Mishal delves into Impact Wrestling and realizes…he likes it! You may too, you just have to #GiveImpactAChance.
Impact Wrestling is a strange topic to discuss for many wrestling fans in 2020, isn’t it?
At a time where the discourse in professional wrestling is so centered on brands such as WWE, NXT (since at times many act like it’s separated from its actual owners), AEW or even NJPW, we often forget that at one point in history Impact Wrestling, TNA, Global Force Wrestling or whichever name you choose to associate the promotion with given your experience with it, was indeed just as relevant as the names I just mentioned above. Before a plethora of controversy, an endless number of mistakes, lack of willingness to embrace what made it unique & industry that felt like it took five steps forward while management took ten steps back, Impact Wrestling was widely considered the biggest brand in professional wrestling after the WWE’s powerhouse of a brand across the globe.
In fact, there was a time, a dark time, where the flagship shows of both brands met head-to-head, with the results ending just as you’d imagine if you didn’t know.
Upon its inception, the former ‘’TNA Wrestling’’ had all the potential in the world to bounce off the end of the Monday Night Wars at the start of the millennium. Stacked to the brim with a roster of diverse talent from across multiple generations, unique action that was enhanced mainly due to the presence of their now brand-defining ‘X-Division’, a unique aesthetic with the a 6-sided ring being present as opposed to the traditional ‘’squared circle’’, as well as the attachment of the NWA brand to their product in its early days. Nothing here is to say TNA or ‘’Impact Wrestling’’ existed without its flaws during its early days, because anyone familiar with the product knows the hurdles they’ve had to overcome to get to where they are right now.
When it comes to the backstage politics & creative direction of TNA, I could start a series of articles on that alone for the next number of months, because there are somethings you’d need to hear to believe.
The story of TNA is one that is not unfamiliar to the average wrestling fan. A product that at one time felt like the awakening the industry needed at a time where one name was dominant above all else but fell victim to the curse of trying to become what their competition was rather than trying to be themselves. Almost every name in the business is a victim of this at some point in their existence, Impact Wrestling just feels like a larger blow due to how recent their issues have been for many of us.
That being said, I’ve experienced something over the last few weeks… something fascinating.
I last watched Impact Wrestling full-time back in 2016, at the height of the infamous ”Final Deletion” match which felt like the brands biggest success in years. Following that, something about the product never clicked with me. It could’ve been the constant changes to the product that always flustered my overall investment in what they were trying to sell me. It could’ve been the atmosphere of the companies ‘Impact Zone’ that made every show feel horrendously identical to the next. It could’ve been the lack of vision the company had as a whole. Or to put it plainly, it was likely the sheer lack of identity they had as a product. Nothing about it felt relevant or planned, much of it felt like it was written in 15 minutes without any second-guessing, something no fan of anything should feel.
But then 2020 happened, and it brings me nothing but joy to admit just how wonderful it has been revisiting a product that doesn’t just feel different but has come leaps & bounds from what it once was, in almost every single way you could imagine. This writing is meant to be a brief persuasion of sorts as to why Impact Wrestling is, in my opinion, the most consistently great product professional wrestling has to offer right now.
None of this is to say Impact is without flaws, of which it certainly has, but with all the negativity we face right now, I think focusing on the positives of this wonderful product is something it could use more than ever now that it’s trying to recapture the glory it once had.
Maybe it’s the side of my personality that’s been worn down by weeks upon weeks of Monday Night RAW talking, but consistency in professional wrestling seems like a chore for creative teams to hand over these days. While the likes of AEW or NXT certainly provide more well-rounded products in terms of being linear or you know, making sense, a lot of decisions made on each program feel rushed as we could reference in regard to how AEW is handling Brodie Lee vs Cody, for example. Or on the NXT side of things, the push of Karrion Kross which came months too early for my liking.
Impact Wrestling, however, has found the key to making their programming work for everyone.
Whether we discuss the main event scene (with the likes of Eric Young, Eddie Edwards, Sami Callihan, Rich Swann, Moose or EC3), the absolutely stacked tag team division with the most impressive roster of talent available out there, a solid mid-card that is largely using the newly found ‘Wrestle House’ to add a unique dynamic to the product, a stunningly booked Knockouts division or an X-Division that continues to shine, each section of Impact is so well thought out that very little of it ever feels less important. Regardless of their positioning on the show, talent always has enough time to shine in which ever storyline they’re involved in. Even the talent that don’t get feature on one given week, will always have a follow-up the following week, or reference of some kind to keep them in the mind of fans.
In terms of storylines, the company has amongst the best in the business going as we speak. From Young vs Swann, EC3 vs Moose, Deonna Purrazzo’s run as Knockouts Champion, Motor City Machine Guns vs basically every big tag team or Heath Slater once again trying to earn a contract. None of these are special solely for the immense amount of talent involved, they’re special because more than anything they’ve received more than enough time, planning & proper execution to mean something when these all come to ahead with Bound For Glory fast approaching. Unlike its competitors, Impact doesn’t just remain consistent, they understand that longevity is something fans value in the long-term not dread.
Top-Tier Character Work
Let’s just list off a bunch of Impact talent to understand just how much potential exists under their banner.
Eric Young, EC3, Rich Swann, Moose, Eddie Edwards, Sami Callihan, Deonna Purrazzo, Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, Tommy Dreamer, Tenille Dashwood, Jordynne Grace, Ethan Page, Josh Alexander, TJP, Taya Valkyrie, Ace Austin, Brian Myers, Tommy Dreamer, Chris Bey, Willie Mack, and of all people… Ken Shamrock.
It’d be hard to sell that roster as ‘equal’ to WWE in terms of star-power or box office potential, but that’s not what Impact Wrestling is or should be about. Their product should never be meant to cater to an audience the size of WWE’s or AEW’s, building up their own reputation & image are the key to their success, something which they’re currently doing with great results. Whilst the talent mentioned all possess some kind of draw towards their product with their respective fanbases, they won’t be breaking any records anytime soon, rather they’ll enhance a product that lets each individual talent stand out in their own way.
Characters on Impact always feel more defined, more free & more well-rounded, partially because the company generally has a long-term plan for most their key talents. Rather than an endless roster of talent that tends to get lost in the shuffle due to far too much depth, Impact consists of a smaller roster with far more focus instead. Sure, every talent isn’t exactly as fantastic as an Eric Young, Moose or EC3, but at the very least they have a shot to standout amongst the crowd at a time when the company’s rivals seem overstuffed to the point of nausea.
Size may be an important factor when it comes to professional wrestling for some people, in the case of Impact Wrestling, it’s a prime example of how a smaller, more contained product just works better in the long run.
An Accessible Product
This part simply comes down to presentation. Because the appeal & willingness for an audience to revisit your product doesn’t just rely on how memorable your characters & storylines are, or how solid the in-ring action is, presentation plays a significant role too. And that’s probably the best thing about Impact Wrestling in 2020.
While the last two to three years have been hard for the brand in terms of presenting their product, it’s seemingly got better with time & ironically, with COVID-19 forcing them to restructure. In the past the company struggled due to factors such as low production value, pretty unenthusiastic audiences or venues that didn’t do the talent justice, this all seems to be redeemed since Anthem have had more influence in the direction of the product. Having a more confined setting has helped them develop a product & stars that thrive despite the conditions they’re working under.
Each week recaps the previous ones well for newer, more fresh viewers with a plethora of video packages or storytelling that never lets fans lose track of events. The in-ring product is shot in a manner that unlike WWE’s presentation style, isn’t overly edited & has the action flowing incredibly smoothly, letting each move resonate on-screen, which is useful especially when the X-Division takes centre stage. And even the manner in which backstage segments are shown might be absurd in theory, but Impact’s approach of simply owning the absurdity of the industry they lurk within works wonders rather than trying to suck the pure bizareness out of professional wrestling that so many people can enjoy.
Wrestling’s Strongest Mid-Card
Mid-cards in 2020 lay on two ends for me, either being too underutilized despite an immense array of diverse, young talent or (if you consider such a possibility exists) the mid-card is so overstuffed that those in-charge can’t possibly juggle the number of talents they have at their disposal. With either scenario, a lot of talent won’t get the shine they deserve due to either a lack of screen time or simply too much going on for fans to properly digest.
This is where Impact hits its stride for me, because so little of its talent ever feels underused, even pushed to the side. Whether its the talent making up the ‘Wrestle House’ segments, the Knockouts establishing themselves as the standard-bearers for quality women’s wrestling, Brian Myers taking on the likes of Tommy Dreamer or Willie Mack in a new pursuit in his career, a tag team division of the verge of explosion with the likes of MCMG, The Good Brothers, The North, Austin & Fulton, Reno Scum or The Rascalz or the ever-popular X-Division that continues to steal a good majority of the shows its featured on. Impact has found the perfect formula to give almost everyone something to do, regardless of what position on the roster they are.
But that’s what separates the best companies from one & another, the ability to not just focus on your main draws, also the workhorses that build the very foundation talents like that work off of every night. Impact certainly isn’t the apex of professional wrestling by any stretch, however, watching a show where everyone is involved or treated with some form of relevancy is a refreshing change of pace for myself personally. While the product could use some trimming around the edges, even work on some of its characters, the idea & effort they’re already putting into their presentation in commendable, because it displays the one thing that I think has kept them afloat for so very long, the ability to learn from their mistakes.
Granted they’ve always been prone to making more in the future, for the time being I’ll remain on the side of optimism as for the first time in a very, very long time it looks like Impact is transforming into what it always wanted to be, a vehicle for the future of professional wrestling.
No Crowd? No problem.
Addressing the audience seems like a silly thing to discuss in 2020 since you know, there is quite literally no audience for virtually all forms of entertainment at this very moment.
Unlike its competition, Impact has had an entirely different approach to the restrictions placed on the business as a result of the pandemic. Rather than creating a similar atmosphere to what fans knew prior to the pandemic, the company has gone forward in creating a product that doesn’t rely on an audience or audience interaction, instead enhancing its own product & storytelling methods to make the experience more adaptable & immersive in these trying times.
Brands such as WWE or AEW have used a plethora of methods to give fans what they are used to, with mixed results. The ”WWE Thunderdome” is certainly an achievement, and aesthetically pleasing to look at but feels hollow at the same time it does impressive. AEW has fans in attendance and talent at ringside, which I personally prefer, yet still doesn’t quite feel as organic as it’s portrayed to be by announcers and talent on the show. Displaying your product to be versatile during these times to me is more impressive than anything, which Impact has achieved against all odds. Nothing about their product requires fans to work, it’s all about the stories they tell, the characters they present & ensuring the action never flounders in order to keep your attention with the surroundings being completely empty. The show isn’t flashy or anything necessarily groundbreaking but is just a good, ol’ school wrestling show that knows what it is & excels at being just that.
So, why give Impact a chance?
There are two reasons everyone, whether you’re a WWE, NJPW, AEW, ROH, NWA or NXT fan should give Impact a chance in 2020.
The first, is the simple premise of how important, and vital, supporting other players in the industry is at this current time, under the circumstances the world is being forced to adapt under. Economies are struggling, people are hurting & especially when it comes to an industry like professional wrestling, our support is what keeps the wheels turning at the end of the day. As long as we have the time to invest & support companies such as this one who have survived so much through the years, we should play apart in their success as much as we can.
And second, is that it’s just a rock solid product with an endless array of potential to wrestling fans of all kinds. Whether you’re into pure professional wrestling, high-flying spectacles, hardcore wars, more dramatic long-form storylines or a product focused on building new stars, there’s something in here for absolutely everyone, fan or not. Impact Wrestling has slowly managed to supersede the reputation it so often carries in the wrestling community, one of failure & consistent letdowns, to become a product that isn’t just once again attracting big names, but some of the best (and also, most underrated) in the entire world.
Does Impact Wrestling have the reach or audience it once did? No. Not even close.
Does that matter? Not at all, because the amount of passion & effort everyone puts into this programme makes someone like myself, a wrestling fan since the age of five excited that a company continues to push past all of its obstacles to create something truly unique for fans to enjoy as a solid alternative to its much larger competition.
If you’re a fan like me who’s grown frustrated with a good chunk of the current products or brands like WWE, or elements of AEW, Impact Wrestling can offer as a solid secondary show or a place that will fill in the missing gaps that both companies fumble on based on your personal preferences or tastes.
Impact Wrestling isn’t just finding itself once again, it’s the most criminally slept on product in 2020 thus far, offering one excellent show after another, rarely stumbling & has somehow put together a roster of talent so good it’s no wonder the product they present is as consistent as it is on a week-to-week basis. Do yourself a favour and give this product a go whenever you have the time, because it’s a brand that deserves so much more attention in a landscape that constantly tries to undermine its true potential.