Q&A with Dixie Carter
I conducted a phone interview Wednesday with TNA president Dixie Carter, who discussed Kurt Angle’s arrest, Jeff Jarrett’s status with the company, TNA’s new deal with Spike TV and more.
Carter will make her first appearance on Impact on Thursday’s episode to make an announcement regarding TNA star Bobby Lashley.
TNA and Spike TV recently agreed to a three-year extension. What does that means for TNA moving forward?
It’s a huge deal for us. We’ve been with Spike four years now, and in that time period we’ve more than doubled our viewing audience. We’re almost at like two and a half times where we started. And we’ve moved time slots three different times and two different days, and it’s just a testament to those loyal wrestling fans out there to continue to follow us and to continue to allow us to grow. Spike is extremely happy and they’ve been very, very good partners, but we look forward to growing new programming with them as well as other networks
Why did you choose this time to make your first appearance on Impact?
Well, I’ve been asked nonstop when I’m going to be on television. I don’t have a problem being in front of the fans, but I just like it on a much more personal level – being able to talk to them and listen to them and thank them for helping us grow. But it’s also my job to help promote TNA, and there’s just been so many great things going on for us lately – the Spike signing, and Bobby Lashley is a really unique signing for us as well. So it was just time for me to come on and talk about a couple of the things happening.
Have you thought at all about moving Impact to either Monday or Friday night to go head-to-head with Raw or Smackdown?
I think that you’re going to see some different things with us and Spike. I think that’s our goal going into this. Do we know specifically what they’re going to be? No. Does Spike love us for Thursday night on their network? Absolutely, they do. Is that our preference? No. We would love to be up against Raw on Monday night.
Can you talk about the decision to keep the TNA world title on Kurt Angle at the pay-per-view a day after his arrest?
I can talk about it to some degree because it’s an ongoing legal case. I was briefed on the details of what happened, and I also know that people are innocent until proven guilty. And I think just like most sports franchises these days, they let the legal system do what they do best and you await the outcome. And that’s what we did.
Is Rhaka Khan still with the company?
Yes, she is currently a TNA talent.
Can you comment on what Jeff Jarrett’s future is with TNA?
Jeff’s been working on a lot of different things for the company. He’s been working with me on developing new programming in kind of a bigger capacity in some ways, but that’s been his focus as of late.
Is there any timetable for his return to TV?
Creatively, no. I don’t know. I would assume sooner than later, but I’m not sure exactly story line wise when that will be.
How much input do you have in the creative direction of TNA?
I’ve had more and more input as of late, but I’m also the type of person who puts people in place, and as long as structure is being followed and we’re seeing positive results, I like to let people try to do what they do best. I don’t pretend to be a wrestling booker, but I do know when we’re having success, because a lot of other parts of the business are impacted by that, as well as our relationship with the network. We’ve made a lot of changes this year over the last six or seven months and we’re starting to really see positive changes in ratings, and we’re just ready for those to continue to grow.
Were you a wrestling fan before your involvement with TNA?
I was a wrestling fan growing up. I grew up in Dallas, and the Von Erichs were gods there, and I was a Hulk Hogan fan. I watched Saturday morning wrestling with my brother all the time. But I quit watching wrestling as a young adult. I just did not like what was on television; it really didn’t appeal to me. I booked wrestling in college a little bit but had gotten away from it until I started talking with the TNA folks back at the end of 2001, early 2002.
You booked wrestling in college?
Yeah. I went to the University of Mississippi and I booked wrestling for us several times on campus.
So they were independent shows?
I booked mostly out of Memphis. Ric Flair and those guys up there. Jerry Lawler. At one point I think I even had Jeff Jarrett, even though I didn’t know him at that point. We’ve had a couple of weird accounts. I think I booked him at Ole Miss, and then we used to live absolutely next door to each other in Dallas right after I graduated from college.
Are there any plans for TNA to come to Baltimore or Washington?
It’s absolutely on our target list to come to. I think it would be a great market for us. Our ratings have really started to grow in both the D.C. and the Baltimore markets, and it’s a goal for us to get there and bring a big show.
This is kind of a broad question. What other plans do you have to expand the brand?
I think it’s very, very important for us to get more programming. A great case study is in the United Kingdom right now, where we have three or four shows on in a given week, and we’re not just beating ECW like we’re doing in the United States on certain weeks, but we’re beating all three of our competitor’s programming. Two weeks ago, we were No. 1, Raw was No. 2, Smackdown and then ECW. Literally our ratings were double what Raw’s were, not just ECW’s. We’re being more competitive internationally because we have more programming. And Spike understands that and recognizes that. We’re going to have more programming with them. We’re talking to other networks. We’re going to have more exposure on other networks as well. And that’s going to help us grow in the United States faster.
You mentioned more programming. TNA’s women’s division is something that has set the company apart, and there was speculation a while ago about doing an all-women’s show. Was that ever seriously discussed, and if so, is it still a possibility?
I don’t know. That’s something that could happen at some point. We’ve just announced that we’re going to have a women’s tag team title, and with the Knockouts title as well, that’s making them a much bigger and more important part of our show. I have to tell you, if you tune in to Impact Thursday night on Spike, you’re going to see the Hamada versus Daffney no-DQ match that was unbelievable. You will not see that anywhere else in the world. The Knockouts tag title tournament – there is some really, really good stuff. We’ve made some changes with the girls the last couple months with the signing of talent, the agents working with them, et cetera, and I think you’re going to see a whole, fresh, exciting vibe to the girls.
One of the criticisms of TNA – and WWE as well – is that there has been a failure to create new stars and it’s always the same veterans at the top. In TNA, it’s all the former WWE and WCW stars. What are your thoughts?
I think as a newer company we have to have exposure. And we have to have that using name recognized talent. So these guys that have come in – the Mick Foleys, the Kurt Angles, the Stings, the Booker T’s – they have come in with such a great understanding and respect for the fact that they’re there to help grow and expose TNA to more fans, and also help us get our own TNA original or homegrown talent over. And if you’ve watched the show of late, you’ve already started to see a tremendous shift in focus on going from those veterans who have helped us in such a great way to seeing these young guys getting their due – A.J. Styles, Matt Morgan, Hernandez, Beer Money, Samoa Joe, and I can go on and on. If you watch, I don’t think anybody’s going to be able to use that criticism toward TNA.
We’ve seen owners and executive in other wrestling companies become characters on TV. Do you have any interest in doing that at some point?
I can only be who I am. I’m not a character. Will you be seeing more of me on Impact or in other places in visible roles? That is my role, as long as it’s supportive of what we’re doing. There are a lot of great business things going on for the company out there, and I’m the one right in the mix, and it makes sense for me to do it on that level. But as far as being a character and being in a love triangle, no way.
NOTE: In regard to the ratings in the United Kingdom, according to various wrestling Web sites, for the week of Aug. 2-8, Impact had 67,000 viewers, Raw had 50,000 and Smackdown had 48,000. A replay of Raw later in the week had 29,000, and a replay of Smackdown had 44,000.