Dixie Carter is the President of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, known better as TNA and through their IMPACT! Wrestling show which airs weekly, Sunday nights on Challenge TV in the UK. We were granted the opportunity to speak to her about the company and her hopes for its future. As a promoter, business woman, manager and mother it is clear to see where her tenacious company gets its inspirational work ethic from and whilst she may fulfil numerous roles it's easy to summarise Dixie Carter in three short words: a class act.
TNA has moved to a new TV network named Destination America in the US. What was the business rationale for that move and what can we expect to see in the new TNA?
I needed to find somebody who wanted not just to licence a two hour show from us but to be a true partner on every level. Anyone who wants to, can get Destination America and add it to their cable line up - they're part of the Discovery Communications Group which is massive and the number one pay TV programmer in the world and this deal is also a global deal. So I'm just excited about all the different unique opportunities that we're going to have to help grow our brand. We're looking at it as a completely fresh start and the timing is perfect. I just can't wait for everybody to feel what I'm feeling.
There were murmurs that some of the talent weren't well informed during the transition process, can you put the rumours to bed?
I don't think it's true. The talent were the first to hear everything that I could possibly say and they knew that. I had very blunt discussions with them during the process. I told them that I needed them to trust me and that there was more I wanted to share but for the sake of our livelihoods, that it wouldn't be good business or prudent to do so. I told them I was going to work very hard and that we had interest from several places. However, as I said earlier, I was looking for somebody that wanted to make not just a financial but a time and effort investment into us and into our talent. I wasn't going to stop until I found that. So the talent were part of the process the entire way, I told them as much as I possibly could and they were the first to hear the news when I could tell them.
We've been lucky to have British Boot Camp 2 in the UK and you get to decide who wins! What were you looking for in a winner and if you had to pick a runner-up, who would it have been?
Well, I've had a much more difficult time on season two than season one. I went into the first with a preconceived idea of who I thought would win but I was blown away very early on by a contestant called Rockstar Spud and I felt he was the perfect candidate. He has done an amazing job and has set the bar so high. There hasn't been a standout candidate and I don't know whether I'm disappointed by that or if there's just so many good people to choose from! Its been difficult but I want to make the right decision. As for a runner-up, if I had to pick it would be Grado. I'm a fan of his and I think he has something special but I left this in the hands of the judges.
Maybe he'll make it back on Bootcamp 3!?
Maybe. I'd like there to be a Bootcamp 3.
Grado is one of the finalists to be appearing on TNA's forthcoming UK tour, which you've just made a huge announcement about. Do you think it gives you an edge, having home grown talent appearing? It seems that's the model you are adopting in India too.
Absolutely. You look at the UK and you have Magnus, who I think had a fantastic run as Heavyweight Champion and you have Bram who I expect big things from - so we're well represented there. We really wanted to get a great Indian wrestler - and there are lots on the indepdent scene from all over the world -but I think the reason we've had global success is that we've gone into these markets and tried to find people that have stories and a connection to their country. When you hear Mahabali Shera's story in full it will blow your mind. Doing things like that makes us different and special.
You've given the UK cage matches and IMPACT filmings on recent tours - can we have a Pay-Per-View next please?
It's absolutely something we should think about. It's hard with the time schedules and I do want to do it. The truth is those shows are so big for us but many more people see the television shows worldwide so I was being a little selfish in wanting more people to know how great the UK fans were.
Stone Cold Steve Austin, interviewing Vince Mcmahon this week said "... you don't have anyone to compete against... with all due respect to TNA." Vince's response was "we're competing against everything else that's on television". Do you think that's a fair analysis?
Well, I think it's ridiculous to say that we're not competition. If we weren't competition they wouldn't try to stop our growth at every turn. We're both wrestling companies and so competing for the same networks internationally and the same ticket sales globally and therefore you are competitors but all we can do is focus on what we do best. My big focus for 2015 is to further distinguish our product from anybody else's out there. What can we do better and what have we been doing great that we can take to another level. We're going to be announcing in the coming weeks some realty exciting changes to our show and that's a big part - trying to make our brand much more distinctive than not just WWE but other wrestling companies around the world.
With Tyrus being just one example of a wrestler moving to TNA, have you proven you are a viable home for top global talents?
Well what do you see when we haven't renewed contracts with certain talents or when they've moved on? You're seeing them in WWE. I think more of our talent have been working in WWE than vice-versa recently. We're looking at who the next EC3 is. If it happens to be someone who is a little more established and has been in WWE for a while then great but I want to find people that feel young and fresh and add a different dimension to our show. Focussing on younger talents was a big risk - giving a lot of time to wrestlers that people knew little to nothing about. Yet in a short period of time we've established more new talent then we had in 5 years or more and of those that were new to us when we started, they're all main event superstars now - Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, James Storm - I could go on and on. It's so exciting to see them go from the new guys to the top of the card. I'm very proud of 2014, I think we did a lot of things right and we'll try and work from that and carry on in 2015.
Pulling a prank on the boss must be a career goal, what's the best rib that's been pulled on you?
I don't think the talent have really ever done anything to me. I had somebody call me once and leave a message to call back Shane McMahon. So I returned his call but he had never called me. We had a conversation and he's a lovely guy. But don't give the roster any ideas!
Who's the next breakthrough star for TNA?
I'm a huge Bobby Lashley fan - I think he had an outstanding year. He may not be one of the new guys but he came back so fresh and was a beast in the ring. I'm so proud of the matches he had, we threw every kind of style at him and he had great matches with everybody. Of the young guys, I love what we're doing with tag-teams right now and the Wolves were a big part of revitalising that. Im really looking forward to exciting changes in the X-Division this year too. I'm a huge EC3 fan - and not just because he's my nephew but because he has everything it takes to be a superstar. Bram surprised me this year, he was fantastic.... It's like asking me who's your favourite child! Everyone contributes and there's not one of the talents on our roster that I'm not proud of.
You are a mum, daughter, wife, business owner, on screen talent - what's your secret to organising your life?
There's a lot of moving pieces and it's not easy! I have an incredible husband, my kids are my life and are part of it. They've been coming to shows and been part of this crazy world I live in since the day they were born and so I don't leave them, I involve them. We're the kind of family that works together and has fun doing it - travelling and doing things together. Then you just have to have great people work with you.
How did your family feel about going through table and how did you feel afterwards?
Well I felt quite injured! They weren't really happy about it - my son was concerned for me and offering to do things and my daughter was just mad at people and wanted me to fire them. I'm just glad I'm on the other side of it. Don't let anybody ever say I wouldn't break my back for this company!
Our perception of you is as a serious business lady who has broken through in a traditionally male dominated environment but Kurt Angle recently said your heart is too big. Is he right?
I think that's a really interesting. You don't have to be a screamer or a b**ch to be a good business person. I happen to care about these talent and I don't think a lot of them are used to someone in this position really caring about them and their families and their health and everything else. I feel like I am a lot tougher than some of them may realise. I'm just a personable person that cares deeply but when it comes to business it's a whole different side but you don't have to be ugly to do that.
British Boot Camp 2 concludes this Sunday at 9pm on Challenge TV. The stars of Boot Camp will be on tour across the UK in January and tickets are available here.