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There is a problem with TNA, and it’s about to get worse.
Ever since TNA was conceived it has been struggling to become a realistic competitor in the market of professional wrestling. In the beginning TNA was merely a crew of fresh-faced dreamers and former stars reaching for that brass ring. Almost ten years later, and they’re…well…a group of fresh-faced dreamers and former stars trying to stay in business. It’s easy to see TNA as more of a regional promotion instead of a small company with a national TV deal and massive potential for expansion.
They have the tools to move forward; fresh talent, reliable veterans, and most importantly, financial backing. So what has kept TNA from breaking through the barrier and becoming the powerhouse it hopes to be? Like most things, TNA’s biggest struggle comes from the idea of the quick fix, and the hope that the right person (or persons) will swoop in and save the day.
TNA has a messiah complex. It seems that they believe if they hold on long enough and have faith eventually a big star will emerge and save the company from Chapter 11. Unfortunately for them, they have yet to figure out that this process is not only not fruitful, it’s damaging to the company as a whole.
Take a look back to 2003. The company brought in what was considered to be a huge coup, a world famous professional wrestler who had never graced a WWE ring; the man known as Sting. It’s no secret that WWE has always desired to add Sting to their roster, something Sting has said numerous times he has no interest in doing. TNA now had a mega-star that WWE could never obtain, and they treated him as such. TNA heralded Sting as the man who would take TNA to new heights, and launch them into the stratosphere of promotional domination.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. They have done it many times since, bringing in a former star that was a huge draw, and building the company’s promotional machine around them. Christian, Kurt Angle, Mick Foley, and most recently Hulk Hogan, at one point or another were all considered to be the “savior” of TNA. Christian and Angle were symbolized as the “turning of the tide” stars jumping from the WWE to the TNA promise land. Foley was a huge draw at the turn of the century, and was even given a huge billboard in downtown Manhattan to announce his arrival. But, that all paled in comparison to the entrance of “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan.
TNA threw everything they had into promoting Hulk Hogan in TNA. They moved their show to Monday’s to accommodate his egotistical desire to compete with the WWE powerhouse, even though it was way before TNA was ready. It was like watching Goliath beat the crap out of David before stepping on his house and kicking his dog across a field. Hogan was supposed to take over the show, and bring TNA out of the regional sound stage and into the world’s arena. Now he’s barely on TV. The Hulk Hogan experiment has failed, and TNA is looking for its next savior.
There have been talks in the wrestling rumor websites that TNA is trying to secure former ECW head honcho Paul Heyman into taking over the TNA creative team. These rumors have been reinforced by the current storyline, where former ECW stars have popped up in the crowd over the past month. Rob Van Dam, a former ECW stand-out and one of Heyman’s favorite creations is the current TNA World Heavyweight Champion. The planets are starting to align, and it seems it will be only a matter of time before Heyman is brought in.
There are positives and negatives to a Paul Heyman run TNA. Let’s break it down and see if we can determine if Paul Heyman is just another quick fix that will shrivel out in a few months time, or the long anticipated TNA Messiah who will finally bring them from the edges of obscurity.
PRO- He’s a creative genius.
We need to give credit where credit is due; Paul Heyman was the driving force behind the success of ECW. If not for him, the small Philadelphia based promotion never would have adopted the extreme attitude and the wrestling boom in the late nineties might have never happened. Paul was the creative mind behind such fantastic gimmicks as Raven, the Sandman, Sabu, Taz, Rob Van Dam, and the Dudley Boyz. He took a rag-tag group of misfits and created a clever cast of characters that enthralled the audience week after week. If anyone can take the talent that TNA already has at their disposal and make it better, Paul E. can.
CON- He’s not a very good business man.
Lets be honest, Heyman ran ECW into the ground by running when he should have been walking. Paul will say it was because ECW lost their television deal, but his former employees have suggested otherwise. Little Guido (aka former WWE Superstar Nunzio) mentioned that he didn’t know where the money was going, because everywhere they went the house was packed. Most of the time wrestlers were working without a paycheck. Tommy Dreamer went unpaid for more than a month. RVD was owed $150,000 in back pay. This kind of thing might have flown in the old ECW due to the loyalty of the stars involved, but TNA wrestlers, especially big names like Hogan and Angle, will refuse to work if they don’t get paid. If he is given control of TNA, Dixie Carter better keep the check book in her purse and micro manage all expenses or her company will be bankrupt within a year.
PRO- He is a strong leader.
As far as leadership skills go, Paul Heyman is unparalleled. On a weekly basis he took a group of wrestlers who were frustrated and angry, and encouraged them to go out and give 100% every night. One wrestler compared Paul’s leadership and charisma to that of “Satan himself,” and that he was “scary convincing.” TNA’s locker room moral has always been reported as low. Who better to go in and rally the troops before each taping?
CON- He doesn’t play well with others.
Paul Heyman likes to run his own ship. In the old ECW he forced out his long time business partner Todd Gordon, becoming sole owner of the company. Many indicate that because of Gordon’s leaving Paul was then forced to take over the business duties and thus put too much workload and stress on himself, which lead to the demise of the original ECW. After the brand was rechristened in WWE, he constantly bickered and argued with Vince McMahon of the direction of the new ECW. Their arguments over the “December to Dismember” pay-per-view got so heated that Paul subsequently left the company. The chances of Paul bumping heads with TNA management are high, and if that happens you can bet he’ll be threatening to pack his bags in a heart beat.
PRO- He has tried and failed before.
Failure is a bitter taste for someone to suffer. Paul Heyman has suffered that bitterness, and will pull out all the stops to not taste it again. Heyman is definitely a guy who would take a negative and make turn it into a positive, and he would take everything he learned from the closing of ECW and try not to repeat it with TNA. At the end of The Rise and Fall of ECW DVD, Paul had this to say;
“You cannot achieve success without the risk of failure. And I learned a long time ago, you cannot achieve success, if you fear failure. If you’re not afraid to fail, man, you have a chance to succeed. But you’re never gonna get there unless you risk it, all the way. I’ll risk failure. Sometimes, half the fun is failing. Learning from your mistakes, waking up the next morning, and saying ‘Okay. Watch out. Here I come again. A little bit smarter, licking my wounds, and really not looking forward to getting my ass kicked the way I just did yesterday.’ So now, I’m just a little more dangerous.”
Paul Heyman is an incredibly intelligent man, and he’s not going to let a little thing like soul crushing failure get him down. He’s a fighter, and if he’s given the reigns of TNA he will work his ass off to make sure he doesn’t fail again.
CON- He has tried and failed before.
The landscape of professional wrestling has changed dramatically since Heyman’s heyday (see what I did there?) ECW was never a powerhouse, but to be fair neither was WWE. Both promotions were struggling with the success of WCW, but in that promotion war Paul Heyman thrived. As the unsung third man in the battle, he gained critical acclaim and was the anti-establishment, making a nitch for himself and his company in a stagnant business. Today WWE is more than just a wrestling company, it’s a publicly traded corporation with a revenue stream exceeding $138.7 million in one quarter. TNA’s revenue is $15 million. They’ve been around for almost ten years, and has yet to turn a profit.
In the past Heyman had a strong working relationship with Vince McMahon and his company. Vince even tried to help ECW in its dying days, showing sympathy for a once proud rival and colleague. But, Heyman isn’t going up against a struggling promotion this time. He’s going up against a mega-powerhouse that refuses to show any sympathy for TNA. Plus, Heyman has burned his bridge with WWE. I doubt McMahon would be willing to throw him a bone again.
Also no matter how much they try to make it seem like he would be in charge, Heyman would still have to answer to Dixie Carter. Heyman would have to be willing to take a big bite of humble pie to get back into the wrestling game, and that’s a mighty big pill for him to swallow. Plus Heyman’s track record of success isn’t exactly strong, and he’d be walking into an already delicate business environment. History implies that his TNA career would be doomed before it even started.
Since Heyman has yet to sign with TNA this is all conjecture. It’s possible he never joins the promotion and they continue their search elsewhere. But if he does join up, TNA is going to have to put their eggs into an assortment of baskets instead of relying on Heyman to fix everything. TNA needs to save themselves, instead of waiting for someone else to do it for them.
"If you have one finger pointing at somebody, you have three pointing towards yourself."