Hello. Today I’d like to do a piece on the status of GFW (formerly known as TNA) Impact Wrestling. I’ve watched episodes of Impact over ten years, and I’ll admit it’s had its share of ups and downs. I remember when I decided to watch for the first time because I was tired of seeing Cena, Orton, and Batista dominate WWE.
I got to see talent like Sting, AJ Styles, Kurt Angle, Christian, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Abyss, and many more. TNA shone brightly as a true alternative to WWE, but the turn of 2010 and the years which followed saw the promotion decline and fail to stay true to what made it watchable. Impact has never been perfect, but before 2010 it was easy to watch for a number of reasons.
You’re probably already thinking about the debacle which is The Broken Hardys vs. Impact trademark war. You might also be thinking about the Alberto El Patron incident. I strongly suggest that if you can’t put these negative stories to one side (at least til you finished reading), it’s going to be difficult to sell you on any of this so you should probably skip this article. If you can’t put these examples to the back of your mind, then no amount of words on a screen is going to make you think any differently about GFW, Jeff Jarrett, or the talent on show.
Anthem’s Major Changes Which Have Worked.
One of the first things they did after acquiring the company from Dixie Carter was put Jeff Jarrett in charge of shows and creative. They finally dumped the old “TNA” initials (which was known to make it difficult for them to negotiate deals with other companies as it sounds rude), and changed the name to Jarrett’s former promotion Global Force Wrestling.
However, it wasn’t these changes which made the biggest difference. For a few years (pretty much since 2010 onwards) the creative team has been considerably bad. It’s been so easy to disrespect the team, even when Vince Russo ain’t been directly involved. As the new Chief Creative Officer, I believe Jeff Jarrett and Anthem decided to bring back creative staff who were around when TNA was cool to watch. The exception here is Bruce Prichard, who was brought in during the Hogan/Bischoff era as head of creative, and it didn’t go down well. However, this time he’s just a creative consultant, so he pitches ideas but he’s not the one who has the final say. He’s known for his lengthy and successful run as head of creative in WWE.
Bringing back former Team Canada manager Scott D’Amore to be part of creative was a great idea. He has been on the booking committee in TNA before, so it made sense to get him back. Team Canada was a stable which helped wrestlers like Robert (Bobby) Roode, Petey Williams, and Eric Young get noticed by fans. He’s never done anything detrimental to the company. Some of the promotions best years had D’Amore as part of creative.
And another who led creative in a positive light is none other than Dutch Mantell AKA Zeb Colter. Well before he came to WWE and changed his name to Zeb, Mantell worked in TNA as part of creative, mainly as the driving force behind the TNA Knockouts Division. When anyone asks me “how did the women’s revolution start?”, I don’t point to AJ Lee, Stephanie McMahon, Charlotte, Bayley, Sasha, or anyone in WWE. I point to Dutch Mantell, Gail Kim, Awesome Kong, Roxxi Leveaux, The Beautiful People, ODB, and all the Knockouts who worked on Impact between 2007-2010.
They were taking women’s wrestling seriously while WWE was stuck with hot babes who couldn’t wrestle .. like Kelly Kelly. Dutch Mantell was the brains of the operation, he was the one who got Awesome Kong away from Japan. Had he not gone to bat for the girls .. there’s no telling if the company would’ve ever had a women’s title. It wasn’t Jeff Jarrett’s idea, or Dixie Carter’s, this one falls to Dutch and he should be respected for doing so.
But he’s not just someone who can make the girls look good, he can talk to any talent and help them. He’s got decades of experience, and WWE didn’t know what to do with him. As an on-air talent, Mantell is decent. As a creative member backstage, he is way more than decent. I think Impact is doing the right thing by limiting his appearances (when he returned he said he had been with the company before but never showed on TV as he wanted it to be about the talent .. not him), as the show should be about the guys and girls, and we don’t need anymore authority figures outside Bruce Prichard and Karen Jarrett.
A subtle but very welcoming change was bringing back the promotions former ring announcer David Penzer. He is most widely known as one of WCW’s announcers in the Attitude Era, as he attended every single episode of Nitro and Thunder. WWE didn’t pick him up in 2001, so he worked elsewhere til he landed a job with TNA Impact in 2005. He did his job to the best of his ability til he was released in May 2010, only a few short months after Hogan and Bischoff walked in the door. Seven years later, Jarrett and Impact reached out to him and was able to get him away from his job as a real estate agent. And I’m happy about that .. because Christy Hemme sucked and probably deserved Austin Aries’ crotch in her face.
New Faces Everywhere!
Do you know why Impact drew my interest over ten years ago? It was the consistent revolving door of new talent. Almost every week you were guaranteed to experience someone you hadn’t seen before, or at least someone famous from another promotion showing off their skills in the six-sided ring. You’d see Japanese. You’d see luchadors. You’d see old legends show up out of nowhere. You couldn’t know who was going to show up next, as the company did a great job at reaching out to other promotions who were open to accessible talent exchange.
There was always an international feel .. it didn’t feel like a worldwide company focusing on America (as a UK fan I will say WWE feels like this most of the time), it felt like an exciting, smaller promotion who showcased talent all over the world .. to the world. It didn’t treat Mexicans as lesser, it put them on an even playing field. The promotion was filled with talents you’d never seen in WWE. You knew that if the main event scene sucked .. you’d have peace of mind knowing you’ll find plenty of solid feuds and matches in the Knockouts Division, Tag Division, and X-Division. They were open to collaboration .. and didn’t restrict their talents to Impact.
Below I’m going to make a bullet list of wrestlers I’ve seen (old & new) on Impact lately, with a brief description of what I think of them and their potential:
- Joseph Park — After The Hardys and Crazzy Steve left TNA, there wasn’t much left for Decay and Abyss .. so the new creative team reverted him back to the well-received lawyer/split personality gimmick from a few years before. And I can’t complain .. Abyss is old and stale. There’s lots of fun to be had with Joseph Park, and I think we’ve only scratched the surface of its potential.
- ACH — He’s a former ROH wrestler who spent much of his young career not winning any of their championships. It seems like a foregone conclusion that ACH will become a X-Division champion one day, but I’m sure he’s capable of more.
- Caleb Konley / Suicide — Oops, did I spoil it? For those who don’t know, the X-Division wrestler Caleb Konley has also been working as Suicide. The company decided to axe the Suicide name a few years ago in place of “Manik”. Back then, current 205 Live wrestler TJ Perkins played the part of Manik. He kept the same look til it was decided Manik needed to look more like a luchador .. which didn’t make any sense to me. Either way, it didn’t take long for the mysterious Suicide to make its return when Jarrett got control.
- Chris Adonis AKA Chris Masters did the jump from the old GFW to the current GFW to partner with Eli Drake. He completely stole Tyrus’ (aka Brodus Clay) job as Eli’s enforcer, but that’s fine with me as I think Drake and Adonis are a better fit.
- Dezmond Xavier — He’s like the new AJ Styles. Yes, I am putting that much praise on this kid. Xavier is an exciting prospect, he could easily carry the X-Division for the next year or two. He just has to win the belt first .. which will likely come after the Super X Cup final.
- Fallah Bahh & Mario Bokara — I knew nothing about these guys before seeing them on Impact .. yet I’m impressed. Fallah Bahh is a sumo from America with Filipino roots, while Bokara is a 17-year veteran from Croatia. You’d never think these two would form a team .. but they have and I like it. They ain’t won much yet .. but there’s time.
- Garza Jr & Laredo Kid — A face team from Mexico who will be around a long time. Well, I’m not seeing tons out of Laredo Kid, but Garza Jr is the spitting image of his uncle Hector Garza. Impact’s website states he is the grandson of Garza, while wiki states he’s his nephew. Either way .. he looks a lot like Hector, and could end up being this generations Eddie Guerrero if he keeps improving. At 24-years-old he’s got plenty of time.
- LAX — Reintroducing this stable with a new generation of talent led by the old guard of Konnan & Homicide was a very smart move. LAX is lifelike .. you could probably find a few gangs like it in some neighbourhoods. The street thug mentality still works, and with Low-Ki joining the ranks it adds some American flavour and a chance to win the World title. I’m a fan of Ortiz & Santana as a tag team, and while I ain’t seen enough of Diamante’s matches (she’s been injured), I’m positive she’ll find her place in the Knockouts Division while also doing what Nikki Cross does for Sanity in NXT.
- Matt Sydal AKA Evan Bourne is a former WWE Superstar, TNA X-Division wrestler, and ROH wrestler. For years he’s done everything he can to get fan support, and since returning to the X-Division he’s done a good job. After being disrespected by Bobby Lashley, Sydal stood up for himself to prove he isn’t “just an X-Division guy” and can take Lashley to the limit.
- V.O.W (Veterans Of War) — If you told me last year we’d see Crimson return .. I’d have laughed at the idea. Crimson (who now goes by “Mayweather”) was originally slated to be the next Goldberg of the wrestling business, as he racked up an impressive winning streak for over a year despite never getting over. The fans just .. didn’t care. They didn’t care to the point they couldn’t be arsed to boo him. So I was pretty surprised when I saw him return with Wilcox (former ROH wrestler) to form a tag team of former US Army soldiers. And they work well together! I can’t believe it. Still like Wilcox more though.
- Moose — I can’t praise this guy enough .. no amount of descriptive powers can describe how much he has improved over the last two years. He’s incredibly agile for a big man, and the fans love him. It would be an injustice if he never makes it WWE, as he is tailor-made to be a huge star.
- Sonjay Dutt — His return to the X-Division is a good one because you need a veteran to pass the torch on to the next generation. He might be the X-Division champion (after years of being known as the man who never won it) for now, but he’s just a placeholder til the future comes along. When the time is right, he will do what’s best for the future.
Cross Promotion Creates Competition.
One of the first things on the agenda under the new regime was to feature talent from Mexico and Japan on episodes of Impact. This includes wrestlers from Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan, and AAA Wrestling in Mexico. So far we’ve seen stars like El Hijo del Fantasma, Drago, Octagoncito III, Demus 316, Taiji Ishimori, and former three-time GHC Champion Naomichi Marufuji. It is important to feature new faces as it breaks the monotony and predictability a show can get if we are forever seeing the same matchups. It also gives the signed full-time talent a kick in the backside, as it tells them if they decide not to perform at their best .. the company can easily book a lucha star, or someone like Marufuji who can work a decent match with anyone. No one’s job is safe when cross promotion is involved.
It’s just more fun to watch. Honestly, I thought I’d hate it. I thought Anthem and Jarrett would mess it up. But they didn’t .. in fact, the way the company was before they took over was so far gone from what made it work in the past, it wasn’t difficult to improve it. The only thing going for it under the Dixie regime was The Broken Hardys. Without the craziness of the broken universe there wasn’t much else to sink your teeth into. It’s different now, very different.
There’s still a lot of work to do, I’m not saying the product is at the best it can be, work needs to be done to make it the true alternative to WWE .. but it sure is a good start. Yeah Ok, so we know The Hardys hate Anthem for holding on to their gimmick, and Alberto had to be stripped of the GFW title, but I don’t let any of that detract from what has become a solid wrestling show filled with many new faces we can get to know and enjoy. I’ve been a wrestling fan, and you’ve been a reader of a wrestling fans work. Have a nice day!