I said a few weeks back now that I hoped Slammiversary would be a reset for Impact Wrestling. After the necessary changes made to the roster following the #SpeakingOut movement, and the removal of Tessa Blanchard as World Champion, the promotion needed to make positive steps forward and put their faith in good people. They needed a refresh in direction, presentation and personnel.
Despite those changes, and the general sentiment of a large portion of the wrestling community, Slammiversary’s main marketing campaign worked wonders. The promise of a ‘World Champion returning’ and that person not being alone sparked genuine intrigue and interest. People speculated and wanted to know who would be making their debut and who would be returning. Perhaps it was because, among all the darkness and tumult we’ve collectively experienced this year, it offered a palpable sense of a surprise and something new—two things people can instinctively relate to.
Slammiversary in itself, as I wrote in my review, was a good show, featuring a number of surprises that worked tremendously well. The Motor City Machine Guns, one of the promotion’s most memorable, and the industry’s most influential, tag teams made their return in the opening match, Heath Slater showed up, Rich Swann and Eric Young returned in the main event, the Good Brothers stood tall with Eddie Edwards at the end of the show and you had that EC3 vignette to finish. Add in some good storytelling, and four strong title matches to end the show, and you’ve got a recipe for a certifiable success in the pandemic era.
That inchoate sense of intrigue that I felt was permeating the wrestling bubble was proved to very real indeed by Impact’s social media numbers over the weekend (as per a press release issued by the promotion on Tuesday).
“On Twitter, Slammiversary 2020 smashed IMPACT’s record for single-day total impressions (Slammiversary 2018), nearly doubling the previous record by 97 percent. Leading the day was the exclusive midnight video announcement of The Good Brothers, which quickly became IMPACT’s best performing tweet of all time, while tweets showcasing Motor City Machine Gun’s return and Purrazzo’s title win now rank as their fifth and sixth best, respectively.
“Instagram engagement for Slammiversary 2020 saw a 172 percent increase in single-day total likes compared the previous record (Hard To Kill 2020), as video posts about EY’s return and Heath’s debut grew into IMPACT’s top two most-liked posts ever.
“During the month leading up to Slammiversary 2020, IMPACT’s YouTube Channel saw its total views rise by 26.5 percent and total watch time grow by 32 percent. The channel, which already ranks as the No. 2 most-subscribed wrestling account on the platform, added over 100 thousand new subscribers, marking a 20% rise in monthly subscriber rate.”
Those numbers are mightily impressive, as are the noises that the promotion did as well on PPV as they have for a long-time, whatever way you look at them. More importantly, they are a form of capital for the promotion, a sort of capital that they need to capitalize on if this show and the interest it generated are to mean something, long-term, for their place in the wrestling landscape.
To paraphrase something from 1980s rom-com Mannequin, ‘if people come to look, they’ll stay to buy. If they stay to buy, there’s every chance they’ll come again.’
People were clearly seeking out Impact-related content in the run-up to, and during, the show. What the promotion has to do, in turn, is give those people a call to action, and drive them somewhere. That could be to the website, merchandise pages, other social media platforms (preferably YouTube), Twitch, the weekly TV product, PPV buys or Impact Plus subscriptions. Whatever it is, they have to ensure that those one-off engagements piqued by social media gossip and Impact’s effective marketing strategy are converted into something tangible and meaningful. You do that by having a product that feels fresh, different, and interesting, with new faces and new directions up and down the card.
Impact Wrestling did a good job of trying to hook viewers in with the PPV – they set up the big tag team title match for Tuesday, and the EC3 vignette was saved right for the very end. You got a lot, but you didn’t quite get everything. You had something to come back for a few nights later, when the onus would again fall on the promotion to provide hooks for the following week and so on. It’s basic wrestling business but most promotions seem to have a knack of making the simple look very complicated.
In terms of delivering on Tuesday, and delivering something new and fresh, Impact Wrestling did a good job. You had an EC3 promo straight out the gate, which was a change of pace, followed by some new branding, title credits and opening theme song. Slick, dynamic and effective, the start to the show felt like more than just a simple paint job. It felt like a proper refresh with new faces, new layers and new stories.
Chris Bey’s opener with Willie Mack was a little short but decisive in getting the new X-Division Champion over, and while the remaining wrestling before the main event was nothing to write home about, it was inoffensive and helped the show absolutely whizz by. There was more Heath, a fun interaction between Eddie Edwards and Eric Young, a great angle involving EC3, and the reveal that Brian Myers has arrived. Oh yeah, and a bloody brilliant main event that saw The North’s record-breaking tag title run come to an end at the hands of good eggs Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley.
Twitch viewership for the show peaked at well over 6,000, a good number for the platform and a new record for the promotion, which shows that the interest shown in the last month and at the weekend carried through. Impact Wrestling did a good job of converting people and if Tuesday is anything to go by, they appear to have understood the task at hand, continued with the refresh and moved forward. Announcing the debut match for The Good Brothers and a World title match for next week is a good way of trying to cling onto those new / returning viewers.
Now, all of this, which has praised the promotion for running a good marketing campaign, delivering on it and showing some progress, isn’t to suggest that all is rosy. There are still those, like Moose and Sami Callihan, who have tremendous baggage and are like a chronic muscle pain that nags away at you all the time. The promotion can still be better. They can still do more to make a real change following #SpeakingOut.
I’m not overlooking the bad things, whatever some will think. They still influence and affect my viewing week-to-week. But I’m writing this to essentially report things as they are. Impact Wrestling generated genuine buzz, for positive reasons, for the first time in a long, long time.
This week they appeared conscious that more eyes were on them for good reasons, and they tried to capitalize on those eyes but continuing to refresh their product. The roster feels different, there are new directions with every title involving exciting wrestlers. Long-term, who knows whether it’ll last or lead to anything significant (like Impact Wrestling being a real player again), but at the moment it’s clear that a new era has begun in Impact Wrestling.