Impact Wrestling has officially started 2018 with a bang, with the first set of television tapings under the Scott D'Amore and Don Callis era seeing a flurry of positive changes that will re-invigorate the company moving forward. It was important after the GFW/Jeff Jarrett debacle that Anthem rectified their initial creative mistakes decisively and whilst there's still a lot of hard work ahead; it at last feels like Impact has a fighting chance in an ever-evolving wrestling industry.
Whilst going back to the four-sided ring was always going to be divisive with hardcore Impact fans; I think it's clear the talent are a lot happier working in this environment... and keeping talent happy is vital for their future success. From a purely aesthetic perspective, the squared circle is always going to be the best presentation of wrestling for the casual fan, and it's going to be a lot easier for the production team to get their cameras focused on all aspects of the action. I always considered six-sides a fun gimmick at best, and surely the most important thing to worry about is the in-ring product, not the ring itself.
It's been confirmed that Impact will finally get brand new title belts in the near future, and I'm also happy to see the removal of the GFW green ring-ropes and branding. This stuff might seem obvious to you and me, but it's the swift nature of these decisions that is so pleasing to see. D'Amore and Callis have said it's going to be a slow process in turning around Impact, but they clearly have a long-term plan in motion. It's great to see Matt and Jeff Hardy settle any legal differences with Anthem too. Ed Nordholm has been working hard behind the scenes to professionalise Impact, and make sure any talent relationships are kept mutually respectful.
The now-announced deal with live-streaming site Twitch feels like another step in the right direction towards gaining a new online audience. Airing exclusive content including live events, house shows and video podcasts; the channel launches with Barbed Wire Massacre III - oVe vs LAX. Impact is billing the fight as 'too violent for tv', and if it's anything like its predecessors (Abyss vs Sabu, Abyss vs Judas Mesias, ) we're in for some classic hardcore wrestling!
Why is this match important? Well, it confirms that Impact is still willing to take creative risks, to try something a little different in the face of an increasingly stale WWE. I don't think any wrestling fan, young or old, wants to see wrestlers take unnecessary bumps in the ring that might shorten their career... but I do think there's room for a more adult-oriented product. I'd rather these types of matches be kept special rather than regular occurrences, but it's fantastic to see Sami Callihan, Jake and Dave Christ, Homicide, Ortiz and Santana putting their bodies on the line for us. The sheer number of men in the ring alone promises that this undoubtedly bloody encounter will be unmissable.
There's also been a lot of roster changes during the tapings. Admittedly as a fan of Ethan Carter III, Bobby Lashley and Laurel Van Ness, it's been difficult to see them part ways with the company, but I wish them all every success in the future. I've never been tribal about my wrestling support and I'll continue to enjoy watching them in WWE or wherever they end up. Lashley, if booked like 'Walking Armageddon", could certainly be re-introduced to WWE fans as a legit threat to Lesnar. EC3 could absolutely be the top heel on SmackDown or RAW - he's created a personna that screams money and merch sales, especially if he rekindled his triumphant double-act with Rockstar Spud. Debuting as Dixie Carter's nephew, EC3 was a star from the moment he arrived at Impact - quite the achievement considering his unmemorable appearances as Derrick Bateman in WWE. Just goes to show... sometimes an opportunity and the right creative decision is all a wrestler needs.
Of course when old talent leaves, new talent will also arrive! Austin Aries, Brian Cage and Su Yung all joined the Impact roster... as well as legends Tommy Dreamer and Scott Steiner making guest appearances during the recent tapings. Certain people criticised Impact for spoiling their own show... but I see it as taking back control. Let's be honest, the news would have been all over the internet in minutes, whether Impact had broken the story themselves or not.
Austin Aries is for me one of the most misused talents in modern WWE history, and he'll certainly be wanting to prove a point on his return to Impact Wrestling. AA deserves to be in the main event picture... not cut from a Wrestlemania DVD. Su Yung in an impressive new talent... and the thought of seeing Rosemary, Taya Valkyrie, Allie and Yung going at it on a regular basis fills me with excitement! Brian Cage made a few promising appearances for Impact early on in his career, but has since gone on to become one of the hottest talents in the indie scene, as well as starring in Lucha Underground. Built like a machine, his in-ring skills are remarkable considering his size.. and if booked right, we could well see Cage become a bonafide breakout star this year.
Watch Barbed Wire Massacre at http://twitch.tv/impactwrestling