This afternoon, TNA opened the voting in its online version of the Gut Check Challenge. Simultaneously, the company opened a proverbial Pandora’s Box of criticism and skepticism.
At its core, there are positive benefits to this move, as it relates to TNA and the exposure the company – as well as these stars – will gain.
Personally, though, I find myself overwhelmed by the negativity surrounding this venture. But for the sake of fairness, I’ll be up front and honest in the aspect of this that earns TNA my applause.
The positive aspect
The angle of this project I’m about to explore is certainly a positive for TNA. From a business perspective, one has to give props to the company for capitalizing on this opportunity, albeit a little sketchy.
By hosting this competition, TNA will receive more free publicity than they likely have in the past several years. Why? It’s simple.
Though hundreds of the people whose names are listed on the competition brackets will likely never compete inside a TNA ring, they’re all going to be linking the voting and sharing the page on their social media.
TNA has successfully found a way to turn the independent wrestling scene into its own street team. In the first hour voting was open, I saw my timelines on Twitter and Facebook flooded by friends and acquaintances in the business encouraging fans to vote for them.
Speaking frankly, and admittedly with a generalized thought process rather than insider knowledge, there is no way a vast majority of these individuals are even on TNA’s radar. Yet, they’re all promoting the product and sending hits to TNA’s website.
When it comes to working the workers, TNA has won this battle. With degrees in journalism and marketing, I applaud the individuals in TNA’s corporate offices for recognizing this opportunity and taking full advantage of it.
The negative aspects
This is where the heart and soul of this column comes into play. I could wax poetic on this topic for hours, but I’ll try to keep this condensed.
We’ll run down some basic issues with the online voting and the Gut Check Challenge.
Individuals are listed by their real names.
This is the most controversial aspect of the entire thing. Rather than posting gimmicked names, which is how most fans recognize wrestlers, TNA has opted to release all the entrants’ real names.
Yes, I’m aware they all signed media release forms when they attended the Gut Check events, but none were told explicitly their real names would be plastered on the Internet for the world to see.
Since its beginnings, professional wrestling has been a game of secrets, or “kayfabe,” if you will. People gripe and complain about how the Internet has ruined the art of kayfabe, but by revealing people’s personal identities, TNA has ripped another layer of illusion clear off the skeleton of the sport.
This could also pose a potential safety risk. Wrestling fans can be quite the interesting bunch. As someone involved in the business from a promotional standpoint, I’ve seen the lengths some fans are willing to go to in order to “learn about” their favorite wrestlers, including showing up at local gyms, places of employment and following them after events.
Providing individuals like this with performers’ real names could put those competitors in a compromising situation as it relates to these fans. Also, if a wrestler has a family, this could create an easier outlet for overly enthusiastic fans to find out about them, as well.
There have been at least a handful of participants in the Gut Check Challenge who have expressed their displeasure at seeing their legit names plastered online for the world to see, and I’d have to echo their sentiments.
Yes, there are legal reasons for this. WWE found itself in a similar situation with competitions like “Tough Enough,” where contestants had to be recognized by real names, but they tended to downplay it. How many times did you hear the name “Capiccioni” on television? Very few, but we often heard “Matt.”
This doesn’t even take into account the problems of marketing this thing. When I’m trying to get people to vote, I want them to be able to look at the list and quickly look for the name they want to support.
By using real names, TNA is forcing individuals to click on up to 300 different profiles to find the guy or gal they want to vote for. Even using pictures on the voting screen would have helped alleviate this problem, but as it stands, fans may have to put a great deal of work into supporting their favorite wrestlers.
As a person involved in promoting wrestling, I see the downsides of this vastly outweighing the positives. I hope no wrestlers have to deal with consequences outside the ring because of what I consider to be an ethical disaster on TNA’s part.
There are individuals listed who aren’t – or shouldn’t be – eligible to win.
The advertised purpose of this contest is to find a star to sign to TNA’s Impact Wrestling. Well, on this list, there are several names who don’t fit the criteria.
While I can’t verify any specifics, there has been chatter on Twitter that at least one individual who has died is listed.
What I can confirm is that there is at least one name on the voting card who is signed to a WWE deal. On top of that, the video they have embedded in her information page even identifies her as an NXT star. So TNA is, by proxy, promoting its primary competition on its own website, though that’s likely not shocking to anyone familiar with their constant WWE references on television.
Add to all that the inclusion of referees and other on-screen personalities, like The Score’s Arda Ocal, and the questions continue to pile on. No offense to Ocal, who deserves all the success he’s found in his career, but if I’m choosing the next TNA superstar, he’s not exactly who I have in mind.
There are individuals who competed in Gut Check seminars who are not included.
This is one gripe where I’m not going to go into specifics, given the privacy issue I noted above.
But I have a personal friend who competed in the same seminar as Mark Sterling and Greg Iron, both in the listings under their real names, but isn’t included on the list.
If TNA is saying this allows everyone who participated in a Gut Check seminar a shot, why are there omissions?
To be honest, this doesn’t even cover all the issues that stem from this ill-thought-out program. But, for the sake of brevity, I’m limiting myself to these points. If anyone wishes to debate me, I encourage them to contact me directly.
TNA has opened a Pandora’s Box of problems, and the ramifications could be widespread. Hopefully the safety of the people involved won’t be compromised because of these gross oversights on TNA’s behalf.
And if any of the wrestlers included on the list really believe this will earn them a shot with TNA, I have to question their thought process.
There are no doubt hundreds of deserving individuals included within the list, but TNA has such a limited roster that if they’re truly interested in anyone there, they’ve already contacted them, and this contest won’t make a significant difference.
I surely hope no one that’s out hyping the contest on social media and encouraging fans to vote for them laugh at and label the fans in the audience as “marks,” because in this case, they might actually be behind the curtain.
Chris GST has been a wrestling fan since around 1991. He grew up enjoying most of the back stage politics as well as enjoyed all the aspects that it takes to create that perfect wrestling match. At the end of 2001 when the original ECW died it was then that Chris took an interest in indy promotions such as ECWA and others. Those made him appreciate companies like Ring of Honor, CHIKARA, PWG, JAPW and it has continued to this day. Follow him @
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