Impact Wrestling has been the butt of jokes since the latter part of the Noughties, from Last Rites between ‘The Icon’ Sting and ‘The Monster’ Abyss at Destination X 2007 in which it was so bad the Crowd chanted “Fire Russo” for most of the match to the constant hiring of Ex-WWE Talent over the years even if they where way past their prime (Such as Rikishi, Val Venis, Kevin Nash), even talent that was never big to begin with, who just got hired because of the WWE name such as Matt Morgan, Mike Knox and Orlando Jordan to name just a few all the way to the Disaster period of the Bischoff/Hogan of 2010-2012 in which everyone thought TNA (as it was called back then) was going to die on it’s ass while losing not only it’s huge Spike deal but also a huge percentage of it’s viewers.
Impact has been really pushing for changes good and bad including the buyout of TNA by Ed Norholm’s company, “Anthem Sports & Entertainment” which initially started off rocky with strained relationships with a bunch of its top stars leaving (Such as Drew Galloway & The Broken Hardys). This is a situation in which Impact have since admitted their faults with Ed apologising to The Hardys.
Partnerships and Rebuild
Impact have been doing a lot of things differently then the last management by taking advantage of partnerships, in years past TNA had a working relationship with NJPW in which it was mostly for TNA’s World X Cup Events and the occasional sharing of talent, this however didn’t go well with their current IWGP Champion Shinsuke Nakamura being relegated to TNA Xplosion (TNA’s equivalent of WWE Velocity/Superstars) and more famously NJPW Young Lion (The name given to those who are currently training in NJPW Dojo, normally they don’t have any Gimmicks and wear plain black Trunks to signal their status as a Trainee) Kazuchika Okada who during his Excursion to TNA under their partnership under the incredibly stereotypical gimmick of ‘Okato’ a rift on superhero Green Hornet’s Sidekick, Kato.
The recent partnerships that Impact has done with promotions they have spread themselves in a more equal partnerships where their talents go to the promotions they are linked with in exchange they get some of their talents, these companies are smaller promotions from around the world such as AAA (Mexico), Pro Wrestling NOAH (Japan), SMASH Wrestling (Canada) and Women’s Promotion Rise Wrestling (USA), these partnerships have allowed Impact to rebuild their roster while allowing Impact Contracted Wrestlers to perform at their shows as well, which is a win-win on both ends, we have seen many stars from these promotions be big parts of the Impact roster such as El Hijo del Fantasma & The Lucha Bros (Pentagon Jr & Fenix) from AAA and Taiji Ishimori from NOAH, also many smaller appearances from members of the Los Psycho Circus stable (AAA) and Shotzi Blackheart (Rise) it allows Impact to keep fresher match-ups and to keep stories fresher especially as Impact keeps getting new Parnerships most recently MLW and Impacts new Training Promotion Partnership with OVW to build future stars for the Promotion.
These partnerships have also allowed Impact to experiment more and grow their fan bases more with their partnership with Internet Giant TWITCH, a streaming site which started out for just gaming but has been branching out to TV Shows to broadcast on their Network, which means Impact has a larger reach then ever before, using this they often have TWITCH Specials in which they will partner up with other Promotions and put on a Full Show free of charge on it, think of it as a WWE Network special but for a wider audience, often with fresh and new matchups not scene before allowing more people to see these smaller promotions and allowing Impact to scout more talent for their roster.
Impact over the last 2 years have gone through a massive creative change under the guidance of Don Callis and Scott D’Amore, they have been booking much longer story arcs and incorporating much more cinematic angles between wrestlers by using character work and set pieces you get behind the wrestlers more and it allows Impact to be more creative with their talent, from the gritty street war between LAX (Ortiz & Santana w/Konnan) vs The OGz (Homicide & Hernandez w/’King’ Eddie Kingston) to the mystical Dark War between Rosemary and Su Yung it allows you to get invested with the characters involved with smaller rivalries and storylines that go beside them meaning the card feels like it is more full without a whole bunch of pointless filler matches, the creative team has been trying the best with what they have as unfortunately the current roster is pretty thin, from raids from other companies to simply something happening in which a roster member decides to leave to try elsewhere (Joe Hendry & Andrew Everett are examples of this) it has lead them to either import more talent or build talents, this is also good for the wrestlers themselves, an example of building up characters is Fallah Bahh & KM, A comedy Tag Team which started from a storyline in which KM was bullying Bahh for his size but then started tagging with him, even wearing matching Sumo gear, the crowd erupts in Bahh chants when they come out, that’s just one example of building talent and getting over a gimmick that perhaps people would not get over in modern times.
Another thing you could say about Impact is their flexibility to change what happens backstage, as an example recently WWE did a major raid taking two major Impact backstage talent, Sonjay Dutt who was known for his writing for the X-Division stuff and the extremely loyal Chris Parks (Abyss) who had been with Impact/TNA since the very FIRST NWA-TNA Episode, this was a major blow for Impact taking these members away but still the people like Jimmy Jacobs on the team they managed to employ new creative staff as soon as that included former WWF Euro-Continental Champion D’Lo Brown, 2ndLongest Reigning WWE Raw Tag Team Champion, Paul London & 8x X-Division Champion and Former Impact World Champion, Chris Sabin to help as Producers of the show which can lead to new and fresh storylines as well as continue the former teams Storylines with fresh new twist and turns in the current ones including The Dark War storyline between Rosemary and now the puppet master behind the war Father James Mitchell and the Story between Rich Swann & oVe with the Debut of Madman Fulton.
In Conclusion I think people should give Impact Wrestling more of a consideration in the current climate of Wrestling, it’s not trying to be WWE Lite any more like it tried to achieve a few years ago, instead it’s trying to carve it’s own new identity within this currently changing landscape of Wrestling, I myself have started watching Impact much more over WWE (Only watching Highlights of WWE now) and I have found it fun to keep up with the stories told within it, all it needs now is support from fans to keep it stronger and help it expand it’s roster and reach.