Wrestling Inc.'s Akhilesh Gannavarapu recently interviewed TNA President Dixie Carter during her recent visit to India. In part one of the interview below, Carter discussed investing in TNA, TNA's growth worldwide, if wrestlers should have an off-season, the Knockouts division and more.
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Starting with a question that takes us back to 2002, what made you invest in TNA at that point? And in hindsight, do you see a change in trend in the industry, considering the market and what some people feel as market saturation?
"Oh, so much has changed since 2002. The business has changed, how people see television today has changed, the number of television networks have changed… it's a drastically different landscape than 2002. I think the reason that we invested that early in was because there is a big global appetite for the brand, and I think that's something we've had tremendous success in achieving.
"We've had tremendous success in growing IMPACT to be seen in over 120 countries worldwide, in 18 languages. It's been a fantastic adventure."
TNA has gone through several changes during this period. What many people don't understand is that TNA is still very young, and it took other organizations, including WCW which for a long period was affiliated to NWA decades to penetrate different markets. Considering that aspect, what is your assessment on TNA's growth worldwide?
"I think our growth globally has been tremendous in a very short period of time. We're going on, we're about to start our third major contract with Sony as a part of our commitment to the Indian market. We've been here a long time and we're just seeing how big we could potentially grow. That's happening in United Kingdom and Brazil and so many other places where we're at, but I think that the international opportunities for us and our company are bigger than they've ever been, and it's something we'll continue to focus on. Like you say, we're a young company, but when it especially comes to international perspective, we've had great success and great fortune with just tremendous fans to grow like we have."
"Many people who worked for you have said that you treat them as a part of your family. As a promoter, what is your take on professional wrestling being a career option for youngsters in the United States?"
"It's not just the United States; if you look at our roster right now, it's more global with loads of talent from around the world than it's ever been, and we're looking to expand that. We just launched the tag team tribunal from France, and we're actively looking. Mahabali Shera has really come out strong and is learning more every day.
"We're actively looking for more Indian talent. So I think we're constantly looking, and I believe we have the best in – ring performers in wrestling, and we're constantly looking to bring young fresh talent. We're actively looking to bring more talent from around the globe."
One of the main questions that keep popping up is the need for an off season for wrestlers. While you offer comparatively lighter schedule, do you think that is a viable option for wrestling promotions?
"I think it's not an issue with us right now. We're actually taking a break and give the market a chance to breathe in the United States for the live events. But I do believe the talent absolutely need the time to heal their bodies and their minds, and have time to be with their families. I think that's absolutely critical in sports. I don't think we've ever toured so much for the wrestlers to have time off, to be with their families. We're very conscious if somebody's hurt, there's no sense in them getting injured further, and take longer to heal.
"So even if it means re–writing the show on the spot, on live television or just television tapings, we're very accommodating of that. So I think it's less of an issue for us, but I do believe that it's very important for the wrestlers to have time for their bodies to heal."
You're one of the most influential women in the industry today, and TNA earned a reputation for its Knockouts Division. How do you feel about the evolution of women's roles in wrestling, and in your opinion, do you believe men and women are seen as equals in terms of headlining events/PPVs or having a spot on the card?
"I do believe that. One of the major things I'm most proud of is our Knockouts division. We have the greatest female talent we've had since, I believe we launched the Knockouts division. We have given the Knockouts main event slots; they've been in the main events. They've been the key focus of television shows. They've been in the co main events of PPVs. We have fewer female wrestlers (compared to the male wrestlers), so we're going to have fewer matches. We've had shows where there have been two or three (knockout) matches. We've had PPVs that were focused around the knockouts.
"We're not just seeing them in a bikini shoot. We're seeing them in the best in – ring action in the world today. We've always been blessed; it's something I'm very proud of for women representing us as the knockouts. We look forward to growing them even more in the future."
Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second and final part of the interview, where Carter discussed her take on TNA's partnership with Pop TV, if Pop has a say in the delivery of the product, the concern about TNA talent being injured on the indys and more.