When Anthem Entertainment, the parent company of the Canada-based Fight Network, rescued TNA from bankruptcy and more specifically Dixie Carter, it was unclear the direction the company would go. Since the acquisition, there were releases, signings, and returns from the new regime.
As much as some might consider this news, it’s par for the course when new management takes over a wrestling promotion. When a new booker took over a territory, they brought in their key players to present their version of the product to the audience. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic here, but the “big changes” being promoted on recent Impact tapings don’t necessarily mean success for the organization, because how many times were “big changes” advertised for TNA in the past? Still, at least there’s an effort to progress the group forward, which is a contrast to the floundering of TNA during the past few years with Dixie Carter as president.
There were a series of exits from Impact, some of them seemed to be strictly a case of money and it makes you wonder if Anthem is trying to stick to a budget or if it’s just trying to run Impact Wrestling as cheap as possible.
A year ago, Mike Bennett, a mainstay for Ring Of Honor previously, debuted as “The Miracle” on Impact. Aside from a debut the presented him as a star, Bennett wasn’t given much of a chance to elevate his status, and depending on who you ask, some think the former member of the Kingdom has the potential to be a top star. TNA either didn’t provide that stage for him or didn’t invest the TV time to properly establish him so the true value he brings to the table has yet to be determined. I’d suggest he will return to Ring Of Honor and resume his run there. Considering it provides a fresh start in ROH, Bennett’s detour in TNA isn’t a negative aspect of his career.
Regardless of if Mike Bennett will become a top guy where he lands or not, he’s undoubtedly an asset for almost any roster because of his well-rounded skill set. Maria Bennett also announced her departure from Impact, which makes sense considering the conclusion of her storyline and the circumstances of the situation. Reportedly, the former WWE Diva has pursued an education for a career outside of professional wrestling so it’s possible she might retire from the industry for a more normal job.
Jade, a former Knockouts champion, apparently finished up with the company last week after her extensive feud with Rosemary, concluding in a last KO standing match. Unless it was a money dispute, I’m not sure why management wouldn’t resign this unique athlete, as she brings solid skills to the organization and could be a unique commodity to promote for branding the promotion. A lot of the same could be said for her former stable member Marti Belle, who asked for her release recently after there weren’t plans for her as her contract was almost expired. The Knockouts division was a staple of Impact Wrestling so who knows what direction it goes from here? At this particular point, the KO roster isn’t as solid right now after the recent departures.
Drew Galloway, the once “Chosen One” in WWE, left TNA after an up and down run there. I wouldn’t be surprised if Galloway makes his way back to WWE, as it’s similar to Bennett’s possible return to ROH, the Impact appears allow for a fresh run when he returns. As much as 3MB might’ve theoretically been a misuse of Galloway, he made it work, and he’s unquestionably talented enough to be a star in the WWE. Plus, he works regularly for Evolve, the independent group that already has a working agreement with WWE so it’s possible that could play a role in his return to either Raw or Smackdown. Supposedly, TNA management waited until just days before his contract expired to offered the former IC champion a contract extension with a pay cut and he declined.
The Hardys, the most popular performers on the TNA roster in recent years, also left the promotion after a reported pay dispute. Some reports suggest that management wanted a percentage of the Hardy’s independent bookings, which isn’t a smart business move. When you take into account that the money the Hardys can command on the indy scene right now is based on the personas they created themselves, why does Anthem think they should take a portion on money earned outside of Impact Wrestling?Anthem Entertainment is a multi-million dollar company, do they really need part of Matt’s indy money to survive? Furthermore, is the amount of money Anthem wanted to take from the indy bookings really worth the exit of arguably most popular act?
I have to be honest, I was very surprised to read about the Hardy’s departure from TNA, as I wrote in a column prior to the departure that it benefited everyone involved if they resigned. However, after details of the negotiations surfaced, you can’t really blame them for opting to work elsewhere. “Broken” Matt and Brother Nero recently won the ROH tag titles, belts they will probably drop back to The Young Bucks WrestleMania weekend, but the point being, they certainly have other options. Obviously, there’s the possibility of a WWE return, but I still think the rocky exit both Hardys had at different times could play a role in a deal being offered. If they resign for either Raw or Smackdown, I would guess that it would be a one-year contract for mostly a nostalgia run, similar to what the Dudley Boyz did during their most recent return. Either way, it doesn’t make Anthem look good when the team with the most star power on the roster simply opts to walk away from the negotiations.
There were also a series of debuts and returns to give an indication of the plan for the company going forward, including Jeff Jarrett rehired as a consultant. Jeff Jarrett, who founded NWA-TNA with his father Jerry, the legendary Memphis promoter, was brought back after Dixie Carter no longer had any authority in the promotion. After he left TNA a few years ago, Jarrett launched Global Force Wrestling, but despite running TV tapings in Las Vegas, the group didn’t land a deal. In truth, GFW was just a series of independent shows and the project just didn’t get off the ground, which is more of a statement about how difficult it is for a wrestling company to get a TV contract in the current market than anything else. Still, Double J is one of the most experienced minds in the business and he was one of the main players that built TNA from the ground up so at least on the surface, it seems worthwhile to use his knowledge as an advisor.
Another former employee, Dutch Mantell returned to the company to resume his role as a member of the booking committee, and he also appeared on camera during the tapings last week. The former Zeb Colter cut some of the best promos on WWE TV during his time there, and I was surprised that he wasn’t offered a spot on the creative team or NXT prior to his release, unless he simply wanted a lighter schedule at this point in his career. Make no mistake, Dutch is one of the most brilliant minds in the history of the industry and he will be a valuable asset for Impact Wrestling. Dutch’s run as a booker in Puerto Rico is known as one of the peaks in business for the island, and his time in TNA previously is considered one of the better eras of the promotion among fans.
Bruce Prichard, a former WWE and TNA executive, was brought back for an on-screen role at the recent tapings, but I don’t think he is necessary for any critical aspects of Impact Wrestling.
Alberto El Patron, the former WWE champion, finally made his TNA debut after much speculation since his WWE release. Judging from what took place on Impact this week, Alberto will be involved in the heavyweight title picture, which is a smart decision. For a variety of reasons, ADR didn’t get the run he was capable of in the WWE, and he without question had the ability to become the top Hispanic star in the company, especially after the departure of Rey Mysterio.
Originally, the year that Del Rio won the Rumble, WWE brass opted to allow Edge to get the win at Wrestlemania to retire as champion because a neck injury cut his in-ring career short. Since Del Rio ultimately left the company, it’s easy to say in retrospect that Edge’s moment was the right call, but at the time, not winning the title on the biggest stage possible didn’t exactly put Del Rio on the main event level. Alberto left the promotion after he rightfully slapped a former WWE social media employee that made a disparaging joke about Mexican heritage, but returned to a tremendous crowd reaction, beating John Cena to win the United States title. Again, Alberto didn’t really get the chance to have the run he could’ve had and soon floundered in the League Of Nations stable.
Thankfully, Alberto had many options because he’s a major star in his native country, and worked the independent scene for various promotions. The signing could be extremely beneficial to Impact Wrestling because Alberto El Patron has the star quality and brings legitimate star power to the organization, as he’s known to the Hispanic market and to WWE fans. The only potential downside to this is, how long will he work for TNA? At almost 40, Alberto stated previously in interviews that he only plans to wrestle for a few more years. He made great money in his career, both in Mexico and in WWE, as well as his involvement in outside projects so it’s not as though Alberto has to wrestle just to make a living. He’s currently the president of a Latino MMA group and announced plans to open a restaurant so it appears as though his decision about where to wrestle isn’t strictly financial, as he has other resources.
The point is, if Impact Wrestling is more of a side project for Alberto than management should be careful how much TV time they invest in him because TNA has a history of former WWE stars that left and the company scrambled to book alternative angles. That being said, as of now, Alberto El Patron is a great signing for Impact Wrestling.
According to spoiler reports, LAX, a combination of Konnan, Homicide, and others returned at the TV tapings. Konnan is an extremely controversial figure and it’s somewhat surprising that he will be back on TNA television because he actually sued the company almost a decade ago. Homicide is one of the most underrated talents in the modern era and doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves for his innovative style. However, he suffered many injuries from his risky style during his career so it remains to be seen if he will be as dynamic as he was the last time he worked for TNA. All that aside, it’s well known that Konnan has a storied friendship with Rey Mysterio, and it’s possible that this LAX reunion is more of a way to attempt to get Rey to sign a contract, which might be worth it because of the fan base Rey could bring to the company.
As mentioned, shuffling the talent when a new regime takes over is nothing new in pro wrestling and it will be interesting to see the direction of the product in a few months. But, it certainly doesn’t create much optimism about the show when many talented performers exit at the same time. More specifically, the way the Hardys were written off of TV makes Anthem look bush league. It might be too pessimistic of a view, but until noticeable progress is made, I don’t think these “big changes” are the key to success for the company.
Until next week