Fightful.com was able to talk to several new and old names backstage at this week's Impact Wrestling tapings. The reactions we gained were polarizing, and offered to speak to talent and employees on a condition of anonymity. Overall, most thought the new direction and regime was a necessity.
- Despite articles that stated otherwise circulating out of Thursday's taping, Alberto El Patron isn't and wasn't champion. It was a dusty finish and the title wasn't vacated, it was returned to Lashley.
- With the Hardy Brothers out of the picture, the tag titles were vacated. The Hardys offered to drop the titles, but Impact wanted a short term contract to keep them off TV elsewhere for several months. The Hardys weren't willing to abide by that.
- Fightful was told that the move to change the name of the company from "TNA Wrestling" to "Impact Wrestling" was universally praised. One employee said that Dixie Carter was the main proponent of keeping TNA as the company name because of the "history behind it."
- There was a feeling backstage that many of the names being brought to work behind the scenes found success in TNA prior to the Hogan/Bischoff regime, but there was concern that they hadn't adapted, and that providing a dusty finish out of the gate wasn't the right call.
- We're told that EC3 is highly regarded, as is Moose. With both locked in on contracts, they're likely to be featured in prominent roles.
- As reported by Pro Wrestling Sheet, Jeff Jarrett met with Spike Exec Scott Fishman. The company feels it's important to make sure they have HD programming wherever they have coverage, which isn't the case now (primarily with DirecTV). Spike is in a unique position, however, as they are rebranding next year.
- Heading into the tapings, one talent told us they were flat out unmotivated, with no passion, but were happy they were being paid on time. Another told us that this seemed to continue the trend of never knowing what face you'd see when you turned a corner backstage.
- Among the new names we spoke to, one said they were "cautiously optimistic" about the company, and that a bigger TV deal would need to happen in order to move the company forward.
- Big John Gaburick was instrumental in pushing some of the names that moved into the main event scene in recent years, but reaction to him taking a lesser role was polarizing. Those who were beneficiaries of his endorsements were less than thrilled, while another said that his hiring practices had become increasingly more stale as time went on.
- The word "reset" was used by multiple names. Anything that the new regime didn't like, they didn't waste time blowing up or writing off. This included DCC.
- At the tapings, some of the people who weren't too happy going in had changed their outlook, and put over the shorter taping schedule.
- Several enhancement talent weren't flown in. Some drove in, with another taking a two-day bus ride.
Returns and New Faces
- Not everyone brought in to the tapings are being used full-time, or will be used moving forward. I was told ODB was brought back after making a nice impression during the Deletion tapings, and because Jeff Jarrett was a fan of hers, while some of the other female talent -- Leva Bates, Santana Garrett, and Rachael Ellering -- were brought in to capitalize on their cult followings and used for the Knockouts One Night Only show.
- LAX is back, and will consist of Konnan, Homicide, Angel Ortiz, Mike Draztik & Angel Rose. No Hernandez, Shelly Martinez, Machete this time around. Hernandez caused problems for Impact in 2015, Machete is out of wrestling, and Shelly Martinez had a poor showing in TNA last year. At the Friday tapings, Konnan got in an argument with a fan that had to be split up by Impact employees.
- Garza Jr, and Laredo Kid were booked as a part of the CRASH deal.
- The Suicide character was added to give the X-Division more depth. Suicide is a familiar character that seemed like a "safe bet" to add to the division. It was portrayed by Caleb Konley (which Pro Wrestling Sheet revealed Saturday)
- Bokara, Fallah Bahh, and QT Marshall were all brought in from the Monster Factory. Impact has their eye on talent from the training center, and reached out to a trainer to get Matt Riddle's contact info.
- Bruce Prichard's return was seen as a good move, even to those who didn't necessarily work well with him in the past. Impact plans on capitalizing on the success of his podcast, which is why he was brought in as an on-screen performer.
- We're told Alberto El Patron was "a joy" to deal with backstage.
- The loss of the Hardy family and Drew Galloway in particular left a bad taste in the mouth of talent, leading them to believe that the office was being valued over in-ring talent. Neither Galloway or the Hardys were given their offers until a week prior to tapings, and the refusal to allow the Hardy's to drop the titles was much maligned.
- Jade, Mike Bennett and Maria all also left the company, and one longtime employee said Maria may have been the most underrated loss to Impact Wrestling.
- With the plethora of new names brought in, the attitude was that they redistributed the money they would have spent on departures and were able to bring in more talent for what they were spending.
- Aron Rex was off filming a movie during this weekend's tapings.
- Robbie E is in Japan.
- Grado, Jessie Godderz, Aiden O'Shea didn't appear at the tapings.
- Impact filmed a Knockouts One Night Only show during the tapings.
- Slammiversary will run on July 2.
- Impact tapes April 20-23, July 2-6, August 17-20.
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