By Chuck Carroll
And then there were two?
One of WWE’s top two competitors, Global Force Wrestling, faces an uncertain future. After a brief respite from chaos, turbulence has returned in significant fashion to the company formerly known as TNA Wrestling. In short: new owner, same story.
The wrestling promotion was thrust back into disarray this week after removing Jeff Jarrett from his position as Chief Creative Officer. GFW’s parent company, Anthem Media, released only a vague statement saying Jarrett was taking an indefinite leave of absence to “focus on personal matters.” Multiple outlets are reporting that Jarrett’s erratic behavior over many months led to his ouster. The Wrestling Observer reports the straw that broke the camel’s back may have come at a recent major international event, AAA TripleMania. Jarrett was allegedly in no condition to wrestle and was seen stumbling down the ring steps.
Adding fuel to the fire, Anthem Media is reportedly looking to unload GFW after taking it over less than a year ago. Sports Illustrated’s Justin Barrasso reports the company is “hemorrhaging funds” after leveraging its other properties to finance the deal in January.
Clearly, things have not worked out for Anthem or GFW talents as both hoped. When Anthem Media acquired the company shortly after the new year, all of the longstanding headaches were supposed to stop. Anthem was, in some ways, thought of as the savior that could bail the toxic water out of a sinking ship. Under previous ownership, it was a day-to-day struggle to keep the company afloat. In some instances, it was literally a last-minute, one-sided Hail Mary business deal made by Dixie Carter that would enable that day’s show to go on as scheduled. Talent checks were routinely late, and morale was in the tank. It’s not a stretch to imagine those ill feelings are returning for those still on the roster.
Will WWE Purchase Global Force Wrestling?
The obvious question becomes whether or not WWE will swoop in and buy up the competition as it did with World Championship Wrestling in 2001. Many of WWE’s top talents spent their formative years wrestling for Impact Wrestling, and it would behoove WWE to make a bid for the tape library alone. Past Samoa Joe and AJ Styles matches would be an attractive offering on the WWE Network, and the footage would also be readily available for special retrospectives.
And then there is the prospect of acquiring the rights to the Hardy Boyz’s wildly popular “Broken Universe” gimmick. Anthem and the Hardyz have been engaged in a well-documented and highly inflammatory battle over the rights for months. Matt Hardy has defiantly continued to use elements of the character, while many in the crowd still loudly chant “delete.” There is little doubt “Broken Matt Hardy” and “Brother Nero” would be a boon for merchandise sales. Hardy also took a shot at his former employer on Twitter.
Make no mistake about it, if WWE does acquire GFW, the promotion will be shut down. Moving forward with production would serve no purpose to the crown jewel of professional wrestling, which already has its own alternative brand in NXT. The acquisition would be strictly for the tape library. The company may also be interested in select performers on the roster.
The two other obvious suitors are Ring of Honor parent company, Sinclair Broadcasting, and Smashing Pumpkins frontman, Billy Corgan, who unsuccessfully attempted to purchase GFW last year. Corgan’s takeover bid included a contentious and bitter legal battle. Buying it now could be a form of revenge if the sale price is less than what Anthem paid for it nine months ago. It’s unclear if Corgan is even interested at this point, as he recently purchased the legendary National Wrestling Alliance. The landscape of the company has also significantly changed since his departure.
As for Ring of Honor, the promotion’s owner is in the midst of trying to get federal approval for a $4 billion takeover of Tribune Media. No matter how good ROH’s product is, Sinclair’s chief focus is on anything but professional wrestling at the moment. It’s hard to see company executives going after the carcass of a wrestling competitor right now.
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Of the three, WWE seems to be the most likely suitor, if indeed the company is on the market.
For now, Anthem is circling the wagons and did not elaborate on the decision to remove Jarrett during a conference call with wrestling media Wednesday. The company also offered no comment regarding the report it was for sale. However, company executives have stated they will address the future of GFW next week.
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 @ChuckCarrollWLC.