How Is Impact Wrestling Dealing With Cutbacks & Departures?

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Good day Impact Wrestling fans. Feeling underwhelmed by the previous attempt, I decided to revise and add more detail from user’s feedback. There’s much to touch upon, so let’s begin where the new regime took over, with an explanation of the deal between Dixie Carter and Anthem Sports in early 2017.

Acquisition

It’s no secret that Smashing Pumpkins lead Billy Corgan wanted to own a wrestling company, so in 2016 he became the president of TNA. However, years of poor business practices led to the company accumulating debt, which Corgan helped with, out of good will, by loaning money to Dixie Carter. Only two months later, he was having to threaten the company for not repaying the loan, and TNA Wrestling came very close to filing for bankruptcy. Anthem Sports, one of the stakeholders, took it upon themselves to pay off the debts and Corgan’s loan.

By January 2017, Corgan was no longer with TNA and Anthem Sports purchased a majority stake, reducing Dixie Carter’s share to a tiny 5%. She was relieved from her position and replaced by Ed Nordholm. Many changes were made in the aftermath, including:

  • The parent company’s name was changed to Anthem Wrestling Exhibitions, LLC.
  • Bringing in Jeff Jarrett, Anthem looked (& failed) to merge Impact with his Global Force Wrestling promotion.
  • They launched the Global Wrestling Network, which recently rebranded in to Impact Plus.
  • Due to contract disputes, they lost Drew Galloway, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Jade, Crazzy Steve, Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis in a short time.
  • The six-sided ring was dumped for a traditional four-sided ring.
  • They hired Scott D’Amore & Don Callis as Executive Vice Presidents.

What followed was a whole bunch of new signings (like the Lucha Brothers, Su Yung, Kiera Hogan etc), along with Impact Wrestling reaching out to other companies for cross-promotion. AAA, Pro Wrestling NOAH, Lucha Underground, and others were willing to do business and exchange talents. So much has changed, but they are heading in the right direction.



Moving House

Speaking of which, the Impact Zone had a dead atmosphere, and Anthem Sports felt it’d be more convenient to move operations to Canada where the parent company is based. Ed Nordholm and management cut back on a lot of things, including expensive contracts, and replacing long-time staff (like Earl Hebner) for cheaper, unknown alternatives. Production values also took a hit, along with some of the bigger venues they were running a few years earlier.


All of this was done to make the company sustainable in the long term. But while they’re doing decent business overseas, landing on a big network in the United States remains challenging. With SmackDown Live going to FOX, and AEW debuting on TNT, it’s hard to imagine them being able to compete. And due to landing on the Pursuit Channel (which Anthem partly owns), many US fans do not have it with their subscriptions, so they had to provide an alternative method of viewing via the online platform Twitch. This was a really good move, because anyone can use it so long as they have internet.

In recent news, Dave Meltzer shared a story of Impact officials negotiating with AXS TV. Details are limited, but it’s rumoured they were looking to buy the network. Whatever happens, it would surely be a better place to watch the product over what the Pursuit Channel currently provides. Since changing over from Pop TV (which was not the best experience), the viewership has been in decline due to the limited availability. It would be really amazing if they could land on AXS, as more fans will be willing and able to catch it on a weekly basis. Fingers crossed!

Knockouts

Next up, I’d like to talk about the roster and the divisions tied to championships. The Knockouts have always been a major selling point, paving the way for women’s wrestling for over a decade. And it still pushes the envelope with Monster’s Ball matches, and Knockouts like Tessa Blanchard going beyond to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship in contests against men. TNA Impact has always featured women’s wrestling in some form, and I couldn’t be happier with the current crop. Tessa Blanchard is a surefire star.


The only minor gripe I have with the current division is there’s not enough babyfaces. Rosemary & Jordynne Grace have been carrying things, although the addition of Tenille Dashwood should bring some balance. The champion Taya Valkyrie, Havok, Su Yung, Madison Rayne & Kiera Hogan are all great in their roles. It’s been entertaining to see the evolution of Su Yung and Kiera Hogan especially. Madison is a proven veteran, while Havok is believable as a monster. Despite being irked by Valkyrie’s title win over Tessa Blanchard, she’s proven herself in the past few months, and being seen accompanying World Champion and husband Johnny Impact did wonders for her character.


X Division

On to the X Division. I have to give it to Rich Swann for showing his worth by holding the title so long. He defended it in some high-profile feuds, mainly against non X Division contenders. They have enough guys to build a division around, but the title is being treated more like another World Championship. The X Division has always been about no limits, but in the past, it has also booked some in to a corner. It’s understandable why management is shying away from labeling anyone as “X Division guys”. By not defining who’s apart of it, they are giving more freedom to the likes of Ace Austin, TJP, Rich Swann, Willie Mack, Petey Williams etc.

While I think it could be better, the important thing is they are always having quality matches for the championship. I was happy seeing Jake Crist win the title, because the “Golden Draw” has certainly earned it with his performances. The X Division has always been for solid workers like him, and I hope this trend continues for years to come.

Tag Teams

As for tag team wrestling the past year, it’s stolen the show more often than not. LAX & The Lucha Brothers fought in an intense rivalry for over six months, but sadly, we didn’t get more of it because Pentagon Jr & Fenix signed with All Elite Wrestling. There’s been talks of LAX wanting to sign with WWE or AEW, but with Santana out injured, it’s not easy to predict what’s going to happen. LAX still exists thanks to Santana’s replacement Daga, but it’s not the same. And while The Rascalz could’ve taken over as the #1 team, management felt the Canadian team (The North) of Ethan Page & Josh Alexander should take the wheel.

Outside of these teams it’s hard to find anyone worthy of claiming the titles. Had KM & Scarlett Bordeaux decided to stay with Impact (KM didn’t like his pay, Scarlett wanted to wrestle Knockouts more), the fun comedy duo of KM & Fallah Bahh may have found themselves in contention. oVe would be a good choice also, but for some reason .. Dave Crist isn’t used while his brother Jake enjoys singles success. I think Rich Swann & Willie Mack would be excellent contenders while The Deaners & Desi Hit Squad squabble among themselves. So while there have been many changes as of late, at least officials are actively promoting tag team wrestling in main events. They need to prepare for the possibility of LAX jumping ship when Santana’s fully recovered.

Main Event Scene

The World Heavyweight Championship scene is not as healthy as it could be. The only former World Champs currently employed are Eddie Edwards and Rob Van Dam; and everyone else has either moved on to WWE, AEW, or the indies. And with Brian Cage working through several injuries, we’ve not seen the World Champion much since he won at Rebellion. There’s been talks of him vacating a few times, but they’re doing everything to stop it. Also, it doesn’t help that both Johnny Impact and Austin Aries left the company shortly after losing the title. There’s much to do, to lay the foundations for a healthier, more competitive main event scene.


Who could frequent the main event scene? Sami Callihan is #1 contender, so that’s a good start. Michael Elgin failed in his latest attempt, but he’s bound to win eventually. And while he’s getting older, I think Rhino would be a great veteran to add to the mix; although he never has to win the title. Moose would be another, but for some reason he’s pissed with management while targeting Fallah Bahh. And Eddie Edwards? He’s a character now, unlike when he was champ.

Otherwise, I’m struggling to think of anyone else. Killer Kross? He’s been in the news for wanting out of his contract, but being denied. He & his girlfriend Scarlett Bordeaux have shown interest in AEW (they attended Double or Nothing), so it seems obvious he’s working through the rest of his contract. While he’s apparently scheduled for the Mexico tour (can’t find confirmation), he has not been featured on TV since losing to Eddie Edwards at Slammiversary. Since then, he’s wrestled Jon Moxley and is booked for Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 2. I’d love to see him stay on, but all signs point to him wanting out.

Competition

While Impact Wrestling has competition from many others, including MLW, AEW’s TV debut, and NWA’s (Corgan owned) return to TV, it’s safe to say they’ve turned a corner since the TNA days. Venues have gotten smaller, but they are slowly building back up and are selling out while doing their best not to overspend. Anthem has decent sized pockets, but there’s not much point injecting major cash flow when they’ve yet to sign a big TV deal in the US. It’s healthier to let the company grow organically, instead of throwing money at it with no plan. Bringing in some former ECW guys helps too, because while they won’t be around forever, they help to get over the next generation of talent.


And yes, I know they are not booking Sandman or Lance Storm in matches; they were only cameo appearances. Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu and Rhino do get booked however, but not to the point they are detrimental to the future. The ECW guys have won matches, but are not getting any title shots. And we don’t see all four of ’em every show, as Impact limits how many we see per show. This is good business, as they can put over the young talent at the same time as selling tickets. Rhino has the most fire, as is evident by his intense promos and the fact he’s straight in to feuding with Michael Elgin. This keeps the company moving forward, without relying too heavily on the past.

Conclusion

How is Anthem & Impact Wrestling dealing with cutbacks and departures? Really well. The show doesn’t look as clean as it once did, but the booking is smoother and logical. We have champions who deserve to be champions, and there’s so much untapped potential from the rest of the roster. Considering the many alternatives for talent & fans alike, Impact are doing a solid job at working with who they have.


I wouldn’t say the shows are winning any awards but they’re certainly far from bad. There’s nothing controversial going on, as we’re treated to doses of quality professional wrestling every week; without any flash or filler. They’ve certainly gotten over the negative “LOLTNA” stigma which was so tightly attached. Full featured PPVs are rare, and rightly so. Every Impact PPV feels like a special event, due to having months to build up the feuds & storylines. The only thing that annoys me? Is Josh Mathews .. but that’s just personal preference.

To round things up, allow me to ask you a few questions. Who do you think they should push in the main event scene? Should they define who the X Division guys are? If you could choose a channel to air Impact Wrestling, which would you prefer? And also, do you think Impact is going to suffer when AEW & NWA dip their toes in to the waters of weekly programming? I like to think they can, as they’ve survived for years when so many doubted them. They have the ability to make new stars and produce quality shows week in, week out. It’s a product you might want to give a second, third, or fourth chance at. And with that said, thanks for reading everyone! See you again another day.

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