A little more than a week ago, my colleague Keith Harris wrote a post documenting the recent reports of TNA's search for new investors, a possible ownership change and the effect those things were having on the backstage atmosphere at a recent four-day taping for Impact Wrestling.
Included in Keith's report was a quote from Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer, relaying an anecdote from WrestleMania weekend where an unidentified TNA wrestler told him management was encouraging the roster to send out messages to contradict media reports of problems behind-the-scenes.
Neither Keith nor Meltzer were the only people talking and writing about TNA's morale, and the reports bothered Impact's Maria Kanellis. She began disputing them on Twitter, using the sarcastic #LowMorale. As part of the Twitter conversation under that hashtag, Keith and Maria exchanged emails, and agreed to actually talk about the issue (what a concept!).
The above video is the discussion we had about the reports surrounding TNA currently, the experiences Maria and her husband, Mike Bennett, have creating Impact Wrestling, what she'd like the media to focus on instead of the company's finances and what she and her co-workers are doing to change wrestling fans' impressions of Impact.
Or, if you're not somewhere you can watch the video, here are some of Kanellis' comments...
On #LowMorale, and what she sees backstage:
It's funny when we're seeing all this stuff about that the office is telling us to Tweet about #LowMorale... that was my idea. So, it's funny that it came across as "office" because, I guess, maybe now I'm office? Because my husband and I were talking about it and as we're playing with a football backstage at TNA and while we're joking with our friends and so excited about the new talent that's been hired and then reading online that TNA has low morale, it's funny because it doesn't necessarily sum up what's really going on.
Maybe there are people with low morale, but I don't have facts on that. All I can tell you is from what I've seen. And from what I've seen is that the morale at TNA is not much different than it is at Ring of Honor, or the indy promotions that I go and hang out with my friends. So, for me, I'm excited to be at TNA and I'm excited to see all these people that are coming in to TNA and now have paychecks and now have consistent work on television. So for me it's just very confusing.
And the reason why I wanted to talk about is I feel like the coverage is wrong. The coverage is going toward what's going on with TNA management and investors and morale and all these things but what's really going on is a great group of guys that is super inspired and motivated to create a whole new show. I like to refer to it as "TNA 2", because it's such a new group of people and we just want a positive atmosphere and a great place to work.
On working for TNA vs. WWE:
It's funny because somebody said to me, "oh, well doesn't that suck having to tape over four days and isn't that terrible?" No! I worked for WWE. I had to go on the road every weekend. That was terrible! On my body, on my family, on everything. Sure, it was great to be able to be in front of those crowds, but what is reported online is not necessarily the feel of everyone in the locker room.
The talent's perspective on investor rumors:
Mike and I are excited to be there. We surround ourselves with very positive people. We don't know all that's going on with investors, but that's like if you asked me what was going on with my cell phone, it's the same thing. I don't have a connection with all the investors in Apple. I wouldn't even know where to start with that. You hear rumors. But is that necessarily true? I don't know. I've also been on movie sets before that had funding at the beginning of the day and then by the end of the day, didn't have funding, and then the next day we were filming anyways, and we did have funding. So entertainment world is very, very different...
On what the roster is trying to accomplish, which is what she wishes people would focus on more:
So that's what got under my skin. Here I am, in wrestling, excited to see TNA go from being a company on Destination America to coming to POP TV and having all of this excitement and energy and everybody really excited to be there and build something and then reading all this stuff about investors, and reading all this stuff about low morale. And while we're hiring these new people, their stories are getting glossed over.
Everybody should be super-excited... Pepper Parks and Cherry (Bomb, aka Laura Dennis, aka Allie) have jobs on television! They are incredible talents. And because all these other side-stories are happening, we're not really paying attention to what's going on. Mike and I and Pepper and Cherry and Trevor (Lee) and you've got Allysin Kay who's now Sienna and you have all these people who now have jobs. You have all these people that want to build something, and create something.
From this writer's perspective, you can't really argue with Maria's points. She and the rest of the TNA roster are getting a great opportunity (Impact on its worst week gets more viewers than any non-WWE wrestling show in North America) and they're trying to build something they're proud of from that. They can't control the "office" side of things, and she doesn't pretend to have inside information to counter reports about dysfunction there.
There has been a near-total overhaul of the roster over the past year (Abyss, Jeff Hardy, James Storm, Gail Kim and Madison Rayne are the only people I think of as long-time TNA-ers still there), but unfortunately, they haven't yet been able to change the conversation away from LOLTNA and "this company is still in business?" jokes for many in the internet wrestling community.
As Keith and I told her, we can't promise we'll stop covering the business side of things. But it's hard to not be moved at least somewhat by an impassioned pitch from someone who loves wrestling, is happy to be working with friends and wants the product they're creating to be given a fair shake based on its merits.
Will wrestling fans give "TNA 2" another shot, or has the bad buzz been around for too long?
Be sure to follow Cageside's weekly recap and review of Impact to help you decide!