It was announced on Monday that Eli had signed a new deal with Impact Wrestling, after months of speculation regarding his future. It had been expected by many that he would return to the WWE, presumably through NXT after really evolving since originally washing out of the company in 2014.
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) June 25, 2018
It is not clear as yet the length of Eli’s new deal. Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer suggested earlier this week it may only be as long as a month, taking him through Slammiversary and the two days of tapings at the end of the month, but other rumours indicate it could be in excess of a year.
As has been demonstrated on this site many times, I’m a huge Eli Drake fan. I think he has all the charisma in the world, is one of Impact’s very best promos and his reign as world champion was pretty good considering the upheaval in the company. But him signing a new deal is massive for several reasons.
The main one is Impact holding on to one of their biggest stars.
For the first time in a long time, Don Callis and Scott D’Amore have managed to really create a main event scene in Impact with the likes of Austin Aries, Moose, Pentagon Jr amongst others and Eli Drake is a big part of that. Keeping another star, someone Callis has described as a ‘five-tool player’ on multiple occasions, is big if they want to keep growing in the second half of the year.
From a narrative standpoint, it was also massive that they were able to hold onto him.
Over the last two years the following have all jumped ship to WWE: EC3, Lashley, Mike Bennett, The Hardys, Drew Galloway, Mark Andrews, Eric Young, Bobby Roode and Mahabali Shera. Some of those are definitely bigger losses than others, but the tide was going against Impact. All their big stars would get to a point, draw the interest of Stanford and then go walkies. It hurt their long-term booking, it hurt the reputation of the company and compounded the turmoil they’ve had to endure over those 24 months and more.
Eli Drake staying helps change that narrative.
It shows that the new regime can provide confidence and stability to their top stars and is a regime people want to stick with. The work they’ve done to build bridges and create links with numerous companies undoubtedly helps that. And guess what, maybe it will soon dawn on others that signing with the WWE and getting trapped on the Largo loop isn’t exactly a great move.
Axel Dieter Jr. signed well over a year ago and hasn’t appeared on TV once. With that in mind, you’d know signing Drake would be because Triple H wants to stockpile more talent, not because he’s necessarily watched Impact regularly and thought ‘Eli Drake, that’s my guy’. WWE’s pseudo-monopoly isn’t great for the business because they’ve only got so much content to fill, and they still contrive to make five hours of it almost entirely insufferable. You only need look at the field for this year’s BOLA to see how they’ve already gutted the US indie scene of its big stars over the last six months.
At the crux of it, Eli Drake’s new deal matters because it keeps the spirit of competition alive. It would be a jump to say Impact would be crippled if Drake left, but I think it would have had more ramifications than those who’ve gone before because the company actually seems to be in a good place now. Eli staying means that Impact is stronger, Impact can put on better shows and Impact can provide an alternative for fans.
Impact and Ring of Honor will of course never be a true alternative to WWE, they can’t match them financially, but they can provide a better product on a weekly basis for their fans. Keeping someone like Eli Drake, who I fear would get lost in the shuffle if he went back to NXT, is a small part of keeping the spirit of competition alive.
Eli Drake is my guy in Impact Wrestling and I’m delighted he’s staying. That, my friends, simply is best for business.
The Week in Review
- Viewership dropped again this week, hitting 254,000. That’s the lowest so far in 2018.
- Rich Swann was superb in his Impact debut against Trevor Lee. I don’t begrudge him a new opportunity at all, and I thought he showed tremendous athleticism.
- Desi Hit Squad… weren’t great in their official debut. DJZ and Andrew Everett did their best, they looked excellent, but it still struggled. Zane and Singh are a long-term project, I get that, but it needs work. A lot of it.
- Some good ol’ Apuestas action will hit Toronto later this month at Slammiversary with Sami Callihan vs Pentagon now confirmed. Should be good.
- The video package for Moose and the interview with Austin Aries combined well this week to provide some very solid build for the Slammiversary main event. Aries is a tremendous heel and it’s nice for Moose to actually get to show some personality.
- Confirmed for next week: Killer Kross’ in-ring debut, Fenix vs Rich Swann, Brian Cage vs Kongo Kong and interviews with Aries and Tommy Dreamer.
Oh yeah, and this:
LOOK. AT. THIS. MATCH.
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) June 29, 2018
Well, until next time…