Despite the bravest attempts of TNA naysayers, the company now called Impact Wrestling (named after TNA’s flagship show that just hit it’s 14th year anniversary) is in its greatest resurgence in years. Sure it’s had some hits over the years, most notably the Broken Universe in 2016, but for the most part, the past decade has not been kind to TNA/Impact fans. In many ways, TNA deserves a lot of the harsh criticism of past regimes. But Impact Wrestling, that’s a whole other story.
At the beginning of 2017, Impact Wrestling finally ended up in good financial hands, when Canadian corporation Anthem Entertainment, the parent company of The Fight Network, purchased the company. For much of 2017, it suffered some growing pains (to say the least). Lots of Impact’s familiar faces began to leave, either of their own volition or due to the new regime not having anything for them, Jeff Jarrett was brought back to the company in a leadership capacity as he was struggling with his own well documented substance abuse issues (which he’s beaten and moved on to greener pastures), the list goes on. But around the time that Jeff Jarrett was finally let go from Anthem and the leadership was handed over to Scott D’Amore and a handful of others, Impact began to make a turnaround. It was several weeks prior to last year’s Bound For Glory in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, that Impact began to showcase itself not as “WWE Lite” (as many have called in for the past two decades), but as a true melting pot mosaic of wrestling diversity. Along it’s regular Impact cast of regulars (those they kept around), they began to introduce into it’s storylines performers from around the world, from the likes of AAA in Mexico, to Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan, to dozens of top indie promotions around North America. It began to feel fresh again, with an emphasis on in-ring wrestling, and the production began to morph into its own territory, rather than simply copying formats used by the WWE.
And then, in December of last year, Anthem announced it had finally cemented it’s Executive Committee, with Scott D’Amore (who had been temporarily manning the reigns following Jarrett’s exit) and Don Callis being appointed Executive Vice Presidents, and working with Anthem Wrestling President Ed Nordholm as the new official leadership of Impact Wrestling. And the results have been nothing short of spectacular. They’ve brought in multiple names from the indie circuits that many hoped the WWE would land (such as Brian Cage, Tessa Blanchard, Su Yung and more), as well as struck up new partnerships, with the likes of Lucha Underground, House of Hardcore, and even casual alliances with Ring of Honor. For the first time in decades, a major North American promotion was working hand in hand with nearly every top promotion in the country without ignoring or stepping on the work those promotions had done.
With that being said, there has never been a better time to get back on the Impact train. Whether you were a TNA Original from the earliest days, to the amazing X-Division and Knockouts Division of the late 2000s, or you were there for the Hulk Hogan-Eric Bischoff days, or even fell away when The Hardys returned to the WWE last year at WrestleMania, let us just tell you that Impact Wrestling has indeed changed, and it’s for the better. Better wrestling than it’s had in nearly ten years from top to bottom, a rock solid roster of talent that would rival any other promotion on paper, a Knockouts Division that may be more stacked than ever before, and production like they’ve never known. But if you are to come pact to the Impact Zone (as in watching on television and becoming a fan again, not necessarily returning to one of its tapings), how can you possibly catch up? Well here’s a quick rundown of what’s been going on and what you need to know as we head towards Slammiversary XVI on July 22, 2018, live from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
“THE BELT COLLECTOR” AUSTIN ARIES IS THE IMPACT WORLD CHAMPION
“The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” Austin Aries is back in Impact Wrestling, returning this February after a disappointing stint with the WWE. One of the most entertaining members of TNA during his previous run from 2011 through 2015, Aries is currently “The Belt Collector” in the wrestling world, holding multiple championships from around the world – along with the Impact World Heavyweight Championship, he’s also the World Series Wrestling (WSW) Heavyweight Champion from Australia and the DEFY Heavyweight Champion (indie promotion out of Seattle). He only just recently lost his UK titles, the IPW:UK World Heavyweight Championship and the Defiant World Championship. He came back as a huge face and was beloved for months, but in the past few weeks, he’s kinda gone bad again. After a series of matches with Pentagon Jr. from Lucha Underground, including losing his title to him, Aries won the title back after a low blow, signalling his return to the arrogant rule breaker we all know and love. So right now, a dastardly Aries is your World Champion. He’s still finishing things up with Pentagon Jr., but former Ring of Honor star Moose is waiting in the wings – the big man has been taking exceptions to some of Aries comments of late and the man who has dubbed himself “Mr. Impact Wrestling” is probably getting hungry to face Aries in the ring sooner than later.
THE KNOCKOUTS CHAMPIONSHIP IS MIRED IN DARKNESS
Currently the Knockouts Champion is held by a twisted zombie, “The Undead Bride” Su Yung. The indie superstar recently made her debut with Impact a few months back and she quickly targeted then Impact Champion Allie. Allie is best friends with a demonically possessed “meat suit” named Rosemary, who naturally came to her “bunny” Allie’s defence. Rosemary was seemingly destroyed in a Casket Match, which lead Allie to get possessed by Rosemary’s Shadow spirits, but even she couldn’t face the challenge of Su Yung and she lost her Championship last week and also got buried in a Casket. With Rosemary and Allie now gone for the time being, Su Yung is spreading fear across the Knockouts division.
SAMI CALLIHAN IS A BAD, BAD MAN
Sami Callihan has been an indie star for ages now (minus a brief NXT stint as Solomon Crowe) and even appears on Lucha Underground as a character named Jeremiah Crane. He leads a faction called OvE (Ohio Versus Everything), that features two brothers, Dave & Jake Crist (on the indies, they used to be known as OI4K, or Ohio Is For Killers). These three men are maniacal and violent, but none more so than Callihan. He’s currently embroiled in a bitter blood feud with Eddie Edwards (of American Wolves fame), after almost taking Edwards’ eye out with a bat. This resulted in a lot of mainstream press, like TMZ, and a lot of old timers thinking Sami is a bit of a prick. But Callihan has become one of the biggest villains in the industry and “The Draw” (as he calls himself now) is proving to be one of Impact’s must see characters – as in what will this maniac do next?
LAX IS BACK…AND A BIT MESSED UP
So LAX (Latin American Exchange) was a faction back in TNA’s heyday, that featured former AAA and WCW Superstar Konnan leading a group that featured Homicide and Hernandez. Last year, Konnan returned with a new LAX, featuring new stars Santana & Ortiz (formerly EYFBO on the indies) on the as the tag team component (they’re former Impact Tag Team Champions), as well as Homicide and a new Knockout Diamante (formerly Angel Rose in SHINE). After defeating OvE and moving on, things started to go south. Homicide seemingly left the faction (again) and Konnan was “taken out”. To top this off, Diamante has been out with injury for the past year (she just returned last week). With Santana & Ortiz now directionless, they were on a losing streak, until Eddie Kingston returned to Impact as Konnan’s New York muscle to take over the squad until he returned. With “The King”‘s help, LAX are getting their groove back, but something doesn’t smell right about the whole ordeal.
THE KNOCKOUTS DIVISION IS STACKED
Many remember TNA’s Knockouts Division in the late 2000s/early 2010s, that featured Gail Kim, Awesome Kong, The Beautiful People (Angelina Love & Velvet Sky), Tara (formerly Victoria in WWE), Mickie James, ODB, Madison Rayne. It was a Women’s Revolution before the WWE coined the phrase. Well, now the Division is even more stacked, featuring some of the best women’s wrestlers from around the globe. Madison Rayne has recently returned as the veteran of the division, and Su Yung, Allie and Rosemary anchor the main event (for now). But waiting in the wings for a shot at the title are such names as Taya Valkyrie (newly married wife of John Morrison and AAA and Lucha Underground star), Tessa Blanchard, Sienna (aka Allysin Kay in SHIMMER), Diamante, indie standouts Keira Hogan and Shotzi Blackheart, plus a returning Katarina (better remembered as Winter in TNA and Kathie Lea Burchill in WWE). Tessa Blanchard has just made her debut with Impact and is already pushing her weight around, but Sienna is currently out due to health issues (but she was the division’s best heel prior to going down). The talent is virtually untapped right now, but ready to explode.
THE LUCHA UNDERGROUND INFLUX
As noted earlier, Pentagon Jr. is now roaming the Impact Zone and is reeling from his loss last week that cost him his Impact World Championship. Thanks to Impact’s working alliance with AAA, they’ve also secured an alliance with Lucha Underground, allowing Lucha Underground contracted wrestlers to work for Impact Wrestling. This allowed Sami Callihan to join Impact last year, and has also lead to the Impact debuts of Johnny Impact (aka Johnny Mundo from LU and John Morrison in the WWE), El Hijo del Fantasma (aka King Cuerno in LU), Fenix, Brian Cage, Taya Valkyrie, Drago, Aerostar, and more.
THE X-DIVISION IS HEATING BACK UP
For the past few years, the X-Division became one of TNA’s weak spots, after long being one of the things that made it unique. While it previously was a representation of the unique style of indie wrestling that has permeated most promotions now, it simply became TNA’s Cruiserweight Division. But once again, the X-Division has returned to representing what it originally stood for, with the likes of Brian Cage looking to follow the patterns of bigger men like Samoa Joe in getting the title. The X-Division, lead by current X-Division Champion Matt Sydal (formerly WWE’s Evan Bourne) also features the talents of indie superstars like Dezmond Xavier, Andrew Everett, AAA’s El Hijo del Fantasma, Trevor Lee, and more, including the recent announcement that the newest member of the Bullet Club, Taiji Ishimori, is returning to Impact at Slammiversary XVI. Recently signed to NJPW, many are wondering if this could be the beginning of a new potential working agreement with NJPW, after the failed 2011 alliance fell sour.
The Bone Soldier @taiji_ishimori is coming to Slammiversary!
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) June 5, 2018
ELI DRAKE THINKS YOUR DUMMY
Of the past year or so, Eli Drake has risen from a pretender to a World Champion. A man with solid in-ring abilities and a gift for gab on the mic, he’s transformed from a trash talker to an ass kicker and he’s out to prove everyone is a dummy. Including you. He held the Impact World title for 146 days last year (losing it to the returning Aries) and he’s got a fire in his belly to get that title back. Currently he’s trying to agitate Moose on his way back to the top, which may or may not be a wise idea.
JIMMY JACOBS IS A MANAGER – AND HE HAS A KONG
When Jimmy Jacobs went to work for the WWE in creative, the indie wrestling scene lost one of it’s true innovators. When he was released last year after posting a selfie with his pals in the Bullet Club, it seemed too good to be true. While Jacobs has returned to wrestling for some promotions, in Impact he’s taken the role of manager, and the man he’s currently guiding is the monster known as Kongo Kong. An absolute giant, Jacobs has directed Kong to dismantle anyone and everyone who doesn’t believe in the guidance of “The Zombie Princess” and Kong is only too happy to oblige. If the pairing seems odd, there’s actually a reason – Jacobs started his pro wrestling career with Kong back in the Michigan indies nearly 20 years ago.
SOMEONE IS ATTACKING PEOPLE BACKSTAGE!
Ah yes. The mystery attacker. You should probably know about him. Or her. Someone has been attacking people backstage and leaving an X as their calling card. Who could it be?
So there you go. You’re more or less caught up on what’s happening and now you can tune in next Thursday on PopTV, Fight Network, or even on the GWN App (where they have all full episodes available).
There’s never been a better time to get back into Impact Wrestling. If it makes it feel better, just pretend the last five years of TNA never happened. And start watching like it’s a brand new promotion – because while there’s still a proud history of what came before, this new Impact team is firing on all cylinders and they’re not looking back any longer.