The Buzz by Mike Schaffer - PR, Social Media, Pop Culture and Sports

PR, Pop Culture, Wrestling

April 20, 2010

PR Buzz – TNA Goes RVD

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It’s been a while since we chatted ‘rasslin’.  Let’s change that, shall we.

Monday night, Total Nonstop Action (TNA) delivered probably one of their greatest shows ever.

New TNA Champ RVD - Did you watch?

Veteran fan favorites Jeff Hardy and Rob Van Dam faced off to decide the #1 contender to champion AJ Styles.  Popular mainstay Samoa Joe returned from an unexplained absence due to abduction to help Team Hogan defeat Team Flair.  Rob Terry was elevated to big-time status.  The Knockouts looked great.  The “crash TV” style was absent (and that’s a good thing).

And in the main event, RVD captured the TNA Champtionship from Styles in an epic match.

As a longtime fan of the pseudo-sport, it was fun to watch.  As a PR pro, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Let me count the ways:

1 – No Promotion – If you control your product, as TNA does, you have the unique ability to tell people what’s going to happen.  Of course, TNA wouldn’t say “Watch tonight – RVD will beat AJ!”  However, if they spread this story over a few weeks, fans would be invested in the presentation and tune in.  I understand the “anything can happen” atmosphere.  However, with the top title on the line, wouldn’t you want at least a week to let the story build?

2 – TNA is a business, right??? – TV ratings are great.  They are.  But if your business is built around pay per view buys, why wouldn’t you put the big match on one of those shows?  This show felt like it came out of nowhere.  And that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

3 – RVD’s…ahem…lifestyle choices.  RVD has been on the cover of “High Times” magazine (or so I’ve bee n told!).  He is widely known as a marijuana user and pled guilty to possession in 2006.  And, last I checked, it was illegal in most places.  As a company trying to gain legitimacy, is RVD really the guy you want to push as “your guy?”  I’m not saying he’s not a qualified performer, but the drug usage is hard to overlook.

4 – “Pop” a Rating – This is somewhat linked to #1.  In the wrestling industry, the term “pop a rating” gets tossed around frequently to describe stunts to get viewers.  If you don’t promote a show, it’s viewership isn’t indicative of THAT show, but rather the show from the previous week.  So while TNA’s heart was in the right place, the execution was lacking.   People will watch if you give them a reason to in advance.

So tell me – what did you think of RVD’s big night?  Did TNA do the right thing…or miss a golden opportunity?

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  • I think its slightly embarrasing that this is their approach, especially when they have about the same control as a movie studio over their product. Considering the example of UFC, which is doing well despite horrendous PR recently (see Anderson Silva), they should know better. They needed to build up some hype to grab not only regular fans but maybe people unsure of their commitment to TNA. A well-constructed, well-promoted event like UFC 100 grabbed more fans than ever, but it seems like TNA is taking that for granted.

    If they have such a star-studded roster then they need to promote their product like Ocean's 11 even if it only is like Ocean's 12.
  • Mike, you’re right on about TNA's lack of promotion. It seems the problem is they are always trying to surprise fans with a secret wrestler that will appear on Impact or at a PPV. I’m intrigued about who the secret wrestler is but not enough to change to the channel from Raw or dish out money at a PPV. What happen to the good ole days where it took weeks to build a good storyline? I found out about RVD competing against Hardy on twitter ten minutes before the match started. It was smart move they put the match at the top of the hour to compete against WWE to force fans to make a decision. Me on the other hand I’ll just watch the TNA replay on Thursday.

    TNA’s move to Monday Night was too early. TNA has the most talented roster, but the company can’t rely on that alone to draw in viewers. TNA has to walk before they can run. Also they won’t be a serious contender until they put flagship show Impact on the road. They’re doing a good job traveling in regards with PPV’s and house shows. But it’s hard to gage how an audience responds to a performer if you competing in the same venue every week.

    I know TNA is more global and bringing in more money but how are they paying for their loaded rosters? I expect just paying Hogan and Flair alone is making them go deep into their pockets.
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