Poor, poor Impact Wrestling. This company really just can not catch a break… all year their shows have been plagued with issues, largely ones outside of their control, that have nonetheless put a huge damper on the experience, if not ruined them outright.
From the beginning, their deal on the Pursuit network has seemed ill-fated. The partnership was announced on December 21st… but then didn’t go acknowledged on the channel’s website or on social media for days after the fact, which was not a great way to increase awareness of a show that was debuting on your network three weeks later. Even now it’s not highlighted in the slightest on their main page, in spite of being the reason that many people even know the channel exists.
They also took nearly half a year to correct their TV listings. For months, Impact was listed as being a half-hour long show with three immediate replays, rather than an actual two hour broadcast. How that even happens is beyond me, but how this was still a thing as late as April is just mind-blowing. This might seem minor, but it makes things very difficult for folks trying to DVR the show, and mind you it airs from 10 PM to midnight on Fridays, so being able to record it for future viewing would sure be nice.
But that pales in comparison to what came next.
On the May 17th episode, during the main event which pit Michael Elgin against Rich Swann, the show went to commercial mid-match… and never came back. That was it, that’s how the broadcast ended that week. The match was still going on their Twitch channel so it’s pretty clear that was purely on Pursuit’s end.
As if going out of their way to outdo themselves, just three weeks later, Pursuit went and aired a rerun of the previous week’s episode instead of the new one. This would be a bad track record for a partnership over the span of a couple of years, but somehow they’ve managed to fit all this incompetence into the span of six months. There’s no getting around it, Impact needs to drop Pursuit at the nearest opportunity in the worst way, stuff like this is only hurting them and testing their already depleted fanbase.
It’s not as though it was a particularly appropriate fit from the get-go. A tiny bit of digging shows that the ‘Pursuit’ name refers to hunting… it’s an outdoorsman’s channel. This week’s Impact is set to be sandwiched between episodes of American Airgunner and God Family Hunting. A wrestling show belongs on this network about as much as a pooper scooper belongs on a wrestling show.
If only the world could see them now…
The true tragedy in all this is that if you ask anyone who actually makes the monumental effort required to watch Impact these days, they’ll tell you that the product has never been better. It’s gotten solid reviews for over a year straight now. Many will tell you that the booking is at a higher quality and shows more consistency than Impact/TNA/GFW have ever had.
So at a point where the product has finally been shored up, and the politics and ignorant owners have been phased out, when they’ve finally managed to establish their own identity and just focus on being as good as they can be… they’re toiling away in obscurity.
After all that’s happened over the past decade or so, they’re basically right back to where they started. They’re just a small indy again, like they were back when they used that ridiculous weekly PPV model. Not financially mind you, they’re much better off in that department these days, but as far as perception and audience goes… yeah.
I’m reminded very much of ECW’s doomed deal with TNN. It was at the time probably the best US wrestling product going in many ways. But the television network that was meant to save them ended up ruining them.
It’s sad to see Impact fall so far.
There was genuinely a period where it felt, for the briefest of moments, like this company could compete with WWE. Now to be clear, Impact (TNA at the time) was never WWE level. But don’t get it twisted, they were huge at their peak, atleast with the buzz they were able to generate. Their highest rating was a 1.35, which honestly is only so far removed from WWE’s recent record lows. That show averaged two million viewers, that is nothing to sneeze at.
Sadly it also happened to be one of their weakest points creatively, so they weren’t gonna hold onto that audience. It seems unfair that the Hogan/Bischoff era of TNA is the one that most people watched, but that’s life.
That Impact’s best period is going so under the radar is, a little depressing. But if there’s one thing this promotion has consistently managed to do, it’s survive against all odds. Somehow, someway, they will make it through this deal and continue to hold shows in some capacity.
I’d like to think there’s light at the end of the tunnel for Impact.
In a world where TV execs are convinced that mainstream audiences have cooled on wrestling, AEW has their attention. If they can get big ratings on TNT, they may well change the perception of the business as a whole. Maybe other networks will want in on that action, should all go well. One has to think Impact would be among the first they’d look at.
Who’s to say they can’t land on a bigger network, piggybacking on this success? I’m not saying ABC or the CW will be beating down their door or anything. But surely a renewed interest in the wrestling business could help Impact find a better partner than Pursuit… I mean, could they find a worse one?
I’m rooting for it to happen. Until then, all they can really do is keep on surviving, and make sure they’re the best version of themselves. One day, they might just make their impact on the business once again.