I imagine the headline of this article might raise more than a few eyebrows within the wrestling community... I mean, why wouldn't it? We've all become conditioned to believe in the negative press that Impact Wrestling receives daily from the media, whether it's the dirt-sheets spreading rumours for clickbait, or prominent journalists/vloggers kicking the company when it's down, instead of supporting them through hard times. Being critical is one thing, but I will never understand the motivation of any wrestling "fan" so clearly determined to see a company fail.
Everyone knows Impact has had more than its fair share of financial and creative problems, but the truth is this; the more an idea is repeated, the more that idea is reinforced in people's minds. It's why politicians hammer home soundbites in every interview, and global brands pay advertising executives millions of dollars to come up with catchy slogans. You have to admire their resilience in the face of adversity. It's time to look at Impact with a fresh perspective heading into 2018.
Let's begin by talking about the exciting changes in Impact's senior executive team, and the news that Don Callis and Scott D'Amore have been hired to turn around the company's fortunes, with Chris Jericho making a personal phone-call to Anthem's Ed Nordholm to tell him that D'Amore and Callis were the right guys to put his trust in.
"My thought process was, and this is not a slight on anyone that has ran that company... through so many incarnations and through all its ups and downs... I found with the last incarnation with TNA/Global Force is that it was a dead company. There was nothing exciting about it or sparking it, so to me, the only way to get it rolling would be to completely change direction and go with somebody new and different,"
Impact has, over the years, put their faith in many tried and tested wrestling minds (with admittedly mixed results) but it's always been at its best when they offered a real alternative to the WWE. If you've listened to Jericho's recent podcast, you'll realise just how important it is for the business that Impact not only survives but reasserts itself in the industry as that alternative; a place where fans can enjoy a different presentation of wrestling, and where talented wrestlers can showcase their work to an international audience.
You could of of course make the argument that D'Amore has been in and around Impact for a long time, working in many different roles and capacities; but having done so, he will surely have a greater understanding of it's situation than most. He's a loyal company guy that deserves his chance at the top. Callis will bring with him a new energy and creative mindset (he is credited as inventing Ultimate X during his short stint with TNA in 2003) and he's made it clear he's in this for the long haul... you can't transform Impact overnight, there has to be a clear long-term strategy and vision.
Impact must become cool and edgy again: it needs to take some risks, to create a more dynamic and inventive product than the WWE. It's felt for a while now that they've been going through the motions, trying hard to maintain stability, but sacrificing what once made Impact must see-television in the process. I want to be able to emotionally invest in the characters and stories I'm seeing develop on-screen. They absolutely have the capability to do this, but where do they start?
I found TNA just after finishing University; the spark being the signing of Sting in 2003, which means I've been a fan now for nearly 15 years. I've discovered so many amazing new wrestlers during that time: AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Abyss, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, Eric Young, Austin Aries, Desmond Wolfe, Awesome Kong, Taryn Terrell... the list is impressive and endless. This has been one of their key strengths, giving an international television platform to new wrestlers, and letting them develop and hone their craft away from the harsh environment of the WWE. It's no surprise to me that a lot of the TNA originals have since become successful on WWE television; they had years of experience working with and learning from some of the best in the business.
The current Impact Wrestling roster might be lacking in the star power it once had, but they do have some seriously talented people they can rebuild the company around... new "originals" must be built up and given creative freedom. Promote current talent like Ethan Carter, Eli Drake, Moose, Sami Callihan, LAX, Rosemary and Allie and give them meaningful feuds. You might make some mistakes, but the fans will forgive you if it's clear you are heading in the right direction. The relationship with the Impact audience must be nurtured effectively. I miss hearing the TNA chant. I miss that connection. Wrestlers will always come and go in every company, but a strong brand identity must be at the core of what they do. They must find a way to re-establish that connection and love from an audience.
I would personally make these changes with immediate effect:
Rid the Global Force branding from Impact. The lurid green colouring on the ropes and the logo should return to classic TNA red. The Impact titles must regain their sense of history and importance. Impact World Champion. No-one has ever cared about Jeff Jarrett's GFW promotion. The Impact World Titles should be things of timeless beauty... that wrestlers would be willing to put their bodies on the line for.
Change the commentary team. It's ruining the overall presentation for a lot of fans right now. I can't fault the effort or workrate of either Jeremy Borash or Josh Mathews, and both men have a lot to offer the company behind the scenes, but we need a voice that gives Impact a fresh feel. A little passion and wit in colour wouldn't go amiss too.
Long-term storylines. A creative vision with an end goal.. whether that's Slammiversary/Bound For Glory/Destination X, Impact has to decide on its path and go all in. There's been so many random feuds and wrestler's debuting this past year, I no longer have a sense of who I'm meant to get behind, and who I'm meant to boo. It's been chaotic television, without a sense of direction. Someone needs to take control of the situation - something Scott D'Amore and Don Callis can do together.
Let me hear your thoughts about Impact Wrestling. Would love to know which talents you would like to see in Impact, and how you would set about improving the show.