Slammiversary XVI was a great show. It was easily the best North American top-to-bottom show this year, but you don’t just have to take my word for it. Read the show review at 411mania, read Deadspin’s article praising the company’s new direction or listen to Joe and Rich on this week’s VOW Flagship.
It was great for a number of reasons. You had Austin Aries showing why he’s one of the top ten wrestlers in the world, Moose showing that he could go at the elite level and main event a show, a tag team war that was a star-making performance for Santana & Ortiz and the return of Johnny Impact, someone who figures to be central moving forward.
Most importantly though, Slammiversary was great because it gave Impact Wrestling a new, discernible identity.
In many ways though, I guess it’s always had an identity. Or at least the ability to conjure up images of derision and laughter, images of a company that tried to do too much and inevitably fell short. A company that thought it could match WWE, surely an entirely ridiculous idea, and in many ways never really surpassed Ring of Honor.
To many, Impact Wrestling was known as the place where old WWE stars went to pasture. Fell out of favour in Stanford or they ran out of ideas for you – you can guarantee there’d be someone wondering when Dubba Budley was going to turn up in the Impact Zone. It was a place where those guys, your Kevin Nash’s and Scott Steiner’s of the world, would come in and get title reigns over exciting, entertaining and younger talent.
If that wasn’t the primary joke for most people, it was that Impact Wrestling was a company that couldn’t book. An overreliance on WWE-esque booking tropes, non-finishes in title matches as a result of consistent interference, countless heel turns and ref bumps galore. Most of those jibes were fair, most top-level matches sucked because you knew it was coming. It could be one of the three, but you knew you’d get at least one.
And then to complete the picture for most fans, the third corner of the golden triangle of Impact’s woes, were the constant financial issues and rumours. The latter tended to dominate, rumours of late pay for wrestlers or no pay at all, or the company going under. There always seemed to be enough noble foot soldiers to bail out the sinking ship, keeping it afloat to ensure it never went away but at the same time failing to make it stable enough to get a real consistent foothold.
Those things always made Impact Wrestling feel like the poor relation, the joke promotion. The TV deals gradually got worse and worse, more and more big names made the leap to the WWE and it seemed in late 2016 that finally their time had come. The money issues weren’t just fleeting or temporary, these were serious and drastic. Anthem saved the company but during 2017 and in early 2018 they often felt like they were doing little more than treading water. Sticking out solid but uninspiring TV, capped off by a Bound for Glory show ended by interference from Alberto El Patron, one of wrestling’s great liabilities.
Under Don Callis and Scott D’Amore things have been changing. You’ve had two men who seemingly know what they want, know how to please the fans and knew the stars they wanted. And at Slammiversary that vision was made blatantly apparent.
Impact Wrestling now has an identity they’ve forged, not been tagged with, and one they deserve for all the right reasons. In 2018 Impact Wrestling is a genuine alternative to the other major American promotions. The TV is kept simple, the wrestling is fresh and entertaining. They are attempting to tell long-term stories with continuity and everything seems to have a purpose.
They are trying things that no one else would, and things no one thought they could actually pull off. With LAX and the OGz they’ve managed to seamlessly bring gang strife onto weekly television, with references to drugs, broads, casual use of racial slurs and Konnan referring to King as a human gloryhole. With Eddie Edwards they’ve told the story that he was driven to madness, to the point he thought he was being cuckolded by Tommy Dreamer.
It’s not perfect, not by any means. The weekly TV doesn’t always land, the Su Yung stuff completely sucks and they still need a more consistent high-level workrate output.
But, and this is a big but, they’re moving in the right direction.
Impact Wrestling is now a smash mouth, in your face promotion, pushing boundaries and trying to bring new and innovative things to the fanbases that want and deserve quality output. It’s a company with a unique feel and vibe and one you can get behind and enjoy. It’s not often in the past you’ve been able to say that…
The Week in Review
- Viewership for this week’s post-Slammiversary episode only hit 299,000, a number that will surely come as a disappointment.
- Petey Williams vs Taiji Ishimori was a really fun little match, and served as a good way to get the Desi Hit Squad over. They did more in that little beatdown than they’ve managed in the previous month or so of TV.
- Tessa Blanchard followed up on her win at Slammiversary with a squash win over Rebel. It was easily the best Rebel’s looked, and by that I mean she didn’t look like an injury waiting to happen to herself or her opponent.
- Scarlett Bordeaux’s debut was certainly something. First things first, she’s an incredibly attractive woman and I’m sure she’s sincere in her ambition to make wrestling sexy again. I thought her character was very interesting and I’m interested to see how it’s received by a wider audience.
- I’m not exactly hyped for Johnny Impact vs Kongo Kong but it’s good storytelling, giving continuity to fans who regularly watch the product, something that’s all too often overlooked.
- This week featured far too many video packages for my liking, but I did find Jake Crist referring to himself as ‘The Mini-Draw’ absolutely hilarious.
- Next week we get The Crists vs The Lucha Brothers, the Desi Hit Squad in action, Allie & Kiera Hogan vs Su Yung & The Undead Maid of Honour and Austin Aries vs Dustin Cameron.
Well, until next time…