SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
TNA. GFW. Impact Wrestling. It doesn’t matter what the name of the company is. It doesn’t matter who is wielding creative control. It doesn’t matter what former WWE talent is headlining the card. The fact is, the promotion simply can’t effectively build to a single pay-per-view. Some things never change.
This isn’t just any pay-per-view for the promotion, either. You know, one of their three yearly offerings these days. Bound for Glory is Impact’s version of WrestleMania. At least that’s how they’ve attempted to position it since its inception. While the company used to book bigger arenas and settle major rivalries at the event, troubling financial issues and never-ending creative team overhauls have hindered it from ever feeling like a major deal the past few offerings. This year, things were supposed to be different.
On Dec. 5, 2017, Don Callis was announced as the Executive Vice President of Impact. He joined Scott D’Amore to head up the creative team. Together, they’ve had close to a year to build a compelling, can’t-miss show that would prove they were the team to finally turn this troubled ship around. They’ve failed in nearly every aspect.
Bound for Glory is a damning indictment of all their work. The build over the past couple months has been an unseemly mess. Their only hope of picking up some buys is getting fans to remember that Slammiversary turned out great despite the poor booking. Is that the best they can do?
So where have things gone wrong for this year’s show? Well, where do you begin?
Bound for Glory 2017 featured Eli Drake in the main event. This year, he doesn’t have a match on booked on the card. He’s been toiling away week after week in a mid-card comedy fodder open challenge. Among his accomplishments thus far are squashing the talented Trevor Lee (who was X-Division Champ at last year’s show) and beating up a cartoonish explorer who had never appeared on Impact before. Then, Drake straight up walked out on a La Parka match. La Parka. You know, the guy 50-plus-year-old guy who isn’t a regular roster member.
Here is the message that Callis and D’Amore willingly chose to send to viewers: Former world champ is unable to compete with a man in skeleton costume. Re-signing with the promotion may have not been Drake’s best decision of 2018.
Looking at the Knockouts Title match, we have Tessa Blanchard and Taya Valkyrie. After a rough start, creative has finally gotten around to protecting Blanchard by awarding her with the championship. The trouble is that while her opponent is talented, she was most recently cast as a heel on television. Now she’s a face. Why? No explanation. Just accept it. Besides that, Valkyrie didn’t make the Mexico tapings, leaving a single poorly shot selfie video to kick off and carry much of the feud.
OVE vs. Pentagon Jr., Fenix and Brian Cage is impressive only in the fact that it is a complete waste of all six men. Cage is a man who has been positioned as a modern day Goldberg. No one can pin or make him submit (although he his susceptible to a countout loss). During his eight months in the promotion, he’s laid waste to Bobby Lashley, Matt Sydal, Kongo Kong, among others. Unfortunately, no showdown match was lined up for him at Bound for Glory. Just to put him on the show, he was inserted into a feud that he didn’t need to be in. The way Cage has been featured on TV, we’re lead to believe he could take on all of OVE by himself. He doesn’t need the help of two other guys. More troubling is that he’s in possession of the X Division Title, meaning the once-loved belt won’t be defended on the show.
Cage’s teammate, former World Champ Pentagon Jr., has lost much of his mystique over the past few months. While Lucha Underground has developed compelling storylines involving Pentagon over the past few seasons, Impact has struggled to capture what makes him special. Any buzz picked up from him joining the promotion and winning the World Title is long gone. Considering red hot acts who have never appeared in WWE don’t show up in Impact often, this is certainly a major disappointment.
Sami Callihan has done wonders of turning around the fortunes of the Crist brothers and has been one of the MVPs of the promotion in 2018. He seemed destined for marquee match at the biggest show of the year. With Chris Jericho’s cruise being advertised on a weekly basis on Impact, at one point a Callihan vs. Jericho match didn’t feel out of the realm of possibility. That ship has sailed. What we’re left with is a match that could main event an episode of Impact, and few fans would be complaining that something big was given away.
Rich Swann vs. Matt Sydal would have made a lot of sense to book for Bound for Glory. This is because Impact spent weeks setting up the rivalry. Instead, the two had their match before the pay-per-view, with Chandler Park making his long awaited return. Scratch that. He’s Ethan Page now. Forget that first character ever happened. Now Swann has to find a partner to face a cartoonish guru gimmick and a guy who threatened to stick his foot up his “brown eye.” Whoever signed up to be Swann’s partner might want to rethink that decision.
Eddie Edwards vs. Moose will square off in a rivalry of the ridiculous. As talented as Edwards is in the ring, his acting ability couldn’t land him a role in the lowliest of B-horror films. Character-wise, he’s all over the place, making it impossible to get emotionally invested in his storyline marriage troubles. It wasn’t long ago where he literally tried to murder Sami Callihan in the woods. All it took was the magical power of a Tommy Dreamer endorsement to turn things around for him. Now he’s a lovable goofball who has been betrayed by his one-time good friend Moose. But there’s no heat in the feud. Cheesy acting, absurd scenarios, and poorly-produced videos have carried the load.
On the brighter side of things is the LAX-OG’z rivalry. Eddie Kingston and Konnan have delivered perhaps the best performances in all of wrestling the past few months. Their vignettes have been violent, gritty, and personal. Give or take a dying child. Realism was gleefully thrown out the window a few weeks ago, as we somehow saw into Richie’s eyes as he seemed ready to pass on from this world. At no point were the announcers confused or surprised how we witnessed footage from inside a kid’s head. Just don’t think about it. The creative team took a hot feud and turned it into a laughably bad one in short order. While some of the damage has been repaired due to the mic skills of the key players involved, it’s hard to believe this angle hasn’t jumped the shark.
Then there’s Joe Hendry, Grado, and Katarina. Three names who inexplicably appear on every single episode of Impact. Mere days before Bound for Glory, they aren’t in an advertised match. While this comedy storyline has also struggled to build any real heat, the company continues to pour valuable TV time into their antics when their focus would be better served elsewhere. But hey, we did get Murder Clown out of it. That has to count for something, right?
The main event is a mixed bag which, compared to nearly every other match, makes it a success. On the Oct. 4 episode of Impact, Johnny Impact may have delivered the babyface promo of his career. Austin Aries was even better. They may even end up delivering a great match. But Impact as the centerpiece babyface of a wrestling promotion in 2018 doesn’t seem to be firing up the fanbase.
To get at the heart of why the build to Bound for Glory show has been so inexplicably bad, look no further than the questionable booking practices and cornball humor of the men running creative. Ten days before the show, D’Amore and Callis found plenty of time to goof off. We saw the lousy La Parka match, Petey Williams sticking his head between Scarlett Bordeaux’s legs, Callis do his water squirting bit again with Bordeaux, Allie once again teasing turning into a demon (or something), and Gamma Singh snapping and setting up a match for the un-interesting Desi Hit Squad members. None of it had anything to do with the upcoming event. None of it convinced fans to shell out their money to watch.
This is a pay-per-view that is the culmination of the past ten months. But it’s not a success story. It’s not a celebration. It’s an overpriced, poorly-planned night of wrestling that is hard to recommend to even the most diehard long-time TNA loyalists. If the show succeeds, it will once again be in spite of creative.
Bound for Glory has largely not been built upon realistic rivalries. We’ve seen angles featuring a dying child, attempted kidnapping, a woman locked in a casket, a man teleporting out of a ring into the backstage and somehow being tied up in a matter of seconds, an open challenge that has gone nowhere, free hats that cost $9.99, a talent scouting that has gone nowhere, an X Division title not being defended, two six man hardcore matches and the long lost cousin of Abyss threatening a relatively recent Cruiserweight Champion.
And to think, it only costs four times the price of a monthly subscription to the WWE Network to watch.
In an ever-changing wrestling landscape of easy access to content and an overabundance of pay-per-views and live events, Impact’s $40 price tag for their biggest show of the year is a stretch, no matter how well booked would have been. The problem is, it’s been booked so terribly that the price point is perhaps the only truly funny thing the show has delivered in weeks.
NOW CHECK OUT THIS ARTICLE: IMPACT HITS & MISSES 10/4: Eli Drake vs. La Parka, The Smoke Show, clowns, kidnapping, and more