The title of this post is misleading. It would suggest opinion on my part. My declaration that TNA is getting better sounds like a fanboy getting excited over something other people roll their eyes at. But the truth of the matter is, I don’t have to give any opinion at all. I can write this as an unbiased sports journalist with a passion for sports entertainment. The people saying TNA is getting better are the same people who many consider to the be the pinnacle of global, professional wrestling. The folks taking notice of TNA’s Impact Wrestling, and ultimately showing a few beads of sweat on their forehead, is Vince McMahon’s juggernaut, WWE. And the boost in TNA’s relevance can be attributed to an unsurprising wrestler, one who was once a part McMahon’s vast empire. We’re talking about none other than one half of The Hardy Boyz, Matt Hardy.
The writing is on the wall. Vince is presumably annoyed about Jeff and Matt Hardy having great success with another company. The Broken Hardy angle has forced Vince to try his own hand at putting on farm fights between the beloved fan favorite and a creepy anti-pariah. The Wyatt Family vs The New Day is a bad idea, any way you look at it. The two personalities of both groups clash in such a bizarre way that not even a great match could really make this feud passable. It’s oil and water, and it is almost painful to watch. Their fight this week on Raw featured a row of truck headlights, a puddle of water and just a bunch of big sweaty dudes yelling and brawling. The production was low and was subpar compared to WWE’s usual theatrics. Meanwhile, TNA last week featured the Hardy brothers going to war in an outdoor ring, with ladders, trees, fireworks, a stun gun, a faked lake drowning, and a literal pit of fire. There were costume changes, drones, dirt bike chases, violin solos, and loyal Spanish gardeners. All within a single match and storyline. WWE, for all intents and purposes, rode TNA’s coattails and tried to mimic their formula with a stunted carbon copy. Nobody bought into it and most of social media made fun of WWE because they just weren’t being original. This led Bray Wyatt to passive-aggressively subtweet TNA and Matt Hardy during their broadcast (which was live, by the way) Tuesday night. It was a bit out of character and made the usual demigod-like Wyatt come across as a petulant child.
Well, lest we forget, Matt Hardy came on the scene in 1992 while Bray Wyatt was five or six years old. Bray didn’t debut until 2009. And without The Undertaker perhaps no one would have become one of Wyatt’s fireflies in the first place. This is a petty act by the Eater of Worlds and would suggest that not only has WWE and Bray Wyatt been paying attention to TNA, but they are concerned and felt that they somehow needed to respond or even outdo TNA. With Bray Tweeting out during the broadcast, it would suggest that he was watching TNA live. If other professionals in your field start watching and paying attention to what you are doing, that should be a good indication that you are doing something right. This isn’t WWE’s only tell sign, though. Recently, TNA’s X-Division has been going through a revitalization. It’s become a hot item in the world of wrestling, and the matches always seem to be highlights of every broadcast. On Tuesday night, #DestinationX was trending for several hours after the broadcast. People were still talking about it the next day. It’s raising eyebrows in the industry. Interesting, then, that WWE all of a sudden cares about promoting cruiserweights.
The Cruiserweight Classic is WWE bringing in under 205 pound talent from all over the world to compete in a tournament. Guys from Iran, Japan, Mexico, and other parts of the world are battling in single elimination matches. TNA has made an attempt to diversify their roster. Earlier this year, they signed two guys from France. In the recent past they signed several guys from the United Kingdom, including Drew Galloway whom they put the world title on. They recently signed their first wrestler from India and signed a 6-year deal with Indian television. They utilize Japanese heroes and Luchadors on a regular basis, many of whom competed in or have held the X-Division Championship title. They are bringing in wrestlers from all over the world and making a high-flying division relevant again. Hmm, who does that sound like? Didn’t we just see something similar on the WWE Network Wednesday night, a day late and a dollar short?
And the best thing going for TNA is that talent actually wants to come there. Tuesday night they had a debut for a surprise signee that nobody saw coming. From Ring of Honor, Moose, came to the ring and made a big IMPACT right out of the gate. He attacked Bobby Lashley, suggesting he is coming in and going right into the title picture. Two black men going after the world title? TNA breaks new ground again! Good luck ever convincing Vince to do that in his company. Bottom line, TNA is an attractive market and now they are starting to sign big name independent wrestlers. NXT is no longer the only hot ticket in town. TNA has a good roster. WWE thinks so too as they have hijacked several big names from TNA fame. Austin Aries, AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, Eric Young, and current NXT World Heavyweight Champion, Samoa Joe, just to name a few. TNA must be doing something right if Vince scrambles to scoop up their wrestlers every single time they are free of contract.
Now WWE wants to make Smackdown live and move it to Tuesday nights. It’s a power move trying to squash real competition. It’s no sweat off TNA’s back as they are just moving to Thursdays at 8PM. The point is that it would appear all eyes are on TNA. Thanks to Matt Hardy, people are talking about the company. Now that they have signed Moose, people will be watching the company. If TNA is patient and keeps on steadily improving, they will have to be taken seriously by the rest of the industry. No one will be able to refuse them any longer. And god help Vince if TNA becomes popular again and actually gets a television deal with a big network. When you get down to brass tacks, there is one very important take away from this: TNA’s Impact program is not Ted Turner’s WCW when it was sold for pennies on the dollar. TNA isn’t a chop shop of insanity that Vince can just swoop in and hide away. TNA has value and it’s stock (and viewership) is on the rise. Industry experts know Vince and Company have very little to worry about, but it doesn’t appear that way to WWE’s Creative department.
Jeff Hardy recently spoke on Jim Ross’s podcast and stated, “I’m not sure how our ratings are doing, I really don’t care. I just try to go out there and do the best I can.” And that’s the whole trick behind TNA’s resurgence. Their guys don’t care what you think. They don’t care who is watching. They carry themselves like professional athletes and give the crowd in attendance and the viewing audience inside the cameras every ounce they have. Try telling them they are a joke. Try convincing anyone in that locker room they are hacks. They carry themselves like the best wrestling promotion in the world and it comes across in their actions and words. They mean it and they don’t think they’re underdogs. Do they always get an angle over? No. Do they always knock it out of the park? No. But do they try, every week, to entertain the fans? Absolutely, without a doubt. Their conviction is there, and if they just stay the course, they genuinely might be able to get over again.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker