“There are moments when time stands still. When History unfolds. When we are bound by the magnificence of one singular event.”
That is the quote from Impact Wrestling fans favorite voiceover guy Barry Scott that kicks off the intro for the TNA Impact wrestling video game that came out a number of years ago. For Impact Wrestling, its talent and its fans, that statement has as much meaning now as it did then.
Then, it was the debut of their first video game. Now, it’s a moment that will mark the next era of Impact Wrestling – the company’s debut on AXS TV. This debut on Oct. 29 will come after the company’s biggest pay-per-view, Bound for Glory on Oct. 20.
In a landscape where the talent is spread out among the promotions like WWE, AEW, ROH, MLW, NWA and Impact, who survives in pro wrestling may come down to creative even more than talent. So the direction Impact takes creative in post Bound for Glory and with the debut of Impact on AXS will go a long way in deciding how long they last.
Think of it as a TV show starting a new season on a new timeslot that just became the most competitive timeslot on television. So, what direction can Impact, and its talent, go in that will allow them to hold their own in the most crowded pro wrestling landscape since the territory days.
Honestly, who knows the answer to that question, but here are some ideas that I think would work for every member of the roster and even some additional ones that could be added off the free agent market.
The Main Eventers:
Brian Cage – Due to health issues, Brian Cage and his title run has not been what most were hoping – including Cage himself. Post BFG, it’ll come down to Cage’s health. If he’s good to go, Cage shouldn’t drop the title to Sami Callihan at BFG. There’s too many options for programs with Callihan, the ever-improving Moose, Ken Shamrock and a rogue MMA faction and a proper feud with Michael Elgin (that actually includes their history). I also think a Cage/Willie Mack title match needs to go down to help establish Willie as a potential main eventer.
If Cage is hurt, he should drop the belt to Sami and give himself time to get back to 100%. He could return to a hero’s welcome after establishing a few heels at the top of the card.
Sami Callihan – Sami has established himself as “The Draw” in Impact and has worked his way to the main event of the biggest pay-per-view with his title match vs. Cage at Bound for Glory. Callihan is interesting in the fact that he and Moose have established themselves as the two heels at the top of the card – and that a feud between the two may be one of the most intriguing things that Impact can do. Of course, that requires one of them to go babyface.
The post-BFG direction for Sami may be determined by if it’s Sami or Moose that Impact decides to go babyface. Done correctly, I believe Sami and Moose have a Stone Cold Steve Austin vs The Rock flavor to them (obviously nowhere near that level) with the blue collar Ohio guy versus the rich cocky jock athlete type.
If Sami is the guy to go face, the first step would have him lose to Cage at BFG and then move on to the final step in his feud with Tessa Blanchard (who should probably be the X Division champ by then) - who would finally get her big win in a defense of the X-title over him.
In the interim, Moose would continue his momentum, culminating in defeating Cage for the world title. That would lead to an eventual confrontation with Moose and Callihan.
Moose promo: Face it Sami, how many times have you had a shot at the X division title and not got it done? You couldn’t get it done versus Cage for the World Title – I did. You couldn’t even beat Tessa for the X-division title. You’re nothing but Ohio trailer trash who can’t win the big one.”
You could even expand it with Moose using his money (he is Moose Money after all) to turn the Crist Brother and Madman Fulton against Callihan, turning him into a lone wolf Desperado fighting his way through his former friends to finally get his shot at the “final boss” in Moose.
The build to Sami finally winning “the big one” could be a draw to fans that see him as an Impact loyalist.
Moose – However, you could flip it around and put Moose in this position. His current feud with MMA stars Ken Shamrock and Stephan Bonnar could be the perfect chance to turn Moose babyface with a double turn at BFG.
As much as MMA guys like Shamrock and Bonnar have their fans, among wrestling fans they are considered outsiders (same as any talent being brought in from different sports). So it’s not hard for them to be made heels.
A match at BFG with Moose beating Shamrock, Shamrock offering his hand in respect (which Moose accepts) and then turn and beats him down along with Bonnar would be an easy story to tell.
A promo where Shamrock and Bonnar explain their desire to bring wrestling down would follow:
Shamrock Promo: Check my history. Without me, there is no Attitude Era because all your legends: Rock, Austin, Hart, Undertaker, Jericho – none of them had credibility as real athletes or real badasses until they got in the ring with the World’s Most Dangerous Man. I brought them legitimacy. I put them on the map, just like I put MMA on the map. Move forward a few years and a new wrestling promotion starts called TNA. They want instant legitimacy and credibility, so who do they call to participate in their first title gauntlet? Me. Cause they knew I was going to win it, since there was no one in that match that could hang with me. Over a decade later, Impact is still here because I started them off legit. Still, am I a Hall of Famer anywhere in wrestling? No. I’m a UFC Hall of Famer, but not a wrestling Hall of Famer. So, I helped make wrestling what it is, now I’m going to help break it.
Bonnar Promo: Ken made MMA, then it fell off. Then I put MMA back on the map. Generous superstar that I am, I decided I would put wrestling back on the map too, so I joined Moose in 2017 for a match at Bound for Glory. The idea is I would be in that match and I would get a big money contract with Impact. I did the match, did I get my contract? No. My buddy Moose? Didn’t hear from him. Did you forget my number buddy? Meanwhile, while I’m not getting a contract, I see guys like Brian Cage, Willie Mack, Michael Elgin, RVD and Rhino getting deals. Well, I’m going to beat my money out of Moose and the rest of these pro wrestling bums who couldn’t carry my boots. Me and Ken are going to bring this place down, and we’re not coming alone. (opening the door for more talents to come in)
Moose would respond with a pseudo babyface promo.
Moose promo: Yeah, Bonnar was my partner in a match at Bound for Glory in 2017. You know what I remember about that match? Bonnar showing up late for the training and sparring sessions leading up to it – If he showed up at all. When I got in his face about it, he’d say ‘Bro, it’s just wrestling.’ People can say what they want about me: I’m arrogant, I’m cocky, I’m a jerk, whatever. What you people will never say about me is I don’t love pro wrestling. I quit the NFL for pro wrestling. My marriage ended because I chose pro wrestling. I’ll be damned if I’ll let anyone come from MMA, or anywhere else, and disrespect pro wrestling. So, you damn right I made sure Bonnar didn’t get a contract so he could half-ass his way to a payday. If these MMA bums like Bonnar and Shamrock want to destroy pro wrestling, they’re going to have to go through me, even if I got to go it alone.
Moose would build up his babyface run feuding with the MMA talent. Because of his history, he’d get no help early on, but would eventually win over former best friend Eddie Edwards and other talent in his feud. Meanwhile Callihan would win the title from Cage and it would lead to that feud with the roles reversed and Moose would take the title off Callihan.
Tessa Blanchard – Blanchard may be the biggest star in the company, and also the most polarizing. Impact has a challenge ahead of them in giving her the push she deserves without alienating a bunch of fans who aren’t high on intergender wrestling.
My solution is a solid X-division title run followed by a logical return to the Knockouts division. Tessa should win the X division title match at BFG. This should lead to the conclusion of her rivalry with Sami Callihan. If Callihan loses to Cage at BFG, he should challenge Tessa for the X division title and, if Callihan wins at BFG Tessa should challenge him. Personally, I’m for Callihan losing at BFG, losing to Tessa and beginning the journey written about earlier.
Admittedly, I’m not a big intergender fan and am not sold on Tessa against guys like Moose, Cage (yes I know about the infamous WrestleCircus match) or Elgin. Ideally, Tessa would successfully defend the X title against Sami and the Crist brothers before getting into a 3-way program with Ace Austin and Daga.
A real-life couple, Tessa and Daga would be the first couple (at least that I can recall) battling over a title. The story would be that the relationship couldn’t survive both going after the title – a point that would be made to both of them in promos between Konnan and Daga and Jordynne Grace and Tessa respectively.
Meanwhile, Ace would us his con man skills – not to try to get with Tessa, but to drive a wedge between Tessa and Daga as a way to have Tessa distracted enough for Ace to slide in and beat her for the title.
Ace’s tactics would work and he would win the X-division title in a 3-way match with Tessa and Daga. This would lead to an emotional one-on-one match between Tessa and Daga for the number one contender spot for the X-title.
Daga would win a hotly contested match and the two, after a tense post match staredown would embrace as the relationship would survive the rivalry. Daga would go on to feud with Ace for the title.
Tessa, meanwhile, would come out the following week to cut an in ring promo reinforcing her commitment to prove that she is the best pro wrestler on the planet. She would be interrupted by Taya and the frenemies of Madison Rayne and Kiera Hogan.
Taya Promo: Tessa, you say you’re the best pro wrestler on the planet? You’re not the best Knockout on the roster much less the best in the world. Let’s deal in facts: the last time you were in the ring with me, you lost. The last time you were in the ring with Madison, you lost. The last time you were in the ring with your buddy Juwannaman Grace, you lost (Editor’s note: more on this later). The last time you were in the ring with Kiera Hogan……well, you won, but Kiera is much better now (Editor’s note: more on this later too). You didn’t start wrestling men because you were trying to prove that you’re the best. You started doing it because you knew you couldn’t hang with the Knockouts.
This challenge will spur Tessa’s return to the Knockouts the division and feuds with Taya, the frenemies, a heel-turned Tenille Dashwood and more. The possibilities for Tessa are near endless in the Knockouts division at this point and it wouldn’t come off as a demotion (which it isn’t) but Tessa answering a challenge.
Eddie Edwards – Considered by most as the locker room leader (sorry Madison) of Impact, Eddie Edwards has seemed like the Tommy Dreamer, the guy that stands for Impact and is one of the longest -tenured talents there. However, he hasn’t always been booked like it.
Instead, he usually viewed as the crazy guy who names and talks to the kendo stick. While I don’t think it’s necessary for him to return to straight-laced wrestler Eddie Edwards of the Wolves days, I think you could at least get Eddie to the level of the Tommy Dreamer of Impact where he takes things a little more serious.
It should start with the Elgin/Marafuji match at BFG leading into an Eddie/Elgin feud (via Eddie’s NOAH background). Elgin attempts to embarrass Marafuji – a sign of disrespect that Eddie will not stand for. If it’s possible for NOAH talent besides Marafuji to come over, I could see an Eddie/Elgin feud evolve into Elgin aligning with The North and facing a team of Eddie and some NOAH talent like Marafuji or others (and if a certain badass currently wreaking havoc in New Japan defects to NOAH as rumored, it’s on....or Ichiban).
If the Moose babyface turn, as laid out above, is an option, a story that leads to a Moose and Eddie reconciliation to battle the MMA invaders would be a good story too imo.
One thing is for certain, the Eddie/Alisha/Ace triangle needs to come to a swift conclusion. Personally, I’d prefer Alisha quit being made to look like a moron and she and Eddie turn the tables on Ace – similar to how they turned it on Moose at Homecoming. It’s time for Alisha to stop being the constant whining wife screaming at Eddie and become the Beulah to his Dreamer. No more whining, and instead be the spunky Boston girl who is just as willing to swing a kendo stick as her husband.
Michael Elgin – Impact’s own “Best Bout Machine” has been a top asset since his debut. With a BFG match with Marafuji, it’s safe to say Elgin will continue be the guy who will be leaned on to put on the best match of the night.
From there, Elgin has a few different options. The feud with Eddie Edwards seems to be a no brainer, especially after their incredible match on the Impact Plus special Unbreakable. If it can be expanded into a NOAH feud, that leads to an Elgin alliance with fellow Canadians The North, even better.
An Elgin/Cage feud reignited would also be big as it wasn’t done right the first time imo. The fact the feud never addressed the history between the two, including their time as the Unbreakable F’in Machines in PWG, was disappointing. The way both men’s careers went in different directions from that point is definitely an angle to take as motive for Elgin coming to Impact.
A possible unforeseen face turn for Elgin could be interesting as he possibly aligns with Moose against the MMA invaders.
Willie Mack – Mack has quietly been one of the best in-ring talents and most popular guys on the Impact roster but has not really had a program to establish him as the main event guy he should.
An idea I would try with him is a gauntlet match or tournament for a title shot that Willie would win. He would then have a killer match with Cage where he would come just short of winning and establish himself as main event material.
I would then involve him in a key feud, possibly with whichever of Moose or Sami doesn’t turn or with a heel Shamrock and the MMA faction. I have no problem with him and Rich Swann having a tag team title reign either, but it’s time to show Willie for the fan favorite top guy he is.
Ken Shamrock and Stephan Bonnar – As I mentioned above, no matter the credibility, MMA guys coming into pro wrestling get profiled as outsiders to be booed (review the reaction of pro wrestling fans to Rampage Jackson, Tito Ortiz, Cain Velasquez, etc.). An MMA crew coming into Impact to battle the top guys in Impact could have some interesting crossover appeal. Especially if the feud focuses on the differences in pro wrestling and MMA. Along with Shamrock and Bonnar, you have Bonnar’s friend and partner Phil Baroni, the recently retired King Mo, Chael Sonnen and others with pro wrestling interest and background.
You also have guys in Impact, like Brian Cage, Moose, Eddie Edwards, Michael Elgin and TJP (who recently got a Bellator fight offer) with the credibility to be paired against them.
Shamrock/MMA faction promo: Here’s the difference between an MMA athlete and a pro wrestler. We’re not here to appeal to the fans and give them a show. We get wins, hurt people and get paid. Look at pro wrestling – where you can grab a rope to get your opponent to let you go or you can run out of the ring to get a break for 10 seconds or more. Pro wrestling is where you can strike a downed opponent. Know why? Because there are no killers in pro wrestling. You let us hit a downed opponent, we’ll put them in a grave. Just watch. Pro wrestling is where you got guys like Brian Cage with GMSI on his trunks, because he’d rather “get his s—t in” to entertain the fans instead of win as quick has possible. You boys want to be stars, you want to be celebrities. We just want to get paid to hurt people – and we will hurt you.
Cage/Impact faction promo response: I heard what Shamrock and his boys said. What he and his boys need to do is look at it the other way. You see in pro wrestling, you don’t spend most of your time sparring in a training camp to actually only fight 3-4 times a year. We’re out there in ring every weekend battling for 10, 20, 30 minutes or more – usually multiple times in a weekend. And we’re not taking a break every five minutes to sit on a stool, take a swig of water and look at the pretty ring girls. We get no breaks. And you’re going to see what GMSI means when we take you out into that deep water. When a match gets to the 15-20 minute mark and you’re looking for that ring bell and those pretty ring girls – but they’re not coming. That’s when Moose is going to crack a rib with the No Jackhammer Needed or Elgin gives you a nice spinal contusion with an Elgin Bomb or Eddie breaks your jaw with a Boston Knee Party and when I definitely introduce you to the world of concussions when I drop you on your head with the Drill Claw. You will respect pro wrestling – just as soon as we cart you out of the arena for good.
Kayfabe, they say, is dead. However, let’s see if that’s true when you give fans stories that they want to believe.
Next: The Knockouts