It is TNA’s fifth anniversary weekend, and as someone who has been involved in some capacity since pre-Day One, Dixie Carter offers up an unique perspective on the wild ride.
“The time has flown by. I can’t believe five years has already come and gone,” Carter, the current TNA president, told SLAM! Wrestling. “If I had thought then, ‘Where would we be now?’, I think I’d be pretty happy with all the accomplishments we’ve made as a company.”
Hired on to run the marketing and promotion a few months before TNA’s first show in Huntsville, Alabama in 2002, Carter has truly risen to the top, organizing the financing for the fledgling company and now running it.
Her reward to her loyal charges? “They get to work all day, how’s that? They get to work all weekend, actually,” she said with a laugh, referring to the Slammiversary weekend in Nashville, TN, complete with an Impact-viewing party on Thursday at Coyote Ugly in downtown Nashville with AJ Styles, Ms. Brooks, James Storm, Eric Young and Jerry Lynn, a live show Friday night in Sheffield, Alabama, a Fan Fest on Saturday and the pay-per-view on Sunday night.
Turns out there is something more than coffee mugs for the crew. “We’re going to have a little event after the pay-per-view,” Carter admitted. “It’s a big, momentous time for us. There were a lot of naysayers at the very beginning who didn’t give us three months to be in business. We have fought and clawed and scratched our way to become a very successful business. It’s overwhelming, really.”
Unlike WWE, which is a publicly-traded company and required to release financial statements, TNA’s books are closed. When queried, Carter said that the promotion is getting closer to turning a profit. “We’re finally in a situation where we’re starting to generate some serious revenue. It’s just been through the years of hard work and the combination of different revenue streams,” she said. “It is our Slammiversary, but it is our ‘turning point’ pay-per-view, would be apropos at this time for us.”
Carter is particularly proud of the team she has assembled around her, both in the Nashville head office and behind and in front of the cameras. When she talks about the performers, however, the pride is evident.
“We have assembled the greatest roster of wrestling superstars, and I mean that in every sense – great in-ring performers, great guys backstage, leaders. It’s all part of a great team. That’s probably the thing that I’m most proud of,” Carter said. Other points of pride include the Spike TV deal and the ratings TNA has delivered, the promotion’s international exposure, and Midway Games’ investment in TNA as a video game.
The mention of Spike TV brings up the inevitable question of a longer program for TNA, which currently has one hour for its Impact program on Thursday nights. “That’s our goal to be at two hours in the fall,” said Carter, choosing her words carefully. “I hope it’s with Spike, but if not Spike, then something better for the brand. Spike has been a fantastic partner for us. They gave us a shot. We’ll never forget that. But we’ve come in and we’ve proven ourselves. I hope it is with them. … We’ve got to make the right decision for TNA. … I think we’ll know something in the next few months.”
In conversation with Carter, it is evident that she is passionate about TNA, but with a firm grasp on the realities of business as well. Originally from Dallas, Carter attended the University of Mississippi, where she earned a business degree, graduating in 1986. TNA’s baby steps into the house show business, with shows here and there across the U.S., is case in point.
“Starting a business from scratch, especially a wrestling business, is an incredibly expensive venture. I think the reason that we’re still in business today is that we’ve made very good business decisions along the way. I’ve seen a former company generate revenues in the hundreds of millions go out of business that year because of expenses and management, things such as that. We will not repeat those errors. It’s very, very easy to overspend where you are as a company,” Carter said.
“We know that a lot of people come to see us,” she said, crediting the appeal of Universal Studios as the company’s homebase for the Impact show for making TNA a desired destination. “Now it’s time for us to get back, to get out there, and let the people just drive 10 miles instead of 10 states, or get on a plane, or whatever, to come see us. We’re doing it very measured. We’re making sure that we build it, and then come back and build it stronger, then come back. Our competitor has decades of history on us, and they have decades of history in each building, and have grown it. But when they started, they did much the same thing. I don’t care what kind of touring business you’re in, if you don’t do it smart from the beginning, you will not be in business long, and we will not make those mistakes.”
Carter and the Nashville staff benefit from Slammiversary being held nearby at the Municipal Auditorium — “From our perspective, I can’t even imagine getting to go to a pay-per-view and driving home that night. That’s an exciting thought for me,” she laughed.
There’s excitement in the air around town, Carter claimed. “It’s all over the media, it’s all over radio stations, and not even from an advertising standpoint. People are really, really talking about it. We’ve got everybody wanting to come in for it, we’ve got celebrities on the East Coast, NASCAR drivers, football players. It’s kind of crazy, out-of-control right now. There is a very fun buzz here now.”
What’s next for TNA? “I think our goal is to really step up and make some of the stars that we’ve made household names,” said Carter. “I think all core wrestling fans love them. I think it’s time for the rest of the world to get to know them. Really take TNA to a next level from an exposure standpoint.”
The rumours have been going around for months – Rob Van Dam’s WWE contract was coming due, and just about everyone expects him to jump to TNA. Hang on a minute, stressed Dixie Carter. “From my understanding, he’s still under contract with WWE. Rob is a great talent. I don’t know him personally, but I’ve heard really good things about him, and obviously have followed him just as a fan.”
ROH & TNA
Ring of Honor recently announced it was entering the pay-per-view world, with a show on July 1st. The change in direction for the company — which just celebrated its fifth anniversary as well — meant a change in its relationship with TNA as well.
“We wish them all the luck in the world, but when they enter into a different side of the business, we no longer can work to the level that we were,” said Dixie Carter. “We just wish them luck. That does keep us from the exchange of talent that we’ve had in the past.”