March 26, 2018
Hi, everyone. I've come out of my self-imposed exile to talk about various things I've been mulling over for a little while. I'm not back full time due to personal issues I'm still dealing with, but I had the free time to bang out a quick opinion piece to weigh in on some stuff about the current product. So let's do this...
-How to Fix the International Segments-
I think I'm probably speaking for most fans when I say that the international matches we've been seeing on the show since the ill-conceived GFW merger have been a complete mess. I felt the concept had potential when it started, but it never really went anywhere and months later there hasn't been any effort on the company's part to refine it or even figure out what they want it to accomplish.
If anything, it's become more and more half-assed. When it started, we were seeing IMPACT talent being sent to big arenas and notable companies like AAA and Crash to work matches and push storylines with international talent who have some genuine notoriety, (not that this was done very well, mind you) but now it's just become an ocassional segment wherein a couple IMPACT stars have their match farmed out to some random indie fed for seemingly no reason at all in a pretty transparent attempt at cost-cutting. This is made all the worse when said indies often look downright terrible on TV, thus making the IMPACT stars look worse for even being there at all. And I think IMPACT management have begun to realize this, hence why these segments have become much less frequent in recent weeks. But if the company intends to stick with this concept, here are some helpful tips for how to make it not suck:
1) Don't do these segments for no reason. There's no point to this if it's completely random. If your stars are going to wrestle in another company and have their match broadcast on IMPACT, there has to be a purpose behind it. As awful as last year's IMPACT/AAA feud was, at least it made sense when Storm and co. went to confront their rivals at AAA shows, but if you feel like sending the men feuding over your world title to wrestle in some high school gym in front of two dozen people, you should probably start asking yourself why you're even doing this.
You need to have reasons for why these matches are taking place outside of IMPACT. Why would your world champion want to defend his title in a high school gym when he could just stay in Orlando and wrestle in a well lit studio in front of a bigger crowd? I mean, that's just silly.
If your stars are going to wrestle somewhere else, you have to justify it. For example, Wrestler-A challenges Wrestler-B to a match on his home turf and they face each other at an indie where Wrestler-A would often compete before getting signed, so he's guaranteed to get a good reaction there -- something like that. It doesn't have to be an incredibly intricate explanation, it just has to be an explanation.
2) Build up to these matches so fans will actually anticipate them. For a while, these things were happening on the show every week, quickly de-sentitizing the audience to them, and I had no idea why they even existed. Instead of doing them all the time, build a storyline around one of them so that when it actually happens, people will be paying attention, and then make a big deal out of it. If you're just abruptly cutting away to Random Indie #72 for your weekly pointless match outside of the IMPACT Zone, why is anyone going to care about that?
3) Coordinate with the creative departments of the other companies so they can get things ready on their end. This is one of the problems that ruined the AAA feud; Fantasma and Texano were teammates in IMPACT, but when the feud moved down to AAA, suddenly they hated each other, I guess because they're rivals in AAA, and this accomplished nothing more than confusing the fuck out of everyone. If they hated each other in AAA, then they should have hated each other in IMPACT, and if the writers wanted a AAA faction, they should have done it with AAA talent that didn't hate each other on AAA TV. They didn't even try to apply common sense to this feud and it showed.
If an IMPACT star is going to face an indie talent on an indie show for a segment to air on IMPACT or possibly do some kind of inter-promotional angle with AAA or LU or whatever, it needs to be properly explained. Why is this happening? Why is the IMPACT star going to this other company? Why is this indie star acting the way the way they do? Why is Allie wrestling KC Spinelli at BCW? The announcers hint that it's because Spinelli is trying to score a win over a KO as a gateway to getting signed to the KO roster, but then Spinelli never gets that win and later shows up on IMPACT anyway with no explanation. None of this makes sense!
All these things need to be considered and you must make sure the indie talent's behavior and writing is consistent from show to show. If they're going to act completely different on their home turf like Fantasma/Texano did or just show up wherever they want regardless of what the storyline dictated like Spinelli did, the angle is going to die a quick death.
4) For the love of God, check these companies out and properly vet them BEFORE you send your stars there. How many times have these matches taken place in crappy arenas or gymnasiums where half the lights were off or the crowd was tiny or the ring was falling apart? Do I even need to mention the now-infamous segment where you held a world title match at an indie company where the ring ropes were flopping around like wet spaghetti? IMPACT really embarrassed themselves with that one. I mean, for God's sake, why on earth was that segment even allowed to air? Ahem...
You need to have quality control. Send an IMPACT representative to check these companies out and give them the all-clear BEFORE you let them use your talent. Only make deals with reputable companies that can reliably draw good crowds and have production that meets a certain level of quality so your stars will look good on TV when they go over there. And if there's any reason to think that the ring will be lit so darkly you can barely follow the action or all the ring ropes will be broken during the match, JUST DON'T DO IT.
5) Give yourselves an out. Only shoot these matches BEFORE the TV tapings. That way, if they don't turn out well or don't look good for whatever reason, you have the option of re-filming them at the IMPACT Zone during the TV tapings where you can control the environment. Again, it's just common sense.
-Grand Champion Josh Matthews-
You know what? I don't hate this. Once upon a time, when company management wanted to kill a title, they'd give it to Eric Young so he could turn it into a big joke. And while that would infuriate me to no end, I'm pretty non-plussed about it this time. And why? Because the Grand Championship IS a joke.
Let's just call a spade a spade here. That title didn't work. Like the international segments, it seemed like an interesting idea to try, but the company never figured out how to execute it right and rather than simply doing away with the three round point system when it became obvious that it wasn't going anywhere, they stuck with it for months and months until pretty much every fan I could name just wanted it to go away. And even though they would eventually drop the stupid rules, it was too little, too late and I personally didn't much care at that point. I wasn't even bothered by the title being handed to an announcer; my thinking was that the belt's a joke, so let's treat it like one.
The Grand Championship was a failed experiment. If management want a mid-card belt, introduce a fresh title and do it right this time. In the meantime, let's at least get some enjoyment out of this one, and call me crazy, but I think Matt Sydal giving it to Josh Matthews will do that.
Say what you will about Josh Matthews as an announcer and performer, but one thing this guy absolutely knows how to do is be a troll. That's why I think his new roll as Sydal's heel mouthpiece is going to work. Sydal's new spiritual enlightenment gimmick felt awkward and weird at first, but with Josh Matthews added to the act, it suddenly clicked. Josh loves messing with people and getting under their skin (check out his twitter for ample proof of that) and he gives the impression that he's well aware of how awkward and weird this gimmick is, that he's doing this precisely because he knows it will annoy people, and it works! Josh is already drawing more heat on this gimmick and if that translates to more heat for the heel Matt Sydal, than why shouldn't Josh have the Grand Championship? It's not like people really cared about that belt anyway, so if we can get some use out of it before it inevitably gets chucked in the dumpster next to the Knockout Tag Team Titles (more on those later), then I say let's do it.
-The Announce Team-
This makeshift team of Josh and Sonjay Dutt that was cobbled together after JB's abrupt departure is most likely temporary, but it's actually starting to grow on me. Josh and Sonjay seem to have a fair amount of chemistry together, and while Sonjay might not be a natural at commentary, he could certainly be doing a lot worse and he deserves a great deal of credit for actually sounding excited about the show he's announcing. Good lord, it's been a long time since we've been able to say that.
I feel like this team will most likely be split up as early as the next taping block. Josh may be transitioning into a managerial role and Sonjay may return to the ring once he's medically cleared, so IMPACT may soon be in a position where they have to replace one or both announcers. Don Callis seems the logical choice to take over the booth, but if he wants to focus on his backstage duties, there are other people who could do the job. Management could always give Todd Keneley a call (pleasepleaseplease) as he did a great job during his brief stint in the company a few years ago and frankly it was complete BS that they got rid of him only to go back to a vastly inferior team. Or if they wanted to try something new, they ought to give McKenzie Mitchell a shot in the booth. Mckenzie has grown into a very capable interviewer, she speaks well, she's got a decent amount of charisma and people like her. Plus, it would be refreshing to have a female voice in the announce booth for a change.
-Knockout Tag Team Titles-
I keep hearing people toss out the idea of bringing back the Knockout Tag Team Titles. And while I would like the company to revisit them at some point, it just wouldn't be a good idea right now. Yes, the Knockout roster/division has been improving with several promising new additions and Gail Kim's retirement freeing up screen time for the other women to get featured more, but they're still not in any position to create a tag team division.
More than anything, this feels like a knee-jerk response to WWE's non-stop screaming from the rooftops about their (cough) "Women's Revolution" and I expect fans' desire for the KO Tag Titles to be brought back will intensify if the rumors of WWE introducing tag belts for their own female talent pan out. But before the future WWE Women's Tag Team Division inevitably fails (and it will), let's go over why bringing back the KO Tag Titles right now wouldn't work either:
1) Not enough women. There are currently eight Knockouts on the IMPACT roster page, (nine counting LVN, who's already gone) some of whom barely appear on the show as it is. You can't make a tag division from that. Sure, you could haphazardly throw some random pairings together, but you can't count on all those pairings having enough chemistry to make a viable team. The fact is, they had a lot more Knockouts to work with when they tried this years ago and how many of those pairings worked out? Two. Both of which were short-lived.
2) No female tag teams. Why do you need a tag team division if there are no tag teams? The closest thing to a team this division has right now is DemonBunny and as much as I adore Rosemary/Allie together, they seem destined to feud over the Knockouts title by the end of the year, so I doubt there would be much longevity in that.
Aside from those two, you've really only got assorted singles wrestlers, which again, is a mistake the company made the first time they tried this. The first KO tag division wasn't started because they had an abundance of great female tag teams with no belts to fight over, it was started because they had a ton of singles girls with nothing to do and the writers thought that hastily slapping together a tag division would be easier than writing storylines for all of them. SPOILER: It wasn't.
3) Not enough screen time. Like I said, not all of the current KOs can even get regular TV time. It's pretty slim pickings when the division only gets one maybe two segments a week. Making a tag division work would require a lot more girls and a lot more screen time to properly feature all these people. Without a second weekly show, I just don't see that happening right now.
-What's Going On With Abyss?-
While I love seeing James Mitchell back for however brief a time we have him, it's been clear for a while that Abyss' career is winding down. He's not what he used to be and this current feud seems to only exist to install Kongo Kong and his giant jiggly man boobs as IMPACT's new monster.
Yeah, I'm not digging this that much. Love James Mitchell, Jimmy Jacobs is great, (though his best qualities are most likely utilized in the writers room) but Kong hasn't done much for me since he was brought in and if the guy refuses to wear a freaking shirt when he's out there, watching him is never going to be a pleasant experience for me.
On top of that, the feud has been rather annoying. First, Kong destroys a really entertaining new character in Chandler Park who had instantly clicked with Joseph Park, forming a very fun potential new tag team. But rather than building to Chandler getting revenge, this seems to have been done to simply write him off TV and bring back Abyss, which is also not being done well. If Jimmy Jacobs was so dead set on turning Joseph back into Abyss, why did he waste weeks threatening him when he could have simply busted Joseph open? Joseph getting busted open always turned him back into Abyss before, so why not do it now? Why was this never brought up as a possibility? Beats me.
And then there's the Abyss/Kong Monster's Ball which, while not the worst match ever, wasn't anything to write home about and the outcome seemed a foregone conclusion. Was that it? Forgive me, but if that was all this was going to amount to and if Abyss has no plans to reform Decay, (sidetone: WHY THE FUCK ISN'T ABYSS REFORMING DECAY?) then I would have preferred to just keep the Joseph/Chandler duo.
Joseph is just a lot more engaging than Abyss at this point. If IMPACT is adamant about having Abyss back, then make Crazzy Steve an offer and put the band back together. Otherwise, I'd much rather spend my time with Park, Park & Park.
-Eli Drake Doesn't Care About a Tag Title Shot?-
It's no secret that I don't like Feast or Fired. It's overly gimmicky, doesn't make sense and always feels like a cheap ripoff of WWE's Money In the Bank, which is a completely tired and played out concept itself. But if IMPACT is going to continue to trot this match out every once in a while, they can at least try to do something positive with it. That's why I was so flummoxed by Eli Drake's reaction to earning a Tag Title shot this past Thursday.
Eli Drake didn't care about the tag titles. What's worse is he wasn't the only person to say this either (WTF, Moose?). Forgive me, but is this really the attitude you want your stars to have when your tag division is struggling so much? You currently have only three tag teams to work with, of which two have already had a lengthy feud and the third has been mostly treated like a comedy act. This division is already facing an uphill battle to get back to prominence, so is having a former world champion treating a tag title shot like it's beneath him really a good idea?
Why not have Eli Drake be excited about this (hell, he should be excited to have ANY case that wasn't the FIRED case) and get serious about finding a partner and challenging LAX? Putting Drake in the tag division might add some legitimacy to it, but if the main event talent think the tag titles aren't worth their time, then you're just making a tough situation worse. How do you expect to rebuild your tag division when you do stuff like this?