Total Non-stop Action (TNA) Wrestling's contract with Spike TV is up at the end of September or early October, and word got out earlier today that the network would not renew the contract. Some sources cited the rehiring of former head writer Vince Russo, this time as a consultant, as a reason for the non-renewal, but that might not be the only reason.
Russo, an over-the-hill scribe who's also worked for WWE & WCW, was at his best when he had someone editing and filtering his ideas (i.e. Vince McMahon). However, when he left the then-World Wrestling Federation in the fall of 1999 to join his pal Jeff Jarrett in WCW, he got a big head and thought that his ideas could work there, unfiltered, uncensored. Instead, WCW went in the toilet in the ratings, and was bought out by McMahon less than 18 months after Russo arrived. He's on his fourth tour with TNA, the first without Jarrett being there to vouch for him, and you can bank on him joining Jarrett when the former champ's new promotion, Global Force Wrestling, debuts next year.
The other problem involves co-owner Dixie Carter, who became more of an on-camera character within the last year, morphing into an amalgam of Vince & Stephanie McMahon, another example of TNA's current creative team being bereft of new ideas, and that's only because Russo doesn't have anything new himself. He'd rather recycle old ideas or copy what WWE is doing. In an angle that is set to air next month, since television was taped weeks in advance in New York, Carter was plunged through a table by Bully Ray, and reportedly suffered some legit injuries to her back, despite Ray's best efforts to protect her from the impact (pun intended). Carter was written off television as a result. Carter's main problem is that she is and always has been a mark for the business, and repeatedly hired people off WWE's cut list, including Bully Ray (formerly Bubba Ray Dudley), Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, and Ken Anderson, relying on such name recognition to pop an extra rating point, having next to no faith in the talent that had been with the company virtually from day one (i.e. James Storm, Christopher Daniels).
When Jarrett was helping run the show, he insisted on being put over as the NWA champion (TNA was part of the National Wrestling Alliance for the first few years), even though he didn't need to be. His act was stale, and never really changed, even with a couple of babyface runs. Now, he's developing another promotion, as noted above, and one hopes he's learned from his mistakes.
However, updated headlines as the day progressed have thrown cold water on fans' hopes that TNA would have one foot in the grave. It's being reported now that they're still negotiating with Spike TV, and it's rumored that it's for a lower rate, which won't help the promotion's bottom line. TMZ Sports made the initial report on Sunday, but we should've known a gossip site wouldn't have all the facts or details readily available. If TNA were to leave Spike, where would they go? Fox might not take them back. The Fox Sports Net regional networks were TNA's 1st TV home a decade ago, but a floating time slot meant low ratings, and after a brief stint of internet-only programming, they arrived on Spike in October 2005.
Times have changed at Spike, too. Sure, they're playing reruns of Cops into the ground (it's a Viacom channel, what did you expect?), just as they did the same with Star Trek: The Next Generation a decade ago. They don't know how to program effectively anymore. None of the MTV Networks do. The network needs a makeover, and there's a rumor that they would be willing to buy out TNA in order to keep it at the network. They bought the Bellator MMA promotion to keep that going, but would they be willing to take a chance on a ship that's already sinking?
If in fact TNA is gone from Spike come October, Bellator and another MMA promotion, Glory, can fill the void, or they can negotiate with Sinclair to bring Ring of Honor Wrestling to the network. For most discriminating fans, that would be a win for both sides in that case. NBC-Universal is not an option for TNA, not when they're home to the WWE. But what about, irony of ironies, a Time Warner channel, like TNT? Would they try to turn back the clock to 1995 again and restart the "Monday Night Wars"? I don't think so.
No, what I think will happen is that Spike will go ahead and non-renew TNA, and be done with it. They need to change their identity, and so does TNA, and it'd be better for both sides if they part. Period.