Anthem Entertainment’s Impact Wrestling is in disarray.
That isn’t news or anything surprising, as it’s a pattern that has followed the company for years. Dixie Carter’s role as Hulk Hogan’s money mark was the start of a rocky road for the promotion, and despite the change in ownership, the stain of TNA is still upon the organization. In many ways, it’s truly remarkable that the group is still in business, considering that it was on the brink of collapse multiple times, including when Smashing Pumpkins front man, Billy Corgan had to pick up the tab for production costs on more than one occasion. After that, it became clear that Carter tried to swerve Corgan to pay for her to be a TV star, and the lawsuit that followed exposed TNA wrestling as an entity that owned debts to several companies, as well as a tax lien from the state of Tennessee.
Eventually, The Fight Network bought the promotion and basically paid to clean up Dixie’s mess, including a settlement with Corgan. It’s extremely ironic that WCW, even with the major losses in 2000, closed despite the theoretically billion dollar funding of Ted Turner, but somehow TNA survived on literally no funding until Anthem Entertainment rescued it. When Ed Nordholm became the president of the wrestling league, it officially ended Dixie’s vanity project.
However, the problems that plagued Impact for years persisted and became almost comical recently. During an interview with The Wrestling Observe Live a few months ago, Nordholm essentially admitted that he wasn’t familiar enough with the pro wrestling industry and said it was “more complicated” than Anthem expected. Anthem is a TV company and the TNA sale gave them the opportunity to own one of their primary content providers and produce that content relatively cheap, especially with the TNA taping schedule. The unique environment of the wrestling business is what Nordholm seemed unprepared for, and he sounded unaware of the reasons why TNA was in shambles prior to the Fight Network purchase.
Lack of brand identity, advertisement, marketing, etc. are all problems that continue under the Anthem ownership. As I mentioned in a previous article, most of what Impact Wrestling is attempting to do now is already done in other promotions with much better results. For example, Ring Of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling have an extremely beneficial working agreement that brings foreign talent to the United States on a semi-regular basis. Plus, New Japan Pro Wrestling has expanded their distribution with the NJPW World streaming service and a TV deal on Axs so American fans have access to the best Japanese talent. Lucha Underground covers much of the lucha libre demand in the United States so what unique content does Impact bring to the table? No disrespect intended to the performers because they work well in the ring, but Impact puts the equivalent of mid-card Japanese and Mexican talent on their show as the international portion of the product, as opposed to the top stars used from Japan and Mexico in ROH or LU.
The major problems with Impact Wrestling are much more basic, though. They rightfully got rid of the TNA initials, which limited the marketability and the potential advertisement revenue of the company. They traded the name for Global Force Wrestling, the group that TNA founder Jeff Jarrett started after he left the company. GFW sounds like a major league brand and fit the international aspect of the product. The story of TNA went full circle when Anthem, knowing that they needed a knowledge wrestling mind for their new purchase, brought Jeff Jarrett back to the company to direct the creative team. Jarrett, who is from a wrestling family, originally took Total Nonstop Action from a dingy building in Nashville and secured the organization a cable deal with shows filmed at Universal Studios so his return created a sense of optimism about a legitimate “fresh start” for Impact Wrestling. Jarrett’s original GFW concept never got off the ground and amounted to a series of spot shows at minor league baseball parks, and a TV taping that didn’t land a network deal. Perhaps that said more about the state of the industry than anything about the potential of the original Global Force product.
However, the Global Force name with the Impact TV show and the Anthem ownership appeared to give the organization a chance for a “clean slate” with the viewing audience. Unfortunately, even after all the shuffling and a new name, the problems that had the group on the brink of collapse under Dixie Carter still existed under Anthem with the only difference that The Fight Network can afford to keep the promotion in business. Nonsensical booking, random arrivals and departures, and controversy are all still continuous topics for Impact Wrestling.
When Alberto El Patron made his debut, he added some legitimate star power and could still go in the ring. He won the Impact Heavyweight title and worked the main event of one of the company’s rare live pay-per-views. But, a domestic incident with Paige at an Orlando airport that made TMZ headlines prompted his exit from Impact, and the belt was vacated. Alberto was legally cleared in the incident, but the negative press that it brought to the company that was trying to rebuild itself didn’t help the organization. Eli Drake, a very talented and entertaining performer, won the belt, but the roster was so depleted, winning the title isn’t exactly seen as a major accomplishment. After the name change, there was the infamous Triplemania incident, where one of the most unprofessional wrestlers in the history of the sport, Sexy Star tried to intentionally injury Rosemary during a match. Along with that Jeff Jarrett, who made headlines previously for appearing to be intoxicated at events, was in a battle royal at the show and seemed intoxicated in the ring. It was later announced that he would take a hiatus from GFW.
Just last week, Jarrett worked a show in Canada and again appeared to be extremely intoxicated at the event. Thankfully, it was announced just a few days later that he’s going to rehab to address the personal problems. Hopefully, Double J gets the help he needs and is healthy again soon because his health is certainly more important than anything in professional wrestling. The disturbing video of Jarrett stumbling around the ring prompted Anthem official to announce that they cut ties with Jarrett and Global Force Wrestling. This revelation seemed odds because it was previously announced that Anthem acquired the rights to Global Force Wrestling when they officially changed the name. In reality, Jarrett still owned the GFW trademarks, and Anthem hadn’t officially bought the rights to the name or the initials so with Jarrett done with the company, Anthem couldn’t legally use the GFW name. Yes, Anthem Entertainment changed the name of their national television show without actually owning the rights to the name. That’s amateur hour and bush league, and it’s one of the main reasons that Impact Wrestling won’t compete in the wrestling business.
As I wrote previously, the general public identifies professional wrestling with initials and the name “Impact Wrestling” sounds too generic. Anthem can’t realistically expect to build an audience when the name of the brand is changed several times, and that specifically affects the possibility of generating new viewers. The revolving door of the roster doesn’t help either, because how are competitors supposed to become known as “Impact stars?” There are many talented athletes on the roster and it’s disappointing that so many of them aren’t getting the chance they deserve because of the circumstances that surround Impact.
Spud, Eddie Kingston, and others recently left the promotion. When management doesn’t see the value in someone as versatile as Spud, or the believably of a competitor like Eddie Kingston, it’s difficult to have an optimistic of the organization. According to PWinsider, James Storm might also leave after his current contract expires, which says a lot about the state of Impact if one of the most tenured on the roster opts to work elsewhere. Although, you can’t blame Storm, he has the potential to be a major star, but management fumbled that several times during his TNA career. The amount of new faces on Impact doesn’t necessarily help either because these athletes, as talented as some of them are, get introduced to a national audience without any background or direction for their character. In many ways, debuting on Impact isn’t seen as an achievement for competitor to make it to the next level, but rather an indication that Anthem is trying to replenish the roster after a series of departures. It’s a very unfortunate situation because Anthem’s corporate botches have nothing to do with the talented roster that work hard to try to make a living in the wrestling business.
So, how will Anthem sell a pay-per-view?
This weekend, Bound for Glory will air live on pay-per-view and there are talented athletes on the card, but all things considered, it will be a tough sell. The event will be held in Canada and tickets are affordable so a decent live crowd is expected, but it’s doubtful the show does a decent buy rate. One of the main bouts on the card is Moose and Stephan Bonnar vs. King Mo and Lashley in a cage match. Obviously, the premise is the MMA aspect, but is Stephan Bonnar really a draw to pro wrestling fans? Don’t get me wrong, Forrest Griffin vs. Bonnar from 2005 is one of my favorite fights of all time, but does anyone really want to see Bonnar wrestle in 2017? Furthermore, MMA coach, Dan Lambert was used to set up the angle, but most pro wrestling fans have no idea who he is so is that really a useful way to sell the match? The main event of Eli Drake vs. Johnny Impact for the Impact Heavyweight title is representative of the entire company. Eli vs. Impact just doesn’t have the star power to sell as the main event of a pay-per-view, very similar to the way that Bound for Glory just doesn’t seem important enough to pay to watch. I’m not trying to bury the company, but is Bound for Glory really worth $40?
The bottom line is, Anthem must give the fans a reason to pay $40 to order Bound for Glory, and there just isn’t enough of a selling point. The bush league presentation of segments on Impact does nothing to enhance the perception of the pay-per-view. While showing matches with Impact talent from other countries is something unique, what does it say about Impact Wrestling when the events from other countries have better attendance than the matches at the Impact Zone? Who knows what’s next for Impact Wrestling, but it’s doubtful that another rebuild will benefit the company.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta
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