The first part of 2015 was a great one for the team at IMPACT Wrestling. This column will review some of the good and the bad from January 2015 through May 2015. To start, here are five reasons why the first part of the year represented good times for the wrestling promotion and its dedicated fans.
This is an easy one. Of course, the best thing going for IMPACT Wrestling during the first part of 2015 is that they now have a true American television partner in Discovery Communication’s Destination America. I’ve written in this column before about how Destination America is the right home for TNA’s wrestling programs because it “right sizes” the potential audience with the resources and capabilities of the promotion at this point in time. In other words, TNA doesn’t have the resources (or isn’t willing to spend the resources necessary) to put on the type of over-the-top entertainment extravaganza that airs on USA Network every Monday night or that used to air on TNT on Monday nights. However, they have a great in-ring product that older, non-G-rated wrestling fans enjoy watching and they are now on a cable channel that – like IMPACT Wrestling itself – is in the process of growing its audience. Read the column that I linked above to learn more about why the IMPACT Wrestling/Destination America partnership is good for both companies.
And as for those rumors about Destination America getting rid of IMPACT Wrestling – I wouldn’t put much stock in them. Not only have they been directly refuted by TNA Wrestling and, indirectly, by Destination America releasing their 2015 – 2016 television schedule, but they also emanate from the same source that said TNA was being sold last summer. That bit of plausible conjecture had no truth to it (and is likely a situation where said “reporter” was being worked by those in the wrestling business since he’s a mark for himself not just reporting the news, but being the news).
Unlike most folks, I think it is a very positive thing for the company to not renew the contracts of their higher-cost, longer-term performers. I’m perfectly fine with the loss of AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, and even Bully Ray and Devon. Don’t get me wrong – I miss seeing these performers on IMPACT Wrestling – particularly the Motor City Machine Guns. But, not only does the promotion not have the same money coming in that it once had with the Spike television contract, but their net revenue-generating, profitable house show business has been put on hold while the company reorganizes. Since so many of the denizens of the internet wrestling world have zero experience in owning or operating a small business (I’ve owned and operated several wildly successful small businesses and even sold a few for profit), let me provide a little bit of a business lesson: What TNA has done with its talent pool by spinning off high cost talent and replacing them with new, fresh faces is exactly how a company adapts to a changing market environment and… survives!
This almost goes without saying, but one of the greatest things that IMPACT Wrestling has going on each year is their tour of the United Kingdom. Any informed fan of TNA knows that the European crowd is hot for the promotion’s annual tour and that those taped shows produce some of the best television of the year. IMPACT Wrestling has already announced next year’s tour and I’m looking forward to the end result being available on television shortly after it takes place!
New IMPACT Zone Set
While it’s not as eye-catching and doesn’t draw you in as much as the old, mid-2000s, red-themed IMPACT Zone set, the new entrance area and stage for IMPACT Wrestling is a great improvement over what we were getting in the Manhattan Center (of course, the Manhattan Center has better crowds than the IMPACT Zone, but you can’t win them all). There is one issue that I’ll take with the set design/television production, but that bit of constructive criticism will kick off the next section of this article.
Over the years, I grew to not dislike Mike Tenay. In particular, I think his pairing with Taz really brought the best out of The Professor. In fact, while Tenay was at one point a distinct negative element in each show, his teaming with Taz eventually led to the best place for him – a somewhat pleasant, non-factor to the home audience. Josh Mathews is different. He’s exciting, energetic, upbeat, and he speaks in the same pitch, mannerisms, and sayings of the young adults that TNA appeals to with their shows. When you combine those factors with the clear truth that Josh is committed to making IMPACT Wrestling a top quality television product and you have a really great chemistry brewing with him as the voice of the promotion. We need more of Josh on TNA television!
And here are five issues that the team at IMPACT Wrestling should try to improve during the rest of the year.
I’m a big proponent of trying new things when you’re producing television – especially wrestling television. In fact, trying new approaches to television is what brought us the amazing Monday Night Wars and the absolutely awe-inspiring production that is on the USA Network each Monday night. TNA has tried new things with their television product over the years. For example, they went from a 4 sided ring to a 6 sided ring back to a 4 sided ring and now back to a 6 sided ring. Another example – they went from a generally red-themed stage set to now having a blue-themed stage set (I liked the red better). One of their current experiments is turning the lights off on the crowds and I have to say – I don’t like it. Go back and watch any video clip of the IMPACT Zone from the mid-to-late 2000s and you’ll see how great the production looks with the lights turned on over the crowd. Constructive criticism number one for the remainder of 2015 – turn the lights back on over the audience.
Semi-Permanent Taping Home
This one hurts for me to admit, but I join the growing number of voices who understand that TNA television is best produced when it is taped in a single location for a prolonged period of time. One of the reasons why the IMPACT Zone felt like “home” when TNA went back there is because of the great history that the company has with that location. That great history was built on being located in a single place for a long period of time that the promotion began to make their own by adding minor design elements over time. First, they put the ring and stage where they wanted them. Next, they began to add posters around the IMPACT Zone promoting their performers. Then they added that horizontal screen opposite the TV cameras promoting the company’s website during the show. And on and on – that’s how TNA made the IMPACT Zone feel and look like “home” for its fans. Constructive criticism number two for the remainder of 2015 – it’s time to find a semi-permanent place to tape the weekly show. My recommendation is to find a place in Texas near or around the Dallas/Arlington area!
Bringing America Xplosion
Now here’s an odd piece of advice for the remainder of 2015 – I think that TNA needs to produce MORE content for those of us watching in America. Right now, we get the main IMPACT Wrestling program. Some other countries get IMPACT Wrestling as well as Xplosion. We were spoiled for a little while in America because we were getting Unlocked (which, in my opinion, didn’t come off the way that any TNA fans wanted it to) and TNA’s Greatest Matches. Since Destination America hasn’t scheduled those shows to run again, I think it’s time that TNA finds a way to bring Xplosion to the American audience. I don’t necessarily think that this needs to be a second television show. I’d be happy with a web-based show that we can watch for free on YouTube or on IMPACTWrestling.com. Constructive criticism number three for the remainder of 2015 – bring Xplosion (the full show) to American audiences.
Call The Show IMPACT and the Company TNA Wrestling
Look, it’s enough already with the bifurcation of IMPACT Wrestling and TNA Wrestling. We get it, we get it – TNA has an adult connotation as a euphemism for tits and ass. We’re all adults here and, again, we get it. However, having a website at IMPACTWrestling.com and having your main logo feature IMPACT Wrestling (actually, sometimes it’s IMPACT Wrestling and sometimes it’s just IMPACT – another issue) is just inefficient. Think of the biggest wrestling promotion in the world. Do you find their website at www.thenameoftheMondaynightshow.com? No. Of course not. That’s ridiculous. The team at TNA Wrestling needs to put their website back to TNAWrestling.com, they need to take their now-well-recognized red version of the TNA letters and embed them somewhere on the new IMPACT Wrestling logo, and they need to stop calling the show IMPACT Wrestling and just call it IMPACT. We know it’s a wrestling show. Again, you don’t see the largest wrestling company in the world – or nearly any other company out there – doing this with show names. Constructive criticism number four for the remainder of 2015 – call the wrestling show “IMPACT” and call the company “TNA” again.
Inconsistent Promotions and Themes
This is a criticism of TNA today and throughout their history. The company has a problem with starting promotions and then randomly stopping them. Do you remember the TNA 24/7 “Where Action Never Ends” promotion that they started during the Fall of 2013? Or how about the interviews immediately after the matches ended? Or even the awesome post-shows on YouTube? Hey – do you remember Gut Check? Or what about Open Fight Night? That was awesome! Or Championship Thursdays? I remember when there was an announcement that the TNA Television Championship was going to be defended each week on IMPACT… then again, where is that championship now anyway?
Constructive criticism number five for the remainder of 2015 – if you start a promotion or a new theme for the show, then you have to stick with it. The more that a company starts something new and then abandons it, the less likely we – as fans – are to jump on board with the next promotion.
What do you think? How did the first part of 2015 go for IMPACT Wrestling from your perspective? Leave your thoughts in the comment box below!