Wednesday, April 08, 2015

This Year (So Far) On IMPACT Wrestling

IMPACT Wrestling has been on Destination America for thirteen weeks. I wanted to wait a few months to get a good idea of what the current landscape is and where the company is headed. Below are my thoughts so far for IMPACT Wrestling in 2015:

*Its a different company. Currently, TNA scores between 350,000-450,000 viewers on Destination America. Some weeks its more and some its less. On Spike, they were regularly scoring a million. I am not counting the replays because there is no accurate way to say how much of that viewership consists of unique viewers.

Personally, I feel having IMPACT on Fridays was a bad move. Not only is TNA on a different network that either A) isn't available to everyone, B) costs more to get or C) can be hard to find but they are also on a day that many people are out with friends and family. I consider myself a loyal TNA viewer but I have had to watch IMPACT at a later time because I have other things going on. If you watch it live then more power to you.

TNA's time as the clear #2 American Wrestling promotion is over. They have stepped back and need to build themselves back up. From 2005-2014, TNA was on Spike. Now they are not, simple as that. Its disappointing to see but at least they are still around, at least they are delivering a solid product and at least their roster and employees are happy.

*Visually, the product looks different. The hexagon now has smokey blue ropes and a new IMPACT logo. We have seen four different sets since 2015 but the latest looks the best (the rock set with two video screens and side banners). It feels like a completely different product aesthetically.

*The in-ring lighting is hit or miss for me. I don't like the inconsistencies between the camera angles but do like the unique feel that the show has.

*Josh Mathews and Taz have also been hit or miss. Josh is a fresh face in the announcer's booth and I like that we finally have someone who will stand up to Taz. Generally, they aren't distracting.

I really enjoy that TNA has the announcers do commentary from TNA HQ. They have a more relaxed feel that sets them apart from anything they (or anyone else) has done. There have been a few hiccups along the way but I am hoping they continue this.

*I am disappointed that TNA hasn't done more to pull the proverbial curtain back on their show. The most innovative thing they have done was during the opening of the January 7th show. They have done things here and there since then but I would like to see TNA push things a bit further. They had a lot of cool different skits last year with "The Hunt for Willow" and other things that I would like to see replicated in some form.

*One Night Only continues to have the same issues, namely being taped so far away from its air date. I have said it before that by combining the themes with a result that impacts the rest of the show, more people would become more engaged with these shows. Imagine the World Cup, Joker's Wild, TNA Classic, Knockouts Knockdown, Gutcheck and more having consequences. They could become fun annual traditions.

At this point, everything that happens on Xplosion and One Night Only is completely inconsequential and disconnected from the remainder of the TNA product.

*When Dixie Carter and Destination America announced additional programming, I was expecting much more than what we ended up getting. I was hoping that maybe PPVs or ONO would come to Destination America on a Saturday or a Sunday. Clearly, that didn't happen.

What we ended up getting was a series of "replays" of previous TNA shows. Whether this be an IMPACT replay or TNA's Greatest Matches which showed past matches, I was hoping that we would get a bit more original content.

Unlocked is a good example of this. Its a show that could have really enhanced IMPACT Wrestling with additional interviews, segments and more. We ended up getting a short "IMPACT Top 5" segment and occasionally a Mike Tenay interview. It was a good start but didn't go far enough.

It may appear that idea may be over as no more "TNA's Greatest Matches" look to be airing and Unlocked has been moved to Fridays along with IMPACT.

*There have been two major attempts of having PPV TV Specials on Destination America this year: Lockdown and Bell to Bell. Lockdown didn't work as it should have remained a Live PPV. TNA ended up trying to cram too much into a two hour show. Because of that, the matches didn't get nearly enough time and therefore the storytelling was hurt.

Bell to Bell was built around three matches (with a Knockouts Match later thrown in) and worked in much better fashion. Magnus vs Bram, EY vs Roode and the World Title rematch all got enough time and all delivered in some form or fashion. I would like to see TNA keep Lockdown, Slammiversary and Bound For Glory as Live PPVs and then have a handful of TV specials throughout the year on Destination America.

With that said, TNA has done a pretty good job of making each episode stand out. Usually they are built around a thread and there is a strong match or two on each card.

*One area of great improvement since TNA arrived on Destination America has been their event posters. Created by Dan Burgess, the posters give a big time MMA feel that make each show feel special.

*The company has been pretty straightforward regarding the progression and evolution of their feuds. For example, Rockstar Spud vs EC3 has the common thread of a wrestler losing their hair in it. While TNA kept adding different characters like Jeremy Borash, Mr. Anderson, Mandrews and Tyrus to the story, it all culminated with EC3 and Spud delivering an excellent match. It even integrated the characters into the story.

*A few trends followed the company over from Spike TV. For example, TNA continues to enjoy its factions. Right now we have The Rising, The Revolution and the BDC. Thankfully, none of the factions are currently overwhelming the show.

TNA likes its gimmick matches. The company likes to use gimmick matches as a way to progress a feud. In the EY vs Roode Match, they fought in a No DQ Match, a Cage Match, a Falls Count Anywhere Match and a Submission Match. All of these matches provided something different. At least now, there is explanation for these matches.

*You can't talk about Destination America without mentioning January 7th. It could arguably be the most memorable episode yet in 2015. We kicked off with the compelling and well-done intro leading into a brawl, we had a number of excellent matches, we had the shocking return of Awesome Kong (could be one of the Most Memorable Moments this year) and then we ended it with the formation of the BDC, the heel turn of Eric Young and the Lashley title win. It was an eventful night to kick off the new run.

While there haven't been any episodes that have reached that level of significance, we have seen a variety of moments and matches that should be highlighted:

Feast or Fired returned on the January, 23rd episode. Usually a catalyst for storylines and rivalries, this year's match resulted in the firing of Velvet Sky. In good news, Austin Aries won the World Title case, Spud won the X Division Title case (which he would successfully use later) and Magnus won the Tag Title case (which resulted in issues boiling between he and Bram).

Lockdown (while it could have been better) did see the favorite TNA tradition being brought to primetime television. The highlight of the show for me was when James Storm cracked Jeff Hardy with the cowbell which sent him crashing off of the Six Sides of Steel into the steel steps below. Hardy would get revenge six weeks later inside that same structure. The moment though made me cringe. Also at this show, Lethal Lockdown occurred and the goliaths met as Awesome Kong faced Havok.

In Glasgow, the Beatdown Clan were laying assault to Grado and Al Snow when Drew Galloway made his debut. Over the next few weeks, Galloway would "Stand Up for Professional Wrestling" by standing up to the BDC. This would include bringing in a few of his friends to help in this mission.

In London, Kurt Angle would defeat Lashley in an excellent match to win the World Heavyweight Title, a title he hadn't held since 2011.

*Matches to watch: Eric Young vs Bobby Roode (any of them), Rockstar Spud vs EC3: Hair vs Hair, Lashley vs Kurt Angle, Lashley vs Bobby Roode from January 7, Jeff Hardy vs James Storm, The Revolution vs The Wolves for the Tag Titles.

*Best Rivalries: Bram vs Magnus, EY vs Roode, Spud vs EC3.

*Biggest Moments: Awesome Kong returns, the BDC forms, EY turns heel, Hardy gets taken out, Rockstar Spud bleeds, Kurt Angle wins the World Title.

*Most Valuable Players: Eric Young, Bram, Rockstar Spud, EC3