Last-Chance Saloon

Mark Madden

TNA WrestlingTNA Wrestling may not be sold, but the company is clearly in flux. Any number of celebrities are (or aren’t) involved in the bidding. Maybe TNA will just get sold to a regular guy/gal. Perhaps it will fold, because it can’t be profitable. Not now, not ever. WWE won. The demand for a No. 2 company is absolutely minimal.

I hope TNA survives for the sake of the boys. There’s so little work available. Many TNA workers are openly angling for more indie work, and wisely so. Any wrestler on TV brings immeasurable free publicity to an indie show. OK, maybe “immeasurable” is a bit strong, but never underestimate “as seen on TV.”

TNA can take advantage of that, and a new owner likely will. Take a solid act like Daniels and Kazarian. Just pay those guys $400 each per shot. No contract. Just a flat fee per appearance. Where else are they going to go? WWE doesn’t want them. If they quit, their visibility goes way down without TV. Much less indie-rific.

TNA could/should do that with all but a few of their workers. It would be economically helpful, and would make their roster very liquid. Performers who don’t get over could be moved out. It could be like an old-time territory.

Two people have more to lose if TNA goes under, or gets sold to the wrong person. Ergo, expect each to try gaining control of the company.

Those people are Eric Bischoff and Jeff Jarrett. Bischoff triggered quite possibly the last-ever true boom period in wrestling when he put WCW Monday Nitro head-to-head with WWE Monday Night Raw from 1995-2001. The “Monday Night War” added the reality of competition to something fake, and it sizzled.

But Bischoff was just as responsible for WCW’s collapse as it was for its ascension. He enjoyed a brief and entertaining run as an on-camera performer with WWE, and helped Hulk Hogan badly mangle TNA. Like so many who work in wrestling, Bischoff had one bright shining moment. Then, crap. See Russo, Vince.

Jarrett didn’t even have that bright shining moment. He was born into the business and pushed above his level by his father, and again by Russo in WCW and again by himself in TNA. In WWE, Jarrett was mid-card. Which is what he deserved.

Jarrett was co-founder of TNA, but got bought out by the Carters and eased out of the company when he stole Kurt Angle’s wife. (There’s really no nice way to say that.) Lately, Jarrett is being eased back in. He’s been much more involved backstage, but Jarrett has yet to go back in front of the camera.

If singer Toby Keith is, indeed, a potential purchaser of TNA, it’s likely at the behest of Jarrett, who would then run TNA. Jarrett needs TNA to survive, because it if doesn’t – he’s out of wrestling. WWE won’t ever want him back. He doesn’t mean anything as a performer anymore, and Jarrett held WWE up for a reported $300K to drop the Intercontinental belt to Chyna before leaving for WCW in 1999. Jarrett’s contract had expired the day before that PPV match.

If TNA folds, Bischoff is done in wrestling, too. WWE won’t want him back and, as noted, there’s no demand for a No. 2 promotion. Bischoff knows the business and knows TV. I like Bischoff, and owe him a lot. But he’s not an easy guy to work with/for. Few people in wrestling are going to do Eric any favors.

For Jarrett and/or Bischoff, TNA is the last-chance saloon.

Not just for them, either. WWE just isn’t interested in TNA performers. From now on, WWE just won’t be interested in anybody that doesn’t come through their developmental system. You could be the best indie worker ever, but it won’t mean anything. You will be the best indie worker forever.

Sure, C.M. Punk and Daniel Bryan came up through indies. They were the last of a breed. For better or worse, the wrestling world is shrinking at every level.

It’s probably for worse. But there’s no turning back. Not for Bischoff, not for Jarrett, not for the TNA roster and not for any of us.

Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkMaddenX

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