There’s no such thing as witchcraft, but there seems to be a curse beholden to the Impact World Heavyweight Championship. Don’t believe me? You can be the judge after we look at the past five years of the title’s history. Originally called the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, they rechristened it when new owners Anthem Sports took charge after buying out the previous owner Dixie Carter and parent company Panda Energy.
Ethan Carter III & Matt Hardy (2015-16)
Five years ago, it was Dixie Carter’s “nephew” who took Impact Wrestling by storm when he dethroned Kurt Angle to become the Impact World Heavyweight Champion. Having spent much of his time in WWE as a jobber (Derrick Bateman), this new character gave his career a much-needed push in the right direction.
However, the run didn’t last longer than a few months, as the now solo Matt Hardy (Jeff was injured) enjoyed a meteoric rise to the main event scene. And while the feud worked leading in to Bound For Glory, they marred it with controversy after EC3 lost the title because of Jeff Hardy’s crooked refereeing.
So after it was vacated and EC3 claimed it back… he lost it again a few short days later when Matt Hardy turned heel. And no one gained from this, because EC3 went on a downward spiral til he left for WWE in 2018. Matt only started succeeding with his “Broken Universe” after dropping the “Iconic” (not to be confused with The IIconics) gimmick and title. EC3’s reign did little to help him upon his return to WWE, as the curse gave him a false sense of hope that his stock had rose to the point they would take him seriously.
Matt Hardy would later leave Impact Wrestling because of a serious dispute over the trademarks to the Broken Universe, which he later claimed in a legal battle with Anthem. After everything they had given Matt to build the gimmick, it came back to bite them later. The only positive thing to come of it? Drew Galloway had no problems taking on the mantle.
Drew Galloway (2016)
While Drew had served some time in Impact throughout 2015, it didn’t take long for him to become involved in the main event scene. But we all know his 89 day reign was nothing more than a stepping stone back to the bigger platform of WWE. Out of all the former Impact World Champions of the past five years, we can say that Galloway is easily the one who found the most success. So, him winning the title didn’t help Impact at all.
The only thing it did was show that the company is merely a platform for former WWE guys to build a body of work to get their jobs back. Fans have criticized the company for relying too much on former WWE/WCW/ECW talent, rather than building around a set of original stars. You can’t blame them sometimes, it makes sense for legends like Kurt Angle or Sting, guys who prove they will stay loyal for years. But then you have Drew going the same way as EC3, losing the World title… then later challenging over the Grand Championship before parting ways several months later.
He was a monster during his last tenure with Impact. Not only did he cross promote MMA fights while holding the World title, but he also found his voice. There was a point in time he simultaneously held all of Impact Wrestling’s championships. Lashley was a beast and looked unstoppable for much of 2016; aside from a three-month period when Eddie Edwards interrupted his dominance.
During his second reign in 2017, officials renamed the title the “Impact Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship”. Although Lashley was the champion, he wasn’t the main draw. Broken Matt Hardy’s gimmick kicked off, and he became an afterthought. After losing the title in the summer, he continued on and put over a few talents like Brian Cage on his way out. But as we are seeing… there is a reoccurring pattern here. 1) Wrestler gets world title, 2) Loses world title, 3) Wrestler leaves for another company months later. Where’s the loyalty?!
Alberto El Patron (2017)
During the failed merger of Impact Wrestling and Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling, Alberto El Patron defeated Lashley at Slammiversary to become the Unified GFW World Heavyweight Champion. A little over a month later, he was stripped of the championship and the company released the following statement:
“GFW has concluded its internal consideration of the events surrounding the suspension of Alberto El Patron. It is apparent that initial reports unfairly characterized El Patron’s involvement in the incident in the Orlando airport. GFW are nonetheless disappointed with the manner in which he dealt with this situation; we expect more decorum from all on the GFW roster, especially the World Champion.”
Impact communicated with El Patron our decision to strip him of his championship title. No decision has been taken as to the date on which he will be reinstated to the roster. The conditions of which are a private matter between the company and El Patron.”
As we know, he was arrested in May this year for sexual assault charges in San Antonio, Texas. Good riddance is all I can say: More Disturbing Details on Alberto Del Rio’s Sexual Assault Charges
Eli Drake (2017-18)
“Let me talk to ya! Dummy… yeah!” – The greatest thing about Eli Drake becoming the new Impact World Champion is he was someone new. Yes, he had worked in WWE before, but he earned this reign through hard work. Eli had shown dedication to his promos and character development. He’d earned the respect of his peers and served as a solid heel champion; with Chris Mordetsky (Masters) serving as a hired bodyguard.
It finally felt like the company could settle on building someone as “The Man” of Impact Wrestling. But no… after 146 days on top of the mountain, Austin Aries returned and immediately defeated Drake to become the new champion. It was great to see Aries’ return, but it didn’t sit well. They built Drake up from August through to January, just to lose the belt in a short, one-sided contest.
He didn’t get a fair shot to regain it either. It was like they kicked Eli to the curb because Aries was their guy and he was nothing more than a placeholder. After being buried hard for a long time on TV, he finally left in April 2019 after being booked in an intergender match with Tessa Blanchard; which was something he refused because he didn’t believe in the appeal of intergender wrestling.
Austin Aries (2018)
It was the year of “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived”. He worked some excellent matches in his two reigns. However, I will always remember it for the way it ended. Having spent 275 days as the World Champion, they booked him to lose the title to Johnny Impact (aka John Morrison) at Bound For Glory. Aries didn’t seem to like that, and the buildup going in to the PPV got a little too real. Apparently, it was Aries & Impact who took it upon themselves to start the online feud without management’s permission, and it got so out of hand it looked like a shoot.
After their main event at Bound For Glory, Austin Aries no-sold the finish. On the way out, he flipped off Don Callis and the fans; while Johnny Impact, Moose and Killer Kross looked on befuddled. According to reports, Aries had suffered a minor concussion and may not have been in complete control of his actions. He was sent home at the next tapings because his contract had expired and they had negotiated nothing.
The World Championship’s curse strikes again. And since then, Aries has not returned to Impact Wrestling despite it being a misunderstanding. There were some comments made from him on Twitter that suggested he was above Johnny Impact. He didn’t think it was dropping the title to him, but that could have been him fishing for heel heat. He hurried on to the MLW promotion where he remains to this day.
Pentagon Jr (2018) / Johnny Impact (2019) / Brian Cage (2019)
Pentagon Jr only held the title for two days, but after serving as one half of the most popular tag team “The Lucha Brothers”, he & Fenix weren’t up for staying loyal to Impact when AEW came knocking. They haven’t reached the same peaks since, but at least they are making more money. Johnny Impact’s yet another in an extensive list of former WWE guys who came to the promotion to get a run, only to leave the second WWE came knocking.
As for Brian Cage, he worked hard for years and finally earned his title reign when he pinned Johnny Impact at Rebellion. But the curse struck again, because Cage was so banged up with multiple injuries that he had to be sidelined for months as the newly crowned champion. One of those was a back injury he suffered from a Spanish Fly during the title match. The talk of vacating happened, but soon went cold. Although he held the title for 180 days, he was inactive for much of it. He defended the title against Michael Elgin at Slammiversary, but was sidelined again because of the same persisting back injury.
After defending the title at Bound For Glory in October, he dropped the title to Sami Callihan on Impact. After a brief feud with Rob Van Dam, he disappeared from TV again and signed with AEW in early 2020. He had to recover from his injuries for another four months before debuting at AEW Double Or Nothing. Once again, the Impact Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship serves as nothing more than a stepping stone. They built Cage as the guy who would carry the company forward. The fact he’d already achieved what he wanted… meant he didn’t need to hang around anymore.
Tessa Blanchard (2020)
Impact Wrestling did an incredible job of building Tessa Blanchard as a credible wrestler facing stronger opponents in the men’s division. Thanks to Sami Callihan, they worked some of the best matches in the recent history of Impact Wrestling. Looking to bring equality by normalizing intergender encounters, it was met with a mixed reception from fans and other wrestlers. Some loved it, while others felt it was unrealistic to push a woman in the Impact World Heavyweight Championship division; claiming it to be more of a publicity stunt.
Even after her attitude problems came to light on Twitter, the company defended her by saying she wasn’t the same person she once was. Blanchard was set up to face her biggest challenge yet in Michael Elgin & Eddie Edwards in a triple threat, but the coronavirus ensured she would be stuck in Mexico. And like so many times before… the curse strikes again. The title is vacated due to Impact releasing Tessa after she refused to help out by sending in some footage.
According to reports, she wasn’t being cooperative in negotiations and they couldn’t agree on anything. So once again, the status of the Impact Wrestling World Championship is up in the air. Ironically… during a time when Moose is bringing stability by claiming to be the TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Could he be the champion who can break the curse? Or is Impact wanting to keep pushing a World title that has suffered so much?
Like I’ve said many times before, the company needs to find company guys for the Impact World Heavyweight Championship. They need to know their wrestlers will dedicate their lives to the promotion. When you shift a world title on to someone who is only holding it for a payday or career uplift, you do nothing but devalue the promotion.
Use the former WWE guys to get others over, but don’t make them the focal point. As we’ve seen many times now, it never works out in the long run. Out of all the champions in the past five years, the only two who remain loyal to the company are Eddie Edwards and Sami Callihan. Let them battle over the World Championship, because we know they have the chemistry and they deserve it.
It’s difficult to know who is likely to move on to new horizons, it’s not like they can read minds. But in this case, they should focus on building several new faces. Therefore, if anyone moves on unexpectedly, they’ll have someone who can fill in the blanks. This is how TNA worked back in the day… the only legends they consistently pushed were Sting and Kurt Angle. Management knew they wouldn’t ditch them the second they were offered a fat contract elsewhere. AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Abyss, and many more were built around those established names, and they prospered for years as “TNA Originals”.
NXT and AEW makes this harder to pull off, but it’s doable with the right people. The first thing they need to figure out, is how do they get rid of the curse which has plagued them for so many years? Do you have any suggestions to improve the Impact World Heavyweight Championship picture? Thanks for reading.