To some of you that may be reading my work for the first time ever, or at least for the first time in a long time, I say a simple “Thank You”. Thank you for giving DiscussPW a chance and I appreciate you reading my column. Maybe you came to see the crowd shots? Who knows. Perhaps you recognize my nickname or have read my previous columns over the years at TNAsylum (now Impact Asylum) or the defunct TNAMecca. Let’s just say, I’ve been around. I could have pissed you off at some point, which might have been intentional… or not. Maybe you first ran into me because Impact Wrestling still follows my personal account on Twitter? Or it could be that you’ve kept reading my columns this entire time (the numbers would certainly back that up).
Regardless, the people I want to especially thank and publicly recognize are the loyal readers here at DiscussPW. You know who you are and I don’t want to leave any names out so I won’t specify individuals. Just know that it means a lot to me. You’ve stuck with me through thick and thin and a lot of crazy shit storms along the way. People could make a lot of assumptions about me or who I really am. The main thing that binds us all together in the end is that we are all fans of pro wrestling, despite our differences. More specifically, we are all fans of Impact Wrestling. Whether you hate me or love me, disagree with me or find that I have some decent observations. Whatever the case may be, you have to respect the fact that I am a loyal, long-time fan of Impact Wrestling (and TNA Wrestling before that). Alright, enough with the house cleaning. I just had to get that off my chest. So now, let me tell you about my little trip in a place called Las Vegas, Nevada.
I’ve been to Vegas on business or vacation over 20 times in my life. Sometimes I’ve left Vegas feeling like I just lived through the movie “The Hangover” and other times it’s been a bit more tame than that. Regardless, I’ve always had fun. This 3 day set of Impact Wrestling TV Tapings was no exception to that as I had an amazing experience in Sin City yet again. Sam’s Town is not a five-star fancy hotel and casino but it was more than adequate; very clean and secure and it has a certain charm. I would definitely stay there again, and most likely will for the upcoming February tapings in a few months. My favorite part about the actual “Sam’s Town aspect” of this adventure was the “Sam’s Town LIVE” venue where the wrestling took place. It’s an intimate and comfortable facility; very laid back. They host a lot of wrestling events and concerts there normally. There’s a bar directly behind the bleachers, which was nice and convenient. I had no desire to sit on the front few rows by the ring (I’ve done that several times in the past). Nah, this time I wanted to take it nice and easy and have a comfortable chair in the upper seating area. I got to spread out with the signs I brought and not annoy anyone in my area because I was near the top in an aisle seat. And boy, did I ever get my money’s worth. I cheered and chanted and clapped and got as rowdy as a soccer hooligan.
I mentioned it on Twitter after watching the first episode of the Vegas shows, but I really feel like the crowd was not mic’d up properly to show exactly how loud it was in that facility. The first night was the biggest attendance numbers wise. I don’t have an exact figure but I’m confident with the 300-400 range as an educated estimation. The bleacher sections were half to three-quarters full all the way around with the areas surrounding the ring mostly sold out (as you’ll see in the pictures below). It was a fairly raucous crowd the first night and that makes sense with it being a Sunday. The second night on Monday ended up being the poorest of the three for total numbers and crowd involvement, but still not bad honestly. However, while the third night was also a smaller crowd it proved to be the loudest and most passionate audience of the taping set, no doubt about it. I personally made sure that I had a voice left going into the 3rd night. Then I yelled so much during that final show that I had no voice left for 2 days afterwards. Funny, because Josh Mathews essentially said the same thing about himself on Twitter so that tells you how loud it was. Three days in a row is a lot to ask of fans. I can totally understand why people don’t attend for all 3 days as it does take a lot of energy to go back to back to back. Of course, there’s a group of hardcores like myself which eat it all up, but Impact needs to find creative ways to make sure that they promote and advertise well again going into that February three-day set.
To break things up here and not ramble on for the remainder of this piece, I’m going to rate the best five wrestlers (Match MVP’s) and the best five crowd reactions (Heel or Face Pops) of this Las Vegas taping set. These are not in any particular order and you probably can tell for yourself, for the most part, who was getting the best reactions. However, with some apparent audio issues with the venue set-up I’m just relaying my in-person observations with these two lists. Again, these are my opinions on what I saw and heard from my seat at Sam’s Town Live. Between my live spoiler reports and information I’ve already posted on the site and my tweets and talking about it all on a couple of episodes of Spark the Discussion podcast, I’m trying to not repeat myself with information too much.
(Non-Spoiler) Top 5 Match MVP’s:
Johnny Impact – The Mayor of Slamtown had 3 matches during the taping block and his moveset was always precise. He wrestles very cleanly and is clearly a savvy veteran.
Tessa Blanchard – After seeing Tessa wrestle in person for the first time, I am more convinced than ever that she is the best female wrestler in the world today.
Brian Cage – It wasn’t hard to tell that The Machine wasn’t 100% physically after recently suffering a couple of nagging injuries. However, even a less healthy Cage was insanely good in the ring.
Lucha Bros – It’s difficult to get a full grasp of just how great Fenix and Pentagon are until you see them perform Live. These guys are both HUGE stars that can really GO.
The Rascalz – I admit that I was only familiar with the talented Dezmond Xavier prior to this taping set, but Zachary Wentz and Trey Miguel impressed me significantly on these shows. Adding this trio to Impact is going to give the company some fantastic depth.
(Non-Spoiler) Top 5 Heel or Face Pops:
Eli Drake – Eli got big reactions during his entrance each and every time. He also had tremendous fan participation during his promos with the “E – Li – Drake!!!” chanting.
Killer Kross – It was expected that Kross would be pretty over in his hometown, but the crowd gave him the respect he’s earned and a bit more. He’s absolutely one of the best overall characters in the business today.
Lucha Bros – Pentagon and Fenix are so over. It’s amazing to see luchadores get those type of reactions from the crowd. The “Cero Miedo!” chants with the hand gesture from Pentagon is a staple in Impact now. The Fenix “Animo!” chant is starting to get just as popular based off of what I saw.
Eddie Edwards – Looking back on it now, Eddie got one pop during the taping set that may have been the biggest of all. I don’t want to spoil anything but it was impressive.
oVe – The “O! V! E!” chant that is part of the group’s music was very over with the live audience. This was in the top three for loudest chants in Vegas.
These are a few of my crowd pics that I took from the first night of the tapings (Sunday, November 11th) when the crowd had arrived entirely:
One of the unique things about staying at the same venue where the tapings are taking place is that you’re pretty much guaranteed to see the wrestlers out and about. I don’t want to get into it here but there is one wrestler in particular that did not appear on the tapings, but I personally saw with my own two eyes at Sam’s Town. As far as I can tell, nobody else on the entire internet has a report about that person being there. If you care to look up what I saw, you can read about that in our spoiler discussion. Other Impact wrestlers and employees that I randomly saw by just walking around include: Eddie Edwards, Eli Drake, Josh Mathews, Ethan Page, Ed Nordholm, Allie, and Keira Hogan. Very fun stuff indeed, and I did not want to bother them for pictures but I could have. I know that there were the VIP events also, but this was just causally running into them type of stuff in the casino.
The final thing that I want to take a brief snap shot look at is comparing Impact Wrestling this particular time in Vegas to the other two times in the past that TNA put on TV tapings in Sin City. I have attended all of those shows by the way. So in 2008 TNA had a LIVE (tape delayed slightly as I recall) Impact episode shot at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. This was done in conjunction with TNA going to HD on Spike TV. The main event that night was A.J. Styles and Samoa Joe VS Sting and Nash. The Main Event Mafia had formed that very night and the crowd was sold out and super hot. This is still my favorite crowd and overall experience of the 3 Vegas adventures.
In 2013 at The Orleans Hotel & Casino they also did only one night of tapings but this time they shot two episodes. The Aces and Eights were in full effect during that time and the main event of the show was Austin Aries Vs Chris Sabin Vs Manik for the X-Division Title. There were over 3,000 fans in attendance and it was a big time show.
So here we are now at the end of 2018 and Impact Wrestling has been through more as a company than anyone could have imagined. The roller coaster of changing ownership and management teams and networks has been insane. However, things have now stabilized and Impact has ventured away from the Impact Zone in Orlando for the foreseeable future. They are making regular touring feasible and realistic. Don Callis, Scott D’Amore and Ed Nordholm are intelligently executing a long-term plan. In fact, they are currently doing so many things right that you really have to go out of your way to find any negatives. I will continue to trust their vision for Impact Wrestling and 2019 is shaping up to be a year of significant growth as this promotion evolves and changes for the better. The heartbeat of Impact Wrestling is the fanbase and you can really feel that when you attend a show in person. At some point, more pro wrestling fans are going to give Impact a chance.
I will continue to spend my hard-earned money buying Impact Pay-Per-Views and going to these Vegas shows. A couple of pictures below are of an elevator poster at Sam’s Town, an official program from the event and the merchandise stand outside of the venue. I will be bringing you the same coverage in February from Las Vegas. I hope you enjoyed what I had to say here. If you feel like making a comment down below, be my guest. Thanks again.