TNA Impact Wrestling moves to 8 p.m. with Brooke Hogan debuting on live summer show
By Scott Fishman
Miami Herald Writer
With TNA Impact Wrestling’s 10-year anniversary quickly approaching, the winds of change and evolution continue for the company.
To TNA President Dixie Carter, that means the sky is the limit.
The promotion’s queen bee fielded questions during a conference call Wednesday to promote “Impact Wrestling’s” move to 8 p.m. Thursdays on Spike TV beginning May 31.
The flagship show will also run live through the summer for at least the next 12 weeks.
A hot topic was the promotion’s decision to take a more realistic approach to its shows from a production standpoint. Performers will be given more freedom to express themselves without the shackles of word-for-word script and the backstage segments are being shot in a more candid way with cameras everywhere.
For Carter, this is a way to separate their product from others in the marketplace.
“Everybody is really excited,” she said. “I think it’s better than a one night kind of event. We’ve got things planned all summer long. We are going to be trying new things on the show as well that I’m very excited about. To be able to do them live, in my opinion, will make it that much more impactful.”
Viewers got a hint of where the company is looking to go in style and presentation on television with an opening segment involving Hulk Hogan deciding who would face heavyweight champion Bobby Roode.
“In that one segment you saw a different view of five very important people on our show,” Carter said. “I’m more excited about that than anything we have done in our company’s history. It was 15 years ago when reality TV really didn’t exist, but it’s permanently altered the way the landscape for cable and television viewing today.
“We have done some things in the past with the fly on the wall backstage element. I think we did an outstanding time of it, but it’s really time for us to take this to another level. It is going to be an evolution. I invite you to stay tuned as we continue to change and grow in the coming weeks and months. It’s something that, in my opinion, going to be a much needed way of watching wrestling.”
Along with the tweaks to Impact Wrestling, Brooke Hogan will also make her TNA debut. Carter said she met Hogan’s daughter a few years ago, and they hit it off with backgrounds in the music business. She addressed criticism on this new addition to the TNA roster.
“You don’t know how it’s going to play out, so I hope you give it a chance,” Carter said. “This division is very important to me as a female head of a predominantly male company, a wrestling company. For women to get out there and do this, I feel we have to set a certain standard that needs to be better than anything else out there. I feel we have the best female wrestlers on the planet of any roster…
“Here is a girl [Brooke Hogan] who has been living and breathing wrestling her entire life. She has been under the greatest single wrestler that will probably ever live in the history of our industry…She is incredibly intelligent and a big star in her own right. We have the greatest wrestlers, but what we really need is something to give them more exposure.
“I think Brooke is going to be a great character on television. She is not going to wrestle. She is going to continue to pursue her music, but I think one of the biggest things she will do for us is shine a spotlight on the knockouts that they very much deserve.”
Carter has been involved in advertising and marketing and public relations in entertainment and sports well before joining TNA 10 years ago.
“I think if you’re smart you listen to you the fans and the criticism, learn from it and grow,” Carter said. “Not everybody has the perspective and information that I have. We have to make decisions with it, so that is a unique position to be in. I do weigh that very carefully.”
TNA celebrates its 10th anniversary, quite an accomplishment, with its Slammiversary pay-per-view on Sunday, June 10 from the College Park Center in Arlington, Texas on the University of Texas at Arlington campus.
“I am so proud that in a few short days we will be celebrating our 10th year in this business,” she said. “I’ve never been so proud to be associated with anything in my professional career. I truly love the men and women that make up our roster, work behind the scenes and in this office.
“You have a group of people that work harder, care more. We really have a great working environment. We achieved so much in 10 years…
“It was really tough. There were times where I didn’t think we would be in business for 10 months. It almost didn’t last 10 weeks. We were strong. We pulled together. We made better decisions. I’m proud of what we have accomplished, but more importantly, where we are going.
“I look back, and we have made a ton of mistakes. I’m going to be the first to say it and take responsibility for them. Both creatively and the way we approached certain things, but it has been a learning curve. I think we are on a very good road. If you haven’t watched our show in a long time, I would encourage people to tune it. I don’t think we have produced such quality television like we are doing right now.”
Of the future plans Carter sees exploring the possibility over future programming with Spike TV, including specials in 2013. She says she isn’t a fan of 12 pay-per-views a year, and the company sees the potential to renegotiate its contracts next year.
Carter hopes to work with Alex Shelley again and is sad to see the company’s greatest pitchman Don West leave. She wouldn’t comment on Ric Flair’s contractual status.
Carter says the ultimate goal is to go live and on the road but over time. She thinks the new format will allow them to use the Universal Studios property to its best ability and take viewers on a greater journey outside it to freshen up the show.
Universal Studios Orlando is the home to TNA’s Impact Wrestling television show.
The word ‘live’ reverts to scrutiny TNA received for its Monday night live experiment in 2010. It was another learning experience.
“We have an incredible competitor that has a 25-year head start on us,” Carter said. “The main thing I learned was that people watch television differently today than they did back in the Monday Night Wars. I think even in the last 12 months we are seeing a huge shift in how people watch TV.
“I practically don’t watch a show during its initial broadcast anymore. I’m a DVR person and don’t have a lot of time in life. I think the entire television industry is facing the same dilemma right now. I think there is going to be a shift on how we look at ratings. I feel good about the changes we are making and think it will have a big impact on our success.”
TNA aims to differentiate itself from its big advisory in the business, now more than ever.
“To not acknowledge competition is ridiculous,” Carter said. “I think competition is absolutely critical to the success of any business whether you are Home Depot or Lowe’s, CVS or Walgreens…It doesn’t matter what industry that you are in. It makes you better. It makes you work harder. It makes you pay attention more. It makes it more exciting and fun. That’s how I feel about it. I don’t know how other people take it. I just think it’s absolutely critical for the fans more than anything else to have options.
“…Our thought is instead of trying to compete in the same form and format as our competitor, let us compete in the same industry but try to be different and unique. Let us look at it through fresh eyes. Let us try to present our product in a way that we can do, and we think will be best for us. That will give us, for us, a strong competitive advantage.
“The thing I’m most proud of is wrestling matters. Wrestling matters to me, us, and it’s not a dirty word. It’s something we are very proud of, so we are excited to taking what we do best and presenting it in a unique way. Pulling that curtain back and widening the focus of the real elements that go into our business I think will be absolutely fascinating.”
Carter believes the company is ready to go live. Despite being on an earlier timeslot, the TNA head feels it won’t change the content or direction it’s taking their programs.
“I think we do take all the elements very seriously and present them in the right way,” Carter said. “I think it is business as usual. To do something that is sexually offensive is ridiculous. Have we done that in the past? A little, but I won’t say we have done that too much. It’s a waste of time. Too much blood means nothing. Too much [strong] language means nothing. I think whatever happens it has to have meaning and makes sense. In our intent to keep things as real as possible, some of that is going to come out.”
The company is always looking to add new talent to its roster. They have taken an active role in the recruiting process through its developmental partnership with Ohio Valley Wrestling and its ‘Gut Check’ sessions at various cities they visit.
The ‘Gut Check” concept has made its way to “Impact Wrestling’s” telecast on a monthly basis.
“I think there are different levels if there are those who have already had an established career, then there will be interest in them,” Carter said. “I think we are looking at people all the time. If there are new people in the industry, then I think that is what ‘Gut Check’ does so well.
“We found several of our talents through ‘Gut Check.’ We found Crimson, Rosita, Jesse Sorensen, Gunner and a few others. We realize that this is a really neat opportunity to show people the process we go through to find the talent and how we evaluate them and what happens behind the scenes. It is such a pressure cooker for these guys…It’s exciting. It’s great TV…”
Carter believes the candid look of TNA’s television presentation will show another side of Hulk Hogan and others on the roster.
“I get very defensive when I hear people saying, ‘Hulk Hogan is there to take a paycheck. He is there to take television time,’” Carter said. “If he has been off TV for five months, people will still say that. I have to tell you when I’m in a meeting, we are planning the show and I hear him talk so passionately.
“He is not paid to be there, but he sits in on these meetings. He works with the talent and tries to make them better. He is trying to make our show better. When I see him so passionate, I am honored. He works for me, but I feel honored to sit in on these meetings. Why can’t other people see this side of him?
“We all know his character. It has been around for decades. What I get to see is what I think is so evolutionary in what we view wrestling.
“As it relates to Hulk Hogan directly, I think it is going to be a big part of the legacy he leaves for this business. Not what he did for himself, but what he did for others. I think it relates to the other characters. Those four other guys [Bully Ray, Kurt Angle, AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy] in that segment last week were not scripted. It all unfolded real. He just had a meeting with them. Those were real emotions, real feelings of what was going on…They didn’t know who was going to be chosen. I think that allowed them to show their characters on such a different level. I’m excited about showing that more and more.”