I was a huge fan of TNA and often boasted about the great wrestling all my friends who only watched WWE were missing, but even I had to take a break from it in early 2016. It was more clear than ever that it was a directionless company, and that made it hard to still care about it. Then I started to hear about some of the things they were doing with Jade, the Decay, and the Broken Hardys, so I made it a point to tune back in. Now, here I am catching up on the last few weeks of Impact Wrestling, excited to see what a new regime really means. There are some interesting new developments, but I’m already noticing a lot that’s going wrong.
The chemistry really has to be there for a three man announce team to work and feel cohesive, so of course I was skeptical when Jeremy Borash was added, even though I like him. It was the constant bickering that did it in for me, though, causing flashbacks of Michael Cole’s horrible heel turn, but with Josh Mathews this time and no Cole Mine to take attention away from how painful it is. Not only is the banter between Borash and Matthews like hitting the same note over and over again expecting a different response, but they are honestly making me feel bad for Pope D’Angelo Dinero having to sit there. The greater offense is how much this takes attention away from the wrestlers and matches. The correct elements are here for a good team, as Borash is a fine play-by-play man, but this will never work as it is going now. Don’t force the elements of this feud so hard that it takes away from the performances.
There are a lot of small things with how the show is planned and certain segments are handled that threw me off. The long recaps and real time replays of action the audience just saw before the commercial break needs to stop. It feels like what you see on WWE, especially when Smackdown used to basically recap half of Raw. This is a quick way to bore the audience and make them change the channel. There are also a lot of heavy talking segments that cut into the number of matches in the two hour program, which is another way to make me change the channel. And when they actually air matches they’re diminished by the non-stop arguments between the announcers. The production and pacing still feels like they’re trying to be WWE instead of a true alternative, which makes the show feel like a
When Impact isn’t trying too hard to look and feel like WWE, it’s going out of its way to badmouth the competition. Mentioning other companies during your own show so heavily just takes the focus off your own product. It doesn’t make you look tough or smart or more credible; it makes you look fragile and like you’re fishing for pops, especially when you mention it as much as the new regime did on their first episode of Impact. If you are going to do it, talk up in-ring competitors and not figureheads and commentators who won’t be performing. The announcers dropped so many names and weren’t trying to be subtle or slick about it: WWE, WrestleMania, Smackdown, and even invoking Jim Ross specifically, all to get themselves over in the dick swinging contest between Borash and Matthews. When Bruce Prichard came out on that first rebranded episode of Impact he went down a list ticking off some of their competitor’s best moments, and Dutch Mantel made several mentions to his Zeb Colter character, and both times it perplexed me. All of the TNA greats who had left for WWE were brought up as well, covering the stars that had made their name in the company and went on to the “big times.” This isn’t as big of an issue—smaller promotions, including Ring of Honor, regularly tout their former champions who’ve made good in WWE, and acknowledging that they are not in any way legitimate competition for WWE would actually be a good step for Impact Wrestling. When combined with the constant name dropping throughout the episode, though, it just felt odd and cheap and did nothing to build on what they actually have.
Wrestlers leave promotions or are fired all the time, but Impact Wrestling has had more high profile departures in a shorter period of time than any company in recent memory. It can be hard to deal with any key talent leaving from a management point of view, and this concentration has to be especially vexing for Impact, but there are still good and bad ways to handle it. Impact’s backstage has been shaken up and the company changed hands, so it isn’t surprising that some stars left, but the way Impact handled some of these departures has been baffling, especially considering that the episodes were filmed in advance. Wrestlers like Jade and Drew Galloway were written off quietly, with Jade taking a loss to the Knockouts champion and Galloway dropping his belt to Moose. The ball was fumbled more with Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis, with a weird “breakdown” excuse explaining their absence only a week after Kanellis was the most important part of a wedding segment that was one of Impact’s best moments in a long while. That weak excuse still felt like sheer artistry when compared to what happened with The Hardys and the strange tag title switch with Decay, which effectively happened off-screen. This literally had no explanation and made little sense, even for this weird Broken Universe the Hardys created. It was the wrestling equivalent of “a wizard did it,” with a little bit of “Poochie died on the way back to his home planet” thrown in for good measure. Impact could’ve given fans a satisfying conclusion to the Hardys’ “Expedition of Gold” storyline, and the entire Broken Hardys epic, but instead we’re left with an incoherent non-ending.
I was looking forward to seeing Cody Rhodes on television again, especially in a company that had room for someone like him to thrive. I knew whatever angle they gave him would most likely involve his wife Brandi Rhodes, and was happy to see Moose, whom I believe could be a huge star, was involved. So why in the world did they go with the most basic jealously storyline imaginable and execute it so poorly? It’s well-known that Cody, who works for practically every non-WWE promotion right now, is making limited appearances with Impact Wrestling, but his big turn still felt rushed and out of nowhere. And the forced jealousy angle is beyond trite. Maybe it could turn into something down the road, but suddenly I’m worried about how this company will handle the talented Mr. Rhodes. These two both deserve better.
One thing Impact has done right over the last year, despite all the ownership issues, is make Bobby Lashley look like a strong, credible main eventer. He’s presented like a legitimate champion, and is totally believable in the role. So when Bruce Prichard talked about building on stars like Bobby Lashley during the new ownership’s first episode, it sounded like a great idea. Of course they then seemingly took the belt off of him that same night in favor of the new hot signee, Alberto El Patron, who was wrestling in his first Impact match. That’s bad, but pulling a Dusty finish and returning the belt to Lashley a few days later only devalues it even more. Decisions like these have me questioning whether this is just a rough start or a bad sign that the new regime doesn’t know how to run the show either—that TNA will still be TNA, even after dropping that name.
Stephen Wilds is a freelance author with a flair for retro videogames, old cartoons, and bad movies. He has written for Playboy, Unwinnable and others.