TNA started out as an exciting alternative to WWE programming. This wasn’t your dad’s 80’s wrestling. The ring was six-sided instead of four, and they preferred athletically acrobatic wrestlers over bulky action figure types. We were introduced to faces such as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and many more.
There came a point where many thought that TNA could become a legitimate threat to WWE. But it was actually the beginning of the end. TNA made several mistakes that would result in their downfall. It’s these same mistakes that AEW must learn from and avoid.
#1. Taking WWE’s Leftovers
TNA started fresh. The talent were unheard of by most. This made every match feel new. Every rivalry felt unfamiliar. TNA was something with someone you have never seen.
But success brought opportunist. Superstars from WWE had a new option. One of the most notable jumps from WWE to TNA was Kurt Angle. A superstar struggling with injuries and addiction. This was the first of many to jump ship.
It seemed as though each new contract included an immediate main event spot. But many of these athletes were not ready to be the poster boy of the company. Not only did this lead to a PR and storyline nightmare, but it took away from TNA originals who had worked for years to build a foundation for their character and craft.
There is no doubt AEW will be an option for disgruntled WWE employees. Some of which will not have the intention of building a legacy in AEW, but will use it as an experimental proving ground to ignite a resurgence in WWE. Christian and McIntyre are two Superstars who claim this was their very reason for going to TNA. The game plan was temporary, and their end game was WWE.
AEW doesn’t need disgruntled superstars planning a temporary stay. AEW needs to build their own superstars and champions. The goal should be to a have low turnover rate for the first five years. AEW cannot become a revolving door of WWE’s leftovers.
#2. Going Head-to-Head with WWE
In January of 2010, TNA moved to Monday Nights, putting themselves against Monday Night Raw. Many thought a second Monday Night War was beginning, but TNA’s product did not have the quality of WWE’s. It was short-lived. When TNA moved their programming it signaled retreat. TNA was given it’s first black eye in a fight they had started.
Fans have always enjoyed having another program to watch between WWE’s Raw and Smackdown. It’s my belief that what they also enjoy is something that doesn’t look overly produced. No doubt quality is key, but the appeal of something new is the feeling that it’s underground.
AEW wants to compete with WWE. It’s obvious Cody, much like Hogan or Jarrett tried with TNA, would love to create a product that puts the fear of God in Vince McMahon. But AEW has to be about the long game. WWE is a huge machine, and fans aren’t looking for overly produced three-hour shows.
#3. Afraid To Be Different
TNA had key elements that made them fundamentally different from WWE. But that era felt short-lived as the ring changed from six-sided to the more traditional four-sided. Total Nonstop Action became Impact Wrestling. But these changes didn’t make the impact they wanted. It actually dulled it, and to die-hard fans it was perceived as a betrayal. It felt like TNA was afraid to be different.
AEW doesn’t need to be WWE. We don’t need another WWE. Fans like different. AEW should be different.
When the shepherd boy David fought the undefeated Goliath, the king tried to fit David into a traditional suit of armor. But it didn’t fit David. He couldn’t even pick up the sword. So David took it all off and fought battle the way he knew how, with a sling and a stone. In the end, it was Goliath who ended up headless.
AEW must do what it is already doing best. It must never betray it’s roots and use its uniqueness as a strength. Was there any other mistakes TNA had which AEW could learn from? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments. Thanks.