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Can new management improve Impact Wrestling?

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A few weeks ago, it was announced that former WWF and ECW performer, Don Callis, and one of early figures from Total Nonstop Action, Scott D’Amore will take over Impact Wrestling as Executive Vice Presidents of the company. The move was made public shortly after the Impact offices were moved to Toronto, which is also the base for Anthem Sports, the parent company that bought TNA earlier this year when the organization was on the brink of collapse. The almost unbelievable story of how Impact survived was already discussed so there’s no reason to repeat that again, but it should be noted that after the GFW/Jarrett debacle a few months ago, Impact Wrestling was a promotion that could barely decide its name, let alone an actual direction for the fledgling league.

In many ways, when Jeff Jarrett, who co-founded NWA-TNA with his legendary father, Jerry, was brought back under the Anthem umbrella, The Fight Network executives hoped to catch lightning in a bottle again. Jarrett’s family worked in the wrestling business for decades, and he took the TNA brand from relative obscurity on weekly pay-per-view in 2002 and elevated it to a national TV platform on Spike TV by 2005. The odds that Double J could take Anthem’s wrestling project from the sparsely viewed Pop TV network and bring it back to prominence for a second time were slim at best. Jarrett, a veteran grappler with a series of well-documented problems outside of the ring, checked into rehab a few months ago to deal with his personal problems. Obviously, Jarrett’s health is exponentially more important than Global Force Wrestling and hopefully he improve his health soon.

Still, that left Anthem without a true direction for their new purchase. The organization staggered along without any clear identity or brand throughout the duration of this year. Perhaps, this signing of Callis and D’Amore as a team to run the promotion will be the first legitimate “fresh start” the company has in at least 5-6 years. The reason being, neither Callis or D’Amore put finger prints on the promotion before, which by nature will give their concepts an originality that was not seen before under Anthem. In many ways, when Jarrett was brought back with GFW, he attempted to recreate an era of TNA from a decade ago, but the state of the industry has evolved. The X Division style that put TNA on the map during its early years is much more common place now and doesn’t allow the promotion to stand out nearly as much as it did previously.

Callis, who worked for years on the Canadian scene and internationally as “The Natural,” is probably best known for his work in the last 90s. As “The Jackal,” the cult leader persona, he made himself a memorable character at a time when as many segments as possible were jammed into a show in an attempt to get an edge on the competition during the Monday night wars. Though his run on WWF TV was relatively brief, the exposure of the national platform allowed him to showcase his ability, and he debuted for Extreme Championship Wrestling as “Cyrus,” a network official to include the real-life disputes between ECW and TNN into the weekly TV program. Callis flourished as a villainous persona, and finally had a chance to do some of his best work on a national stage.

Unfortunately, after Callis became one of the best heels in the company and probably the entire business, ECW folded in early 2001. Once again, his stellar work brought him another opportunity, this time for Eric Bischoff’s Fusion group that planned to buy WCW after the company lost $60 million under Vince Russo’s direction. Joey Styles and Callis were an entertaining duo when they called the action for Extreme Championship Wrestling pay-per-views, and Bischoff wanted to sign the pair to become the new announce team of Nitro when he relaunched WCW in mid-2001. As history shows, AOL refused to broadcast wrestling, the Fusion deal was off the table, and Vince McMahon bought WCW for pennies on the dollar.

With the WWF as the only national company, and a somewhat rocky exit from the organization a few years prior, Callis left the wrestling industry entirely to purse further education with an MBA in business, an accomplish that led to his work with the government in Manitoba and even teaching a course of international business at a university. In my opinion, Don Callis is one of the hidden gems of the wrestling business, an extremely talented performer that just wasn’t at the right place at the right time to get the chance to fully utilize his skills. His time in ECW gave the audience a peek at how a heel can still get heat in front of even the most jaded crowds, and had Fusion purchased WCW in 2001, it’s safe to say that Callis would’ve been an asset to the relaunch of Nitro.

Proof of his knowledge and insight can be heard weekly on “Killing The Town,” the podcast he co-hosts with his longtime friend, Lance Storm, another extremely underrated performer. When he returned to the genre after over a decade, the podcast garnered rave reviews and eventually led to a return to broadcasting, as Callis joined Kevin Kelly for the English commentary team for New Japan Pro Wrestling.

On-screen, most will known D’Amore as the obnoxious manager of the original Team Canada, but he had quite an extensive in-ring career prior to his time at ringside during the early episodes of Impact. A true journeyman, the Canadian veteran brings an expansive amount of knowledge to the table, working in almost every role possible during his lengthy career. After working as an enhancement talent for the WWF and WCW in the early 90s, D’Amore worked in several countries as well along with running an independent promotion in Canada for years. Aside from the previously mentioned managing role, D’Amore also worked as an agent and consultant for TNA for several years. Outside of the wrestling business, he assisted with his family’s construction company.

So, what could be different for Impact going forward?

As I said before in previous articles, the key for Impact is to create legitimate revenue streams that can generate a profit. I would suggest that the biggest challenge for the new regime will be the distribution of the product. Pop TV is still a smaller network compared to a channel such as Spike TV so gaining more exposure to showcase the new direction will be extremely important. Along with that, improving the perception of Impact Wrestling will be an uphill battle. For many years, TNA was plagued with a cloud of negativity, particularly because of the business decisions made by Dixie Carter. Obviously, when the company had a tax lien and several lawsuits against them, it didn’t create an optimistic tone about the future. Even after the Anthem purchase, the story that name was changed because Anthem didn’t have the rights to Global Force, didn’t help the public image of their wrestling project.

Earlier this year during an interview with The Wrestling Observer, Ed Nordholm admitted that the wrestling business was more complicated than Anthem executives thought it would be prior to the TNA purchase. Quite frankly, Nordhom sounded like he was in over his head with this new project, and to be fair, the sports entertainment industry is a very unique genre. That said, Nordholm made the smart move and knew he needed “wrestling people” to run a pro wrestling company. Acknowledging that he was in over his head proved that Nordholm is smart enough to make the right business decisions for a company.

As a way to promote their new roles within Anthem Sports, Callis and D’Amore appeared on the Talk is Jericho podcast, and the duo explained some of the basic concepts that they want to bring to the organization. Perhaps the most encouraging information from the interview was that everything the pair discussed was based in logic, which is something that TNA lacked for several years. Another major point was that talent can sign a deal with Anthem and retain the rights to their characters, which could be beneficial if a contract is offered to a free agent on the market.

If the Canadian team will be success in the relaunch of Anthem’s Impact Wrestling remains to be seen, but this is probably the most optimistic environment for a “fresh start” the promotion had in years. Granted, it will undoubtedly be a process that will take a considerable amount of time to yield results. However, the fact that the foundation of the new management seems to be based on logical angles and a realistic approach to the market is a wise decision. All things considered, the decision to give Callis and D’Amore the opportunity to run the organization is probably the smartest decision Impact has made in several years.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta

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