August 12, 2013

TNAsylum Spin Cycle 8/1/13

Welcome everyone to the return of The Spin Cycle, TNAsylum's resident roundtable column. This week the panel is talking about TNA going on the road and the decision they have had to make as a result of it.

Meet your panel:
FK9- Polarizing writer of "Straight Shooting"
Mortimer Plumtree- New TNAsylum Writer
Derrville- TNAsylum Reader
Talon- Yours truly

TNA has released a number of wrestlers in the past few months. What are your thoughts on these releases? Who do you think is next?

Derrville- Honestly, most of the people being released are people the TNA audience hasn't seen on TV in quite a while. People like Silva, Williams, and Hendricks were in OVW and Madison Rayne was and will be quite busy with her pregnancy for the foreseeable future. No question TNA let some potential stars slip away with Crimson, Joey Ryan, and Matt Morgan however I think both Crimson and Ryan will be back in TNA in the future. Like many other TNA/Matt Morgan fans, I was getting frustrated with the "Push" Morgan was receiving. One week he look'd like a million bucks then the next hes either off TV or having his time wasted doing things that fail to elevate him or his career. Its obvious TNA doesn't want to push him so him asking for his release is something I probably would have done myself and something that wasn't expected. 

As for whose next? I could see guys like Knux and Briscoe getting the ax. Knux seems to be absolutely useless and hasn't done anything since his debut almost a year ago. I do think TNA will try to turn Briscoe into a homegrown star as well as other indy talent that haven't been signed yet. These releases allow for TNA to sign a some new talent which could help boost a depleted Knockouts division or find Storm and Gunner some tag team opponents.

FK9- As unfortunate as it is, with the added costs of going on the road, TNA can no longer afford to keep such a bloated roster on the payroll, so the cuts were inevitable. Thankfully, most of the releases I'm perfectly fine with and probably would have made myself had I been in TNA's shoes. The only cuts I was completely against were Todd Keneley, Crimson and Taeler Hendrix (who had decided to ask for her release anyway), and of those three, only Keneley was a part of the current product. The cuts might hurt a bit, but they're not something that's going to impact the show in any major way; the one exception to that being Doc, but if him leaving hastens the demise of the Aces & 8s angle, then frankly, that's another cut I'm happy about. 

If you'd asked me who I thought was next on the chopping block a couple weeks ago, I would have said ODB, but since the writers seem to want to use her as a wrestler again, I'm saying Rob Terry. I think TNA like the idea of Rob Terry -- a giant of a man, built like a tank -- I'm sure they look at him and think, "This guy is our answer to Ryback!" So every once in a while he pops up and gets a brief push, but then reality quickly rears its ugly head and they remember why they stopped pushing him in the first place: he's just not very good. 

When they were still shooting in the iMPACT Zone and costs were low, they could afford to be eternally patient with Terry and wait for him to make infinitesimal improvements at a snail's pace, hoping he would eventually become something worth pushing seriously, but now that they're in belt-tightening mode and forced to be realistic about the situation, I think they're going to come to the decision that Terry just isn't worth the investment they've made in him anymore. 

Talon- Let's face facts, most of the people that were cut from the roster weren't being used. They were being paid without doing anything. TNA's roster has always been bloated so to see them finally make important cuts is relieving. I have talked to many of the people who were released and like them as people and as wrestlers. Some understand that its a business. The biggest departure to me was DOC because he was in the middle of a storyline. It drives me crazy (like no one else) when the product is effected due to contractual issues.

Personally, while I know people's jobs are on the line, more cuts could be made. I would analyze everyone on the roster. Anyone who isn't being used (or there aren't plans on using for the next three-five months) should be released. I look at guys like Rob Terry, Sam Shaw and Chavo Guerrero. If the Aces and Eights angle is ending soon there are a few members there that could be cut. I also feel that with the new X Division rules, most of the X guys could be on PPA deals. They are only used four or five times (unless they are the spotlight star) before they disappear.

Mortimer- While it is a shame to see some of the talent leave that really had something to offer TNA, I am completely alright with it as all reports seem to reveal that it was necessary. I know I am in the minority in saying this, but I find the releases to be blown out of proportion. People losing their jobs is very unfortunate. But very few have looked at it as TNA trimming the fat to make their new business model work. Instead (Of course), with TNA, it's over-hyped that the ship is sinking. How is a company in dire straights when they release talent, but at the same time are rumored to be looking to bolster their roster? 

I know some had high hopes for some of the guys like Crimson and Doc, but I still think the door is open for them down the road once TNA tightens it's belt. There could be more releases, and I while I am uncomfortable calling for someone's job, after looking at the main roster and ranking the talent based on what they can give the company right now, I would have to believe Wes Brisco has to be discussed (even over Garrett Bischoff). Overall, there are growing pains in every step, and this is just another one.

One of these releases was Jesse Sorenson. Do you feel it was right for TNA to release Jesse based on the rumored information?

FK9- If what we've been lead to believe is true, TNA did right by Sorensen, but their hands were tied. He broke his neck wrestling for them, so they gave him a job backstage while he recovered, paying him much more than a normal P.A. would have made for performing the same duties. But supposedly Sorensen wasn't as interested in learning the backstage intricacies of the business as he was in returning to the ring, which TNA would not medically clear him to do out of concern for his health. So what were they supposed to do? What could they do? Sounds to me like they tried to make the right decision for everyone. Sorensen is a free agent again, he's since made his return to the ring and seems happy about that, meanwhile TNA save some money by cutting him loose, letting him be free to do what he wanted. All's well that ends well, I guess...?

Derrville- Its hard to judge how much self sacrifice one person has given someone else. A lot of the criticism was thrown on Dixie but the woman did more than I'd expect my boss or any boss for that matter would do for any employee. She rode with him to the hospital, called his family, visited often, and always gave the fans any updates she had. Due to the misinformed information on the internet, people believed all of the TNA talent were payed appearance fees only. No salary, just show up and you get payed. Turns out no, that's not true for everyone and Sorenson was one of those people. He was payed a salary that was apparently higher than average for 18 months. He was allowed to experience the production side of the wrestling business more in depth giving him something to fall back on just in case he wasn't able to return to the ring. I think Dixie and TNA did all they could for the man and like Ryan and Crimson, I too believe Sorenson will be back in TNA after a while. Now instead of being payed one steady check without the opportunity to perform, hes allowed to take any bookings he'd like giving him more freedom and the ability to wrestle again anytime he wants. If he had gotten hurt in a TNA ring AGAIN then TNA and Dixie would be blamed and the #askdixie fiasco would look like child's play. 

Mortimer- Another tough decision, but yes, it was the right thing for TNA from the rumored info. And I was very high on Sorenson, as I thought he had a great amount of potential. Dixie may get criticized for breaking a promise, and that is a broken bond she will have to deal with personally, but as is the case with the released talents, the overall health of the company is more important. TNA supplied him with a lucrative job for several months, one which if he did impress, he would've never been looked at to be released. It's tough to say, but you can't just keep employees on the payroll based on emotion while receiving inefficient productivity. Especially, when there is limited financial flexibility to do so. Unfortunately, those are the tough decisions that have to be made. I don't envy Dixie at all when it comes to these aspects. 

Talon- The problem here was that Dixie promised something she couldn't do, not that Jesse was released. I know the decision eats away at Dixie because she is that kind of person. If TNA is going to be as mean and lean as possible, they need to get rid of excess contracts that only eat away their money. Jesse was a production assistant who was paid more than anyone else. TNA provided him with a job for 18 or so months after he was hurt. I am glad Jesse is fine but TNA shouldn't be condemned for making a financial decision.

Another name to depart was Head of Creative and Talent Relations, Bruce Prichard. With his departure, who would you hire to replace him as Head of Creative and as Head of Talent Relations?

Talon- There were good and bad things about Prichard's time in TNA. The creative aspect is subjective. You either like that style or you don't. You can't look past the decreasing audience however. I personally have felt that up until the past month or so, the product has been very tame.

The talent relations aspect though has been pretty sad. This year they signed DOC, Rampage Jackson and Manik. They also released a number of good talent. There have been a number of situations where Bruce has screwed up and almost lost a major TNA star (Bobby Roode, Velvet Sky) etc. The job just wasn't for him.

Right now I would leave the creative writing to Dave Lagana, Matt Conway and Eric Bischoff. I would have had Al Snow be the talent relations guy but anyone with knowledge of talent could do it. Jeff Jarrett might be a strong option. Prichard's role is one that might not be needed as he was just another spot to fill.

Mortimer- I'm torn on the Bruce Prichard era. I liked the re-focus of the product, but from reports and rumors, there seemed to be a lot of unprofessional practices as well. I'm not sure who would thrive in this role, as quite honestly, I'm not sure who is available, or who within TNA currently would be able to fill the role. Possibly Bully Ray one day, as he really seems to have that live, breathe, and eat mentality for everything pro wrestling. 

However, this might sound cliche, but what about Jeff Jarrett? When in control, TNA really was hot with a great reputation in which big names wanted to see what it was about or even join it. Remember when "TNA Chants" were common? It was under his watch where talent like Bobby Roode, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, James Storm, Samoa Joe, etc... were brought into the company. Hard to argue with that resume. But whoever it is, has a daunting task of really repairing the TNA brand. 

Derrville- I was never a fan of Prichard or the "slow burn" way of booking. Having story-lines progress slowly is great when characters are fleshed out more in detail and their motives for whatever it is that they do become clear but that wasn't the case in TNA. The Aces and 8s for example have featured guys like Bully Ray and Mr. Anderson but they also have guys like Knux and Doc who until the last few weeks had only said about 5 words combined in about a years time. Just as Doc starts developing some type of personality other than saying "who's your daddy!?", him and TNA part ways. Things need to happen at a faster pace in my opinion and someone who I think can bring forward that certain mix for success is Eric Bischoff. I think Bischoff is highly underrated for his work in WCW and doing what they did in the mid 90s to early 2000s. Not only does Bischoff have a mind for wresting but he has a mind for TV and what works. His production company develops and produces many great reality shows on many different networks. Bischoff is someone who I believe has a passion for TNA, more than he leads on, and someone who can come up with ideas that can potentially change the way wrestling as a whole is presented to us moving forward into the future. 

If Prichard really is to blame for letting Roode and Hogan's contracts go out without being on top of it and if RVD had come to an agreement to resign only to be brushed off by Prichard then he deserves to be let go. I know it may cost the company more but I don't think Head of Creative should have the responsibilities of Talent relations as well. Having two different people for the jobs can help each person stay focused on their own individual responsibilities and avoid fiasco's at House Shows.

FK9- I don't think there's a specific person I could name because I don't think the answer lies in anyone currently in the industry. For all the good it accomplished, Prichard's approach was too slow-paced, too traditional, too old school for lack of a better term. It was too beholden to conventional wrestling formulas when doing things that way doesn't really draw casual fans in in 2013, as evidenced by the ratings. The Prichard regime was too stuck in the "wrestling bubble" and therein lies the problem. 

Loathe as I am to reference the WWE's creative department as a positive, I think TNA should consider taking a page from that book and look outside the wrestling business for new writers, people who don't think the same way they do, people with fresh ideas, who are going to think outside the box and be open to new ways of telling stories that TNA haven't considered. 

Remember, love him or hate him, Vince Russo was the most successful writer in the history of the business and he didn't come from a wrestling background. I think they need to look for someone like that again because replacing Prichard with another "wrestling guy" isn't going to break any new ground. They need to find someone who's going to evolve their creative process, not simply continue what's been done before.

With what we have seen from the change in PPV strategy, do you favor the current version with four PPVs and TV specials or the old version with twelve PPVs.

Mortimer- I prefer the four PPVs with the TV specials model. Now, I'm not privy to the numbers, so I'm not sure what the difference is financially between the two models, but I enjoy Impacts being able to breathe with big fights every so often, and I love the idea of the pay-per-views feeling special. Have they capitalized on perfecting this model? The jury is still out as they refine it. But I think it has promise. 

In a position where TNA needs to develop new faces, removing the need to force a feud and a match within three weeks is gone. The product flows, and allows for them to not exhaust match-ups which can be saved for big nights by simply having to fill an eight match card for the month. The WWE has a larger roster, double the amount of programming, and six championships, and even then sometimes I feel like some of their undercard is thrown together. I like the pace, and TNA seems to be getting better at it.

Derrville- When TNA announced the change from 12 PPVs to 4 PPVs I thought it was a great idea. TNA would have more time to build their PPV cards and the title matches could mean so much more. Initially I thought having more time in between PPVS would allow the show to stay more focused and maximize interest in the product and the event. However I don't think TNA has executed as well as I had hoped. Many shows felt like "filler" shows and usually involved little to no progression in story-lines. A lot of the past criticism on TNA involved the pace of their shows and how much focus was put on a particular feud or story-line. People complained that TNA didn't give enough time to develop X division feuds, people complained that the story-lines didn't make sense, people complained about how TNA didn't have enough time to properly build a PPV match and that doing a PPV every month was too costly. 

I thought changing the format would fix all of this but it hasn't. There are still aspects in the stories that don't make any sense, feuds still aren't allowed to breath and bloom out more than they should, and some how matches are still being randomly thrown onto PPV cards. With about 3 months of time to help build challengers and matches there should be more of a payoff than TNA is getting now. The PPVs should also be better themed with just a different ring apron and some different lights. With the BFG series in full effect and the change in creative, I expect things to change for the better. 

Talon- It's hard to judge based off the limited amount of shows we have gotten. The old format wasn't my desired one as buildup to each show felt very forced and artificial. Cutting back on PPVs needed to happen for every company. Four might not be enough but is also might be fine.

As for the new structure, I am mixed on the One Night Only PPVs. They only appear to be placeholders for this year and will likely be scrapped next year. I like many of the themes and it looks like TNA will be using them for TV Specials. I prefer this idea as a larger audience will be able to see major events. It also breaks up long periods where the PPVs air. If TNA can build things up like they did with Destination X, I think they should be fine.

FK9- It's hard to say as we've only just gotten our first real taste of how the PPV/TV specials strategy can work. I agree 12 PPVs was too many, but 4 felt like too few, especially if there was nothing in between. Building up to big iMPACTs where PPVs used to be seemed like the way to go, but their first outing didn't move the ratings at all. However, their first attempt at a PPV-themed iMPACT got them their highest rating of the year, so I think that's the formula: building up to essentially a PPV on free TV, but just as importantly, branding it like one. 

Recent reports suggest that cutting 8 PPVs had to do with saving money, so TNA wouldn't have to rent out arenas for PPVs on top of the cost of taking iMPACT on the road. If that is indeed the case, then I think this current format is the direction they should head in. TNA has always placed more value on the TV show than their PPVs anyway. If doing PPV-themed iMPACTs can help them with the ratings like Destination-X did, then we can have our cake and eat it too. 

Ratings are critical if TNA wants to not only keep SpikeTV happy, but also get additional TV time someday, and after the audience erosion that occurred under the Prichard regime, anything that gets viewership moving in a northerly direction is something TNA needs to pursue. If doing TV specials branded like PPVs in between the Big 4 PPVs accomplishes that, then I say go for it. 

With the road tapings being the catalyst for the recent budget cuts, do you feel the move was worth it? If it were up to you would you have stayed in the IMPACT Zone or would you have gone on the road and made the budget cuts?

FK9- While I'm sure the roster members who were future endeavored aren't happy, and the loss of extravagances like pyro and fancy entrances certainly doesn't help the show, I think some people are forgetting just how unbearable the iMPACT Zone had really become. The Universal Studios fans had never been more lifeless, which often made iMPACT borderline painful to sit through. Granted, TNA have had their share of dead crowds since getting out of there, but at least they get to roll the dice every 2 weeks now and that's more than what they had before. 

And again, it's not as if any of the cuts have been truly heart-breaking (okay, losing Crimson hurt a lot); mostly it's been talents that weren't pulling their weight, had outlived their usefulness or were people the company could do without anyway. As I said in a recent column, when TNA starts cutting important people like Austin Aries, Samoa Joe and Magnus to save money, THEN you can start worrying. But as it is, these are cuts I can live with if it means TNA can keep the iMPACT Zone in their rear-view mirror. 

The current bare bones presentation is unfortunate and probably hinders their ability to create stars among other things, but it also means that with TNA finally working without a safety net, they can't afford to make questionable decisions anymore. Hell, I would argue that some of the cuts will actually benefit the company because they've done away with people that were not going to make them money anyway (not true in every single case, but still). Yes, the belt-tightening may hurt a bit in the short-term, but sometimes sacrifices must be made in order to make real strides. Besides, it still beats shooting TV in a tiny studio full of coma patients week after week. 

Mortimer- If offered the trade a year ago of Impact Wrestling going on the road in exchange for the release of the same talents, I would've gladly accepted that trade then. And I still support the decision now. I believe we all said it then, TNA had to take the show on the road eventually. And in my eyes, TNA owes their fans from all over the nation the ability to see the product in their cities and towns. 

These kind of cutbacks always opens a company's eyes to the expenses that aren't needed, and will further help the company move in a direction for long-term health. 

Derrville- As a TNA fan for many years, watching hundreds of Impacts and PPVs broadcast live from the Impact Zone I truly believe it was time to move on. When I first started watching TNA one of the things that drew me in was the crowd. There was a time where the Impact Zone crowd was rowdy and made proud to be a fellow TNA fan. Like the six sided ring, the Impact Zone was something that gave TNA fans that certain look and feel that drew us in. The chants, "This is Awesome!" or the simple yet classic, "TNA! TNA!" made for some pretty special moments. However, maybe it was after the "We want six sides!" drama, the Impact Zone lost its luster. The fans weren't reacting like they should and due to some leaked Youtube videos, the Impact Zone was being referred to the "Cast-member Zone" more often than not. TNA tried using piped in audio but I don't think it worked as well as they hoped as the crowd still lacked any enthusiasm at all giving away that many of the cheers were fake. 

It was time to move on. TNA has and has had some of the best talent in the world. People who deserve to be cheered and loved and the Impact Zone was too burned out to care anymore. Story-lines and feuds were suffering because of it. Having guys like Hulk Hogan, Sting, Hardy, Styles, Aries, and Roode you have got to maximize the moments and opportunities these guys have by showcasing their talents around the country in front of passionate fans that love TNA. The TNA Impact Wrestling brand had outgrew the studio and the only next logical step to help improve awareness of the product was to take it on the road. Trying to accomplish dreams and goals often involves sacrifice and if the cutbacks are necessary for TNA to attain those goals then I support those moves. Any and all businesses go through what TNA is going through. Talent comes and talent goes but the objective remains the same, to make TNA the best wrestling product in the world and I'm excited to see what the future holds.

Talon- Say what you want about it, even when TNA was hitting 1.9 million viewers, they were still stuck in the IMPACT Zone. There was a stigma that TNA was a theme-park attraction. All major wrestling promotions tour full-time at one point or another. It is a necessary step to TNA's growth. While it won't pay off in ratings, the show looks much more professional (compare ONO's Hardcore Justice to an episode of IMPACT) and it is in front of paying fans. Hopefully having shows in people's hometowns will create product awareness.

TNA's desired goal should be to create a touring wrestling promotion. If this means running with a smaller roster or being more efficient in all areas of the company, then so be it. TNA is going through some growing pains but in the end I feel it will be beneficial to the long-term stability of the company. 

Source: TNAsylum

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