Originally founded by Jeff and Jerry Jarrett in 2002, then named TNA (Total Nonstop Action) came onto the wrestling scene fresh off of WCW and ECW’s demise. Still, promotions like Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro-Wrestling existed; however, there was something that TNA had that those two companies didn’t: mainstream stars. Well, maybe not stars on the level of The Rock or Stone Cold, but recognizable names like Ken Shamrock, Jerry Lynn, Konnan, and yes, even Jeff Jarrett. TNA was presented as an edgier product than its wrestling counterpart, WWE, just out of the period when the biggest wrestling promotion in the world was transitioning out of the Attitude Era. One of the pioneers of that era was Vince Russo, who was head creative of the newly formed TNA Wrestling.
The pros of TNA is that it presented something fresh for fans who were tired of the WWE product. However, it also had something familiar, as Russo’s chaotic crash writing style was ever so present in TNA. The company also had some hot acts like LAX or Team Canada, and even the X-Division was miles better than WWE’s cruiserweight division. TNA would gain popularity as time went on and though there were a lot of questionable booking decisions made within the company, it still reached its peak with viewers who were happy with the WWE alternative. However, questionable booking decisions started to plague the company overall. Whether it was the over pushing of Jeff Jarrett as a top star. Ridiculous gimmick matches such as the reverse battle royal, electrified steel cage, or the king of the mountain match that the company continuously pushed as the Slammiversary main event during their early years.
However, when the likes of Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan came into the promotion, that was the beginning of the end. Hulk Hogan was certainly a draw for the company and given his big money contract status, Hulk Hogan was definitely going to be used to the best of his abilities. However, this wasn’t the man that main evented WrestleMania’s in the 80s or even NWO Hulk Hogan. At this point, Hogan could barely move. Eric Bishchoff was not a professional wrestler. Yet, the company was booked and centered around these two. There was the unwarranted push of Bischoff’s son Garrett, who pretty much disappeared from the wrestling scene once his time in the company was over. Hogan was at the center of TNA’s biggest angle, Aces & Eights, another terrible story that dominated the promotion. More importantly, veterans like Kevin Nash, Scott Hall (Rest in Peace Mr. Hall), Sting, or Booker T were clouding the main event scene. For the longest time, TNA focused more on WCW and WWE castoffs more than their own talent, which would ultimately come back and bite the company in butt.
That talent didn’t bring enough drawing power to warrant the dominance at the main event and worst yet, the stories and booking decisions weren’t getting any better in the promotion. Eric Bischoff effectively killed whatever career The Young Bucks had in TNA by beating the AEW stars in a tag team match. There was a rat on a pole match. The Lockbox Challenge set the knockouts back 100 years. The questionable booking only got worse as time went on, especially since most of the shows were focused on Hogan and Bischoff. When the two tried to recreate the Monday Night Wars in 2010 it did give TNA more viewers, but it was ultimately a massive failure. TNA wasn’t ready for the war because their own house wasn’t in order. The promotion was in a dire creative mess and there didn’t seem to be any indication that things would change.
For years, fans complained about Vince Russo and Dixie Carter, but the company moved on as there were no issues whatsoever. Hogan, Bischoff, Sting, Dixie, and Vince Russo leaving didn’t matter one bit. TNA had an opportunity to course correct by signing Paul Heyman as head creative control, but that never came into fruition and the company sunk into lower depths since then. The funny thing is that TNA, now Impact Wrestling, was miles ahead better than it was during the Bischoff/Hogan reign. One of the most buzzed out moments about the product was the Broken Matt Hardy stuff. Of course, when the promotion had the likes of LAX (Santana & Ortiz) The Lucha Brothers, and Johnny Impact, that was when the company as at its best, consistently delivering top notch shows. However, Impact killed the trust of fans completely by then. It wasn’t the fact that they kept moving from station to station, it was because the interest just wasn’t there.
TNA/Impact Wrestling tried so hard to compete against WWE that it became WWE lite for a lengthy period of time. The promotion lost any sense of identity that helped put them on the map, and Impact hasn’t really been able to lock down the type of company it wants to be. Plus, the booking decisions were REALLY bad. Impact is now a blimp on the wrestling radar, especially with AEW around. The company now draws ratings in the range of 89,000 to 150,000, a far cry from 1.0 million viewers. The company has managed to survive this long, but it’s highly doubtful that it will reach the highs that it did in its early years.