Coming off a popular item where the former WWE, WCW and TNA Creative executive discussed his thoughts on WWE's low ratings a couple of weeks ago, Vince Russo is back to tackle the issues facing the other North American pro wrestling company with a national television contract - TNA Impact Wrestling.
In a post entitled "REAL CHALLENGE PLAGUING TNA", Russo provides an insightful peak behind the curtain of Impact in order to present practical reasons for the product that ends up on Spike TV on Thursday nights that so many fans complain and/or laugh about.
They're really not anything that an astute observer couldn't have guessed at, but it's interesting to hear them coming from someone who has been behind the scenes in Orlando.
For starters, and I don't need to tell anybody this, including the brass at TNA -- trust me, they know - the environment inside the "Impact Zone" is not ideal for what TNA is attempting to put across your TV screen every week. Universal Studios is a "tourist" attraction, so primarily, TNA is drawing "tourists" to watch IMPACT, not die-hard "wrestling fans". The truth is, many of those people attending might just be wanting to get out from under the scorching Florida sun. As you know, attendance to IMPACT is free, so there is no cost if you're just looking to stay in the shade for a few hours. But, this isn't anything that anybody doesn't know. We all see it every Thursday night. But, no one knows first hand how much an audience can affect your show than me.
You see, when you write a wrestling show, you're writing it knowing that the fans "cheer" here, the fans "boo" there - that's how you write any wrestling show. Well, at Universal, you're not always getting the response your writing for, simply because many of your customers are simple not die-hard wrestling fans. Also, add to that, the performers get FUELED by you - the fans. The less "true" wrestling fans rooting you on - less gas in the tank. That's just human nature. Unfortunately, in getting back to the facts, at this point in their business plan - Universal Studios is the best route for TNA to take. Are they aware of all the problems? They certainly are, and there is no doubt in my mind that if they had the ability right now to change that - they would - simply because - why wouldn't they?
All well and good, but I do have a couple of quibbles with this. (1) If this is all that the current business plan allows, whoever drew up the plan - or backed the company into a position where this is the only viable plan - needs to go. (2) Whether it's by marketing or product quality, WWE is drawing one of the hottest crowds in the business to a show in a similar environment right in the same market. Surely there are things they could try outside of throwing their hands in the air and blaming the crowd at the venue they chose?
But, aside from the lackluster, vacationing crowds, I think there is a much bigger problem that TNA is faced to deal with every week. And, this is the problem that very few fans watching from home either realize, or understand. THE SCHEDULING. Again, due to the FACTS - the FINANCIALS - TNA works under a rigorous schedule that not many fans are aware of. In order to work within their current budget, TNA is forced to shoot MULTIPLE shows, or parts of shows, per night. Unlike the WWE, who has the luxury to just shoot one show - be it three hours - in one night, TNA is usually filming at least a show AND A HALF during that same time. Again, having been a part of it, this leads to numerous problems that have a diverse effect on the end product.
For starters - you have to write accordingly. In other words, many times the writers can't write their "dream" show, because they have to look at how many times EY wrestled in one night, or, how many in-rings did MVP have. They have to adjust to not wear the performers out on a nightly basis, but also to protect the audience response - whatever there is - from sending a guy out through the curtain too many times. So from the beginning - the writing is being affected to compensate for the work schedule. Again -- it is what is it, and they are all working as hard as they can to make it "work" providing the circumstances.
Again, a challenge, yes. But I don't think any reasonable fan thinks that TNA creative or talent want to put on a crappy product, so while we can empathize with the circumstances, it doesn't change the fact that a lot of people just aren't entertained by the product. And though they're taping shorter shows, NXT and Ring of Honor deal with similar taping schedules and tend to put out more consistent quality (in my opinion).
While discussing the schedule, Russo confirms something that many of us suspected that really contributes to the disjointed or illogical feel of a lot of Impact episodes, too.
This problem lingers over to the backstage pre-tapes, where the talent and producers, and writers are getting content for not just ONE show, but maybe two, or three. I know that there were nights in the Impact show where I would shoot 30 -- yes, THIRTY - pre-tapes from morning until we went back to the hotel at night.
And here's something else that NOBODY has ever realized, or put into consideration. Being that you are already asking the audience to stay for a minimum of at least three hours a night, in an effort to move the show along as quickly as you can -- you don't have the option of playing the pre-tapes to the crowd -- that were shot to build the match! Therefore, on many occasions, the audience is seeing what they view as a "cold match", when on TV, that same match has been built up for two hours! In other words, the response is going to be far inferior than what it should have been had you had the luxury time you needed to correctly tell your story.
I can't tell you how many times I've watched TNA and marveled at how one character acts as if they don't know what another has just done, or something similar. This would explain that - but not entirely excuse it, in my mind. It sounds like a drag, and a tough production problem to tackle. But there has to be a way to storyboard it out and tackle it.
In the end, all of these issues are totally understandable and boil down to one thing:
And someone either had plans they couldn't finance or mismanaged their way into a position where finances drove everything rather than vision or talent.
Russo's description of how the circumstances effect the product makes a lot of sense. But just because Creative and the wrestlers are in a crappy situation doesn't mean anyone has to watch a show they don't like to support them.
What do you think, Cagesiders? Does what Vince Russo described about TNA's challenges make sense, or match up with what you already thought? Does it change your opinion about they show they present every week?