From the mid to late 2000’s Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, TNA, was seen as the coming force in North American Wrestling and as a potential rival to WWE. However, in a haze of legal and financial problems and falling ratings the company would eventually be brought out and rebranded as IMPACT Wrestling. There have been many theories as to why the company came to struggle, and now former TNA Executive Producer Eric Bischoff has had his say.
During their initial boom period, TNA’s roster boasted the likes of Kurt Angle, Sting, Jeff Hardy, AJ Styles and Samoa Joe while Gail Kim and burgeoning women’s division were also heavily featured.
Former WCW President Eric Bischoff would join TNA along with long time friend in Hulk Hogan in 2010, taking on roles both in front of an being the camera. This would give Bischoff a front row seat as the company began to fall from grace.
During an episode of his podcast 83 Weeks, Eric Bischoff discussed TNA’s ratings around the time of Victory Road 2011 and offered his thoughts on why the company eventually failed.
“10 years ago everybody was reporting ratings, now they’re reporting on total viewers. So in order to keep things in perspective, because we know that context is fucking king here, a 1.2 would probably equate back in 2011 to I don’t know a million 3 or a million 4 viewers [1.3-1.4 million]. I think the formula was when you look at a household, which is usually a reflection of ratings in the Nielsen formula, I think the average that Nielsen considers is a 1.4, 1.5 or 1.6 viewers per household. So if you’ve got one rating, which I think at that point was roughly about 980,000 households, you can do the math. TNA was probably holding steady at 2011 with somewhere between 1.1 and 1.4 million viewers on average each and every week.
But to your point [Conrad asking about why TNA didn’t work], they were flat. A good number today when you think about it context, today if you look at Monday night RAW, a programme that has been a staple on the USA network for decades is one of the most successful shows on cable in primetime, last week delivered 1.8 million viewers. It’s really weird when you think about it. In one sense we are talking about TNA in 2011 that was essentially in my words the ‘tree that fell on the floor every Thursday night at 8 primetime that very few people heard about.’ Now we’re looking at Monday night RAW, which by anybody’s evaluation or estimation is one of the hottest television shows on television week after week. And they’re hovering around 1.8 million. So it’s a weird analysis to make.”
Expanding further, Bischoff explained how one of the main reasons the company got into difficulties was that it’s main financial partner, no longer wanted to invest any more money.
“But I think the reason, numbers aside, the fact that TNA was flat had a lot more to do with lack of vision on TNA management’s part, lack of commitment on TNA management’s part. The funding partners [Panda Energy] of TNA didn’t want to invest any more money in TNA. Can you imagine Vince McMahon or Tony Khan saying ‘You know what? I don’t want to put any more of my own money into this thing. It’s either going to pay for itself or die.’ I don’t think either one of them would be around for any long. That essentially was the position of the funding partners of TNA. We’re not going to put any more money in it, if it survives then great, if not we’re moving on.
That would probably explain a lot more why TNA didn’t reach the levels of success that it had the potential to reach, especially when you look at the roster that’s on this card [Victory Road 2011], on previous cards. Mick Foley, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Kurt Angle, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, RVD, AJ Styles, look at the names that were in TNA and none of those names mattered. None of those names moved the needle. Why is that? it’s not because of the names, those names have a track record of success. When they left TNA, they went on to become big stars, so they certainly had value in the eyes of the audience. But that value wasn’t being capitalised on by TNA because they didn’t want to invest in their own product.”
During the episode which was centred around the infamous TNA Victory Road 2011 pay-per-view, Bischoff reflected on the aftermath of the controversial main event between Jeff Hardy and Sting. TNA’s former Executive Producer recalled the sadness around the locker room, and how Hardy was made to apologise for his role in the controversy.
Bischoff also lifted the lid on the surprising name who he believes is the “most underrated performer of the last 15 years.”
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