For the first time since beginning this column, I was stuck for ideas. Every week thus far there’s been something significant. A milestone, a match of interest, a surprise return. Something worth addressing.
Yet this week, there was very little on Impact Wrestling. It was the definition of ‘just a show’. Nothing stood out, no one stole the show and no one caught my attention. But the longer I sat and thought about it, something did stand out.
All professional wrestling companies seek to create characters you can believe in and relate to. As someone who views wrestling on a very emotional level, presentation is everything. That child in me that hated Triple H with a passion and was overawed by Batista’s infamous ‘thumbs up, thumbs down’ gesture in 2005 is still there. I frequently shout at my TV during matches. I have no qualms in admitting that I have cried watching wrestling before. Yuji Nagata’s never-say-die attitude in his final G1 had me on the edge of my seat, whilst I bite on near falls in most matches I watch. Johnny Gargano ranks among my favourite wrestlers because he makes me feel something. When wrestlers are presented as living, breathing human beings first and foremost, they’re more relatable than any character on the small screen.
Trevor Lee is an excellent professional wrestler. Yet if you’ve lived under a very small rock, known as the Impact rock of Nashville, Tennessee, you’d never have guessed that. Nowhere to be seen is Mr. Storytelling from CWF Mid-Atlantic or the intensity of his PWG appearances. The Trevor Lee Impact fans have been subject to is a plodding, conniving heel. Now, fans can quite rightly point to the fact that since debuting in August 2015 as part of the GFW invasion angle, Lee has won championship gold four times.
Yet, not a single one of those reigns has felt remotely meaningful.
His three X-Division world title reigns, totaling 339 combined days, have been uninspired and there’s very little to show from any of them. The first came after a four-month absence from television, returning in a random match where he beat Tigre Uno. That, the longest of his reigns, was entirely unmemorable and ended in a fatal-four-way at Slammiversary against Eddie Edwards, DJZ and Andrew Everett.
The second came after a ladder match against DJZ and is most memorable for his membership of the Helms Dynasty. The faction served no real purpose, didn’t really help Lee in any way and most of his reign was spent building to a big singles match with Andrew Everett which never came, with Lee eventually dropping the belt to Low Ki.
He then won the title for a third time after a thoroughly uninspired programme with Sonjay Dutt. He defended it in a thrown together six-way at Bound for Glory before eventually dropping it to Taiji Ishimori in what was some of his best work to date for the company.
The same issue has recurred with all three reigns. It’s hard to remember occasions where he a) won a match cleanly or b) got more than ten minutes to showcase his genuine talent.
Last week offered the new management the chance to reboot Lee. Pairing him and Konley up was a good move as they know each other well it offered fresh blood to a tag team title scene that so desperately needed it. It needn’t have been a permanent move to the division for either man, but long enough to give both enough cache for future singles runs.
Yet they failed to capitalise. The beatdown of LAX was as good a segue from the OvE feud as they could have done and this week they needed to follow up with a dominant performance. They should have had them clean house and look impressive in front of the cameras and then do the same promo they did with Konnan and play LAX as the badass babyfaces afraid of no one.
But they didn’t.
They went back and forth for over four minutes with a couple of jobbers. There should have been no resistance at all for the Cult of Lee, they should have looked like a real challenge to LAX. In the end they looked like a couple of complete dorks.
Put simply, The Cult of Lee didn’t look like a credible threat to a team that has run the deck in the tag division for almost a year. They didn’t look on the same level as the team that went to war with OvE in street fights and the Barbed Wire Massacre. If I don’t care about them, how is anyone else meant to?
Presentation is everything in wrestling and in a company as in need of a face lift and new stars as Impact, the new administration have faltered at the second hurdle. I’m not saying the feud won’t work, or that Lee can’t eventually become a main event star in Impact, but the stars aren’t shining right now.
Week in Review
- Interestingly the commentary on this week’s episode had quite clearly been reshot. Gone were the dulcet tones of JB, instead the slightly more monotonous Sonjay Dutt. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Dutt’s commentary, but Josh Mathews again proved why he’s the worst commentator in a mainstream promotion. Especially now Booker’s gone.
- Although viewership dropped 25,000 on last week, the stats for this week are actually quite impressive. Impact ran at the same time as the opening coverage of the Winter Olympics in South Korea on NBC, which took a gargantuan share of the viewing audience.
- This week’s opening contest was very fun. I don’t like them repackaging Hakim Zane to Rohit Raju to fit in with the Desi Hit Squad, Gama Singh’s new faction, but he was very solid here. Matt Sydal continues to impress, whilst also showing some more heelish tendencies.
- Moose deserves infinite amounts of credit for the main event. He looked in serious pain after going down hard on his knee but gutted it out, so fair play to him. Much like last week, I firmly believe that he’s being primed for a big push this year and I have no qualms with that whatsoever.
- Unlike last week, they did manage to set up two big matches for next week. Taiji Ishimori will take on El Hijo del Fantasma in what promises to be a great encounter, whilst Eli Drake will get his rematch for the Impact World Championship against Austin Aries.