I kind of figured something was up last Friday night at Dorton Arena when I got a look at Jeff Hardy in the Big Time wrestling main event. Hardy was playing wrestling’s most sensational innovation, Brother Nero, and while he seemed to be all-in, even singing the Obsolete song a-cappella, I noticed he was chewing gum.
You’re going to hear sadness at the news of the final end of TNA, at the fact that people are going to lose their jobs, that the number of places to work full-time in the professional wrestling business, few even now, was now going to shrink even further.
You’re going to hear nostalgia for TNA innovations like the six-sided ring, Beer Money, the X Division (“Its not about weight limits, it’s about no limits”), and A.J. Styles. Series like the one between Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle, or the ones between America’s Most Wanted and whoever it that they wrestled will be dug up and praised for their virtues. It’s human nature to become a little sentimental at the passing of something you’ve been familiar with for a certain amount of time.
Don’t fall for it. TNA has been a blight on the professional since it was founded on the foolish notion that weekly pay-per-view shows were a sustainable economic model. The wrestling business would’ve been better off if market forces had been allowed to have their way with this company years ago. Because Panda Energy kept pouring millions into a company which created content fans rejected, TNA kept making the same mistakes over and over again because their wrestling welfare money was never going to run out.
The list of foolish. money-losing notions that TNA spent millions of dollars to market would take more space and patience than I have here to complete. This is the company that spent years and millions of dollars unsuccessfully trying to prove that entitled perennial mid-card act Jeff Jarrett was somehow owed the main event because his father felt guilty about their troubled relationship and he was next in line to be the King of Memphis, only Jerry Lawler turned out to be the last one.
Every washed-up WWE Superstar who wanted or needed an annuity was hired to put over and/or give the rub to Jarrett. Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Sting, Ken Shamrock, Randy Savage, Jeff Hardy, Christian, Booker T, The Dudleys, Billy Gunn, and Kurt Angle are only some of the expensive talent wasted on the effort.
TNA only stopped pushing this failure when its owner, Panda Energy owner Bob Carter’s daughter Dixie Carter, felt betrayed that Jarrett lied to her about his relationship with the wife of the company’s most expensive star, Kurt Angle. It figured. The amount of strange, shady behavior behind the scenes that damaged this company over the years has never been completely revealed.
This is the company that pressured a retired Randy Savage into making his embarrassing last in-ring appearance, the place that sent an under-indictment Jeff Hardy into the ring where he was unable to perform. This is the place that promoted Roddy Piper on live TV accusing Vince Russo of being responsible for Owen Hart’s death, the place that made A.J. Styles act in a series of skits so dumb that the actress opposite him quit in embarrassment. This was the place where Kevin Nash somehow couldn’t make his main events and yet was re-signed to contract after contract. These were the people who took in an Olympic Gold Medalist who was struggling with his addictions so much that he was dropped by WWE.
This is the company whose all-time best -selling t-shirt was that of a referee who betrayed one of his closest friends in the business, then got fired for selling bootleg – you guessed it – t-shirts, so he had to go work in TNA. These are the people who brought in Pac-Man Jones after a strip-club melee he incited led to the permanent paralysis of a security guard, the ones who brought in the arrogant rock star Billy Corgan, the ones who pushed their untalented owner on TV years after year after year.
Then there were the carnies, the ones who saw a money mark to charm and fleece. Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff teamed up to spend millions to use TNA to promote their untalented children, and of course pay themselves. That loser Vince Russo kept conning his way back in, even when Jeff Jarrett had to lie to his father Jerry about it, even on a booking committee with, of all people, Jim Cornette, even when Dixie Carter lying to their network about it helped get them kicked off their programming.
So pardon me if I’m not shedding any crocodile tear over a place so pathetic you had to grade their pay-per-view efforts on the TNA curve. I’ll shed one over the sad fact that one of the greatest wrestlers I ever saw, Kurt Angle, through his own fault, spent too many years doing stellar work for them that most fans never saw.
Pro wrestling would have been better off if Dixie Carter hadn’t bailed the Jarretts out all those years ago. Maybe the good ol’ American capitalist system could have forged another real competitor to WWE in the space that TNA wasted.
(Bruce Mitchell has been a PWTorch columnist since 1990. He hosts the PWTorch Livecast every Friday night at 7 ET with Travis Bryant at www.PWTorchLivecast.com. The weekly two-hour Bruce Mitchell Audio Show with host Wade Keller is a VIP audio staple for years and is part of over a dozen VIP exclusive audio shows that run usually daily or weekly that online members have access to with their VIP password. His columns over the years have usually been published exclusively in the VIP PWTorch Newsletter paper copy and online PDF editions. If you have a question you’d like Bruce Mitchell to answer on his VIP Audio Show, send that question to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration on a future episode.) ###