Setting up shop at Nashville’s Skyway Studios for the majority of the year, IMPACT Wrestling was very successful in using humor and working within the constraints they were forced into. The company has been touted as a ‘free agent’ destination in years past, but 2020 truly felt like a promise delivered with signings like Deonna Purrazzo, the Good Brothers, Brian Myers and Eric Young, to name a few.
Forced to deal with storyline changes after Tessa Blanchard’s abrupt departure as well as outside issues related to Joey Ryan and Michael Elgin’s involvement in the Speaking Out movement, IMPACT pressed on and made the most of a bad year for professional wrestling. Providing great in-ring work along with fun and quirky backstage segments, IMPACT also touts the reintroduction of the Knockouts Tag Team Championship and an overall renewed focus, along with a steady television home with AXS, setting them up for what could be their biggest year yet.
Scott D’Amore spoke with WrestleZone about IMPACT Wrestling overcoming several challenges presented by COVID-19, including signing new talent as the pandemic was still uncertain, as well as finding a home for tapings.
“We’ve done a pretty good job over the last few years of building the IMPACT Wrestling brand and the goodwill and equity in it, and I think it’s becoming more and more a place where people start considering (it) a viable option for their career at various points. You mentioned some great free agents that chose to come here and be part of IMPACT Wrestling. I think it’s equally as important to look at the choices for people like Chris Bey, who while just in the infancy of his career in many ways, is somebody that a lot of people were talking about and speculating where he would go,” D’Amore said, “and I think it’s because of some of the things we’ve done over these last few years that an athlete like himself said, ‘You know what? This is where I want to spend some formative years really developing myself and growing’ and becoming the well-rounded professional that we all know that he is and he’s going to continue to grow and become even better at it.”
“So look, creative freedom and having a positive work environment, I think in any industry in entertainment is a key factor. We also provide a wonderful platform for people to go out there and perform on. I mean I think being on AXS TV is a great thing for us, obviously, you know being a network that’s owned by Anthem Sports and Entertainment gives you the security that you, in the past, I think maybe people had concerns about where the show was gonna end up. You now know where it’s gonna be and where it’s gonna continue to be. But in an ever-changing world, where so many people are cutting the cord and you’re starting to more and more of a digital world, I think IMPACT Wrestling over the years has been at the forefront of the move to the digital world,” D’Amore explained, “whether it was us being one of the first to forge a partnership with YouTube back in a time when other wrestling organizations were sending cease and desists and trying to pull down the content, we worked with YouTube in a way to provide content there. And you look at all the different things we’ve built with our digital platforms as well as our international distribution, we really are a company that is seen around the world. I think that that’s not lost on talent and when you combine the ability to earn a fair income with a tremendous creative involvement and freedom and you provide a positive work environment and you give them a chance to showcase that multi-platform to a good amount of viewers, you start putting IMPACT is advantageous to talent to want to come and be a part of.”
D’Amore went on to speak about the promotion still being a viable home for talent, and really delivering on being known as a “free agent” destination with several major signings in the summer. The mass terminations at WWE in April were unfortunate, but it still presented IMPACT Wrestling with a chance to bolster their lineup and it almost happened by fate in a strange way. D’Amore spoke about his long-standing relationship with Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows and said that was a huge signing for them, but deals with people like Deonna Purrazzo and Brian Myers and Heath allowed IMPACT to have a great and well-rounded roster.
Despite finding stability in their roster and a television home with AXS, COVID-19 still left IMPACT looking for a long-term home so they could actually tape content. After spending several years in Orlando at Universal Studios, IMPACT hit the road for live tapings, with stops in Las Vegas, Toronto and Atlanta. D’Amore admits that no one was prepared for the pandemic at all in the beginning, but agrees that there are some advantages in returning to a familiar setting and says there’s also some comfort in calling Nashville ‘home’ for the time being.
“The steady location is something we do have experience with. I mean, I’ll say this—I don’t think there’s anybody that was prepared early on 2020 when this unprecedented pandemic hit and it was such a time of being unsure and knowing what to do. What was great to us was having a great base in Nashville and having an existing relationship with a facility like we do there with Skyway Studios, where we do all of our post-production work or we’ve done lots of our different shoots there. And the fact that they had a studio that was able to accommodate us a fantastic situation. It’s a great location, especially in the early days of the pandemic when we looked at it because we looked at seven, eight, nine different cities,” D’Amore explained, “and we were monitoring where hotspots were and what different executive orders were and everything else. And part of my daily routine was waking up and checking for executive orders. One of the things that we kept coming back to with Nashville, especially early on in the pandemic era, was Nashville was a drivable location for a lot of our talent so it minimized the risk, especially early on there, people just didn’t want to get on flights and who could blame them? We were in a position where the bulk of our roster could get there with a reasonable drive and just about our entire roster could get there with a lengthy but doable drive.”
“So that was great and the fact that Skyway is a secure studio that is behind a secured and manned gate, a great safety precaution so you don’t have people wandering in. We were able to isolate our group in an area and it was just our group and that was extremely helpful and then having the relationships that we have in the Nashville area, both because of our post-production studio and because of our history of hosting events there,” D’Amore said, “it was a situation that gave us some comfort and had some advantages to us. For myself personally, being in Nashville was a bit of a comfort level because I’ve spent so much time in that city over the years and we know how to maneuver through it and it was one of the silver linings, I’ll say, in the cloud of the pandemic era. Skyway and the location there in Nashville was certainly a godsend in many ways for us.”
Best For The Business is WrestleZone’s annual celebration of the people and promotion in the wrestling business that made the “one true sport” a little better this year. This year was a completely different year that no one expected, and so much has radically changed in the past twelve months and still does each day in 2020.
COVID-19 affected everyone, and it certainly took its toll on the professional wrestling world in many different ways. All of the attention and buzz the independent scene created was gone and many major promotions elected to halt tapings altogether as a precaution, with some scrambling to find new ways to keep moving forward. Despite all of the setbacks, cancellations, and everything that went along with this year, we’re highlighting some of the names on-air and behind the scenes that helped make an unprecedented and uncertain year in the wrestling business a little better.