That was the question on many wrestling observers’ minds as Impact Wrestling had its network premiere on Pop TV last Tuesday night. It was just a year ago that the promotion made the transition from its initial home on Spike TV to Destination America. That eleventh hour deal kept TNA Wrestling afloat. However, the massive decline in viewership due to them being on an obscure network that many people don’t even have, left the company looking less than stable. The company wisely chose to not renew with Destination America. But did their new home bring more eyes to the product? And was it a strong enough premiere to ensure that any potential new viewers will continue to watch future episodes?
The show wisely set huge stakes right from the outset, with the first few segments of the show focusing on the semi-finals of a World Heavyweight Championship tournament. Matt Hardy squared off against Eric Young with Hardy coming up victorious. Bobby Lashley took on Ethan Carter III with EC3 escaping with the win, setting up Carter vs. Hardy in the main event at the end of the evening for the title.
TNA has chosen to stick with what makes them stand out from WWE. Thankfully, they kept the six sided ring. There was less focus on long-winded promos and vignettes and more focus on the in-ring action. They even enhanced the big fight atmosphere by having two giant displays in the arena showing the fighters of each match, making it easier for new viewers to know who these competitors are. There were even surprises, like the return of Awesome Kong or the reunion of Bobby Roode and James Storm as Beer Money Inc. The latter was quite the shocker, as Storm had appeared less than three months prior in NXT and was expected to sign a WWE contract.
While it had many positives, Impact still has many opportunities for improvement. The opening segment featuring TNA owner Dixie Carter wasn’t the best idea. Carter should never have became an on-screen persona, as she doesn’t have the acting ability or commanding presence to make it believable, let alone entertaining. One of the things that some promotions have been trying to get away from is high risk “spot wrestling” that plagues much of the industry and have been fostering a back to basics approach. But Impact went too far in the other direction with the matches all feeling a bit too slow paced and old school for a twenty-first century wrestling program. Also, the few promos that they did have should have all featured the company’s strongest microphone workers. As talented as the Wolves, Bram or Michael Bennett are in the ring, the less they are on the microphone, the better.
The final ratings came in, and the January 5th Impact Wrestling episode averaged about 255,000 viewers. While this is, by no means, a great number, it signifies that they retained their audience during the transition from Destination America. Some may consider this episode a Band-Aid on the bullet wound that is the Impact Wrestling of recent years. But, until another deal like the one they had with Spike TV comes along from a major network, TNA will have to play the long game in the hopes of slowly building their fan base…just like they did thirteen years ago when the promotion first started.
What are your thoughts on this premiere episode of Impact Wrestling on Pop TV? What did they do right? What do they need to work on? And will you tune in to future episodes?