wrestling / Columns

Tessa Blanchard: A Chance Impact Has To Take

January 14, 2020 | Posted by Steve Cook
Tessa Blanchard Impact Hard to Kill

I’ve never bought into the old expression “any publicity is good publicity”. I beg the people that tell me this phrase like its some kind of universal truth to look back in their history books, or, hell, open up a newspaper. Or just turn on the local news. If your TV market is like mine, it’s on 24 hours a day now. People tell me that appearing on TV or in print is always a good thing, but I will tell you that there are plenty of people appearing on television and in newspapers every day that would prefer not to be appearing.

I will say that if you change around the phrase a little bit, you find a slice of truth.

“Zero publicity is bad publicity.” – Steve Cook

Exhibit A: Impact Wrestling.

We all know Impact Wrestling as The Thing That Will Not Die. It really should have on several occasions, but the stubbornness of Jeff Jarrett, Dixie Carter, Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Billy Corgan, Don Callis, Scott D’Amore, nameless network executives & the talent involved over the years has managed to keep the company going. From TNA, to Impact Wrestling, to Global Force Wrestling for a minute & back to TNA…the thing doesn’t know when to say uncle. You have to give them an A for effort.

The only real problem (well, ok, there’s more real problems, but this is the only real problem I’m talking about during this particular minute) is that the only thing we ever say about Impact Wrestling when we hear they’re doing something is “They’re still alive?”. We don’t talk about their wrestlers or their storylines or financials or any of the usual crap we talk about with WWE, AEW & other promotions we give a lot of coverage to around here. With Impact, the only thing that comes to our minds is “They’re still alive?”.

I’m guilty as charged of this offense. The handful of times I’ve written about Impact Wrestling over the past couple of years were On Another Website, and they had to do with one of two things:

1. The Broken Universe
2. Scarlett Bordeaux

Why did I write about these things? They stood out! Matt Hardy’s adventures in the Broken Universe with Brother Nero, Senor Benjamin & Vanguard One were like nothing we’ve seen in pro wrestling before or since. When this stuff appeared on Impact, you really had to take notice.

I would attempt to explain what’s going on in the above video, but I feel like it plays better without explanation. As for Scarlett, not much of what she did in Impact required explanation.

Let’s face it: Impact has to do big things to grab our attention. They know this. Aside from Larry Csonka, whose coverage of Impact is the only thing harder to kill than Impact itself, the only person I can think of to provide 411 with regular Impact coverage was our good friend Dino Zee. Solid dude. It was nice to have somebody around here that would write about Impact so the rest of us wouldn’t have to. Unfortunate that he got run off just like everybody else other than Larry did.

Wrestling columnists write about what interests them the most. At least, I do. For me, Impact Wrestling is pretty far down the pecking order. They need to do something pretty big for me to take notice. Something like Matt Hardy’s Broken Universe, or the Smoke Show Scarlett Bordeaux, or something similarly unique.

They had an idea.

It was a pretty interesting one. CHIKARA was the largest promotion to previously do it. Lucha Underground did it too, but that was more of a TV show than a wrestling fed. The WWF teased it back in the late 1990s, but nobody ever really took that seriously. The idea? Have a man lose the World Heavyweight Championship to a woman.

(Please don’t tell me whether you think Impact’s championship deserves to be a World Heavyweight Championship or not. I really don’t care either way. They could call it the Galactical Super Heavyweight Championship for all the debate of “Is it a World Title or not?” really matters in the grand scheme of things.)

The point is, Sami Callihan went into the Hard To Kill event as Impact’s main champion. The top guy. The…draw? Well, if he says so. He had some previous interactions with Tessa Blachard that placed Tessa into the championship picture, including well-received main events at 2019’s Slammiversary & Unbreakable shows. After some victories over the likes of Brian Cage & some of Sami’s friends, Tessa earned a shot at Sami’s championship.

Sounds pretty good on paper, right? A female World Champion is the kind of thing that could make casual wrestling fans take notice. Maybe it draws in that coveted female audience. It certainly should make people talk.

It did.

Tessa Blanchard’s name was all over social media this past weekend. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in relation to anything good. Tessa decided to make this tweet:

Which led to many of her female co-workers in the wrestling business throwing her under the bus. There are way too many to include here in the column, but you’ve probably seen most of them by now anyway. Highlights included an accusation that Tessa slapped a black woman in the face & called her a racial slur, which was corroborated by several others including the slappee. There were also references to her behavior during her appearance in WWE’s first Mae Young Classic & other fun moments where Tessa didn’t exactly rub people the right way. Tessa, for her part, denied any & all allegations.

Wrestling Twitter Experts were quick to tell everybody that they knew about these things all along and none of it was actually news to those who were as intelligent as Wrestling Twitter Experts. Some of them did come as surprises to those of us that actually follow non-wrestling people on Twitter, or at least don’t spend every waking moment researching the Japanese women’s wrestling scene. Once 411 makes that my beat, I’ll be all over it like white on ri-y’know maybe that’s not the best analogy to go with here. LET’S MOVE ON SHALL WE?

Impact was in a bit of a pickle, to say the least. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Tessa winning on Sunday was pretty much a given. If you’d seen any of the build you knew what was coming. The problem: would the social media backlash result in a poor reaction live, or a poor reaction online, or in less people paying attention in general? Also: was one weekend of negative publicity worth junking months of planning?

I feel like if Impact was on a bigger stage, they may have gone a different route. Eventually, AEW will build somebody to take their championship off of Chris Jericho. Imagine if that person wound up being the center of online controversy just days before their match with Jericho. I’d be shocked if AEW didn’t just keep the title on Jericho. They’re not in a spot where they can afford too much bad publicity, especially considering the percentage of their fans that likely spend all day online.

WWE would probably go with their original plans. As we’ve learned over the years, they really don’t have to worry about negative publicity because their base audience that won’t leave them for anything is big enough to get by on. Jeez, the backlash to their Saudi Arabia shows dwarfed this whole business, and they’ve held firm on that issue.

Impact’s in an interesting spot. They’re not within spitting distance of #2 at the moment. As we’ve said, it’s very difficult for them to get any sort of attention. They came up with this whole Tessa title push thing as a way to get attention, and it kind of blew up in their face at the last second. It certainly wasn’t ideal.

They pressed on, though.

Impact’s plan was to make Tessa their first female World Heavyweight Champion, and they did it. Some people are obviously going to be mad. Here’s why I think Impact made the right decision, and let make one thing perfectly clear before I tell you why they made the right decision:

I am not defending Tessa Blanchard’s behavior, if in fact she did what multiple people have accused her of. What she’s been accused of is disgusting. Hopefully she grows & matures as a person, and avoids creating these types of situations in the future. If she spends her reign as champion bullying people backstage or using racial slurs, Impact should job her out faster than the Kofi Kingston vs. Brock Lesnar match.

With that said, here’s why they made the right decision:

In the span of time between me deciding to write this column about Tessa and finishing it, I’ve already seen Triple H, Gabe Sapolsky & Joey Ryan get cancelled by Twitter for various offenses. I’m sure I missed some names, and I’m sure others will be added to the list by the time these words appear on this website. We’ve got short memories, and we get offended. I’m not diminishing any of these offenses, I’m just saying there are too many offenses to keep track of most of the time.

Not only that, but you have to keep in mind that Tessa isn’t the only person on Impact’s roster with some problematic baggage. She wasn’t the only person in the ring during that Hard to Kill main event who’s been accused of some things on the Internet. Impact was damned if they did, and damned if they didn’t.

Impact Wrestling will count on us to forget about Tessa’s troubles over the days & weeks to come. They will also hope that we don’t forget about them as a promotion at the same time. It’s risky business, but for Impact, they really don’t have a choice.