time it got absorbed into following what the big dog in their sector does. It’s a trap that companies across all businesses fall into, following the leader, but if you don’t have the capacity or funds to take what they do and better it, in TNA’s case this being established worldwide stars, production values and vast quantity of programming, you need to take things in your own direction and create your own following.
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