The change was really felt right after Bound For Glory. Alot of the product was reset as new champions were crowned and wrestlers switched alignment to better fit Bruce Pritchard's vision of the company. The biggest switch happened around the World Title scene as Bobby Roode turned heel and won the World Heavyweight Title from his then best-friend James Storm. In one move, Pritchard catapulted Roode into the main event scene while setting up the feud at the time in James Storm.
The end of 2011 was exciting for TNA as change was in the air. The product was fresh again with new faces on top. The new main eventers in Bobby Roode and James Storm had fresh challengers in AJ Styles and Kurt Angle. While Pritchard's creative change wasn't in full effect quite yet, you could notice the difference in the product.
The first few months of 2012 is what I could describe as a rebuilding process. The creative changes went old school as the product was drastically toned down. The company focused on a much smaller group of wrestlers. The company wasn't trying to be edgy at the time; they were trying to get their footing as they started branding themselves.
The main narrative at the time was the monthly challenges to each of the titles. It seemed at the time that Bobby Roode, Gail Kim and even Austin Aries were facing a different challenger every month. The buildup had very little story involved as the champion would face their challenger and then knock them down to build up the champion and the title.
While the product was logical and had a meaning, it wasn't the most compelling show. At the time I was collaborating with Bowlen on what had changed about the product. We determined that it had been toned down too much. Alot of the elements that many fans fell in love with were missing. The roster diversity was missing, the storylines were missing and even the show felt very "paint-by-numbers."
There were some really good aspects of the show at the time though. Sting was excellent in his role as GM and his storyline against Bobby Roode was one of the better ones of the show. The Wembley Show had TNA's biggest audience ever. James Storm had a cool music video released about him and the story behind Roode vs Storm was really good. Finally we saw the characters of Roode, James Storm, Austin Aries, Bully Ray and others really come into their own.
Lockdown was really the culmination of this time period. A rumor came about that Lockdown would be where many of the storylines would finish. It seemed like Bruce Pritchard was just finishing up the storylines from October.
Aside from Storm vs Roode and possibly Angle vs Hardy, the remainder of the show was definitely underwhelming. Despite being in Storm's home state, the crowd was definitely not as loud as they should have been. Many of the matches weren't as good as they should have been and the production of the show sucked. It is symbolic that one of the worst Lockdown's would actually be the end of the "calm before the storm."
Following, Lockdown, IMPACT Wrestling started to get really good. Alot of the faces missing for a good part of 2012 were back (Mr. Anderson, Rob Van Dam, Hulk Hogan etc) while others were taken off TV (Eric Bischoff and Ric Flair) or downplayed as characters (Garett Bischoff and Gunner). The roster became more diverse as more names were used.
Hulk Hogan introduced Open Fight Night in May which would be a combination of new concepts for IMPACT Wrestling. The company really began embracing reality TV as they pulled the curtain back with Open Challenges, Gutcheck, Weekly TV Title defenses and monthly championship matches. The reality tv aspect of the company created a distinct brand completely unique to TNA.
At the same time, storylines started to really pick up. A secret that Daniels and Kazarian had kept quiet started to unravel around this period as Dixie Carter and AJ Styles were main characters. The story is still unraveling as many plot twists are taking place. Along with that we have the Joseph Park character, the Joey Ryan saga, Madison Rayne's "crush" and now the Aces and 8s storyline. Alot of what was missing at the beginning of the year is now being seen again.
On May 31st, TNA went Live. The live aspect of the show brought excitement from the fans and from the wrestlers. Even the product improved as the guys behind the scenes brought their A-Game. The knowledge of there being no safety net allowed the company to create compelling cliffhangers and intriguing segments.
Even the Pay Per View quality improved after Lockdown. Sacrifice was a definite step up while Slammiversary, Destination X and Hardcore Justice were some of the best PPVs that TNA has delivered. The match quality wasn't hindered by booking decisions and therefore the wrestlers were allowed to shine.
The Bound For Glory Series returned this year and because of the more logical style of booking, has actually been less of a complexity. The BFG Series Matches have been good and have been more exciting the longer into the series we go. Aspects of athleticism and strategy have made their way to IMPACT Wrestling while wins and losses actually matter.
While the BFG Series has been happening, the other divisions are starting to really shine. Austin Aries upset Bobby Roode at Destination X to throw analyst's BFG Predictions off to the side. The X Division has been freshened up in Aries' absence. Even the tag team division is being replenished with new duos being created. The only division that is arguably weaker is the Knockouts Division.
With all of the praise there also has been some negatives. Despite the arguably
TNA has also lost some of their feature talent. Matt Morgan was with TNA since 2007 and was a multiple time tag team champion. Alex Shelley was one half of one of the most exciting tag teams in TNA history. Both Angelina Love and Velvet Sky helped build the Knockouts Division. More names are sure to leave but this is just the first step.
Heading into Bound For Glory, it appears TNA finally knows what it wants to be. The product is focused, TNA is cutting ties with wrestlers that don't meet their financial or creative expectations and fans are starting to appreciate the brand. BFG Season is supposed to be the hottest of the year and it looks like TNA is switching to that gear. With NFL Season coming up, they will definitely need to.