The most eventful story about Impact Wrestling in 2019 was the headliner that the parent company, Anthem Sports had acquired the TV Network known for New Japan Pro Wrestling, AXS TV. By the end of the year, it would be Impact Wrestling (not New Japan) that would be the central wrestling program on the network.
The acquisition brought up a lot of hypothetical questions for Impact Wrestling fans. Would this be the consistency the company needed? What did this mean for programming? When and where would the product air? Some of these questions were answered while others still linger in the air to this day.
Anthem's approach to Impact on AXS TV had a strong start as the network aired a few specials highlighting the company's strength (its PPVs) in the form of Homecoming, Rebellion and Slammiversary. That was followed by the "This is Impact" TV special showcasing the company.
Months later, as we head towards the second annual, Rebellion PPV, we have a better understanding of where this relationship is headed. Currently, Impact airs weekly every Tuesday Night. The product has received a makeover of sorts with new red branding and graphics. Their next TV special will be focusing on "TNA Wrestling" in preparation for their "TNA: No Place Like Home" PPV airing in early April.
While the foundation has been set, I still wonder what potential could come from Impact's greatest resource heading forward. How can the company grow utilizing the benefit of having its own TV network? How do they become a true player in 2020 and beyond?
Impact Wrestling TV Specials
One of the primary ways that Impact can benefit from their position on AXS is having regular TV specials for their main show. On Spike TV, you could experience the growth of the company when the network announced regular Live Events or 3-Hour Specials. This is something I would like to see on AXS TV.
Currently, Impact airs on tape delay from different venues around North America. Taped shows are great but there is nothing like having a Live Show. I am not suggesting making the regular program a live show yet, just having a few live specials throughout the year in anticipation of a big storyline, roster acquisition etc.
On top of that, having a few 3-hour episodes of Impact to indicate a TV special would also be an interesting idea. On Spike, this would have been an opportunity to air a TV PPV on the network such as Lockdown, Bell to Bell etc. While there aren't any current issues with giving matches enough time to breathe, having TV specials grows an interest in the product and shows a commitment to the wrestling promotion.
Impact Plus Specials
Right now, Impact airs its Impact Plus specials about once a month. I have been an advocate for making these shows as part of the Impact TV canon by having feuds and stories continue on these shows. I have also been an advocate for improving production on these shows to match the regular TV product.
I am not suggesting taking these shows off of the Impact Plus app but instead also airing them on AXS TV. Impact and AXS are all part of the same family so whether they air on the app or AXS TV, Anthem will benefit.
I know as a fan that I would love to watch Sacrifice, Lockdown, Against All Odds etc. when they would air on AXS TV/Impact Plus. My biggest obstacle currently is that the show looks very low budget in comparison to the regular TV product. Maybe improving production values by making the specials as part of the bigger TV strategy could be a good way to keep fans constantly connected.
Impact Wrestling should always remain the most important program for the company, but I truly believe airing shoulder programming could enhance the regular product. It would allow Impact to expand its roster while pushing storylines and characters in a more logical way. I am not speaking about "best of" shows, even though they would be a benefit. I am referring to secondary programming, whether regular or a limited series.
For example, this past November, Impact aired Impact Provincial Wrestling Federation (IPWF), a tongue in cheek retro studio show. Clearly, this was a sidebar to the regular program. It was a fun show to watch as it allowed the roster to step outside their regular characters while doing something different. Imagine if AXS would air IPWF as a limited series throughout the Summer. It could be 8-episodes building to a season finale. I would watch that.
What if they made Xplosion a special studio-style show. Have a mix of the "This is Impact" studio show and original matches. This show would have a different format from the regular Tuesday show. It could focus more on the promo and character side of the product, that I feel the main show is missing.
Imagine having "Undead Realm" style show where Rosemary, Su Yung, Havok, James Mitchell etc. are the main characters. I honestly don't know exactly what they would do with a show like this but the sci-fi possibilities intrigue me.
One intriguing aspect is what AXS TV could mean to potential future partners of Impact. Anthem attempted to build a partnership with New Japan by positioning their timeslot. It didn't end well but that doesn't mean that would always be the case.
I could see Anthem using AXS as a way to spotlight other wrestling promotions. Imagine attracting AAA with a promise of airing their programming in the United States. Do the same for NOAH. How about an indy promotion looking for exposure.
On top of that, could they use the TV network as a way to spotlight certain individuals. We talk about someone like Matt Hardy who is looking at what is next. What if Matt was given TV network time to expand on his Broken Universe? What if someone like Tessa Blanchard was given TV spotlight on the network to enhance her character?
The possibilities of what Impact could do on AXS are endless. What matters is how AXS TV and Anthem look at Impact in its overall scope of things. I think "Rock Stars and Wrestling" is a great theme for AXS to have.
This column was written by Talon. Leave your thoughts below.