Don Callis and Scott D’Amore: “We think change is good, change is exciting” (Exclusive Interview)

Last December, IMPACT Wrestling President, Ed Nordholm, named Scott D’Amore and Don Callis as the new Executive Vice-Presidents of the company. Ever since, they have worked on developing the Creative direction for the Company and managing the execution of the Company’s business plan. Many noticed those changes at the recent taping session or when it was announced wrestlers could keep their gimmicks if they left the company.

SteelChair Magazine had the opportunity yesterday to talk to the two “masterminds” of IMPACT Wrestling as they’re currently in the UK with Ed Nordholm to take a look at what UK wrestling could bring to IMPACT, and also what IMPACT could bring to the UK wrestling scene.

Ed Nordholm, President of IMPACT Wrestling, confirmed earlier today that Jeremy Borash left IMPACT (he’s said to have signed with WWE). What are your views on seeing of the very last of the TNA originals leaving ?

Don Callis: “With all the respect due to Jeremy, I think Jeremy has been one of the great contributions to TNA/Impact Wrestling over the years. I was not here for much of that time but he certainly has an excellent reputation. He’s moved on and I think that, in any business or artistic endeavour or sports franchise, people players move on and new people step up and for me, it’s no different. We have a roster that leaves and another one comes in. So certainly I wish Jeremy all the best but to me what it represents is an opportunity for someone else behind the scenes, as a producer, to step up and have some more creative freedom and to be able to express themselves. They may become the new Jeremy Borash behind the scenes and in terms of Jeremy’s role as an announcer. Look, we’ve always had a plan with the announcing team with IMPACT. It’s been a subject of feedback on social media. That plan is a longer term plan and it really hasn’t changed. I think that people spend a lot of time focusing on the people who leave but they don’t then acknowledge that there are new people who have come in. So for every EC3, he was a great performer that left, there’s a Brian Cage or an Austin Aries that’s up. So we think change is good, change is exciting.”

What is the reason that made you come to England?

Scott D’Amore: “The reason why we’re over here is the UK is such an important market to IMPACT Wrestling. We felt it was important that all of us, Don, myself and also Ed Nordholm, our President, all made a trip over here. We’re meeting with different partners and also different potential partners, production companies, promoters and also meeting with some of the amazing UK-based talents that are out there. We’re just really trying to get ourselves a better understanding of one of the most impressive markets in the wrestling world right now. As you know the UK scene, both talent wise and the amount of shows, there are a lot of quality and well intended shows that are being run. It’s pretty much second to none. So we’re over here meeting with people, we will also be checking out quite a few events, attending events, seeing the events, and certainly getting a chance to firsthand see some of the talents. So just kind of like setting the groundwork to expand and re-establish ourselves forefront of the UK wrestling scene.”

Do you plan for a tour, some live events, and – why not – a TV show?

Scott D’Amore: “We certainly are looking forward to returning and doing live events in the UK. In the past, for TNA/IMPACT Wrestling, coming over to the UK was always one of those events on the calendar that everybody in the company and the roster looked forward to. We certainly look forward to returning to that and certainly would come back at some point. When the time is right we would want again, like in the past, to be filming some of our TV content here in the UK.”

Scott D’Amore (left), hosting “After Impact” with Josh Matthews

What was your state of mind coming to the new set of tapings in Orlando as you knew you were going to be scrutinized on the content that was about to be recorded? Many things were different, you were the 2 new Executive Vice-Presidents, and there were new wrestlers and a new ring.

Scott D’Amore: “In this industry, like in a lot of industries, you’re going to be scrutinized no matter what and you’re not going to please 100% of the people all the time. But we came in with a very excited outlook, we were pretty excited to come on board here and be part of building this company up. We came in and then it certainly changes a big part of what was undergoing here. We were excited to return to a 4-sided ring. We can debate whether aesthetically or anything else, whether there should be a 6-sided or a 4-sided ring. But when it’s pretty much unanimous from the performers, from the wrestlers, who have to go in there and put their bodies on the line that they not just prefer a 4-sided ring, but feel safer in a 4-sided ring. The safety and comfort of our performers is paramount. That’s a big change and with lots of the talents coming in. We’re very excited.

Wrestling has always been a secular business, there’s always going to be people leaving and people coming and certainly we said goodbye and are saying goodbye to some great performers and characters from IMPACT history. We saw EC3 in the crowd at NXT TakeOver the other night, we’re certainly wishing him the best. We want to see him go there and succeed and do tremendous things. On the other hand, we’re just so excited with the return of Austin Aries, with the addition of Brian Cage and Su Yung, also Sami Callihan being a recent addition. Even though they’ve been around for a little bit, guys like Dezmond Xavier and some of the amazing talents, we really feel that there’s a talent roster being put together that could really go out there and perform at a very high level and can really showcase a style of wrestling that is not always seen in a national level. We’re excited for what 2018 will bring in, people will scrutinize us and we’ll listen to what people have to say, we will digest it, we will contemplate on it and ultimately we’ll make decisions to try to move this company forward and continue to improve and grow.”

What is your way or working as you’re 2 Executive Vice-Presidents? Are you working as a team or is each of you having his specific field of work? 

Scott D’Amore: “Myself and Don have a long relationship and friendship that has spanned a couple of decades at this point. When we decided that we were interested in and we were going to come on board as part of this structuring of IMPACT Wrestling, we very much envision it as a team. There are a lot of things that we’re doing jointly, certainly there are times when Don will spearhead certain aspects and I’ll spearhead others. Creative being such an important part of the company, we’ve been doing a lot of it together and we’ll continue to do so. One of the things about a company like IMPACT Wrestling, which is both a blessing and a curse, is that people have to wear so many different hats because we’re such a small amount of people here working in this company. So we’re always both of us and so many of the other people here, Sonjay Dutt, Jimmy Jacobs and Abyss, we’re wearing so many different hats. Some people are performers and producers and writers, handling paperwork and everything else. But we just communicate, daily would be an understatement as there’s probably days where we speak on the phone in double digits and there are probably days where there are hundreds of messages and emails and texts exchange. That’s what it takes right now to structure this thing and get us moving in the direction so we feel we need to be moving in and we’re excited for that opportunity.”

Don Callis (right), next to Lance Storm at a WWE event

You recorded three months’ worth of episodes in January, are you planning on changing this and recording more often?

Don Callis: “We’re evaluating various aspects to the business, of the production process as we kind of go through it. There’s both upside to downside doing a 3-month run, it is definitely much more taxing on the creative team than writing the same one month of television. To be perfectly frank about it, it’s one of the areas of the business that we’re evaluating the production process and we hope to fine-tune it perhaps maybe for the next set of tapings.”

Last Spring, when Jeff Jarrett was in charge, he said a five-year plan was in place to revive IMPACT. I suppose this plan has been abandoned? So what are the new plans and your long-term goals?

Don Callis: “I think we obviously want to grow the business and we want to make IMPACT destination programming on all our platforms for the fans. One of the things that I think we noticed in the summer when we first started talking about coming in and working with Ed is taking this thing in a new direction. The product had to loosely determine a cool factor in quite some time and we needed to get a positive buzz about the product.

There have been more than a few false starts, with different leaderships over the years, and we want to establish some common sense or establish some consistency. We wanted to put on a cool wrestling product that people will say, “Hey, we want to see that, we want to see Brian Cage, we want to see Su Yung, and we want to see Austin Aries.” People would miss last week and Austin Aries showed up out of nowhere. You have to give people a reason to watch. So I think the long-term plan is to grow the business and to make the product destination programming for wrestling fans everywhere.”

You countered the rumour mill when you announced that you came back to a 4-sided ring and Austin Aries became the new IMPACT Global Champion, which was completely new.

Don Callis: “You know when you do TV tapings that people are going to leak out what’s going on. As quickly as it happened they’re going to leak it out. The 4-sided ring, they’re going to leak it out. Something that’s not intended to be aired in eight weeks or six weeks or ten weeks, they’re going to leak it out. So do you kind of let that happen or you try to be strategic about it, take control of it, try to do it a way that if people decide they want to ignore that move, they have the option to do so. We need to take control over what happens because, if you don’t have a strategy around social media, you’re just waiting for stuff to happen to you. We don’t think we want to be in that position so respect the fact that some fans want to watch it over the course of the television show, but we also say knowing it’s going to get on in social media, we’re trying to control our message, communicate with those who do want to hear that news, make sure they’re hearing the right version of the story.”

What about the partnerships with NOAH, AAA, Crash? Are they still on and do you expect to build new ones?

Scott D’Amore: “Certainly. Partnering with different companies, both domestically in the US and Canada and abroad, including Japan, Mexico and the UK, is a big part of what we hope to continue to build and develop here in 2018. In 2017, we were able to do some tremendous business and mutually beneficial business with AAA, Crash and Pro Wrestling NOAH. We’re in a position now where we’re no longer working with The Crash promotion at this time as we’re focusing our efforts in Mexico and AAA. We have Taiji Ishimori from NOAH at our most recent tapings, he’s our current X-Division Championship and he’s an outstanding talent. We’re looking forward to showcasing him and other great Japanese talents in the upcoming tapings.”