COLUMN: OS #29 – You Asked For It, Mr. Gilbertti!

Kevin McElvaney

Sorry for the absence, WrestleZone readers, and for not returning as many of your emails as I would normally be able to. It’s been a busy time for me and I apologize sincerely. Rest assured, though, that I do read everything you send and greatly appreciate all your questions, comments, and concerns.

That said, I’m going to jump straight into today’s topic, because I’ve got a lot to say. I had initially been intending to stay out of all the TNA drama going on at, but two recent posts by Glenn Gilbertti have persuaded me to jump on in. The first is the general topic of Glenn’s two most recent columns. Bashing Lance Storm does not please me, as his early WWF promos gave me the name “Offbeat Shenanigans!”

Unsure of whether or not it was finally time to add in my two cents, my mind became made up when Glenn posted the following in his most recent column:

Seriously, I compare (most of) your internet fans to Philadelphia Eagles fans. All they do is boo and talk about how everything sucks. They boo’ed Santa claus on Christmas Eve. True story. They’re certainly not babyfaces. They’re heels. Nobody ever said, “Boy, aren’t those Philly fans a grat bunch of folks?”

Can you say “flamebait?” While I’ll admit that my hometown doesn’t have the best reputation amongst sports fans (and my Mom once got hit in the head with a projectile beer bottle at an Eagles game), we certainly do have PASSIONATE fans. Also, Philly has a long history as a true wrestling city. It’s been the stomping grounds for ECW, Ring of Honor, and countless other indy’s, as well as the famous WWF Spectrum events from the 1980’s.

All that said, I’m here today to talk about one thing, and that’s TNA. Specifically, I’m here to talk about Glenn Gilbertti’s defense of the company which signs his paychecks. The key phrase here is “conflict of interest,” but I’ll get into that later.

Of course, I’m not a pro wrestler, a booker, or even in the entertainment business. So, while I can’t say that I “know” wrestling inside and out, I have written more persuasive essays than Vince Russo has booked “[Object] on a Pole” matches. At last count, that’s 475. Point is, though, that I know plenty about logic, have read quite a good deal, and understand when people are distorting or spinning stories.

Take, first, Glenn Gilbertti’s previous assertion that 1% of the wrestling audience was comprised of internet fans. The article is no longer archived but, essentially, what Glenn was saying is that the amount of visitors to was only 1% of the audience who watches Impact. I totally believe that because, honestly, how often do people visit Check out the hits for and four or five major sites, and then compare that to the ratings for Raw. Then, perhaps, we’ll have an accurate Internet Fan / Total Fan ratio. That said, TNA’s website has improved considerably and I do visit it from time to time.

Now, admitting that I have a pro-Lance Storm bias, let me try to objectively pick apart a few of Glenn’s responses to some of Lance’s rants about Glenn’s employer. I do this, not only because I’m a big Storm Trooper, but because I find Lance’s critiques of TNA – while sometimes heavyhanded – to be among the most fair that I’ve seen. Still, I’ll be looking more at the most recent of Glenn’s two Storm-related columns, since I think the first one was pretty dead-on. After all, Storm was pretty wrong about Shark Boy making money for the company.

–I think Lance should use the word “I” instead of “we” when trying to comment on his own deficiencies with his memory.

– Glenn, on Storm’s inability to remember what occured with 39 different characters on a single episode of Impact.

One of the most consistent criticisms of TNA, since it got a cable TV deal, has been the crazy pacing of the show and its attempts to fit in too much in one week of TV. Lance Storm is far from the only one who feels this way.

At first, I kind of liked the fast pacing of Impact. Then it kept speeding up and speeding up. I don’t really see the point in having three to four consecutive backstage interviews. Yes, it’s true that some people can’t get on the show every week. But quality is better than quantity, in my opinion. And I’ll tell you that, when I see two backstage interviews in a row (either in WWE or TNA), I tend to mostly forget at least one of them, too. How much does one really retain of a two hour show that has 20 – 30 segments, many of which are less than a minute or two in length?

Well, when Russo left they were doing 6’s, and now they’re doing low threes. I don’t know if you can consider it “droves”, but the bottom line is that over the course of time WWE has lost half of it’s audience and their numbers are still DROPPING. TNA over the course of one year has increased it’s viewership. Whose booking model would the typical layperson say has been more effective?

– Glenn, on the effect of Vince Russo on ratings

This is a very poor argument for several reasons. First off, according to Glenn, the “typical layperson” knows nothing about effective booking, so why ask them?

Second, Vince Russo booked for WCW during its dying years. Regardless of any success the company had, it STILL garnered lower ratings than the WWF. No, I’m not one of those “Russo Killed WCW” fans, but he certainly didn’t save it, either.

Finally, Russo’s departure from the WWF wasn’t the major reason for the downfall in ratings. It’s an often-overlooked fact, but TV trends were the major reason. The “shock TV” era came to an end somewhere in the 2000 – 2002 area. Shows like Raw, Nitro, and Jerry Springer were no longer the ratings monsters they once were. Instead, reality TV became the new thing. Hence the birth of Tough Enough, and the decrease in cartoonish gimmicks in both WWF and WCW.

This is my biggest problem with TNA’s current booking strategy. They want to get back an audience that, essentially, is lost forever.

We need to try and get that fan base that liked the hokie stuff from the Attitude era. 18-34 year old guys that like low brow humor and hot chicks, not nerds that want to give star ratings to fake fights, when they’ve never actually been in a fight themselves.

Admittedly, TNA is catering to the lowest common denominator – not that WWE isn’t guilty of that at various times. But it seems that TNA wants an audience full of musclehead, popped-collar bro’s, pounding Nady Ice’s, doing chest bumps, and punching each other in the upper arm during Velvet Sky matches.

Fine, that’s their prerogative. I’m not saying get rid of the girls, either, because they do draw and, generally, also put on better matches the WWE Divas. Some other things on the show don’t draw. And some, regardless of whether or not they draw, are STILL entertaining to watch. Others aren’t. But, face it, wrestling isn’t going to get 6’s or 8’s in the Nielsens and, certainly, not the style of wrestling that TNA is promoting.

True, TNA’s ratings have grown, but not to Attitude Era proportions. Why not try some different things, along with what’s working from the current model? People are smarter and more sophisticated in what they watch these days. Shows like The Office, My Name is Earl, and even The OC and Grey’s Anatomy are considerably more tactful, subtle, and intelligent than the ratings-getters of yesteryear. Yes, there’s plenty of dumb programming that remains, but plenty of “smart” shows rake in millions of viewers. God, even Maxim magazine has some depth to it at times.

Also, note that, while WWE’s ratings are down from the Attitude Era, they ARE higher than they were a couple years ago. Why? Because WWE is adapting and changing to attract new fans.

I’ll applaud Glenn, absolutely, for listing some of the things he doesn’t like about TNA. This is probably the first sign of objectivity I have seen from him here because, remember, his checks are signed by TNA officials. If he came on here and said that the main event program for the upcoming pay-per-view was being built horribly, he’d be buried, benched, or even fired. Go to Jim Ross’ website. Notice that, when he doesn’t like something, he won’t trash it like crazy. He’ll step around it or address it very delicately. Why? Trashing the product would be bad for his company and for him personally. Do you blame him? I don’t. And I don’t blame Glenn, either. But, still, remember that, when Glenn posts here, he represents TNA.

Above all, don’t let any of us sway you too much. Watch the show, give it a real chance, and make up your own mind.

Kevin McElvaney is also a contributing writer for Pro Wrestling Illustrated and The Wrestler / Inside Wrestling.

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