AS I SEE IT 5/7: The wrestling landscape is about to change

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

And here I was all ready to write about Vince McMahon totally and completely burying any miniscule portion of the spirit of ECW that remained... Yes, folks, not a column "bashing TNA". One bashing Vince McMahon for totally violating ECW.

But needless to say, the non-WWE professional wrestling landscape has changed as of May 2.

Ring Of Honor Wrestling, in association with G-Funk Sports & Entertainment, has concluded programming and distribution deals for PPV and video-on-demand wrestling with iN DEMAND Networks, TVN and EchoStar Communications Corporation’s DISH Network, making Ring of Honor available for the first time ever to approximately 50 million American households.

The PPV/VOD agreement will provide for cards every two months from shows taped in the United States, Japan, and the UK. The announcement was made on May 2 by ROH owner Cary Silkin and G-Funk’s President Ken Gelman. The debut event, “Respect Is Earned,” will be taped at the May 12 Manhattan Center show.

This will largely render the whole subject of TNA allowing Ring of Honor talent to appear in its shows a moot point, as the two will become legitimate competitors in the PPV market. Even I'm willing to acknowledge that TNA is within its rights to deny permission for someone to appear on Ring of Honor PPVs. TNA did so last Thursday, pulling Homicide and Austin Aries. But there's one more problem with even that, which I'll mention below.

TNA now has a lot more to worry about than yours truly asking people to contact advertisers and turn off their TV sets one Sunday night a month. TNA has a real competitor for the independent fan market, with a better product, a more rabid fanbase, and none of the costs involved in live TV production.

TNA was were acting within its rights...but then they decided that they would continue their attempts to become the 900 pound indy gorilla, and forced a split with Southern California independent Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, which will results in the loss to Pro Wrestling Guerrilla's west coast fans of seeing Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, AJ Styles, Low Ki, Samoa Joe, Frankie Kazarian, Homicide and Christopher Daniels.

What makes this even more bizarre is that the stated reason for the split is that Pro Wrestling Guerrilla sells its tapes on Highspots, a"third party" vendor, that strangely enough... sells TNA DVDs.

I wonder what happens when TNA pulls talent from other independents, such as Cleveland All-Pro Wrestling and Maryland Championship Wrestling, which use RF Video to distribute tapes; or International Wrestling Cartel (Pittsburgh) and IWA Mid-South Wrestling, which use Smart Mark Video to distribute tapes. All of them use TNA talent.

Dave Meltzer reported that the already low morale in TNA dropped even further with this announcement. Fans of Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla are feeling no better about seeing talent pulled from already advertised matches that they'd already spent hard earned dollars to see.

I don't need a Wharton School MBA to tell me that you don't piss off the target market that you're directing your product to; yet TNA is doing this very thing with Southern California indy fans, Ring of Honor fans, and potentially more. TNA's feeling seems to be that they'll force fans to watch their shows by taking hem away from these independents, and limnit indy bookings to tiny promotions willing to pay large booking fees. More likely, TNA will drive fans to seek out "Torrent" and file-sharing sites where bootlegs of their shows are available, and where TNA doesn't make a dime.

It's pretty clear that talent that signed with TNA did so with the understanding that they would be allowed to supplement their TNA income with independent bookings. Now two of the major independent promotions and as many as four independent dates per month are being taken away from these wrestlers, with absolutely ZERO indication that TNA is doing a thing to make up for it.

The Austin Aries situation is the most interesting, since he's suspended from TNA for whatever reason you choose to believe... but is now being told he's not allowed to take available bookings with Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Ring of Honor (for whom he was already scheduled to appear) to make up for it. I would LOVE to have a lawyer write me here with information regarding independent contractor vs. employee law and ask if someone employing an independent contractor is permitted to tell him he can't take bookings when they aren't using him themselves. My reading of several websites suggests that they aren't. Later today, Aries is "going to make a statement regarding his future" on numerous websites. It would be interesting if he were to challenge this directive from TNA.

From Chad Kenchov:

"When TNA was first announced, I was hopeful, especially when they appeared to be interested in signing younger unknown talent and giving them a chance.

Soon it was obvious that in spite of the roster, if the match-making and booking wasn't right, the product would not be right. Then they got their sugar daddy (or in this case mama), and once the scent of money hit the air, all the old 'name' talent with zero workrate scurried up to the feeding through, pushing aside the kids who worked their rear ends off to try to get TNA noticed. I may have 'saved' 2 to 3 TNA matches in the last 3 years. I don't even bother to TIVO their show anymore to check it for something I might find worth watching.

Now come the announcements that TNA is pulling signed talent from ROH, and tried to force such onerous stipulations on PWG that the organization had to make the decision not to use TNA talent. It seems that TNA is taking quite a few bookings away from many of the guys on their roster. How must Austin Aries feel, suspended by TNA, yet not allowed to take bookings with ROH to make up the money?

TNA is dealing from a position of strength only because they have a backer with deep pockets and no business sense (I finally looked up Panda Energy and tried to get an idea of what was going on - I initially was so disinterested that I was wondering what the actress from Designing Women wanted with a wrestling organization. Appears to me that TNA is nothing more than a toy for Daddy's precious little girl. . .one he loves dearly, but wants nowhere near the decision-making process of his real business. I would postulate that the old adage "from rags to riches and back to rags in three generations' may hold for the Carters. So TNA will provide tax losses for Panda Energy and keep over-the-hill wrestlers drawing unreasonable salaries.

It will be interesting to see if TNA tries to pull a Vince and use the Carter's bankroll to sign and tie up indie talent to contracts that will be large enough for them to forgo all the possible bookings with organizations like PWG and ROH among others...

... I think it would be an interesting movement, probably more effective than e-mailing TNA advertisers to get as many indie-addicts to buy the first ROH PPV in an effort to slap TNA in the face.

Amen. I think that independent fans right now should spend their money on their OWN promotion's product, as opposed to TNA. If TNA is going to screw with any promotion having any kind of tape deal, and will take away their talent as a result, then if you were still patronizing them....DON'T. Spend the money instead on the live shows and DVDs of your local promotion.

From Matthew O'Donnell, Relationship Manager, Heartland Payment Systems...

I only mention that fact because he felt obligated to send his ravings to me via his work e-mail. Hope his boss liked the forward of the e-mail. By the way, I've left this e-mail intact, complete with mis-spellings:

"You are telling people to threaten advertisers of a company that is in bad shape already. How old are you? Do you have any kids? Did you ever think that this could take food off of some people's table. You are an idiot. How old are you?"

Fifty years old this Saturday, actually.

This is acceptable from a 15 year old that has no idea about life. You must not have any life outside of wrestling. You kill me. Because TNA protects their investments so you want them to go out of business. Just shut you mouth and stop burning your bra.

TNA "protects its investments" by having them working indy dates for any small indy that will pay its booking fees, but taking them away from any independent that has any sort of fanbase, such as Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla; and likely more to come. If TNA workers were paid full-time wages and worked a full-time schedule, then you could make that argument. They aren't and you can't...and with the above announcements some are clearly making less each day.

By the way, I'm male and don't wear women's undergarments, thank you. I won't speculate about your personal life. Sounds like you have enough issues already feeling obligated to write me from your job.

TNA had also better start worrying about people choosing to buy taped ROH pay-per views, instead of their live TNA pay-per-views.

"Write about anything you want but think about the consequences. It's not all about you and getting to see your favorite wrestlers in ROH you dam baby. What scares me is that you get a bunch of kids to listen you and do it. I wonder how fat and miserable you are."

Overweight, yes. But I can exercise, and you'll still be the kind of person who has so limited a life that you use your work e-mail to send trash like this to be viewed by thousands.

By the way, ask the folks in the Southern California market that have been watching Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, AJ Styles, Low Ki, Samoa Joe, Frankie Kazarian, Homicide and Christopher Daniels how they feel about not getting to see them live anytime soon.

"You must still be bent out of shape your not a wrestler. Maybe your mad at the world your still a virgin. I am so angry with you because this article can hurt people. Therefore I protest you and I willhave many more people contact WV to express their distaste with you and your article."

Yippee. "You protest me"? The folks at Wrestleview will laugh at you, just so you they have all of those who send the hardcore hate mails.

Then, there's Adam Seguin who said "I want this to be featured on your future column". Happy to least the most special piece of his letter, which was:

"...I hope Hell punishes people not only by their actions but by their words because some of you people will get lashed out. Am I saying TNA is better? No, but dammit it's not like there's nothing good about it, talk about the positives, the X-Division, their AMAZING young talent. But let me guess, it's not the flavor of the month?"

So I should go to Hell, because I don't like TNA. Guess thousands who choose to buy ROH PPVs, instead of TNA PPVs are going to be very warm shortly. By the way, explain why Jay Lethal is playing Randy Savage, a young talent who was over before TNA made him a cartoon character.

If you thought THAT one was bad, read the next one...from Charles Kuyper:

"I must say...just like a Gerweck co-worker of yours, Amy Spears aka Minx...the both of you are COMPLETE IDIOTS!!! You know what, REAL wrestling fans, like me, end up having a bad image from the rest of the world because of morons like you & Spears."

I've no idea who Ms. Spears is. I feel badly that she has to deal with knuckle-dragging cretins like this, whoever she is. As for REAL wrestling fans, I've been watching this stuff since the days of the Original Sheik. I'd be curious if you even know who he is.

"You NEVER do research before you starting going on one of your idiotic spurts. You people NEVER know what you want as far as a wrestling show is concerned. If you're going to go after anyone, go after "VinnyMac" and his degradation of Extreme Championship Wrestling. McMahon has turned ECW into nothing more than the old hardcore division of WWE. And, aside from that, McMahon having himself win the ECW World Championship...that degrades not only the ECW Championship, but the brand as well."

Hey, moron. Go back and read the dozen or so times I've trashed McMahon for what he's done to ECW. Go ahead. I await your apology.

"Although, you & that slut Amy Spears probably rejoiced when McMahon won the ECW title. It's people like you & Spears that make me embarrassed to be a wrestling fan. It's people like you that make me sick. If you're so sick of seeing what happens at these shows, then DON'T WATCH THEM OR GO TO THEM, you @@#ing moron!"

Actually, it's people like you that give wrestling its stereotype of being viewed as little more than white trash. Calling someone a slut that I suspect you've never met is really classy. Maybe she shot you down and you're making a feeble comeback at least that would explain your above remblings.

"Why don't people like you stand in front of a train as it's going by. You'd be doing REAL wrestling fans, like me, a favor."

Nice...I've been wished to have Hell punish me, and then to kill myself because of my views on wrestling.

"Hell, people like you probable NEVER liked pro wrestling and probably never will. Hell you're probably the same people that started out by asking REAL wrestling fans why we liked wrestling, even though it's fake. So, in the end, you wannabes can go #$@K YOURSELVES!"

Which is why I've been watching wrestling since the days of The Original Sheik, asshole...because I bait wrestling fans about it being "fake". Moron.

"You have received this message from the K Corporation. Have A Nice Day!

**NOTICE: Due to Presidential Executive Orders, the National Security Agency may have read this email without warning, warrant, or notice. They may do this without any judicial or legislative oversight. You have no recourse nor protection except to call for the impeachment of the current President & his administration.**

God in Heaven only knows what that crap at the end means...and what the "K Corporation" is. This might one of the most delusional e-mails I've ever received.

At least this week's news should put an end to some of the more insane e-mails I've ever received in my life. I think.

Until next time...

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