Power Slam recently conducted an interview with Wayne Keown, better known as Dutch Mantel. Having been involved with the wrestling industry since 1973, he accepted a behind the scenes role with TNA Wrestling in 2003, where the company’s booking strategy often clashed with his own. Dutch discussed his experience with TNA and explained the organization’s booking philosophy.
Power Slam: After you left the IWA in 2003, you took a job on the TNA creative team. Your booking philosophy was at odds with TNA’s during Vince Russo’s early years with the company and after he officially returned in September 2006, I know you believe wrestling should be realistic, and feature clearly-defined characters and logical storylines which build to a conclusion. And, yet, you worked alongside Russo from September 2006 to summer 2009, a period in which TNA’s output typically consisted of the reverse: puerile characters and nonsensical storylines in a package which was often congested viewers found it impossible to digest what they had just seen.
Dutch Mantel: I like Dixie Carter, but you can’t have too much [on iMPACT!]. They are so afraid somebody’s going to change the channel and go somewhere else. I think TNA’s roster is much better than WWE’s. But when you’ve got someone like AJ Styles, you’ve got to let him wrestle. You’ve also got to get your characters over. TNA to me is trying to do the same things that WWE is doing. They’re trying to be a copy — and not a good one — instead of being the alternative. [TNA] has come under criticism … but the company can do what they want to do. Then again, I spent six years there watching them do things differently to how I would do them.
Power Slam: When Russo proposed ideas which you thought were ridiculous during creative meetings, would you object to them?
Dutch Mantel: Everything in TNA was done by committee, by vote. I’ll say this about Vince: he has some pretty decent ideas at the start, but what he’s lacking — and Bret Hart, “Stone Cold” and even Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff have said this as well — is the execution of the ideas. You’ve got to take a good idea all the way through to the end of the process. And when the ideas failed, as most of them did, well … Look [TNA] was a committee. If the committee decided that was the way to they wanted to go, then I would say, “Okay, let’s do it.
Power Slam: If people in power realize that the “execution of the ideas” in which Russo is “lacking”, why doesn’t somebody force him to rectify this and do his job properly?
Dutch Mantel: Well, I don’t know.
Power Slam: Russo can’t see how flawed his approach is. If he could, he would have corrected it years ago. I think the burning question is, why is the man still employed by TNA?
Dutch Mantel: I do think his major attribute is being able to stay employed. I don’t know how he does it to tell you the truth. When I was there, we got a 1.3 rating. Since I left in July 2009, they haven’t gone above a 1.3 (note: interview was conducted in January). We’re 18 months later, and TNA has got Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Rob Van Dam, Jeff Hardy, and the ratings haven’t even gone up. Look, I wish them all the best in the world, I really do. I like Jeff Jarrett and Dixie — but if you expressed an opinion in TNA, sometimes [the booking team] would look at you like you’d just spit on the Pope. I spoke a language they didn’t speak. I spoke wrestling. They don’t speak that.