Impact Wrestling Teleconference Report: Don Callis and Scott D’Amore discuss their plans for Impact in 2018 and beyond

BY MIKE MCMAHON, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR


Impact Wrestling held a media teleconference on Thursday morning with Don Callis and Scott D’Amore, who took over day-to-day operations of Impact Wrestling on Jan. 1 and ran their first television taping on Wednesday night at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla. PWTorch was on the call, and below is a transcript of some of the key topics discussed.

Opening comments …

D’Amore: We had a good first day. Probably would have some hiccups starting something fresh, but it was a good first day. … It was good to see everyone coming together and a whole group of people working together to move forward in one direction.

Callis: I’m pretty excited. I just got off the road from Japan and came straight here. It just feels good to be around the boys and watch the excitement.

On announcing Austin Aries won the Global Title …

D’Amore: Part of that was, coming in here we’re looking to tackle things in different ways. A lot of times things are reported by everyone else except us, so it’s something new we’re trying and we’ll monitor it and see how it works, see what the response is. It will be a feeling-out process. We’ll see what we think is working best and we’ll move in that direction.

On the new policy towards IPs and the Hardy situation …

D’Amore: We try to make decisions as a group, between Ed, Don and myself. We made a pretty drastic change on how we handle IPs. We want to empower the wrestlers to know they have ownership of that IP. We sat down as a group and it’s important that all wrestlers know they have that right and that respect available to them, including Matt Hardy who is a wonderful talent and has a great history here. It’s great to be able to put that to bed and move forward and have a great relationship with Matt Hardy and his family, and we wish him the best in his Great War in wherever that may take him.

On the state of the relationship between Impact and New Japan …

Callis: We, as a new organization and new management, our attitude is that the days of a territorial perspective is an old-school thinking. We’re moving away from those institutionalized old-school paradigms. What’s going on in the business, more than ever, is that power is in the hands of the wrestlers. There is social media and online t-shirt stores. Guys can promote themselves more than they ever could. We’re very open to working with anyone, including New Japan, Ring of Honor, and any other promotion. None of us are Vince McMahon, and the people who try to be Vince McMahon are going to fail. There is enough business for everyone. People talk about New Japan because of Kenny Omega and I’m there, and I get it, but when I’m there, I am there as the color commentator. They’re paying me to be the best color man in the industry and that’s what I do.

On future taping locations …

D’Amore: We’re evaluating a lot of things, we’re here on Day 11 in the role. We do think it’s important to get out in front of wrestling fans in the U.S. and around the world. There is a very good chance you’ll see us filming in Canada and other U.S. locations. That doesn’t mean we won’t return to Universal Studios, because we have a great relationship, but I do think we’ll get out there for live events and tapings, especially now with Twitch and filming content for them.

On the Impact deal with Twitch …

D’Amore: Twitch is getting into the wrestling business. They’re doing things with Tommy Dreamer and House of Hardcore. You’ll be seeing an Impact channel there, where we will have library content and original programming. You’ll get to see behind the fourth wall and see the wrestlers in a non-studio setting. You’ll get a peek into their lives. That’s something fans are interested in. Twitch is a great company, it’s out there on the cutting edge, and we’ll be providing round-the-clock content. We’ll also have some events filmed just for Twitch, including live events.

On the move to a four-sided ring …

Callis: When Scott and I first talked about it, we’re both former wrestlers and we shared the view that the best thing to do was to create an environment where talent can flourish. All the feedback I’ve gotten is that talent prefers the four-sided ring. It’s easier to bump in and it’s easier to do spots in. The only argument I heard about six sides was, ‘it’s different,’ and it would also be different to have a ring with no ropes, and no one would do that. The Twitter feedback that I got, moving the ring back to four side was something I got a lot.

On the inclusion of other promotions on Impact …

D’Amore: Those segments can add another dimension to the product. We’re always looking at different ways to tackle things differently. Promotions you see on there have content or will have content on the GWN, but that’s not a prerequisite.

On rumored contracts coming up for wrestlers like Lashley and others …

D’Amore: There has to be a combination of established talent and new talent. That’s not unique to this company or this industry. We value, greatly, our legacy talent but sometimes you work together and sometimes you part ways and then oftentimes you come back and work together again. We look to continue to work with talent that we can have a situation where they’re comfortable if it’s in everyone’s best interest to continue to work together. When time comes that it’s time to part ways, then we’ll work with that talent on how to move on to the next stage of their career and we can move on and introduce a new talent.

On Callis if he’ll be on-air …

Callis: Given that most of the feedback is that most fans don’t want to see us on television, I have no plans on being in front of the camera. Some people speculated I might bring back the ECW “network” gimmick, but the authority figure in wrestling is overdone, and I thought it was overdone in 2003. I will not be doing that. We’re busy enough dealing with everything else. I also found, and I think Scott would echo it, as small as they were, when I promoted my own shows and I was talent and booking, something suffers.

On what from the past we might not see anymore, now that Callis and D’Amore are in control …

D’Amore: What you won’t see is decisions made for anything other than what we feel is best for the company. You won’t see our talent treated as assets instead of human beings. You won’t see a hierarchy that isn’t open to input. I have to honestly put an asterisk there, because at my time in TNA, I saw a lot of that stuff happening. You won’t see an authority figure behind the camera or in the ring who will run things unilaterally.

On the addition of Lockdown to the PPV lineup …

D’Amore: Pay-per-view will be an area of business we’ll continue to look at and grow, and it’s currently under evaluation. We’re excited to get out there in April with another pay-per-view, live, in front of a great crowd and we’ll have more announcements about that shortly.

The PPV system we have currently is under review, top to bottom. We’ll be coming out of these tapings and then go into corporate meetings where that path will be set. The One Night Only path is an interesting one. We might have some different ways to expand and have events in different parts of the country and the world. One Night Only can play a valuable role in the repositioning for the company.

On Border City Wrestling used as developmental …

D’Amore: In this day and age, you don’t look at one territory. Everyone is working in so many places. Border City Wrestling, whether I’m involved with Impact or not, our purpose is to give young talent the chance to come in and work in a TV environment. If someone there can contribute, we’ll look at having them here. That goes for anywhere. If there is a talent out there that can contribute, we’ll explore that. … It’s important for us to get out there and get talent from all different areas of the world. The days of territorializing things are behind us.

On the rumor of Rey Mysterio joining Impact …

Callis: I’ve read a lot of rumors about different talents, both Rey and Chris Jericho. But I don’t put a lot of stock in rumors. I think people look at who is available and fans look at who they would like to see, which I totally get. But I don’t put a ton of stock into rumors.

On prospects of a U.K. tour …

Callis: It’s something I would like to do because I know fans there are very passionate and I never got to go there as an active wrestler.

D’Amore: The U.K. is a huge market for this company historically and the wrestling business. We’re excited and really stoked to be working with Spike UK and part of that is getting our product out there on TV and the other part is engaging fans in live events. In 2018 and beyond, getting out there and getting in front of those fans is something we want to do. If any organization in the world wants to be a player, you need to get in front of the U.K. because it’s such a hot market.

On the partnership with AAA and Pro Wrestling NOAH …

D’Amore: We have an open-door policy that we want to work with as many partners as possible. Our partners in 2017 have been good to us. Ishimori is our X Division Champion and we have Fantasma here, who is a great Lucha star. We’re focused on bringing in great talent from around the world. If there is a talent out there, or a promotion out there we can work with, we’re not going to get bogged down by the initials. We want to work with people to bring people the best possible product.

On what might change in regards to the look of Impact …

D’Amore: If you look at things, we think the four-sided ring is a chance. The ropes are a different color. There’s not a lot of green in our logos, so there have been some chances in our aesthetics. We’ll continue to evolve that. I hope people take my comments tongue-in-cheek, but we need to keep looking for different looks and feels. The show has looked very similar for a lot of years. We need to look for different things location wise and we want ways to make the show look different and unique. The belts, obviously, is something everyone cares greatly about. Part of it is, again, Day 11, and we need to get in here. There will be new title belts for April. The next event after what we have here, there will be new championship belts to reflect the changes in the company.

On the return of Austin Aries …

D’Amore: Austin is a tremendous talent with a lot of history here, so bringing him back in the fold is a great opportunity for us. He’s at a place in his career where he’s hungry and he has a mindset that aligns with a lot of what we’re trying to do here, which is create a positive environment and give a chance for talents to collaborate. It’s been a wonderful process and he’s been a true class act and gentleman and professional. With Austin there’s always the idea of an unpredictability with him, and that never hurt a product either.

On what the obstacles are in building good will …

Callis: In the NFL, you hire a new coach and GM. You have a short honeymoon period and you have to make the most of that. You can’t tell the fans what you’re going to do, you have to show them. That goes from how you treat talent to how you treat fans and how you engage. I left here in 2004 and wasn’t following the product. My goal in coming in, and talking with Scott, was that we don’t care what happened before in a negative sense. Let’s focus on delivering the type of product fans want to see, and let’s make this place a destination for talent and fans. I’m less concerned with that happened before. We’re focused on moving forward.

D’Amore: There has been a lot of times here, in this company, where the approach was to shake things up. The proven approach in any type of business is that there are a lot of little things that need to be done to lead to better times. It won’t be one decision or one signing, it won’t be one move that changes the world of Impact Wrestling. It has to be a group of people getting up every morning, working hard to grow this company, and that involves a lot of small decisions. Like Don said, that boils down to trust. We can say it all we want, but as we sit here, people will be skeptical. So we need to go out and consistently put out a product that fans feel they can get invested in. We can’t pull the rug out from under them. If we do those things, we’ll look back at the end of 2018 and we’ll be in a different position than we are now. At the end of 2019, it will be even better. We’re not looking to change the world overnight, we’re looking to do it right and to do it once.

On ideas to enhance promotion and marketing …

Callis: Part of my background was marketing and branding, but the best bet for any company to succeed in marketing in the entertainment world is to have the product. A lot of people spend a lot of money on advertising, but if the product isn’t good you’re throwing money away. We have to show people, and I think we started it last night with Austin Aries, but we need to tell people the Impact story. We have to set the table and create a buzz. The best media is earned media, not bought media. We want fans talking about what a hot product Impact is.

On who they identify as being core talent …

Callis: I’ve talked about my booking influences, including All Japan in the 90s, and they had a core group of six guys on top. Who those wrestlers are is a process that will unfold. That group is not a set group. We’d be foolish to have our six talents and then if a seventh or eighth get over, not use them. We need to let some of it happen organically. We need to have the ability to switch those talents in and out as necessary.

On speculation that Moose got hurt at the TV tapings …

Callis: Moose tweaked his knee, he’s being evaluated today, but we think he’s going to be OK.

On what they want to see happen in 2018 …

Callis: We want to have a buzz about the product, because if you have a buzz, you’re reaching your fans. If we’re doing that, then a lot of the other pieces fall into place. If you have the buzz you’ll have goodwill, you’ll have revenue.

On the prospects of another video game …

D’Amore: We would love to explore that. As we get out there and into 2018, I’m sure it will be something we’ll try to tackle. Video games are a huge part of culture. You look at the explosion of Twitch, which started in the gaming universe. We’d be foolish to not want one, so if the opportunity presents itself and it makes sense, it would be foolish to not go down that road.

Final thoughts …

Callis: We want to be accessible to the media wherever we can. We recognize you guys have an important job to do and we want to get the word out. Scott and I really want to make this place somewhere that’s a destination for fans and talent.

D’Amore: This is the second teleconference I’ve done, and we appreciate how professional everyone is on these calls. We’re happy to have communication. We’re excited. Day 1 in the studio, Day 11 in the driver’s seat, so we look forward to 2018 and beyond. Stay with us, because everyone loves a redemption story and Impact is on its path to establishing a foundation and moving on to being a viable company.

Mike McMahon covers Impact Wrestling for PWTorch and also hosts the weekly Thursday night PWTorch Livecast with Andrew Soucek at 10 p.m. ET, as soon as Impact Wrestling goes off the air in the United States on Pop TV. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMcMahonPW or email him torchmcmahon@gmail.com

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