Corgan rocks outside ring as writer for TNA Wrestling
Billy Corgan is in the mood to write some more hits.
Only this time, think flying elbows to the chest, steel chairs to the back and wicked clotheslines rather than alt rock chart toppers.
Corgan, the longtime Smashing Pumpkins’ frontman, is set to make his debut as the behind-the-scenes brainchild for TNA Wrestling.
He’s not the first musician to trade the stage for the squared circle.
Cyndi Lauper was a featured act at the first WrestleMania. Alice Cooper accompanied Jake Roberts to the ring. Toby Keith suplexed Jeff Jarrett.
Corgan is trying his hand at scripting the action. He’ll mix rock-and-wrestling this summer as his band heads out on another tour all while pitching storylines for the promotion that has a basic cable home on Friday nights.
“I’m not here as celebrity,” Corgan said. “I’m here as a skilled person that brings a lot of experience to the table.”
Corgan is a die-hard fan, spotted ringside at some of wrestling’s biggest cards. He also recently worked on the independent scene with Resistance Pro Wrestling.
He was hired last week as TNA’ senior producer, creative and talent development, and has already offered input into Friday’s show.
Yes, this is for real — and a fitting job for a musician who wrote the lyric, “But can you fake it, for just one more show?”
Corgan will attend TV tapings and said this is a year-round job, fully committed even as the Smashing Pumpkins’ tour kicks off June 16 in Munhall, Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh, with Marilyn Manson sharing the bill.
“This won’t be a side job,” TNA President Dixie Carter said. “I talk to him more and we correspond more than most of my employees here.”
Corgan said he has no plans to become an on-screen character.
“I don’t need fame. I have plenty of fame,” he said. “It’s really about the talent.”
TNA Wrestling — short for, Total Nonstop Action — is the de facto No. 2 promotion in the United States, yet has never positioned itself as a true threat to WWE and its sizable grip on the sports-entertainment industry.
Corgan’s arrival signaled the latest reboot for a promotion that has failed to find a true identity.
“We need stars that are wholly identified with TNA only,” Corgan said, “and maybe telling the types of stories that maybe have a different edge to them so that people will identify them as TNA-type stories.”
That means scrapping the idea of becoming a WWE-lite and filling the roster with stars from back in the day like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Kevin Nash, who all failed to move the ratings needle anywhere close toward the 4 million viewers of WWE’s “Raw.”
While “Raw” is live each week for all but a few overseas dates each year, TNA films several weeks of “Impact” episodes in 2-3 day bursts every couple of months, then airs them on tape-delay.
“What will make TNA different is a great level of creativity,” Corgan said.
Corgan is used to telling stories 5 minutes at a time — “Tonight, Tonight,” ″1979,” ″Cherub Rock” — much different from the demand of writing enough material for a 2-hour show each week.
TNA has settled into a storyline groove of late, hindered now by a ratings-killing 9 p.m. Friday slot on little-known network “Destination America.” Corgan likened TNA’s challenges to an up-and-coming band that needed that one killer tune to breakthrough into the mainstream.
“If something gets hot and on a roll, people will talk,” Corgan said. “We have to build a vehicle that will continually provide that opportunity and take advantage of the social media atmosphere. We will win the day if we’re able to move quickly and in a way nobody’s ever tried in the wrestling business.”
He hasn’t ruled out storylines involving race or transgender issues, tackling the kind of characters that have long been played for laughs on a wrestling show. In 2015, Corgan said wrestling fans want more and are ready to deal with the kind of arcs that have made reality TV a smash.
“The biggest mistake you can make in entertainment is to think you’re audience isn’t sophisticated,” he said.
Corgan says he’s in wrestling for the long haul.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if, down the road, my greater focus is the wrestling product,” he said. “I’ve had an incredible music career. I’m also looking for different challenges.”