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Pondering with Plumtree - TNA's Growth: The Gift and The Curse

Pondering with Plumtree is a column on the popular blog, TNAsylum, that is written by yours truly. The blog is focused towards being a fan site for TNA Wrestling fans where they can get news, rumors, opinions, and any and everything else, TNA Wrestling. Known as "The Haven for TNA Wrestling Fans", I'm hoping to bring some of my thoughts to an already impressive roster of columnist for as long as the site will have me. You can read the latest column here, or in the text below.

It’s easy to have an opinion on TNA Wrestling these days isn't it? Really, you can pick any topic that has anything to do with pro wrestling, and I’m sure the masses will find a way to return it back to TNA. For a select few (haters), they will direct it towards TNA, they will dissect it, smash it to smithereens, pour some gasoline on it, light it on fire, and celebrate over the torched reputation of the company.

And lately, I can’t blame the masses, the die hards, or even the dreadful IWC for their concern, their feelings, and even their bantering. TNA is indeed a hot topic for obvious reasons as of late. 

But why is that? Why is TNA always such a big topic? Why is it such a hot button issue among so many wrestling fans? EVERYTHING the company does ignites a reaction out of wrestling fans alike. There is never a happy medium, but always the extremes - "This is awesome" or "TNA needs to...". 

This past week I read a story (and even received confirmation from a friend who works on Wall Street) that WWE stock was currently lower than usual. The company is well below their expected revenue for the year, and have decided to - get this! - cut costs. Haven't we heard this before somewhere else?

Yet, with WWE about to begin their move towards downsizing and cutting costs, and if anywhere decides to really offer news on ROH, the headlines will continue to pound away - "TNA Moving Back to Impact Zone", "TNA In Dire Need", "TNA in Financial Hardships", "TNA Homeless", "TNA - The End".

There seems to be a certain investment from wrestling fans in TNA, regardless of interest or fandom to the product, which is truly unique. An unconditional interest from those who would agree they aren't fans of the product, yet, still have opinions on the company. Usually, those opinions fall one of four ways:

Vince McMahon Has My Heart

"TNA is lame. It will always be WWE-lite no matter what it does. WWE makes it's own stars, sells out arenas, has more history, and makes more sense than the lame booking of TNA. TNA will never compete with WWE. Never."

I'm Practically in the Industry

"I have the internet, I read all the dirt sheets, all of the rumors, and pretty much know all of the inside terms. All of my opinions are in-line with other insiders, sooooo, you know, I practically know what a wrestling company needs to do to survive. If Dixie would just listen to me, just listen to those of us who know about the industry, TNA would be pulling Smackdown-like ratings and averaging 3,000-plus by now."

Too Cool For School

"I don't watch WWE or TNA. That's not real wrestling, especially, TNA which is just awful. Real wrestling is [name the hottest indie company on the scene] and [name an overseas promotion]. That's real wrestling! Five star matches that go 30 minutes almost all the time. Sometimes you might get a four and half here and there. And yeah, you know, I rate matches on a star system. All of them. If you knew real wrestling, you would too."

The Real Life Debbie Downer

"Yeah, I watched No Surrender last Thursday. Wasn't that great. Magnus' suit really wasn't working for him. Sort of killed the segment and most of the second hour. Whatever happened that you enjoyed...it really wasn't that great. TNA doesn't know what they are doing."

Why are wrestling fans - all wrestling fans - so obsessed with TNA Wrestling? The haters. The columnists. The wrestlers. The so-called "experts". The entire wrestling world. Why do so many people, including those who admit that they do not watch or enjoy the product, want to chime in with their opinion?

The answer has to do with TNA's growth. 

TNA's rapid rise to success has essentially worked as a gift and a curse for the company. 

Take a deep breath and remove yourself from the here and now. Examine what TNA Wrestling has done in eleven years. It is truly remarkable. Actually, unprecedented. And in that, lies much of the reason for TNA's "tabloid"- like treatment in pro-wrestling. 

Spare me the weak WCW comparisons. As I've stated in a previous column, the comparison is not only off-based, but is just lazy thinking. Very lazy. And for the record, WCW was a damn good product. It's a shame some like to pin its dying days as its ever-lasting legacy. But I digress.

In 2002, when the marketplace for pro wrestling was tougher than ever to enter with a true global monopoly, TNA manged to start from a weekly pay-per-view show and years later eventually blossom into a global company. A company, let's not forget, that consistently beats WWE in overseas markets. That's no small thing. Neither is being a brand on a global level.

WWE took years, even decades, to reach that level. WCW took years to reach that level, and did it in an easier market place where a number two option had a greater share of the pie and a little bank called Ted Turner. ECW, as trend setting as it was, died in seven years. 

All of those companies grew and developed during a time when the majority of us had the faintest idea on the inside happenings of pro-wrestling. Unless of course, you were that kid who got their parents permission to call the WWF or WCW Hotlines. We never thought that way back then. The internet changed the mindset and the overall spectrum for wrestling, and fans went from onlookers and supporters to sudden "stakeholders" and critics who are educated enough to make sound opinions...well most of us are. There are some who...well, you know who they are. 

The only comparable company to that of TNA in terms of marketplace entry, and reasonably similar external factors is in fact ROH, who also was born in 2002 (Thank goodness for both companies, huh?). But for some reason, that's something many don't want to get into. 

TNA is only compared to WWE, sometimes even beyond those standards if possible. And once again, it's because of it's sudden growth. Not because of substantial comparative qualities. 

TNA exploded in a market against a monopoly. Exploded against a smartened fan base (and give them credit, the company still takes its lumps and moves along). Exploded against an overall dying interest in pro-wrestling here in the U.S. And exploded against an increasingly super-competitive market in live entertainment and television. Two markets with more options and more competition, each vying for your nightly eyeballs and disposable income more than ever before.

After such a rapid growth (especially, if compared to ROH) and the unprecedented position TNA now finds itself, the company is open for criticism because well, there is no precedent. There is no blue print for the position TNA is currently in. Or heck, there is no blueprint for where they will even go from here!

No company before, and no company after TNA will ever pull off this massive growth. Ever. I dare a new company to begin today and be where TNA Wrestling is in eleven years. Good luck.

Unfortunately, because of this rapid growth and the standards that were set so high, with every issue that arises that slows progression to the pace their birth-year kin in ROH has been dealing with since the very beginning, the flags will be up everywhere - TNA is in trouble!

And you could make the argument that maybe the rapid growth of the company put TNA front offices in cruise control in many aspects until it wore off, thus causing the mistakes and the now sudden pull-back we are seeing today. I'd buy that argument. 

But let's face what so many never admit - TNA has saved the wrestling fan and the wrestling industry by giving us all an alternative. It really has been a true gift.

On the other hand, you cannot deny the fact that the bar TNA has set, and is now held to, is extremely high due to this sudden growth. Standards that cannot realistically be met as it's growth now plateaus to a normal, natural, grinding, pace. The curse.

In many ways, TNA right now reminds me of the celebrity who came into fame at a young age. Jealous of the success, many will attempt to tear the individual down, and a select die hard few will defend them, usually fans who identified with the star since the beginning. Either way, whether the celebrity moves on to bigger stardom or melts away into the Hollywood-metaphoric abyss, everyone will have an opinion on them. Always. Because of their sudden growth, it is open season on their every, single, move. They will always - always! - be headline news material. 

In my opinion, that sounds like TNA in the wrestling world.

Like you, I'm just waiting on the next headline. Because I'm sure it's coming. 

Random Rhetoric

Anyone else confused about reports of TNA heading to one location before the year is up, just to read follow up reports about future locations of IMPACT on the road?

And wouldn't it be awesome to be a fly on the wall at TNA headquarters to see what it's really like? 

Shouldn't TNA be commended on the investment in Magnus who really could be a breakout name for them?

Doesn't it seem like everyone is rolling with a clique in TNA right now? And doesn't that add to the characters of AJ Styles and Austin Aries? 

Does anyone else not get the issue some have with the Manik character? Why must all masked characters have "hidden identities"?

Does Jeff Hardy seem lost in the shuffle right now or what? 

Is heel Chris Sabin not 1,000 more times interesting than "redemption" babyface Chris Sabin?

Aren't the Bro Mans (or is it one word - Bromans?) very entertaining? Especially, for a duo that rarely wins anything. 

And doesn't that say something about their abilities? 

Wasn't Knux pretty decent in his role tonight? Intimidating even? 

How awesome was the close of the show? 

Shouldn't AJ, someone always criticized for his ability to talk, receive major props for that delivery. And while we're at it, why not Dixie?

Don't you just love angle which really could paint either as the face or heel in the situation?

And wasn't the camera angle over AJ's shoulder just perfect? 

And finally...

Did you realize after the show was over (like I did) that Hulk Hogan wasn't a part of it? And if so, what do you take away from that?

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