On a week where the Hard to Kill main event was set and Impact’s weekly TV was pretty dialed in, it probably seems a little weird for me to be using this column to have a moan. Personally, I blame the spate of ‘Things to be thankful for’ pieces I read over the Thanksgiving period; they tend to bring out my (even more) cynical side.
In October, Impact Wrestling introduced a fourth singles title, the Digital Media Championship. Technically, I suppose you could call it a reintroduction as the promotion have repeatedly experimented with a fourth singles belt in the past.
The first was the Television Championship, which would go on to be renamed the Legends Championship and the Global Championship before it was retired in August as the King of the Mountain Championship. Throughout its existence, the title never really felt like it mattered. It’d drift in and out of relevance and you’d have title matches here and there but there aren’t any that standout as particularly memorable.
A mere two months later, that was replaced by Billy Corgan’s brainchild, the Grand Championship. While fundamentally different from anything they’d done before, as it used a rounds system, it never really worked and retained the problem its predecessor(s) had – no one seemed to care. It was retired in 2018 by Don Callis, who said that a promotion of Impact’s size had no need for a fourth singles title and that the focus would switch to the three remaining belts: the World title, the X-Division title and the Knockouts title.
Don was right. Titles are seen as the pinnacle of every wrestling promotion and should always be treated with respect. If you have a fourth belt that never seems to get any traction and no one really seems to care about, why, from a kayfabe perspective, would wrestlers ever go after it? Not every feud needs a title attached to it – people have other motivations and stories that are easier enough to tell – and I’d argue that not having a belt involved in a program is often better as it opens up a lot more booking possibilities.
As you can probably work out, my reaction to them announcing the Digital Media Championship was one of confusion. Admittedly I approached it from a place of fundamental skepticism but I still am yet to see the evidence that it was necessary or that it’ll have the effect that they want it to have.
The trailer presented it as something new, a title that’d be contested exclusively on Impact’s digital and social channels (read Impact Plus, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and, notably, one that’d be driven by intergender matches.
As a starting point, the intergender angle wasn’t something new in the promotion. In fact, in the past couple of years it was something they’d done on a semi-regular basis towards the top of the card. Jordynne Grace had challenged for the X-Division Championship and, of course, Tessa Blanchard had won the World title. They were both high-profile spots but by making that the focus of the new, tertiary title, surely that was an indication that it was both less of a priority than before and being pigeonholed as a novelty towards the bottom of the card? Truth be told, one also has to ponder whether it was something that even needed a division of its own in the first place.
The other aspect is the digital exclusivity. I totally understand the reasoning behind producing shorter, snackable matches that they can share on their social channels. Full matches are a common search item on YouTube, so from that perspective, they’re sure to do well with the algorithms.
Likewise, it’s something different that no other promotion is really doing. Every company is looking for a niche that they can make their own to attract a dedicated fanbase, although I’m not sure this pushes the needle in any tangible way.
I do question the likely success of it all if the goal is securing more subscriptions to Impact Plus and their Ultimate Insiders Youtube package by offering these exclusive matches. As most of them have been sub six-minutes, I don’t see that that’s driving anyone to sign up. There again, maybe that’s just me.
Granted, the ‘division’ has been developing a bit more in recent weeks and the title match at Turning Point between Jordynne Grace and Chelsea Green was the best yet. The belt is barely a month old and I appreciate that not only am I judging in haste but I’m judging from the fundamental view that a fourth singles title of any description is entirely unnecessary. I know I’m probably being overly harsh, but what’s the point of covering any sport if you can’t throw a few reactionary hot (read lukewarm) takes out there? As I’ve always said, I’d rather be a pessimist proved wrong than an optimist proved wrong.
I remain to be convinced by the merits of Impact Wrestling’s newest title but it’ll certainly be an interesting plotline to follow in 2022.
The next two weeks of columns will cover my Impact Wrestling awards for 2021 and my top 10 Impact Wrestling matches of the year, so they’ll be much more festive.