The wrestling industry is constantly changing and evolving. From The Rock and Steve Austin looking to pass the torch to the industry's "silent" battle against the fad of mixed martial arts, never before has there been more of a transition period than right now. One of the major companies has finally abandoned the "evil" title of "wrestling" altogether while the other is nearing a decade of trying to find itself.
When wrestling finally came to pay-per-view in 1985, the ultimate goals of most wrestling promoters immediately began to change. Pay-per-view buys became more important than selling tickets to live events. While these events, the sole financial backbone of the industry until '85, have survived the past twenty-six years, their importance has changed dramatically.
The matches which previously were only seen on a live basis were now available for a fee on pay-per-view or later on free television. Being under the same roof as your favorite stars and seeing cookie-cutter matches became the only real motivation to travel to your local arena and catch a live show.
TNA is a company which, for nearly ten years, has seemed somewhat lost at times. Being created as an alternative to the WWE product, many times TNA has seemingly just copied the worst of WWE. Glimpses of great things have come from the promotion, but often without capitalization or follow-up. For the past several years and deriving from several sources, TNA has done one thing right--the live event.
For many years independent wrestling promotions have been known for providing smaller shows where fans can see action from younger stars in addition to older veterans. Combine that with a usual option of getting to meet many of these stars at the show and fans of the independents usually leave the events with smiles on their faces.
TNA took those ideas from the independents and developed a unique experience that ultimately boils down to fans getting not only a great experience, but enough of a draw to get them out of the house and down to the arena. While TNA runs mostly smaller venues, fans always benefit from a more intimate setting where there really isn't a bad seat in the house.
A veteran of many live events over the past twenty years (including several TNA events), I can honestly say that TNA the event this past weekend in Rostraver, PA was one of the best I've ever been to. The company did its best to get the fans the best experience that they could have. From personal appearances in the area which included stars giving out autographs, DVDs, and show tickets to the different ticket options to meet stars at the show, I doubt a single fan left the event unhappy. Compared to the WWE's first two lackluster efforts at Pittsburgh's new Consol Energy Center, this is a far contrast.
Every TNA live event includes an "autograph party" where various stars of the promotion circle ringside with Sharpies to sign whatever the fans provide. Other signings and photo opportunities arise throughout the night as well. While buying a TNA program is encouraged by huckster Don West, I highly recommend viewing the show lineup in advance and bringing your own items in addition. The program is a very nice item to get signed, however, and nominally priced at $20.
For a few years now, perennial TNA announcer Jeremy Borash has come up with different ways for fans to obtain "backstage passes" in order to meet even more stars at the events. At the Rostraver show, sixteen commemorative Jeff Jarrett TNA guitars were available for purchase. While not in everyone's price range, the guitar included two backstage sessions as well as photo opportunities with Mickie James, Mick Foley, and Kurt Angle which were available to other attendees for a fee. Seeing the guitar in person makes you realize that this is the quintessential TNA collectible and ultimately a bargain. Considering what the included autographs and photo ops would cost on the wrestling convention scene individually it was almost a mistake to pass it up. Hopefully TNA creates other unique pieces of memorabilia such as this for future events.
The show itself was also a step above other offerings recently in the area. The card was solid, well booked, and well performed. If TNA provided the style of match and card on television that is presented on the house show level, we could see the company give the "entertainment" crew from Connecticut a run for their money. Each and every house show reaction I've witnessed live for Beer Money rivals and eclipses that of many of the Monday night superstars.
The bottom line is that both companies realize that change needs to be made in order for the ring wars to be "hot" once again. WWE believes that changing to full-blown entertainment is the way to go. TNA gets that wrestling is still on the marquee, but only seems to produce that on the house show level. There's room for athletics and entertainment in the world of wrestling, we simply need to get back to the perfect balance.
Whether you're looking to meet the stars, want to see entertaining wrestling, or pick up a couple of autographs, a TNA live event could be just what you're looking for. Don't let the stigma that the company has picked up deter you. They've changed live events the way that they needed to be changed. If the entire company followed suit, we could be in for wrestling the way we once loved it.