×

Billy Corgan Wants to Flip Professional Wrestling on Its Ear

Here’s the latest arm-twist to the field of professional wrestling: Billy Corgan – yes, that Billy Corgan – wants to use a medium that is decidedly heavy on piledrivers and figure-four leglocks to explore issues of race, ethnicity and gender.

Corgan, leader of the innovative rock group Smashing Pumpkins, has joined TNA Impact Wrestling as senior producer of creative and talent development and, as such, will have a strong hand guiding such luminaries as Kurt Angle, Bobby Roode and Jeff Hardy and their exploits on TNA’s flagship “Impact Wrestling” program that has airs on Discovery CommunicationsDestination America cable network. Rather than trotting out the same old “heels” and “babyfaces” — pro-wrestling argot for “bad guys” and good guys” — Corgan thinks fans are ready for new stories.

“There is a tremendous opportunity to go into really fresh, new directions,” Corgan explained in an interview. Having characters who explore race or transgender issues is certainly a possibility, he suggested. “There are ways to explore those themes in ways that are productive, create new stars and show that value-based ‘babyfaces,’ no matter what their background, no matter where they come from, can draw new audiences and inspire people in new ways.”

Corgan’s thinking is necessary to stand out in a crowded field that is largely dominated by World Wrestling Entertainment and is also filled with overseas competitors like Japan’s New Japan Pro Wrestling and Mexico’s AAA Mega Championship, explained Dixie Carter, TNA’s president, in an interview. “We need to make our existing characters have a greater depth to them,” she said. “We want the stories to have a depth and a meaning to someone that is relevant today. Billy can really help that.”

In decades past, wrestling’s portrayal of different cultures has not always been kind, whether it be the headdress-wearing Native Americans known as Jay and Jules Strongbow, the mute behemoths called the Wild Samoans, or the effeminate character “Adorable” Adrian Adonis. TNA is betting that it can bring new fans to the arena by giving a stronger nod to cultures with growing influence in American society. It’s a tactic that big advertisers ranging from Coca-Cola to General Mills have adopted in the last few years, running commercials featuring families from a wider range of backgrounds and using multiple languages. TV networks have also begun to cast more broadly for programs like “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat” that try to offer viewpoints from African-American or Asian-American characters.

TNA’s maneuver comes as WWE has also begun efforts to bring a wider crowd to its antics. The Stamford, Conn.-based company recently launched a new campaign with NBCUniversal – which shows WWE programs on its USA cable outlet – that plays up the heroic and charitable works by such wrestlers as John Cena.

For Corgan, the match-up with professional wresting is not as unlikely as it might first seem. The writer of such tunes as “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Tonight, Tonight” says he has been a wrestling fan for much of his life, originally getting into the sport by following competitors such as Verne Gagne and Dick the Bruiser. “It was about tough guys in tights, before the really colorful stuff came in more fully into the 1980s,” he said. In recent years, Corgan even ran a small wrestling promotion around Chicago.

TNA’s Carter said she met Corgan several years ago and, familiar with his deep interest in the sport, she convinced him to join her executives for a plotting session. Some of his creative work will begin to show up in TNA programming slated to hit the air in early May, she said.

Corgan believes his ideas will “ break new ground.” In 2015, he said, “Those social and cultural issues that are sort of a ‘don’t go there’ subject” will result in themes that will feel more meaningful to current audiences. “I think there’s an endless supply of things in our culture where people are dealing with race or with gender, etc., and you can get into these things in a way that is both revelatory and enlightening. Treated the right way, ultimately, the good guy wins. The right ideas win.”

TNA bouts have run on Destination America since January. Discovery and TNA struck a multiyear deal in late 2014 that also includes the U.S. premiere of various series and specials from the company and gives Discovery international broadcasting rights for the programs in certain regions.

Correction: A previous version of this post referred to John Cena as Tony Cena.

More TV

  • Paradigm Agency Cuts 30 Staff Positions,

    Paradigm Agency Cuts 30 Staff Positions, Mostly in Music

    Paradigm has made a significant cut to its staff, laying off about 30 agents and support staff or 4% of its employees, Variety has confirmed. Sources said most of the layoffs were in the music area at the agency and took place Friday.. Paradigm, which had about 700 employees prior to the layoffs, had no [...]

  • Edward Burns'Alex Cross' film premiere, Los

    Edward Burns Dramedy, Blumhouse TV Docuseries in Development at Epix

    Epix is eyeing some potential new additions on both the scripted and unscripted front. Network president Michael Wright unveiled Epix’s development slate, which includes two scripted projects and three prospective docuseries, at its Television Critics’ Association winter press tour day. One of the two scripted series hails from Edward Burns who is best known for [...]

  • Kim Kardashian WestFashion Group International's Night

    Kim Kardashian West 'Goes to War' on Mass Incarceration in Documentary Trailer (Watch)

    Kim Kardashian West is going to war on mass incarceration. Oxygen has released the trailer for her documentary “Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project,” which sees the media personality declare that “there is a mass incarceration problem in the United States.” The two-hour documentary, premiering Sunday, April 5, captures Kardashian West as she explores the [...]

  • Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of

    Harry and Meghan Will Give Up Royal Titles, Repay U.K. for House Renovation

    Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will lose their royal titles of “His Royal Highness” or “Her Royal Highness,” when they step back as senior members of the United Kingdom’s royal family, according to a new statement from Queen Elizabeth and Buckingham Palace. However, the duo will maintain the moniker of Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The [...]

  • Grey's Anatomy deaths

    The Top 13 ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Deaths Ranked

    If there’s anyone that knows how to deliver a heart-wrenching death scene, it’s the team behind ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” Created by Shonda Rhimes, the broadcast medical drama came out of the gate in 2005 with literal life and death stakes for its characters. Being set in a hospital meant that mortality was a constant theme [...]

  • Jeffrey Epstein

    'Surviving Jeffrey Epstein' Docuseries Gets Greenlight at Lifetime

    Lifetime has officially ordered the four-hour documentary series “Surviving Jeffrey Epstein.” The announcement was made at the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Saturday. The series was originally announced as in development last summer and is expected to air this summer on Lifetime. Hailing from Emmy-winner Robert Friedman’s Bungalow Media + Entertainment, Anne Sundberg [...]

  • Lorena Gallo, Lorena Bobbitt. Documentary subject

    Lorena Bobbitt Biopic Greenlit at Lifetime

    Lorena Bobbitt’s story is getting the biopic treatment. Lifetime has greenlit “I Was Lorena Bobbitt,” a feature about the woman who became a household name and made tabloid headlines when she cut off her husband’s penis with a knife in 1993 after years of abuse. Bobbitt was the subject of a Jordan Peele-produced Amazon docuseries [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content