Editorial Columns

Is Impact Wrestling Having a Renaissance?

George Geal looks at the state of Impact Wrestling and how we could be seeing a resurgence of the promotion.

After the fall of WCW in 2001, the wrestling landscape was left one giant in the WWF and no competition for them.

Branching from the NWA, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling was born from the minds of Bob Ryder, Jeff Jarrett and his father Jerry. Vince Russo later joined the fray and did coin the show with its original name, with it initially being a PPV-based, edgier version of wrestling compared to the WWF. Each week, an event was held from the Tennessee State Fairground Sports Arena, dubbed the TNA Asylum, hosting 111 events over 27 months before they switched to weekly shows and monthly PPV’s in 2004.

iMPACT! was their first weekly show emanating from Soundstage 21 in Florida and being shown on the Fox Sports Net, as the intention of the company was to be more sports based rather than the sports entertainment-based competition the WWE were putting on. The other thing they decided to do in 2004 was introduce the usage of a six-sided ring to differentiate themselves from their rivals and to also bring that style to a western audience, as the Mexican company AAA would occasionally use this ring shape.

TNA’s boom period took place between 2004 and 2010, showing off their edgier content with some of the world’s best independent talent – the likes of AJ Styles and Samoa Joe who had made a name for themselves in smaller promotions throughout the US. In 2005, TNA’s contract with Fox expired and was not renewed, leaving them in limbo until finding a new home on Spike TV, where they remained for some time.

In 2006, TNA started to air select PPV’s from outside of its home in Orlando – known as the iMPACT Zone – which showed how far they had come in a short space of time, being able to sell out arenas around the world and not just stick to one venue. TNA also began a relationship with YouTube which allowed them to supply exclusive video-content in exchange for hosting, which did actually lead to the production of internet shows. At this point in the tenure of TNA, the executives were thinking outside the box, attempting to freshen up a wrestling scene that had become somewhat stale due to the same content being rolled out week in and week out.

As we come out of their boom period, we enter the slight downfall for TNA as they became a ‘WWE rejects’ company hiring many former WWE talent – the likes of RVD, Jeff Hardy and Mr Anderson, formerly known as Mr Kennedy, to name a few. At this time, they also converted back to a four-sided ring and also moved their weekly shows to Mondays so they could directly compete with WWE Monday Night Raw. Spike TV would leave the original Thursday spot free for repeats of the Monday show, and for good reason as TNA moved iMPACT back to Thursdays just three months after the move. TNA also brought in Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff with the latter two being part of the backstage team that brought in those high-profile former WWE stars, as well as all three legends being on screen in some capacity.

TNA did have some upsides in this time as they announced a partnership with Ohio Valley Wrestling to be their developmental territory, as well as announcing an Indian subsidiary called Ring Ka King. In March 2013, they officially terminated the lease of the iMPACT Zone and began emanating their shows from various locations around the US as well as updating their stage setting to be in line with HD TV. They also announced a partnership with Wrestle-1 which saw exchanges of talent and a collaborated show in the form of Bound for Glory 2014.

However, the good couldn’t outweigh the bad as they lost a number of well-known talents between 2013 and 2014, many of them were TNA veterans, including one of the founders in Jeff Jarrett, who had announced plans to create Global Force Wrestling. For TNA to lose stalwarts like AJ Styles, Sting, Christopher Daniels and Kazarian was a huge blow for them as most of these talents were the reason fans would tune in every week. Going from bad to worse, TNA went onto hiatus in following Bound for Glory 2014 due to their contract with Spike TV ending. However, the hiatus lasted just three months as they resumed events in January 2015 starting with a live show from the Manhattan Centre.

In 2015, they officially signed a partnership with Discover Communications, with the weekly programming being shown on Destination America. It seemed like a poor move as Spike TV would reach 97 million homes compared to its new home which would only reach 59 million homes, but Destination America would gain over 41 million viewers in the first quarter of 2015, the channel’s best first quarter ever. With the move, they also found themselves a new spot as iMPACT was broadcasted on Wednesdays at 9pm as well as introducing two new shows in the form of Impact Wrestling: Unlocked and TNA Wrestling’s Greatest Matches.

From the bad to the good as they managed to retain multiple high-calibre talent like Kurt Angle, Abyss and the Hardy Boyz throughout the beginning of 2015. They would also re-sign Awesome Kong who had been absent for many years, but did also lose Samoa Joe and Tazz at this time. TNA would also receive a new Senior Producer of Creative and Talent Development in an unlikely form: Billy Corgan, most known as the front man for the band Smashing Pumpkins.

TNA moved away from Destination America and signed with Pop, also moving to Tuesday nights instead of Wednesday. The premier show held the semi-finals and the finals of the TNA World Title Series, being won by Ethan Carter III, or EC3 as we knew him. Shows would be taped during a tour of England, including the last appearance of Kurt Angle, before they moved back to the iMPACT Zone in March 2016.

In 2017, new owners Anthem would rebrand TNA to Impact Wrestling, calling the old banner, TNA, dead. They would lose more talent in the form of Drew Galloway – or McIntyre as we know him now – and The Hardy Boyz among others who were all WWE bound. Jeff Jarrett would come back in the picture as Impact and GFW created a merger which saw an influx of incredible new talent, as well as a hot storyline as Impact went head to head with GFW. It also saw the creation of the Global Wrestling Network, a video platform and archive to rival the WWE Network.

It was at this point that Impact Wrestling got back onto the map and began to show it can rival WWE as well as growing companies like NJPW and ROH. They would also bring in Scott D’Amore and Don Callis as Executive Vice Presidents to take charge of Impact’s day to day operations and effectively change the landscape of the company. Impact saw the return of Austin Aries, as well as debuts for names who would become the faces of the company in the forms of Brian Cage, Su Yung and the Lucha Brothers, Fenix and Pentagon Jr.

Impact was put back on the map to a wider audience as we entered the ‘Work Rate Era’, showing off their talent in much smaller venues compared to the venues other companies were using. It worked: it made the matches and competitors feel even bigger and made the shows seem even louder so they could bring more and more fans to the product. They have always been a credible alternative to WWE and did what they set out to do and show off an edgier product including a lot of hardcore matches, as well as being the creators of various gimmicks like ‘Broken’ Matt Hardy and ‘Phenomenal’ AJ Styles.

You can clearly see they have had an up and down time since their inception but it really does seem that the wave, they’re currently riding is only going to rise, as long as they can retain their big names and keep a consistent home on one network. I would say yes, Impact is having a renaissance thanks to their ability to differentiate from the competition and provide a brilliant product for the fans who aren’t keen on the direction of the sports-entertainment based wrestling coming from WWE. I am personally very excited to see what the future holds for Impact Wrestling and I have full faith they will be in the top three companies alongside WWE and NJPW for years to come.

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You can find the author of this article on Twitter @George_Geal_. Thanks for reading!

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