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Book Review: Burgan reviews The Story of NWA TNA by Jerry Jarrett: Vince Russo, Cheex, InDemand

Nov 6, 2004 - 3:41:00 PM
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By Derek Burgan, Torch Literary Critic

Torch Book Review
The Story of the Development of the NWATNA: A new concept in Pay-Per-View Programming
By Jerry W. Jarrett


jerryjarrett.jpg


The road to hell is paved with good intentions

A little while ago, when I took a road trip to Philadelphia to check out Ring of Honors Midnight Express reunion show, I was shocked to see a book on the fabled ROH gimmick table by Jerry Jarrett. Shocked, because I had heard absolutely NOTHING about this book. Coming from a person who reads no less than three wrestling dirtsheets every week and who checks out god knows how many websites, thats just embarrassing. Even to this date the coverage of this book is scandalous, especially considering the fact that the Torchs own senior writer Bruce Mitchell has mentioned Scott Keiths books more times than anyone has mentioned Jarretts. I cant speak for everyone, but the good money for the silence on the Torch is because Jarretts book includes the phrase the NWATNA and I know how much the mere mention of the WWE and the WCW drives Torch Editor Wade Keller absolutely bananas.

The first thing to note is that Jarretts book is less like Mick Foleys Have a Nice Day and more like The Diary of Anne Frank, except for the whole teenage girl thing (thats more of a Jerry Lawler gimmick anyway.) It is a collection of entries from Jerry Jarretts personal journal. The entries are from 2002 and detail the start-up of the TNA promotion. This is an interesting way to do a book, and is probably more acceptable to me due to the phenomenon of blogging over the past couple of years. In addition to giving his thoughts, Jarrett also prints several lengthy emails that he wrote to people, including a couple to the Torchs own assistant editor, Jason Powell.

Jarrett starts right from the beginning, saying that he and his son Jeff have an idea for a new wrestling promotion and needed to go about finding a way to get it funded. Jarrett gives details of his flights to L.A. to meet with InDemand executives and from Day One we find out just about everything TNA is associated with is doomed. Jarrett had a horrible experience at the meeting, which was made even worse when finding out InDemand wanted a huge deposit from TNA to assure they would continue the project. Speaking of money, the book overwhelms the reader with the financial detail of starting up a wrestling promotion. You will not believe the amount of data throughout the book and it gets to the point where it all becomes meaningless. To tell you the truth if I see the name SunTrust bank anytime soon Im going to scream. The Jarretts still felt confident that their business plan was a strong one though and didnt feel they had any competition. Jarrett said that he taped one of those WWA pay per views that Andrew McManus used to run and called it, The worst PPV in the history of the wrestling business. I believe this show was headlined by Jeff Jarrett.

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Early TNA logo



















In wrestling, word gets around fast and Jarrett found out none other than Vince McMahon himself found out about TNAs plans to start a promotion after reading an issue of the Pro Wrestling Torch newsletter. To stir the pot even more, when InDemand agreed to carry TNA they cancelled the WWE Fanatix PPVs to clear room for it. That sure must have gone over well down in Stamford, CT. Once they had a channel to carry the show Jarrett went about contacting talent to appear and found out right away how insane certain wrestlers are. In particular Jarrett went back and forth with the lawyers for Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior many times before finally giving up.

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Warrior. He says one thing during the phone conversation and when he sends you the contract it does not resemble the original and he has changed everything he has agreed to on the phone. I feel stupid not realizing why he has spent most of his career sitting at home.























My opinion of Vince Russo is that he is truly delusional.

If you are not a fan of Vince Russo then this is clearly the book for you because one of the recurrent themes in the book is that Jarrett believes Russo to be a complete idiot that is incapable of producing a wrestling show. Jarrett feels that Russo enjoyed limited success in the WWE under the extremely watchful eye of Vince McMahon, but that he has bombed everywhere else since. Jarrett also felt Russos style would not mesh with the rules of booking wrestling that Jerry Jarrett has learned over the past 30 years. What seems clear to me reading the book is that Vince Russo -- whether Jarrett liked it or not -- was indeed part of the early part of TNA, something the company has (and as far as I know they still claim he wasnt to this day) vehemently denied. For the entire year of 2002 Jarrett bangs his head against the wall to get Jeff Jarrett to realize what a big mistake it was to give Russo any creative control but Russo was too close a friend to Jeff for the words to make any difference.

Jeff is learning the hard way about some or most professional wrestlers.

The ridiculous antics of wrestlers show up throughout the book. Jarrett told an amusing story of how Dusty Rhodes tried to hold up TNA for more money. Buff Bagwell and Sean Waltman have their share of moments that will make you wonder why companies continue to book them. I remember watching the Honky Tonk Man Shoot Interview in which HTM talked about Bagwells experience in TNA, and obviously Jarrett had a different story to tell. I for one believe Jarrett a thousand times more than HTM. One of Waltmans stories included him being booked on a show that also had a girl he was seeing at the time. The girl, Alicia Webb -who happened to be a former girlfriend of Ken Shamrock - was offered $350 for the show but wanted $500. Waltman told TNA to just take $150 off of his pay and give it to her. Lest we forget that now Waltman has heat with Ken Shamrock for dating one of his former girlfriends. You can almost see Jarrett pulling his hair out just by reading his account of the story. Great stuff.

If we do 15% of the WWE buyrate nationwide, we will get between 90,000 and 100,000 buys. Our break-even point is about 55,000 buys.

Talk about your fuzzy math. I thought about this stupid sentence for a few days and still cant figure out what the hell Jarrett is smoking, unless he thinks the WWE is getting 750,000 or more buys for their PPVs. This just in: theyre not. This is also the area of the book where the Jay Hassman (or Haussman if you are Jerry Jarrett) story starts to develop. At first Jarrett says that Hassman is estimating huge success for the TNA PPVs, but over the course of the following weeks all hell breaks loose. You wont believe how crazy this story gets as eventually TNA is convinced that Jay Hassman was -- get this -- a saboteur for none other than Vince McMahon. Jarrett personally cant imagine any other reason for Hassmans actions even though it seemed every person he told the story to informed him it was probably more about Hassmans incompetence than anything else.

Long story short, TNA immediately had to scale back production costs because their buyrates were nowhere close to what they thought they were led to believe they would be. We never actually find out what the buyrates are because, as Jerry said, Our buyrate is terrible. We really dont know how bad because there are few sources available that know this business. This is confusing to me because every other business that uses pay-per-view, including the WWE, gets their buyrate information and yet TNA claims it cant. Because of the dire money situation, Jarrett saw what looked to be like rats jumping off a sinking ship. He mentioned several people who refused to work for TNA unless they got their paycheck right now (despite Jarrett being in dire straits) and at the same time really put over others (such as Jeremy Borash) who said they would stay with the company through thick and thin.

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The Johnsons. We have failed in most of the characters. The teams we have developed are too comical to be taken seriously.



What I thought was interesting was the way Jarrett would talk about the early shows. He does bring up that they made mistakes, but for the most part was proud by just about every show they did. Jarrett said that often he went to the Internet to check out what feedback was and almost inevitably it was positive. This is not the TNA I remember watching in 2002. Jarrett often brings up the disastrous Dupp Cupp, mostly because it wasnt his idea, but doesnt really touch on any of the other what-the-f***-were-they-thinking stuff like. I mean cmon, a midget beating off in a trash can?!!

Jarrett actually includes a forwarded email in the book and is something probably all of us get in our email boxes with the subject TOUCHING STORY PASS ON! I dont know what is more amazing -- the fact that this insanely long, ridiculous email was printed in full or that it contained a ~ which will surely drive Wade Keller up a wall. Not long thereafter Jarrett goes into a story where he tries to compare the love he had for the New York Yankees and how it diminished when he read about the reality of sports, such as players leaving for more money. This story was told to basically slam the dirtsheet industry. I dont know how to take it seriously because professional sports have a million times more scrutiny than the world of wrestling and yet it doesnt drive the fans away. Insiders such as Jerry Jarrett and most of the industry try to blame the Pro Wrestling Torch and Dave Meltzer, among others, for ruining the business, but to me that is one of the lamest excuses they have next to the laughable cyclical nature of business.

We get to see Panda Energy go from a prospective investor in TNA to bankrolling the company which for all intents and purposes kept TNA in business. Jarrett was really sweating this one because he and Jeff were personally liable for something like 1.5 million dollars and if Panda would have backed out, they would have had to declare personal bankruptcy. This was another one of those moments that made me scratch my head because Jarrett repeatedly mentions how successful his construction business was, to the tune of millions in profits every year. Panda told Jarrett they didnt want to pursue litigation with Jay Hassman and Jarrett still wont let this go as he felt that if he dropped the case he would lose locker room respect. Can you imagine being worried about having the respect of guys who would sell their mother for a house show payoff? I also was surprised to find out just how lucky TNA was in finding a new investor as all along Dixie Carter worked for their company, but they had no idea she was the daughter of Panda Engerys owner. If Dixie Carter hadnt approached TNA about her fathers company, I have no doubt in my mind the company would have folded.
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Cheex. Our character Cheex was very disappointing. He came across as a 400 lb. fat man with no talent or athletic ability.



The mindset of the professional wrestler is unique. Failure to understand is to fail in this business.

Truer words may never have been spoken. Somehow this led to yet another attack on the dirtsheet industry in general and the Torch in particular. I wonder if Sony sends out corporate emails telling their employees that websites such as thedigitalbits.com or magazines like Entertainment Weekly are out to destroy them. Regardless, Jarrett often brings up great stories of just how absurd some of the wrestlers who passed through TNA were. One night Jarrett was up-to-here with Buff Bagwell and heres how he described Buff shooting a simple promo: We finally began the simple interview segment with Buff and he screws up his lines five times. The director finally whispered to me that he has worked with Buff numerous times and this is as good as Buff is capable of doing the interview. Im not sure if Buffs mind is deficient or Buff just prefers to write his own interview. Surprisingly, Jarrett had nothing but good words to say about Scott Hall other than to keep mentioning Hall had to bail out on some shows because of all the problems he was having with his ex-wife.

The Pros: As I said earlier, Jarrett reprints several emails throughout the book and these are really enlightening. You can not imagine the length to which Jarrett goes to explain his points and it is very powerful reading. This guy knows wrestling and explains why he is saying what he is saying. The book could definitely have used more of these and less of the interminable interview halfway through the book (well get to that later.) It also would have been nice if we had been able to look at some of the emails Jarrett was responding to, but who knows what legal situations we would be talking about then. I once reprinted an email in one of my old LOUNGE columns and had the Torch lawyers harassing me for months. Seriously though, because we only have Jarretts responses we have to figure out what the person was saying to him in the first place.

If you want to start a wrestling business, or just want to see what goes into starting a business, then YOU MUST BUY THIS BOOK. There are so many of the little things that no one really talks about when starting a business that are discussed often here and it make you wonder why anyone would ever want to put themselves through all the stress. I would say 50% of Jarretts entries have something to do with him going to or dealing with a bank. Believe me, the hoops they made Jarrett jump through make you understand why this year he needed to have a pacemaker installed. I would have had a stroke months earlier than Jarrett and Im half his age. The book also uses specifics, and not stupid vague terms, about the financial aspect of this business and while they may bore some readers I found it very interesting. I should add that after a point it becomes tedious because the exact same figures and banks are brought up repeatedly.

There are tons of great little details about the business that Jarrett drops throughout the book. You get to read his thoughts on the WWEs Katie Vick angle, the people who won bids on TNAs Silent Auction (remember that?) but couldnt pay, and the NFLs Monty Brown trying to squeeze more money out of TNA, among many other items. Did I mention that the book comes signed? As far as I know they are all autographed by Jarrett which is an interesting gimmick and adds a little personal touch that gets major ups from me.

The Cons: Jarrett explains early on that this book is his journal, reprinted as is, and that nothing has been touched up. I can see where Jarrett was going with this, but clearly this book needed an editor for several reasons. The first is the most obvious: there are a lot of typos. I dont think that making basic spelling changes would impugn the authors work. Lets face it, we all make stupid typo mistakes, but to not correct them is mind-boggling. Jarrett also misspells many names throughout the book (Kimala instead of Kamala, Jay Haussman instead of Jay Hassman) and this drove me absolutely up a wall.

Midway through the book there is a mind-numbingly long thirty page interview with Jerry Jarrett that is inexcusable. Anywhere else this interview would have been fine (such as on the TNA website), as its a very in-depth look at Jarrett, but putting it in the middle of this book just took away all the momentum. After the first 15 pages I started to laugh out loud when I turned the page and saw that the interview kept going. I cannot get over what a bad taste this left in my mouth and have no idea why it was left in the book, other than fear that the book would appear too thin without it.

Jarrett repeats himself. A lot. This would be another job of the editor as there are countless examples of entries that say the exact same thing as earlier ones. A small complaint, and this has no bearing on my enjoyment of the book, is that there are no pictures. I only add this because due to the long career Jarrett has had, he undoubtedly has access to an archive of photos that would make diehard fans the core audience for this book drool all over themselves.

Overall Thoughts: While there were certain parts of the book that I wasnt a big fan of, most notably the never-ending interview that completely derails the book, I think there is more than enough material for me to make a strong recommendation. In fact, I would highly recommend this to all Torch readers along with anyone interested in the finer points of creating a wrestling promotion because it is certainly more work than figuring out which guys you want to book. Click on the following link if youd like to check out the book: Jerry Jarretts TNA Book. Or you can be like an idiot like me and wait till a Ring of Honor show is in your area and pick it up through them. And if you want to see how the whole TNA thing worked out in 2002, check out www.WrestleCrap.com

Derek Burgan, the Torchs own ROH DVD guy, also reads the occasionally book (other than collections of Penthouse letters, natch). He can be reached at derek@gumgod.com and welcomes any and all comments and/or suggestions.


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