The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of WrestlingINC.com or its staff.
Over the last 20 years, the management of professional wrestling organizations has become a hot-button topic for wrestling fans. While the promoters were once faceless operators, since the Monday Night Wars, wrestling promoters have suddenly become much more noticeable. Ted Turner, Eric Bischoff, Vince McMahon and Paul Heyman not only managed pro wrestling companies, they were recognized in doing so, which was something that was unheard of back in the territory days.
Vince McMahon is considered the dictator of professional wrestling. Unlike any other time in history, one wrestling promotion dominates the globe, therefore making the owner of that company immensely powerful. No matter what your opinion is of McMahon, there is no denying that he is a fantastic business man and that he has a great feel for the wrestling business.
If another promotion could possibly rival the WWE’s, it would most certainly be Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. TNA has a weekly television show on a channel available in most American homes, and a good deal with all the major pay-per-view providers. However, TNA, after over a decade of working at it, has not really put a dent in the wrestling industry.
Dixie Carter is the president of TNA Wrestling, and she is almost the polar opposite of Vince McMahon. Dixie was not brought up in the wrestling business like McMahon, and her career in business is substantially less than Vince’s. While McMahon is described as being blunt, boisterous and demanding, Dixie is described as being much more compassionate, collected and understanding.
Unfortunately for TNA, it appears that Dixie just may not be the right person to run the company. TNA’s accomplishments since its inception have been mixed, but the bad news is that TNA is almost certainly still in the red. While there are many factors that are possibly preventing TNA from really hitting its stride, at the end of the day, poor management is what is at fault.
Dixie’s rise to power in TNA is actually quite unusual. After being involved with several businesses in Nashville, Carter was hired as a publicist by the Jarrett family for their fledgling wrestling company. The company was originally backed by HealthSouth, one of the largest medical companies in the country. HealthSouth, however, pulled out before the company’s first show.
Caught dead in the water, and on the verge of going under before their very first show, TNA was desperate for a solution. Fortunately, Dixie Carter was still very interested in the product, seeing getting into the wrestling industry as a fantastic business opportunity. Dixie also just so happened to be the daughter of Panda Energy Founder and CEO Robert Carter. Dixie convinced her father to back TNA, and all of a sudden TNA’s financial problems were solved. Since Panda Energy was a family run company, with relatives of Robert Carter holding key positions in the company, it made perfect sense to make Dixie the new president of TNA Entertainment.
And that is how Dixie Carter went from publicist to president.
Since taking over TNA, Dixie has surrounded herself with a revolving door of wrestling people to help manage TNA, from Jeff Jarrett, to Vince Russo, to Bruce Pritchard to Eric Bischoff. Despite rolling out an impressive who’s who of wrestling management, TNA has never really broken through the glass ceiling.
In my opinion, Dixie’s naivety to professional wrestling might be the company’s biggest fault. Dixie’s understanding of wrestling and what works is really unclear. When former and current talent are asked about working for Dixie, they usually use words such as “kind”, “caring”, and “positive.” You never hear anyone describing her as being brilliant, or having a great mind for wrestling.
I’m not trying to knock Dixie for this, she isn’t the one booking TNA. Dixie hired plenty of writers with a track record of at least some success to run her show. Unfortunately, the person in charge of the people calling the shots needs to have at least some understanding of what professional wrestling is all about, and it doesn’t appear that Dixie has that.
A perfect example of that is Aces & 8s. The storyline was the brainchild of a writer for TNA, and when they pitched it to Dixie, it might have sounded like a good idea. But now, well over a year later, it has been clear for an excruciatingly long time that Aces is no longer working. However, Dixie is either out of touch with the television ratings or attendance figures of TNA to realize business is down with Aces dominating the storylines of the company, or she doesn’t have the moral fiber to call an end to the angle.
A big reason why WCW failed was because nobody knew who was really in charge, and there wasn’t that big, imposing figure who had the final say above everybody else. The WWE has always had Vince McMahon, but I don’t think TNA has that. That person should be Dixie Carter, but either her personality is not that of someone who is capable of doing the job, or she is too naïve to realize that not all of her creative departments ideas are pure genius.
The lack of command that Dixie has is why you see so many questionable decisions being made in TNA, why booking is so inconsistent and why management is so fractured. This is why you read stories about TNA talent being paid late, contract negotiations falling through, random releases, wrestlers not having the correct documents to perform, etc. Those mistakes start at the top of the company, and Dixie has to take accountability for those miscues.
To put it all nice and plain, I think a combination of Dixie’s lack of understanding of the wrestling industry, along with her inability to properly manage the company is the largest factor in TNA not succeeding to the heights that she herself envisioned. Dixie gives plenty of interviews and sends out plenty of tweets touting the bright future of TNA, but in reality, her mistakes have put the company in a hole that they might not be able to escape from.
In my opinion, TNA will never seriously challenge the WWE until they are sold to someone who actually has those characteristics to manage a wrestling organization. Dixie Carter is probably a very nice individual who is a pleasure to work with, but the proof is in the pudding that she cannot manage TNA to success. The only way to improve to TNA is to have a drastic change in their management philosophy, and that starts at the top of the pyramid.