As 2013 creeps ever closer, one thing that stands out boldly to me is that TNA was the most improved promotion of the year.
While every promotion will always have its strengths and weaknesses, TNA did a lot to improve upon their product this year, trying to create new top stars, having a greatly improved TV product and a number of solid PPV outings. The company should be proud of where they are as compared to a few years ago.
While not everything was awesome (Claire Lynch, how you doing?), watching Impact, you get the feeling now that everything is leading somewhere and that there are reasons for things happening, as opposed to stuff just thrown out there, which you can't always say for WWE. Sure, some things are illogical to be sure, but that's going to happen with pro wrestling from time to time, especially when names like Hulk Hogan are part of the mix.
The product has greatly matured, but obviously there are things that can be added to create some additional sizzle to the show and to change the game up, so to speak. One of the most recent moves the company has opted to make it cutting down on the amount of PPVs, a great move that will, in theory, lead to some better storytelling as they build to the more important PPV events.
However, there are some other moves that can be made that I'd love to see the company attempt and hell, Eric Bischoff should be familiar with some of them since they were concepts that WCW used that have been pretty much ignored since that promotion's demise.
Take Aces & Eights to Sturgis - One of the more unique WCW PPV concepts was the Hog (later Road) Wild PPVs, where the company put on a free show for the bikers in Sturgis during the biggest bike gathering in the country. Sure, it seemed silly to give away a live PPV gate for free, but now, where TNA is doing free admission for all of their Orlando PPVs, it doesn't seem like such an outlandish idea. Aces & Eights, as a takeoff of The Sons of Anarchy, would fit perfectly into that scenario and most likely, given the names of Hulk Hogan, Sting, etc. the company would draw a pretty sizable looking crowd which would only create some nice visuals. TNA ia always looking for ways to embrace the blue-collar working class fan - what fits that motif better than bikers? Easy E, break out your Harley!
Run a PPV in NYC - It's sort of silly to think the company has been around for a decade but has never attempted to run a PPV in the biggest market in the world. There are a ton of suitable venues in the area - The Hammerstein Ballroom for example - or if they want to go just outside of NYC, the Westchester County Center, which regularly hosted WWF TV for years. Sure, running the area would be a hefty undertaking, but so is running the Alamodome, and the Northeast has the biggest concentration of the die-hard fans that would come out to see a major TNA show live, anyway.
Do some Themed Live Specials on Spike - Sure, in a world where the TV is live every week, this may not be as major a deal as the old WCW Clash of Champions but if TNA held 2-3 live three hour broadcasts on Spike with unique themes that would be self-standing (Halloween Havoc-esque, Legends themed show from say Nashville, one night X-Division card, a major stipulation or retirement match, etc.) and focused on the action vs. the storylines, it would provide them with their own version of a UFC Fight Night card - something that the average fan could tune into and watch just to check out the product without needing to know all the storylines. I think one of the main issues with the average wrestling TV product today is that you need to know what's going on to decipher what you are watching. Running a basic, barebones show with a big gimmick attraction or theme could provide something unique for the future. Hell, if they really want to get random, Battlebowl is out there waiting for someone to do it...OK, maybe not.
Use Your Library More: TNA has ten years worth of footage from all sorts of PPVs, TV shows, house shows and whatever else they have shot. Now's the time to edit together some two hour Best of "Wrestler X" specials and try to sell them to Spike, release them in-house via TNAShop.com or even via the TNA On Demand website. TNA has scratched the surface with the Unfinished Business PPVs, but there is far, far more that can be done.
Tape Your House Shows: Sure, not every show is going to be worthy of a DVD release but by filming all of your material, you have a wealth of matches that can later be released on DVD. Need a new "Best of Samoa Joe?" You've got a year's worth of house show matches to peruse from and pick from. Not all venues are going to allow you to film cheaply, but there's no reason the company can't at least have one or two camera men there filming footage that can be edited later on. Hell, ECW used to be able to do that and their budget was pennies compared to what TNA has to deal with.
Don't be afraid to go back to taped shows if need be. One of the main reasons TNA went live weekly was the belief that the shows were DOA because of Internet spoilers. There's no real scientific proof of that, since a good majority of fans that know what's going to happen watch anyway. There's been a real vibrant shift in the product since it went mostly live weekly, but if they can't do it every week live, then so be it. Don't be afraid to tape bi-weekly, especially if it cuts down on expenses.
Bring in More Guest Talent: One of the freshest PPVs of the year was the X-Division themed Destination X show, partially because of Austin Aries breaking through to the top of the card but also because of independent talents like Jeez, Jigsaw and Scorpio Sky being used in positions where they had good matches. Even if you have no long term plans to book someone regularly, the right guest star can provide a unique attraction and give you a competitive, athletic bout to put your homegrown talent over. Samoa Joe vs. El Generico anyone?
Use Youtube better: The company does a good job of creating weekly product for Youtube, but to me, the one medium the company really lacks in is local promotion and awareness. Youtube is such a perfect way to promote directly to the masses. If they are running a market in Arkansas, put together a quick ten minute preview show with some localized promos. It may not draw you 20,000 but the effort is better than not attempting to create some more interest. We live in a viral world where the most important word of mouth is what is shared on Facebook and Re-Tweeted. The more viral content the company makes in the Internet pond, the more potential ripples will return.
Wargames: Yes, you have a Lethal Lockdown match but there is nothing as cool or as visually exciting as two rings side by side covered in a cage with a roof. Wargames was the most perfect example of high drama and violence that pro wrestling ever offered - and it's rarely been done right since WCW closed. WWE will never do it, so embrace it and make it your own. Scrap the old Bird Cage and repurpose that steel and let's get some "violence for the sake of violence" as Dusty Rhodes used to say.
Bring back Stomper. OK. I kid, I kid. Does anyone even remember that mascot?
Mike Johnson can be reached at Mike@PWInsider.com.