11th Jan2018

Opinionated: The state of Impact Wrestling

by Phil Wheat

A new year marks a new column for Nerdly… Opinionated. Where we give you our thoughts on everything and anything geeky and nerdy. First up is Phil’s thoughts on Impact Wrestling.


It’s been quite some time since I’ve personally written anything about pro-wrestling, between managing the site and writing movie reviews I’ve found little time to discuss wrestling. That’s not to say I haven’t been keeping up with everything on WWE’s programming: Raw, Smackdown and NXT; as well as, to a lesser extent, UK promotions (via Powerbomb.tv) and… Impact Wrestling.

Yes, Impact Wrestling. A programme that, at one time, back in the pre-Hogan era and later into the Hogan era, I preferred to the output of Vince McMahon and co. Back in those days the matches seemed more exciting, the feuds seemed more impactful (pardon the pun) and the overall product seemed to focus more on in-ring stories rather than the scripted dramas of the WWE. So much so that, for a time, TNA/Impact Wrestling was my programme of choice and I stopped watching WWE product altogether. Then everything went wrong. No, not wrong. More like downhill.

Stupid storylines and a focus more on the non-wrestling talent seemed to drag down the product; then they lost a lot of the talent that had made Impact Wrestling must-see-TV. Gone was AJ Styles, the Motor City Machine Guns, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Kazarian… New talent arrived but there was something missing. It looked like Dixie Carter was trying to fill that void with higher production values, touring TV tapings and a slew of new talent: be they established names looking for a last hurrah, or new guys that were fresh off the indie scene.

Now that period in Imapct’s history wasn’t all bad. They still had stalwarts like Bobby Roode, James Storm and Abyss. Rockstar Spud, one of the only surviving talents from TNA’s British Bootcamp series, was keeping his ridiculous storylines and feuds going. They even managed to build a fantastic heel superstar in Ethan Carter III (aka EC3), a former NXT talent that took what Impact gave him in the character of Dixie Carter’s nephew and ran with it. Even when switching to Destination America, TNA/Impact managed to re-sign some great talent: Kurt Angle, Jeff and Matt Hardy, Mr. Anderson and more. Then it all went downhill. Again.

And that’s where I gave up on Impact Wrestling. Although I did watch the ridiculous Hardy Bros. “events” like The Final Deletion, Delete or Decay, and The Great War; and THAT special set entirely on the Hardy’s compound. Otherwise I didn’t see much of the Billy Corgan era of Impact, mainly because what I did see was cringeworthy and/or shoddily produced. Plus even the wrestling, once THE highlight of the promotion, seemed lacklustre. Of course it was at this time that the company had eve more well-publicised financial issues and even more talent losses (including, eventually, the Hardys; and Drew Galloway, who had just become Impact Grand Champion). Impact Wrestling looked like it was about to close its doors. Then in stepped Anthem Sports and Jeff Jarrett and his Global Force Wrestling promotion. Impact looked like it was getting interesting again.

So that leads us to today. Jeff Jarrett is gone, again. But Impact, now rebranded as merely Impact Wrestling – gone have the TNA and GFW monikers – has a new app, a TV deal with POP in the US, and Spike here in the UK (after their deal with Challenge, THE home of the show in Britain, ended). So how does today’s Impact Wrestling measure up to Impact of old?


The Good:

Impact’s collaboration with other promotions – Rather than trying to compete with other smaller promotions, Impact has taken a different tack, teaming up with other wrestling promotions to produce content. Whilst TNA/Impact always had partnerships with other promotions from time to time – including (and this is hard to believe given his superstar status now) working with New Japan Pro Wrestling and bringing Okada to the US to wrestle! But things have changed somewhat, and it seems Impact have embraced working with other promotions even more – teaming with the likes Pro Wrestling Noah and Konnan’s Crash Lucha Libre promotion, with wrestlers crossing in between companies on a weekly basis and championships being held by wrestlers not exclusive to the Impact roster (as with the recent X-Division title win by Taiji Ishimori); they’ve even gone as far as hosting and filming matches at smaller, independent, promotions such as Wrestle Pro.

The Talent – Impact has added some fantastic talent to its roster. Trevor Lee is a fantastic cruiserweight heel; EC3 makes for a great Grand Champion; as did Moose – a wrestler who is as dominant on Impact as Brock Lesnar is on WWE, but who has more charisma and more skill than Lesnar ever will. Matt Sydal, another former WWE star, has – finally – been allowed to shine on Impact, putting in some great matches recently, even if some might say “too little, too late”; Petey Williams, one of Impact’s original stars is back, showing the new guys how it’s done. In terms of tag-teams, OVE (aka brothers Jake and Dave Crist) and their newest member, Sami Callihan (of CZW and formerly Solomon Crowe in NXT), look like they’re going to take the division to a whole new level. And the most recent addition of Canadian wrestler All-Ego Ethan Page (of Alpha-1 Wrestling) – as Abyss/Joseph Park family member Chandler Park – looks like it could be huge for the company.

I could go on and on about the Impact talent. If there’s one thing Impact has done right recently, it’s in strengthening its roster – even when money is tight and they’re set to lose more big names. New, younger, and somewhat hungrier, talent has come on board and that’s allowing Impact to build an all-new generation of superstars, in much the same way NXT does for the WWE main roster.

The GWN App – OK, so the depth of Impact’s programming isn’t as expansive as the WWE, but there’s still plenty of matches, shows and pay per views to check out on the GWN app. But best of all? That would be the fact you can watch the LATEST episode of Impact the same week it airs in the US, for free, in high definition, without even signing up to the app! If you do sign up there’s a TON of stuff to watch: old episodes of TNA, going back as far as the NWA-TNA years when it was a PPV only promotion with no TV deal; new shows produced for the network: Retrospective, Adaptation and a myriad of other documentaries produced by the Fight Network.

As if watching new programming weekly via the app wasn’t enough (something you CAN’T do with the WWE Network – unless you just watch NXT), the GWN site/app also features programmes from other promotions too, with shows from Defy Wrestling, Future Stars of Wrestling and AML Wrestling available now, with more set to be added to GWN in 2018. But then that goes back to one of Impact’s strengths right now: collaboration rather than competition.


The Bad:

American Top Team – This is a storyline, a feud, a faction, that has gone on for FAR too long. TNA used to be obsessed with King Mo a few years ago and bringing him back, along with Dan Lambert ad a handful of MMA fighters – to back up Bobby Lashley (a man whose such a beast he needs NO backup!) has done more damage than good. Yes, factions are obviously going to be more powerful when it comes to matches – after all there’s strength in numbers – but the way in which American Top Team have been allowed to dominate the roster actually makes Impact’s wrestlers look weak. When they should be the opposite. Wrestlers are the core of your company, to allow MMA fighters to come in a destroy all in their path just makes the entire promotion look bad. Plus after MONTHS of “invasion” type angles, American Top Team have surely worn out their welcome, with both the roster backstage and the fans at home.

The Talent – Whilst the in-ring performers are getting better and the roster is being bolstered with new additions and appearances from wrestlers from other promotions, there’s one huge thing letting down Impact. The commentary team. Jeremy Borash and Josh Matthews, whilst they have been with the company for some time, offer nothing to make Impact exciting. They had a ridiculous feud that wasted everyone’s time and their commentary doesn’t add to Impact in the slightest – there’s no excitement to it, no enthusiasm. If anything their “going through the motions” commentary, peppered with stupid promotions for other POP programming, drags down the on-screen action. Impact needs people on commentary like Mike Tenay – who offered a voice of experience; or Don West, whose loud abrasiveness brought an excitement to any match. I’m not saying bring Tenay and West back but instead find new people, with enthusiasm and experience, that will add to the show.

Alberto El Patron – It feels, with Impact’s insistence in keeping Alberto El Patron around, that the company is still clinging to the “big name wrestler” ethos that brought down the company in the Hogan and co. era. Yes, Alberto El Patron still has his fans, but given his well-publicised issues, and the seemingly arrogant attitude he’s displayed on TV tapings (even admitting that his TV persona and real-life persona are far more similar these days thanks to Impact’s creative freedom) makes him one of the biggest turn-offs for me. As in I will, honestly, skip his appearances and his matches whenever they air!

Ultimately, despite some MASSIVE improvements, there’s still something missing from Impact Wrestling today… Though to be fair to all involved, the current crop of episodes are still under the old production regime, with Don Callis & Scott D’Amore taking over control of Impact in the coming weeks and [hopefully] building on the current success. For yes, even with all their past troubles, and rumoured forthcoming talent losses (the company is said to be shedding the more expensive talent on the roster in order to cut costs – which is not necessarily a bad thing if they can build a solid roster of homegrown talent) Impact Wrestling is still managing to build its ratings week-on-week.

As for me, well I’ve gone back to watching Impact on a weekly basis, especially since the re-launch of their app and will continue to do so, tentatively excited that the once-great promotion can claw its way back to a more prestigious status. Of course this is just MY opinion, but what about you?

Did you, or do you, watch Impact Wrestling? Have you given up on the promotion or – like me – have current changes brought you back to watching every week? Do you have any ideas how Impact can improve in future? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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