wrestling / Columns

Csonka: The Birth of Impact Wrestling

July 24, 2018 | Posted by Larry Csonka
Impact Slammiversary 2018 Sold Out

On Sunday night, Impact Wrestling held their 2018 Slammiversary PPV, and not only was it an overall great show, but I’d comfortably put it as a top 10 show of 2018 so far. It was a high-quality show, in front of an enthusiastic crowd, with a roster busting their asses to deliver. It was the right show at the right time as they continue to rebuild the company after 16-years of ups and a lot of downs. Under Callis & D’Amore, Impact Wrestling, slowly but surely, feels like they are getting things together. They are taking their time, they are putting parts in place, and due to that, the TV shows are better and connected better than before, I wouldn’t say that they have put together a “big hot streak,” but things are better, and therefore the overall product is better. They are running more live events, they are airing some free content on Twitch, and the One Night Only events aren’t complete trash like in the past. Add in that they are taking a smarter path with live events, partnering with other established indies in the area, and are running smaller venues and selling those out, these are all positive signs. It will take time to earn goodwill back, but I am happy for the company.

The company is not trying to be a dollar store WWE. They aren’t snatching up every dead end free agent like in the past just because they worked for WWE or were a name in the attribute era. The product feels different; it feels like it has a direction. I am happy for the company. For some background, because not everyone knows my background as a fan, you really need to understand my history with TNA/Impact Wrestling. It’s story time with Uncle Larry.

Growing up, I was a huge NWA fan. Hulk Hogan didn’t bring me to wrestling, he didn’t make me a fan, and I didn’t give two shits about WWF/E. Dusty Rhodes, the Road Warriors, The Rock and Rolls & Midnights, and the Four Horsemen were my champions and teams of choice. I of cause ended up watching WWF/E as my fandom grew but always pulled for WCW, even when it circled the drain. I mixed in AWA, GFW, Mid-South, ECW, and tape traded as my fandom grew. But when WCW died, the NWA & Jim Crockett promotions died for me again. My fandom was incomplete, WWE wasn’t doing it for me, and I was feeling lost.

In 2002, NWA: Total Nonstop Action was launched, the NWA-TNA. The name and fact that it was associated with the National Wrestling Alliance lured me in, and I was willing to pay the weekly PPV cost instead of pay for WWE PPVs. The early days of TNA weren’t perfect; there were dicks, CHEEX, the Harris brothers, midgets jacking off in trash cans. Mrs. TNA Bruce, and possibly worst of all, Jeff Jarrett pretending he was the most important man in wrestling. There was a lot of bad to wade through, but there was also a lot of good…

For all of that bad, there good things like Jerry Lynn, looking to lead a new generation of young highfliers that idolized his series of matches with the Lightning Kid. There was a little badass dude named Low Ki that looked like he could kill anyone. There was a little spot monkey named AJ Styles, who through the years, grew into an amazing and complete performer and became the face of the company. Samoa Joe arrived and became a badass killer, and there were tons of other fun stuff like AMW, XXX, Beer Money, father Jim Mitchell, Team Canada, and Abyss as a great big man before he became broken down with injuries.

While management would allow people to take advantage of them repeatedly, basically giving out free vacations, TNA allowed Sting to return to wrestling (and he did a lot for their international expansion), TNA gave Kurt Angle a second life, and my favorite, TNA gave Christian a run as a main eventer. They all did a lot for the company, and while TNA over-relied on Sting & Angle at times, they were great investments.

But it seemed every time the company looked to be getting ahead, taking that next big step, something would happen and they’d take three steps back. And when you’ve been there since day one as a fan, it’s hard to live through. Something you have to understand about the early days of TNA is that it wasn’t a moneymaker for websites, because if it wasn’t WWE, people didn’t click on it. For years, all of the TNA coverage came out of my pocket as a fan. It took years of columns, years of reviews, and years of building my name alongside the company until it became a viable moneymaker here. In many ways, while far from perfect, TNA saved my fandom in the early 2000s, and introduced me to a lot of guys I would become a fan of and follow for years, and due to that, I supported them financially.

But with the ups and the downs, things going right, then Dixie, Jarrett, Russo, Bischoff or Hogan would come in to fuck things up, and it became hard to keep that love. It was always there, I didn’t give up, but I won’t lie. There was a time I wanted it to be burnt to the ground, to salt the earth, and for something new to possibly start. It just felt as if too much damage was done, no matter how hard the talent worked, they had a management team in place that could ruin a fucking wet dream.

Truth be told, after years of Dixie, Jeff, Russo, Hogan, Bischoff and whatever other asshole was in charge, I was so close to giving up, you have no clue. I was done with TNA/GFW/Impact Wrestling. Over the years I have adapted my fandom, always adding new things, and was ready to drop TNA. But I just couldn’t do it; I still had this emotional attachment to the company that saved me as a fan.

And then slowly but slowly, TNA mainstays started getting their due, started getting work in major companies, and more importantly, started being valued for their skills and being paid well. This made me so happy for them, it’s just not about “making it to WWE,” but for me, seeing AJ Styles work in the Tokyo Dome, work WrestleMania, be a long-running WWE champion, and win the US Title in Madison Square Garden were all landmark moments for me as a fan.

After years of rumors of shutting down, buyouts and near closures, TNA is finally dead, but in this case, it is a cause for celebration.

TNA is dead, and something worthwhile is being built on its ashes, and while it’s a slow process, it’s getting there. Impact Wrestling is slowly getting its act together; they actually feel like they have a vision. No longer is it the latest “BIG ANNOUNCEMENT” that will save the company and never does. Impact Wrestling is working hard to fight off the past stigma of “TNA,” and it’s not an easy job. There is a lot to overcome, a lot of fans scorned and disappointed, and it will take time. Callis and D’Amore seem to have a plan, and it is slowly but surely taking shape.

The 2018 Slammiversary PPV felt like one of those old TNA shows that I used to love. It had potential, the talent stepped up and delivered, and management took a back seat and let them succeed after properly setting them up. Slammiversary was a show the company needed, a real home run of an event, and a show that was a joy to watch. I won’t claim that all is well right away and that everything is fixed and perfect, they still have a long way to go, but for the first time in a long time, the ship is pointed in the right direction.

The company, once known for exciting young talent, great wrestling, great tag teams, the knockouts, and more had turned into a company known for their bumble fuck management skills, false promises, and general disappointment. They have a lot to overcome, years of fans being disappointed, and driven away. You don’t earn that goodwill back overnight, but 2018 has overall been good for the company.

I’ve been with the company since day one, I’ve been through all of the good and bad, and I almost gave up. After Slammiversary 2018, I’m glad I didn’t. I truly hope that this is the start of the company rising from the ashes like a phoenix, I hope that this is the real start of something special, because, after all of these years, I just want the company to succeed, for the wrestlers, for the business, and for the fans that have stuck it out and supported them for years.

If you’ve been disappointed by the company in the past, I get it, but it’s a new day and they deserve a look and another chance; it’s far from the old TNA…

Slammiversary didn’t feel like a company trying to be WWE-lite.

Slammiversary didn’t feel like a company trying to resurrect the corpse of WCW.

Slammiversary made me think of the old TNA, the one that I fell in love with, and that saved my fandom. And they shouldn’t forget those good parts and that history; they should just make sure that they learn from it so that they aren’t doomed to repeat it.

But more importantly, I think that Impact Wrestling was finally born at Slammiversary 2018, and that has me excited as a fan…