I wanted to wait for a full set of tapings to air under the new Impact Wrestling regime before making a judgement on the new product. After all, if the history of this company has taught me anything, it's never to really trust any sort of reset, new direction, or changeover it endures. As a follower since the very first show in 2002, this company has provided me with some of my favorite wrestling moments, but truthfully, has given me more heartache as of late than memorable moments.
Nonetheless, here we are...again! This time, the "new beginning" is legit, with the key aspect being the removal of Dixie Carter, and the insert of Anthem as new owners, and the return of Jeff Jarrett in a weird Steve Jobs-sort of way, to do it the way he wanted to the first time. Maybe with a bit more seasoning and understanding this time around.
After several weeks, I have to say, I am very pleased with the product. Very pleased. For this fan, dare I say, there is hope once again. Like, legit-more-than-one-year sort of hope. With that said, as Impact Wrestling gears up for a second dose of tapings which should provide some fixes to the beta version we wandered our eyes about like a deteriorating vessel suddenly restored, here is a breakdown of my thoughts on the new direction:
1. Organization - For me, this is easily the biggest change in watching the product on television, or even in how it roams digital spaces and is presented in various facets. It feels like a real company, run professionally once again. After all, there is a website! Like a legit website, with information and stuff! In 2017, Imagine that? Way to go team!!
But, more importantly, there are the streamlining of the brand (to just Impact Wrestling) as well as a clear organizational understanding of who is in charge. Which leads me to...
2. Vision - Obviously an achilles heel for the company since Jarrett departed, the company clearly has a vision in how it wants to be perceived and what it wants to accomplish. There are now working agreements with multiple international companies around the world. But this time, we're talking some real partnerships where both sides prosper. Say goodbye to the days of Wrestle-1! Partnering with The Crash, AAA, and Pro-Wrestling NOAH gives legitimacy, and also puts the company in place to do some good things.
And oh yeah, we have the announcement of a pay-per-view with event graphics and such in advance! Whaaaaaaat?!! This is all so...so...so...non-TNA! I guess that's the point, right?
3. Presentation - The first show immediately felt different. From the new opening montage paying homage to the company's history (something not often taken advantage of enough), the guardrail coverings, the match graphics (which are super sleek), to subtle things such as the overhead projection of the logo in the ring and the brighter lighting in the IMPACT Zone, it's clear that this was a priority on the drawing board.
Also, as part of the presentation, I'm a huge fan of the pacing of the show. I'm not sure if anyone has noticed (haven't seen many discuss it), but the time given to matches, as well as the time allowed following matches and moments to breathe really add to the show and the overall story telling.
And finally, this is another small tidbit, but I'm such a fanboy for the backstage interview. I just felt it was a lost concept in the previous two regimes. A simple interviewer in front of a small set goes such a long way in giving time to a performer to get across their character. In my opinion, sometimes keeping it simple is best. Wrestling has gotten lost (and Broken) in some areas of it's presentation.
4. Diverse Talent - Whenever pro wrestling fans analyze the mistakes of the past of TNA/IMPACT Wrestling, I point to when they never allowed their crop of talent to become the true homegrown stars of the company. Now, they get to do so again, and I'm excited. There is Eli Drake, who I find to be a legit star if it's handled correctly (all parties included).
But I also love the addition of Reno Scum (such a sick finisher), the slow re-focus of the X-Division, and the international feel the program now has. Another small appareication is in the diversity of the performers - not just in ethnicity and race, but in fact in size, shape, age, and overall look. The roster has a nice balance to it.
Oddly enough, I'm also looking forward to returning talent, Matt Morgan and Magnus.
5. Laurel Van Ness - She's been absolutely awesome in the role as the scorned bride. She deserves this spot. So awesome.
1. "TNA" Titles - I'm pretty sure this will get fixed VERY soon, but it's odd seeing old remnants of TNA as we move forward into this new regime. The championships really are just a reminder of what used to be - almost a weird hinderance. I know, sorry, sometimes aesthetics like that just bug me. Especially among the mix of such drastic changes.
2. Announcing Squabble - In the first show when Jeremy Borash and Josh Matthews went at it, it reached various levels of unbearable. I enjoyed their back and forth when the focus was on them, but the constant bickering during matches really took away from the development of others.
Though, I will admit, the storyline served a great purpose in helping return a few wrestlers, the debut of some, and really, the transition of JB to a seat he should have held a LONG time ago, as well as the creation of a version of Josh Matthews I'm hoping sticks around in a manager role. Because heel Josh Matthews is fantastic, and is possibly the best version of anything he's ever done in pro wrestling.
3. Multiple "Authority Figures" - I'm so over the authority figure in pro wrestling. I understand it's purpose, and how it can drive and transition storylines and elevate characters, but wow, do we need three? And to be quite honest, Karen's role feels forced, contrived, and really doesn't do anything for me. She is actually more of a detractor that anything else. Just my opinion.
4. The Impact Zone - I get it. It's free. It's cost effective. But man, sans the usual faces we see down on the floor for each episode who give themselves to the product, the crowd has been hit or miss. Or maybe it doesn't translate well? Whatever it is, the IZ crowd can really make or break a segment by not engaging with the in-ring happenings. It's tough at times.
1. Knockouts Division - By no means am I calling the knockouts ugly. But the division as far as in-ring talent is. It's bad. It's really, really bad. Sure, there are some nice building blocks such as Sienna (why was she never given a microphone earlier?), Allie (who, an argument can be made is the company's biggest babyface), Madison Rayne (who should be reborn along Matthew's new character), and the returning ODB. Of course, this all surrounds the super-awesome Rosemary.
However, while some of the new women look really promising such as Diamante and AJ Jenkings, there are others who are tough to comprehend why they were placed on national television. KC Quinn, or whatever her name is this week, looks to have potential, but just felt and looked awkward whenever she was on television. And there were others in a recent gauntlet match that felt not ready, or really, really lacking something.
With the WWE's strong women's roster right now, the measuring bar is really, really high for women's wrestling. The KO's division need some serious rebuilding.
1. Young Wrestlers - As stated above, Jarrett has been bringing in a few wrestlers in attempt to, as he put it, "find the next AJ Styles, the next Bobby Roode...". Personally, I'm highly intrigued with KM (like Reno Scum, debuted such a sick finisher), Reno Scum, and believe or not, Fallah Bah. I just love his look. It's unique (ala Yokuzuna), especially in a world of pro wrestling where more and more wrestlers are now looking and wrestling with plenty of similarities.
2. Better In-Ring Work - I hate to come off sounding like some smark or that snobby fan, but there was a point in time that this company had some extraordinary matches and moments. I'm not talking moments that felt forced like Bully Ray as part of the Aces and Eights or Jeff Hardy turning heel to join "they" on 10.10.10.
I'm talking about Elix Skipper tight roe-walking the six sides of steel. I'm talking about AJ Styles hanging from the rafters of the IMPACT Zone for a splash during a Lethal Lockdown match. How about the match known by it's pay-per-view namesake - Unbreakable? Kurt Angle moonsaulting onto Mr. Anderson. I miss those matches. Those moments that made the stars. This company had some really, really great moments.
3. Theme Songs and Entrances - Is it weird I want the DCC to re-group instead of disband because their theme song is so dope? Really, it is. The gimmick is too. Just wish they were introduced better, and portrayed with a purpose.
Nonetheless, I'm hoping Jarrett understands the importance of theme songs, and even so, the importance of spectacle entrances. I don't believe anyone in IMPACT Wrestling (maybe EC3?) has an entrance that is must watch, or at the very least, entertaining on it's own.
4. Resolution to Global Force Wrestling - At some point we known it's coming. The unification of IMPACT and Global Force Wrestling titles. After all, we see the titles on television and mentioned. I wouldn't mind it if GFW was actually like a live and living entity. But it's not. So lets not insult the fans. Either GFW becomes real, or it goes away. Let's not serve two masters here. We all know the focus needs to be IMPACT.
This has been the case for awhile now. And for this company, it now or never. I can't take another reboot.