By Ryan K Boman, Editor in Chief
“My heart goes drifting down a dusty Dixie road.
Taking my mind, back in time…”
— Lee Greenwood
This Sunday, Impact Wrestling will venture to Nashville, Tennessee, where they will host the aptly-titled Homecoming event. It will take place in The Asylum, where most of the company’s earliest memories occurred, including their initial incarnation as a weekly, pay-per-view start up.
Those first couple years in the old building were rougher terrain than the nearby Smoky Mountains. Every other month, there were stories that the company simply couldn’t survive charging $9.95 a week for the privilege to watch their show. Eventually, they would sign a deal with FOX Sports and move to Universal Studios in Orlando, leaving The Asylum, and weekly PPV, behind.
Fifteen years and four networks later, and here we are. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Oddly enough, on a week where they will be reaching back to their modest, Southern roots, the company formerly known as TNA will also be making its way ‘down south’ in terms of the television dial.
The Pursuit Channel – which lists its base as Glenwood, Alabama – will be the new home of Impact Wrestling, starting next week. With a reach of about 40 million homes and a handful of platforms, it is a network with mostly brokered programming that focuses on outdoor life. Rural, sporty things… like stalking whitetails, or reeling in a trout.
So basically, it’s a huntin’ & fishin’ channel.
Clearly, Pursuit is not what you would call a tier-1 cable network. At least, not in comparison to juggernauts like FX or USA, both of which are found in nearly every basic cable package available. It also hasn’t been in existence for very long, having only launched 10 years ago. And quite frankly, until this news dropped, I would venture to say that 99% of the wrestling audience had never even heard of it.
For many observers, this is a sign that Impact is an endangered species, and that the trusty ol’ Owl might be on its way to extinction. After four networks in four years, it appears to be lost from the flock, and flailing into the wilderness. Just waiting to be shot.
However, by all accounts, Impact appears to be fine with this move for now. For a couple of years, the company has explored other platforms to get their product out to the masses – including Twitch and YouTube – with great success. They’ve leveraged internet-only content and ‘sneak peeks’ to drive people to clips of the show online.
For now, they feel like they can navigate those rapids, until they paddle their way to a better situation. Surviving with a limited television audience, while expanding their digital presence.
On the positive side of the ledger, the smaller network does provide some advantages. Don Callis has expressed an interest in ‘opening up the playbook’ in terms of the company’s storylines. He’s talked about exploring a more adult, and possibly even more violent product. Since Impact’s parent company, Anthem, also has partial ownership of their new home, they will certainly have more room creatively.
That means, in terms of content – all the gloves could be off.
And in fairness, Pursuit isn’t as camouflaged as it seems. It can be spotted on major satellite providers, Dish Network (channel 393) and DirecTV (604), as part of their extended Sports packages. It’s also available on many popular streaming services, so you don’t really need a search party to find it.
With that in mind, it might be a nice nesting spot for the company, at least until they can re-group, and figure out a long-term, profitable plan. After all, Impact has literally lived with a bulls eye on its back for so long, that it already has the necessary survival tactics in place to hang in this uncharted territory.
If that’s the case, and this is only a temporary arrangement – then we shouldn’t think of Pursuit as a permanent campground. More like a ‘seasonal migration’.
And, while Impact will always have its detractors, most fans and observers will agree: It’s never good for the wrestling business when a major company becomes extinct. it deprives the workers, the executives, and even the fans of much-needed variety.
So, let’s hope that wherever The Owl eventually lands, it finds a little bit of Happiness, a whole lot of Liberty, and most of all… Life.