The nature of any weekly episodic program is that some will peak higher than others. Last week, for instance, I waxed lyrical about Ace Austin and Chris Bey’s title win, the follow-up to it, and how we’re approaching the end of a successful, months-long story.

This week, however, I find myself increasingly cranky about the constituent parts of Impact’s programming just like Joe Lanza was with Dynamite this week.

Throughout the Scott D’Amore era, there have been off-the-wall stuff angles and stories. You’ve had fights in the woods, trips to the shadow realm, people being shot, and Deaner killing Eric Young. I’m the first to admit that I’ve not liked all of it, and most of it doesn’t match my idealized vision of what pro wrestling should be.

However, I understand the importance of variety and that no promotion is going to solely cater to any one person’s tastes. I have always handwaved DDT and most Joshi promotions, but I know people love them. Likewise, I know that some of the quirky stuff Impact have done really vibes with people. As it’s normally only one program or act, I usually find the odd stuff easy enough to look past or work with.

Now, though, a lot of their worst excesses are being leaned into at the same time.

Perhaps the most egregiously dreadful thing at the moment is this interminable Bully Ray-Tommy Dreamer feud. On a basic level, I can see the appeal of using Bully Ray. The Busted Open aspect isn’t going to get a promotion of Impact’s current standing more viewers or ‘casual’ interest, but Bully has history with the promotion and, in his way, has reliable means of getting heat with live crowds. Cheap methods or not, they work and can possibly pay dividends.

Tommy Dreamer, on the other hand, is utterly washed.

Simply put, their feud hasn’t been good. No one needs to hear two overweight dudes making fat jokes about each other or chucking coffee at each other. No clamor has ever been made for a live Busted Open segment as part of a wrestling PPV.

Worse, in my book, than the content of the issues between Bully and Tommy is the fact their feud has drawn in the Knockouts champion and Masha Slamovich. The bit where Bully tried to speak Russian to Masha was drawing the curtains levels of bad, and the whole thing has made Mickie James’ latest title run, and matches for that title feel like an afterthought.

At the end of the day, Bully and Tommy’s scheduled match at Sacrifice should be the end of it, but we all know it won’t be. It’ll probably drag on to Rebellion because why pollute one card with it when you can do it over two?

You don’t have to look much further for another act that is among the worst you’ll see in pro wrestling this year – Taylor Wilde dressing up as a wild witch and playing with tarot cards.

Wilde is a good worker and someone I’m glad Impact has got back full-time. Pairing her up with KiLynn King is also a good move – King has size, she came on leaps and bounds during her time with the NWA, and Impact is the perfect landing spot for her. This whole witches’ coven thing needs to go through.

Wilde and King’s segment with Killer Kelly last week was atrocious, and even this week, during a much-needed tag title switch involving the Death Dollz, Wilde, and King spent their time on the apron shuffling the tarot cards and collecting them in a neat pile. That’s the sort of thing I did with my Yu-Gi-Oh cards as a child. Not the sort of thing you expect to see fully grown adults doing on TV.

The Death Dollz is another bone of contention. They leap to and from the shadow realm, appear in backstage skits out of nowhere, and this week preceded their match by worrying about Jessicka uncovering her origin story. It’s always been corny, but it jumped the shark a while ago and now has complete go-away heat for me. Taya leaving might lead to some level of change, but their act is a low point of every show.

I’m in full flow now, so I might as well take aim at three other acts and programs driving me to distraction every week.

First up is PCO. After being buried alive, attacked with a shovel, and hit by a car recently, he was spotted on this week’s show trundling through the Las Vegas desert back to Sam’s Town. His surviving a two-on-one beatdown from Eddie Edwards and Kenny King made sense, I suppose, in light of the whole car attack business, but it just feels like something out of a Z-List Frankenstein remake. Why can’t we just fast forward to the bit where he and Eddie wrestle, PCO wins, and then moves on to a title match?

I might have skirted around the PCO business before, similar to Deaner’s “murder” of Eric Young. I gave that a pass because I saw it for what it was – an attempt to put Deaner over in a different way. I wanted to give it a chance, but my mileage expired now.

Since that angle last October, Deaner has had to work on this initiation program with Sami Callihan. Stories worked around people seeking entry to a faction are nothing new, but this has dragged on interminably. It finally jumped the shark for me this week, though, when you had Deaner and Callihan speaking to each other in this weirdly clunky, over-rehearsed way, with this spooky music playing in the background and Alan Angels stood there rolling his wrists.

Last, but by no means least, in my rant is the new Director of Authority, Santino Marella. Having an on-screen authority figure, solely for the purposes of putting a face to the booker, is fine. Scott D’Amore overlapped into stories a bit too much for my liking, but he worked in the role, and with him moving upstairs within the company, it made sense to bring someone else in.

Why Marella, though? Why couldn’t it have just been Anthony Carelli? In 2023, what benefit is there to him doing the Marella gimmick and talking with an accent? Someone, please explain that to me.

Now, I will admit that his hugging the artist formerly known as Vladimir Kozlov and that leading into a chat about copyright that brought out Joe Hendry was funny. His little partnership with Dirty Dango is also entertaining. But the over-the-top nature of the gimmick, and where it feels like it’ll lead, is yet another bone of contention.

The purpose of this column is not to present myself as a miserable curmudgeon. There are enough of those on Twitter, so you don’t need another one here. Instead, it’s my attempt as a reviewer to try and hold a promotion I care deeply about accountable.

I understand that every promotion needs its niche in the market, now more so than ever. AEW has got one, and so has the NWA (less of a good thing for them, admittedly). Impact seems stuck between being a serious promotion that’s driven by a strong, in-ring product and one that taps into the supernatural in a way that only Lucha Underground did successfully. They’re crossing a line, so to speak.

Some of Impact’s more comedic angles work for me. Johnny Swinger is a prime example – he’s repeatedly one of my favorite bits of the show. His chase for 50 wins is a silly bit, and the whole production is playing into it. It’s simple comedy, and it’s making for some daft matches, like the one with Barry Horowitz. It’s dumb but self-aware dumb and a suitable pallet cleanser.

The other stuff is unquestionably dragging the show down, though. That’s a shame because the rest of the TV is normally good – Impact has developed a strong weekly format bookended by a quick, fast-paced opener and a strong main event. They’ve got a great roster, too, with Josh Alexander at the top, Steve Maclin on the come-up, Ace Austin, Chris Bey, and Trey Miguel with titles, some of the best female talent in North America among their ranks. The likes of Mike Bailey, Jonathan Gresham, Rich Swann, and Frankie Kazarian to boot. Impact has raised the bar with digital storytelling, too – the Diary shows looking at Josh Alexander, Jordynne Grace, and Gisele Shaw are outstanding and well worth your time.

This column isn’t a tale of promotion in crisis. Next weekend’s Sacrifice card looks great, with only the Ray/Dreamer match an obvious whiff. However, the weekly TV is their bread and butter, and at the moment, there’s a lot of stuff making that less than the sum of its parts.

The next few weeks and months mark an exciting time for Impact Wrestling with their return to Canada, a super fun cross-promotional show with New Japan, and a big PPV in Toronto. It’s hard not to feel, though, that Impact Wrestling needs a course correction to ensure they’re always presenting the best version of themselves.