But it’s also a business. And it’s a difficult business.
The Greek god of wrestling wrote about this topic last year. CHIKARA stopped presenting shows (it returned in May after being dormant nearly a year), Extreme Rising went on hiatus (it returned briefly, but is no longer running shows) and TNA pulled Impact Wrestling off the road because of the cost of doing live television tapings from around the country.
TNA is facing an even bigger challenge these days because of the devastating news that Spike TV has decided not to renew TNA’s deal. Official statements are that the two sides are still negotiating, but reports this past week stated that Spike informed TNA it will not sign the company to a new deal.
Spike’s decision hit TNA like a spike piledriver. Without a television deal, TNA, which has a little more than two months left on its current television deal, probably won’t be able to remain in business. It certainly won’t be able to afford the salaries of its current roster.
TNA has already reduced its number of live pay-per-views to four per year. House shows are not drawing enough fans to carry the load. Television dollars, which also bring the exposure that fuels house show attendance and merchandise sales, are TNA’s main revenue stream.
Although TNA’s public stance is that it is continuing to negotiate with Spike – and it parted ways with Vince Russo after reports that Spike was upset to find out the controversial writer was working for TNA again – the reality is TNA must channel its efforts into finding a new television home. The reality is TNA might have to settle for less money, particularly because it is not negotiating from a position of strength.
Keep in mind that TNA was losing money with the Spike deal. If forced to settle for less television money, TNA may be forced to drastically alter the scale of its operation. The alternative is to go out of business.
The shame of the timing of this news is that TNA had started to show signs of renewed life. The recent string of television shows from New York seemed to breathe new energy into TNA. The company is returning to New York for more television tapings on Aug. 5-7.
TNA can either let the TV contract news put on a damper on those tapings or they could look at the New York tapings as an audition for other networks.
TNA is entering tough times. I hope it has the strength to pull through.
NETWORK BUSINESS: WWE is not immune from the pressures of business. As a publicly traded company, WWE may even be more sensitive to pressure regarding profits.
After soaring in anticipation of the launching of the WWE Network in early spring, the value of WWE stock plummeted when the number of subscribers fell hundreds of thousands short of the target of one million. WWE revealed this morning (Thursday) that the network had 700,000 subscribers as of June 30.
It will be interesting to see how the market responds to this news. Will investors be pleased that the number increased and that WWE reports a 90 percent satisfaction rate (51 percent extremely satisfied; 39 percent somewhat satisfied) among its subscribers or will they be disappointed there’s only been a 33,000 net gain since April?
It should be noted these numbers are prior to WWE’s big push of the network in July, which included another free preview week during which you didn’t even have to provide a credit card to sign up. Another future development to watch will be how many of the original subscribers will renew their subscriptions this fall when the initial six-month period expires.
The value on the stock market has real repercussions. The release of a group of wrestlers, as well as long-time “talent” such as Teddy Long, Vickie Guerrero and broadcaster Josh Matthews may be part of an effort to rein in costs to satisfy investors. WWE announced Thursday that it will lay off 7 percent of its staff due to losses of $14.5 million during the second quarter.
As I said at the start of this edition of Heel Turns, wrestling is a business. That statement may never have been truer than it is today.
BUSINESS ANGLE: The recent signings of Kenta and Fergal “Prince” Devitt may also have a business angle.
There are plans for a global expansion of WWE Network. WWE announced a partnership with Rogers Communication in Canada to launch WWE Network as a traditional pay-TV channel on Rogers’ cable systems. There are also plans for the network to be available around the world, including in Britain, Mexico, Italy, Germany, Australia, United Arab Emirates and Japan. The potential number of subscribers in Asia, where more than half of the world’s population resides, is huge.
The signings of Kenta and Devitt, major stars in Japan, may help spur subscriptions in Japan. Both Kenta and Devitt are expected to start with NXT, a show featuring developmental talent that runs on WWE Network. Reports today said WWE Network may launch in Great Britain by October.
FAMILY FEUD: Speaking of England and wrestling, perhaps the best thing on WWE Network this past week was the 1992 SummerSlam from London’s Wembley Stadium, featuring the 25-minute main-event masterpiece between Bret Hart and his brother-in-law, hometown hero Davey Boy Smith, for the Intercontinental Championship.
DESTINATION NEW YORK: If you’re reading this Thursday, don’t forget that TNA presents Destination X tonight in the Impact Wrestling time slot. The show was taped several weeks ago in New York, but, as I’ve said many times in the past, the Greek god of wrestling detests spoilers.
Bobby Lashley defends TNA’s World Heavyweight Championship against Austin Aries, who is giving up his X Division Championship for a shot at the world title. There will be three triple-threat matches to determine the three participants for a match for the X Division title.
The biggest news, however, is the Hardy Boys reuniting, with Matt and Jeff challenging the Wolves (Davey Richards, Eddie Edwards) for the tag team championship.
BRINGING THE HEAT: Ring of Honor’s Summer Heat Tour comes to Philadelphia on Aug. 9 at the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory. Ring of Honor world champion Michael Elgin will defend his title against Cedrick Alexander, the winner of a recent six-man gauntlet winner last Saturday in Cincinnati. A major treat will be a tag team match between the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) and Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian, the first time these teams will meet in Ring of Honor.
Mark and Jay Brisco will battle War Machine (Raymond Rowe and Hanson) in what should be an extremely physical tag team match. ACH challenges Jay Lethal for the World Television Championship, Silas Young takes on Brian Kendrick and Tommaso Ciampa squares off with Rocky Romero. Other announced matches feature newcomer Moose against R.D. Evans and a tag team match between The Decade’s B.J. Whitmer and Jimmy Jacobs and the team of Caprice Coleman and Takaaki Watanabe.
FUN IN EASTON: Wrestling is Fun presents “Don’t Eat the Green One” on Sunday (3 p.m.) at the Charles Chrin Community Center in Easton. Juan Francisco de Coronado has an open challenge.
STEPHANIE VS. BRIE: After another entertaining confrontation during RAW, the match between Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella has been added to SummerSlam. Don’t expect this to be a five-star classic, but the heat between these two is tremendous.
When Stephanie started out, her overacting detracted from the show. But she’s developed into a tremendous character, with facial expressions and change in tone that should make her father proud.
CLASSIC BEATDOWN: The show-closing Stephanie McMahon-Brie Bella confrontation was outstanding, but it had competition for being the best segment on RAW.
While McMahon and Brie exchanged verbal volleys before their altercation turned physical, Randy Orton built his feud with Roman Reigns with a good old-fashioned beatdown. Orton jumped Reigns in the crowd as made his way toward the ring for a match with Kane. After some back-and-forth brawling, Kane choke-slammed Reigns to give Orton the upper hand.
And then Orton beat the heck out of Reigns. He slammed him into barriers. He slammed him into steps. He punched him. He kicked him. And, for the coup de grace, Orton gave Reigns an RKO on the announcers table – twice, because the table didn’t break the first time.
The beating re-established Orton’s vicious side. Rather than making Reigns look weak, it gave him a reason to want to beat the heck out of Orton, whose rationale for beating down Reigns was that it cost him a shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Expect this heated rivalry to officially be added to the SummerSlam card.
LEARNING FROM WRESTLING: Achilles Heel always tries to help people. That’s the charitable kind of guy I am. Today, I’m going to help World Team Tennis.
According to Eric Fisher’s Fish ‘n Chips column, the Philadelphia Freedoms suffered some misfortune during their playoff match against Washington when Taylor Townsend hit partner Liezel Huber in the back of the head during the first game of their women’s doubles match against the Kastles’ Martina Hingis and Anastasia Radionova. Huber stayed on the court for a few more points, and then had to leave with what was later diagnosed as a concussion. After losing the first game, Hingis and Radionova reeled off five straight games against the overmatched Townsend, who beat Hingis in singles, en route to a 5-1 victory.
In order to get some much-needed publicity, WTT should have borrowed from professional wrestling. After Hingis and Radionova wore down Townsend for a few games, the Freedoms should have sent a fresh player in – were Victoria Azarenka or fan favorite and doubles specialist Lisa Raymond available? – to replace Huber and win the women’s doubles match.
The Kastles would have protested. WTT should have upheld the protest because of the use of an illegal partner, overturning the results of the match and enabling the Kastles to advance to the championship match and win their fourth straight title. The Freedoms could have proclaimed themselves the uncrowned champions and WTT would have a great feud at its disposal as it promotes the 2015 season.