We all know that there have been a number of ‘LOLTNA’ concepts in Impact Wrestling over the years. For every Ultimate X, there was a Reverse Battle Royal. Often these concepts were well-thought-out, but like much of the promotion, they were poorly executed.
Gut Check was one of those ideas that undoubtedly had merit on paper but was limp in its presentation. The concept was simple – unsigned talents getting an opportunity on the weekly TV show, with a decision on whether to sign them taken by three judges.
However, the nature of the wrestling business in this day and age, and Impact’s taping schedule meant that it was hard to generate any enthusiasm for those Gut Check matches – they were going to sign who they wanted to sign, win, lose or draw. Opening it up to fan voting didn’t really work either as it a) took control away from the promotion, which is something they’d never truly get behind and b) the technology for the online one didn’t really work and people ended up being able to vote multiple times.
An additional problem of Gut Check was that no one signed from it made a major impact in the promotion. There were eight signees from the two versions run in 2012 and 2013 and listing them off reads like a list of names y’all must’ve forgot; Alex Silva, Taeler Hendrix, Sam Shaw, Christian York, Wes Brisco, Jay Bradley, Lei’D Tapa and Micah (later Tanga Loa).
Alex Silva, who is believed to have only won by accident, wrestled just once for the promotion before leaving.
Taeler Hendrix wrestled twice, getting barely eight minutes of ring time and losing on both occasions.
Wes Brisco, who wasn’t very good, was part of Aces and Eights but he only wrestled nine times before getting released.
Sam Shaw went through phases of being a stalker and he had a weird feud with Gunner before leaving in 2015.
Christian York competed in a tournament for an X-Division title shot but he ultimately only wrestled eight times and didn’t last a full calendar year with the promotion.
Jay Bradley pottered around for a while, featuring in the 2013 Bound for Glory Series and getting repackaged as Aiden O’Shea when he competed in the 2015 World Heavyweight Title Series. He looked set for an increased role under Billy Corgan before the Smashing Pumpkins frontman left the company, with Bradley not far behind out of the door.
Lei’D Tapa defeated Ivelisse in her Gut Check bout and she had a decent enough run with the company, tagging a couple of times with Alpha Female when the promotion traveled to Europe and spending time as Gail Kim’s muscle. Their partnership eventually broke down and Tapa, who later ventured into the world of MMA, got a shot at the Knockouts title in 2015 in what was her final match with the promotion.
Micah won the repackaged version of Gut Check in 2015, then designed as a One Night Only special but the artist now known as Tanga Loa didn’t fare much better. He was the third man in The Rising with Drew Galloway and Eli Drake and after that broke down, he participated in a few multi-man tags before leaving and eventually ending up with NJPW, where he has become a multi-time tag team champion.
As that list has shown, the Gut Check winners in the past were nothing short of also-rans in a time where the promotion was on a decidedly downward trajectory.
When it was announced on social media just over a week ago that Gut Check would be returning, there were a few eyerolls, including one from me. Perhaps that was unfair, as the current regime has shown far more ability at putting things like this together and this week those eyerolls seemed to be proved entirely unjustified as they revealed what the new Gut Check would look like.
Akin to the Global Forged series they ran in 2017, it’s an Impact Plus exclusive filmed from the BCW dojo up in Canada. That means that there is actually intrigue to the content and if the first episode is anything to go by, it will be very easy to digest at 15 minutes per episode. It’s basically an Impact version of Tough Enough, with Scott D’Amore and John E. Bravo putting the seven hopefuls through their paces, with the overall winner receiving an Impact contract.
The new crop are:
- Clayton Gainz from Ohio, who has previously worked in AAW, Pro Wrestling Revolver and BCW
- Tony Gunn from Kentucky, an OVW regular who has held the Southern Tag Team Title, the OVW Television title on three occasions and the OVW Heavyweight Championship. Gunn has also worked a few Impact specials on Twitch in the last year or so.
- Tyler Tirva, a 33-year-old Canadian who has worked Xplosion a couple of times and he’s a regular in BCW.
- Shogun, known to many as Jackson Stone, is a regular in the Ohio area and he’s the biggest dude in the field in terms of sheer physical size.
- Leonis Khan, one half of the King’s Ransom team that are former OVW Southern Tag Team Champions.
- Maximus Khan, the other half of the King’s Ransom team that are former OVW Southern Tag Team Champions.
- Tunku Amir, a member of the Chikara’s Crucible stable.
The first episode gave you a little flavor of all the competitors, with John E. Bravo’s scathing criticism of the way Gainz stands up being a particular highlight. It feels grittier, edgier and more interesting than Gut Check ever did before.
I’ve always got time for promotions who try to do something different, especially when it comes to picking up talent. It really appears that Impact Wrestling is doing Gut Check right this time, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out.
The Week in Review
- This week’s episode was almost entirely filler as Impact opened up their run of tapings in Las Vegas.
- RVD’s match with Daga was awful but his new team with Joey Ryan definitely has some legs to it.
- I’m sure that most people would, like me, rather the Rascalz were doing something more than their feud with the Desi Hit Squad, but at least’s it a solid enough story and there’s a clear payoff so I’m prepared to roll with it.
- Miranda Alize looked good in her match with Jordynne Grace, I’d like to see more of her moving forward.
- With James Mitchell now gone from the promotion, maybe get a return of normality in the women’s division?
- The fourth match in the series between Michael Elgin and Eddie Edwards was the weakest so far. It wasn’t bad, it just felt very samey to their previous matches and I think that was offset by it being from a Revolver show rather than the Impact tapings themselves.
- This week we’ve got Havok vs Su Yung, The North vs TJP & Fallah Bahh, Moose vs Petey Williams, Joey Ryan vs Ace Romero and Tessa Blanchard defending the World title against Taya Valkyrie.
Well, until next time…