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Analysis: How can TNA survive with tiny house shows?

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The first report on the TNA Impact house show at a middle school in Bristol, Tenn., Friday night had 300 fans in attendance. Two other reports have surfaced online, one estimating a crowd closer to “three-quarters full” in the 1,000-seat gym, another saying that “turnout was much better than I expected.”

So let’s put the crowd at anywhere between 300 and 700. Either way, how the hell does TNA stay in business?

For background, know that I’m writing this with the perspective of being a wrestling promoter who books shows and then worries about how ticket sales are going and how bills are getting paid. It’s not a business for the faint of heart, to say the least.

Two shows we did last year illustrate that. One in January in Lexington, Va., with a loaded card (Goldust in the main event, Daivari, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Angelina Love on the undercard) was a total bust, drawing about 600 fans to a 5,000-seat venue.

Our next show, in April in Waynesboro, was the boom to the bust, drawing 1,900 fans to a high-school gym to see Kevin Nash, X-Pac, Robbie E, Robbie T, former Ohio Valley Wrestling champ Jamin Olivencia, and a special guest appearance from this guy you might have heard of named Jake the Snake Roberts.

Did you notice, by the way, that I said that the show that drew 600 was a bust? And it was. But guess what? That’s pretty much what TNA drew last night with a loaded card, including Sting in the main event against TNA World Champ Magnus, and pretty much everybody else from the TNA Impact TV roster.

Impact draws 1.2 to 1.4 million viewers a week on TV. The company has more than 1 million fans on Facebook, and more than 300,000 followers on Twitter. And they can’t get 700 people to a middle-school gym in Tennessee, their home base, on a Friday night, with Sting in the main event?

I’ve not been able to find any detailed economic data on TNA, a privately-held company that doesn’t have to share its numbers akin to the way WWE does. So I have no idea how it does in the aggregate with its house shows, meaning all I can do is say, the house show part of the business, anyway, can’t be going well.

And then to add this: I feel bad for Sting that he is winding his time down in pro wrestling in front of a few hundred people in a middle school on a Friday night instead of doing it in WWE with a WrestleMania payoff in the offing.

Column by Chris Graham

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