Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Return of Bobby Lashley: Risk or Reward for TNA?

by Brian Phelps

At TNA Lockdown, Bobby Lashley returned to accept Ethan Carter's open challenge. A great surprise return for TNA, but it lacked any real pomp and circumstance. With the return of Lashley, the question on a lot of people's minds is can he make a difference in TNA?

The answer is yes. Lashley is just what the doctor ordered for TNA. He's a guy who never reached his full potential in WWE, and it helps that Bobby Lashley has one of the greatest all-around looks in the history of professional wrestling. The guy looks like he was sculpted out of stone by Michelangelo himself. In terms of appearance, he's as visually marketable as John Cena or The Rock. He looks like a legitimate movie star.

The big question mark about Lashley has never been his talent or appearance though. The big "if" about Lashley is whether or not he'll stick around. To me, Lashley has developed a reputation for not sticking with anything for more than a year or two. He spent about 2 1/2 years on WWE TV between 2005 and 2008. He joined TNA and was going to do both MMA and TNA simultaneously, but didn't even last a full year in TNA and only wrestled a few matches. Let's call it what it is. His initial TNA run was a dud. He then bounced from one MMA promotion to the next for a few years. Between pro wrestling and MMA over the last 5 years, Bobby Lashley has signed with TNA, IGF (Inoki Genome Federation), Maximum Fighting Championship, Strikeforce, Titan Fighting Championships, Shark Fights, and the World Series of Fighting. That's 7 different contracts in 5 years. Now, that's not all Bobby's fault. Some of the companies went under, and some of them jerked him around but still.

It seems like Bobby never sticks with anything long enough to become the very best, and its crazy because he should be the face of WWE or TNA right now. I don't know if Bobby just gets bored after a year or two, has a bad business manager, or if he just has weird luck. From TNA's perspective, Bobby Lashley is a HUGE pick up... but he's a risky investment because he's so far proven unreliable for the long run. The one thing TNA has going for them this time around is that Bobby Lashley is now 37 years old. That means unless he's the second coming of Randy Couture that his window to become an MMA Superstar is starting to close. However, in pro wrestling, a 37 year old still has 5 to 7 more prime years left, especially if your work schedule is managed correctly which it would be no problem for Bobby working a TNA schedule.

The other great thing is that Lashley still has untapped potential in pro wrestling. He is a former ECW World Champion and WWE United States Champion, but he never won "the big one" (WWE Championship or WHC). It's still mind boggling to think about that given his amazing look and solid wrestling ability. I always said that Bobby Lashley could've been not only the greatest and most marketable African American superstar of all-time, but one of the greatest of all-time PERIOD.

I sincerely hope that Lashley is going to stick with TNA for the long haul. He needs to be for TNA what John Cena is for WWE, now more than ever. He needs to prove that he's more than a flash in the pan in pro wrestling. More than a "what could've been" story. Lashley is the perfect face of the company for TNA. He has all the credentials, the look, and has a good reputation in the business. He's the perfect guy to promote the TNA product especially in the media. In return, TNA could promote Lashley's nutrition business. It could and SHOULD be win win for both parties. Fingers crossed that Lashley stays.



Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Reality of Contract Negotiations in Pro Wrestling

by Brian Phelps

Kaz and Daniels contracts allegedly expire in April, which means that TNA's negotiating is coming down to the wire.

I was on the dirt sites and came across a user who posted the following ridiculous statement. "TNA suck at contracts. They allow a lot to run down into the final weeks and even let them expire before resigning". This is a typical statement from a member of the IWC who criticizes a wrestling company without having any actual idea of how contract negotiations work. They believe that letting contracts expire or get down to the wire means that the company is lazy or disorganized. That's just simply not true. Allow me to explain.

I was baffled at why this member of the IWC would take the time to criticize TNA's negotiating tactics. At least they don't have wrestlers allegedly breaching their contracts like the WWE (see Austin, Punk). That's not a slight against Austin or Punk. They had their reasons, but facts are facts. I have yet to see TNA stars breaching contracts because they're unhappy with TNA.

And here's the elephant in the room that criticizing IWC fans don't want to see. Letting contract negotiations go down to the wire is a NORMAL and time honored practice in sports. Sometimes in sports, a team is not sure whether they want to re-sign an athlete due to a multitude of possible reasons (creative differences in team direction, financial conundrums regarding cap space, etc). As a result, teams will let the athlete's contract expire in order to allow the player to "test the free agent market". Sometimes,  that same player will come back to the team if they can't get a better deal elsewhere. Other times, another team will offer the player a more lucrative or attractive deal. That's how the sports business works.

In pro wrestling, TNA has a distinct advantage over other American sports organizations. There are really only four other financially viable options for the professional wrestler to make a somewhat decent living -- WWE, ROH, Mexico and Japan. From a wrestler's perspective, it's not like the NBA or NFL where you have 30 different teams to field offers from. Basically for TNA, if the WWE doesn't lay down an offer the wrestler will most likely re-sign with TNA since it's not likely that they will get a better financial offer from Ring of Honor or overseas promotions like New Japan Pro Wrestling.

It's sad, but wrestlers have very few options out there. That's why we should all be rooting for Jeff Jarrett's new promotion. More wrestling companies means more options and more power to the wrestlers when negotiating deals. Letting contracts expire is a company's read between the lines way of saying "Good luck getting paid somewhere else. You'll be back". That is the reality of contract negotiations in pro wrestling.