There’s something happening in the world of iMPACT Wrestling. I’m not quite sure that I can capture whatever is happening in the promotion in one of these columns, but I’m going to give it a shot.
Since iMPACT Wrestling has gone live, I’ve found the show to be much more entertaining and much more the type of “must see TV” that I want from a weekly wrestling show. I’m very quick to admit that the wrestling fan in me has diminished as I’ve gotten older, but the small part of my wrestling fandom that remains from the Attitude Era is absolutely in love with Spike TV on Thursday nights. The “I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I want to see it!” feeling is what my inner, Attitude-based wrestling fan feels when I watch new episodes of iMPACT Wrestling. Sometimes that inner fan gets fed with a high intensity match between two top starts like Jeff Hardy and Rob Van Dam and other times it gets an Open Fight Night themed show where random performers are calling out one another. For a time, I was happy to see Devon defending that TNA Television Championship on each week’s show. That’s the type of stuff that my inner old school wrestling fan wants to see.
There’s something happening in the world of iMPACT Wrestling – that’s for sure. And as I’ve thought about this for the last few weeks, I’ve tried really hard to put my finger on what it is that makes the show so exciting for me. Plus, since I tend to over think nearly every idea that crosses through my head, I’ve been trying to figure out why the excitement that this generally disgruntled wrestling fan feels is no reflected in the weekly viewership for the show.
Well, I think I can answer the second part of that last paragraph first. The reasons why the excitement that I sense from this show doesn’t carry into the weekly viewership are many. Among the most important for the executives at Spike TV to consider is the move to an 8:00pm EST start time. Granted, as a guy in his 30’s with a full-time job and several part-time gigs, I’m very happy with the earlier start time! However, it seems like the summer viewers just aren’t there for an earlier start time. Will this change in the fall? Personally, I think so. Remember – the NFL is implementing a Thursday Night Football game each week this season so I think the audience will be there flipping around the tube. It’s a matter of drawing them when the season starts, but I’ll write about that necessity when the time comes.
On a different level, though, I think that the viewership isn’t as strong as it might otherwise be because of the type of fan who is attracted to the new format. Namely… guys like me. In other words, if a guy in his thirties is excited to watch this wrestling show, then Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, and Dixie Carter must have found a way to successfully capture some of that Attitude Era type of magic. How do I know that? Simple. Nothing else would bring me so far back into wrestling fandom than that type of programming (which is why I just can’t watch the stuff from the folks up in Connecticut).
But times have changed.
Speaking for myself, this isn’t the late 1990’s and I’m not in high school any more. I don’t have the same type of free time on a Thursday night in 2012 that I had on a Monday night back in 1997. Fifteen years is a long time and things just change. For example, I couldn’t watch last week’s show when it aired live because I was out at the annual meeting of a local nonprofit organization because I’m the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for one of their local partner organizations. I couldn’t watch the live airing of the prior week’s show because I was out in Minnesota for work. Frankly, I can’t watch tomorrow night’s show because I’ll be in Atlantic City trying to have some fun while concurrently juggling an 8:00pm EST conference call for the Board of Trustees for a different organization that I’ve been involved with for the last several years.
Times are different – and free time isn’t as free flowing as it used to be.
When I am home and near a television set on Thursday nights, I put iMPACT Wrestling on in the background as I work on other projects. It just has to be that way because of the fact that I’m overscheduled. But to get back to the original point of this column, I do find myself turning my head from whatever project I’m working on and focusing in on iMPACT Wrestling. Why?
Because something is happening here.
I don’t want to jump the gun and say that Bischoff, Hogan, and Carter have found a way to bring droves of fans back to the world of professional wrestling. However, I don’t think it’s too much to suggest that the new formula this team is using – live shows each week, monthly Gut Check segments, monthly Open Fight Night shows, weekly title defenses, continued pushes for homegrown talent like Bobby Roode, James Storm, Crimson, Austin Aries, Robbie E., etc. – is changing the promotion for the better. The show is becoming must see television for Attitude Era fans of professional wrestling. I don’t have any doubt about that at all.
The question is whether or not the show can be successful given some of the other circumstances that it finds itself in. For example, I think every fan of the show will agree that despite the handful of faithful fans who attend the shows at the iMPACT Wrestling Zone, that soundstage gives the show a very, very low end feel. There aren’t any large audience shots nor are there real, organic reactions to major announcements and events. I’m going to give the iMPACT Wrestling Zone the benefit of the doubt and use the internet-based figure that about 1,400 fans can cram into that makeshift arena each week. I think it’s less than 1,400, but I have zero access to any of the site plans or maximum capacity permits so I’ll go with that number. It appears that the majority of those fans just don’t care about what they’re watching. Either that, or they’re just looking for the spot matches where they can “oooo” and “ahhh” before going home from the amusement park. And even with that apathetic crowd (take the show back to the United Kingdom already!), I still think that the show is must see television. Why?
Because something is happening in the iMPACT Wrestling Zone.
Bischoff, Hogan, and Carter are rewriting their game plan and they’re doing a good job. They’re overcoming an earlier time slot, a mostly apathetic crowd, a mainstream internet media who will do whatever it takes to see the company fail, copious amounts of lies and innuendo about their locker room, and questionable business tactics from their major competitor. And the show is actually managing to not just be watchable, but to be compelling television.
Something is definitely happening down in Orlando. For this fan, whatever is happening is a good thing – the type of thing that makes iMPACT Wrestling “must see TV.”
joe1897 [at] gmail [dot] com