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SMARK COUNTRY: Dixie Carter and the Three Headed Serpent, or The Rise and Fall of TNA Wrestling

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In the few short weeks since word got out that Spike TV opted out of renewing its television contract with TNA Wrestling, there’s been what adds up to a laundry list of reasons for TNA’s pending demise. Personally, I saw the writing on the wall for quite a while. The list is short and sweet. Many Battlestar Galactica fans have heard this one before, this has all happened before and this will all happen again.



TNA had many issues that, with time, could have been resolved with some savvy business decisions, tight scripting by creative and the consistently hard work of the wrestlers on the roster. But Dixie Carter put her chips on three men who, quite possibly, were major contributors to the downfall of another wrestling promotion. You might remember three familiar letters, W-C-W (World Championship Wrestling). You might also remember three other familiar names: Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, and Vince Russo.

Four years ago, Eric Bischoff was brought into TNA creative. He is usually one known for his superior business acumen. I couldn’t fathom what he was thinking when, for his first decision in management, was to move TNA to Monday nights to try to compete with Monday Night Raw. If the ratings alone weren’t disgraceful enough, the amount of money that was spent in luring “legends” to the promotion like Ric Flair, The Nasty Boys, Booker T, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and the infamous Hulk Hogan, was enough to bleed Panda Energy (the parent company of TNA) dry. But Bischoff’s meddling was only the beginning of a sordid and baffling era of mismanagement.

Hulk Hogan, a way past his prime Hulk Hogan, who cannot wrestle anymore, had to be one of the biggest wastes of money I have seen by a wrestling promotion. The long term contract that he was signed to meant that his claws were sunk into the company for a while. And in his infinite wisdom, he interfered with existing storylines to catastrophic effect, got rid of the six sided ring (a unique quality that quite frankly would encourage someone new to wrestling to at least watch a match). Furthermore, many of the performers who were considered to be at the “top of the food chain,” like the Motor City Machine Guns, Beer Money, AJ Styles and Samoa Joe, just languished in creative hell with abruptly aborted storyline after abruptly aborted storyline.

The big one though, was Hogan convincing upper management to stop filming their weekly broadcast from the Impact Zone at Universal Orlando (even though they were allowed to film there rent free) and to do weekly shows on the road, like the WWE. This was the decision that put TNA in the red and they’ve never been able to recover. But he isn’t even the worst of the problems afflicting the promotion.

Vince Russo, a name that is synonymous with the WWF Attitude Era of the late 90s, is not liked by many diehard wrestling fans. His habits in creative remind one of a reality TV show runner or a shock jock radio DJ. Russo might have garnered high ratings for McMahon over 15 years ago, but it’s obvious that he peaked at that point and every subsequent attempt at creative control was a train wreck. Russo was working, on and off, as writer for Dixie Carter since the Spike TV deal started in 2006. His stale storytelling, pushing of oddball characters at very questionable times, and his obsession with long running storylines about dominant factions just wore out the patience of the viewing audience. Russo ruffles feathers, be it the guys in the locker room, higher ups in the company, or in TNA’s case, executives for Spike TV. In 2011 Russo was let go for this very reason. But about a year ago, Dixie hired Russo back. This was kept secret to everyone else in the company, until an e-mail got leaked. Once Spike TV got wind of this, it was the proverbial nail in the coffin as far as a TV deal renewal was concerned.

TNA was a great alternative promotion to the kid-focused WWE. I, for one, am saddened by the thought of the company closing up shop in the near future. The wrestlers cannot be blamed, because from top to bottom, the roster was loaded with solid ring and microphone workers who loved that company. Spike TV cannot be blamed, as they have given TNA every chance, despite its low ratings. No, the blame for the fall of TNA must be placed at the foot of creative, upper management and ultimately Dixie Carter and her bad decision making.

What are some of your most, and least, enjoyable moments from TNA during its twelve year existence?
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