Tis’ the holiday season – the time of year where we count our blessings and are thankful for what we have, whilst also putting forth our hopes and desires for the coming year.
Why we specifically attach so much meaning to a change in the celestial alignment and how that’ll make us more likely to enact change, I don’t know, but the New Year does provide a useful time for reflection.
Following on from my end-of-year series over the last couple of weeks that has recapped the best matches in Impact this year and the recipients of my first batch of annual awards, I thought this week I’d outline my wishlist for Impact Wrestling in 2019. Some of these are more hopeful than others, but a man is entitled to dream.
I have tried to condense it down to five broad wishes, ranked in no specific order.
1. More of the same for 2019
Whilst the TV ratings in the second half of the year really didn’t reflect it, 2018 was arguably the best year creatively in Impact’s history. They managed to tell compelling stories with logical pay-offs that resulted in some great matches along the way. Don Callis has teased a ‘sexier and edgier’ Impact for 2019 when they move to Pursuit, but to be honest, just doing more of what they’ve been doing is probably the safer option. Why fix what isn’t broken?
2. Actually making the most of the roster they’ve got
Although Impact must be commended for perhaps demonstrating the best recruitment strategy in 2018, utilizing the very best talents available to them and not reverting to strategies of the past, there were a number of cases where they simply failed to maximize some of the talents they actually had before Callis and D’Amore led the revolution. The two cases in point here are Andrew Everett and Trevor Lee
Everett, who is still only 26, did enjoy a brief tag team title run with DJ Z during the first half of the year, but unfortunately, it was little more than a storyline tool to help get LAX over. I have no issue with that in principle, but Everett is a tremendous talent and he was chronically underutilized and ended up walking out of the company in September. He wrestled just 8 matches for Impact this year.
Lee, a three-time X-Division Champion, was actually one of Impact’s most featured talents this year in terms of appearances. However, Lee was mostly used as a pin-eater in singles matches in the second half of the year and as one half of a disappointing tag team alongside Caleb Konley in the first six months or so. Lee never got to show his tremendous talents or any real personality in the last year and ended up leaving after the Las Vegas tapings and now looks set to join the Largo Loop in the new year.
3. BRING ME STRONGHEARTS!
So, one of wrestling’s biggest storylines this year was CIMA and several other Dragon Gate stars leaving the company and then rocking up in Wrestle-1 and DDT amongst other places as the deeply exciting Stronghearts stable. It was a move that highlighted CIMA’s star power and why he deserves a spot in the Observer’s Hall of Fame.
If Impact really wants to do something a bit edgier, why not bring in Stronghearts. The Rascalz trio are already there, and it’d certainly make for an entertaining invasion-style angle, even if they’re not there for too long. It’d certainly create some intrigue and some incredibly fresh matches – Brian Cage vs CIMA and Gao Jingjia & El Lindaman against the Lucha Brothers are just two examples.
Even if it was only a one-off, attempting to get a foothold in the China market would be incredibly sensible from a business point of view and it would potentially be an avenue to get the Rascalz signed up on a more permanent basis, something Impact definitely should be doing.
4. Keep traveling to different places
One of Impact’s most pleasant innovations for 2018 was their decision to start travelling for tapings once again and over the course of the year they taped TV in New York, Orlando, Windsor, Toronto, Mexico and Las Vegas. Vegas, Mexico and Windsor are already lined up for TV tapings, whilst Homecoming will take place in Nashville. Bringing Impact to new live audiences throughout 2019 will be incredibly important, so why not hope for them to visit some new places.
How about Chicago or Atlanta? Charlotte or Pittsburgh? It might be expensive, but another UK tour would be immensely popular, I’m sure. What they’ve done so far is good, but continuing to expand their reach is essential, especially with that new TV deal in place.
5. Sign-up talent they can build into stars
I know money is relatively tight and Impact have sought to minimise costs throughout the year by keeping the core roster small and utilising local talent when they travel for TV tapings and One Night Only shows. It has worked and the roster is excellent, but with big names increasingly swallowed up by the machine, Impact really need to look at building some stars of their own to ensure that the next generation of guys and girls are ready when the current top layer get injured or move on, be that to WWE or potentially AEW.
With the financial constraints in mind, I’ve made a list of five talents I’d like to see Impact sign-up to be core talents for this year and beyond. As a rule, I tried to make the five all acts who’ve worked with Impact in some capacity beforehand. I’ve also included a list of alternative options that I felt would be slightly less feasible.
A professional since 2013, New York’s Anthony Bowens won a triple threat match on Impact’s Twitch show Brace for Impact, run alongside his home promotion WrestlePro, against Eli Drake and Matt Macintosh. Bowens is athletic and young, and he has a tremendous look. Add into that him being one of the very few openly gay professional wrestlers (he is bisexual), Bowens has a genuinely authentic backstory and one that if told properly, would help Impact get genuine traction beyond the narrow wrestling bubble.
It was in 2018 where 21-year-old Ace Austin really broke out to a wider audience. He had regular bookings with CZW and appeared on a few Impact co-produce shows, as well as wrestling for MLW towards the end of the year. Austin looks a real talent and is still just three years into his wrestling career, so has room to grow physically and as a performer. I could easily foresee him becoming a key player in the X-Division, even if he began as a pin-eater for the most part, and he’s the exact sort of talent the other companies will be looking at as well.
Sysum put in a cracker of a performance on the Impact show in Manchester back in September and he was probably the only real success story of the WOS reboot on ITV. He has an incredible look and is a great talent, and Impact have been happy to use British talents in the past. He might be costly to bring in as a regular roster member but he’s undoubtedly worth the investment – a real star in the making.
Spinelli has worked a lot for Impact this year (she’s often been the Undead Maid of Honor alongside Su Yung), and is really good. The women’s division could always do with more depth and Spinelli has a good look, good presence and an authentic style. I really rate her and she knows D’Amore well, so I think she’d be a pretty straightforward roster addition.
Besties in the World
I’m a huge fan of Matt Fitchett and Davey Vega and I think they’d be a top-drawer addition to the Impact brand. They work incredibly well as a tandem and have had stellar matches throughout their run in AAW. I think they’d make for some great new matches in in the tag division and there’s always the potential split storyline and a big push for Fitchett, which AAW fans never got. They have been looked at by Ring of Honor in the past, so there may be more competition than for other teams but they’re worth it.
- Jake Something: Something has the size and presence to be a potential top star for the future and he has worked some Impact co-produce shows in the past. He’s definitely someone worth investing some time in to see whether he is the real deal or not. Potential downside? Might not actually be that good.
- Josh Alexander: Alexander has been one of Canada’s best for a number of years and has unfortunately never really had his big break. He had a brilliant cage match with Sami Callihan on a One Night Only show in August and although I could never see him becoming a top star, he’d be a very solid hand for the roster and there’d be no reason not to unite him with his Monster Mafia tag partner Ethan Page as that’d add a fresh team to the mix. Potential downside? Cost of visa sponsorship.
- Michael Elgin: Although he may be cancelled for an awful lot of people, Elgin is one of the few really big names that Impact could potentially snap up. He had a great match with Petey Williams earlier in the year on an Impact show and he’d immediately be a top star if he were brought onboard. Potential downside? He’s problematic and also quite expensive.
- Shotzi Blackheart: Blackheart was worked a lot with Impact’s partner promotion RISE and looked good on her few Impact showings earlier in the year. She’d be a good investment for the future. Potential downside? Isn’t really one, aside from her relative inexperience.
- Reno SCUM: The tandem of Adam Thornstowe and Luster the Legend may not be the youngest or the most exciting tag team in the world, but they are incredibly solid hands. They have a distinct look and would certainly fit with the ‘edgier’ vibe Callis has suggested they’re going for, and they’d add depth to the tag division. It might be strong right now, but you can never really have enough. Thornstowe is currently recovering from an injury but they look good to go from February and that’s when Impact will be returning to Las Vegas, so the timing for a re-debut would work well. Potential downsides? Age.
Agree? Anyone or anything else you’d like to see? Let me know on Twitter at @AMSinclair97 and I’ll be back at the end of the week to preview Homecoming, Impact’s first PPV of 2019.