Since the collapse of both WCW (World Championship Wrestling) and ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) in 2001, many independent wrestling scenes in the United States and international wrestling promotions, particularly those from Japan’s “Big Three”, have come in droves to fill the high schism that, in an effort to “compete” against WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), both organizations have left behind. Two of those rose in prominence: Ring of Honor Wrestling (ROH) was founded in the aftermath of ECW’s demise in 2002 by the owner of RF Videos – ECW’s video seller – Rob Feinstein, and has been partnering with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) wince February 2014; and another was, once upon a time, filled with potentials as it showcased superstars of tomorrow while respecting the past by adding a few journeymen or potential hall-of-famers, only to suffer multiple setbacks and has since lost its identity along the way, and truth be told, how to suitably name of this company is the subject of this article, as neither the wrestling marks, neutrals, and journalists, never mind myself, could really remember what they should be called as a brand as of today.
The brains that was founded this organization by the Jarrett family, Jerry Jarrett, the legendary promoter from the Tennessee/Mid South Area, and his son, the 2018 WWE Hall of Famer, Jeff Jarrett, who was one of three men holding the WCW World Heavyweight Championship during its final months of WCW’s existence, and former WCW backstage handler Bob Ryder. At that point in time, the proverbial “only game in town” was WWE, and their “invasion” angle was, to bluntly put, half-baked at best as several high profile WCW talents like Hulk Hogan (whom had essentially departed WCW acrimoniously after having a huge fallout with Vince Russo creatively, which I will elaborate later when discussing Hogan’s return, at Bash at the Beach pay-per-view on July 9, 2000), Kevin Nash, Randy “Macho Man” Savage (whom had essentially walked away from the scene altogether by then, though not completely, as he would make an appearance in Sam Raimi’s “Spider Man” movie in 2002), Goldberg (whom had rumored to join our subjective topic at various points in time, only to make a couple of memorable run at WWE by defeating the likes of The Rock, Chris Jericho, Triple H, and finally, Brock Lesnar), and Sting (who eventually made his WWE debut at Survior Series 2014, and had a memorable run with this very promotion that will be explained later). By 2002 Royal Rumble, both Feinstein and Jarretts plotted their ways to form their promotions, though Feinstein was better financed with his video distribution and was able to obtaining the lease at what is formerly ECW Arena within months. For the Jarretts, meanwhile, in spite of they had enough fundings to proceed with their initial weekly PPV shows, which the concept was unheard of at that period of time, beginning on June 19, 2002; however, their debut was slightly marred by an accidental Ring cable malfunction, only to fix it fixed with help in the forms of the Harris Brothers. Vince Russo, whom Jarrett had interactions with creatives during their times in both WWE and WCW, was brought in as part of the creatives and, according to him, coined the name “Total Nonstop Action”, the initials of the company “TNA” being a play on “T&A”, short for “Tits and Ass”. The original intention, as they were exclusive to pay-per-view, was to be viewed as an edgier product than WWE. By late September 2002, Jarrett’s own funding had dried up, and was contacted by the Carter family, namely the father of TNA’s publicist Dixie Carter, Bob Carter, whom Dixie contacted, and by the following month, Panda Energy had bought the controlling stakes from HealthSouth Corporations, which withdrew their financial support from the Jarretts. While Jeff Jarrett stayed on as Vice President of the promotion, the Carters – specifically Panda Energy operated on most aspects of the business other than creatives, in which Russo was part of. Hence, the “Fifth Age” of pro wrestling has begun.
Editor note: clarification of what I mean “Fifth Age”, in my opinion, is as follows:
- First Age: pro wrestling in a circus carnival back in during the dawn of the 20th Century
- Second Age: The formation of the National Wrestling Alliance and the territorial days
- Third Age: The three-way competition between WWE, NWA, and American Wrestling Association
- Fourth Age: WWE vs. WCW & the Monday Night War
- Fifth Age: Post Monday Night War era
Hope this clarifies the matter.
For the first 15 months or so, both promotions slowly built their momentum while forming partnership in talent exchange among them. At first, several Jarrett’s talents, particularly Low Ki, whom once upon a time wrestled under the name Kaval in the WWE, Amazing Red, current WWE and former NJPW’s IWGP (International Wrestling Grand Prix) Heavyweight Champion A.J. Styles, had won the ROH titles at one point. However, a federal sting operations targeting child poronography led to the resignation of Feinstein, and with that, the termination of the partnership with then-TNA, and those wrestlers who were booked for ROH events were withdrawn and had them vacated as a result. ROH marched on with Doug Gentry bought out Feinstein’s stake, and later sold it to Cary Silkin, during that time ROH slowly expanded thier operations including announced plans for tours in Japan and co-promoted events with Dragon Gate and Pro Wrestling NOAH, signing a PPV deal and VOD (Video-on-demand) service that led to a temporary withdrawn of talents like Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, and Austin Aries before allowed to the promotion not long after. The expansion continued as they signed an agreement with what is now called AXS TV Fights (then called HDNet) for weekly televised program, announced a working relationship with the legendary OVW (Ohio Valley Wrestling), where they had been part of WWE developmental program from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s and had produced several high profile superstars such as 16-time WWE Champion John Cena, fellow multi-time WWE Champion Randy Orton, current WWE Universal Champion and former UFC Heavyweight Champion and WWE Champion Brock Lesnar, fellow former WWE Champion and star of MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universal) movie franchise “Guardians of the Galaxy” Dave Bautista, and perhaps the most controversial MMA fighter who has a major beef with WWE as a result of his unannounced bolting from promotion and fellow WWE superstar and Champion CM Punk, before being purchased by Sinclair Broadcasting Group.
TNA, meanwhile, had also grown their popularity and attracted several former WWE superstars who felt “underutilized” at that time, and several legends (later inducted by WWE Hall of Fame) who were world heavyweight champions, names like Christian, Jeff Hardy, Sting, who was the WCW flagship during the Monday Night War, Kevin Nash, who founded the legendary n.W.o. faction that, unbeknownst to everyone, led to the decline of WCW, Booker T, whom once pinned Jeff Jarrett for the WCW World Heavyweight Champion on one of the most controversial PPVs in sports entertainment history: Bash of the Beach 2000, Kurt Angle, who is now back with WWE as an on-screen authority figure for Monday Night RAW, and once held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship after defeated Lesnar, whom had held that very title for almost one year before controversially stripped by NJPW management due to contractual dispute between parties, in an IGF (Inoki Genome Fighting) event before losing that to now-WWE Smackdown superstar Shinsuke Nakamura, whose style of wrestling has earned the moniker known as “King of Strong Style” and was a founding member of CHAOS in NJPW. All the while, the likes of Styles, Joe, Christopher Daniels, Bobby Roode, “Cowboy” James Storm, and Eric Young were groomed to be the future superstars of wrestling and were the cornstornes of the promotion. However, in spite of the success and their television deal with Spike since 2005, the truth was and is that TNA is nowhere near the global success of WWE – even after Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff came along in early 2010. Before I continued with Hogan/Bischoff management, however, one must emphasize that TNA was, perhaps, the only US promotion (I assumed) that used the six-sided ring instead of the traditional squared ring. The only other promotion that would use the 6-sided version is Lucha Libre AAA (Asistencia Asesoría y Administración) Worldwide, where once upon a time had collaborated with both WWE and WCW; unlike TNA, however, AAA doesn’t use the hexagon ring as often as TNA. When Styles was interviewed by WWE Hall of Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in Austin’s podcast, he stated that when Bischoff/Hogan reverted to traditional squared circle, it was “heaven” as he would not have to contort his hips and ankles in such awkward angle (120°) in the 4-sided ring. In truth, 6-sided ring on a daily performance purpose poses a challenge for wrestlers to adapt, and for some talents who have not prepared for that change, they were in for the shock of a lifetime.
Now that I have provided the historical context what happened prior to 2010, and since I have also mentioned “Bischoff/Hogan” regime a few times, it’s time to focus upon the identity crisis that led to a rapid decline of now-IMPACT Wrestling. There’s an old saying: “sometimes the greatest players may not be the greatest coach or management as their minds have been saturated with their own egos with delusions of grandeur of how well their games may have been.” All you need to do is to check out how Wayne Gretzky fared as a coach against those who have been trying to get their teams into the playoffs (not those who have won the championships), and you can tell why he had struggled mightily because management doesn’t just mean playing styles, it’s about how one manages the strategy and becomes successful in each objective. Having said that, one must consider this truth: everyone fails in their first try, and since this is Hogan’s first management role, I would give him an “A” for effort but still considered as a failure nonetheless; same cannot be said about Eric Bischoff, whom had a key role and building the rivalry with WWE during the above mentioned Monday Night War but his arrogance had led to the demise of WCW by conceded too much power in contract negotiations, and infamously gave away the management to both talents inside the locker rooms and accounts who knew nothing of the wrestling business since most of them don’t watch that much television, never mind wrestling programs. Their initial move by moving the TNA Impact to the same time on Spike Network against a well-established WWE RAW was a disaster in the making, However, this wasn’t the only mistake TNA had made; in fact, it began on the day that Dixie Carter dismissed Jeff Jarrett as a result of the latter committed adultry with the wife one of their own talents – namely Kurt Angle, whom at that point in time had some troubles with his then-spouse Karen by that time and had filed for separation, to say the least. On top of that, in various point of time, Dixie Carter had made some very questionable decisions that have alienated a few talents and creative staffs that built the company, whether they were made by her or someone in her “extended” circle from the likes of certain wrestling “journalists” instead of asking the talents or the creatives themselves. During that time, with the promotion’s ratings were much lower than what Bischoff/Hogan/Carter had hoped for, TNA’s financial plight would finally be emerged during the storyline feud between Dixie Carter, the Originals, and a new faction called “Aces and Eights”. Within months, a contractual issue during the negotiations between one of the cornerstones in the promotion, A.J. Styles, had broken down due to pay disputes, and took his act to other indies that showed more appreciation, thus attracted the attention of NJPW in early 2014 and acquired him by booking him with then-recently formed “Bullet Club” as a replacement of WWE-bound Prince Devitt, whom is better known as Finn Balor. Meanwhile, Christopher Daniels and Frank Kazarian had also parted company and joined rIval promotion ROH, and so had the likes of Young Bucks, whom were then-known as Generation Me, and D.O.C (Luke Gallows) this exodus; in addition, the partnership between TNA and NJPW was dissolved after a creative dispute with Okada. During that time, Jeff Jarrett had formed yet another promotion called Global Force Wrestling and allegedly raided almost half of the TNA roster alongside those who left in that exodus, unfortunately, GFW soon operated less and less events due to lack of funds and lower ticket sales, and was subsequently put in hiatus before their infamous failed merger in 2017 with now known as IMPACT Wrestling. This has also affected the latter’s ability to be relevant in the sporting climate, as ROH have since emerged as the prevalent number two promotion behind WWE and king of independent scenes. By the late 2015 and into 2016, IMPACT had lost the televised contract with Spike, and then with Destination America the following year, and reports of constant financial plight emerged as the Carters and Panda Energy began divestment from the promotion, all the while several former WWE talents like Drew McIntyre, Damian Sandow, and Bobby Lashley became the promotion’s top stars.
At that point, IMPACT’s dire situation didn’t get any better when WWE’s latest brand NXT changed the format from being a reality show to formally introduce the future of WWE in what was Florida Championship Wrestling in developmental program to a promotion similar to the independent scenes, and combined that with the rising of ROH and New Japan, IMPACT have lost most of its luster in spite of partnering with other promotions in Japan, namely Wrestle One and Pro Wrestling NOAH, and thus creating the first promotional identity crisis, even with new management under Don Callis and longtime TNA handler Scott D’Amore, how they would be able to reconcile all of its confusion and return to the prominence, only time can tell.