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Friday, May 06, 2005

Jarrett: TNA strives to innovate

NWA champion talks business with SLAM! Wrestling

(sorry No Photo)
Jeff Jarrett makes no apologies about his efforts to innovate
professional wrestling. Photo courtesy of
ORLANDO -- It's Tuesday afternoon, just two days after the Lockdown
pay per view (PPV) and Jeff Jarrett is as busy as ever.

He is an active professional wrestler, current holder of the
National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) world heavyweight title. He is a
member of the higher echelon of the Total Nonstop Action (TNA)
promotion, crusading to secure a sound financial future for his
upstart company. He's a family man, trying to maintain some
semblance of a personal life in the maelstrom world of professional

At soundstage 21 at Universal Studios Florida, Jarrett sets aside a
few precious minutes to talk to SLAM! Wrestling. When asked about
his life and the multitude of distractions that consume him on a
daily basis, he gives an all too commonly heard answer for what
keeps him going.

"This is what I love," said Jarrett. "I grew up in this business,
it's my passion. You have to live it, eat it, sleep it, think it and
that's what I do. It certainly hasn't been easy."

Nowhere more in his career is wrestling testing his commitment than
in the last few years with TNA. From the date of its inception in
2002, the company was staring at certain oblivion when their
financial backers pulled out after only a few months. Saved by Panda
Energy, now the majority shareholders, TNA had to then convince
wrestling fans to shell out money on a weekly basis via their
initial weekly PPV format.

Along with the various personalities that have come and gone from
the promotion and the struggle to create superstars who draw a
paying audience, to say that the lifespan of TNA has been tumultuous
would be an understatement.

But despite the hurdles, they're still here, proving the skeptics
wrong and establishing themselves as the wrestling company that just
won't die. "June will be our third year anniversary. Nobody thought
that would happen and I'm excited," Jarrett said. "In the next three
to six months, TNA is going to take it to another level."

But that's par for the course.

As Jarrett explained, paramount to TNA prospering is creating a
unique identity. Nowhere have they achieved that with glowing
results than in the X Division, where the roster was given a
platform to innovate and produced a clear majority of the
promotion's most outstanding, high impact contests to date.

"The X Division truly sets us a part from any other wrestling
company in the world," said Jarrett. "TNA is truly cutting edge. We
have to be -- we can't rest on yesterday's laurels of the business.
We got to bring new things to the table and we continue to strive to
do that."

From there, the evolution of the Ultimate X matches, where
competitors would dangle above the ring from wires. The concept
delivered something new to fans while traditionalists bemoaned
another entrenched gimmick.

"It is the most important factor that we have to set ourselves
apart, not just from our competition of today, but the entire
industry. In any kind of entertainment or sporting business, you
have to have that fan base. If the fans aren't excited, if their
creative juices aren't flowing, it makes for a stale product," said

"In TNA, we attempted the six-sided ring. A lot of people said it's
so non-traditional. Now, when I look at a four-sided ring, I feel
that's almost old school," he continued. "In this business, it can't
grow unless you take risks and chances. We try things here at TNA to
try and take the business to the next level."

Their most recent initiative, April's all steel cage Lockdown PPV,
was decried by some as watering down the aura of the steel cage.

"It was going to be critically acclaimed, either positively or
negatively," admitted Jarrett. "It was a gamble and we knew that --
eight cage matches with different stipulations. In my opinion, if
you're a wrestling fan, you got your money's worth."

Flawless it was not, but neither was it lackluster, with the TNA
roster tasked with the mission of making Lockdown worthy of
attention and in doing so, silence the naysayers.

No other match achieved than the main event where A.J. Styles took
on Abyss. It was a contest that clearly established Styles as the go
to performer who can deliver when it's needed the most.

Other standout matches included Christopher Daniels successfully
defending his X-Division title against Elix Skipper, the four-man
elimination bout featuring Sonjay Dutt, Chris Sabin, Shocker and
Michael Shane and America's Most Wanted retaining the tag team
championship title against Team Canada.

As always, it was the roster that took ball given to them and ran
with it, with a raucous Orlando crowd cheering them on all the way.

"From top to bottom, the effort from everyone who stepped in the
ring was unbelievable," reflected Jarrett.

The effort to establish TNA as the new alternative is not only being
marketed to the disenfranchised, but corporate America. While the
promotion has acquired television clearance on Fox Sports Net
channel, they are still in the chase to secure a lucrative weeknight
time slot that will put the promotion back into the collective
consciousness of casual wrestling fans.

"It's a lot easier from the inside looking out than opposed to being
on the outside looking in," said Jarrett, explaining that their
focus on innovation is crucial to garnering interest from the power
brokers of the entertainment world who can grant TNA the exposure
they need. "I understand that some people are scratching their heads
on certain issues. There are certain issues that we have to
distinguish ourselves when we are facing corporate America."

TNA's next PPV, entitled Hard Justice, will take place May 15th.
Visit TNA online for more details.

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