The last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind for TNA President Dixie Carter, and for its current X Division champion Samoa Joe. On Tuesday, in a conference call with the press, both pillars of the company expressed excitement over the new primetime TV deal — and caution.
“The first three months that we were on Spike, as a brand new product, we had three different specials and then talks began to move us into primetime. When you consider how fast things move in television, that’s … lightning speed,” Carter said.
On Monday, the Nashville-based wrestling company issued a press release announcing the move to Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET on Spike TV, for an hour-long version of iMPACT! That same day, the wrestlers were told via a conference call.
Samoa Joe was one of those hearing the good news. “We all wanted this shot. We all wanted this opportunity, and now we’ve got it.,” Samoa Joe said. “Now it’s just a matter of delivering on it and putting out great shows and wrestling for people to come and watch. I know this locker room is committed to doing that. We really want to do that, and we’re looking to make it happen. Positive doesn’t even do it justice. I think we’re all ecstatic about what’s about to happen. We’re all really excited going in to it, and looking forward to seeing where it takes us.”
At the moment, in its Saturday night timeslot, iMPACT! follows UFC. When it switches to primetime on April 13, iMPACT! will precede two hours of UFC fighting.
Both Carter and Joe praised Spike TV as a partner who believed in the product.
“It’s a real symbiotic relationship, and we’re a part of their Slammin’ Saturday Night lineup right now. It’s kind of a whole package. I wouldn’t call it a lead-in. It’s something that’s kind of cohesive and the programs work well together,” said Samoa Joe. “Now we’re going to Thursday nights, and I’m sure they’ll come up with a fantastic name for Thursday nights too. In the interim, we don’t mind it at all. UFC is a very hot property right now. They’re putting on some tremendous fight cards and pay-per-views, ones that I tune in to and I enjoy. We want the same to go for TNA. We want when people tune in to Spike on Thursday nights, they’re going to see a hell of a lot of great entertainment, and TNA is a part of that, a big part of that package.”
“Spike has shown that they are always open to different opportunities,” said Carter. “I think it’s up to us. We’ve taken a timeslot in the Saturday Slammin’ night, had great success with it, and obviously it’s paid off with a Thursday primetime slot. Our goal is to have great success there and see where it takes us.”
During the conference call, Carter admitted that competing with the WWE on Mondays was discussed, but in the end, it was Spike TV’s decision. Though thrilled to be in primetime, the constraining one-hour format remains a bit of a frustration for the company.
“Our biggest challenge is that we have 42 minutes of television, of which we have a stable of talent that deserve time and deserve to become household names,” said Carter, adding that Spike TV wants a show that is “total, non-stop action, that’s unique, that’s cutting edge, that’s different.”
“You always keep an eye on the competition,” explained Samoa Joe. “If TNA were worried about war, I think that’s a silly thing. I think there’s plenty of viewers out there for everybody. I’m excited about maybe attracting those viewers who walked away from wrestling.”
With the company’s first true house show away from the immediate vicinity of Nashville or Universal Studios in Orlando coming up on March 17 in Plymouth, Michigan (just outside Detroit), both Carter and Samoa Joe see live events as a place for growth.
“We’re in a very, very fortunate situation that every week we have a full Impact Zone out of Universal Studios in Orlando, and probably 90% of that audience is from all over the country and different parts of the world. We’re lucky that those people get to come to us,” said Carter. “We will have some associations with certain shows where they are featuring all TNA talent, and I’m very, very confident that that’s something where the company will be growing significantly over the next 12 months.”
“Right now, I think that the overseas market for TNA is absolutely golden. I think that it’s something that they should pursue,” said Samoa Joe, recounting how over he was on a recent tour of Australia, where he got chants of ‘Joe’s going to kill you’ directed at his opponent, Andrew “Test” Martin.
“I think the UK is another fantastic market for pro wrestling. I think it’s important for TNA to really look internationally and maybe start a tour out there before we look at plans to infiltrate the States,” said Joe. “I think there’s a lot of great markets, a lot of great opportunities for this company to make great profit and entertain fans around the world.”
As the X Division champion, Samoa Joe is one of the most public faces of the company and many believe he is the future of it as well. He admits there is a burden on his back.
“I don’t think it’s just me, I think everybody feels that pressure,” he admitted. “This is a real integral time for the company where we are making tremendous strides — we just announced a new timeslot, we’re in primetime. It’s not just on me, it’s on everybody in the company for every minute of television we put out there to perform and entertain our fans and give them the best possible pro wrestling product on television that there is today. It’s a shared pressure, so it makes it a lot easier. Everybody in our locker room is ready to deliver and they just have to step up and make things happen. We’re looking forward to doing that come April.”
The boss has belief in her team. “We’re just confident that with a partner like Spike and with the amazingly-talented locker room that we have, guys like Samoa Joe, there’s no doubt that this will be successful. I’m so proud of our entire team right now. I’m so proud of our talent.”