When it comes to Dave Meltzer’s reporting on TNA, both in the past week as things have spiraled and in the last few months as rumors began to swirl, he has been crystal clear both in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and the various Wrestling Observer podcasts.
Despite this, there is still some small, weird, somewhat disconcerting band of, I will use the term “Lost Causers,” who’ve tried to vilify Meltzer as a dirt peddler and smear campaigner as he’s attempted to report on what might be the death throes of America’s second biggest wrestling company. On a site that discusses the goings on of pro wrestling. Exposing things in a business born from secrets is not unusual for Meltzer, but still.
The mind boggles.
The mind boggles especially in this instance, though, because I can’t understand how anyone can imply motive on Meltzer’s part. Besides the fact that having more successful wrestling companies is better for Meltzer’s business than fewer, it’s also just simple logic what is going on with TNA. It’s simple logic to almost anyone, but here we are.
TNA is not going away because it’s bad. I mean, for months and maybe years at a time, WWE is awful. And sure, there have been plenty of critiques about TNA being bad in the past, but lately TNA has actually been met with much more positive reviews. TNA is also not going away because of some universal grand conspiracy among the “dirtsheets” and WWE and the smarks to eliminate it. TNA is going away because they are too big to be small and too small to be big.
In order to survive, TNA needs to make a certain amount of revenue. They need to meet payroll. Their payroll is higher than most other wrestling companies not named WWE because they attempt to market themselves as a national caliber product by paying for (some) national caliber talent.
In order to earn that revenue, TNA has to sell a specific number of tickets or sell a particular amount of ad time, or it can’t survive.
In 2015, no professional wrestling company can live on ticket sales alone. Few, if any, ever really have. And TNA is too big to be a ticket-only business, anyway. They would not be able to pay most of their talent, and without their talent, it would essentially not be TNA.
So they must go to TV. Negotiating a contract with a network, who will pay them a fee in exchange for their product is the only way they can survive. The TV company makes *their* profit by selling ads at rates above the cost of the program. Advertisers buy ad time based on their belief of how much pass-through sales they can make off viewers from the programming. We are the object of affection. If advertisers don’t want to buy ad time, or will only do so at a lower price, it says something about the programming. It could mean that research shows the programming historically hasn’t created enough revenue for the advertisers. It could also mean they are simply operating under that belief without data. And so on. This ecosystem of television allows you to pay a flat fee per month for literally a limitless amount of product.
In order for TNA to support the production, talent and touring that has created the TNA identity — without which TNA would not be TNA — it needs to command a certain amount of revenue from TV. But TV can’t sell ad time at the rate TNA needs to survive.
Maybe TNA could survive as an independent entity with a national ambition, more occasionally bringing in bigger names but relying on a younger, less-known, hungrier, cheaper stable of full-time talent. Something like what ROH has — most of the time — tried to be.
If TNA was bigger maybe it could have won over just one more CM Punk level big name, or earned just one more big time TV contract or financial backer. Something that WCW became in the mid-90s.
And in truth, at points in Dixie Carter’s TNA era, they tried to be both the homey-independent-local-gone-big and the other-big-shiny-thing-over-there. They tried to act small and act big and neither took, because they were neither. With Carter they’ve done it all, every match, every angle, every second of that company, living in Vince McMahon and WWE’s massive shadow. They’ve done cheap parodies of WWE storylines and borrowed WWE’s history and even signed a former WWE writer — whose failed at everything else he’s ever done — to plagiarize his own ideas. Here lies the last remnants of wrestling’s great war, hunkered down in a bunker in the forest for 40 years, refusing to believe the war was over long ago.
These are the things that have killed TNA. Not Dave Meltzer. Not Twitter. Not Samoa Joe.
Economics and size. A war you can’t win, with an army you can’t pay for, with an enemy who beat you fifteen years ago.
Nothing more. Nothing less.