Hello and good day to you! Today, we’re talking about the status of Impact Wrestling in the world of professional wrestling.
The promotion has endured a rocky time during the past twenty years. TNA Wrestling did many great things, but for each one of those, there was a questionable business decision around the corner. For every creative breakthrough, there was a booking oddity. As an alternative to WWE, many fans were appreciating what it brought to the table. Yet, there were perhaps just as many picking it apart and calling it “LOLTNA”. And then there are wrestling critics like Dave Meltzer repeatedly calling it the worst wrestling show out there.
Some of the criticism may be warranted, but others perhaps not so much. With a creative writer like Vince Russo hanging around for years, it was bound to draw controversy. Just like his career, many focused on TNA’s negatives and ignored anything positive. They wouldn’t acknowledge the rise of the Knockouts, the X Division, or any of its original stars because TNA had a reputation that was hard to shake. Dixie Carter’s regime did so much to disappoint. Several times it alienated not only those watching from home but the loyal fans who showed up every week to the Impact zone. It soured relationships with other companies like Ring Of Honor and New Japan. In the end, they didn’t have the money to pay for their top talents and many of them left.
It was a sinking ship staring death in the face until Anthem Sports brushed it off and bought it right from under Billy Corgan. The new owners moved the show to Canada and stripped everything back until it resembled an independent promotion. There was no escaping the fact that TNA had spent far more than it was making. Anthem had to ensure that it could pay for itself, and this meant sacrificing production, talent, and more. It bought AXS TV so that it could never be kicked off the network. It doesn’t reach many households, but at least the show has somewhere to call home. Another thing Anthem did was find management who not only knows how to develop talent but has a personal connection to the promotion.
Appointing Scott D’Amore, Don Callis, and others to help rebuild was a smart move. They have been the key to bringing it back from the brink of death. The only serious hiccup during the Anthem era so far was the treatment of The Hardys. They introduced a “broken” gimmick that became so big that the power struggle led to a disagreement and they had to part ways. Many fans were pissed about that, but Anthem established itself as the boss. Matt Hardy has since forgiven them for the dispute. One of the biggest changes in recent years is how unselfish Impact has been while working with other promotions.
Some would say they were too generous during the AEW partnership because they allowed Tony Khan and Tony Schiavone to come on and insult the show every week. They also gave Kenny Omega the Impact World title and put him over talent like Rich Swann, Moose, and Sami Callihan. The only cool thing Impact got out of the arrangement was having the Impact World title appear on AEW programming. We saw a title change in the first episode of Rampage between Omega and Christian Cage. Speaking of him, Christian Cage did well to put over Josh Alexander at the end of the partnership, which was arguably the most generous thing AEW did for Impact.
Another thing to note would be how friendly Impact is with WWE, as the two sides agreed to allow WWE to use footage of former originals like AJ Styles and Samoa Joe. We also saw Mickie James work at the Royal Rumble event, and WWE let her bring the Impact Knockouts title. This amount of goodwill would never have happened under the Dixie Carter regime. Back then, it was more about getting in cheap digs, and the thought of working directly with them was never on the table. WWE was happy enough never mentioning TNA like it didn’t exist. Allowing Mickie James to bring the Impact Knockouts title was by far the biggest acknowledgment WWE has ever given them.
And then there’s New Japan. TNA worked with them several times in the Dixie Carter era, but its treatment of Kazuchika Okada and other things discouraged New Japan management from wanting to do business with them. They started working with ROH instead because Impact believed it would be better off doing everything on its own (it couldn’t). In recent years, this relationship is back on track again, and the proof is there with the repeated bookings of Jay White and his Bullet Club stable. In return, Impact lets New Japan use The Good Brothers, Ace Austin, and Chris Bey. There’s a cool exchange of talent going on, and this used to be normal until Dixie Carter’s regime screwed it up.
At some point in the past year, Impact was working with WWE, AEW, New Japan, Ring of Honor, AAA, and others. They became a central hub for cross-promotion and didn’t mind putting talents from other companies over their own. This is the opposite of what was going down ten years ago when Impact was signing talent exclusively and not allowing them to work extra dates elsewhere. It’s not about competing anymore, because Impact has become a place where the only competition is against other forms of entertainment. They’ll work with any wrestling company if there’s a benefit, even if it gets the raw end of the deal.
Impact hasn’t only grown on the business side, it has set trends with its creativity and booking. Remember when cinematic matches were all the rage during the pandemic? Impact started that. Yeah, I know they didn’t invent cinematic matches, but it popularized them with The Hardys a couple of years before. And then there is daring to make a woman the World Heavyweight Champion by beating a man in a PPV main event. Yeah, the woman has since turned out to be controversial (not for her ring ability, she’s exceptional), but who else can say they would dare do something so bold? Intergender remains slightly taboo to some fans, but again, Impact has done more to bring equality to women’s wrestling than anybody else.
There’s also a great deal of freedom for characters. The wrestlers enjoy filming concepts like Wrestle House. Storylines rarely come across as unnecessary, awkward, or cheap. Sure, there can be some cheesiness, but that’s fine if it’s not overdone. Impact is a place where wrestlers get the time to develop and not have to worry about the added strain of performing live on a major network. There are a few who could have packed up and signed with NXT or AEW for more money but have instead chosen to make Impact their home. They know they will get used well and the booking team plays to their strengths.
Another thing Impact has done well in recent times has been clawing back on screwball finishes. It’s rare to see matches ending in disqualification, but if something screwy happens, you can expect Scott D’Amore to appear and put it right. Too many times in the Dixie Carter regime, we’d see perfectly entertaining matches ruined with over-the-top finishes or dumb decisions that made the fans chant “bulls***”. The days of Vince Russo or Dusty Rhodes overbooking the crap out of everything are long gone. It’s easier to digest, and this makes Impact one of the better wrestling shows each week. Yeah, you still have heels trying to cheat and stuff, but it’s not constantly in your face.
Another thing that made things difficult was the commentary, but they have fixed this with Tom Hannifan (Phillips) and Matthew Rehwoldt (Aiden English). This is a solid duo with a genuine sense of professionalism. Perhaps they aren’t for everyone, but I feel like the shows are better sold with them at the helm. Sure beats Josh Mathews and whoever else they put him with (his pairing with Don Callis wasn’t bad).
In 2022, I often see the same two things said about Impact Wrestling. Those who watch it weekly say “it’s a fun show and may be the most consistent product out there”, and then I see those who don’t say “I don’t know how I can watch it?”. Some have given it a chance but can’t get past how small the crowds are. The usual reason for not watching is that unless you have AXS TV, it isn’t so easily found. As a UK fan, I’ve always had to find other ways of watching because Impact has seldom had a network to air it here. If it did, then it would be days later than the original showing in the US, rendering the option useless.
While I understand fans not wanting to give Impact Wrestling another chance after being given many reasons over the years, that was under the previous management. The Impact Wrestling we have now is far different, and no, it’s not perfect, but I’ve rarely seen screw-ups. It’s clear how much the current management cares and they have the intelligence to keep the product flowing in the right direction. The main issues are Impact needing a better TV deal and bigger crowds. If you can get around those things which aren’t quick fixes, then add Impact to your schedule. Because while TNA is known for its shaky reputation, Impact has done much to turn a corner and fix any negativity attached to it.
Even AJ Styles, a guy who hated the way he was treated on the way out, agreed to share a video at Slammiversary congratulating the company on its 20 years. We should give major kudos to Scott D’Amore and everyone who has worked hard every day to bring the company out of the grave it had a foot in. They have since filled that grave and driven away from the cemetery with a smile. Impact Wrestling is “Hard To Kill” for a reason… long may it live while providing an alternative for wrestlers and fans alike. Thanks for reading!