Last night, TNA hosted their first proper pay-per-view event since October, the annual Lockdown event, which has traditionally been their strongest-selling PPV thanks to the "every match is a cage match" gimmick. I actually attended Lockdown in 2011, it was the first and only TNA event I've ever been to, I didn't love it, but it was interesting to see non-WWE wrestling in a big arena, hadn't experienced that since the WCW days. 4,000 people were at that show three years ago, last night, by many accounts, less than 1,000 people were in attendance in Miami.
What does this mean for TNA? People have been claiming the promotion is dead for 12 years now, so I'm not going to make that bold of a prediction, but I think we can say for sure that there's never going to be a proper #2 promotion in the United States. I don't think anyone has even considered TNA could be legitimate competition to WWE since their ill-fated move to Monday nights in 2010, but this should end any and all discussion of them ever even "growing." The company is probably safe as long as they have Spike TV, but this things aren't going to get better for them.
This has led to a lot of talk on social media today about what companies "need" to do to step up and perhaps someday become competition. I've seen lots of talk about how a company just needs to become the anti-WWE to succeed, present a true alternative product, and that's where the remaining hope for TNA comes from, a desire for an alternative to WWE.
But what is the alternative to WWE? A pure wrestling product without outrageous storylines? Isn't that kind of what WWE is now? They're putting on multiple 15-30 minute matches a week between Raw, Smackdown and Main Event. Their PPVs are almost wall-to-wall wrestling. What else are people looking for? New stars in the main event scene? Isn't that what TNA is now? Their roster is loaded with guys who haven't been hanging around like the Cenas, Ortons and Batistas of the world, and the veterans they do have are guys who never really got a fair shake in WWE. So I'm not exactly sure what people are expecting.
No, a true alternative to WWE, the anti-WWE isn't a new WCW, it's the guys up the street performing at the VFW hall or high school gym. What is WWE? Big. Spectacle. Presentation. So what's the opposite of that? Small, local, and unrestricted. That doesn't necessarily mean cheap and sleazy though, and that's the problem a lot of indies have today, they're still in the 80s/90s "weekend warrior" mentality.
Look around your city, do you have any minor league sports teams? I live a bit outside Cincinnati, Ohio, where they have a pretty successful ECHL hockey team, the Cincinnati Cyclones. Cincinnati is not a hockey town by any stretch of the means, but they do love their Cyclones. Just for reference, their game on Saturday, just an ordinary Saturday night hockey game (no playoffs or anything like that), drew almost 5,000 people. I bet you have a team like that in your city, whether it's baseball, hockey, roller derby, soccer, arena football, whatever, many cities have these small teams that do big business.
But before this recent run of success, the Cyclones suspended operations for a year due to lack of revenue. When they came back, attendance was about 800 people a game, but then it kept increasing every season, to the point where now they're drawing 5,000. Why? They made the games about more than just hockey, you went for the fun, the atmosphere, between-period entertainment, $1 beer night, you weren't going just see a hockey game, you were going for a night out.
So what does this have to do with wrestling? No one's really doing this with wrestling on this kind of scale, at least not to my knowledge. You go to an indie wrestling show, you sit in the dank room with a bunch of wrestling geeks and yell "YOU FUCKED UP!" when some barely-trained wrestler slips on the top rope. Smaller companies need to do with wrestling what so many minor league sports have figured out in pockets of America, make it fun, sell the shit out of it to advertisers to hang their banners and make it about more than just the wrestling.
That's the opposite of WWE. It's never going to be on TV (although maybe you can stream it online), the guys doing it aren't going to make a ton of money, but that's the most likely future for the wrestling industry outside of WWE. Because the sad reality is, the Monday Night Wars are never coming back. The TV landscape is so fractured and so niche, there just isn't any interest in two major wrestling promotions. I know we keep hoping TNA will find their magic bullet, or that TNA will fail and someone else will get a chance, but it's not going to happen. TNA hit their ceiling in 2006 when Angle came in, this Jeff Jarrett promotion isn't going to do a damn thing no matter how many times he posts #ItsComing on Twitter, those days are gone. Hell, even WWE knows traditional TV is dying and that's where they make the vast majority of their money now. Any other promotion is insane for even trying to secure a major TV slot in hopes of competing with WWE, they're going to have as much luck as Vince did competing against the NFL.
WWE is the wrestling industry in America, they know that, and it's why they just attempted to future-proof themselves with the WWE Network, your one-stop shop for all of America's wrestling content, past, present and future. To become an alternative to that, you have to give people (not just wrestling fans) a completely different kind of experience. Small, fun, family-friendly and hyper-local is the future of non-WWE wrestling in the US, not hiring guys who were kinda popular 10 years ago and hoping you can get a timeslot on CMT.