Is Impact Wrestling the new ECW?

Impact ECW

The short answer is to that question is no, but it’s more complicated than that.  Take into consideration the “2300 Arena in Philadelphia” episode that we just saw and the more yet to come.  You also have to account for the the fact that Tommy Dreamer is the wrestler who is most synonymous with the original ECW and that he is now in the Impact creative/booking group.  Rob Van Dam was recently re-signed and is one of the biggest ECW stars ever.  Impact embraces hardcore wrestling and more adult-themed content.  I could go on and on with all of the elements of Impact that resemble some of the successful components of Extreme Championship Wrestling.  The similarities are undeniable.  However, the fact is that ECW is unfortunately a small part of the vast WWE library and is basically dead.  Yes, there are the “E-C-Dub” chants and some of the original wrestlers that still compete.  There is also an ultra-idolized and idealistic thought of what ECW was and what it represented in the 90’s.  I contend that Impact Wrestling is not literally trying to become ECW, but rather, they are attempting to be that modern-day, cool alternative pro wrestling company that is different and unique in comparison to every other option out there.  So far they are succeeding.

ECW logo 2

The general spirit of what ECW represented back in the 90’s is what Impact Wrestling can recreate.  Before they were gobbled up by the big corporate whore (WWE), ECW was the spark that ignited the Attitude Era, which is still considered one of the best time periods in the history of pro wrestling.  Tommy Dreamer, Lance Storm, Sabu, Raven, RVD, Father James Mitchell, Konnan, and Don Callis (Cyrus) were all apart of the original ECW in varying levels of participation and all of them have been involved with Impact in some capacity in the last 6 months.  It sounds like there may be at least one more ECW legend who will appear too.  However, this is not the EV 2.0 thing from 2010.  This is a different time and a separate situation.  They are wisely incorporating the ECW vibe into these episodes at this famous arena where there were countless shows held in the past.  This is the first time ever that Impact has taped shows there.  I see nothing wrong with this as these pioneers of the Attitude Era are putting over Impact Wrestling stars of today.  It makes sense and it’s shrewd to utilize legends like this to help get more eyeballs on the product.  That’s all it really boils down to so if you have your panties in a bunch about it, that’s a you problem.  If you can’t see what they’re doing in order to push their main, younger core of talent in the long term than heaven help ya.  Don’t get caught up in the short term.  This is a strategic plan that will have a payoff.

And this brings me to the potion of this column where I have to blast some people out there for straight up being dumb-asses.  I usually let stuff go that I see online or on social media because, frankly, there’s a lot of it and I only have so many fucks to give. The time has come for me to say it like it is and clear the air a bit.  Some Impact fans (you know who you are) have been critical of Impact regarding the use of these older ECW performers.  I also saw the sour grapes stuff about Eli Drake leaving, which I somewhat understand but if that makes you stop watching Impact then your fandom was hanging by a thread to begin with.  No one wrestler is bigger than the entire company.  While it hurts in some ways to see Eli go, his situation with Impact seemed like it simply wasn’t a good fit anymore.

Another odd thing that happened recently is how some fans were jumping the gun about the recent Killer Kross reports.  And now there’s a similar report about Scarlett Bordeaux and another about Jordynne Grace.  The one person that I’m going to single out in this piece is Mike Johnson of PWI.  We went into further detail on this situation with Johnson on our Spark the Discussion Impact Review, but suffice it to say, that this dude is either being fed false information or is being used as a pawn.  Why would Impact invest this much time and development into these talents and now, out of the blue, they’re on their way out of the door?  I know the AEW thing is looming out there but we’ll see what happens.  If he is wrong about any of these three wrestlers then we need to hold him accountable.

We have a little bit of history with Mike but it had been some time since he had communicated with us.  So he puts out this suspicious report about Kross which we were critical of and then he actually comes here to DiscussPW in an attempt to defend his report.  What reason would he have to come here and comment unexpectedly like that for the first time ever?  It comes across as very paranoid on his part.  If you believe in your journalistic skills in regards to your report on Kross, then why come to our fan website of all places to try and substantiate it somehow?  This tells me that he’s been keeping an eye on us this entire time and he finally just couldn’t keep his yapper shut anymore.  I doubt we’ll see much of Mike from this point on, but we have the screenshots to prove that it happened.

Listen, some portions of the fan base bitch about things no matter what Impact does.  Dedicated fans in many genres do this.  Like Game of Thrones or Marvel or Star Wars, or whatever.  People pick stuff apart and criticize because social media has become the vehicle for that type of thing on a public format.   Hence, I normally ignore it and move on because everyone is a critic now.  I guess I’m at a boiling point and I think a significant portion of the Impact fan base agrees with me in this regard and is also sick of the bullshit.

A huge problem with TNA of the past and Impact of the present is that a good chunk of the Impact fans just plain suck.  I have been heavily involved with observing and participating with Impact enthusiasts for well over a decade now and some of the hardcores may currently be at their absolute worst that I’ve seen during that stretch.  I know that some of them don’t like me either so it is what it is.  Now, honestly, most of the people that frequent DiscussPW are cool.  I’m not referring to you.  There are also fantastic podcasters like Jaybone and couple others who are awesome.  For now, I’m not trying to attack specific people or websites or anyone in particular (besides Mike Johnson).  It’s more of that “herd mentality” that has infected a lot of Impact fans.  One person says something on Twitter or a false report comes out or whatever, and then others pile on until they smother that particular thing to death.  It’s a pattern I’ve seen over and over again and it is disgusting.

It’s honestly why we can’t have nice things as Impact fans.  They say that they love the company and so on, but as soon as something happens that they don’t agree with, they go out and make sure that everyone knows how, in their opinion, that “Impact fucked up” or that they’ve “taken 1 step forward and 2 steps back”.  Vocal Impact fans are a fairly small group, so I imagine that someone will be offended by this column and that’s fine.  It needs to be said right now though.  I’ve reminded people of this a million times, but have you forgotten that Impact nearly went out of business?  Before Anthem saved it by appointing Don Callis and Scott D’Amore to their current positions Impact was in peril.  They were stuck at the Impact Zone in Orlando and were dying a slow, painful death in front of what had become one of the worst live audiences in pro wrestling history.  The wrestlers have always given it their all no matter what, but Impact as a whole had been run into the ground in more ways than one.

Take a snap shot of that bleak time frame in 2017, you know, when it was rebranded as Global Force Wrestling and Jeff Jarrett took over.  Fast forward to right now.  Look at all of the positives that Impact has going on for itself with international touring, streaming services, a fantastic talent roster, unparalleled character development, partnerships with an insane amount of wrestling promotions and much more.  And these whiny little bitches choose NOW to act like the Varuca Salt of fans?  I just don’t get it.  It’s obnoxious and revolting.  It’s usually a small, vocal minority but not always.  Impact has put on high-quality pay-per-views time and time again in the last year and produced very solid to great weekly episodes.  Yet now is when some of these people chose to turn their backs on the company or criticize it unnecessarily.  What am I missing?  Is it never good enough for them?  Grow the fuck up and enjoy what Impact Wrestling is giving to you.  Nothing is perfect, but if you can’t see the growth and upward trajectory that they are on then you are just choosing to be an ignorant asshole.  It almost seems like a case of them loving something so much that they forget to actually like it.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but just don’t ruin things for the rest of us that are enjoying Impact in the present.  The bottom line that people are missing with all of this is that Impact is still pushing their younger talent and core group.  That’s what blows my mind is that some of these “so called fans” have lost focus of that.  Meanwhile, the WWE can trot out older wrestlers like The Undertaker, Goldberg, Kurt Angle, Triple H, Batista and whomever else and nobody bats a godamn eye to it.  Then, RVD, who has been in Impact previously for a 3 year run, comes back in for this short term contract and I see stuff like, “he’s just an old stoner”.  For fucks sake… yes, he is 48.  Yes, he is a cannabis advocate.  Those are facts.  I get it that he’s not everyone’s cup of tea and that he’s not in his prime anymore, but the WWE or AEW would love to have Van Dam for one last short term run.  A legend like him chose Impact over other options that included things besides even pro wrestling.  When is the last time that someone of his stature in the pro wrestling business has wanted to be in Impact?

RVD Impact 2300 arena

RVD has noticed that hate from the aforementioned spoiled brats and pointed it out on Twitter and recent podcasts.  You don’t think that other legends and free agents out there will take that into account when making a decision on whether or not they would want to sign with Impact?  The thought of having to deal with Impact fans telling them that they’re “too old” or “washed up” could definitely dissuade them.  Would these fans have said the same shit about Chris Jericho if he had chose to sign with Impact?  Guess what!?!  They’re the same fucking age!!!  Jericho is the biggest superstar name in AEW.  You know, the company that just landed a TV deal with TNT and has an insane amount of buzz (somewhat unwarranted I’ll remind you).  I don’t hear anyone saying that Jericho is too old or criticizing AEW for having him on the roster.  The logic behind the RVD negativity is fucking asinine and needs to stop.  The wrestlers in Impact all seem totally on board with it so what the fuck gives?  Is it because he’s a stoner so he’s held to a different standard?

Anyway, moving on.  What I’ve gathered from Impact brass in recent months is that the aim of the promotion now is to be as distinctive and impressive as possible.  The best explanation of the direction of Impact that I’ve heard recently comes from Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore podcast when he chatted with Don Callis.  At the end of the day, Impact is going to be Impact but they can take pieces from prior wrestling promotions that really worked.  There were many things in ECW that lead to their eventual demise but they also did a lot of things right and created a lot of excitement and attention at that time.

There is already a prevailing perception out there that Impact Wrestling has a better overall product than it’s non-WWE competitors.  According to a recent poll that we ran, a vast majority of voters consider Impact to be superior to the NWA, MLW and ROH.

Impact has to continue to make themselves compelling in various ways in comparison other companies, especially the WWE.  AEW is a wildcard because we really don’t know exactly what it will end up being, but they do have their TV deal now and people will go “goo goo ga ga” over that for the rest of 2019.  In a perfect world, Impact and AEW would have some kind of collaboration with each other.  That may not happen, at least not initially, despite there being many connections, especially to Don Callis.

So the million dollar question: Is this all leading to a new TV deal in the fall?  Rob Van Dam and others would be attractive names for them to land such a deal.  There was a recent report about Ed Nordholm having meetings in NYC regarding potential TV networks for Impact.  Also, earlier this week Konnan hinted on his podcast about Impact getting on a new TV network.  Impact Wrestling deserves to at least have the level of national exposure that ECW had back in the day on The Nashville Network.  The show is too good to not be seen by more people.  I may have been a bit harsh on fans here, but if you can stick things out during this transitional period with Impact being on Twitch and the crappy Pursuit Channel, there should be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.