What Slammiversary Said About Impact Wrestling

Last night’s Impact Slammiversary pay-per-view promised to “change everything” around the organization, prompting speculation about what freshly available free agents might show up. Similar to most of the history of the organization, the broadcast was somewhat of a mixed bag. It had its moments, but nothing truly earth shattering or something that would make it stand out from the pack so to speak. Still, there appears to be some potential in some aspects of the product.

It was great to see Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley return to the company after such an extended absence to challenge The Rascals. Considering that there are technically four major companies in the United States with some level of national television, there’s no reason that The Motor City Machine Guns aren’t featured somewhere. In truth, I was very surprised that Shelley wasn’t signed to a full-time deal after he made an appearance for NXT earlier this year. Quite simply, Alex Shelley is too talented of a performer not to have a job somewhere, especially considering the current wrestling landscape. Similar to his tag partner, Shelley’s well-rounded set of skills weren’t fully utilized during his initial run in TNA, and the argument could be made that despite the success of the MCMG previously, the Dixie regime mismanaged the career of Alex Shelley at the time. Obviously, Shelley had a notable run in New Japan with Kushida, but injuries led to him reconsidering his career path. As great as it was to hear about Shelley pursuing and achieving his education in physical therapy in recent years, it was still somewhat disappointing that someone as talented and as smooth as him in the ring didn’t have full-time work in the wrestling business.

Chris Sabin is actually a former TNA world heavyweight champion, but only a month with the belt and the subsequent fumbled booking makes that an often forgotten accomplishment of his career. Point blank, TNA had a chance to truly solidify Chris Sabin as a main event talent at the time, but they missed the boat on it. I’m honestly not trying to bury the Dixie era, but mistakes like that are ultimately what led to some of the rocky periods for the company. All that said, Sabin and Shelley look like they haven’t lost a step and that is a major positive for the company. It goes without saying that The Rascals are very talented performers, but the harsh reality is, in the crowded landscape of the industry, they aren’t recognizable names or bring star power to the table. However, Sabin and Shelley working with them could shine more of a spotlight on them and hopefully bring the young competitors more notoriety in the process of their matches.

On the surface, I understand why Impact wants to invest in Moose, but a lack of charisma and convincing mic skill leads to somewhat of a disconnect. The athletic ability is there, but you can see that Moose often looks like he’s trying too much to act like a wrestler instead of naturally embracing the role of how he would organically fit as a performer on the card. At 36, Moose might be toward the latter stages of his career, depending on how long he wants to continue in the sports entertainment industry. The TNA World champion storyline implies there might be something bigger on the horizon for him, perhaps a unification match with the Impact champion, but I just don’t see him as a top star so right now, it’s questionable how far he can go as a competitor or if his progress has already plateaued. It makes sense that he defeated Tommy Dreamer because of the previously mentioned push, and Dreamer could lose every match for the rest of his career and still be over, but the match itself wasn’t anything too spectacular.

In my opinion, the Knockouts Gauntlet Match was an unwise booking decision, mostly because the attempt to get everyone on the card more or less made sure that nobody got over in the match. The ring was too clustered and the result of that was that most of the action was very clunky. At almost 20 minutes bell-to-bell, it went too long and dragged on at several points. I get what they were going for with the Johnny Bravo involvement, but his impersonation of NWO Sting was just lame with nothing comical or entertaining about it. All that being said, the actual knockouts roster is solid and the athletes in this match prove it. Su Young, Keira, Rosemary, and others all show that there is depth to the division, this battle royal just wasn’t the way to showcase any of it. Kylie Rae won the match to get a shot at the championship and she’s definitely a very talented athlete so it’s a good decision to book her in a featured role.

Chris Bey defeated Willie Mack to win the X-Division championship, and it was arguably the best match on the show. Willie Mack is such a unique and charismatic performer that he could undoubtedly be used to bring more viewers to the product. We’ve already discussed some of the over saturation of the current state of the industry, but Willie is a competitor that will stand out. Chris Bey can go in the ring and this title victory is a good step forward for him. Aside from the X-Division championship, Bey appears to have the potential to be a long term project for the company that could grow into a much bigger star if he continues to progress within the promotion. Assuming that Impact management and Anthem want to invest the time and the resources into the company to move it toward a more prominent position, Willie and Bey should be a part of those plans.

Unfortunately, the Knockouts title match was on the other end of the spectrum, as it went too long and was somewhat sloppy for a contest that just never reached the next gear. Deonna Purrazzo won the championship, but this wasn’t exactly a banner moment for her. Nothing about this performance made her look like a star. To be honest, I’m not sure why Purrazzo was pushed so strongly upon her arrival in TNA because she had a stint in Ring Of Honor a few years ago, but spent the last two years under a WWE contract with very limited exposure on the NXT brand, working just a handful of matches on NXT TV. I’m not trying to be too harsh, but she went from being released from the WWE after a mostly unimpressive NXT run to the Knockouts champion in the span of roughly two months so what exactly does that say about Impact?

The North are a great tag team and if they were on a bigger platform, they might be in the conversation for the best team in the business. At one of the marquee shows of the year for the company, they should’ve been given something better to do than this particular match. The Shamrock/Sami team just isn’t logically after their lengthy rivalry. Sami has already proved himself and could’ve been doing something more important on the show. This might be too critical, but I just can’t take Ken Shamrock seriously in any type of combat atmosphere at this point. Don’t get me wrong, Shamrock is undoubtedly a legend, but he did so much to tarnish that status when he fought for nearly 15 years past his time. Shamrock is in incredible shape, but he’s 56 and he moves like it in the ring. The North retained, but I’d argue that this match-up didn’t give them a chance to truly showcase themselves. Thankfully, the MCMG appeared post-match and challenged The North, which should be a great match.

Eddie Edwards, Trey Miguel, and Ace Austin can go bell-to-bell, but management painted themselves into a corner with the mystery opponent advertised for the main event. When you take star power into account, there’s not much of it here because Trey and Ace have only been on the national stage under the Impact banner during a time when the organization didn’t have much buzz around it. Eddie has accomplished a lot, but he’s just not as well known as other stars in the business. None of that is meant as a jab against their ability, but a consideration of their drawing power compared to the rest of the industry. The major mistake that management made was that in the build up to the main event, there’s a video package that shows several former TNA or Impact stars that are technically free agents, including Sting, James Storm, and Bully Ray, and others. Just the three mentioned of Sting, Storm, and Bully have more star power than Edwards, Trey, or Ace. When management implied that someone of that level would be involved in the main event for the world championship, they set expectations that they weren’t able to meet during the broadcast. Rich Swann returned to action, but is he at the level of a Sting or Storm? Eric Young made his return, which is great because he always works hard and made the best of whatever he was given, but he was so under the radar for most of his WWE tenure that his return wasn’t going to live up to the hype of the mystery opponent. It wasn’t Swann or Young’s fault either, it was simply a miscalculation from management, but on the other hand, how exactly was that reveal not supposed to be considered underwhelming, given the promotional push for the mystery opponent?

Eddie Edwards won the championship and during a post-match brawl Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows made their debut, which was confirmed the night prior during their Youtube live stream. Gallows and Anderson bring some much needed name value to the organization, but after they made the save, they aligned themselves with Edwards for seemingly no reason. After that, a video was shown to reveal the return of EC3, but again he was so under the radar during the majority of his WWE run that he’s almost in the Eric Young category that his return to Impact isn’t exactly major news because his star power was minimized for the past few years.

Overall, the show was fine, but still somewhat underwhelming and a little disappointing because it wasn’t the turning point for the industry that the company tried to hype for it. Let’s be clear, the in-ring talent is there and the roster is mostly very solid, but there are very talented in-ring athletes across the board in the modern wrestling industry. Great in-ring performances on their own don’t stand out nearly as much now as they did in years prior because there are a lot of great athletic matches in the modern era. Impact Wrestling lacks the star power and the buzz that fans can watch with the myriad of options today. AEW, NXT, and New Japan deliver top-notch bell-to-bell action with some major names. The WWE main rosters have the star power that draws in the causal fan. The bottom line is, what does Impact present that any of the previous examples don’t already do better? That’s not to say that Impact Wrestling can’t find its own niche or place in the industry, but they certainly haven’t found it yet. Trey and Ace? How about Adam Cole and Keith Lee? Eddie Edwards and Eric Young? What about Okada and Naito? Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega, Jon Moxley, Cody, and The Young Bucks are on TNT every week.

Again, to be clear, I’m not trying to discredit Impact or the hard work of the roster, but a realistic look at the situation shows that the Impact brand as its presented today just isn’t going to compete with the rest of the industry. When the WWE Network has a price tag of $10 a month for a pay-per-view and access to thousands of hours of classic footage, how exactly is Impact Wrestling going to sell fans a $40 show? Is it possible? Sure, All Elite Wrestling generates PPV buys, but they have to deliver a stellar show to accomplish it because the WWE Network completely shifted the dynamic of pay-per-view after it launched. The bottom line is, Anthem must decide if they are in the wrestling business or if they are just in the television business. Keep mind in mind, Anthem bought Impact because it was one of the most consist shows in the average rating it delivered so did they buy the group for the original programming for its network that can be produced relatively cheap or did they make the purchase to compete in the wrestling business? There’s not a right or wrong answer, but considering the millions of dollars that Anthem has, there has to be a decision on how much they are willing to invest for either scenario. If they just want the original programming to get a better advertisement rate for commercials that’s fine, but then there’s a limit the progress Impact can make as a company, especially because of the competition of the industry.

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