Instead, the promotion floundered for years, alternating between being entertaining and completely unwatchable like some goofy SIN wave.
Why weren’t they ever to compete with WWE? Most fans of the promotion will tell you that they dug their own grave. That their failure was of their own making. If you follow the latest wrestling news, you’ll know that Impact’s new TV deal has them on some dinky cable network late on Friday nights. Not a good sign.
Are they responsible for their own stagnation? Perhaps they are, but there are circumstances that were beyond their control as well. Something like WCW was able to compete with WWE because of a long-time, consistent TV deal they had with various Turner networks. WCW also had the financial backing of Ted Turner and Time Warner. If you’re going to compete with WWE, you can’t just put on a good product and start from scratch. You need money.
TNA (and subsequently, Impact Wrestling) have never had this kind of financial backing
Alright, we’ve made enough excuses for them. Let’s see why they failed to get any traction. One of the cardinal mistakes you can make as the owner of a wrestling promotion is to book yourself as the top star, especially if you’re Jeff Jarrett, purveyor of anti-fun. In its early days, TNA got the world of wrestling talking about the high-flying and innovative X-Division that featuring wrestlers like AJ Styles and Samoa Joe. Unfortunately, if you watched a TNA show, you also had to slog through what was likely to be an overbooked Jeff Jarrett main event in addition to the good stuff.
Even after Jarrett left the main event scene, the booking continued to be all over the place. Sometimes, they’d hire over-the-hill WWE wrestlers and put them over homegrown talent. They’d hire a booker like Vince Russo whose only success had been under the heavy supervision of Vince McMahon back in the 90s. Russo engaged in horrible crash TV and just wasn’t very good as a writer, to put it mildly.
There were always periods of improvement, where they would focus on building homegrown talent (a staple of any successful wrestling promotion) and book things in a simple, straightforward way. This usually worked best for them, and their core fans have stood by them through thick and thin. After all, there’s a reason this promotion is still going seventeen years later.
For many years, Impact/TNA carved out its niche in the wrestling world, for good or ill, as the distant second to WWE. Does their inability to compete with the giant make them an abject failure? Probably not, but it’s always interesting to wonder what might have been with a stronger effort.