Impact is two and half years in to the Don Callis/Scott D’Amore era, they have stable ownership, on a solid network, and considering they were once in negotiations with Chris Jericho and currently employ RVD who claimed this is his best contract ever, they have money to spend. Now is the time to get in the game. Callis has stated several times that he would like to mirror Impacts business model after All Japan and ECW, meaning they could have a strong top 8-10 wrestlers under contract and just rotate everyone else in and out. While that ideology has gotten their finances under control it has been difficult to see many talents head for greener pastures.
Impact has essentially become more of a feeder promotion. A place where talent with very little exposure could learn how to work TV, keep their indy dates, and build a resume for bigger promotions. A mutual friend of mine and Callis’ has told me that Impact has advertised themselves as such to up and coming talent. LAX, Lucha Bros, and Killer Kross all used their Impact experiences to parlay deals. Brian Cage just debuted on AEW. John Morrison rehabbed his career and got himself back in WWE. If Impact doesn’t get aggressive, they will lose Tessa Blanchard and Taya too. Impact has also been a soft landing spot for veterans with some baggage who have top talent but because of past indiscretions (Moose, Elgin, TJP, Tessa, Swann) are fairly or unfairly getting passed on.
Impact has missed out on free agent after free agent and has struggled to re-sign their top talent. Now is this time to rise above the “feeder system” label and eliminate the TNALOL reputation and make a play to compete. Right now Impact is competing with ROH for the number 4 spot (Behind WWE, AEW, NJPW) but I would give Impact the edge now that they are on AXS.
There are 3 things every company needs to succeed: Big Stars, Compelling Stories, and Great Matches. If they want to hold on to that spot and even creep up to number 3 (worldwide) here are the Top 5 moves they need to make to get in the game:
1. Free Agent Signing Spree
Impact has lost out on some big names in the last 2 years, but there are tons of new free agents on the market right now with the releases of several WWE talent. They have recently signed the likes of Su Yung, Tasha Steelz and Crazzy Steve, who are all solid talents but if Impact is gonna make a splash, here are the stars they should scoop up:
Kurt Angle as GM or a Manager: I know the company has moved on from the GM role and there isn’t much value in Angle wrestling these days, but if Impact can get one match out of him and slide him in to a non-wrestling role, having Angle on TV would be huge. Angle has a deep history with TNA and is one of the most recognizable names in pro wrestling and would uplift any talent he works with.
Rusev: Of all the talent released by WWE in April, the one with the most main event potential is Rusev. AEW is gonna want him, so is New Japan, but if Impact wants to get in the game, they need to sign this guy really put everyone on notice.
Gallows and Anderson: These guys would bring Impact the cool factor it so desperately needs. They would also beef up and strengthen their tag division which is already pretty good, but having former WWE and IWGP champions in the mix would add some credibility. Bully Ray has stated he is free to work anywhere he wants and has expressed interest in Impact, and Impact has put new Aces and Eights shirts for sale. Could we see the return of the companies greatest faction?
EC3: Time to bring the former TNA champ home. He was absolutely squandered and abused in WWE but Impact could plug him back in to the main event scene right away. I’d love to see him and Moose fight over the TNA Heavyweight Championship at Bound for Glory this year. Bringing in EC3 could also mean bringing back Spud aka Drake Maverick, which is cool with me.
Reunite the Motor City Machine Guns: Chris Sabin already works as an agent here and appears ready to make an in-ring return. Alex Shelley, who is a free agent despite working several dates with ROH has been publicly flirting with the company and this makes way too much sense not to do. They were already about to reunite during TNA show this year prior to its cancellation.
Jeff Cobb: Cobb did some flirting with AEW earlier this year but for whatever reason never signed and to the best of my knowledge is still a free agent. I don’t know for certain but it would appear that the spot ready made for him was taken by Brian Cage who is now managed by Taz, which would have been perfect for Cobb, so that leads me to believe that AEW moved on from him. Cobb was holding out hope for a NJPW contract but who knows when talent will be able to travel back and forth there, so Impact needs to get him in a room and sign him. UPDATE: Literally as I finished typing this, Cobb is being rumored to have re-signed with ROH.
Other free agents: Hate to put Eric Young in the “other” category, but it would be awesome to see EY come home, the guy can really do everything. Ricky Starks just left NWA and has a huge upside. Impact is becoming a destination landing spot for women wrestlers and bringing Deonna Purazzo and Rachel Ellering would be good for them, especially considering Tessa and Taya might leave soon. Tino Sabatelli and Dan Martha are two jacked up former football players who would look good as henchmen in a new faction with Moose.
I really didn’t want to turn this in to a “hey billionaires, this is how you should spend your money” blog but it is what it is. Once the 90 day non-competes are over and the released WWE talent is available, we will find out whether Impact is a player or a feeder. If they become players, they will be taken more seriously and draw a bigger fan base and become a destination for top talent. If they stay feeders, crowds (when they come back) will stay the same, AXS will remain out of the top 150 in TV ratings, and we will always be waiting for the next top star to sign with someone else.
2. Upgrade The Announce Team
Steal Kevin Kelley from NJPW: While Josh Matthews has gotten better over the years, it’s time to upgrade the announce team. I’d keep Josh and Madison as the “Xplosion, Impact Plus, and Twitch special team but reuniting Kelly and Callis would create a lot of buzz and put people on notice. People don’t realize just how important the announce team is and Kelley and Callis really brought out the best in each other. Callis could really use a boost right now.
3. Limit Inter-Gender Matches
I will admit, while I am not a fan of inter gender matches, but Tessa vs Sami was magic. I absolutely loved their series. But It was a special thing and should have never become a full time ideology. Once or twice a year is fine on a special occasions but making it your calling card was a mistake. Tessa is the biggest star in the company but having her as champ hasn’t really done it for me. When she drops the title and if she re-signs, they need her to go back to what is probably the best women’s division in North America. She can main event PPVs with other female talent and occasionally if it’s the right opponent, mix it up with a male. In fact, Bully Ray in a recent interview said he would like to wrestle her.
4. Restructure The Titles
What’s the difference between the X-Division title and the Impact title? What does the X-Division mean? When the division was created it was about a style, a style which is seen in every division and every company. There’s nothing unique about it anymore. I’d make the X-Division a true a junior heavyweight division (under 200lbs), make the Impact title an open-weight title, and keep the TNA (maybe under a different name) as a Heavyweight title (over 200lbs) this way there’s a distinction between the championships and if we want to see an Elgin vs Rich Swann title match they can meet for the Impact title or we can see a talent like Ace Austin gradually put on weight in a quest to become a heavyweight after he cleaned out the X-Division. The stories would be easy to tell.
5. Upgrade the Audio Equipment
During every backstage segment I absolutely cringe when they are doing an interview and interview girl number 7 is holding a fake microphone. They are clearly using the stock mic in the camera and it’s terrible. I’m not an audio engineer but can we get a goddamn boom mic for the skits? When the crowds come back, can we sweeten the crowd noise a bit, I know people that go to these shows and they tell me it’s loud in there, but you can’t tell by watching the show.