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29 December 2014

Memo to Fans: Don't Expect a Jan 4th-like Spectacle on Jan 7th


I think I can speak for every TNA fan when I say that January 7th can't get here fast enough. It's a date that's one of the most anticipated in company history and quite frankly rivals only a few.  However, there's only one in TNA's past, that I can think of, that's as important. January 4th. Every longtime TNA fan knows this date very well because it's a date that many would argue changed the company's course in a way that it's still feeling the effects today. I won't rehash the last four years because we've all seen the damage that the Hogan era did to the company but I will, however, point out a parallel between January 4, 2010 and January 7, 2015. And how it would behoove TNA to avoid the pitfalls of the former.

We all remember January 4th. Whether you were in favor of the Hulk Hogan signing or against it, the buzz and excitement for the first show in 2010 was truly historic. And the truth is we all bought into the hoopla. We were sold a bill of goods by the regime at the time and we couldn't wait to see it all play out.  The result was January 4th, which I believe was Impact's highest rated episode to-date and in its history, so wrestling fans tuned in to watch the spectacle that would be Hogan's debut.  And a spectacle it was.  Hulk Hogan debuted with his buddy Eric Bischoff and literally tore up the format that TNA had been using for years.  They promised a new day, a new era in which TNA would become the number one wrestling company in the world. To this, we cheered and showed our support. But even if one had any doubt, TNA management had no intentions of letting go of their grip. As if the debut of Hogan wasn't enough, viewers were treated to a debut as equally as impressive in Ric Flair as well as the return of Jeff Hardy because this was the crux of that fateful night.  TNA went all in and blew their entire load, most likely due to pressure from SpikeTV in order to compete with the WWE and more importantly to them, the USA Network.

The beauty of January 7, 2015 is that there are no such pressures because TNA and Destination America are in it for the long haul. There are no pseudo-Monday Night Wars to fight nor are there any megalomaniacs leading the company off a cliff in a battle that's unnecessary and counterproductive. Instead, the company is currently led by individuals who have a grasp of reality and fully understand that January 7th must be the beginning of a new era, not its peak. For this reason, I think it's important that TNA fans don't set their expectations too high simply because the DestAm premiere on January 7th might not include the shocking surprises or returns and/or promises that the company can't keep. I do believe, however, that TNA has in store for us a very good wrestling show that will set the tone for the coming weeks of television, leading to the Lockdown PPV in March or April. In a year that saw the company rebuild in every way possible, TNA seemed to have found their identity as a television product along the way. They found the formula that works for them and it's a formula that puts wrestling first. As a wrestling fan, I couldn't be happier to see the company continue in this direction on January 7th.

There are many parallels between January 4, 2010 and January 7, 2015. The most important one, however, seems to be that in both instances the company had seemingly committed to a product that focused more on wrestling in the months prior.  In late 2009, the focus was on wrestling and the younger talents, at least in the main event scene. That is until January 4th came and Hogan's "art of wrestling" philosophy became the norm. The wrestling all of a sudden became a prop for the influx of storylines and as a result, the quality of matches decreased exponentially in 2010 and 2011. I don't think some realize how many wrestling fans stopped watching TNA by the end of 2011 and unfortunately, there weren't enough casual fans, who tuned in for Hulk Hogan, to make up the difference.  This is why I think it's imperative that TNA not repeat the mistakes of January 4th. They must begin the process of regaining the wrestling fans they lost during the Hogan era, and they can do that on January 7, 2015.  January 4th was a spectacle that ultimately alienated a core fanbase and relied too heavily on the fickle casuals.  January 7th, however, needs to be a wrestling show that entices the wrestling diehards to return and stay this time.

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