To finish off my mini-series wrapping up the year that was 2019 for Impact Wrestling, I thought I’d look forward and map out my wishlist for the coming 12 months. I did this last year and a few of the things I listed came to fruition, like taking the promotion to new locations, refusing the lure of doing too much silly stuff week to week and signing up interesting talents like Ace Austin, Jake Something, Michael Elgin, Josh Alexander and Reno SCUM.
Some things, however, didn’t really work out – Andrew Everett and Trevor Lee promptly left the promotion, while Stronghearts are, in theory, lined up with AEW.
The observations and wishes below are based on the product over the last year and I have tried to keep a strong sense of realism in these points. Let me know whether you agree with what I’ve suggested, whether you think I’ve missed anything or if there’s stuff you really want to see on Twitter @AMSinclair97.
Continue striving to offer something different in 2020
While 2019 was not as strong a year as 2018 was for Impact Wrestling, the promotion still consistently delivered a decent TV product capped off with four good to great pay-per-view shows. Towards the end of the year it became clear that intergender wrestling was the avenue that they want to pursue and while it might not be totally for me yet (I’m prepared to be won over), it is clearly working – footage of Sami Callihan and Tessa Blanchard’s brawl from the final show of the year has been viewed more than four million times.
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) January 2, 2020
I was slightly concerned that the promotion might get squeezed out in 2020 but they managed to keep doing what they were doing and they now have a much bigger platform on AXS. While I don’t want them to go too far down the rabbit hole with niche ideas, they do need to keep offering something a little bit different to set themselves apart and get maximum traction in 2020.
Provide more compelling storytelling in the Knockouts division
Taya Valkyrie won the Knockouts title at Homecoming in early January 2019 and she has held the title ever since. Although her reign has been objectively fine, with some decent matches here and there, the knockouts division felt thoroughly stagnant for most of the year. Impact has got some great talents at their disposal and this has to be a big area of improvement for 2020. They have the chance to belt up Jordynne Grace at Hard to Kill and I hope that they do and let her run with it.
Keep traveling and working in new places
In 2019, Impact continued to develop its bases in Windsor, Toronto, New York, Las Vegas and Mexico with regular tapings and they also made returns to Philadelphia, Dallas and Illinois. All of those things were positive and in 2020 I would like to see the promotion work more in wrestling heartlands like Illinois and Philly, while also looking at running shows in places where they can maximize the talent they have at their disposal, like running tapings in Dayton, Detroit or Charlotte, for example.
Tie TJP down to a proper deal
It took him a while to get up to full speed after he left WWE, but by the end of 2019 TJP was in tremendous shape and he was delivering superb matches wherever he went. He’s probably got a spot in the Best of the Super Junior waiting for him if he wants it but Impact really should be looking at securing his services on a more regular basis. If the company is to move in a more upward trajectory in 2020, they need more talents on their roster who can deliver the sort of top-quality matches that get buzz and crack people’s MOTY lists. With the right sort of opponent (i.e. Rich Swann), TJP is the exact sort of person who can help with that.
Make more of their roster and current partnerships
I’ve written this in the ‘Week in Review’ part of my weekly columns several times before but Jake Something is literally sat right there. He’s got so much potential to be a top guy but he’s currently jobbing around at the bottom of the tag team division. Make the most of him Don and Scott, I beg!
Michael Elgin wrestled Katsuhiko Nakajima on NOAH’s big January 4 show. In late 2019, we got to see Naomichi Marufuji come over and work matches with Elgin, the North and Eddie Edwards. A priority for 2020, in my mind, is for Impact to make the most of their relationships with NOAH and AAA – there’s a lot of interesting matches that Takashi Sugiura, Kenoh, Kaito Kiyomiya, Go Shiozaki and Daisuke Harada could have with guys on the Impact roster and who doesn’t want more El Hijo del Vikingo on their weekly product? This goes both ways too – wouldn’t it be cool to see the Rascalz compete in the Junior Tag League or Michael Elgin compete in the N1 Victory tournament?
Give Rich Swann a main event push
As I’ve written in recent weeks, I think Rich Swann was Impact’s Wrestler of the Year in 2019. Although he’s in the tag team scene at the moment and could be primed for a feud with Willie Mack after Hard to Kill, very few things would make me happier than seeing him chase for the title in the latter part of 2020 against a Michael Elgin or Brian Cage.
General roster additions
Although Impact has mostly stuck to their MO of keeping the core roster relatively small and maximizing local talents, they have added the likes of Joey Ryan, Ace Romero and Larry D to the roster in recent months. Romero and Larry D offer real size and they are guys that the promotion can get behind and develop organically, while Ryan is a name and someone perfect for this social media generation, irrespective of whether you like his shtick or not.
While Impact has great talent at the top of the card right now, you always have to look for the next generation, so here are a few suggestions of talents that they should look to sign in 2020.
Shane Taylor: The main one for me. The big man showed tremendous development as a character and worker with ROH in 2019 and now that he’s a free agent, he’s someone that they have to make a real play for. I feel that there are stories waiting to be told with Taylor up and down the card and personally I’d aim to bring him in so that he can debut at Hard to Kill and make a statement.
Anthony Bowens: I suggested Bowens last year and my reasoning is still exactly the same, so I’m just going to paste what I wrote before…
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.
Tony Deppen: Pennsylvania’s Deppen was one of 2019’s breakout stars thanks to his performances in GCW, Beyond, Chikara and PWG and he’s got an abundance of natural talent and ability. Much like with Ace Austin last year, he’s a guy with a lot of room to grow and he’s the sort of talent that Impact can shape and mould.
Besties in the World: While the promotion has got a number of tag teams currently on their roster, only The North and the Rascalz really stand out at the moment (Swann & Mack could be added to that mix if they don’t go with the Mack heel turn). The Besties are a great tandem and I’m still surprised that they haven’t been snapped up by a bigger promotion. Still, they could be a fantastic addition to the tag team ranks in 2020, creating a number of fresh rivalries and matchups up and down the card.
Kylie Rae: We still don’t really know what happened with AEW, but Kylie Rae is one of the best unsigned female talents out there and if she’s happy to sign up, Impact should put a lot of effort into getting her. She’s the exact sort of tonic the Knockouts division needs and I’d love to see her and Grace have a great feud that can carry the division.
Other suggestions: Daniel Garcia, Hyan, KC Spinelli, JT Dunn, Ricky Martinez, Mick Moretti, Chris Bey, Tony Gunn, Chris Dickinson and Bear Country.
As I said, let me know whether you agree with what I’ve suggested, whether you think I’ve missed anything or if there’s stuff you really want to see on Twitter @AMSinclair97.