The Hispanic/Latino Marketplace, An Untapped Revenue Source For TNA
If you’ve been lucky enough to have watched the last few months of TNA programming, you’ve been treated to, at least in my opinion, some of the better pro wrestling we’ve as fans have seen in years. After what appeared to be a few months of trying to clean up the mess left by Vince Russo, Dave Lagana and Co. have put the pedal down and are churning out several quality storylines. As a result of all of TNA’s hard work, viewership is up (although this recent spat between Viacom & DirecTV is gonna hurt ratings badly), and coupled with WWE’s recent downturn in overall quality, the time is right for them to put their best foot forward and attempt to win over new converts. An area I believe they could do themselves a great deal of good is in the Hispanic/Latino marketplace, a largely untapped resource to this point.
Dating back to Pedro Morales in the 70’s, the WWE (then the WWWF) has almost always had a strong Latino roster member, someone the Hispanic/Latino people could relate to, get behind, and cheer like crazy for. Whether it’s been the aforementioned Morales, or Tito Santana in the 80’s, or Eddie Guerrero in the 90’s and 00’s, or Rey Mysterio, Jr. over the last decade, WWE has always done a great job of marketing a strong Latino babyface to the people. With the Hispanic/Latino community making up close to 18% of the population, it’s just smart business. Because of this, I’m a little surprised TNA hasn’t done more to develop and push a prominent Latino character on their weekly television.
Starting with LAX, then carrying over to the more recent Mexican America, TNA has had a couple of quality Latino heel factions, but never a big, bad babyface to push to the moon. For a time, I thought Hernandez was gonna be that guy. He’s got a great look, the fans react to him, and he’s convincing in-ring. He seemed to be on the way up the ladder, especially after his feud with Matt Morgan, but whether he got caught up in the Russo-Lagana switchover, or because his Border Toss finisher almost destroyed a couple of fellow wrestlers (I still get a cold chill when I think about Doug Williams getting dropped on his head), Hernandez stumbled. Aside from a couple of appearances over the last few months, including a match against Kid Kash at TNA’s biggest PPV ever, Slammiversary, Hernandez has been largely an afterthought, spending a good piece of time working in Mexico. I don’t believe it’s too late to do something big with him, as I think anytime you have a guy that big and that agile you have a chance at making them into something, but it’s gonna take a lot more than the odd appearance to make it happen.
Personally, I feel like Carlito is the perfect guy to bring into the fold. Not only is he a former Intercontinental Champion with WWE, but he also has great bloodlines as a member of the famed Colón wrestling family. Carlito has a great look, is a top shelf in-ring performer, and has an excellent promo. With his charisma and gift of gab, just handing him a microphone and letting him riff would be enough to win over a new, untapped Latino fan base. I feel like TNA could position him comfortably in a Stone Cold-esque anti-hero role, a role in which he’d feel very comfortable as it would allow Carlito to be himself, which always makes for the best, most authentic performers. With TNA already loaded with talented wrestlers, bringing in Carlito would only enhance the product, setting up a long run of new, as yet unseen feuds. Just imagine a program between the smartass, wisecracking Carlito and the serious, businesslike Bobby Roode. If you can’t see the money in that, you don’t like professional wrestling.
Another option would be to try and do something with Mexico’s popular wrestling company, Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA). TNA has maintained a working relationship with AAA for the better part of 8 years, however most of the talent goes from TNA to AAA, with no reciprocation from the 20 year old Mexican promotion. I have no clue as to why this is, but it would seem to be a wasted opportunity at getting some high flying lucha libre into the TNA mix. At one point, there was rumored talk of an ‘Invasion’ storyline, with Jeff Jarrett, then the AAA Heavyweight Champion leading a band of luchadores to TNA and running roughshod, but it never materialized. Personally, that too feels like a wasted opportunity, assuming it ever truly was one to begin with. I certainly recall the ill-fated attempt to use AAA performers on TNA television back in 2007, but times have changed for TNA, as has much of the roster and creative team. If Dave Lagana and Co. can come up with a way to introduce a crew of AAA performers into the mix, especially if someone like Jeff Jarrett were their mouthpiece, I don’t see any way it could fail.
The Latino population will only continue to grow here in the United States. The Hispanic/Latino community are an important part of our lives in more way than can be counted and their buying power is unmatched. To simply ignore such a large segment of society is irresponsible business. My hope is that TNA will take some steps to improve themselves in the area, as I believe it’s a smart way to reel in new viewers to a program currently running on all cylinders. With WWE doing very little worth tuning in to see each week, and with ROH not making near the splash many thought they would make with their Sinclair TV deal, TNA’s timing couldn’t be better. Nothing they do will ever level the playing field against the massive marketing machine that is WWE, but at this very moment, fans are looking for something besides the soap opera-drenched WWE. If TNA was ever going to have a shot at at least closing the gap, that time is now.