By Bayani Domingo, Columnist
Over the course of the last few months, we have seen IMPACT wrestling shed contracts, wrestlers, storylines, ring sides, and more importantly, booking philosophies. We have seen the introduction and passing of the Pro Wrestling NOAH collaboration and now we are in the midst of a Lucha Underground/AAA/Crash invasion. IMPACT is managing to keep a toe in the water of the two most popular markets outside of the US, while pushing their own wrestlers both abroad and domestically. You can see the way that wrestlers like Moose, Brian Cage, and Eli Drake are being booked as proof of that. Even Taiji Ishimori managed to gain a measure of popularity stateside due to the IMPACT/NOAH relationship and parlayed it into another tour of NJPW, by inserting himself into the Bullet Club, in whatever form that is now.
What has really set IMPACT apart from other companies is that they took the leap and put the title on one of the hottest and sought-after wrestlers in the industry right now, Pentagon Jr. Taking the title off Austin Aries, who has been turned into a Championship Collector of sorts, was a ballsy move, but it allowed Aries to start a natural turn to his more endearing Heel side. It also helped further enhance Pentagon’s standing within the company AND likely had an additional duel effect of strengthening the relationship with AAA/LU/Crash by allowing one of their stars to get a big win and become the main player for IMPACT for a (short?) time, but it also introduces the uncertainty of match results into these inter-company matches. It’s not a given now that IMPACT wrestlers will go over wrestlers brought in from other companies. Provided you don’t read the spoilers, the element of surprise has been reintroduced into this partnership.
What Pentagon Jr brings to the ring is a certain style, look, and attitude that is hard to find in the US. The E has been looking for another luchador to push for years after Rey Mysterio Jr left the company, however they haven’t been able to capitalize. Even so, they have never been truly successful in pushing a Heel luchador, not for lack of trying. While the E is trying to, and largely failing, to tap into the popularity of Puro, it seems that IMPACT is going back to the era of Lucha, and in my opinion, they are doing a far better job of presenting a much more authentic representation. To say the usage and success of Japanese wrestlers in the E has been underwhelming might be an understatement. The momentum lost on Asuka and Nakamura leading up to Wrestlemania is astounding. The addition of 4 former Bullet Club members went over like a Titus O’Neil ring entrance.
IMPACT right now has a stable of very compelling and diverse wrestlers on their roster. I’d like to see them mix in another Japanese import or two, but that’s me nitpicking. It’s hard to argue with the model really, keeping your roster fresh, while keeping your overhead down. IMPACT has access to a wealth of talent without the long-guaranteed contracts that ultimately sank WCW, they aren’t tying their marketing to a handful of wrestlers that they need to push down the fan’s throats like Cena, or Reigns, or Rousey. This is one of those title changes and runs that will ultimately leave all parties involved better off than they were before it happened. And really, isn’t that what title chases and feuds supposed to do?
The question becomes, how far does IMPACT push this? Are they going to keep collaborating with the same companies while allowing their wrestlers to work other shows and gaining the rights to broadcast those matches (and in the process gaining exposure for those partner Indy companies) for the foreseeable future? If so, this new, innovative business model could have real legs, because really, in this age of millennial, ADHD, 280-character, low attention span world, does IMPACT really need to BUILD their own talent if they can simply, “borrow”, someone else’s? I mean, since when has wrestling been about monogamy anyways? Superkick it and Quit it, that’s what I say. If wrestlers are a largely fungible asset, then why not expand your pool of assets to bring in as many eyeballs as possible to your product? It looks like IMPACT may be all-in on this plan with…. Zero Fear.
- This Su Yung/Rosemary funeral angle is kind of weird. Are we assuming Rosemary was burned alive and cremated? Can Su Yung breathe fire now? Is she changing her new finishing move to something called “Dracarys”?
- Good thing for Sami Callihan that IMPACT is owned by a Canadian company so his health care is taken care of. Well, if he needs anything for the pain like Percocet there’s this guy, Dr. Ronny, just handing them out like candy apparently.
- Scott Steiner is just a treasure to this business. He’s like the physical embodiment of what every Trump supporter in the comments section of a Young Turks YouTube video thinks they are. If they ever let him do a guest spot on Fox & Friends, he might be the one guy that could get Ainsley to turn on The Dooce.
- I know hope springs eternal, but there is no way Reigns is losing at MiTB. Jinder Mahal is getting shot back down the tubes quicker than an All You Can Eat Indian Buffet a half hour after you’ve eaten it.
- I’m for one glad that they haven’t started to reference Shinsuke’s low blow attacks on AJ as “Pearl Harbor’ing” him. Although, if he takes another shot to the groin, he may not be Harboring his Pearls any longer.
- Pop Quiz: Who said this phrase more often: “UGH. I’m tired of this guy being shoved down my THROAT!!”- a) WWE Fans about Roman Reigns, b) Stormy Daniels about Trump?
- Rhonda Rousey is quickly boring me. She needs to actually wrestle a match now and then. She was actually more compelling when she was just pointing at the Wrestlemania sign. Maybe that can be her new gimmick. Just pointing at things she wants. Someone’s championship belt? *Point* Someone to meet her in the ring for a fight? *Point* The last Everything Bagel at the craft service table? *Point*
- I still don’t understand why Finn Balor has different colors of Pleather jackets and trunks instead of his original Black outfit. Was there some kind of epiphany that adding more color to his wardrobe would get him over? Was it his choice? Did he suddenly think he was going to be able to do the “Care Bear Stare” on Braun to beat him on RAW?
- When asked about whether women wrestlers were upset by the decision not to include them in the trip to Saudi Arabia, WWE officials were quoted as saying, “Oh the women? Don’t worry, we got them covered”.
- What the hell was with Rhonda Rousey’s ONE corn row on RAW this week? Did she think it was going to lend her more “Street Cred”? And if so, what street was that? Sesame?
- Kinda cool that Taiji Ishimori was revealed as Bone Soldier in NJPW. Although, every time there’s a “Bone Soldier” introduced back into Bullet Club, I always hold my breath hoping it’s Val Venis.
- For those who don’t know the difference between the promotions NJPW and DDT in Japan, I can sum it up in one example. Chris Jericho used a turtle in his promo against Naito in a tongue in cheek way to help escalate an emerging white-hot feud in NJPW. In DDT, that turtle would’ve ended up tagging with Jericho against Naito and EVIL, then pinning EVIL, only to later turn on Jericho which would culminate in a “Shell in a Cell” Match.
- Maybe it was the lighting before in all her matches or she dyed her hair, but when the hell did Dakota Kai start looking so damn “ethinic”? The bronzed tan, the jet black hair. She used to look like the “Girl next door” to me, now she looks like the “Girl Next Door” whose family moved into the suburbs and now all her neighbors are bitching about their property values.
- There was exactly -.1% of me that thought Velveteen Dream wasn’t turning on Ricochet and leaving him to be demolished by Lars Sullivan on NXT. But that’s fine, Ricochet can afford to eat the pin, I’m sure he’ll….bounce back just fine.
- For those of you assuming I’d go the “Aryan wet dream vs 2 Black guys” jokes route on that…well…you’re right. The ending of that match must have given Steve Bannon a boner so big that he could almost see it if he laid flat on his back with the help of 2 mirrors and 3 assistants.
- Looks like the rumor that WWE is looking to sign Tessa Blanchard is on ice. Pairing her with Charlotte would have bene great, although somewhere out there, I’m sure there’s some bitch named Paula Roma ready to fuck this whole thing up. #OlderManWrasslinJokes
- You guys hear about the 30 year old man forced by law to move out of his parents’ home? You think he selling his replica title belts to pay for rent now?