Since TMZ broke the story of Impact Wrestling’s cancellation by Spike TV, rumours have been swirling around what led to the severing of their business relationship. According to our sources, the reality of the situation lies somewhere in the middle of the speculation.
The idea that this is something that’s suddenly happened is most definitely false. Spike TV has known for months that their re-branding to a less guy-centric, more all-inclusive type of network wouldn’t necessarily be a great home for a Southern-rooted wrestling program steeped in cartoon violence and misogyny. While one can say that a show like Bar Rescue isn’t the most sophisticated new kid on the block, it’s of a much higher worth to a female demographic. If you’ve ever watched Bar Rescue, amidst the yelling about ice bin cleanliness and interpersonal relationships between bar staff, you’ll find a very pro-female vein running through it. The spin-off, Hungry Investors, features a strong female POC co-host, something that unfortunately still seems revolutionary on television in 2014. Seeds of this new direction have been planted, and Spike is ready to move forward.
The elephant on a pole in the room is, of course, Vince Russo. While he may not have been what spurred the initial decision, counting him out would be silly. Russo has long since been a “respected” name in the industry, but a tertiary knowledge of what took place during his tenure at WCW or TNA could tell you that. His burned bridges have a greater extension than one might think. For anyone who has followed Impact each week, the change in tone has been quite clear. Even on a show taped well in advance, the shift from Bruce Pritchard’s influence to Russo’s, with a brief but glorious (for Impact) period in between is easy to track. Anyone familiar with the work of Russo could sense what I’ve lovingly referred to as “Russo stink” in the Best and Worst column. The problem here is not that of a bald-faced lie, but rather a lie of omission. The non-disclosure of Russo’s involvement, nor the extent to which he was involved started not with Spike TV, but with Japanese partners Wrestle-1. While it is known that Spike TV President Kevin Kay is less than fond of Russo (to say the least), Russo is not an immediately cancelable offense. The idea that TNA could lie to one business partner, however, is extremely damaging. If they could deceive one business partner, what’s to stop them from being dishonest with another?
Of course, none of it was supposed to come out this way. These “negotiations” of which President Dixie Carter tweeted about are a false front. Spike had already informed TNA of the impending cancellation, giving them ample time to explore their options so as not to appear as a lame duck show. In fact, none of this was supposed to come out when it did. Whether the leak was on Spike’s end or TNA’s has yet to be determined, but now both are in the awkward position of being outed before a transition to a new broadcast partner could be made.
The most shocking thing about the rumours and so-called dirt sheet speculation is how accurate a lot of it is. While Spike is not looking to replace Impact with ROH TV, and the cancelation wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to Russo accidentally (if not hilariously) outing his involvement by accidentally CC’ing the wrong person in an email, a lot of what my sources have confirmed is already out there. There’s going to be a lot of rumour-mongering from uninformed parties, and wrestlers piping up and parroting false circumstances, like Impact leaving due to a lack of promotion. At the end of the day, the situation is pretty cut and dry.
Going forward, those in charge of Impact need to take a long, hard look at the situation they’ve put themselves into. I’ve been told by sources on the TNA side of things that there is a plan in place, but what that plan is hasn’t been made clear. What is clear, however, is that if they hope to be successful in the future, they need to look inwards. If they walk away from this thinking that it’s simply a case of not fitting in with a network re-branding, and they are blameless victims of an unfortunate corporate shift, they’re more foolish than their reputation that precedes them.