Everyone in the pro wrestling world is buzzing about the upcoming “Wednesday Night War” between All Elite Wrestling’s weekly show on TNT and World Wrestling Entertainment’s weekly show NXT making the move from the WWE Network to the USA Network
Unfortunately, there’s only one thing that’s certain about wars – casualties. In the upcoming war between AEW and WWE, promotions like Impact only have one focus: making sure they are not one of those casualties.
How do you do that when you don’t have the money and resources to compete with the increasingly high pay scale of the wrestlers that is coming with this war, as both sides hand out big-money contracts like Pez candies (great for the talent, for the promotions not being backed by billionaires, not so much)?
Well, there’s a few things that I hope Impact will look at and consider:
1. Hope That The AEW/WWE WAR LIVES UP to the HYPE No one should be bigger fans hoping for the AEW/NXT war to lead to huge ratings and success than promotions like Impact, ROH and MLW.
Entertainment, like most, is a copycat business. If something succeeds, everyone will want to copy it in hopes of similar success.
Impact has been on the wrong end of that scenario in its history. In the past decade, channels hoping to emulate the success of networks like AMC and FX made original dramatic shows a priority.
Two of those channels were Spike and Pop who re-branded to more programming like that (with mixed results) – which played some part in Impact’s departure from both channels as they didn’t fit the mold.
Not saying that was the only reason, for those who likely want to jump to calling me an Impact apologist, but it did play a factor.
With forces like ViacomCBS, Disney (with their Disney+ service), Netflix and others constantly on search for new content, a successful wrestling war will result in them looking towards wrestling as an option for that content – and Impact becomes a pretty enticing option.
2. Build on the Resources That You Already Have at Your Disposal What many don’t know, or have overlooked, is that Impact already has a relationship with the ViacomCBS media conglomerate. They have a channel on the Pluto TV, which ViacomCBS owns.
Impact’s Pluto channel is 24/7, similar to their Twitch channel, but unlike the Twitch channel there is no programming unique to the channel.
Knowing there is that Pluto TV/ViacomCBS connection, Impact would be smart to put a little more into building their Pluto channel. If not a whole night of original programming, possibly a show or two (similar to the Impact+ Playback show) that they could heavily promote on their social media and other advertising avenues.
This way, should the Wednesday Night War result in a desire for more wrestling content, Viacom/CBS will not have far to look.
3. Look to the Future Pro Wrestling has been and will always be a talent-based business. If you don’t have a lot of talent, your promotion is only going to go so far.
Unfortunately, these days, talent is at a bit of a premium as the upcoming Wednesday Night War has resulted in both sides using the age-old tactic of taking as many talented chess pieces off the board as possible – leaving little for anyone else.
What talent the other promotions have become targets for the two warring factions once their contracts expire (or, in many cases, long before).
In Impact’s case, the Wednesday Night War has led to them losing tag teams the Lucha Bros and Santana and Ortiz as well as put them at a contract impasse with top talent Killer Kross that will likely result in his impending departure (following his girlfriend Scarlett Bordeaux who has already left Impact over contract/financial issues).
Or maybe not, more on that in a second.
While there remains some solid unsigned talent still out there (especially if you’re willing to take chances and not go for the conventional – more on that in a second too) but the pickings remain slimmer than they have been in a while and the talent available is unlikely to move the needle much.
So, since the current generation of talent is locked up, it’s on Impact and other promotions to look toward the future. To do that, Impact must take advantage of four developmental corridors it has access to: the Midwest/Southeast, the West Coast, Mexico and Canada.
Midwest/Southeast: Impact has strong relationships with Wrestling Revolver and Rockstar Pro Wrestling (courtesy of their owners, Impact stars Sami Callihan and the Crist brothers) who run Ohio, Iowa, Indiana and surrounding areas. They’ve shown a great eye for talent like Ace Austin, Sawyer Fulton, Zachary Wentz and Trey Miguel that Impact has benefitted from.
Hopefully, that continues along with a union of the two companies with another associate promotion of Impact’s, Ohio Valley Wrestling. OVW, the former developmental of WWE and current of Impact, has made some big moves under new owner Al Snow, one of which is their upcoming move to going live on Tuesdays on a local television station.
Between the three promotions, and going up North as far as Chicago (Warrior Wrestling and AAW) and as far South as Tennessee (Tried and True Pro Wrestling and Next Generation Wrestling), you have a corridor of places for young talent to work and develop that is within a reasonable driving distance.
Talent would have places to work on the weekend while getting live TV experience every Tuesday. Hard to get better developmental opportunities and maybe Impact gets the top talent of the next generation before the two warring factions do.
West Coast: Impact recently did a swing of the West Coast (Southern California to be exact) where they paired with Championship Wrestling of Hollywood. They also do TV tapings regularly in Las Vegas where they also hold tryouts with Future Stars of Wrestling.
Las Vegas being the “Fight Capital of the World” brings a lot of combat athletes to the city. That’s a lot of potential talent to try to sign and develop.
We’ll talk about looking at a different kind of talent shortly but Las Vegas has a lot of credible athletes that could stand out in the current wrestling game. They just need someone to teach them the pro wrestling game – and there’s some people affiliated with Impact living there that can do just that.
They include Impact producer D-Lo Brown, the former Disco Inferno Glenn Gilberti and Killer Kross.
Kross, who has a bit of combat sports background himself, has worked with MMA star Cain Velasquez and helped prepare him for his recent debut wrestling match at AAA Triplemania. If Kross and Impact are having trouble coming to a contract impasse over his pay as a wrestler, why not make him an in-ring wrestler and trainer (with contracts and salaries for both) in his home Las Vegas?
He can have a focus on developing MMA and other combat sports athletes in making the transition to pro wrestling. Gilberti can also assist in that as he is a trainer who has also worked with MMA stars like Phil Baroni and UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar.
Many laugh at Gilberti and his history in wrestling, but he’s perfect for training these kinds of talent. He believes in doing more with less – which is what you’d want from transitioning combat athletes.
You don’t need those guys doing flips, dives or hurricaranas (Velasquez is excused for his at Triplemania considering that is expected there). You need to get across the basics.
UFV Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock is going to make an appearance at Impact’s upcoming tapings in Vegas. Maybe that can set off a new kind of talent in Impact.
Canada and Mexico: With the connections of Impact EVP Scott D’Amore, and the fact Impact is based there, in Canada, Impact should always have a strong pipeline in Canada. They’ll need it – because WWE is coming with rumors of NXT Canada soon becoming a reality.
Konnan and the partnership with AAA has always given Impact an edge there and they need to keep that relationship strong. Helping to promote AAAs New York City debut is a great step to continue in the right direction. Working to develop a relationship that can help the work Visa process easier for Mexican talent to work in the United States will be even better.
4. Zig When Others Are Zagging This goes in hand with the looking to develop combat sports athletes discussion in the previous segment. I applaud the very impressive things that the AEW crew has done in a very short time, but I think there’s quite a bit of the wrestling fanbase that is not being served and it would benefit a promotion like Impact to target.
When I look at what AEW has done, I see this scene from the TV show Big Bang Theory: https://youtu.be/Bu98MV5-Aag.
They have created a world and cultivated a fanbase in which they are the cool guys and they bring in talent that classifies as the cool guys in that world. There is nothing wrong with that, it is quite the feat of accomplishment.
That being said, there are a lot of people outside the fanbase AEW has cultivated that would find talents like the Young Bucks, Orange Cassidy, Joey Janela, etc. as anything but cool.
Those are the fans not being served Impact should target. Why are they not being targeted you might ask? In my opinion it’s because, unlike the fanbase that has been cultivated in wrestling currently, this group does not rush to complain on social media.
They don’t announce to the world loudly that this kind of wrestling isn’t for them (with obvious exceptions). They simply move on to things that they do like.
However, it doesn’t mean they won’t return and support something that they’ll enjoy.
So why everyone is targeting one segment of the fanbase and one style of talent, why not go another direction and be the company targeting a different kind and offering a different kind of product?
While everyone is all about smaller guys going 15 to 30 minutes, Impact should get back to heavyweight badasses slugging it out and telling a story – and doing it in less time. 30 minutes do not necessarily make a good match – nor do dives or “drop the guy on his head spots.”
Along with the guys coming from MMA backgrounds, there are plenty of heavy hitters that are unsigned like Chris Dickinson, Erick Stevens, the End of Parrow and Odinson, LuFisto, Nicole Savoy and others.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Take Some Chances on Talents Others Won’t It’s taking chances that has been some of the best moves by the current Impact regime.
They took a chance on alleged “bad apples” like Tessa Blanchard, Sami Callihan, Rich Swann and Michael Elgin. Those are some of the core talents of Impact today.
Instead of playing it safe with names of the past like Johnny Swinger, why not roll the dice on talent that haven’t gotten the chance on TV or didn’t make the most of the chance they did have and are hungry for another shot?
Along with the names above, Cass XL, a return of Eddie Kingston among others should get another shot. This doesn’t even include the talent with ties to the current roster like:
“Princess” Kimber Lee (seems like the perfect ally to “Queen Bee” Madison Rayne)
Neveah (One day, we’re going to have to have a Su Yung/Rosemary tandem and Jessica Havok is going to need a partner when that day comes, why not her long-time one?)
Andrew Everett (the newly re-born “Andrew the Giant” has a new persona to bring to Impact. How would the giant look in a team with the “similar looking” 7-footer Cass XL? Twin giants perhaps?).
A war is coming in pro wrestling. Impact will need to be smart and creative to avoid being another footnote in it – because there is going to be a lot of those in the next year.
Written by Darryn Simmons