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Wentz’s Blog: Impact Needs Fan Goodwill Even More than Intellectual Property Rights

Impact Wrestling is in the process of rebooting.  While we did not cover the show this past Thursday night, it is worth noting that it was the first of their “new era” tapings under the ownership of Anthem Sports and Entertainment.  Reading online reviews, it appears to be a show greeted with mixed opinions.

In-ring product aside, one of the most important things that needed to happen in this reboot was to earn back the fans.  If you listen closely at independent shows, ROH events, and even mildly at some WWE events, you’ll hear the fans chant “f*ck TNA” with little to no prompting when former TNA talent was involved.

The company had earned, and admittedly deserved, a lot of bad press over the years and has left a bad taste in many wrestling fans’ mouths.  But along came something that changed that perception, at least a little bit.

Broken Matt Hardy burst onto the scene.  The “Broken” gimmick got a lot of traction and became very popular across the board in pro wrestling.  Fans started taking “Delete” signs to shows, chanting “Delete!” and “Obsolete!” and the anti-TNA sentiment died down.  The gimmick seemed to have the fit and feel of what Billy Corgan talked about – a fresh new direction that could draw and inspire audiences in new ways. Total Non-stop Deletion, filmed on the Hardy compound in North Carolina, was deemed a successful venture.

It seemed like despite all of the lawsuit and ownership issues between Anthem, Dixie Carter, and Billy Corgan the company was heading in a better direction as a result of the gimmick.  They found something – and it was starting to restore interest and more importantly good will with wrestling fans.

With ownership settled and Anthem fully in control, it was the right time for a reboot.  Anthem did away with the TNA portion of the name and rebranded it as Impact Wrestling.  For some, perhaps more was required in the changing of the name, but it was a start.  Some different talent started to arrive on the scene. Things seemed hopeful.

But, as always seems to happen we got the “LOLTNA” moment.

Thursday’s show quality was reportedly poor according to some outlets.  It wasn’t the wrestling though that got fans fired up in a negative way toward Impact late this past week though.  Anthem executive Ed Nordholm stepped on a lot of wrestling fans’ toes when the company attempted to lay legal claim to the Broken Universe and the Broken Matt Hardy gimmick.  Nordholm wrote on Twitter:

In the social media world, Nordholm made it clear that while the Hardys were no longer under contract to Impact, the gimmick that caused so much buzz and press not only for Impact but the brothers was going to remain with the company.

If that didn’t do it, the word getting out that Anthem sent cease and desist demands out certainly did.  The legal pressure went so far as to cause Dish Network to reportedly cancel airing of Ring of Honor’s “15th Anniversary” pay per view on Friday night to prevent additional intellectual property problems.

Reby Hardy, Matt’s wife, melted down on Twitter and pointed out the number of sacrifices both Matt and Jeff made personally and financially for the company.  The entire Hardy family, including “Senor Benjamin” (Reby’s dad who was never under contract nor took a paycheck from TNA) tried to do right by the company.  But now, Impact and Anthem seem to have no obligation to return that same favor.

Intellectual property law is very tricky, and is sometimes unclear especially as it pertains to professional wrestling gimmicks.  The company presents it, but as it is in the case of the Broken Universe, sometimes the talent is responsible for the character.  Hardy created the gimmick, and Impact gave them the platform to present it.

What would Anthem get out of holding on to the Broken Universe?  They aren’t going to cast people into the roles of Broken Matt and Brother Nero.  Perhaps they just want to lay claim to rights that they do have and prevent companies like WWE or Ring of Honor from capitalizing on the success of the gimmick and profiting.

I won’t attempt to decipher law – that’s not my strong suit and it’s not my point here.  No matter which way this unfolds in the end legally, the court of public opinion is clearly already leaning strongly against Anthem/Impact.  Just take a stroll through Reddit.  Look at Twitter and other social media outlets.  “F*ck TNA” is clearly back in full swing.

We haven’t heard from Anthem executives on the matter to date beyond the original Nordholm tweets.  On the surface though Anthem and Impact are coming off extremely petty and vindictive in the eyes of fans who the company is trying to win back by “making Impact great again.”  This feels just like every other “LOLTNA” moment we’ve had through the years.

This is a time where Anthem needs to come off looking like the good guys.  Past management under Dixie Carter was a trainwreck, and as a result the promotion lost a lot of fans along the way.  The ownership lawsuit situation through the fall of 2016 was a mess that alienated more fans.  Now, Anthem needs to show wrestling fans that they are good people that have an interest in running a quality wrestling product worth watching.

Dutch Mantel cut a promo about giving Impact back to the fans in order to make the company great again.  Now Anthem has to back that up.  No matter what financial profit they stand to gain in the battle for the Broken Universe, nothing could be more important and desperately needed than to gain back good will with professional wrestling fans.  If not, then Dutch’s words were simply lip service and fans will again throw up their hands and walk away from the company for good.

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About Bill Wentz (1543 Articles)
Ring-Rap.com's Senior Columnist, writing with the site since 2009 and a lifelong wrestling fan dating all the way back to the early Wrestlemania years. As a strongly opinionated fan, you can get my thoughts regularly on Ring Rap Audio and Around the Ring on Thursdays, as well as in "Wentz's Blog" in print. Look for my live show reports as well for MMA, WWE, ROH, and more. Outside of wrestling, I have a strong obsession with trucks, winning awards statewide with a truck dubbed the "Brahma Bull Edition." Interact with me on Twitter @Bill_SoonerFan or by email at bwentz@ring-rap.com

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