Wrestling

Published on July 28th, 2014 | by Gareth Davies

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Has Vince Russo Killed TNA?

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It’s a twist in the tale so unbelievable, it could have been taken directly from Vince Russo’s run in WCW. For in the past 48 hours it’s been revealed that a simple and seemingly innocuous mistake by the man himself has apparently brought the second biggest wrestling company in the world to its knees.

According to a story broken by TMZ late last Sunday night, Spike TV has decided not to renew their contract with TNA when the current deal expires in October, depriving TNA of its main source of income. This despite the fact that Impact Wrestling usually pulls in solid viewing figures for the station in its regular Thursday night slot. According to reports TNA President Dixie Carter was informed of Spike’s decision at the end of last week, but until the news broke only a handful of other TNA employees were aware of the situation.

This delivers a potentially fatal blow to the already struggling company. The previous twelve months have not been kind to TNA, with financial issues causing fan favourites Hulk Hogan, Sting, Chris Sabin, Christopher Daniels, and AJ Styles to leave the promotion. Creatively the company also finds itself in a funk, as a recent attempt to replicate the success of WWE’s Daniel Bryan with long time mid-card comedy act Eric Young  just goes to show. Not only did this lazy and cynical ploy cheapen the perception of TNA among hardcore wrestling fans, it also proved to be a ratings disaster with viewers tuning out of Young’s segments in droves. The future now appears even bleaker for TNA, as while it’s not impossible they’ll find another home for Impact, the fates of WCW and ECW – as well as the recent issues WWE had negotiating a new deal with NBCUniversal – suggests this could well signal their demise.

Making questionable choices since 2002

Truth be told it’s no surprise that Spike chose to drag their feet rather than instantly re-up with TNA, such was the stench of a sinking ship wafting from their deck. It is surprising however that they’ve decided to wash their hands of them entirely. After all not only is TNA still a popular part of their line-up, it is also an invaluable tool for promoting the Spike owned MMA group Bellator. Even more shocking are the reports that an email sent to the wrong person was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

For the past few months it had become apparent that TNA’s creative philosophy had shifted some what. Sudden character turns and unexpected “swerves” that defied logic became more frequent, and there was an increase in backstage skits over in ring action. All traits that happen to be the hallmarks of Vince Russo’s booking style. Russo, a former WWF and WCW head writer, casts a controversial figure in the industry. While undoubtedly a passionate and articulate man, Russo’s many detractors will point to his bizarre decisions such as making himself WCW World Heavyweight Champion, having Puppet pull a gun on Jeff Jarrett in front of a live crowd, and an obsession with “worked shoots” as reasons for why he should be kept away from any influential role within a promotion. Spike were certainly wary of him, introducing a mandate that banned any further man-on-woman violence after one of Russo’s previous stints as the booker for TNA. Indeed it was common knowledge within TNA that Spike’s executives despised the native New Yorker, and were delighted when he departed the promotion in 2012.

But with the recent influx of Russo-esque story lines, rumours started to swirl that once again Vince had found his way on to the writing staff of Impact. Both TNA and Russo point blank denied this, and even the wrestlers themselves were told that he was in no way involved with TNA. Of course the truth was Russo had been with the company all along, his involvement kept quiet so not to upset Spike or the recent joint venture formed with Keiji Mutoh’s Wrestle-1 promotion. While this would suggest that maybe keeping Russo on staff was more trouble that it was worth, TNA stuck by him and gave him a fair amount of creative freedom.

Then two weeks ago Vince Russo composed and sent an email meant for Impact announcers Mike Tenay and Taz, detailing how certain parts of a recently taped show should be voiced over. Alas he accidentally sent it to Mike Johnson as well. Johnson, who writes for online wrestling newsletter PW Insider, sensed a scoop and immediately posted a short article on the PWI site confirming Russo was indeed working for TNA. Russo initially tried to limit the damage by tweeting,

“WOW—just amazing to see that anybody will print anything as TRUTH without checking into it. Nice to see the SWERVE still works!!!”

However when Johnson claimed he would go public with the email itself, Russo eventually owned up to being employed as a “creative consultant” for TNA.

Just enjoying the show, bro.

And that single error of judgement may just have cost TNA everything. That this news comes mere days after Russo’s high profile and rather embarrassing admission is not just a coincidence. While it is unlikely to be the sole reason behind Spike’s decision, a lack of honesty in regards to Russo’s status within TNA – not to mention that TNA rehired him the first place – was probably the nudge the cable channel needed to conclude it was better off without wrestling. It also leaves TNA with only two months to find a new station, or face the prospect of severely downsizing. Even then, for a company traditionally based on star power and high end production values, it’s difficult to see them surviving without a TV deal.

Still they have two months left on the current contract with Spike, and in wrestling anything can happen. Who knows? Maybe there will be another swerve in this story. Although hopefully this time it won’t be written by Vince Russo.

Gareth Davies
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Gareth Davies

Wrestling bore. Nerd without a cause. Gentle giant. Smiling assassin.
Gareth Davies
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