As 2018 comes to a close there have been some exciting milestones in the world of wrestling. As a fan, it has been such an exciting year and I can’t wait to see what 2019 holds for us. With independent wrestling experiencing such a boost, more content than ever has been available for the dedicated consumer.
No matter what style floats your boat, you are bound to find something to enjoy. With all this choice out there for the discerning fan, something that really stands out is a certain televised promotion which has seen a very welcome return to form. That promotion is Impact Wrestling.
Under New Management
I was an avid fan of Impact Wrestling (formerly TNA) for many years, watching it religiously during the era of AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and its other standout stars. Then “The Dark Ages” descended and for many fans, Impact lots its sparkle. I lost interest in watching and before I even realised it had been months since I had caught an episode.
Then a few months ago I stumbled across Impact on PopTV late one evening and was more than pleasantly surprised! There were still some issues with production quality but I can forgive that if they wrestling is worth watching. Since that day I have gone back to watching it every week and it has just got better and better.
One of the main reasons for this turnaround was the announcement on December 5th 2017 that industry stalwarts Don Callis and Scott D’Amore had come on board as executive vice presidents. With a new team at the helm, they seemed determined to make real changes and breathe some life back into the ailing promotion. They had a long way to go to restore the brand back to its former glory but there is a feeling of enthusiasm and excitement that has been missing for a long time.
One of the best things about how Impact Wrestling is currently being handled is its partnerships with other promotions, most notably the independents. In the weeks leading up to the start of Lucha Underground’s 4th season, Impact was heavily promoting the show and featured many of the show’s stars in their TV programmings, such as Pentagon Jr and Fenix. Now that Lucha Underground is finished for time being, Impact gives many fans their only place to see these outstanding stars without subscribing to multiple on-demand streaming services.
Another great contribution to the wrestling business is their cross-promotion events, teaming up with a variety of indie promotions for their “One Night Only” shows. These shows have introduced many of us to charismatic performers such as Stone Rockwell, a man who brings some much needed “adventure” to Impact’s Twitch channel. With the popularity of independent wrestling on the rise, Impact’s ability to maintain good relationships with these promotions is such a positive thing for wrestling as a whole. The fact they are happy to work together with them to put on great televised events is something that makes them special. Nothing wrong with a bit of friendly competition, but helping to lift each other up will always be more positive than dragging each other down.
Impact’s Got Talent
When critics try and trash Impact Wrestling, they always bring attention to the big stars who have left and gone on to find success elsewhere. For example AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, Jeff and Matt Hardy (complete with “Woken” gimmick) and more recently NXT superstars such as EC3. However, by focusing on the people who have left, they are omitting to mention all the fantastic talent they have now, including those who have recently signed. This last year has seen Brian Cage debut and put himself firmly in the title picture, Tessa Blanchard signed a two-year contract and the Herald of Doomsday himself Killer Kross, decimate half the roster. Sure, some big names have left. But one thing Impact does not lack is talent.
This One’s For The Ladies
Women’s wrestling is currently experiencing its most exciting period to date. With women main eventing PPVs and making headlines the world over, it is fantastic to see them being taken seriously as wrestlers. Impact Wrestling was one of the first companies to really buy into the “Women’s Evolution” and I’ve always rated the platform that it gives to their women’s division. They did give the Knockouts their own PPV a long time before WWE. The style of talent they have is diverse and interesting. They put effort into the storylines carried by the women and aren’t afraid to take risks.
The recent storyline with Su Yung, Rosemary, Kiera Hogan and Allie is a great example of this. Plucky young women venturing into the underworld and battling demons? Yes, please! To see them letting the women have some fun without pinning them down to the tired, playground style bitching that has driven SO many female rivalries in recent years is just wonderful to see. Long may it continue!
Why So Serious?
Wrestling is supposed to be fun, not taking itself too seriously. It is meant to be entertainment. It can make you live through the whole spectrum of human emotion in a single evening. Something Impact Wrestling has always excelled at is the ability to laugh at itself. When the wrestlers are having fun, it’s so easy to see and it makes it a far more enjoyable experience for the rest of us. There is plenty of fun to be had in your weekly fix of Impact Wrestling at the moment and it is great to see they are still prepared to take risks. The joy is back, and it is back in spades.
Pay-Per-View Par Excellence
Slammiversary XVI was without a doubt one of the best PPV events of this year. In this writer’s opinion, it was better than any WWE PPV in 2018 if you don’t include the NXT brand. Can you imagine anyone saying that a couple of years ago? Some people won’t agree with me, of course, but the voice of the wrestling fans is echoing the fact it was an excellent event and worthy of consideration as one of the top shows of 2018.
Bound For Glory was also fantastic and Homecoming is shaping up to be even better. Dedication to building storylines and feuds has really paid off. PPVs can only be successful as a “main event” if you are invested in the matches. You can only do that if you put work into the build-up and subsequent payoff, something the WWE PPVs have been severely lacking for a long time and Impact has capitalized on.
The “X” Division and Option C
When TNA first started making people sit up and take notice, one of the things that made it stand out was the X Division. The X Division was intended as an exhibition of high-flying, high-risk athletic performance.
One of the pinnacles of X Division innovation is the Ultimate X match. This was a specialist stipulation involving a red “X” hung above the ring from a large X shaped structure. The participant that managed to reach the X and claim it first was declared the winner (and usually this meant becoming the X Division Champion). For many years, Impact featured a Destination X PPV on the schedule, showing just how much Impact invested into the concept and the division.
In 2012, former X Division Champion Austin Aries introduced “Option C”. He was hot property at the time and this period was arguably the most important time of his career and the X Division as a whole. Hulk Hogan was the General Manager of Impact Wrestling at the time and, in the run-up to that year’s Destination X, he gave Aries the option to either continue as X Division champion and defend his title, or exchange his X Division title for a shot at the Impact Heavyweight Championship. Aries made history by insisting on “Option C”.
He would go on to win the Heavyweight title at Destination X, giving a level of legitimacy to the X Division never before seen. Anyone who became X Division champion could have the chance to risk it all for the main title!
The PPV schedule has changed somewhat in recent years, however, Option C still remains. Last month, current X Division Champion Brian Cage surprised everyone when he announced he would be enacting the ruling and challenging the current Heavyweight Champion Johnny Impact at next month’s PPV, Homecoming. Not only will this PPV see the return of Option C, but we also get the excitement of Ultimate X as the vacant X Division title seeks a new owner.
As a passionate fan of X Division wrestling, Impact will always have a special place in my heart. For many years it was the only promotion on mainstream TV that gave any validation to that style of wrestling and it still remains a champion for those special athletes.
In a world where we are almost spoilt for choice when it comes to wrestling these days, it can be tough to know what is worth spending time watching. So much wrestling, so little time! In this writer’s opinion, you need to make time for Impact Wrestling. For an eclectic mix of craziness, powerful women, technical mastery, larger than life characters and balls to the wall entertainment, you can’t get much better than Impact Wrestling.
All pics courtesy of Impact Wrestling