The list of international promotions who have had working relationships with Impact, in its various incarnations, is a lengthy one. I’m not going to lie and say that they’ve always made excellent use of these relationships, and the talent that has moved through their roster because of them, but, for a variety of reasons, they have always excited me.
Right now, Global Force Wrestling has working relationships with Pro Wrestling NOAH, AAA, and The Crash. Perhaps not too surprisingly they have already begun to lean on these relationships to bolster their roster and provide fresh, distinct match ups to their viewing audience. Most prominently featured, thus far, and becoming semi-regulars in the process, are the team of Garza Jr. and Laredo Kid, courtesy of The Crash. For many weeks now this pair have featured in the Tag Team landscape and have garnered for themselves a fair bit of love from those paying attention to the product.
In more recent weeks, Impact Wrestling’s audience have been treated to the spectacle of Drago and Taiji Ishimori being entered into the latest installment of the Super X Cup, a four-company interpromotional tag team title match at Slammiversary, and the sheer bewildering absurdity of a Naomichi Marufuji versus Moose match for the Impact Grand Championship. Impact Wrestling talent have also found themselves abroad, working in NOAH and The Crash themselves this year.
While many will cling to the well-documented story of Okada, as a young lion on excursion, having his time in TNA be a completely missed opportunity – and as hindsight would have it, woah yeah that’s a missed opportunity – few will give them credit for their successes. At present they have repeatedly used their inter-promotional guests to great effect, booking them to look strong in victory and defeat, making certain to set up their losses in ways that do not tarnish their value as special attractions for the brand. In doing this well enough they have elevated both the X and Tag Team divisions, injecting meaningful depth into a roster rife with instability, both looming and present. This presentation is respectful to their partner promotions and beneficial to making their own talent look competitive.
While the tag division, post-Slammiversary, has been on a simmer with LAX’s involvement with El Patron, the X division is at a full boil with the Super X Cup, the budding feud between Sonjay Dutt and Trevor Lee, and the ascendancy of Matt Sydal all going on at the same time. That’s a lot of TV time dedicated to the division. The fresh match ups and high quality performances brought to Impact Wrestling by their international guests are a strong component in making that time worth watching. Not only do they book them into matches up and down the card, they spend a decent amount of energy introducing their audience to who these guests are, getting them over and giving them depth enough so that the audience feels it is safe to invest in them. Realistically I do not know how long the current selection of talent will be in play, but it doesn’t feel like they’re just going to be here for a short time and have no meaning to the greater whole. That feeling, in the moment, is possibly more valuable than whether or not they actually succeed at it because it has generated intrigue and buzz enough to get people talking.
This formula reminds me of when, in times past, TNA had successfully utilized their international talent. I remember a young Hiroshi Tanahashi, then the IWGP U-30 champion, having matches with AJ Styles that excited me. Back then, much like the recent match between Moose and Marufuji, run ins marred the match itself but helped to keep the question of who would have won without it in the mix. Furthermore, Impact’s marketing of Wrestle Kingdom III as Global Impact gave fans a window into a world that only tape traders and hardcore fans had had access to. This is arguably not something that was remarkably beneficial to them back then. Nevertheless it did draw me further towards Puroresu which I am thankful for. However with the increased power of social media and the increasingly tightly-knit nature of the online fandom, I have seen people talking about and watching Impact who otherwise wouldn’t have bothered to pay it any mind at all. Most notably English speaking fans of their foreign partners, such as NOAH, who were abuzz about the announcements of the partnerships and the action that has unfurled from these relationships in those domains.
With the return of the Super X Cup, one must wonder if these partnerships could be leaned on to populate the roster of a potentially rebooted team-based World X Cup. The previously annual World X Cup events were always a highlight of TNA’s calendar year for someone like me. It put a lot of new talent in front of my eyes and introduced me to new companies, new styles of wrestling, new fan favorites. Indeed, I can say that I likely would have walked down my path into Puroresu fandom a lot later in life if Then-TNA hadn’t put so much of it in front of my eyes. If I had never discovered that Global Impact WAS Wrestle Kingdom III then I don’t know where I’d be as a wrestling fan now.
Right now, Global Force (a.k.a. Impact Wrestling f.k.a. Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling) sits at the crux of a fascinating international inter-promotional alliance. In the current landscape of Pro-Wrestling you have a handful of alliances building and consolidating their power bases. The WWE has its own, with Evolve, IPW, and Progress being willing underlings and talent farms for them. Then there is the second tier, featuring Ring of Honor, NJPW, CMLL, and Rev Pro. Then you have the third tier, consisting of AAA, NOAH, GFW, and The Crash (and, in an indirect way, Lucha Underground). This third alliance is seen by many as the black sheep of the industry. GFW has a well documented, turbulent history full of highs and lows, with rumors of the company’s imminent shut down circling about every few months (or so it seemed). NOAH, once a shining star in the constellation Puroresu, now a brown dwarf barely visible in the night sky, were undone by untimely deaths and financial troubles which led them into an unfavorable relationship with NJPW. AAA is plagued by rampant rumbling rumors and twitter beefs about their backstage politicking and talent disputes. Only The Crash escapes the negativity-storm unscathed, and that is realistically because it’s very young. Humorously, The Crash spawned out of a splinter group of talent who left AAA because of their dissatisfaction with management.
Brought together, however, their leadership stood united on the ramp at Slammiversary, and their talent have worked matches together on Impact. 2017 has been a year of rebirth for GFW Impact and NOAH, seeing both companies turning out good shows and rededicating themselves what made them work in the first place. During their dark times the two companies didn’t feel like themselves, they felt like a bad version of another place. Can they lean on each other, and their turbulent Mexican partners, to revitalize, reinvigorate, reinvent, and rebrand themselves as themselves? Or will the immense potential presented by this pool of exchangeable talent go to waste? If I were to base my verdict on the past several months of Impact television, I’d say we’re in store for some amazing wrestling over the next few years… but the specter of the past looms large, and the only way to know for sure is to tune in each and every week to find out!
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