Impact Wrestling is a unique company, and after building a loyal fan base following the death of WCW, they became a key part of Spike TV’s programming. With some of the most athletic and enjoyable wrestlers in the world, they became a genuine contender to the WWE. Following that, they began to fall, to the point where they were a day away from collapsing on several occasions, but with Anthem Sports behind them today, their future looks very, very bright.
Like all companies in the wacky wrestling industry, they’ve had their ups and downs, and this article will look at both sides of the promotion known today as Impact Wrestling.
15 Worst: Bringing Back ECW
ECW was one of the most unique and innovative promotions in wrestling history, and today, 17 years after it closed its doors for good, the company still has a loyal, rabid fanbase. The WWE capitalized on this nostalgia with ECW One Night Stand in 2005 and 2006, but by the time that finished, it felt overused and the nostalgia wore off. Impact didn’t realize this, however, and instead of focusing on the future stars they already had, they cheaply went after this bygone nostalgia, and brought back the whole ECW crew for a one-night reunion at Hardcore Justice. There was nothing wrong with the event, but with the momentum Impact had gained and the stars they had been building around, this felt like a waste of their time and money, and made them further seem like a rip off of the WWE.
14 Best: Lethal Lockdown
After decades of professional wrestling, and the WWE creating and innovating many unique match types, fans would have been forgiven if they thought that every great wrestling match was thought of, but the up-and-coming TNA had one great match left, the Lethal Lockdown war. The match is contested inside a steel cage with teams of four, and it begins with two men in the ring, with one man being entered at a time, leaving one side with a 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 advantage until all four men on each team are inside the steel structure together. Once all eight men are in the ring, the roof lowers full of weapons, and outside of the Ultimate X match, this is the most exciting in TNA/Impact history, and played host to many of the most memorable moments ever.
13 Worst: Making Josh Mathews A Key Part Of Programming
This one is happening in the present moment, as former WWE commentator Josh Mattews has become Impact’s top announcer. Due to his overwhelming arrogance, the company has decided to make a story out of it, and it’s just not good to watch. Their chosen teams will do battle next week on Impact Wrestling, and it shouldn’t be a bad match, with Tyrus, Eli Drake, Bram and Bobby Lashley set to battle Alberto El Patron, Chris Adonis (Masters), Matt Morgan and Magnus, but the story is just silly. Mathews is a horrible announcer (not if you ask him however, he has stated on Twitter that he is “the best announcer in the wrestling world”), and that should be downplayed rather than becoming a featured storyline on their weekly program.
12 Best: The X-Division
X-Division champions in TNA history include Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles, Jerry Lynn, Low Ki, Austin Aries, Chris Sabin and Brian Kendrick, and that should tell you all you need to know about what an amazing, promotion defining division it was. We see stars like DJ Z, Andrew Everett and Trevor Lee featured today, and while that’s pretty good, the division of old is what made TNA special. From the first-ever ladder match to decide the champion to several Ultimate X matches, TNA stepped up and gave the fans the kind of cruiserweight style that was missing since the death of WCW, and the tagline “it’s not about weight limits, it’s about no limits” was the perfect definition of the company itself.
11 Worst: Ripping Off The Four Horsemen
Ripping off past stars in wrestling is nothing new, as we have seen countless reincarnations of the Legion of Doom in WWE (most recently the Ascension), but TNA is not exempt from this, as Ric Flair tried to recreate his former glory in the Four Horsemen with his time in TNA. With Flair behind them, the group included Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles, Frankie Kazarian, James Storm and more, and although these men were never bad in terms of in-ring action, it was another example of TNA trying to be someone else, and relying on the past rather than building the future. This one also asked AJ Styles to be something he wasn’t, as TNA tried to build him into the new Ric Flair, and it just wasn’t AJ, so it was for the better when this faction disbanded and let everyone go their own ways.
10 Best: Creating Their Own Homegrown Stars
It’s been said a million times, but TNA rose to prominence because they brought the best independent performers in the world, and although they mismanaged these stars early on, it was them that took them to their peak, and made them undoubtedly the second best wrestling company in the United States for quite some time. We will talk more about the terrible treatment of these stars once TNA/Impact got to those heights, but the number of stars that became well-known worldwide in the wrestling world because of TNA/Impact is quite high. Names like AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Low Ki, The Motor City Machine Guns, Austin Aries, Jerry Lynn, Amazing Red, Jay Lethal, Xavier Woods (Consequences Creed) and so many more all cut their teeth in the upstart TNA, and helped lead them to a prime time spot on Spike TV and becoming as legitimate as they did.
9 Worst: Going To The Four-Sided Ring
We’ve spoken so far about how TNA found its success through being unique and innovative, and one of those unique traits was the ring itself, as the six-sided ring offered a different look for the fans. It also may have been a lot harder and stiffer to take bumps on, but it defined the company for its first eight years. When management brought in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff (oh, we’ll get to that later), they decided to change to the more traditional four-sided ring, and while the performers in the ring must have enjoyed the softer bumping, many fans saw it as them becoming WWE-lite, rather than a unique promotion of its own. Ultimately, it was other forces that brought the downfall of Total Nonstop Action, but becoming just like every other promotion in the world was just one thing that added to the negative changes the company was going through.
8 Best: Ultimate X (Pre-2012)
Back in the day, TNA became popular because of its young stars, its superior wrestling and unique matches, and the most unique, defining match in the history of the company is a match made specifically for its stand out division, the Ultimate X match. The goal is the same as a ladder match, to retrieve something hanging above, but this time, it was a hanging "X" above the ring, and like the ladder match in WWE, it has been the backdrop for some of the most exhilarating action and biggest moments in the company's history. It was a chance to showcase the likes of AJ Styles, Chris Sabin, the Young Bucks (or Generation Me) and the Motor City Machine Guns, and the first 10-15 Ultimate X matches in TNA/Impact history were among the best in wrestling history.
7 Worst: Ultimate X (Post-2012)
We just spoke about the great heights that Ultimate X helped TNA grow by, but since 2012, the match has been way overused and oversaturated. While the matches themselves have been fine, it just shows how Impact has struggled to replace its original stars, as the performers in this match are used as nothing but spot monkeys with no story behind the matches. The storytelling and fanbase just isn’t as good today as it was during TNA’s peak, and that has contributed to the downfall of importance in the company's signature match, to the point where fans rarely care. TNA is on the verge of creating some new stars, and if they can make them unique and engaging characters, then maybe the Ultimate X can become the thrilling, exciting and vital match that it was once.
6 Best: Matt Hardy’s Broken Brilliance
The battle to decide who owns this gimmick is ongoing today, but one thing is for sure, when Impact became a bland WWE rip off, it needed something to set it apart, and that came in the wicked, crazy mind of Broken Matt Hardy. He strayed from the original Matt Hardy that we knew from the WWE, and brought into the company his wife Reby Sky, his son Maxell, Sénor Benjamin and the drone Vanguard 1, and some fans may have seen this crazy gimmick as stupid, but it has made him the most talked about performer in the world. From the Final Deletion to Delete or Decay, the story was one that has never been seen in the wrestling world, and his dedication to the gimmick is incredible, and hopefully he can win the rights so we can see this in the WWE.
5 Worst: Pushing Older Stars Over Younger Ones
This is a problem we see currently with the WWE, but as TNA grew and they recruited older stars such as Sting, Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner, it became a bigger problem than WWE has ever faced. Homegrown names like AJ Styles, Austin Aries, Matt Morgan and Samoa Joe constantly lost out on the top, main event spots that they deserve in order for the former TNA to gain some cheap nostalgic fans, and it would eventually be their downfall. Their focus on former WWE stars still continues today, but we see a wider variety of performers all throughout the card. This means Impact is learning from its mistakes, but after falling from their peak because of this, it may be too little, too late.
4 Best: Bound For Glory World Championship Series
In the past few years, wrestling has become more and more like professional MMA and the UFC, and TNA took that to a new, exciting level in 2011, where they started the Bound for Glory Championship Series, which was a series of matches contested by the 12 best performers in the company over a series of months, accumulating points and climbing the rankings, with the number one contender receiving a title shot at the annual Bound for Glory event. It began in 2011, and is still occurring today, with past winners including Bobby Roode, AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy and Ethan Carter III. All told, it is arguably the best and most innovative things the company has ever done. It will be enjoyable to see how the company continues with it from now on, as it could be done well and bring back fans to their weekly programming.
3 Worst: Putting Dixie Carter In Charge
TNA came to prominence back in the Asylum in Knoxville, Tennessee, and their success came from the bond and friendship formed by their limited roster, as they attempted to make a name for themselves and for the company at the same time. They did just that, with, exciting and innovative wrestling that set them apart from the WWE, and gave wrestlers around the world a chance following the death of WCW. That all came crashing down, though, as Dixie Carter was given control of the company, which contributed to the downfall of these young stars and it gave power to all the wrong people (we’ll get to that). Thankfully she has now been put out of power, and with Anthem Sports at the top of the company today, their future has begun to look very bright again.
2 Best: The Main Event Mafia Vs. The Front Line
This was the defining moment in the history of TNA, as it occurred just when Spike TV ratings were at their highest for the show, and it was this story that perhaps made TNA the undisputed #2 wrestling promotion in the United States, and made them feel like legitimate competition for the WWE. The Main Event Mafia were the biggest collection of World Champions in wrestling history, featuring Sting, Kurt Angle, Scott Steiner, Kevin Nash and Booker T, and they were disgusted with the way the younger generation went about their business, so it was a very believable story. Opposing them were the stars that built TNA like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, the Motor City Machine Guns, Jay Lethal and more, and while the story struggled with some boring patches here and there, it was incredibly entertaining, and for a time, made TNA much more must-see than its counterpart in Connecticut.
1 Worst: Giving Hulk Hogan and Eric Bishoff Power
We've talked about how TNA grew in prominence, and when they got to the top, Dixie Carter made a decision that many have pointed to as the official downfall of Total Nonstop Action, and that was bringing in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bishoff in a position of power to help the company grow going forward. As you would have thought if you were a rational thinking human being, it didn't work out, as all Hogan and Bishoff did was care about themselves, and bring in their friends and kids who had no business being in TNA. In other words, they forgot to shine the spotlight on TNA itself. Like you'd expect, the company has struggled to recover since their selfishness ravaged the company, and it still may be the move that leads to the ultimate demise of Impact Wrestling.