Jeff Jarrett recently wrestled for AEW, teaming with Jay Lethal in defeat against Sting and Darby Allin at Full Gear 2022. The former WCW Champion however became most famous in recent years at the head of the second biggest promotion in the United States for a number of years – Total Nonstop Action.
Under his stewardship. TNA became the number two promotion in the country and looked to have the chance to challenge WWE at one point in time. With homegrown stars like AJ Styles and Samoa Joe joined by legends of the business like Sting and Kurt Angle, the company had the perfect mix of young and old talent that drew in fans who had longed for something different after the demise of WCW in 2002.
The company became especially popular in the United Kingdom. Hardcore fans tuned in to Impact in their droves and the company had a number of very profitable tours across the pond. TNA’s record crowd came during a house show in London, England in 2009, drawing more paying customers than any of their successful pay per views.
However, around 2010 the company began to falter. Dixie Carter, who had bought the company from Jeff Jarrett, began to make silly decisions that made no sense from a wrestling perspective. She brought in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff to run the show, nine years after WCW was killed under their stewardship. They brought in all their aging friends, pushing the likes of Kevin Nash and Brian Knobbs over the likes of Desmond Wolfe and AJ Styles, who hardcore TNA fans named as their favourite wrestlers.
They also put TNA Impact head to head against Monday Night Raw, trying to create a second Monday Night War situation. They lost horribly and the company never truly recovered. They attempted to be a competitor to WWE rather than an alternative and suffered for it. Eventually, all the TNA original stars (AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode) left for WWE and the company floundered under a revolving door of ownership.
Jeff Jarrett discussed on his podcast, My World with Jeff Jarrett, how big TNA could have been if they had done everything right and not messed up at every possible moment. He noted that losing their identity, most accurately portrayed by them losing the six-sided ring which made them unique, was a big reason for their continued downfall during their peak, as well as losing their “core talent”.
“As we record this, June 12, next Sunday is June 19. Twenty years ago next Sunday was out first show. So, the organization that started 20 years ago is still around. How big could it have been? You can look at not hypotheticals and not what-ifs – the profitability, the facts, the ratings, the growth internationally. Let’s just say a 50 million dollar company, and we had built to be more profitable.
Do I think we would have gotten a second show in the Viacom family? I absolutely do. So, getting a second show, and we could’ve maneuvered strategically and rolled along and kept our identity – kept the TNA branding, the six-sided ring, the core talent. Just the radical leadership change, I think you could look at that. I think we could have gotten a second show.
Getting into the streaming world and the monetization with how things are being done now differently. The Apple generation radically changed things, not just in our industry but across the board. I think it’s fascinating to look at what could have been. I think it could have been big. We became WWE-lite, and our core guys went to WWE. That’s not a myth, that’s not a hypothetical. That’s a fact.”
Jeff Jarrett left TNA in 2014 and wrestled all around the world. He joined Bullet Club in New Japan Pro Wrestling but the most shocking place he would wrestle would be in the WWE. After controversially leaving the company in 1999, most people thought he would never return. However, time heals all wounds and he returned for a Hall of Fame induction and a Royal Rumble return.
His legacy in wrestling will always be how Jeff Jarrett built TNA into a competitor to WWE before others ruined his dream and whittled away what chance they had to become a huge company due to their incompetence.