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TNA: It's the Pace Stupid

Watching IMPACT over the weekend and the most glaring issue with the TNA product again came to the surface. It's a simple concept, but good grief do they blow it terribly.

As I embark on this article, I'm unsure of its length, but I'm certain of its fervor. I worked with TNA over twelve years ago on the company's third ever PPV broadcast. I never thought they would last as long as they have, but with the news of the Velocity offer and limited dates and embarrassing social media moves and the six sided ring and everything else they've been doing, it truly feels like this might be the end.

On Sunday afternoon, I cleaned off my DVR and watched the first IMPACT Wednesday broadcast and noticed two things, one a positive and the other not just "a" negative, but THE negative for the company. I've railed on WWE commentary on this site since I joined at the beginning of 2014 and for good reason, but today I'm going to use announcing failure to explain the larger problem at the heart of TNA and why, regardless of a bunch of good shows in the Big Apple, their TV product is often unwatchable, wretched garbage.

Mike Tenay is a very nice man. Each time I ventured to TNA either to work or to accompany my roommate who was employed as a wrestler for the company, I spoke with Mike for a few minutes and not only was he down to earth and fun to be around, he actually would help me. He gave me advice despite barely knowing me and today probably not even remembering the conversations. When he worked in WCW as the international correspondent, he was awesome. That role fit him well and the "Professor" moniker seemed perfect.


In TNA, Mike Tenay has become a screeching runaway freight-train that emphasizes the title of my piece as well as the biggest problem in the company.

Yes, it's the pace stupid. Slow the damn show down and slow yourself down. More specifically, CALM down.

During the most recent broadcast, and I urge you to check this tonight as you watch the show, transitions are non-existent. Everything is buttressed together in such a way that nothing stands out, nor does anything feel remotely genuine. Tenay literally went from talking about the Sanada video package last week immediately, with nary a breath, to a match, with no time to comprehend what we'd just seen. They come back from break with the video and Tenay after saying "Whoa what's going to happen there; It's time for a Knockout Last Standing match." That wasn't even the worst one. The worst one was bringing out the Hardys, Team 3D, and the Wolves to talk about having a title match without anything concrete. Cue Tenay:

"I can't wait to watch that. Hey, check this out, here's my interview with TNA President Dixie Carter."

You may think that's a transition, but it's not. It was said like a kid reading a book report in third grade. Just as transitions and story elements are important in news, in sports talk, in wrestling matches, it's important in the announce work. Arn Anderson said many years ago, as WCW was months away from extinction, that the problem with that company was not finishing their thoughts. Let me explain. You have a match. You cut to something ridiculous in the back. You cut to something else ridiculous. The match and its implications are completely forgotten. He said he begged WCW to slow down, finish their thoughts, let the audience catch up, and also have their performers react to what happened in the ring.


It's fine to be fast, but not when you're sloppy as a result of it. It's okay to believe in breakneck pacing, but for TNA, it makes their shows look amateur in presentation. When you look amateur, you've failed.

I wrote a piece today for FOX and Outkick the Coverage about Breaking Bad. Vince Gilligan, the creator and showrunner of that masterpiece, recounted a story from his first season of production that I've retold many times and believe is a window not just into drama, but into media. On his pilot episode, he used a ton of music underneath the action and the words. Some television veterans saw the pilot and asked him whether he had any confidence in his actors and writing. Gilligan said he absolutely did and didn't understand, so they continued their explanation. In short, he didn't need music underneath conversation or dialogue, because his writing and his story were both phenomenal. Using the bells and whistles is often a coping mechanism for someone who lacks confidence in their own work or in their product. If you notice, Breaking Bad is famous for its silent moments. It's famous for dialogue with no music bed underneath. When music was used, it was for a purpose. It was used plenty, but not at the expense of its soul.

TNA uses music for backstage segments, but instead of reading it as "music," read it as speed. When I watch IMPACT, I see a show whose producers clearly fear its audience changing the channel. They seem to believe if they stop for half a second, turn the music down, talk about what's happened and what's going to happen at a normal volume and at regular human speed, people will see they suck and they'll run. It's really that same attitude that leads to a six sided ring debate or things like having your talent tweet out during the competition's product and use #RAW while they do it.


The truth about TNA is they do have a lot of talented people on their shows. EC3 is wildly entertaining. Our own Geno Mrosko tweeted as much from the official CagesideSeats account last Wednesday and he's absolutely correct. Austin Aries and the fleet of X-Division wrestlers are great. Many of the girls are very valuable, even though they're generally given horrendous Springerish angles. I worked with Gunner for several years on the Indies and you won't find a better, more genuine, hard working guy. James Storm is an awesome dude. Bully Ray and D-Von and Matt and Jeff and the Wolves, the list goes on and on. This is a company with a pretty nice roster.

But the organization undercuts itself with horrifyingly bad pacing on their television show. It looks terrible. The mainstream fan can't follow it. God forbid when they do the Bound for Glory Series and try to explain all those rules. They have Kurt Angle talking while he sways in the back to set up the Tag Title series and again, it feels rushed.

Everything feels rushed. Watch IMPACT tonight, listen to Tenay during the bridges between segments and judge for yourself. What they're doing with the overcompensation is destroying them. It might be too late. They've made terrible decisions for a long time. But if the shows were more professional and taken more seriously, that might be a major first step.

Let this be a lesson for aspiring promoters. It's not a race. Slow down. Make sense. Have fun. Tell your story. Showcase your talent. Stop overthinking. Realize you have the ability to succeed. But again, mainly...

just slow the hell down. Give Tenay something he can actually work with...perhaps a barbiturate for starters.

Jason Martin writes about wrestling for CagesideSeats and television for FOX Sports Outkick the Coverage. He hosts Squared Circle Radio in Nashville every Sunday morning at 9 on 104.5 The Zone. The show is now available on iTunes with a complete archive. Follow Jason @GuyNamedJason and his show @ZoneWrestling.

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