What Was TNA? What Is Impact?

Update, 3/12/17: Clearly, shit’s gone down. Expect a full update soon, but, in short:

  • Broken Matt, Brother Nero and the rest of House Hardy are out. 
  • Maria Kanellis-Bennett and Mike Bennett are out. 
  • Jade (aka Mia Yim) is out. 
  • Drew Galloway is out. 
  • Dixie Carter is (basically) gone. 
  • Alberto El Patron (fka Del Rio) is the new Impact world heavyweight champion. But did it with shenanigans. 
  • The biggest feud is between Josh Matthews and Jeremy Borash. So if you watch, expect to feud with your best interests and suicidal tendencies.
  • This feels like the true end times for the promotion. 

The promotion wants to be called Impact, but it is TNA’ing the fuck out of itself. 

But what was TNA?

Updated 10/29/16, 1pm Eastern with recent court date news, and a brief history of TNA’s ownership prior to 2016.

Updated again, 11/6/16, 2pm Eastern with news of TNA’s new parent company and a major departure.

So you may have seen headline after headline fly by about the state and future of Total Nonstop Action. Since we don’t really have the time to cover TNA on The Ring Post, the wrestling podcast I do with Myke Hurley and Dave Tach, I’ve decided to write up a state-of-affairs synopsis of the company. 

Primarily, this will run though current drama regarding its ownership, as well as the different championships and titles.

No, literally, what is TNA?

TNA is a pro wrestling promotion commonly seen as the second-largest in America and the major competitor to WWE. While TNA is trying new things, like a title belt defended in a UFC-style format, and campy pre-taped content, it mostly follows the same formulas as the WWE.

You can either watch it on the Pop cable and satellite network, which you likely don’t get, watch clips on its YouTube channel, or stream PPVs on the FITE app or other providers.

Who owns TNA?

It’s complicated.

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Right now, the widely ridiculed Dixie Carter is still majority owner, Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins is a minority owner, as is Aroluxe Marketing, a Tennesee-based firm. 

IMPACT Ventures, the parent company of TNA, named Billy Corgan its president on August 12, but he is no longer with the company, and its new parent company is Anthem Sports. More on it later.

So how did we get here?

Dixie Carter didn’t create TNA, industry veterans and father-and-son duo Jerry and Jeff Jarrett did that in 2002. Carter came in in 2002 when she found out that the company needed marketing and publicity help, which was soon followed by the discovery that the company had financial problems due to a backer dropping out due to unrelated issues.

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Carter contacted her parents, the owners of Panda Energy International, a Dallas-based energy company, which purchased 71% of TNA for $250,000 from Jerry Jarrett. Spoiler alert: when Dixie couldn’t make TNA’s financials work, Panda divested itself of its stake in 2012. Jeff Jarrett left his role as Executive Vice President of Development/Original Programming in December 2013, and sold his as minority-share to Carter in June 2015.

Not much is known about Aroluxe, though it works with former wrestlers Ron and Don Harris, who have known affections for Nazis.

Who is Dixie Carter, and why is she mocked so much?

Over the years, Carter served as an on-screen authority figure in TNA, which she was inarguably terrible at. Wrestling isn’t known for high-caliber acting, but she was so horrible that it generated a not-insignificant portion of fan hate for Carter. 

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To make some long and terrible years short, Carter is credited for bringing in Vince Russo, Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan, aging vets who’d run out of original ideas. 

Hogan is seen as a major source of TNA’s financial problems, as he cost a pretty penny and bled TNA dry. Oh, and Hogan brought in his daughter Brooke Hogan, to act, and she made Dixie look like Helen god damn Mirren.

Carter’s mismanagement of TNA left talent often going unpaid for long periods, a major reason for wrestlers including AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Daniels & Kazarian, Bobby Roode and Eric Young to flee.

Why is Billy Corgan, who you might remember as The Guy From The Smashing Pumpkins there?

Billy Corgan loves wrestling.

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Billy (right), with his enforcer O’Shea (left).

This isn’t his first rodeo either, in 2011, he founded a company called Resistance Pro Wrestling, which started the Resistance Pro wrestling promotion. Corgan is mocked by some, but the talent involved with that promotion wasn’t terrible, in fact it included Colt Cabana, El Generico (a friend of WWE superstar Sami Zayn) and Kevin Steen.

The only thing we should really mock Corgan for is his recent lack of fashion sense when he’s been on camera at TNA, and his GM-like character’s association with the utterly boring garbage-man known as Aidan O’Shea, who briefly wrestled under the name Ryan Braddock in WWE, where he knocked out the Big Show with a ‘knockout hook,’ because Big Show.

What’s going on with ownership?

The biggest question, meta or otherwise, from the last weeks of TNA is who in fact owns this company? Here’s a timeline of recent events:

October 1: Rumor had it that Corgan would purchase from TNA its current majority owner, Dixie Carter, and that WWE would buy the TNA tape library. Those rumors seemed bound to come true during the days before and after TNA’s October 1 PPV Bound for Glory, but never came true. Oddly enough, on that PPV, an injured Drew Galloway said “Billy Corgan’s buying TNA” in an interview. He’s a heel if that matters.

Corgan is publicly seen as bearing serious intent to rebrand the company and run it well (as you’ll see below, that hasn’t been the case recently). WWE would use that tape library to further cement its streaming network as the one true archive of wrestling history, as well as add to video packages for former TNA superstars such as Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, and Sting.

Then on October 13, reports surfaced of Billy Corgan suing TNA and Dixie Carter. Major details are unknown (as is the case throughout this story), but we do know that a court approved a temporary restraining order that Corgan put out on Dixie.

On October 14, it was reported that the State of Tennessee issued a tax lien against TNA this past September. The total of its unpaid taxes is unknown, but likely sizable, as liens aren’t issued without substantial reason.

On October 15, we learned that TNA may owe a total of 3.4 million dollars to Aroluxe, Anthem Sports & Entertainment Corp., the parent company of Fight Network, which streams TNA PPVs online, and MCC, an affiliate of Anthem.

On October 19, Anthem made a couple of moves in its quest to invest in TNA. First, it confirmed the company “made a working capital loan” to fund the operations of TNA, and then it offered to “provide TNA Impact Wrestling with funding to repay the loans made by Mr. Billy Corgan” and lastly noted it is in the position to provide further “transitional assistance to TNA.”

That same day, we found out that TNA is both planning events for the start of next year (it has been taped through to the end of this year) and that TNA is likely to file for bankruptcy soon, to get out from under its debts. Confusing? Yep. Imagine what it’s like to be waiting on a check from Dixie.

Even Matt Hardy, in character as Broken Matt Hardy on Twitter, also expressed interest in buying TNA. More about him later.

And not that this is about who owns TNA, but … a lawsuit filed in July by American Express in the New York Supreme Court claims that “Impact Wrestling’s parent company owes $269,049.50 for ‘travel-related expenses’.”

On October 26, both sides (Corgan; TNA/Dixie) presented their arguments in court. Corgan argued that Dixie’s TNA isn’t fit to continue given talent going unpaid. TNA’s legal team painted Corgan as a conniving loan-shark out to steal the company. 

On November 1, in another sign that TNA may be on the wrong end of its lifetime, the promotion lost its deal with Challenge TV, its television distributor in the UK. That deal was one of the major sources of TNA’s income.

On November 3, following news that Corgan lost his lawsuit, Anthem Sports announced that Billy Corgan is no longer with TNA. Anthem appears to be the new parent company of TNA. Corgan claimed on Twitter that he is owed 2.2 million dollars, to which Anthem responded: YOU SHOULDN’T SAY THESE THINGS ON SOCIAL MEDIA. Following that, Corgan threatened / teased selling his share to WWE.

On November 4, if you thought it couldn’t get worse, Dave Lagana, TNA’s head writer, walked out on the company, which he announced in a post on Medium.

So now that you know the current state of TNA ownership drama, let’s talk about the actual product.

What do their titles mean?

This question, like some the others, comes from my The Ring Post co-host Myke Hurley. He asks this because only have TNA’s titles been confusing in the past, they just got moreso. Let’s work our way from the most basic to the oddest, and who is currently in contention.

TNA’s Knockouts Championship is the title of its Knockouts division, which comprises its female wrestlers. Get it, because they’re knockout beauties and they’ll knock you out? Currently, the title is held by recent TNA hall of fame inductee Gail Kim, which is the first time in a very long time that a HoF inductee held gold after said ceremony.

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Gail Kim doesn’t have much in the way of rivals right now, as her most recent opponent, Maria Kanellis Bennett, is currently locked in a rivalry. Bennett is feuding with Allie, her former ‘apprentice’ who she bullied too much. Allie is beloved by the Impact audience, and while her gimmick is not one of a fighter, we know she can go, as she’s held gold in a number of other promotions, under the name Cherry Bomb.

The TNA World Tag Team Championship is currently held by The Broken Hardys (Broken Matt Hardy & Brother Nero Jeff Hardy, often accompanied by with Reby & King Maxel) the most well-publicized bright-side in TNA at this moment. This is the division and story worth explaining, so pour a drink and strap in, folks.

Jeff injured Matt out in a storyline and Matt returned as Broken Matt Hardy, an eccentric version of himself. Broken Matt only referred to Jeff as Brother Nero (Jeff’s middle name is Nero), and started a campaign to “DELETE!” his brother, who he repeatedly mocked for being a “spot monkey” and blamed for the troubles the team faced over their careers. This is grounded in life, as Jeff’s ban for traveling abroad forced the team to drop the TNA titles when the company travelled to the UK.

TNA garnered a lot of attention for this feud, which embraces wrestling’s campier and sillier side, a definite break from TNA aping WWE in previous years. Matt talks with a ridiculous affectation, smiles way too widely all the time, and refers to talent by the wrong names names (Meek Mahan is his name for Vince McMahon, The Bucks of Youth are the Young Bucks).

The first segment to go viral was a pre-taped vignette at the Hardys’ North Carolina compound that featured Matt’s sinister groundskeeper Señor Benjamin and his drone Vanguard 1 (a reference to Matt’s V.1 gimmick in the WWE).

The segment ended when Matt’s wife Reby Sky tossing her son “Baby Maxel” at Jeff to confuse him, as it wasn’t Maxel, but a doll, and then Matt put Jeff through a table that looked real, unlike the standard issue built-to-break tables you see in any promotion. Maxel has been a recurring character, and his cuteness adds levity throughout the story.

The two Hardy brothers faced off in a segment called “The Final Deletion,” which was peppered with references to earlier chapters of their careers. Matt won the feud because Jeff was too stupid and hubristic, and attempted a dive off of a statue in the shape of his own brand’s glyph. Matt had Señor Benjamin rig that statue with gas and explosives, and he triggered its destruction once Jeff scaled the top of it.

By winning that match, Matt won the Hardy brand and forced Jeff to take the name Brother Nero, and Matt called his brother “my obsolete mule.” Matt forced Jeff to fight other TNA tag teams in 2 on 1 scenarios, without his high-flying moves, in a build-up to win that title. This made all of those other teams look like garbage.

Eventually, Jeff took to the Brother Nero gimmick in a subtle move to regain his connection with his brother. He even sings a song about making his opponents “obsolete.” Baby Maxel and Reby dress as eccentrically as Matt, each with grey streaks in their hair. It is, as Matt says DELIGHTFUL.

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The Broken Hardys tried to recapture the brilliance of The Final Deletion in two matches with a horror-based tag team called Decay. They were called “Delete or Decay” and “The Great War” and both didn’t hit the mark set by The Final Deletion.

Right now, The Broken Hardys are on the verge of facing a new, white-masked three-person faction, who we later were told are called The DCC. The trio were introduced in a series of vignettes presented in the “we hacked your feed” style that’s so common in wrestling. 

The masked wrestlers speak in voice-altered tones about “chaos and control” and sit at a table with six white masks in front of them. I found out who they are, google it if you want to, and one out of the three gives me some hope for this being interesting and not boring. 

The DCC debuted in-ring by beating up the Tribunal tag team, which is made up of Baron Dax and Basile Baraka. Dax and Baraka are the former NXT talents who went by Marcus Louis and Sylvester Lefort. The Tribunal were briefly ‘coached’ by Al Snow, but they currently exist on their own as a French-speaking, off-brand version of The Shield. 

Do the hackers plan to fold Dax and Baraka into their faction and give them two of those six white masks? We can only hope, as that would be a great improvement over their current staleness. 

The TNA World Heavyweight Championship is the company’s big, important title, and currently held by Eddie Edwards, one half of former TNA Tag Team Champs The Wolves. He’s vanilla and boring and I can’t be brought to care about him. The title was given to him in what seemed utterly random, when former WWE-era ECW Champion Bobby Lashley lost when he didn’t take Edwards seriously.

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On the October 20 episode of Impact, Edwards beat former WWE superstar Cody Rhodes (though due to copyright litigation by the petty WWE, he’s going by just Cody right now). Edwards will defend that title against Lashley soon, as Lashley beat Moose in a #1 contender’s match that same night.

The TNA X-Division Championship is… well, take WWE’s Cruiserweight division, and imagine there wasn’t a weight limit, but an expectation that all competitors perform death-defying (or, failing that, flippy) stunts. TNA’s X-Division, which was once its crown jewel and one of its major differentiators, is where the crazy matches happen.

It was once referred to with the phrase “It is not about weight limits, it is about no limits.” Nowadays, that shine and sheer isn’t there as much anymore. The current champ is DJ Z, a bro-ish DJ babyface, who is starting something called Team X Gold, which is somehow a series of 3 on 3 matches. Why does it exist? Is there a three-man-tag-title they’re fighting for? We don’t have answers to either question.

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DJ Z

The biggest problem facing the X-Division right now is the same that the still-nascent Cruiserweight division is faced with: a lack of stories. Oh, and I think that TNA does not gives its wrestlers enough room between the ring and the guard rail.

DJ Z’s main opponents are all underwhelming, like the comedy jobber Rockstar Spud (a pint-sized Brit who used to be something during his feud with EC3), Marshay Rocket, the most generic man alive, and Trevor Lee, Andrew Everett, both of whom get zero character in TNA unlike on the indies (at least that’s what the hosts of Not Your Demographic say.

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Lastly, we get to the Impact Grand Championship. This is a weird one. First of all, there are rules:
1. Each match is comprised of three 3 minute rounds, with special event matches going 5 minutes
2. 3 judges grade a talent’s performance using 3 categories: Physicality, aggressiveness, controlling the action.
3. Scoring is done using a “10-point must system” something that will be familiar to boxing fans. It’s called that because a judge “must” award ten points to at least one fighter each round.
4. Wins can happen anytime via pin or submission
5. If there is no winner after three rounds, a winner is decided by judge’s decision.

Raise your hand if you think this would make storytelling very stunted and difficult. You all with raised hands are correct, and so far, Grand Championship matches (a tournament led to the inaugural champion) haven’t been anything fantastic.

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Much worse, the Grand Championship played a major role in the dilution of the newly signed Aron Rex (the wrestler formerly known as Damien Sandow). Rex came in talking shit about WWE, as all former Meek Mahon employees do, but in the weeks since, he’s showed almost no personality and been forced to wrestle these horrible, boring matches.

Rex apparently turned heel on the the October 20 episode of TNA Impact, aligning with Eli Drake against Jesse Godders and EC3. This may be a way to salvage him, I’m not sold.

For all the positive talk of Corgan, if he believes this belt and matches are good things, he’s as misguided as Carter.

Also, the lack of TNA in the title of the belt refers to the possibility of TNA getting rebranded to Impact, something that Corgan has suggested he may do if he gained full ownership.

Any other complicated title news?
You know how WWE has Money in the Bank contracts that allow for an on demand title match? TNA has two of these gimmicks. Bound for Gold, a contract won in a royal rumble-adjacent event is the one currently in play.

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“E-Li-Drake”

Eli Drake, a charismatic wrestler whose gimmick is that of a talk show host with a button that plays his voice yelling DUMMY, YEAH!, and calls himself “the namer of dummies,” currently holds that Bound for Gold opportunity, which is good for a number 1 contender’s ranking against the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. He’s currently feuding with former world champion and top babyface EC3, Ethan Carter The 3rd.

What’s up with the audience members? No, seriously, why are there so few of them?

Primarily, TNA is taped in a venue called The Impact Zone, a soundstage at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. And yes, just like The Twilight Zone, the Impact Zone suffers from weird denizens.

Not only are TNA tapings often not well attended, the crowds they do attract are often filled with theme park goers who have no idea what TNA is. On occasion they do get actual wrestling fans to attend, but it never seems like many of those show up.

As someone who attended multiple TNA tapings when it came to NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom, I will tell you that the company has little care for fan authenticity, going as far to hand out signs and create fake “backstage pass” contests to get fans loud for recorded b-roll.

What happened to TNA’s unique six-sided ring?

That hexagon-shaped monstrosity is still there, and if reported past gripes from wrestlers can be taken as fact, it creates a dangerous work environment. And ask any pro wrestler, they take enough risks as-is.

The six-sided ring went away for a while, but returned at New York tapings in 2014. Billy Corgan says the six-sided ring will stay if he wins the bidding war for TNA.

So they say TNA has poor production values?

TNA’s gotten deserved heckles over the years, most recently for the lights going out mid match, but they’re OK if you compare them to the indies. Nobody right now can really be compared to the WWE. The biggest self-inflicted wound in TNA is that the type in their graphics is illegibly small, which is a major problem if you watch them in SD, which DirecTV forces you to. It makes the round points graphics for Impact Grand Championship fights especially hard to read.

Who the hell is announcing for TNA? And why are they so bad?

Former WWE backstage interviewer and ringside announcer Josh Matthews is joined by Da Pope, who some might remember as Elijah Burke during his run as a wrestler in WWE during the mid to late Aughts.

Neither is good at his job, but Pope is so awful he makes Matthews seem OK by comparison. There isn’t really much worth saying aside from the fact that I hope Pope agrees to donate his brain to science for CTE testing after he passes. Oh, and if you ever think Cole or JBL is doing a bad job, listen to them for a while.

Why do people watch TNA?

As much as I ragged on the current state of TNA in the above explanations, it can be entertaining. They’ve done good stuff in the past. Also, TNA has (in the past) been more reliable with advancing storylines each week.

I watch TNA every week, but with the current glut of wrestling programming, I can’t watch it live every time.

How do I feel about TNA?

I’ve liked TNA, I’ve laughed with and at the company, but I currently don’t love the product. TNA employs a ton of great wrestlers, but it wastes them in even worse ways than WWE does.

I want TNA to do well and live for a few simple reasons. 

1. Competition makes everyone work harder and come up with new ideas, and so the WWE needs a strong #2 opponent to avoid stagnation.
2. WWE can’t employ all of the wrestlers, and some simply don’t want to work for Meek Mahan.
3. TNA’s current taping schedule (filming months of shows in the span of a week) is better for some than WWE’s always on the road process. This allows for Drew Galloway, Cody Rhodes and others to work multiple promotions and build their brand in that way.

What would save TNA?

Originally, I said:

Its death, rebirth and rebranding under Corgan. Corgan needs to then either disappear as an on-camera talent, or at least seriously reboot himself to something less boring or generic. 

This is something that the Not Your Demographic podcast hosts Stunning Stella Cheeks and The Enigma Erin Cline suggest as the most likely and best possible outcome. You should listen to their podcast, it’s great.

Further?

On the October 27 episode of Impact, he took a meeting with Allie in the stands of the Impact Zone before a taping, sitting creepily with his hoodie’s hood over his head before she came over. When he took it off, he was smiling and acting pleasant, but still seemed a little creepy. This is an improvement from his faux gangster look, and I’d like to see it furthered.

From there, fix or toss out the Grand Championship title, as it’s a dud. 
Refresh the Knockouts roster, which has shrunk and leaned on bland, uninteresting talents such as Laurel Van Ness and Sienna.
Add stories to the X-Division.
Fire Pope and/or Matthews.

So that’s out of the door with Corgan leaving…

Yeah, and the biggest resultant effect of Corgan’s departure would be Broken Matt following Corgan out. According to everything I’ve read, Corgan and Lagana were arguably two of the only positive forces in TNA Creative.

At this point, I’d say TNA’s wrestlers should find employment with more respectable folks with an actual vision. Ostensibly, a new organization from the ground-up, started by Corgan.

Burn TNA to the ground, as Seth Rollins would say.

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