Viewers were treated to a pretty run-of-the-mill episode of Impact Wrestling this week.
There was a very fun tag team opener between the BULLET CLUB team of Ace Austin & Chris Bey and Kevin Knight and KUSHDIA. Knight astounds me every time I see him with his raw athleticism and bounciness, while I think Austin and Bey are continuing to come on as a legitimate team.
Otherwise, there wasn’t much to write home about. It’s what you’d call a building show, wherein all the segments served a purpose to set things up or move programs on but there was nothing particularly hot to speak of.
Therefore, the standout thing for me to talk about in this week’s column wasn’t anything in-ring or even backstage, but rather the program’s new look. Oh yes, strap in for some production talk.
Since the dark days of 2020 and the onset of the pandemic (and probably a bit before that if I went back to check), the hard cam for Impact broadcasts has been on the south side of the ring, looking back up the entrance ramp towards the video screen.
It made complete sense within the vacuum-like confines of Skyway Studios—a hard cam anywhere else would have had a backdrop of empty space and bare walls.
However, with Impact now being back with full crowds for over a year, it was time for a change. They had played around with different camera angles on a couple of PPVs and live specials last year, but this week, the first week of content filmed at their most recent tapings at the Osceola Heritage Park in Orlando, was the first time I’ve noticed it on a TV broadcast.
If the show always looks the same, there is the chance it can feel stale. Given Impact’s position in the market and audience share right now, they can’t afford that.
Moving the hard cam around isn’t going to suddenly make more people watch the show or anything like that, but it does make Impact look like a more mainstream show. If you’ve got fans in the building, show them off. Pretty simple logic, you would have thought, particularly with their first tapings in Canada in three years, where the crowds are certain to be good, scheduled in the next two months.
Impact has had a fair bit of stick for their crowds in recent times too—we all remember last year’s infamous ‘Where’s the lie?’ Bobby Fish clip—but they were good this week. Whether that’s because they were mic’d up better, or because you could see more people and see them reacting, I don’t know, but they certainly projected better to me as a viewer.
They liked Jonathan Gresham’s match with Aiden Prince on BTI and his post-match promo. His promo might have been fairly cookie-cutter, but the crowd ate up what he had to say, and I certainly like where they seem to be going with his story.
The crowd popped big for the aforementioned tag team opener, and the fresh camera angle certainly paid off for the big spot that saw Bey hit a diving Art of Finesse on Knight on the apron. It would have looked cool on whatever side they did it on, but with the crowd reaction in the background, it worked so much better.
.@DashingChrisBey stopped @Jet2Flyy in mid-air with the "Art of Finesse" on #IMPACTonAXSTV!
Stream on @IMPACTPlusApp: https://t.co/rl9zKEqr72 pic.twitter.com/LXEMxep4Ju
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) February 4, 2023
For some reason, they absolutely loved the Bully Ray angle. I don’t want him on the product as much as he is, and I don’t want the inevitable singles match between him and Tommy Dreamer that we’re obviously going to be subjected to. But will it put bums on seats? Probably and if there’s a business case for it, I can at least go along with it on some level.
The recent Pit Fight match between Mike Bailey and Kenny King was something a bit different, and the production changes this week were another change in the look and feel of Impact programming. Although there’s stuff in the product that I don’t like at the moment, a fresh coat of paint, as it were, and fresh talents coming through the doors mean that it feels like a time of change in Impact Wrestling right now.