Before we saw the intense discourse sprout up in recent weeks about how AEW needed to change and get back to its roots, I was out here talking about Impact Wrestling’s need for a course correction.

I used my column inches on this website to decry the volume of terrible angels, stories, and acts on the show and make the push for the promotion to get back to putting on good matches and spotlighting the tremendous talent they’ve got on their roster.

I was concerned that nothing would change because despite their poor booking, their live business was going well with more sellouts than they’ve had in a long time but soon after that column in mid-March, Impact lost their two top champions, Josh Alexander and Mickie James, to severe injuries.

Those injuries, and the title vacations they forced, naturally led to some changes but it genuinely now feels that with the Rebellion PPV and two weeks of TV that has come across as a real reset in the rearview, Impact is getting back on track.

Rebellion was really good. I’m not sure how many people actually saw it or gave it more than a passing interest, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and actually hit the **** mark on four of the nine matches.

If that show was good in spite of the booking missteps and the injury problems they’d faced, the last two weeks of TV have been enjoyable because they’ve been actually good for the most part. Yes, there’s still stuff on there that I don’t like and wouldn’t book but what I am seeing makes me feel a lot more optimistic about the promotion and their future direction than I did six weeks ago.

One reason for my renewed optimism is the big-time additions they’ve made this year and how they are being presented.

Nick Aldis

Nick Aldis made his return to Impact at Rebellion and for all the criticisms of his in-ring work being dull, he’s the exact sort of guy that Impact needs. As Joe and Rich articulated on this week’s Flagship, it’s obvious that Impact was the contingency option for him if WWE or AEW didn’t come calling, but if being the contingency spot means that Impact ends up with people like Aldis or Frankie Kazarian or the former Naomi, then great.

Aldis passes my version of ‘The Mum Test.’ When she sees him during a wrestling show, he’s the sort of person she shows an interest in and says “he looks, sounds, and acts the part”. She’s right – he looks like a star and he knows how to carry himself like a champion. Impact has recognized that and they immediately put him into the title picture and, to be honest, I think he probably wins the title from Steve Maclin at Slammiversary. There’s no shame in that, and I think that program will also be fantastic for Maclin’s development. I’m high on Maclin but he is still finding his feet as a top-of-the-card act, and all that that entails, and Aldis will be a great asset in helping him.

Impact has also done an excellent job with Aldis’ presentation. This week they aired a video package, talking about his journey in wrestling and his evolution over the years. They touched on Impact picking him up from the BBC game show Gladiators, him developing in the Brutus Magnus role and then going away to the NWA, making history and finding himself on his own. I’m not a video package extremist like some, but this was brilliant and is the sort of thing that, when done well, immediately makes the subject feel important.

Frankie Kazarian

It’s a similar story with the aforementioned Kazarian. He joined full-time in January, and it’s fair to say that he’s not done a whole lot of anything since then. He’s ticked over for the most part, picking up wins and being a valiant babyface. This week they started a multi-part sit-down interview series with him, and I thought it got off to a good start. He and Gia Miller talked about him first getting a chance with TNA in 2003 and then why he left in the early 2010s. It was the departure stuff that intrigued me because that’s where his character evolution comes in. He’s either a fiery babyface who wants to right the wrongs of the old regime, helping younger guys shine and get over, or he becomes a heel that’s precisely the sort of boys club member that he despised a decade ago.

Just like with the Aldis video package, interviews like this aren’t something Impact does very often. So, when they do it and do it well, the subject projects like a big deal.

Trinity 

Then, completing the trifecta of fresh faces, is Trinity. Again, it would be remiss not to point out that Impact was obviously a way down her priority list, but if she ends up there and she’s motivated, it’s a good pickup.

Trinity is someone that I’ve always found to be in an awkward position. As a stanned wrestler, you’re beaten over the head with this idea that she’s underrated, underused, and underappreciated. However, you hear that so often that, in many ways, she becomes overrated. If you ignore all of that discourse, I think she sits somewhere in the middle as a perfectly solid but unspectacular wrestler. She will bring eyeballs (for a while at least) and her WWE background means she carries a level of polish right out the gate that their pickups from the independent scene just don’t.

From what I’ve seen, Trinity will be going straight into the Knockouts title picture, which makes total sense. With Mickie James out for however long with injury, Impact’s plans for the title are a little more open, so why not use that opportunity to bring in a fresh name, put her in there with an elite talent like Deonna Purrazzo, and see what she can really do?

New Stories & New Faces

Beyond those fresh faces, I like other stuff further down the card. The Design angle with Sami Callihan at Rebellion was the show’s low point but at least that’s meant that the story is going somewhere now and it’s got some heat to it. If it means we get more fun tag matches out of Angels and Kon like we did this week, I’m all for it.

On the post-PPV TV show, Moose had to cheat to beat Yuya Uemura. Was that a sign that they’re finally going to elevate Uemura, or was it just a means to establish Moose and Brian Myers as a tag team because they’ve no real other plan for those guys? Either way, I’m interested to see what they do.

Since dropping the tag titles, they’ve teased some dissension between Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley. They’ve repeatedly alluded to Shelley being the best wrestler to never be Impact World Champion, which has to be a story bit, and Sabin recently pinned the X-Division champion Trey Miguel, so he’s presumably going to get a singles shot. I doubt they split the team but if they just give them both some more singles matches, that’s something I can be very onboard with.

For all this positivity, there are still angles and gimmicks that I don’t like. The Coven’s backstage stuff is beyond embarrassing, but at least they make up for it by being good in-ring. Decay reuniting doesn’t do anything for me but their Undead Realm rubbish is so much easier to ignore and look past if that’s just one aspect of the show and it’s not sandwiched by The Design trying to indoctrinate Callihan or the Bully Ray-Tommy Dreamer feud or PCO chewing sand in the desert.

I’m keen to see how this weekend’s Chicago tapings, notable for the attendances of Mercedes Mone and CM Punk, play out over the next four weeks and how the card for Under Siege at the end of May shakes out. They’re not all the way there yet, but Impact feels like they’re getting back on track, and I’m now excited about what their summer looks like.