COMMENTARY | The Roman poet Ovid once said, "A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace." That was certainly the case in the late 1990s when Vince McMahon and the WWE faced real competition from WCW and, to a lesser degree, ECW. But in 2013, McMahon is more secure atop the pro wrestling world than anyone in history.
Today, WWE's main competition (and in this context, I use the term 'competition' lightly) comes from Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling. Airing Thursday nights on Spike TV, TNA's Impact Wrestling consistently draws ratings that would have gotten a primetime wrestling show cancelled 15 years ago. WWE Raw's ratings are typically at least three times higher than Impact Wrestling's ratings.
Depending on your perspective, you could applaud TNA for rising above all the other independent promotions that sprang up in the vacuum created by the demise of WCW and ECW. In operation now for 11 years, TNA has lasted longer than the original ECW (nine years) and is quickly catching up to WCW (13 years). However, I'm sure Dixie Carter and Hulk Hogan aren't satisfied with playing second fiddle to the WWE.
No one can accuse TNA of not trying to compete with WWE. Over the years, TNA has had a stable of A-list wrestlers that would make any promoter jealous. Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Sting, Roddy Piper, Jeff Jarrett (TNA's founder), Scott Steiner, Kurt Angle, Christian, Booker T, Kevin Nash, Jeff Hardy, and a young CM Punk have headlined WWE events around the world, yet all have failed to take TNA to the next level.
Many wrestling fans would argue that TNA's own homegrown wrestlers are the true talent base of the promotion. AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode, and James Storm have entertained TNA fans for years and have given the promotion respectability. However, the time has come for TNA to take drastic measures to make the quantum leap into the stratosphere known as the WWE.
TNA has already tried to emulate the successful angles of other promotions to no avail. Factions such as Team Canada, Aces and Eights, Fortune, and the Main Event Mafia failed get over like the Four Horsemen and the NWO did. Giving its women's division more airtime than the WWE does hasn't brought in the 18-35 male demographic. And TNA's highly respected X Division has become nothing more than another cruiserweight division.
In my opinion, TNA has to take one or more of the following three steps to truly keep Vince McMahon awake at night.
3. Hire Paul Heyman as head of creative
Paul Heyman's critics contend that his promotion, ECW, never rose above third place and went out of business in less than 10 years. However, that was because Heyman tried to micromanage every aspect of ECW's business operations. The wrestling, promos, and storylines of ECW are legendary. With Paul Heyman directing TNA's creative plans, the promotion won't need to copy anyone else's storylines.
2. Focus more on its UK market
I'm not suggesting that TNA will become more popular in America by leaving America. However, TNA's best crowds are always in UK arenas. The episode of WWE Raw that took place after Wrestlemania 29 has already reached legendary status because of its amazing crowd. A rabid crowd is infectious, even to fans watching on TV. If TNA could film more episodes of Impact Wrestling in the UK, it would indirectly spawn excitement in America as well.
1. Sign a top WWE wrestler (John Cena or CM Punk)
I know this sounds like replicating failed business models of the past. However, that aforementioned list of WWE wrestlers would pale in comparison to a surprise run-in by John Cena or CM Punk on a live broadcast of Impact Wrestling. TNA would have to keep it a secret until it happens, which isn't as easy today as it was 15-20 years ago. And they would have to do it soon as rumors persist that Cena and Punk's injuries are mounting in the WWE.
At the end of the day, it's possible that Vince McMahon cannot be dethroned and the WWE will never be challenged again. The NFL put the old AFL and USFL out of business and is now the most powerful pro sports league in the world. It's also possible that a large portion of old-school wrestling fans jumped ship to MMA and they are never coming back. But TNA has to take a different approach if it ever hopes to compete with the WWE.
Patrick Michael lives in New Orleans and has always been a big fan of pro wrestling. Patrick's favorite wrestling promotion was Mid-South Wrestling back in the 1980s. Patrick's favorite wrestling angle of all-time was the NWO and his favorite wrestler is Roddy Piper. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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