As much as the average wrestling fan wants to believe that the most important thing going on in the life of a pro wrestler is the show unfolding before them, real life, illnesses, family emergencies, travel issues and just plain bad luck can often prevent advertised events from taking place.
For as long as there have been wrestlers and promoters, the term "card subject to change" has been held out in front of them like a protective shield, warding away any anger or discontent over changes to advertised wrestling events.
In the case of TNA champion Jeff Hardy, TNA doesn't deserve that shield for the last minute announcement that Hardy wouldn't be coming over on the European tour that kicked off yesterday in Dublin, Ireland. Not when the company has known for months his attendance on the tour was going to be an issue, yet continued to advertise him, without fail, until literally the last possible second.
It's not that Hardy couldn't legally make the tour, either. All signs are that TNA worked very hard to insure that Hardy would be able to make the trip overseas despite his past criminal conviction over drug charges during the lowest point of his life. No one is claiming otherwise.
However, for TNA to simply announce, "Oh, Hardy's injured and won't make it, so here's Sting instead" after eight MONTHS of promoting him to their fans overseas is a piss-poor strategy at placating the most supportive fans the promotion has on the same week the company is kicking off their biggest tour of the year.
Let's face it. The average fan is well aware that Jeff Hardy...
a)Had past issues that prevented him from working the tour
b)Is actually fine.
b)Will be wrestling on Impact this Thursday
Yet TNA, via a Facebook post that was quietly released to avoid as much attention as possible this past Friday, treated the audience as if they were idiots, promoting that Sting was coming on the tour to replaced an injured Jeff Hardy.
There is no argument that Sting is a living legend, especially overseas where the average wrestling fans's memory retention and loyalty towards the business is far stronger than their counterparts here in the United States. However, when TNA is playing to that style of fan and audience, lying to them (and let's face it, at the end of the day, that's what the company did) is the absolute worst way to insure the audience's continued loyalty.
Life is always going to throw curve-balls into the best laid out plans one can create. It's how you handle those issues that really tells the tale of a company. TNA has improved a lot over the last 18 months, but the way this was handled was a complete "cock-up".
Would it have been so hard for the company to simply state the obvious truth?
"Due to a prior legal issue, Jeff Hardy is unable to take part in TNA's scheduled European tour. On behalf of Jeff Hardy and everyone associated with TNA, we deeply apologize for this change to our tour. The company had been working hard to insure Jeff would be able to tour internationally but the logistics involved made it an impossibility. TNA realizes how important this tour is to our European fans, so we have added Sting to the tour in Hardy's place. We have additional surprises planned as well. We thank you for your support and we look forward to seeing you when we arrive in Europe!"
Simple, to the point and honest.
That is how TNA should have handled the issue, and they should have handled it months ago, when they realized there could have been an issue. Then, if they were able to secure Hardy coming overseas, imagine the reaction if Hardy showed up "unannounced" on the tour?
But, even if he wasn't able to make the tour, at least the company could look the fan base straight in the eye and know they did their best and leveled with them. Now, they can't really say that.
It's not that Jeff Hardy didn't make the tour, although to his fans, it's a pretty crappy situation. Hell, it's a crappy situation for TNA as well, since Hardy is their top merchandise seller. No one wants to leave money on the table, but, it happens. That's life.
But, TNA should never want to leave fan loyalty on the table. If even one paying fan was upset over how TNA handled the situation....if one fan said the hell with this and stayed home....if one fan decides next time not to buy tickets months in advance for the next tour, the price has already been too high for TNA, and it's a price they didn't have to pay, had they been honest.
The company owes their European fans a huge apology.