Impact Wrestling: Five Bright Spots Every Fan Should Be Excited About
TNA or Impact Wrestling, as it prefers to be called now, has long been a target of venomous rants by the Internet wrestling community. Some claim the company employs a head writer most associated with asinine booking and nonsensical storylines. Others believe the company puts far too much focus on talent that has seen its best days pass them by. They claim younger, more athletic and gifted wrestlers are seeing their growth shunted by being ignored in favor of WWE cast-offs and 1990's has-beens.
Those voicing their complaints have a point. The company has been the victim of several self-inflicted growing pains. Just when it appeared they had taken the first steps in evolving, they have made a mistake that severely sets them back.
Lately, the internet backlash has been at an all-time high. Fans across the globe have grown tired of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff's continued presence in the company and have called for their removal more than once.
For everything the company has done wrong in its nine-plus year existence, there are several things they have done correctly over the last year that often go unnoticed or ignored by the critics. Join me as I take a look at the handful of positives fans should be excited about while the company continues to evolve.
Photo Credit: Lee South/Impact Wrestling
There has been a demand for added emphasis on home-grown talent in Impact Wrestling for years. Fans have begged for fewer WWE cast-offs, less talent from the mid-to-late 1990's, and more wrestlers collected from the independent circuit and developed into stars by Dixie Carter's company. Only recently have those demands been addressed.
In recent months, Impact Wrestling has featured three young stars they have developed after discovering them in various independent companies across the country. Those three are Gunner, Robbie E, and Crimson.
Gunner is an interesting case in that it appeared as though he would serve as security for the Immortal faction for a few months before fading into relative obscurity. Instead, he was able to successfully break away from tag team partner Murphy, win the Television Championship, and appear to be the first home-grown TNA talent to really receive a decent push from creative. In recent weeks, he has been positioned alongside the top talents in the company, going as far as to pin Sting in a tag team match six days before Slammiversary and then, on the June 16 edition of Impact Wrestling, pinned TNA World Heavyweight Champion Mr. Anderson in a non-title main event.
Gunner is not the only young, up-and-coming star Impact Wrestling has focused on in recent weeks. Since arriving on the scene as the brother of the Amazing Red, Crimson has enjoyed an undefeated streak that has seen him defeat the likes of Samoa Joe and Abyss. Drawing weak comparisons to Goldberg because of said streak, Crimson has joined Gunner as the face of the new talent initiative the company has embarked on in the last few months. He appears poised to continue his streak, likely until a major showdown, likely over TNA gold, can occur.
The third star is a former X-Division Champion who exploded onto the scene and, whether it was positive or not, had little trouble getting the crowd to react for his obnoxious antics. Hailing from the Jersey Shore, Robbie E quickly achieved success, winning the X-Division Championship and appeared on his way towards a mega-push. Then, amongst a largely-negative response from the Impact Zone in Orlando, the push was halted and Robbie became just another X-Division star with nothing going on.
Despite the disappointing drop-off for Robbie E, it is apparent that someone within the Impact Wrestling organization has realized the need to develop fresh, original stars. It is a step that the company would not have taken as little as one year ago and a sign that the company is ready to evolve, to take another step to becoming a more complete company. Whether the three men discussed above will ever become breakout stars is a question that will be answered with time.
The fact that two of the three have been placed in a position to succeed is something fans of the sport, not just Impact Wrestling, should be excited about.
Mr. Anderson has succeeded where other WWE cast-offs in Impact Wrestling have failed. Rather than enter the company with largely the same character they portrayed in Vince McMahon's company, Anderson has adopted the character of an "asshole," a wrestler who admittedly cares only about himself and accomplishing his personal goals. He is not in the company to strengthen it or to help it succeed. The character of Mr. Anderson is selfish as selfish can get and the fact that he admits it has only gained him more popularity.
Anderson is the rare star that entered Impact Wrestling in early 2010 and immediately became a main event talent. Over the course of twelve months, he has been able to constantly change and alter his gimmick, even if only in the slightest, to be able to evolve as a performer and not become stale. While others have complained about the overuse of mega-stars such as Rob Van Dam, Sting, Kurt Angle and Jeff Jarrett, those same criticisms have yet to reach Anderson.
The whole Mr. Anderson "asshole" character immediately gives Impact Wrestling an edge that the more family-friendly WWE does not have. He also has proven himself a capable main event attraction that can carry a show on his own. For his entire WWE career, fans called for the company to allow Anderson to break free from the mid-card abyss and to succeed as a top level performer. In Impact Wrestling, he is being allowed that opportunity.
He remains one of the few bright spots in an otherwise worn-out, past-their-prime main event scene.
Bobby Roode is an Impact Wrestling "lifer." Debuting soon after the company's creation as a member of the hated Team Canada, Roode has always been a wrestler many had high expectations for. Upon the destruction of the Canadian faction, he set out on his own. With Traci Brooks at his side, he became Robert Roode, a rich, young, hungry professional wrestler who thought he'd get what he wanted no matter who stood in his way.
There was a problem: Roode was not ready for the singles push.
When his initial singles push stalled out, Roode was paired with another failed singles star, "Cowboy" James Storm, and the two of them formed what may be the most successful tag team in the history of Impact Wrestling. Beer Money Inc, or just Beer Money for short, dominated the tag team ranks for three years and continue to do so. One of the most popular acts on the show, Beer Money features two of Impact Wrestling's home-grown talents. The fans have watched them grow up, literally and figuratively. Because of that, they can relate to them and find them easier to cheer.
As of late, however, focus has been put on Bobby Roode. His promo skills have developed and when given the opportunity, he has been able to show a fire and passion many fans did not know he had. He stood toe-to-toe in a verbal confrontation with two of the greatest professional wrestlers of all-time, Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan, and did not back down or look out of place.
Roode's in-ring performance has also evolved and he has become one of the more solid workers in the business. He rarely has an off-night and is always among the top fan favorites on any show. Rumors have swept across the internet, claiming that Beer Money's days as a tag team may be coming to an end and that Roode would be the recipient of a major push. If that is the case, Impact Wrestling fans may very well bare witness to the ascension of the first tried-and-true original main event talent since AJ Styles.
Velvet Sky made her debut in Impact Wrestling, then TNA, just as the Knockouts division was getting started. From there, she would spend the next three years as a member of the Beautiful People faction, a Mean Girls-esque group obsessed about their hotness and every other girl's hideousness in comparison. They were the villainous females that the fans wanted to see beaten by the fan-favorite Knockouts on the roster.
Upon the destruction of the Beautiful People earlier this year, Velvet Sky has been forced to go it on her own. While she has never been the most-winning Knockout in company history, she has become something much more important: the female face of Impact Wrestling.
With a roster that boasts the likes of Mickie James, Tara and Angelina Love, it is Velvet Sky that has become the most marketed and arguably the most popular woman in the company. She is featured on posters, in magazines, has her own "Wrestling Matters" video and is one of the few Knockouts who regularly appears on house show cards.
Much like Trish Stratus, who became the most marketed WWE Diva in the early-to-mid 2000's, Velvet Sky has emerged as the most visible Impact Wrestling Knockout. She does not need to win all of her matches, nor does she need championship gold to stay relevent in the eyes of the fans. Unlike Mickie James, Tara, Winter and several other women on the roster, fans can point to Velvet and know she is an original, Impact Wrestling creation. She was never a contracted WWE talent and that fact allows the fans to relate to her.
There is little doubt that Velvet Sky will one day win the Knockouts Championship. And when that day comes, fans will be ready to celebrate the moment with a Knockout that has done more promotional and in-ring work for the company than any other woman in company history. If fans cannot look forward to that moment, if they cannot celebrate that moment and see it as a bright spot in the company, then it may very well be impossible to please them.
Christian. Sting. Samoa Joe. Mr. Anderson. Jeff Hardy. Rob Van Dam.
These men have all made the decision, at one point or another, to join Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, or Impact Wrestling, and try and guide the company to another level. While each man has brought name value and quality in-ring action with them, their impact has often been immediate and long-lasting. As valuable as these men proved to be, there is no denying that only one man can lay claim to being the company's greatest acquisition: 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist, Kurt Angle.
Kurt Angle's history with Impact Wrestling is long and storied. Odds are, if you are reading an article about Impact Wrestling, you are a fan of the company and well-versed in its history. I will not go into that here.
Kurt Angle remains a bright spot for Impact Wrestling because of two very important factors. The first being that Angle's mere presence in the company creates a sense of legitimacy. At the end of the day, Kurt is still a former Olympic gold medal winner and there is nothing any storyline or creative team can do to strip that away from him.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, Kurt Angle is a bright spot for the company because he is as close to a "sure thing" as any performer in the sports-entertainment industry.
Impact Wrestling has been defined for its idiotic booking and poor creative decisions. Yet, no matter how incredibly bad a given storyline may be, or how lacking the build for a pay-per-view may prove, there is absolutely no denying that Kurt Angle will give everything he has to create a quality match and, in most cases, his match will be the best on the card.
For a company that has recently adopted the "Wrestling Matters" tagline, Kurt Angle is easily its greatest attribute. He is, for the most part, a professional who will put his body on the line and do whatever is necessary to be the best professional wrestler he can be and to give the fans a match worth remembering.
There is no brighter spot in Impact Wrestling than Kurt Angle.