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In recent weeks TNA has been trending in wrestling circles in a way that it has not in several years. Unfortunately it has not been due to any thrilling matches or storytelling on their programs, but rather because the annual rumors of their imminent doom began to fluctuate at about an all-time high. According to multiple sources, TNA was in danger of having both their biggest PPV event of the year, Bound for Glory, as well as all of their TV tapings for the rest of the year, and cancelled due to more financial issues. Despite those rumors, TNA managed to put on Bound for Glory as well as tape the rest of the year's television tapings and for now are surviving.
To some, the allegations that TNA are in financial peril are just that, unproven rumors. After all, the demise of TNA has been endlessly discussed since their inception in 2002 and yet the company keeps on chugging. Unfortunately for TNA fans, there is no denying that the company is in extremely rough shape and is closer to bankruptcy now than they have been since Dixie Carter took over the company in October of 2002. There are several reasons for why this is true; but they all come down to the same reason: the company has been mismanaged, to a degree that it is almost comedic.
Contrary to popular opinion, at one point in time TNA was fairly popular and was in the black. The reason TNA was able to become arguably the second biggest promotion in the world was because they were able to have several key things working in their favor that other companies did not. First, they had a national TV presence on Spike TV, which took a lot of criticism from some TNA fans over the years for not promoting TNA enough, but in hindsight it is very clear working with Spike TV was the best thing to ever happen to TNA, as they were never more relevant than when they were on Spike.
Due to several factors, stemming from poor promotional tactics, the continued push of older wrestlers, a promotional philosophical change that led to the inclusion of way past their prime stars like Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff being heavily featured on television, the slow dismissal of things that made the company unique like the X division and the Knockouts to the point that they were hardly relevant. Lastly, the waning public interest in professional wrestling as a whole also hurt them; and honestly they couldn't do much to stop that; although it is hard to believe they were doing anything to work against that decline.
Once ratings began to slip below the network's average, Spike pulled the plug on TNA that sent them on an odyssey that saw them wander to Destination America, which took a bit out of their average viewership. After getting the axe from Destination America they moved on to POP TV, which was yet another blow to their average viewership. The larger problem is that because they kept downgrading what network they were on, they were receiving less and less money for their television product. Compared to Spike, they are hardly getting anything from POP and that is why they had such trouble funding their latest TV tapings, because the network is no longer footing the bill. Instead of becoming financially soluble and responsible for funding their own television show, they instead went down to the wire before several TV tapings without any funding, until being rescued by a quick loan, from Billy Corgan, Aroluxe, and for these most recent tapings, the Fight Network.
The problem right now is that TNA has gotten loans to fund their television tapings, selling pieces of their company in the process to acquire the funds. They have not shown the ability to generate enough revenue themselves to fund their own programming; each time they just are asking for more money from benefactors and digging themselves into deeper and deeper debt. The only way TNA will be able to turn things around is if they are able to come up with enough money to fund their own shows. The simplest way to do that would be to sell the company to someone who is willing to do that; which means taking a short-term hit in hopes of the company growing over time and making that money back when it becomes profitable.
However, at this point, why would someone want to buy TNA? The company has had potential buyers in the past, most notably a group led by country music star Toby Keith, but the company was reluctant to sell because they insisted that Chairman Dixie Carter remain on with the company, and the prospective buyers balked at that idea. Obviously they had a good reason to want Carter out of the picture, because it is overwhelmingly clear that Carter has been very poor in her role in the company and according to reports there is a lot of heat between the talent and staff of the company and Dixie Carter because she is being blamed for allowing things to get so out of hand. This was made quite evident when Corgan, who has championed the cause of TNA and become a key player in creative since joining the company in April of 2015; filed a lawsuit against the company. In addition, it seems like every other day a new issue for TNA emerges, including a controversy with the state of Tennessee about unpaid taxes and another lawsuit, this time from American Express for unpaid travel expenses.
Another thing that separated TNA from other minor companies was that they had international television deals. For several years TNA did very well in the UK thanks to being on a strong network and viewership-wise outdrew WWE programing; albeit only because WWE was on a premium subscription network. But like in US market, TNA has done significantly less numbers in the UK since 2013; and although they were once getting over 200,000 viewers per episode, they are now averaging well below 100,000 and WWE is confidently in front of them despite TNA being on a regular cable channel. Their annual trip to the UK for Impact tapings in January have been the best time of the year for company; and although I assume they plan on going over for 2017, the company's future is so up in the air that it seems hard to predict anything for January.
TNA also had a solid deal with Sony Six in India, which was their second biggest TV deal behind the UK one. Part of the reason they got a nice deal from Sony Six was because they agreed to do a tour of the country sometime during 2016. A tour earlier was called off due to travel concerns (or so TNA said) and if they don't tour India by the end of the year they will breach their contract with Sony Six and be subject to termination. Considering TNA was barely able to tape the rest of their TV programming for 2016 in Orlando; it seems unlikely that they will be able to march over to India by the end of the year to do a tour.
Outside of television other potential streams of revenue include house shows and PPV, but TNA has cannibalized both of those markets. They have very few PPV's and even the ones they have generate little revenue. I don't know what numbers they are doing now but during their peak years a typical PPV only did about 10-25k and that was when their viewership for their TV was over a million per week. House shows have really gone by the wayside; although at their peak they did run a fair amount of house shows in areas across the country. You can also kiss a lot of merchandise money goodbye by not running house shows. With both of those revenue streams non-existent; everything pretty much relies on the television.
To get a perspective of TNA's issues, take a look at their closest competitor, Ring of Honor. For most of their existence TNA has had stronger financial backing than ROH, and although ROH has had some serious issues in their time, they have eclipsed TNA as the number two promotion in the United States. Unlike TNA, ROH has secured PPV deals and runs several real PPV events per year, as well as about a half dozen other iPPVs. They also run a fair amount of live shows and their strategy for live events has been far superior to TNA's. TNA often would run house shows in small towns across the Southeast, giving the impression that they were a small regional outfit; not dissimilar to Jim Cornette's Smoky Mountain Wrestling, which was built on running hill towns in Kentucky and Tennessee during the 1990s. Naturally, many of these shows drew very poorly. Ring of Honor runs house shows but only really focuses on major metro areas (or in suburbs right outside major metro areas). They run shows in Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, Toronto, Chicago, Las Vegas, etc. They are still a small promotion so they don't do great numbers, but they do well enough to sustain business.
Another thing that ROH has capitalized on is working with prominent promotions in other countries, including New Japan Pro Wrestling, CMLL and various independent promotions in the UK. They have exchanged talent and gotten their promotion on the map in the two biggest wrestling markets in the world, Tokyo and Mexico City. TNA has had deals in the past with NJPW and AAA, but have squandered those opportunities by soiling their relationships with the larger promotions. When you look at the history of mismanagement by TNA, it is no surprise other promotions didn't want to extend their relationship with TNA.
So can TNA be saved? It is real uphill battle because of the array of debt they have worked themselves into and the issues with the promotion's reputation. The good news is that the remaining 300,000 or so TNA fans are true loyalists and are willing to watch the promotion no matter what, which allows them to rebuild and experiment without sliding down too much further. The problem is I just don't know how much more you can do with TNA to save money right now. They have already released a lot of their popular talent from the past, including pretty much every name identifiable with the promotion's history; AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Sting, Kurt Angle, Bobby Roode, Eric Young, The Dudley Boys, Chis Sabin and Alex Shelley, Samoa Joe and others. How many more guys can they cut? In addition they are already taping television in the cheapest way possible; in a designated location as part of a theme park attraction and taping months of TV in a handful of days. Like with the talent; how much more can they do to save money on taping?
If TNA cannot afford to pay their current expenses (and considering they have only been able to do so by selling stock in their company to get last second cash injections it seems like they cannot) then there is no sure way for them to survive outside of a wealthy owner purchasing the company and willing to spend money on a company that has not been profitable in some time. I don't want to put dirt on the grave of TNA just yet because they have been near the brink before; but things really do not look good of the organization.
Must Watch Matches:
YAMATO vs Akira Tozawa: ****1/4 – Dragon Gate Danger Gate 2016
Volador Jr. vs El Barbaro Cavernario : ****1/4 – CMLL Super Viernes 9/30/16