Between the demise of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and the rise of All Elite Wrestling (AEW), Jeff Jarrett built Total Nonstop Action (TNA) and TNA Impact! as the North American alternative to WWE.
Jarrett and his father, Jerry Jarrett, launched TNA in June 2002 with a weekly pay-per-view (PPV) format and launched the Impact! television program in 2004. The creative peak of TNA — rebranded as Impact Wrestling in 2017 — elevated future WWE stars like AJ Styles and Samoa Joe, while also rekindling the careers of Kurt Angle, Christian Cage and Sting. Jarrett could try and take credit for the long-term success of Styles and Joe, but he won’t. In fact, “The King of the Mountain” considers himself fortunate that such talents attended his court.
“There are a lot of different ways to look at that and I’ve discussed it with Joe and AJ. It’s really easy for me to sit here and think or say, ‘Oh, man. The opportunity and TNA.’ The real reality is I was very fortunate, very blessed, very grateful that the timing worked out with those guys. AJ literally drove up from his house in North Georgia to Nashville, Tennessee. As he grew through the product, he’s really the face of TNA from about 2002 to 2010,” Jarrett tells Cageside Seats’ Shakiel Mahjouri. “AJ and Joe are really cornerstones of not just the X Division, but the entire company.
“Here they are all these years later and the performers they are, I really believe we got lucky. Joe and I had a conversation and AJ and I had a conversation. I’m really grateful for those times, but how lucky was I as a promoter to get both of those guys? I really think if it hadn’t been us at TNA, it would have been somewhere else. I’m a big believer in the cream always rises to the top. They’re great talent. With or without TNA and I sincerely mean that.”
Jarrett — a former world AAA Mega, National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) World Heavyweight and WCW World Heavyweight champion — is asked to dissect the similarities and differences between AEW and TNA.
“The natural, low-hanging fruit. the most simplistic is the alternative, Jarrett says. “The similarity is that the alternative, at the very end of the day, I truly believe — and I think Vince McMahon would agree with this — it’s the best for business to always have an alternative. It’s just what makes business go around. If you’re the only game in town, you’re not number one because there isn’t a number two.
“The timing when TNA started, coming off the Attitude Era, and the timing when AEW started are radically different worlds. Pre social media world coming off the Attitude Era. When TBS and TNT cancelled wrestling, I couldn’t even get a phone call from a network. Fast-forward, the big rights fees with NBC and Fox and the Peacock situation and Sony around the world in India and all the different markets — it’s a completely different playing field of 2002 and 2019 in the launch period. The climate is completely different. The television ratings are completely different. We started on a Saturday night on Spike TV in ‘05 or ‘06. Not prime, off prime. 11 eastern we were getting 700,000 or 800,000 viewers. On a Saturday night at late prime. The numbers were different. It was a pre-streaming world, a pre-social media world. When you factor in all that, it’s a completely different media market.”
Jarrett currently hosts the My World podcast with co-host Conrad Thompson.
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