Rumors of Impact Wrestling’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. The sun isn’t shining as brightly on the company as it once did, but that doesn’t mean their lying in the grave just yet.
Either way, it’s been a spectacular fall down the mountain, sans a Sisyphus to push the stone back up. They have been somewhere between the authoritarian rule of Vince McMahon and the crowd-based Ring of Honor, but have seen that take them near the top, just to come cratering down.
For each of the past three years, Impact has gone on PPV just twice. From 2005-2012, the company had 12 events per year. It’s unfair to blindly tie PPV events in with success, but it’s also easy to understand the economics of why the company began to scale back those events. Fans don’t want to hear it but it’s a reality of the business: money makes the ring go up. Whether or not Impact can ever find the money they once had is anyone’s best guess; should they even get it back, would they be more responsible with it the second time around?
There was once a time that Impact Wrestling was the place to go as an alternative to the WWE. They were unquestionably the second biggest promotion going, but at the same time, had an interesting blend of WWE talent that seemed freed from the restrictions that Vince McMahon and creative had on them.
The two companies don’t exactly go out of their way to recognize one another, but the (excuse the pun here, if I may) impact they have had on one another is undeniable: numerous former TNA wrestlers have gone on to stardom in the WWE, with A.J. Styles and Samoa Joe leading the pack, with Bobby Roode and Drew McIntyre on their way up. But it’s been a tit-for-tat system; TNA has reaped the benefits of ex-WWE names and turned them into their champions, such as Jeff Hardy or Christian Cage.
Then there’s also the third category of TNA star that came over from other parts of the wrestling world, but was already a big name, i.e. Kurt Angle or Sting and went on to have in-ring success that both kept their careers going and got eyes to TNA that previously may not have been there. And who could forget Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Mick Foley, and Ric Flair, all appearing, and ultimately contributing to the downfall that has led us to modern-day Impact Wrestling.
This much is obvious: Impact Wrestling isn’t bad, or else there’s no conceivable way they’d still be able to put on television shows or get butts in the seats. But at the same time that it’s nowhere near a failure, it’s extremely difficult to call it a success. Their stars have been pillaged no longer only by the WWE, but gobbled up by Ring of Honor or New Japan, leaving them to attempt to become the king of the independents, instead of challenging the WWE’s throne.
A lot contributed to that widen chasm between where Impact Wrestling was, and where it currently is now. Much in the same ilk of WCW when they burned out like a meteor, there were a lot of hands in the pot and in this case, not enough pinfalls or fresh ideas to go around. What got TNA originally on the come up in 2004, allowing them to churn out monthly pay-per-views were things like the X Division, King of the Mountain matches, and most importantly, the six-sided ring. That was their bread and butter, and instead of sticking to it, became lured in by the fine meats which turned out to have a raw interior.
In order to reclaim that status, Impact Wrestling will have to get back to what made them unique. After all, that’s all wrestling fans are searching for: the Bullet Club’s popularity in part stems from how fresh they are. The in-ring work of A.J. Styles, Finn Balor, and Shinsuke Nakamura, are endearing to fan bases and right now, Impact is desperately in need of their Bullet Club or Shinsuke Nakamura, a niche that separates them from the pack.
The only way to establish serious relevance again (coming from a brand which once had weekly shows on Spike TV) is to develop new stars. It’s a risk that the WWE could come and scoop up whatever they create again, but it’s one they must take, because what’s the alternative? They’ve done a solid job with getting Eli Drake over as a main eventer, while Ethan Carter III remains a solid creation. Rosemary’s gimmick is wild, but unique, and the X Division and six-sided ring still exist. It’s not a lost cause, but after recent financial instability, it’s go time for what was once the second-best wrestling promotion which is now just keeping it’s head above water.