An Interview with Matt Jackson about AEW & OWE

NC: Tell me the story of what led to AEW having a working agreement with OWE: What attracted you to the promotion? Was it a unanimous decision to go in this direction, or were there people who had doubts about the idea? How long has this been in the works? Was there a specific moment that made you go “We have to do this!”?   

MJ: Immediately when I saw a couple of GIFs of the OWE guys on Twitter, I was attracted. So, I looked up more clips and did research on them. I quickly learned my old friend CIMA, who I’d made friends with years ago in Japan, was affiliated with them. That made sense right away, because the clips I watched had a real Dragon Gate feel to it. Yet still, it looked and felt so original. Like a fight scene from an old Kung fu movie.  I knew I’d one day work with these guys right away. I’m attracted to anything out of the ordinary.

 

NC: When you made the announcement of AEW’s partnership with OWE you referred to CIMA’s #Stronghearts faction as “Good Hearts.” How many people have teased you over that flub?

MJ: Hah! Not many, thankfully. I documented the rough travel experience we had, and how I was coming right off a plane from 24 hours of travel with small children, so I think people cut me some slack. Right when I got to the back after I spoke, I looked at PAC whom I knew caught the mistake as well, and we both shared a quick laugh.

 

NC: Speaking of #Stronghearts, you specifically called out the faction in association with OWE. Does this mean fans should expect to see them exclusively from the OWE roster, or should fans expect to see members of their roster not associated with #Stronghearts already?

MJ: Right off the bat, #StrongHearts will be represented strongly, however, that won’t be the end of it. We expect to use several of the talents coming out of OWE. In my perfect world, once we’re running more regularly, I’d love to house several of the wrestlers, use them for a few months as part of an excursion, and send them back home with a little experience under their belts. Then, send more fresh wrestlers from OWE here to the states to do the same.

 

NC: As a follow up to that question, how familiar are you with OWE’s homegrown Chinese roster? Is there anyone you’d want to work with personally?

MJ: I’m fairly new to the Chinese roster, trying to do my homework. I am familiar with the talented Japanese wrestlers that are part of the roster. The guys that have stuck out are Zhao Yilong, Zhao Junjie, and Liu Xinxi. My favorite to watch is probably Zhao Yilong, because of the fun things he incorporates with his character. I can see him getting over huge with the American audience. When I watch some of these unbelievable highspots the OWE crew are doing, immediately I’m thinking about how fun it would be to have a tag team match against any two of them. Excited for the possibilities.

 

NC: It’s no secret that OWE have had difficulties getting international work VISAs for their Chinese talent, with only a handful of their roster who had been advertised to work abroad having actually fulfilled their international bookings. To further complicate matters, the United States and China are presently in the midst of what some call a Trade War. Has AEW worked through these hurdles, or does AEW have a plan in place to do so? Can fans expect to see Chinese OWE roster members at Double or Nothing?

MJ: We are currently working on securing VISAS as we speak. We’ve got a great legal team behind us, with lots of wonderful resources. We are fully expecting to have OWE represented at Double Or Nothing!

 

NC: With an alliance like this in place so early in both companies life spans, AEW and OWE have a strong chance of leaving lasting impressions on each other. How much of a role do you see OWE’s talent pool playing in these foundational first few years of running AEW?

MJ: I think it’s vital to have something completely fresh and unseen by most eyes be one of the major highlights of our shows. We need to be different aesthetically, and OWE is just that. OWE will grab the audience’s attention and deliver something most fans have never seen. I plan to have OWE be one of the first things on our show, because we’ve only got one first time impression, and we’ve got to make it a big one.

 

NC: Is it likely that fans will see AEW talent working cards in China on OWE produced events in the near future? Is China a market you want AEW to expand into, long-term?

MJ: That is definitely part of the plan in the foreseeable future. I’ve already had several members of our roster inquire about doing just that. The plan is to definitely expand into China, as it’s one of the few untapped markets with tons of potential.

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#DiscoveringWrestling #028 – Can Anthem #MakeImpactGreat Again? (Part 1)

I will admit to having been a wandering fan of NWA-TNA-IMPACT-GFW. I fell headlong into my fandom when they were on Spike, a channel I could finally get in my Canadian cable TV packages, which i had to beg my Mum to add to our package. During this time something resonated with me in Then-TNA more than WWE. The X Division was brilliant and somehow they managed to reinvent and rebirth characters whom the E had failed me on. I fell out of regularly watching them shortly after Hulk Hogan made the decision to take away the six-sided ring and try to convince me that his presence was beneficial to the company. Nevertheless, I have occasionally popped back in from time to time, trying to get back into the product that had provided me with so much joy.

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This Logo has gone through a lot of revisions in recent months.

Once Anthem purchased Impact Wrestling (and now GFW too, Double J somehow keeps on winning despite all odds) some interesting details and news started coming to light. Piquing my interest the most was the announcement that they were heading to India to film a series of episodes. One of my favourite things in Pro-Wrestling is seeing how different cultures engage with and reinterpret the art. Never before had a North American company broadcast shows filmed with an Indian audience and I knew I’d have to follow along and see what the crowd was like. If nothing else about the shows was good, at least I’d have a window into the Indian audience.

I tuned in a few weeks ahead of the India episodes, so that I wouldn’t be blind to the storylines heading into these special episodes. I found myself pleasantly surprised by how focused the shows were on in-ring action, and was greeted with the returns of Low-Ki and Sonjay Dutt. A clever decision geared towards helping reintroduce returning fans to the product’s new age with some familiar faces. I’m not going to break matches down here, or dissect every single nuance of every single story that Impact has had going on over the last five or six weeks. That would miss the point entirely. I’d like to talk about a selection of details that really highlight the deep potential their programming has displayed over the last while. This week I’m going to talk about what pulled me back in to the fold: their excursion to India.

Beyond making history, and beating the E to the punch, by being the first North American promotion to broadcast shows filmed in India, Impact’s time in Bollywood gave the viewer some notable ups, with very few downs. The crowd in attendance for these tapings was hot for the product. They were there to have a good time and reacted at all the appropriate times in the appropriate ways. I’m certain that India is capable of producing smarks but they didn’t make their presence felt the way they so often do in North American audiences. This may be because having full-fledged promotions running in India is a relatively recent phenomenon, with things like The Great Khali’s CWE and WrestleSquare being relatively fresh in the cultural zeitgeist. It may also be because the Impact brand lineage was one of the first to try and push into the Indian market and establish themselves a foothold, even going so far as to create the short-lived Indian based Ring Ka King promotion for that market. Maybe they just wanted to be excited for the spectacle of a live event. Whatever the reason, the audience was so into the show that they elevated the product.

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Moose got a good reaction from the audience, who quickly picked up on the arm pump mannerism and reacted vigorously for all performers.

Another distinct upside to the tapings in India was the booking of Sonjay Dutt’s storyline. The creative team built up a story that worked to engage and captivate both the North American and Indian audience at the same time. For the North American fans the story hinged upon Dutt’s inability to capture the X Division title in his lengthy tenure with the company, and was back-dropped with his return “home” to India where he finally captured the championship that had eluded him for so long. For the Indian fans he was an Indian underdog, coming to the ring with an eye patch over his wounded eye, competing for a championship on home turf. He came out of these episodes as a babyface to both audiences. The booking rewarded both the longtime Impact viewer and the hometown fans equally. More importantly, while they did play with Indian tropes throughout the shows, at no point did they pander towards xenophobia. This is the right way to go about making an Indian the central figure to an arc to attract the Indian audience. Compare this to the criticism often leveled at the E: Jinder Mahal is an Indian for an American audiences to hate. Sonjay Dutt is an Indian for an Indian and American audience to love. He’s a bigger face now than he ever was before. All of that without even mentioning how good the matches he had with Low-Ki were, easily the best work I have personally seen from Dutt. I’ll talk more about the in-ring product another time.

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To make the shows in India extra special, GFW Impact Wrestling even modified their match graphics and logo to reflect the colours of India’s flag.

Logistically I know that heading back there may not be easy or immediately cost effective but I do believe it would be to the benefit of the brand to make their presence in India a part of their annual schedule. It made the product feel extra special with the change in colours for the logos, and the different settings for the outdoors vignettes, and the simple but effective and respectful booking. If Anthem truly wants a “Global Force” in the business, they can do so if they can corner a solid share of the Indian market. Not only would it be financially beneficial to gain revenue from the huge Indian market, the difference in presentation to their North American audience would really make Impact feel special. If Anthem can capitalize on this market, and this special feeling to these shows, they just might #MakeImpactGreat again!

Come back next week where I’ll continue looking at the direction of GFW Impact Wrestling.

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