TNA Wrestling, before it rebooted as IMPACT Wrestling, is remembered for what it could’ve been rather than what it did. The company employed some damn good wrestlers such as AJ Styles, Sting, Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe as well as future AEW EVPs Generation Me. With a regular weekly show on Spike TV as well as a roster of independent darlings & notable ex-WWE wrestlers, TNA had all the tools to emerge as a premier alternative to McMahonland. However, TNA dropped the ball hard and embarrassed themselves more than Goldberg in Saudi Arabia. Suffice to say, they failed and now AEW has risen to try and take the torch.
AEW is firmly entrenching itself as the alternative for fans dissatisfied and disgusted with WWE. If things continue the way they are now, AEW will be around for decades as a competitor to Vinnie Mac. With weekly programming on TNT, as well as independent darlings & notable ex-WWE wrestlers, AEW is thriving and succeeding by doing what TNA should’ve done. Now that IMPACT and AEW have formed a working agreement, I’d like to take a look at the many things that contributed to AEW’s success and how to take heed of TNA’s humiliation.
Promoting Young Stars
AEW employs a variety of young, hungry athletes adept in different wrestling styles. The Tarzan son of Luke Perry, Jungle Boy, the heat-seeking MJF, the emotionally depressed yeehaw man Hangman Page, and Jim Cornette’s favorite wrestler Orange Cassidy; one or two of these performers would garner AEW attention. Having an entire roster of unique wrestlers in their 20s-30s is enough to be must-see and also smart planning for the future.
AEW is succeeding in pushing these talents to carry the banner. Some people still try to say AEW has too many WWE guys just like TNA did. Here’s the thing: TNA’s problem was never too much of former WWE guys. The fact is, TNA only ever promoted the WWE wrestlers and never believed in their original homegrown young talent. AJ Styles & Samoa Joe suffered in midcard purgatory while Ken Anderson, RVD, & Jeff Hardy hogged the main event in 2010. TNA was more interested in Matt Morgan than they ever were in The Young Bucks. AEW has avoided this issue aplenty. Jungle Boy beat Dax Harwood this past Wednesday on Dynamite. Wardlow whooped Jake Hager‘s ass two weeks ago. Orange Cassidy put Chris Jericho in his place twice.
The ex-WWE guys AEW signed are invested in the company’s success. This isn’t a paycheck until Vince comes calling back. They want to be in AEW and fit the vibe pretty well. Jon Moxley, Miro, Pac, and FTR found new life in Jacksonville. Dixie Carter only wanted to promote the former WCW & WWE guys along with wasting away money at every chance possible.
If WWE is known for anything, besides promoting past their prime legends way too much, it’s treating their audience like idiots together with actively discriminating them. Thankfully, AEW is determined to provide fans with trust in addition to respect. AEW keeps their ears to the ground to give fans a thrilling experience. Sometimes it is selective hearing as many people lament the company’s production botches in addition to women’s division booking. However, the company is committed to tag-team excellence, long-term booking, more adult-oriented feuds, and significant character investment.
TNA Wrestling “provided” fans with the infamous minus five-star match between Jenna Morasca & Sharmell, Victory Road 2011 with Sting vs Jeff Hardy, Pacman Jones, Claire Lynch, and a Blindfolded Steel Cage Match. All of this unfolded as Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, & Dixie Carter actively worked to destroy the company. All the while, the wrestlers tried to make a living. Considering TNA was attracting die-hard pro wrestling fans unsatisfied with WWE, these were huge mistakes. Safe to say, TNA actively went against their audience’s wishes in like manner to WWE. At least we won’t have to worry about pole matches on Dynamite.
Pro Wrestling, Not Sports Entertainment
Though there have been some ‘Sports Entertainment” bits throughout the year, AEW is first and foremost a professional wrestling company. Yes, the promotion has debates, dinosaurs, and skits. The thing is, pageantry in wrestling is essential and cannot be ignored. AEW caters to everyone by promoting many different elements of pro wrestling instead of homogenizing them. AEW Dynamite celebrates uniqueness and individuality and marches to the beat of their own drum. Pro wrestling is stupid and campy and I, like many others, love it. It’s nice to finally have an alternative to WWE’s Sports Entertainment dictatorship.
TNA infused new life into wrestling with the X-Division, Knockouts, strong booking for Tag Titles, and a plethora of exciting wrestlers. Things were looking up for the promotion from 2006 to 2009, then Hulk Hogan arrived in 2010, brother. The IMPACT Zone became WWE-lite and an even worse version of WCW in 2000. Hogan & Bischoff de-emphasized the Jr. Heavyweights, the women, the tag teams, and everything that screamed non-WWE. TNA lost everything that made it unique. The potential to become a true alternative to McMahonland squandered.
Say what you will about AEW – at least to promotion is avoiding everything TNA is infamous for. The Jacksonville promotion achieved more in one year more than TNA did in eighteen. It’s ironic how TNA could’ve been AEW an entire decade before their existence. For the record, while I spent this entire piece bashing TNA, credit where credit is due – IMPACT Wrestling rebounded swiftly. IMPACT on AXS is a good professional wrestling show and it’s awesome to see them in a partnership with The Elite. Where this working agreement takes both companies is anyone’s guess. All I can say is, TNA is a learning experience for any wrestling promotion on how and how not to make an Impact. Tony Khan, take notes.
Stay tuned to Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can catch AEW Dynamite Wednesday nights at 8 PM ET on TNT and AEW DARK Tuesday nights at 7 PM ET on YouTube.
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