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Impact Wrestling 2017 Year In Review: A promotion marred by constant changes and its usual bad press


With 2017 pretty much in our rearview mirror, it’s that time where we look back at the year that was. While Impact Wrestling does that with their two “Best of 2017” episodes, we’re going to take our own look back at the promotion to see how their 2017 fared. How did they do this year?

In a short answer: Not well.

The biggest theme for the promotion this year was inconsistency. This last 12 months included a major management change and a rotating door of personnel running the ship, as well as an exodus of talent. This constant change never allowed the on air product to settle into a singular vision. It was forever changing and that was to the detriment of the product.

Impact in January and February 2017 feels like years ago. Anthem technically owned the promotion by then, but their new regime of people running it weren’t starting until March. So the very earliest parts of this year were a lame duck, closing out some stories before everything was shaken up. They still employed talent such as Matt & Jeff Hardy, Drew Galloway, Maria Kanellis & Mike Bennett, Aron Rex (Damien Sandow), and Crazzy Steve who was part of Decay. All of those people are gone now, and many in WWE. That was only the beginning of the revolving door of wrestlers.

March was the true beginning of Anthem’s direction. They brought in former TNA founder and executive Jeff Jarrett to help run the business and the creative aspect. Along with him came former TNA guys Dutch Mantel and Bruce Prichard. On one hand, bringing on someone like Jarrett made sense. He has ties to the promotion and plenty of experience in that role. However, on the other hand, we knew what we were getting. Jarrett, and to some degree the other two who worked in TNA prior, have showed what they could do. So it left fans who were hoping for something new and exciting underwhelmed.

Jeff was also owner of Global Force Wrestling (GFW) so they decided to merge the two promotions. That meant bringing in all of Jarrett’s Global Force champions and some of the talent. We saw the likes of ODB, Magnus, Sonjay Dutt, and Christina von Eerie. Of that list, only Dutt stuck around. (He is now a member of the creative team as well as an occasional on screen talent.)

Their biggest signing was Alberto El Patron, who we will definitely touch upon again momentarily. They also brought back Low-Ki (he’s already gone), Matt Morgan (only had a very brief stint), signed Matt Sydal, and brought in Konnan and Homicide to head a new LAX. To their credit, they did bring in some younger talent as well, such as Santana and Ortiz of LAX, Reno Scum (who haven’t returned after an Adam Thornstowe injury), and eventually Jake and Dave Crist. Later in the year, Johnny Mundo (aka Johnny Impact) and Taya Valkyrie were also brought on board.

Impact went all in on the GFW/Impact merger, making it the crux of their Slammiversary pay-per-view (PPV). They were soon rebranded GFW Impact. This made it all the more awkward when they quickly parted ways with Jeff Jarrett and word got out that there was actually not an official deal for Anthem to acquire GFW. Rumor had it that Anthem parted ways because of erratic behavior on the part of Double J while Jeff simply said, “they’re out of money” (Jarrett has since checked into rehab for alcoholism and hopefully is getting things right with his life).

As quick as GFW was there, it was gone, completely scrubbed from their programming. In the summer, Jim Cornette was brought in as a consultant. However, he did not stick around after they suddenly relocated their Bound for Glory PPV from Orlando to Ontario. Along with Jarrett and Cornette, Prichard and Mantel seem to be done with Impact as well.

After Bound for Glory, they went with another slight change in direction, no longer focusing on authority figures as part of their stories. This would be the fourth different creative direction in the year. The abrupt changes in management and creative, along with the rotating door of talent, had an effect on the on-air programming as it never had a chance to find its groove before things were upended again. We recently looked back at all the grades that Impact received this year and at least in my opinion, it capped at above average with zero buzz worthy angles.

Unfortunately, all the buzz for Impact was poor press. Fans likely hoped with a new change of ownership, the bad reports surrounding the promotion would die down. But instead it was the contrary.

One of the biggest stories surrounding Impact this year was the very public battle between owner Ed Nordholm & Jeff Jarett and Matt & Reby Hardy concerning the rights to the “Broken” gimmick. For months a public battle was raged regarding who actually owned the character. While the very public aspect was often emanating from the Hardys, it was still the exact opposite of the publicity Impact was looking for to start things off.

The other big story was regarding their huge signing, Alberto El Patron. Patron and his then girlfriend/fiancee Paige were often in the wrestling news cycle. But the most significant story was regarding their public fight at the Orlando airport that resulted in police investigating Patron for domestic violence, a charge of which he would eventually be cleared. Impact ended up suspending Patron, who was their world champion, and stripping him of the title. He missed three months of television due to the suspension. The promotion made the right choice in suspending him, but it was still poor press for the snakebitten promotion.

They couldn’t even avoid the “out of money” narrative this year. Around the time they parted ways with Jeff Jarrett, word surfaced that the company was hemorrhaging money. There were reports they had to cut other Fight Network programming to continue to fund the promotion (cuts prior to Bound for Glory lent some credence to those reports). It was yet another negative story surrounding the promotion and shows that they struggled to control the narrative this year.

2017 was not what Anthem was hoping for when they acquired the promotion last year. That’s not to say it was all bad. There were some positives in the on-air product, some of which we listed here. They got their Global Wrestling Network streaming service off the ground, though still without major incentive to sign up for the paid tier. And they set up TV deals in different countries while partnering with promotions such as Triple A in Mexico and Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan. These are things that could pay dividends in the future if they can straighten out the management aspect.

But the biggest plus may be where this year ended up. Anthem brought in Scott D’Amore (who had been working with them as a consultant) and Don Callis to act as Executive Vice Presidents of the promotion under President Ed Nordholm. In essence, they’ll be running the show. It’ll be a new vision, one that is fresh and not a retread like bringing in Jarrett. It’s already led to a change in how they look at owning characters, which is a reason why we have Woken Matt Hardy in WWE right now.

It’s easy to say that a new creative/business direction isn’t going to be any different than before and in the end, TNA gonna TNA. But I’d like to be optimistic that Callis and D’Amore will slowly turn it around. Only time will tell, and we’ll see in a year what their 2018 review shows, but for now I will keep my fingers crossed that their 2018 is a significant improvement from their 2017.

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