Sometimes in order to move two steps forward, you have to take a step back. And that’s exactly what TNA Wrestling has done in recent weeks.
The main competitor to WWE has turned back the clock and not only resurrected the famed six-sided ring that put them on the map, but also a grittier, edgier persona that catapulted pro wrestling to historical heights in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Among those hitting the reset button is Mr. Anderson (formerly Mr. Kennedy in WWE), who says he was at first skeptical of the unique wrestling ring.
Although he has been wrestling for more than a decade, it wasn’t until TNA dusted it off earlier this month that he had ever worked with six sets of ropes. According to Anderson, the wrestlers had little choice in the company’s decision bring it back.
“I believe my first day in the company was the first day they had the four-sided ring back,” he said. “I thought at the time I had really dodged a bullet because I wasn’t excited about wrestling in a six-sided ring.”
But as it turns out, there was no bullet to dodge. He’s enjoying the experience because there is more room to work than a traditional wrestling ring. His only knocks on the ring are the challenges it presents during tag matches and the fact that cables are used rather than actual ropes.
Anderson had the opportunity to work with Sting until the surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer left the company earlier this year. He said Sting didn’t make any mention of jumping to WWE when he decided to leave TNA after a decade-long run that was sporadic at times.
In fact, Anderson believes it’s a wonderful thing that there is competition in the wrestling business and there are multiple promotions for workers to choose from.
“I have no hard feelings toward Sting or anybody else who attempts to make a living in this business,” he said.
TNA’s current TV contract is reportedly expiring in the coming months leaving a great deal of uncertainty as to whether there would be an elite alternative to WWE any longer.
However, Anderson believes the future is bright for TNA.
“Honestly I think the sky is the limit. I think that we have the greatest wrestlers in the world working for this company,” he said. “I know that I’m probably biased, but I tend to be able to step back and look objectively.”
His optimism stems from the fact the wrestlers now have an open canvas to push the envelope and take the show in new directions. And unlike the ring, the company is asking for suggestions from talents.
Wrestlers have been given the green light to pitch new story lines and ideas to the writers, which is something Anderson is excited about. He says he has a number of ideas he’s ready to run by the creative team.
Outside of the ring, Anderson has joined a growing number of wrestlers (past and present) to host a podcast. What sets his show apart, however, is that he doesn’t talk about wrestling.
Instead, Push The Button is reserved for intelligent discussions about politics and philosophical debates. A recent episode featured a lively debate on Creationism vs. Evolution.
I had the opportunity to speak with Anderson ahead of the company’s next round of television tapings at New York’s Manhattan Center on August 5-7.
Here’s what we touched on:
- Whether wrestlers a say in the return of the six-sided ring
- The future of TNA
- How Stone Cold Steve Austin made him change his mind enlisting full-time in the Army and becoming a wrestler
- Whether Sting told TNA he was WWE-bound when he left
- Whether it’s time to move on from the Monday Night Wars and Attitude Era
- What makes New York the best place to reboot TNA Wrestling
- Why wrestlers gravitate to politics
Below are some highlights:
Wrestlers having a say on six-sided ring
“As far as I know (wrestlers) didn’t have any. As far as I know that was strictly an organizational thing. You know, the higher ups in the company going off of the fans vote on it. I believe that was completely out of our hands. I had no say in it as far as I know.”
Whether the Attitude Era is now holding wrestling back
“I sort of think that if fans are holding on to ECW and that era and things from the past, I sort of think that means we’re not giving them what they want to see… I think the best way to go about that is to keep trying new things until something works. And that’s what we do. That’s what our writers do. They’re continuously coming up with new ideas.”
Whether Sting told TNA he was going to WWE
“No, he didn’t make any mention. This is the nature of our business. The wrestling business… people come and people go. It’s sort of been that way forever.”
The full interview can be heard at the top of the page.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @TheChuckCarroll.