In case you haven’t read last week’s precursor column to this week’s column, you may want to head back and take a gander at some of my previous thoughts about WWE’s current problems.
Which brings us to the recent steroid problems. If you didn’t read it, my column from two weeks ago mentioned the steroid problem. Part of me believes in what goes around, comes around. The negative atmosphere that is pressed on many of today’s (and yesterday’s) younger wrestlers seems to have come back to haunt WWE. Who is the winner in this situation? Truly, no one is really the winner since younger talent will be pushed to take the place of the suspended performers only to lose to them when the suspensions end. Those who are suspended aren’t winners because they are physically harmed. The only winners that I can think of are guys like Chris Jericho and Lance Storm who not only pushed for smaller, non-drugged up guys like themselves to move up the ladder, but who got out of the “big leagues” when it became obvious that true athletes would not be given a fair shot.
Then there is TNA. The folks at Total Nonstop Action are also on Congress’ short list of people to go after with this steroid and illegal drug investigation. They need to handle that situation with something better than, “No comment,” which has been their official line so far.
However, TNA did just sign a 2-year contract extension with Spike TV that will leave them on Thursday nights for now, but give them a 2 hour weekly program instead of a 1 hour program. This will be a huge opportunity for TNA to really expand their fan base and show off some of the great talent that they have under contract.
For all that TNA does that annoys the hardcore internet fans, I really admire their approach to the wrestling business. The fact that they give their talent an incredible amount of time off is something that should be replicated throughout the wrestling world. Of course, we all know that Vince McMahon isn’t one to replicate an idea, he’s one to buy it, call it his own, and then put it on the shelf for good.
I might be wrong on this particular point, but I think that now is really a great time for those who are outside of WWE to really take a look at TNA as a business model and (more importantly) as a business opportunity. In case you didn’t know, an organization called Panda Energy owns 71% of “TNA Entertainment, LLC” which is the parent company to Total Nonstop Action. They bought this huge stake in the company for a mere $250,000 a few years ago. I am unsure how much shares in the privately held company cost these days, but I would have to imagine that guys like Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan could easily afford to purchase major ownership shares in TNA Entertainment. Would Panda Energy be willing to sell? How could I know that?
But could having guys like Hogan and Bischoff come in and purchase a major ownership interest be a good thing for TNA? Sure, it COULD be a good thing. That is, as long as Hogan is used as an on-air talent only and isn’t involved in booking and Eric Bischoff is allowed to run the organization much like he wanted to run WCW – this could be a great thing for TNA (and for the talent in the organization). In the interests of being fair, though, I have to note that this could also be a huge detriment to the TNA culture if any new owner (or if their current owners) decide to run the organization like WWE is run. The promise of TNA for performers is the reduced schedule and the ability to have a life outside of the ring. For TNA to remain as a viable alternative for wrestlers, it has to maintain a reduced schedule. It has to.
If I’m a guy like Matt Hardy or a guy like Shelton Benjamin, I’d be looking at making a move from WWE to TNA asap. Yes, I know the hardcore internet folks will probably laugh off that assertion, but the truth is that TNA is a place where they can build a long-term future for themselves. While I highly doubt that we’ll ever see a day where WWE folds and is put to rest, I think we are on the verge of major change in the wrestling industry given the recent Benoit and steroid scandals. TNA has the opportunity to benefit from these changes if they only play their cards right.
The question, as always, is whether or not the people who run these two organizations will see the writing on the wall and take action…