Following a stellar Bound For Glory pay-per-view event on October 21st, TNA decided to announce something completely unexpected that could change the tide of their future.
To cap off their signature yearly event, the former Impact Wrestling announced their unexpected rebranding, reverting to a name that once upon a time was the go-to brand for your alternative professional wrestling programming. Company President, Scott D’Amore, officially uttered the words “TNA Wrestling is back”. With that simple line, the company received more attention than it likely has in quite some time.
Rebranding, or reverting to a brand that hasn’t been the company’s banner in over half a decade was a decision that some were rejoiced over. Others remained uncertain about due to the reputation the company built under both identities. A history of mind games, backstage politics, constantly shifting TV deals and branding inconsistencies haven’t exactly buttered up the former TNA. One thing TNA did represent more effectively though, was being a true alternative.
While the likes of Vince Russo, Hulk Hogan, Billy Corgan, and Dixie Carter have inflicted their fair share of damage to the brand since its beginnings, there may be renewed hope for TNA’s incoming 2024 return. As the company braces for a new chapter to embark on a brighter future, here are a few ways that the return of TNA can succeed in the face of a radically different professional wrestling landscape compared to the one it faced years ago.
One of the main detracting elements from TNA’s programming since around 2019, has been its inability to capture the same aura or “big fight feel” brands like WWE, AEW, and even NJPW can consistently. A mixture of its noticeably smaller venues combined with some questionable camerawork and editing has led the weekly shows to sometimes feel uneven in terms of the overall production value.
At times this does work, especially when we look at the style of backstage work or how certain characters (such as Rosemary) are presented. However, it does have a habit of interfering with the in-ring product quite often. A lot of shaky handheld camerawork most noticeable during gimmick matches, overhead shots that don’t exactly infuse a lot of matches with energy or visual quality that can be of disservice to talent on-screen are amongst key things a lot of fans have picked up on in recent times.
In all fairness to the company, these issues can be a reflection of their admittedly lower production budget when it comes down to week-to-week programming. TNA simply doesn’t have the means of reaching the level of a WWE or AEW in their current state, yet feels even smaller scale than one would expect. The brand is no longer, nor will it likely be, at the level it once was in the early 2010s. But it can make drastic changes to its presentation that can encapsulate a larger image for a brand seeking to re-establish itself in the industry. Based on what we’ve heard from the likes of Scott D’Amore, this will be a key focus of TNA’s re-emergence.
Bring Back The Six-Sided Ring
This is obviously not happening for several reasons, including the fact that the ring itself hurts to take bumps. But if we’re being honest, the six-sided ring is what originally set TNA apart from the competition. It’s something so small they can do in today’s landscape of pro wrestling to stand out. Especially if they want to bring back the original gritty feeling the company had during its peak. There are plenty of wrestling brands that all leverage the same talent pool. At some point, changing the name isn’t going to be enough to garner the viewership they are after. As Booker T once said, getting rid of it was a bullet to the head of the company. Even if it’s not a permanent thing, the company should consider bringing it back for specific PPVs.
Spotlight The X-Division
Maybe this is a hot take considering TNA weren’t strangers to big names. Sting, Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, Bobby Lashley, Booker T, Kevin Nash, AJ Styles, and Christian Cage all spent fair amounts of time atop the company’s main event. What built their foundation and produced moments we still talk about today though, was its X-Division. A part of their programming that was fast-moving, packed with varieties of names and bell-to-bell action, it may not have been the spotlight for the company all the time but similar to the Cruiserweights of WCW in the 1990s, were the workhorses who laid the foundation.
Boasting names such as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, Kazarian, Jay Lethal, Austin Aries, Alex Shelley, and Chris Sabin, the matches hosted under the division consistently stole the show. Between 2002 & 2008 we not only saw the division put on matches that many consider some of the best of the 2000s, but produced names that went on to become World Champions inside and out. Truly a pioneer element that wasn’t just exciting, but influenced the change in professional wrestling we started seeing years later. Here’s hoping TNA realizes the division’s importance and utilizes it.
Stop Running From The Past
TNA or Impact Wrestling’s largest drawback has been its fear of itself. Considering the level of controversy achieved across its history, there can be some understanding as to why distance was created in the first place. Names such as Vince Russo plagued things in their earlier stages, while later controversies including Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff & Jeff Jarrett left things feeling like TNA was almost scared of what it was once upon a time.
Creatively and from a branding perspective it always gave off the feeling of trying to run from its past in an attempt to establish a new identity that is detached from it. However, this did come at the cost of alienating its core fanbase and sacrificing its identity. Numerous creative muddles, constant changes to their TV deals, legal battles about ownership, sudden name switches that seemed to confuse semi-casual audiences, and a clear disconnect from leadership to fan expectations cost TNA an aura that made them different. Instead, it turned them into one of the most inconsistent brands in the industry.
Rather than invent methods to get away from their past controversies, embrace the elements of your past that made TNA what it once was. The company was, and should be, about “Total Nonstop Action”, high-adrenaline, alternative, hard-hitting professional wrestling that places a larger emphasis on insane in-ring action.
Bolster The Knockouts
When looking back in time, the Knockouts were at the forefront of the women’s revolution. Not only did they have some of the most creative talent and storylines, but the women brought it every time. The fact that TNA had Gail King, Awesome Kong, and The Beautiful People all under one banner, I’m going to need the same in this new era. Though they have some great names at the moment, we’re going to need to add some additional star power. If it’s true that Mercedes Moné is no longer in talks with WWE for a return, then TNA needs to make an offer she can’t refuse.
The injection of Mercedes will not only bring eyes, but it’ll give the division that much-needed boost it so desperately needs. Especially with Trinity signed, one could only imagine what they could do with those two and the matches they could have with the Jordynne Grace’s of the world…
Sign Higher Profile Stars
Not only does TNA need to bolster the Knockouts, they need to tap into free agency more than ever before and make intentional signings. The X Division has some great names, but the main event picture needs some love. If TNA wants to be a major player in 2024, they need to keep an eye on both men and women who are available and are already stars. Names like Mercedes Moné, Okada, Matt Cardona, and Guilia are stars who bring their unique fanbases and would certainly bring consistent eyes every week. The big signings need some sort of global appeal, but they also come with a hefty price tag. If TNA is serious about being an alternative to WWE & AEW, this is the only way they’ll be able to do it.