Let's say you run a mid-major corporation that few had heard of until about 7 years ago. One of your holdings is a wrestling promotion that, depending on whom you ask, is either the #2 or #3 promotion in the country, and the man holding your promotion's championship belt is arrested two days before a pay-per-view title fight for, among other things, drug possession and aggravated stalking of a female co-worker he briefly dated earlier this year. What do you do?
In TNA (Total Non-stop Action) Wrestling, that question is unfortunately left unanswered, because co-owner and TNA President Dixie Carter, part-owner of Panda Energy, the mid-major corporation in charge of TNA, didn't do the right thing for business at Hard Justice, which took place last night in TNA's cozy home arena, the Impact Zone in Orlando.
TNA World Champion Kurt Angle, the 1996 Olympic Gold medal winner, was arrested Friday in a Pittsburgh suburb, and was found to be in possession of Human Growth Hormone. He also reportedly had been stalking his ex-girlfriend, fellow grappler Trenesha Biggers, otherwise known as Rhaka Khan. Angle & Biggers had a brief relationship earlier this year that amazingly didn't elevate the younger wrestler's profile within TNA. Instead, Biggers has been mired in the TNA doghouse and was nearly fired a couple of months back. Angle was released on bail and allowed to return to Orlando for the PPV.
What TNA should've done is have Angle drop the title to either Sting or Matt Morgan, his two challengers. Instead, Angle retained, pinning Morgan after a chair shot to the head. Angle does have some influence in how TNA is programmed or booked, and they seem to be unwilling to deviate from their master plan, which would be to have Angle lose the title at their Bound For Glory PPV in October. All Angle needed to do was remember a similar high profile case in WWE 3 years ago as precedent for him being forced to lose the title before he wanted to.
In 2006, Rob Van Dam was picked up for drug possession. At the time, Van Dam held both the WWE & ECW titles, and dropped them both in separate matches within a 24 hour period on July 3-4. Van Dam was subsequently suspended, and never really was given a fair chance to challenge for either belt again. A year later, Van Dam was out of the WWE altogether, and, save for a couple of guest appearances on Raw, hasn't stepped back into the ring all that much since, despite rumors that had him on the Stamford-to-Orlando shuttle. Mere weeks after Van Dam's arrest, Angle was cut by WWE, and was quickly signed by TNA, despite the fact that Angle was damaged goods when he left WWE after nearly 7 years with the company.
A true businessman would've followed the precedent set by Vince McMahon, and Angle would be sitting at home in Pittsburgh today, contemplating the mistakes he's made since divorcing wife Karen at the end of last year. Dixie Carter doesn't know as much about the wrestling business as McMahon or even Angle does, and is easily convinced that as long as Angle is free on bond, he can still be counted on to continue as champion. However, it isn't the right move, no matter how they spin it. TNA had a chance to build for the future by putting the title on Morgan, a former Tough Enough contestant who had two stints with WWE before being cut for good in 2005, and start anew, but they didn't, all because of management's unwillingness to deviate from the master plan. And they wonder why TNA is always looked upon as a 2nd or 3rd rate promotion.
There is only one solution, and that means giving up the master plan. Angle cannot continue to be the centerpiece of TNA as long as he has criminal charges hanging over his head. At 40, Angle is on the downside of his career anyway. The right thing to do is to have Angle drop the title ASAP and then spend the rest of 2009 on the sidelines, suspended until his case is settled. For Dixie Carter, this requires ignoring the selfish interests of Angle and the Main Event Mafia and repairing TNA's public image, a project that already is on the level of urban renewal. In the Sahara Desert, if you know what I mean and I think you do. I think Quincy Jones still has this sign available for use in the TNA locker room, dating back 24 years:
Check your ego at the door!
For the good of TNA's present & future, the time for change is now, not later.