Monday, July 28, 2014

Spike Television Has Cancelled Impact

Carter was informed of the news ahead of time to look for a TV deal that may or may not even be there
Photo via Cageside Seats

The nightmare scenario for TNA Wrestling has come true, as Spike TV has informed Dixie Carter that the network will not be renewing its contract with the wrestling company when the current one expires in October. According to the TMZ report, Spike gave TNA the heads up early so it could get a head start on looking for a new deal without interruption to the broadcast schedule. While nothing official has come out yet, many observers have predicted that if Spike ever parted ways with the Nashville-based wrestling promotion that it would spell certain doom. Regardless of my feelings towards the televised product or how Carter has run her promotion with all the sympathy of a child produced of a love affair between a medieval robber baron and Leona Helmsley, if TNA were to go under, a lot of really good people would lose their jobs. Furthermore, most of them will only have the prospect of lateral movement within the industry because WWE apparently seems to think TNA is more toxic a breeding ground than Pripyat, Ukraine.

Of course, the possibility exists that TNA signs another television deal to keep going. I'm not sure what other networks are looking for wrestling content nowadays, but I wouldn't rule out one of the fledgling sports networks taking a flyer on a show that has drawn a consistent 1M+ viewers for the last couple of years. If I had to make an educated guess, I'd say that NBC Sports Network and any one of Fox's three cable networks (FX, FXX, Fox Sports 1) would be typical landing points should the company get another deal. However, the future is uncertain at this point for the company.

As for Spike, the current cancellation is less a sign it wants to get out of wrestling altogether and more one that it wanted a change of scenery. It was rumored to be bidding for a piece of the WWE package in that company's last round of rights negotiations, and rumblings from Dirt Sheet Land (Mike Johnson, Bryan Alvarez, etc.) have placed Ring of Honor in the running for a deal. If ROH does make the leap, however, it will need to radically overhaul its production values and its storytelling structure. The style of wrestling it purveys is ready for a prime time audience, but I think the company needs to start telling meatier stories. Additionally, it'll have to cool it with its penchant for institutionalized misogyny, since one of the rumored reasons for Spike's unhappiness with TNA has been the awful treatment directed towards the women on the roster, most notably the current story where Bully Ray wants to put Carter through a table (and according to spoilers from the New York City tapings, he'll get his wish).

However, the most likely candidate to replace TNA seems to be Global Force Wrestling, Jeff Jarrett's new venture. However, Jarrett cannot land a deal with Spike unless/until TNA goes out of business as a condition of a contract that he signed upon leaving the company. Still, one has to consider the chain of events that would lead GFW to a Spike contract to be highly plausible, and of all the options that Spike has on the table, the Jarrett-led promotion would provide the best fit for serialized wrestling television. He has promised that GFW will have intensive focus on stories with less wrestling given away on free television. His plan sounds elementally old-school, with weekly TV setting up for supercards, and those big shows may end up being blockbusters in scope. Jarrett's already partnered up with New Japan Pro Wrestling. But then again, if TNA does get a TV deal elsewhere, he'll be screwed on his first option.

Still, nothing is set in stone except for Impact leaving Spike in October. Dixie Carter may have run the company like her own personal sweatshop for most of its existence, but the promotion still employs a lot of people whose jobs are in jeopardy. The wrestlers and on-air staff losing jobs will be bad, but the office folk, backstage personnel, and other non-performers might be hit hardest. That scenario is a goddamn tragedy. More wrestling promotions in America mean more diversity of styles, and because of that, I hope TNA does stay open in some capacity. Regardless, this story could end up changing the face of non-WWE professional wrestling in North America indelibly. Everyone should be paying attention to it.

According to Dixie Carter, negotiations with Spike TV are ongoing. Whether these "negotiations" are one-sided or whether the TMZ report was wrong is unknown at present time. However, TNA is predictably not letting go of its television time without a fight.