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NEW, BRIGHTER ERA BEGINS FOR TNA, WWE BADLY MISSES THE MARK WITH ANNIVERSARY RAW

By Mike Johnson on 2013-01-16 09:32:42
NEW ERA FOR TNA QUIETLY BEGINS

This past weekend, a chapter closed for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, one that quietly went under the radar for most fans.

While the company will still run the Impact Zone at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, for the first time since they began running there in 2005, the promotion will no longer be tethered by the ongoing complaints that their major PPVs look too small time and look the same because of the location.

Every major PPV going forward will be held on the road, opening the company up to running many new markets as well as rewarding those who do well for them attendance-wise on the house show loops while at the same time giving themselves enough creative time to properly build storylines and hopefully tease the audience enough that they want to part with their money to watch a PPV. 

In an era where it's always been run a monthly show because that's what has been done since the early 1990s, it's going to be a refreshing change for TNA and wrestling fans alike. 

To make things better, for once, the PPV Gods are smiling down upon the promotion as their next PPV isn't until March, the steel cage-infused Lockdown PPV.  To make things even better, they now have two months of TV to build to that show, which lands in the middle of a month where WWE is not running a PPV.  Following a run of mostly solid to entertaining TV, TNA could be primed for its best PPV results in a long, long time.

Equally of interest are the new taped "One Night Only" shows, which will debut in April.  While the first show has the unfortunate timing of landing on Friday 4/5, days before Wrestlemania during a cluttered weekend, the premise of the actual shows are exciting.

With TNA having to pull back on the actual PPV broadcasts, they are still locked into fulfilling that material for the international marketplace.  By taping the shows far in advance and creating special themes that are isolated from the company's long-term storylines (indeed, no champions appeared with their title belts at the tapings), TNA creates a situation where there will be some unique attraction events, the likes of which we haven't seen since the early days of the Clash of the Champions on TBS.

I've seen some fans complain that TNA isn't really cutting back on PPV because these will air domestically.  That argument is a joke, since TNA could easily have charged regular price but instead are presenting taped PPVs for $15, which is far less than they are worth given the level of wrestling at the first tapings.  What happened is this - once Spike balked at airing the specials, TNA was faced with a choice on how to disseminate the material domestically, because they couldn't just ignore their home market.  The DVD market is in tatters for anyone but WWE.  iPPV isn't strong enough yet.  What else were they going to do?  So, they made the material available cheaply for the audience.  The fans that want to see it win and TNA makes something from a situation where they were faced with making nothing.  Win for all sides.

Another win for all sides was the company's decision to bring in outside talents for these events.  For the wrestlers, this allows former TNA regulars to get looked at by the current management and possibly find a way into the company at the same time the TV exposure will hopefully help their influx of indy bookings. For the company, they get to scout new names and potentially pave their way into the company (See: Ring Ka King).  For the fans, it provides a fresh coat of paint during a time period in wrestling where 99% of the material feels the same week to week.  Anything that stands out as different is a good thing.

So, quietly, TNA moves into a new era.  Let's hope that when the time comes to look back, it was a good thing as well.

RAW ANNIVERSARY BADLY MISSES THE MARK

It's very rare that WWE badly misses the mark when it comes to something that legitimately had a lot of fan interest and hype behind it, but the Raw 20th Anniversary show was one of their worst attempts to create a "special event" in well, forever.

In many ways, the company would have been best served ignoring the anniversary beyond a few "Did You Know?" and promotional pushes from Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler on commentary.   Instead, we saw several weeks of clips featuring older stars only to be served up three names from the past - one of whom just returns (Ric Flair) and two of whom (Mick Foley, Jim Ross) are pretty much around more often than not.

I don't begrudge WWE for focusing on the build to their first dream match in a long time, CM Punk vs. The Rock, but if they weren't going to balance it out with a nice helping of nostalgia, why even promote the anniversary at all?

Compared to the Raw 1000 event that kicked off the three hour Raw expansion, this fell beyond flat, especially since so much of the booking was the usual segments that we always see on a weekly basis.

Yes, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin and Edge had other priorities and could not appear.  Yes, Bret Hart passed on the appearance because last time he was brought in, he was delegated to a 30 second cameo and felt it was a waste of his time.  Yes, Roddy Piper was off making a movie, but, why didn't the company turn those negatives into positives? 

How hard would it have been to get tape from all these names saying hello to the fans and wishing Raw a happy anniversary, before they pitched it to their favorite Raw memory?  With all the in-roads the company has made in Hollywood, they couldn't get a few celebrity videos?  They could have come back from each commercial break with a different video, allowing fans to see their old favorites as well as different moments.    It would have been a hell of a lot better than whatever that segment with Ric Flair on MizTV was designed to be.

The Anniversary brought back old viewers nostalgic for what they used to like about WWE.  It's a shame WWE didn't do something stronger to give those lapsed viewers a reason to want to re-invest some time in the current product.  The company missed their chance to do something unique and something to really make a strong statement as they kicked off Wrestlemania season.  That's a chance they won't get again anytime soon.

Mike Johnson can be reached at Mike@PWInsider.com.