Wrestling, like most things, thrives on variety. Not necessarily variety in a WWE-sense, but more in terms of innovation that captures the zeitgeist of fans. Think of Game Changer Wrestling (GCW) and their current approach. By no means is it breaking the mold, but it is fun, entertaining and unique.
For the second successive week, Impact attempted to do something different with their weekly television product. They attempted to innovate and bring something different to their fans by presenting the ‘Mash-Up’ tournament.
Taped in the Don Kolov Arena (a regular venue for Impact live shows over the last year or so), the concept of the tournament was one that set alarm bells ringing. It pitted former or current rivals together in a tag-team competition, with the triumphant team facing off in singles competition at a later date to earn a shot at Brian Cage.
On paper, the tournament looked as though it would rely on the tired trope of ‘strange bedfellows’, with each match driven by the same narrative: “how can these rivals possibly co-exist?!!” The sort of narrative that limits match quality, puts too much emphasis on telling STORIEZ and feels forced. There inevitably were possible positives to the format, such as the presentation of varied and unique matches, the chance to develop feuds in simple ways and also creating a new top contender in the three months between now and Bound for Glory.
Ultimately, this week’s attempt at innovation was the mixed bag I suspected it would be. No match particularly stood out or had the chance to over deliver (the final four-way was quite entertaining for what it was), but there was very little dross. Much of what they presented made sense, although the decision for Havok to pin Madison Rayne a week after the latter’s heel turn left a little to be desired, and there was decent development of both existing and new storylines.
The finish to the opening contest added a little more to the show-opening feud between The Deaners and the Desi Hit Squad (I’m still waiting patiently for the return of Mahabali Shera…) without intruding too much into the match itself. Likewise, the finish of the match involving Rich Swann gave Jake Crist a visible pinfall on the X-Division Champion, setting up a future title match whilst protecting the champion. Ace Austin got the chance to stretch his legs and do some good character work, likely setting up singles matches for the TV tapings with Aiden Prince and possibly Stone Rockwell.
In the final match, the angle with Michael Elgin walking out on the match and his partner Willie Mack was tropey, but it made sense. It gives them a reason to do Elgin/Mack again on TV and cements Elgin’s character. In terms of pure wrestling logic it also made sense – if Elgin has a singles opportunity against Brian Cage already booked, why would he jump through a load more hoops in this tournament if he doesn’t have to? Furthermore, with Rhyno’s contract with WWE now up, it seems almost certain that he and Elgin will clash in the next few weeks before the build to Bound for Glory picks up.
Giving Sami Callihan and Tessa Blanchard the tournament win was also a nominal positive. The interactions between the two still feel fresh, it further elevates Blanchard in an organic way and also likely sets up Callihan up for a world title shot, something that feels necessary to develop his credibility – prior to Slammiversary, he came out on the losing end of too many feuds to feel like a serious top-level threat.
It wasn’t perfect, but the ‘Mash-Up’ tournament was a refreshing change and it was the sort of innovation that Impact should be going for. They are not in a position to be drastic in any changes they make to their presentation, but some variety every now and again might generate a little more traction for their product.
Special episodes like that create more interest in their live events, which is surely a logical business decision, whilst they also offer them differing avenues for post-PPV booking. There’s room for a straight-forward tag tournament, an X-Division showcase or something akin to the Top Prospect tournament.
By taking two weeks of weekly TV and repurposing them as something a little bit different, I feel that Impact have reinvigorated my interest in what they present next week. For a company that can sometimes feel a little dry from week-to-week, that’s certainly a positive.
Innovation doesn’t have to mean reinventing the wheel. It can sometimes mean just trying something a little bit different. On this occasion, Impact might just have got it right.
The Week in Review
- The seeming fascination with presenting Jake Crist as a singles star will never cease to amaze me.
- Next week’s episode will feature Moose in action, Swann vs Crist for the X-Division title, Kiera Hogan against Jordynne Grace and Brian Cage and Michael Elgin facing off in a street fight.
Well, until next time…