By now, many of you have probably seen the list floating around the internet that lists off the 40 people released or who departed Impact Wrestling in the past year. Yes, it’s quite a list of names, including Low Ki, Drew McIntyre, Mia Yim (Jade), Eddie Kingston, Taryn Terrell, and most of the referees. But many of those left because of the change in ownership and of their own volition, many wanted to explore other options, and many simply weren’t being used. In short, there were very few let go that will ultimately have left any long term damage to the product that was developing in the past year. McIntyre seemed to always want to return to the WWE, so his departure was inevitable no matter how stable Impact was, same with the Hardys. And some of Billy Corgan‘s experiments – such as Marshe Rockett and Eddie Kingston – just may not have been in the plans of being able to be used in the new regime’s creative plans. Kingston is far better making money in a new indie scene boom than being neutered from the physicality of being the War King for over a decade prior. A handful of the names previously generated a “who are they?” when they were originally brought in, and only now garner sympathetic attention of positivity because they’ve been released.
So while on sheer numbers alone, yes, 40 performers departing can be a bad thing. But when you look at the names of the people brought in since Anthem’s takeover, as well as those they chose to keep around, you’ll see a very different picture. You’ll see a definitive shaping of a core of great performers, plus an influx of some very talented indie stars that people were dying to see more regularly on television anyway. And while the transition period is still before us, this Sunday’s Bound For Glory offers a great glimpse at what the future for the new Impact Wrestling, as in the Anthem regime without Jeff Jarrett‘s hand involved, is truly capable of. But until tomorrow’s first bell, here’s a look at the talent that Impact has done since taking over this spring and some of the moves they’ve made to set up 2018 as one of their most intriguing ever.
WHO THEY’VE KEPT
A more impressive list is the amount of talent they kept in the transition and who seem committed to the “reboot” and new direction of the company. Sure losing favourites like the Broken Hardys and Drew Galloway was a harsh hit out the gates, but they’ve opened up opportunities and allowed to Impact to become something outside of the Broken Universe for the first time in over a year. They still have Ethan Carter III, one of the best pure heels in the game, they still have their forever loyal monster Abyss, and they still have a solid crew of X-Division stars who were internet darlings prior to joining, in Trevor Lee, Andrew Everett, and Caleb Konley, and they still have former ROH star Moose, whose recent work in NOAH and CHIKARA have shown that he’s developing into one of the better and most athletic big men of the past decade. His current feud with Bobby Lashley has also shown Lashley in one of his more interesting feuds in Impact Wrestling history, as his internet perceived MMA elitist attitude has finally found it’s way into the storylines. Eddie Edwards is still as good as ever, even capturing NOAH’s top title, the GHC Heavyweight Championship, in the past month, and it was this regime that put the Impact World title on internet fave Eli Drake, who most criticized both Dixie Carter AND Billy Corgan for not pulling the plug on earlier. And come on, Grado is always fun to have around.
And with women’s wrestling taking a more center stage position alongside the men in the industry, they’ve stayed neck in neck with a nucleus formed by prior management in Rosemary, Sienna, Laurel Van Ness, Allie and legend Gail Kim, whose already transitioned into a backstage producer for the Knockouts division, ensuring a capable mentor and influence will be present for years to come. Allie herself has seen the greatest utilization of her short Impact career, finally freed from the “can’t really wrestle” cute gimmick that the previous management team had for her, and finally showing us glimpses of why the performer formerly known as Cherry Bomb was signed in the first place.
WHO THEY’VE BROUGHT IN
While former WCW Superstar Konnan has his detractors, he’s still great at what he does, and as a manager, his new reboot of LAX helped direct all the attention away from the fact that Impact’s tag team division was rebuilding. Adding new members like Ortiz and Santana to be the meat, with original member Homicide back as a mentor, plus the addition of highly sought after women’s indie prospect Diamante (as Angel Rose she was working for SHIMMER and SHINE and was in high demand), made LAX the act that you wanted to see – either win if you were a fan or get destroyed if you hated. Speaking of the tag team division, sure, they lost Reno Scum, but adding oVe (Dave & Jake Crist), better known to indie fans as OI4K, is a major upgrade. These guys have a HUGE cult following in the indie scene and you’re starting to see why. And if the vignette from two weeks ago is any indication, they’re bringing in another member of their indie faction to help in their battle versus LAX in Sami Callihan, arguably one of the best indie stars in the world right now.
Speaking of major indie stars, landing John Hennigan, formerly WWE Superstar John Morrison, and currently Johnny Mundo on Lucha Underground and AAA, for his return to a mainstream wrestling audience was a major coup. As Johnny Impact, they’re getting him back at his wrestling prime – his time on the indies since his WWE departure in 2011 has matured and perfected him as one of the best pure wrestling AND sports-entertainment packages on the planet. He’s a perfect addition to be a top face of the company going forward – FAR more than any of the 40 let go in the past year. And he didn’t come alone. His fiance, Taya Valkyrie, is one of the top indie women’s wrestlers in the world, coming off a huge run in Lucha Underground as part of Mundo’s Worldwide Underground, not to mention an illustrious career in AAA where she’s the longest reigning Reina de Reinas (Woman’s) Champion in history at 945 days.
The alliances brought forth by Impact with AAA, The Crash Lucha, Pro Wrestling NOAH and Border City Wrestling has provided lots of new faces into the company’s storylines as well. In place of guys like Marshe Rockett, Eddie Kingston and Rockstar Spud, we’re now seeing AAA stars like Texano Jr., El Hijo del Fantasma (King Cuerno in Lucha Underground), Drago, Pagano and Garza Jr., plus Japanese stars from NOAH like Naomichi Marufuji and Taiji Ishimori, which is something many don’t get to see with the regularity we have.
From the indie world, Dezmond Xavier has made a huge impact on the X-Division and is poised to become the next great star to come out of Impact. He’d been turning heads on the indie scene the past year or so, appearing on many people’s radars, but he got a huge push this summer by winning the Super X Cup tournament (sort of Impact’s version of NJPW’s Best of the Super Juniors) and is fighting for the X-Division title this Sunday. Add in indie veterans like Kongo Kong and Jax Dane (now Wilcox) as well, to help with the stability in ring and locker room.
As for veterans, they brought back Sonjay Dutt (whose still been great in the ring), Matt Sydal (formerly Evan Bourne in the WWE and a regular with NJPW and ROH), and love him or hate him, Alberto El Patron is a lightning rod for buzz factor (good or bad). And if Eli Drake’s segment last week where he told someone on the phone “I’ll bring you back” wasn’t directed at a potentially returning Tyrus (formerly Brodus Clay), we’d be surprised. And with The Canadian Destroyer one of the most iconic moves in the indies today (even John Cena is using it as a big pop move on occasion), bringing back the creator, Petey Williams, is a stroke of genius. He hasn’t lost a step.
Yes, Impact Wrestling lost a lot of names. But they brought in a lot and through alliances formed, utilized many more, as they’ve strengthened their television product tenfold in the past 6 months. The past two, which featured international matches from around their allied world, have shown a brave and bold direction that appears to be perking some people up to the talent at their disposal.
So before you share negative posts blindly, based on pent up disappointment from Dixie Carter or the Bischoff-Hogan regime or Aces & Eights, take a look at what the new Impact Wrestling is in fact bringing to the table. You may be surprised at what a difference a year makes.