Vince Russo had a good idea once. Instead of shoehorning charismatic guys like Steve Austin and Dwayne Johnson into cheesy gimmicks, why not let them go out, be themselves turned up to eleven and let follow what may come.
It was these personalities, along with Vince McMahon, Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels and Triple H who were the driving forces of what was known as the Attitude Era in the then-WWF. There were risqué, edgy storylines, but let’s face it, if it were Shawn Stasiak and Headbanger Mosh in the same situation as Austin and Brian Pillman in the infamous “pulled a gun on RAW” angle, would it have been the same?
[adinserter block=”2″]In a similar breath, Eric Bischoff actually had two good ideas once. The first was to have a bunch of WWF castoffs come into WCW under the guise of an invasion and try to take over the fed. The second was to showcase the exciting junior heavyweight wrestling style that had taken hold in ECW, Japan and Mexico and put it on the bigger stage. Of course, he screwed both ideas up. First, he let that nWo angle suffocate the rest of the fed, including the cruiserweight division, to the point where everything else died. Then, he mucked up the nWo to the point where it lost steam without ever really concluding.
Their negatives, however, are miles long, and they were both instrumental in the death of WCW. Russo’s penchant for shock value TV, multiple swerves per show, nonsensical turns and profanity for profanity’s sake has made him a hated figure amongst wrestling traditionalists. Meanwhile, Bischoff has never met a dominant heel stable he didn’t like, loves to incorporate boring legal mumbo-jumbo into story lines, inserts himself as a top character in any fed he’s a part of, despite the fact that the guy doesn’t take bumps all that often. These two have meant bad news in the creative departments of any promotion they’ve been a part of after their initial successes. You’d think that these two would be out of wrestling and in some other profession.
But if you thought that was the case, you don’t know Dixie Carter that well, do you?
Nope, both men are in prominent positions within the TNA creative department, and it shows. There’s a dominant heel stable in charge. Several feuds, embarrassingly including Kurt Angle vs. Jeff Jarrett, have in most cases superfluously edgy overtones to them. There are nonsensical turns every week, including a monthly feature where at least one tag team or unit has a break-up tease. The top feud in the company is not between wrestlers, but between Bischoff, seconded by crippled old Hulk Hogan, and Dixie Carter, centering around legal injunctions and litigation. Bischoff gets more airtime on the program than any of the active wrestlers. It’s a mess.
TNA Impact gets between 0.9 and 1.5 in ratings each week with this regime in charge. The average is usually around 1.1, with a predictable fall off coming after the 75 minute mark to the point where the lowest ratings come in the final segment of the show. This is a disaster, as viewers leave in droves before the conclusion of the broadcast. Yes, there are spikes each week, but the audience never grows too much past their core that seems to stick with them each week. It’s a core that’s about half that of the WWE’s core audience at best, and yet Carter will insist that she’s a competitor to McMahon’s sports entertainment market leader. The ratings are substandard compared to WWE’s, and yet she and Bischoff and anyone who blindly supports the company will let you know how well they’re doing on TV. It’s maddening.
[adinserter block=”1″]Rehashing specific ideas will only get you so far. There’s a ceiling of success, and when you’re a company that doesn’t have the market reach or history of the WWE, that ceiling is pretty low. There needs to be new ideas presented. The format needs to be freshened up. However, Bischoff and Russo refuse to do that. They’re stuck in the mentality that what worked before will definitely work again.
The problem is that it won’t. While there are rehashes that will work, they’re ideas, booking templates and other things that have worked in pro wrestling for decades, not for a short period of five years that was driven not by these two idiots, but by the nWo, Austin, The Rock and the rest of the strong personalities that were let loose during this time.
If TNA wants to compete with WWE, they need to try something fresh and exciting, not stick with two hacks who would have had nothing in the tank for almost two decades now. If they want to gain some of the old school WCW audience that likes traditional wrestling, they’ll stop with the ADHD-style television and start going back more sound booking and star-building techniques.
But if they want to keep with the same non-growth and fan frustration, they should totally keep Bischoff and Russo. If TNA ever turns around, it won’t be because of them. That is, unless all the wrestling fans get lobotomies. Then they may have a fighting chance.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.
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