The past 6 months have been a really interesting and yet distressing time for me in regards to the online wrestling community. Sometimes life has a way of kicking you in the balls and that certainly happened to me at the end of my previous tenure at TNAMecca. Even when you think that you know someone well and experience a long period of mutual trust, the rug can still be pulled out from underneath you, out of the blue. I don’t want to get into specifics with the unfortunate situation that happened there and I will not revisit this topic ever again in future columns, but just know that I personally had nothing to do with any hoax or ruse. I was lied to and manipulated. That person acted independently and exploited us all. It’s sad that anyone would be at such a low point in their life where they would deceive people in that grandiose manner. I am innocent regarding that whole thing and I have the emails to prove it if anyone tries to challenge that assertion. I apologize if anyone was hurt or felt duped by that person’s actions because I know that I was very upset about it all for a good, long while. At the time when I found out the truth, the entire experience basically sucked all of the enthusiasm and drive out of me when it came to being a fan of Impact Wrestling. I immediately removed myself from the site. I’m sorry that things ended so abruptly there but I had no choice. It was difficult to separate my fandom from what had happened because they were so interconnected. I’m not afraid to admit that I was depressed after putting so much work, time and effort into something just to later be forced to throw it all in the garbage. Regardless, I still watched the product in the last 6 months and, in fact, haven’t missed an episode of Impact in nearly 12 years. However, I had zero motivation to write or contribute anymore to any website even though occasionally I would entertain the thought. Then eventually I started paying attention to DiscussPW and commenting here and there. I genuinely enjoy this community. I began feeling accepted and comfortable again when I would visit here. Now, with Austin Aries making a triumphant return to Impact and the company’s new management team taking charge, I felt that the time was right for me to also bring Bark of the Dawg back.
Now that we’ve set the record straight one last time on my recent unfortunate past and have that housekeeping out of the way, we can move on from all that old drama which shall remain in the past. It’s a new day and I’m in such a better place mentally and physically than I was last year. When you boil it down to one main reason that I am doing this again, the answer is simple. I missed writing. I really enjoy the process of writing, and not doing that anymore had left a hole in my life. To be clear, I am not involved in running DiscussPW and I will not being doing so at any point in the future. I am a columnist for this site and that is all. Bark of the Dawg is going to be an ongoing series posted once every 4 to 8 weeks (just like it has been for several years). Sometimes it will be once a month, sometimes every two months. I will write when I have something to say because it’s important that my writing stays organic and that I’m not merely putting stuff out there for the sake of meeting some kind of deadline or content quota. My aim is to keep things fresh and relevant. I truly appreciate everyone that has read my stuff in the past and I sincerely hope that you will continue to do so. I’ve met some great pro wrestling fans in the last ten years and I hope that in some way my column will help bring real Impact fans together. I have no agenda outside of providing my honest opinion on the current Impact product. A big thanks goes to Jay and Erik for allowing me to write for DiscussPW. They have both been great to work with and I’m impressed with the increased momentum that this site has right now. I’m pretty sure that this was also the first place to have a Twitch Discussion post, which was an awesome idea. The whole atmosphere here with positive fans that want to talk about pro wrestling is very welcoming. It’s a great place to be and I’m glad to be a small part of it. So let’s get to talking Impact!
I have a lot of admiration for the work that Don Callis and Scott D’Amore have done so far as Executive Vice Presidents of Impact Wrestling. There’s a phrase in pro sports that references how a newly acquired player or coach “wins a press conference”. So far, Scott and Don have accomplished the pro wrestling version of that. They are talking the talk in the media and this duo seems to have intelligent, fresh ideas for how they are planning to run Impact moving forward. The inherit battle that they have in this endeavor is the notoriously criticized track record of the company in the last few years. There have been several management regimes in that time which have also “won the press conference” initially and then eventually their momentum stalled out and the company somewhat floundered. So the jaded segment of wrestling fans out there have years and years of built up evidence suggesting that this struggle for Impact is real. To be honest, in some ways there is legit concern about Impact having a distinct and sustained direction. The company has changed its name a few times recently for instance. Since the company started, the actual ring has gone back and forth from four sides to six sides to four sides to six and now back to four. There has been repeated speculation about the financial state of Impact. Ed Nordholm and Anthem have seemingly stabilized that particular aspect of things, but there’s not a magic wand that will fix everything right away. I could go on and on about all of Impacts problems. It’s a tough situation to walk into and right now, it feels like Don and Scott’s approach despite all of that is excellent. More importantly, they have a well orchestrated plan of attack. I’ve listened to their recent interviews, as most of us have, and it does sound like things are set up favorably for the next couple of years if they can execute what they want to accomplish. It’s hard to not be somewhat skeptical and/or cautious if you are a long time fan, because we’ve seen it all when it comes to TNA/Impact Wrestling. That being said, I’m willing to give it a chance and let it play out. If you’re not at least open to seeing what happens and trying to be somewhat objective, then why the hell are you reading this column?
You know what gives me hope and optimism for the future of Impact Wrestling? Two words: Austin Aries. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen fans (including myself) advocate again and again for Austin Aries to come back to Impact. In the two and a half years in which Aries was gone, the company has changed a lot. This seems like the perfect time for Austin to come back, bringing along with him a wave of positive reverberation. The overall effect of having Aries back could and should be tremendous. He is one of the best wrestlers that Impact has ever had. He is one of the best talkers that the company has ever had. He is that unique, charismatic star that can carry an entire promotion. He was completely misused and underutilized during his time in the WWE. Given the success of other former TNA/Impact stars which have gone to the WWE in recent years and done very well for themselves, I’m somewhat surprised at how they dropped the ball on Aries. Their loss is our gain and thankfully Aries has come back to Impact. Hopefully he stays long-term, but there’s no guarantee of that since he has boasted on social media that he has no contract. So let’s enjoy the time that we do have with Aries on the roster because the list of talents for Impact will probably be more fluid than in the past based off of things we’ve heard. Hell, maybe he says with Impact for years and eventually retires there? Who knows? His “push to the moon” is an obvious indicator that Callis and D’Amore believe in him enormously. I’ve also heard Don speak highly of Brian Cage, who returned at these tapings much to our delight. I’m not going to elaborate on all of the talent coming and going in this column, but needless to say, there has already been a significant amount of change with this new regime.
There was a very encouraging tweet which was sent out from the Impact Wrestling account recently that sums up the current state of affairs. This was sent out after Genesis and before the first episode of the new management regime:
Next week is the beginning of a new era but one thing will remain constant. Every single week we’re looking to present the very best wrestling show we can and our crew and our immensely talented roster give you everything. Thanks for watching and we’ll see you next week. #Genesis
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) January 26, 2018
Then there was this tweet along the same lines after this last episode:
Tonight is only the beginning. The four sided ring in back, The Machine is coming, we’re gonna do our damnedest to deliver the best wrestling show every week, and AUSTIN ARIES IS WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION! We’re excited for you to join us on this journey in 2018. #IMPACTonPOP
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) February 2, 2018
Again, the words are great and this all sounds very nice. Actions are better though and we will see exactly how this new era plays out in the coming months and years.
I’m not a “spoilers” guy and I usually avoid them. During this last set of tapings in Orlando it was nearly impossible to avoid some of the major names coming in and the other ones leaving. In fact, Impact Wrestling strategically announced the returns of Aries and Cage in order to actually get ahead of the dirt sheets. It’s little tweaks in policy like that which come across as savvy and can give fans optimism that Don and Scott understand the current climate of pro wrestling. Technology and social media have changed how fans consume things. Impact Wrestling has really stepped up their game recently with the launch of the Global Wrestling Network and the introduction of their Twitch channel. They also have Pluto TV and they’ve really enhanced their Twitter game lately. These are all huge conduits for getting more and more new eyeballs on the product outside of the old school model of cable/satellite television. We have already gotten so used to the Twitch and GWN outlets that it has now become second nature to expect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year TNA/Impact content at our fingertips. These are the types of valuable tech commodities that fans have been clamoring about for years. The revenue streams for Impact simply could not remain primarily with television deals only (even though they do play an important role for now). Impact is making wise decisions in order to dramatically increase awareness and promotion, which has been so very needed. The next few months leading to the Redemption PPV (appropriately named as others have pointed out) in April should be very fun and intriguing.
Finally, it wasn’t easy for me to write this piece but I’m glad this first one is out of the way. I have been taught some humility by that awful experience which I outlined above. There’s no great way to right the wrong that was done by that person but please understand that I’m just the messenger here (so please don’t shoot me). I’ve shown you a vulnerable side by expressing how it affected me and telling the truth because it needed to be done. Yes, it took some time for me to do it, but it was the right thing to do. It’s all been quite embarrassing frankly. Whatever your frustrations were and are about what took place with TNAMecca’s demise, please don’t bring those feeling of angst here to DiscussPW. Let’s let bygones be bygones. I’m OK with you guys expressing yourself about it in the comment section below if you feel so inclined, but I really want us to move past this and not dwell on that set of circumstances beyond the confines of this column. Thankfully we have this great community that has absolutely nothing to do with what happened at TNAMecca. If you used to be a part of that place when it was actually a good environment, please feel welcome now here. Onward and upward my friends.