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OO SPECIAL FEATURE  
An Open Letter to TNA's Dixie Carter,
On the Eve of the Company's Re-Launch 
September 30, 2005

by Jason Longshore 
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

[Editor's Note: unbeknownst to many fans, a woman named Dixie Carter -- no, not THAT Dixie Carter -- wields much power over TNA. Assigned by TNA's parent company, Panda Energy, to oversee things, her input affects not only the business side of things as TNA struggles for a national foothold, but also impacts the

creative direction of the company. Some fans might still think of TNA as Jeff and Jerry Jarrett's company, but that's simply not the case. With millions of dollars on the line as the company recreates itself for a third time this weekend, Dixie Carter is the one who is pulling a lot of the strings... and it is to her that TNA Fan Jason Longshore addresses his hopes and concerns in the following Open Letter.  -Rick]

Dear Ms. Carter;

Thank you for all of your hard work in getting TNA to this point. The arrival of Impact on Spike TV is huge accomplishment, congratulations to you and everyone else involved in making this happen. It will be easier for wrestling fans everywhere to see a true alternative to WWE. However, some fans, myself included, are a little worried about the future direction of TNA is this regard.

First off, a little background on me so you’ll know where I’m coming from. I watched WWF when I was a kid, had the Hogan and Piper action figures, the whole nine yards. As I grew up, I fell out of it as often happens. I did see some NWA/WCW when I was younger too, but I only really remember Sting from there. I started watching Raw again in the summer of ’99, right after the whole Higher Power angle finished up. I also found ECW during this time, and even kept up with WCW towards the end of their run.

After WWE took control of everything, I started hearing about TNA starting up online. I read some reviews of the first couple of shows and we ended up getting some people together to order one of the early Wednesday night PPV’s. While some of the stuff on there was laughable, I remember being hooked by a match with AJ Styles and David Young. We kept getting the shows, mainly due to the great X Division feuds between Styles, Jerry Lynn, and Low Ki.

It wasn’t just the X Division that kept us watching though. The tag team division, with AMW, XXX, the Disciples of the New Church, and others was a big factor. Seeing Sting again was cool, as was the night the Road Warriors showed up. We all marked out like goth schoolgirls when Raven made his debut. The surprises were a lot of fun and something I know I missed about wrestling.

I became concerned when the monthly PPV’s started up in November of 2004 because it seemed like TNA was running from what made them different from WWE. The X Division and tag teams seemed to be pushed to the backburner to make room for Randy Savage, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash. I’m not even going to get started on the midget match, I’m still trying to block that one out. It was upsetting to see Styles, who was one of the main guys carrying TNA from the beginning, only get about ten minutes for his match with Petey Williams while Savage was hyped up as the Second Coming.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the reasoning behind bringing guys like that in. You think that a fan will see a recognizable face, check the show out, and find something new. It’s not a bad idea in theory. The problem lies in how these guys are booked. If their ultimate goal is to make new stars and elevate the “lesser known” guys, then it can work. However, these guys aren’t exactly known for their ability to put others over. Ask some of the guys who worked with them in WCW how that worked out. The end result is that the homegrown TNA guys end up looking inferior to these established names and no one wins. Well, except for the banks that these guys use, but that’s another story.

The only guy who was really put over by these “established” stars was Jeff Jarrett, the one who needed it the least. The most common defense of Jarrett holding the World Title is that he’s the most recognizable name in TNA. If that's the truth (which is somewhat debatable), why is he the one getting the rub from working with these big names when others need the push more? If the “established” stars don’t want to work with the younger talent, then they're not worth the paycheck. .

Don’t write me off as one of the internet Jarrett-haters either. I think he gets criticized a little unfairly at times. I think anyone who questions his commitment to the overall product of TNA Wrestling and says he's only a mark for himself is wrong in my book. I will say that his last title run was becoming a little HHH-like though. Honestly, I don’t even really have that much of a problem with him getting the belt back from Raven recently. Raven did a good job with the title this summer, but I like the idea of a face chasing Jarrett and his group of heels to get the title on Impact on Spike. There’s a lot more flexibility in the booking options this way in my opinion.

The best thing about Raven's run was the unpredictability. It wouldn't have been that shocking if either Abyss or Rhino had won the belt, that was something sorely lacking with Jarrett's last run. I, along with most reasonable fans, will be fine with another Jarrett title run as long as it leads to something. This seems like the perfect opportunity to rally the promotional machine behind someone new, someone who hasn't held the NWA World Title. I'll even offer two names, which both have advantages and disadvantages: Monty Brown and Samoa Joe. Personally, I'd pick Brown and keep Joe in the X Division, but I wouldn't complain either way.

Guys like Brown, Joe, Styles, Christopher Daniels, Chris Sabin, Petey Williams, and Abyss should be highlighted with the new, national visibility. These are guys who haven't ever had the chance on the national stage to show what they can do, and don't have the stink of "WWE Reject" on them. They can be key to really proving that TNA is the true "new wrestling alternative."

That tag line should be key to getting TNA over on Spike TV. It's obvious that there is a large number of fans who have become disenchanted with wrestling in general, and WWE specifically, in recent years. The numbers are thrown around on a pretty regular basis. Back in the boom years of the late '90's, fourteen millions fans regularly tuned into wrestling on Monday nights. Now, four million usually watch Raw. What happened to the other ten million?

The reason I brought up Victory Road and that time period in TNA is that it seemed like TNA forgot about being an alternative and ended up coming off more like WWE-lite. I hope that lesson has been learned at this point. You don't have the personnel, resources, or tradition to challenge WWE on that level. I hate to say it like that, but it's the truth. However, TNA can do plenty of things that the WWE can't or won't match:

X Division

Impact is taking the place of the only show WWE used to highlight their Cruiserweight Division. As good as some of their talent was, they don't compare to the TNA X Division roster. Personally, I was never the type of fan to only watch WCW because of the five star ratings of their Cruiserweight Division, but there were plenty who watched specifically for that reason. I've always seen the X Division as completely different though. The moves, style, and pace of the matches is something that you just don't see on a national basis right now. Everyone I've ever showed an AJ Styles match to has been impressed, even people who don't like wrestling at all. Like I said before, it was a match of his that hooked me on TNA over three years ago. Daniels, Joe, and the rest of the division are also capable of that effect on people.

The best thing about the division is that it isn't treated as an afterthought or something lesser than the World Title. X Division matches have headlined many cards and the title is always treated with respect. When AJ went from dropping the World Title, but then winning the X Division Title, it wasn't treated as a step down. Please don't change this. Don't get into the whole, "But which one is more important argument." They're two completely different titles and shouldn't be in competition with one another. Keeping them separate gives you the opportunity for nice title v. title feuds, something TNA hasn't done since Ron Killings and Jerry Lynn had a series of matches back in 2002. That could end up being something to revisit down the line.

The X Division is probably fleshed out better than any other in TNA right now, something that should be taken advantage of. While it always seemed like WWE just threw together matches in their Cruiserweight Division, there is a pecking order of sorts for the X Division. There's a definite midcard there, which is more than you can say for WWE as a whole. To capitalize on TNA's more realistic presentation of wrestling, how about a ranking system? That would be a nice alternative to how WWE is booked and remind casual fans of how boxing chooses its title contenders.

Tag Team Division

As bad as WWE has treated their Cruiserweights, I think they've treated the Tag Teams even worse. I have no idea why, and I'm really glad TNA hasn't followed their lead. It seems like WWE has completely forgotten how many fans were into the series of matches involving the Hardyz, Edge & Christian, the Dudleys, and others. As good as those were, I'd put the matches TNA has presented involving teams like AMW, XXX, The Naturals, the Disciples of the New Church, Team Canada, and others right up there with them. Most of my favorite all time TNA matches have been from the tag division.

Now, you get to add the most decorated tag team in history to the roster in the Dudleys (oops, don't tell Vince I said that). Whatever they end up being called, they will be a huge factor in pushing the TNA brand to new fans. They have that respect from the fans that you just can't take away. I know that as a fan, I can't wait to see their matches with the classic TNA teams, match-ups that we haven't ever seen before.

World Title

Most people wouldn't think you could provide an alternative to WWE here, but I disagree. In fact, TNA has been doing an excellent job of doing this recently with Raven's World Title run. While WWE has shied away from the hardcore style, TNA has embraced it. While most people think of the WCW ratings when they talk about those ten million fans who have tuned out professional wrestling, some of those fans were ECW fans. TNA has always been very respectful of the history of ECW and used their stars in the right way. You capitalized on the success of the One Night Stand PPV better than WWE, without even having anyone on the card, by putting the World Title on Raven. His hardcore matches with Abyss and Rhino have been highlights of recent PPV's, and are completely different from anything WWE is doing right now.

Some will say this "extreme revolution" will die now that Jarrett is on top, but I don't think that necessarily has to be the case. When describing TNA to people who haven't seen it, I usually try to explain it as a combination of ECW and old school Southern wrestling. Jarrett sure hasn't ever shown a problem with brawling, so I don't think this would be a problem. With AMW siding with Jarrett in storylines, how about a Raven/Dudleys v. Jarrett/AMW main event on Impact soon? WWE could not put on a match like that right now.

Production

This is another category that most would say TNA can't compete with WWE, but again I disagree. Don't try to copy their production techniques, it's too expensive at this point. Keep doing the little things that are working right now. Lately, I've noticed a lot of different camera angles used than in the past. It's almost ECW-esque at times, with all of the close up shots. Go with that, it makes the product look radically different from WWE.

On a related note, don't change the announce team of Mike Tenay and Don West. Tenay is simply one of the best play by play guys around and has been a huge factor in TNA's success, as I'm sure you know. I think West's contributions are underrated. I love that TNA doesn't try to present the usual face play by play announcer and the heel color guy. That's an old cliche and often doesn't work. West's enthusiasm really adds to the presentation and can draw new fans in. That will help out a lot on Spike TV as new fans tune in. Just keep from standing on the announce table cheering and we'll be okay.

Tenay and West are also really good at covering for mistakes in the ring, something very necessary with TNA's more high risk style. They come off as true sports announcers who are commenting on the action in front of them, rather than actors reading a script about it. That will appeal to casual fans checking TNA out for the first time.

While I'm throwing out some suggestions, how about this little wish list?

  • I know some surveys were done on the TNA website in the past, but it might be time to add another title into the mix. Something along the lines of the Intercontinental Title or the US Title would be best. There are some guys (Ron Killings, please rise) that are getting lost in the shuffle and would gain from this.
     
  • With the addition of Gail Kim, it looks like we could headed for a true women's division. While I'm a card carrying, red blooded male, would it be possible to treat the division with more respect than WWE treats theirs? If you're going to do it, don't do it just as an excuse for some T&A. There's better ways to do that than in the context of fighting for a title. Kim, along with people like the former Molly Holly and new indy talent, could present a different type of women's wrestling than ever seen before in the US.
     
  • Following up on my last point, I would like to push for more Traci on my television screen.
     
  • Keep doing the little things to treat your most dedicated fans right. The FanInteraction event at Bound for Glory is great. One of the things that pushed my TNA fandom over the edge was how great the guys were both before and after the event on my visit to the Asylum in Nashville last year. Little things like that go a long way, and it's something that is mostly impossible for WWE to do due to their sheer size.
     
  • Don't rush into the touring circuit. I know people keep screaming that you can't be a national promotion without doing shows outside of Orlando. When it's financially viable, then go for it. You guys have been very smart financially, please don't change it to try to appease some loud mouths. When the house shows do start, I nominate Atlanta for the first one though. Please?
     
  • Speaking of loud mouths, don't put too much stock into the criticisms of the hardcore internet wrestling scene. While I don't want to see TNA morph into WWE-lite, I also don't want to see it head too far in the other direction and alienate the more casual fans. I think TNA has been the closest of anyone in appeasing both sides of the fanbase, especially lately. I'd hate to see that change. Personally, I love a Styles/Daniels Iron Man match as much as the next smark, but I also laugh hysterically at Monty Brown promos.
     
  • More Traci, more Traci, more Traci...
     
  • Keep bringing in the new faces that most fans haven't seen before. That was always something that TNA has done well, and I hope it continues. I know I'd rather see someone new and see if they can take off rather than the latest WWE firing.
     
  • Speaking of WWE firings, there are a few guys out there that could really add to the TNA product. The Dudleys and Gail Kim were both very good signings. Charlie Haas would be nice to see, I could go for a Haas/Daniels match. Bringing Jackie Gayda along as well sure would help in the T&A department. Shannon Moore could be useful in the X Division, he never really got a fair shot in WWE. After that, be careful. I'd rather see someone brand new like the Human Tornado from PWG in California than Mark Jindrak.

I've rambled enough at this point. I guess the main thing I'd like to close with is that I hope TNA continues to establish its own identity, separate from WWE. I think the WWE fans that would watch TNA are already watching. If they're not, they don't know about it yet and should find out via Spike TV. The fans who grew frustrated with WWE and tuned out, they don't want to see an imitation of something they already turned off. They want something new and different, but something that still reminds them of why they got into pro wrestling in the first place. All the tools are there for TNA to use, here's to hoping they're used correctly.

Sincerely,
Jason Longshore

 
PS- If you ever want to talk in further detail about any of my ramblings, or make any job offers, don't be afraid of the e-mail link at the bottom of the page. Thanks!

E-MAIL JASON
BROWSE THE OO FEATURES ARCHIVE

Jason Longshore is your second-most-favorite wrestling fan/writer from Atlanta, GA.


  
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