A Closer Look At TNA President Dixie Carter


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"Unlike some wrestling companies, we aren’t run by an egotistical millionaire businessman; we’re run by a nice mother-of-two from Texas," Jeremy Borash, introducing Dixie Carter for her first on-screen interview in 2009.  
 
One question that TNA fans may have pondered recently: where exactly is TNA President Dixie Carter? Indeed, no one’s quite sure where Dixie is these days (has anyone tried a villa in Pakistan?) and she’s yet to show any signs of re-emerging.

She was quickly and clumsily written off television, isn’t doing interviews and, perhaps most shockingly of all, has, barring the odd tweet here and there, completely abandoned her Twitter and Facebook. Considering how beloved Dixie’s Twitter was (one commentator once  joked that if TNA put as much effort into promoting PPVs on iMPACT as they did into promoting Dixie’s Twitter, they’d be doing UFC numbers by now) this is an extremely bad sign.

Best bet (and the most common theory) is that she’s lying low. Why? Well, take your pick: The Jeff Hardy debacle at Victory Road, overwhelmingly negative fan feedback about the product, the company’s mounting debts, Kurt Angle’s arrest or Daffney’s lawsuit (and the shameful and shocking details that continue to emerge abut their treatment of her). Heck, the Daffney situation in general might have been enough to make her run for the hills.  

Regardless of the situation, one thing is certain: Carter’s reputation has taken a severe blow. The recent stories to emerge about legal action and talent mistreatment have lead to a huge amount of fan outrage and disgust- particularly towards Carter, whom many fans feel has intentionally attempted to misrepresent herself as a different type of wrestling promoter- a kinder, gentler Mother Hen type, a complete contrast to the boorish insanity of Vince McMahon, all while getting away with business tactics that make Vince and company look like saints.  Now these fans feel lied to and betrayed. In fact, her reputation has sunk to such a level that one commentator was moved to memorably remark: "Dixie Carter is Ian Rotten with a trust fund."      

So how did this happen? Is Carter really a phony who, for years, convinced people she was something she wasn’t? Or is she really a nice, somewhat naïve person who (as some of her few defenders still claim) simply didn’t know what was going in TNA? Or is the truth somewhere in between?   

Last year, Shane Douglas became one of the first people in wrestling to publically criticise Carter over the unethical manner in which she ran her business in an interview with James Guttman for World Wrestling Insanity (highlights can be found here), when he noted that wrestlers on the card had told him of the terrible pay rates for TNA’s Hardcore Justice PPV (which was reported to have done 3 or 4 times the usual TNA buyrate and made the company a decent amount of profit, unlike most of their badly-performing ppvs): “Some of those guys made 250 bucks for that show and, to me, that’s disgusting and repulsive.  Especially from a lady who grew up in a billionaire’s household with a silver spoon in her mouth and up her backside.  That to me is repulsive and disgusting.  That’s prostituting somebody.  Just because you can do it, Dixie, doesn’t mean you should do it. Shame on her.”

For this piece, I contacted some current employees, and spoke to various ex- TNA Knockouts and wrestlers to see if they wanted to talk about their experiences with her- good or bad.  Several took me up on my offer, seemingly relishing the opportunity to finally vent. Dixie has had a troubled relationship with the Knockouts for years; and as Awesome Kong (now Kharma in WWE) noted in an interview with Diva-Dirt with shortly after leaving TNA , there is a "great deal of irony" in a company  that is run by a woman becoming notorious for its poor treatment of female wrestlers.

One ex-Knockout complained to me that Dixie had a stunning lack of tact with her female employees and could be quite spiteful towards most of them: “Dixie was always obsessed with her appearance, even kicking us out of make-up chairs when we were needed for pre-tapes, and getting her face on screen or being in a storyline.”

 

A current employee also corroborates that Dixie is known for behaving bitchily towards the women, noting that they had witnessed one such incident:

 

“Oh, Dixie is just as catty and just as mean spirited to the women as the men are. I remember once there were fans in the front row chanting for ODB. When she was in the back later, Dixie told her that she noticed the fans chanting for her. ODB, trying to be modest, responded by joking, “Thanks, I paid for them to be there.” Dixie then laughed and said, 'We don’t pay you enough for that.'"

 

Another mildly humorous story from the same source: “Dixie would do things like wearing expensive new tops and keeping the tags on it. Then taking the tag off in makeup with the women there and deliberately leaving the tag on the floor.”

One former Knockout also complained to me about what she saw as Carter’s lack of priorities:

 “She would say she thought the KO division was ‘good’ but never really showed her appreciation - she always saved that for the big stars even when we had pulled in the highest ratings of the show. I find her to be an extreme hypocrite. She calls TNA a family - but looks down her nose at the mid-carders and the women. Hell, most everybody.”

More after the jump. 

So, is there any reason Dixie, and almost everyone else in TNA management, possess such resentment for the women? One TNA connected name told me that the Knockouts are very likely victims of their own success:

“You know that thing in WWE, where if a guy gets over and he’s not supposed to, the company gets mad at him and he’s punished? Something like that happened with the women. Dixie kept bringing in one big star after another…and the women still outdrew them. Hogan, RVD, Hardy…etc are getting over $10,000 an appearance, and Angelina Love is paid $400, and likely barely breaks even after expenses, and is still a bigger ratings draw than all the WWE/WCW guys.  What does that say about Dixie’s judgement as a businesswoman?”

“Crazy as it sounds; I truly believe the women in TNA would be a lot better treated if they had never drawn such great ratings.”

This makes sense. Dixie has went on record several times, including in an interview with The Pro Wrestling Report, that she is feels it is all about exposure and that the more big names TNA has, the more viewers will stay with the product (“To have a big name with exposure…that’s what it is all about.”). She also claimed in her 2007 congress interview that TNA relied on veterans because “developing new talent does not sell.” The success of women like Kong, Angelina Love and ODB, most of the whom had no previous television exposure, goes directly against this and against her entire business philosophy. This may explain her contempt towards them. 

Randy Ricci confirmed to me in an email he too felt that the poor treatment of the women was rooted in anger towards them for being TV draws.  Although he feels this anger was for a different reason. Ricci claimed that, essentially, the Knockouts were victims of the tumultuous political situation that existed in TNA between Dixie and Jeff Jarrett. 

 Russo was ‘upstaged’ by Dutch's concept and that hurt him politically but, more so Dixie. Then when Hogan and some other "big stars" came in and still couldn't outdraw the Knockouts, that was when the real contempt towards the women began. Honestly, it could have been X-division matches at the time, even. Hogan and his team couldn't stand that these girls meant more than him and his ideas; and Dixie couldn't stand that one of Jeff's people (Dutch) was producing more than her and her people's (Russo’s) ideas.”

 

One current employee summarised the situation with the women: “Any chance of the knockouts being treated better? No. Why not? Because, in TNA’s mind there is no need to. I mean, Kong couldn’t afford a car on her pay. A car! Mind you, she isn’t the only one; guys have problems purchasing normal, everyday things like cars and such too. But Kong literally had no money for a car and when she asked for a small raise she was told she could leave."

 “Things are what they are. People always say ‘If it was that bad then why would they stay?’ Answer this; can you name another place you can wrestle on TV in the US if not in WWE?”

People have also complained about the increasing power of Dixie's husband Serge in TNA ("a failed country music star" as one person branded him). No one I spoke to seemed suprised at the recent accusations levied at Serge, and it was noted that he had "his own respect issues with women."

Back to Carter, it would remiss to not point out: wrestlers have had good thing say about her. And not just a rambling Kurt Angle on twitter. No, sane wrestlers have had good things to say about her too. Matt Morgan, faced with the prospect of having to leave TNA to pursue a better-paying gig with American Gladiators, mentioned in an interview that Dixie hired “a lawyer, which I couldn’t afford” to negotiate his contract and allow him to work on that show and remain in TNA.  Ken Anderson also claimed to The Sun that after his horrific concussion in late 2010 that, "It was Dixie who took me to the side at one of our live shows, I was there and ready to step back into the ring. She said, 'we don't think you're ready yet, go sit at home and spend time recuperating, we'll bring you back when you are fit and well enough.’” (Of course, this story is given a disturbing edge when you consider what Daffney was going through at the exact same time.) Although it should be noted, one employee informed me that fans should not expect TNA wrestlers to come out and criticize TNA or Dixie anytime soon- TNA contracts strictly prohibits wrestlers from saying anything bad or critical about Dixie or TNA. 

One fan, however, taking exception to some of what this site had claimed about Dixie in the past, told me about his own experience meeting Dixie during one of TNA’s European tours:

“A few minutes after the show starts, Dixie came and sat down next to us to enjoy the show. We thought if we were lucky, she’d say one or two things to us. But she ended up talking to us the whole night, asking us about ourselves and wanting to know what our favourite ‘soccer’ team was, and could not have been nicer. I don’t think Vince or Linda would ever do that.”   

I then asked, but what about the allegations of wrestler mistreatment? He replied: “I doubt she knows about most of that stuff. She’s a nice person. She has kids.”

What Dixie does or doesn’t know is up for debate. She does not have the control freak nature of Vince McMahon, so it seems likely she has missed some of the things that have went on. And it was widely rumoured that she hit the roof when some of the testimonies and dispositions (that alleged outrageous and racist behaviour on the part of some very powerful people in TNA) of the Konnan case got back to her.  So it seems clear that there are things she doesn’t know about.  In most of the cases of talent mistreatment, it’s very possible she is not aware of the specifics. But that doesn’t excuse her either. Do I think, for example, she knew that Taylor Wilde was working in Sunglass Hut while KO champion? Probably not. But did she know the pay rates for the Knockouts and X-division wrestlers were so low that something like that would happen? Well, how could she not?  She’s running the company, after all. Likewise, after two high-profile lawsuits about the company’s refusal to pay for medical costs, and numerous other workers’ comp lawsuits either being filed or about to be filed, there is simply no way Carter can claim ignorance on the matter anymore. But there has been no evidence whatsoever to suggest any of TNA’s shameful business practices have changed.

Further doubt can be cast upon the “she simply doesn’t know” defence when you consider that Dixie has an extremely legitimate and credible business background: she was promoted to Vice President of Levenson and Hill, Dallas’s largest and most successful public relations and marketing firm, at the age of just 27 and was, from what I can gather, quite good at the job. She later founded her own mildly successful marketing company, Trifecta Entertainment, in 1993. This was what she was doing when old friend Jeff Jarrett asked her to come in and help the then-fledgling TNA with marketing (Funnily enough, Jeff is famous for claiming “They (the critics) said we wouldn’t last 6 months…and several years later, here we are.” What Daddy Jeff never mentions is that his version of TNA didn’t actually last 6 months: TNA had gone bust and Jeff and his dad were just about to declare bankruptcy when Carter talked her father into buying the company.)  The argument that she is “new” to wrestling, and therefore naïve, simply doesn’t hold water anymore: Dixie has been in wrestling nine years. That’s a long time. She has also mentioned in interviews that she promoted some wresting events while still in college ("I went to the University of Mississippi and booked wrestling for us several times on campus" and noted she had ran shows with Ric Flair and Jerry Lawler), and that’s going back over twenty years. That's longer than I, and many people reading this, have been alive! So bearing all this in mind: how much benefit of the doubt can be given to her, considering she's had ties to wrestling most of her life, and has at least a basic idea about how the business works? 

Additionally, Dixie’s efforts in securing TNA the lucrative Spike TV deal (which has kept them afloat) and their contract with Jakks have been praised heavily by those within the industry. She is, as noted, an extremely good public relations person and this has come in very useful when dealing with television companies and other businesses. So, while she may not be a capable wrestling promoter, it seems, in certain respects, Carter is a very sharp and savvy women.  Come on: how is it possible that a woman like Carter, of at least average intelligence, doesn’t do these interviews in which she preaches about how well looked after TNA wrestlers are, and what a “family” they all are, in contrast to WWE wrestlers, and not secretly know hypocritical and disingenuous this is considering the company’s stubborn refusal to provide basic medical care for wrestlers and institute a proper drug policy? It’s simply not possible, is it?  (“I’m very proud of the Knockouts”, she told TNAwrestling.com in July 2009, “As a woman, it is very important to me that these ladies be represented well.”)

Interestingly, as insulting as the image of her as “innocent and ignorant” is (this is a grown woman we’re talking about, after all), this is something Dixie seems to have exploited herself, possibly to protect herself from any criticism of her company’s nightmarish business practices. One TNA person, deeply concerned about the widespread and unchecked drug use in the TNA locker room, even vented to Jason Powell about Dixie’s desire to act totally innocent about such matters in the #1187 edition of The PWTorch newsletter:  "Matt Hardy is in a daze, Jeff Hardy is in a daze, Kurt Angle is in a daze, and Rob Van Dam is stoned all day. Dixie just acts oblivious. The guys try to hide from her when they're (messed) up, but Jeff went to her when they wanted to send him home (from the Final Resolution pay-per-view), and she said he could stay.”

Moving on, one of Dixie’s character flaws as a boss, and something that has doomed TNA, is her fierce loyalty to the wrong people. Rather than being blind to the company’s faults, it seems Dixie does have at least a rough idea of the issues that plague TNA; but she has simply chosen loyalty to Russo and others in management over basic competence and the chance to make money. Indeed, Dixie has become known for telling people that if TNA is going to succeed and make millions of dollars, it will be with her team- and her team only. If she makes millions of dollars? Great. If she doesn’t? Well, whatever. At least she stuck with her team. After all, as the daughter of a fantastically wealthy man, it’s not like she needs the money.

Court Bauer, in an interview with F4Wonline’s Bryan Alvarez last year, complained about this too. Talking about a meeting he had with Carter about possibly coming in to “turn the ship around”, he claimed she was well aware of the problems in TNA but that  "as soon as you mention having to get rid of some people, firing them and bringing in other people…Dixie gets cold feet. And then she doesn’t want to do it." Following on from this, it was widely reported (and Paul Heyman would even hint later himself) that the main reason Heyman never came in was because he made it clear he would get rid of certain people in TNA- you know, the ones responsible for the mess in the first place- and bring in smarter, competent people. Despite the company being in a sorry state indeed- they were bleeding money after a failed attempt at expansion in early 2010, owed money to vendors and were paying guys late (problems they still have)- Dixie was not prepared to give him that power, wanted things to remain (mostly) as they were if Heyman came in, and talks fell apart. As Dave Meltzer noted on the F4W board, when he was asked why all the TNA wrestlers didn’t simply demand to Dixie she get rid of Russo and hire a booker with a clue: “It’s not smart to pick a fight you can’t win. Dixie isn't getting rid of Russo. The Heyman negotiations made that clear.”

For the record, I have personally defended against Eric Bischoff against critics, noting that since he was never going to be allowed to make any real changes in the booking or in management, Carter had essentially brought in him to fail.  Dave Meltzer would later establish how completely impossible the situation for was for Heyman too: “Basically Dixie wants someone to come in and turn things around. She also wants to protect most of the key people in their respective positions. The person highest on the protection list is Vince Russo…that has been made clear.”

So, yes, Dixie wanted to turn TNA around and make it a success, but didn’t actually want to get rid of the people who were stopping it from being a success. Heyman, unlike Bischoff, wisely saw the situation for what it was, and was not going to allow his reputation to be blighted by a doomed-to-failed shot at running TNA.

Chris Jericho, during an interview for F4Wonline earlier this year when he was plugging his book, also criticised Carter for this, and said her attitude ensured TNA would never be a success. Talking about the quick firing of the production guy who famously botched Undertaker’s entrance at last year’s Elimination Chamber and almost set him on fire, Jericho said: “He was a nice guy, everyone liked him, but he was fired before Taker even came through the curtain, because he wasn’t doing his job. And that’s what counts: someone doing their job right.” If something like that had happened in TNA, would the production guy have been fired for endangering a performer? From what we know about TNA, if he was someone Dixie liked, the answer is probably: No. With one or two exceptions, no one has ever been held accountable in this company for their poor job performance and/or stunning incompetence. As Dave Meltzer recently complained: “They desperately need an overhaul…and it’s just not going to happen.”

We should also remember that Carter’s most famous quote from her Youshoot, is, “If I hear these people chant ‘Fire Russo’ I’m going to fire someone else.” Defenders claimed that Carter had been taken out of context and perhaps she was (she claimed, rather dubiously, than anytime fans chanted "Fire Russo" someone else was always to blame for the angle in question); but that quote still perfectly sums up Dixie’s attitude to business, TNA, maybe even her life in general: if one of her favourites is doing an awful job and is blatantly unfit for their role, someone else is going to pay.

One former TNA wrestler in an email to me criticised Carter for this: “It’s such a selfish thing to do- to not even want to be a success. People are relying on her. I also notice this loyalty rarely extends to the hard-working wrestlers, like Jay (Lethal) or Roxxi, who got treated like crap- just the fools in management.”

There is also the prevailing thought amongst many that, if Dixie didn’t come from a wealthy family, and was relying on TNA to put food on the table, like everyone else, then Russo would have been gone long ago and replaced with a competent booker. But, as a millionaire’s daughter, Dixie can afford to put up with incompetence and treat TNA like nothing more than the opportunity to hang out with all her buddies who suck up to her nonstop. The rest of the roster, however, simply does not have that luxury, which is why so many wrestlers (Taylor Wilde, Gail Kim, Kong, Johnny Devine and Rhyno to name only a few) have left- they simply couldn’t afford to stay in a company that makes no money and squanders what cash it does have on celebrities and former WCW/WWE stars (who never make any difference to the bottom line anyway).   

It must be noted, that at this point, comparing Dixie to Vince McMahon as a promoter, and suggesting she is a “nicer” and “kinder” promoter than he is a grave insult to Vince in every possible way. I am not here to make excuses for Vince. As I have noted here, here and here, he is a crude, cantankerous, crazy old man who has long driven his family and employees crazy with his erratic and often impossible demands. But comparing how he treats WWE wrestlers to how Carter treats TNA wrestlers? It is simply no contest. Vince covers injuries that occur on his watch, generally pays his wrestlers well and has paid attention to concussion studies of the Sports Legacy Institute and changed working policies in WWE accordingly. He has also funded Scott Hall’s numerous trips to rehab- as WWE always do with current and former employees (there was even a funny story going around that TNA were encouraging Jeff Hardy to go to rehab for his issues, but expected Vince- the guy they’ve been vilifying nonstop for the past 9 nine years- to pick up the tab if he did.)  Vince could do a lot more, sure, but what he does do surpasses Carter by a million miles. Additionally, Spike Dudley, in a shoot interview shortly after he left WWE, defended his old boss and claimed that the reason Vince put so many limits on the cruiserweights wasn’t simply because he disliked the style, as commonly thought, but because he was genuinely concerned  the welfare of the wrestlers and didn’t want them taking so many risks. Compare this to TNA where, under Dixie’s watch, wrestlers are frequently encouraged to go out and “tear the house down” (sacrificing their bodies for a either a small television audience or an even smaller ppv audience.) As one commenter shrewdly remarked when faced with the horror stories about wrestler mistreatment tumbling out of TNA with a growing frequency:  People call McMahon a d*ck for treating workers like toys that he quickly gets bored of; but at least he doesn't try to break the arms off them till he's bored of them.”

Summarily, looking at the financial and legal mess TNA finds itself in, it will be interesting to see how Carter will react in the upcoming months. Will she ever explain to fans why TNA refuse to pay for medical costs, all while blowing hundreds of thousands of dollars on D-list celebrities like Jenna Morasca and Jonny Fairplay? Will she answer questions about the Jeff Hardy calamity at Victory Road? Will she issue a public apology to Daffney for TNA’s hideous and unconscionable treatment of her, or take action against any of the TNA officials culpable in that situation? Frankly, will she take any responsibility whatsoever for what has gone on in TNA and the massive danger her policies have put the health of her wrestlers in? Considering Carter’s track record, the answer seems to be a resounding “No”. In the past nine years Dixie has shown herself to a spoiled, selfish, and hypocritical woman who has ducked accountability and evaded responsibility at every turn. Wrestling fans should not expect her to behave any differently now.

 

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