Before I pen this next column, I must say that I didn't intend to write about the subject of Impact Wrestling again until the next few weeks of their TV played out, allowing for a more accurate analysis of the direction of the product after the recent mass exodus of talent.
As I mentioned in an article last week, The Hardys, a pair that were probably the most popular act in the promotion, left the organization, a move that surprised me because I still think the situation would've benefited everyone involved had the duo resigned. Matt and Jeff would have a more flexible schedule and creative freedom than they would get under WWE contract. As I've said before, the "deletion" stuff is too outlandish for my view of pro wrestling, but that doesn't mean the success of the gimmick shouldn't be recognized. Matt Hardy undoubtedly completely reinvented himself and generated a cult following that extended far beyond TNA's sluggish ratings. Reportedly, negotiations halted because of how TNA approached the deal, and the company wanted a percentage of The Hardys' independent earnings. As I said last week, does TNA really need a piece of Matt's indy money to survive? Furthermore, what does it say about Anthem, a multi-million dollar corporation when they are trying to take money earned from outside projects from an independent contractor?
Ed Nordholm, the president of Impact, doesn't seem to realize that Anthem didn't have the leverage when they negotiated with the Hardys. The company was on the brink of bankruptcy prior to the Fight Network purchase, and "Broken" Matt was one of the only positive aspects of the TNA at the time. More importantly, with a rejuvenated characters, The Hardys have several options on the table, including Ring Of Honor, where they are the current tag team champions. So, why exactly did Nordholm expect Matt to fold to Anthem's demands?
The aspect of this situation that made it newsworthy is that Anthem threatened to sue the Hardys, claiming the corporation owns the rights to the "broken" gimmick that the team used while working there. This is where things get extremely murky, both from a legal and PR stand point. First, it should be noted that Matt and Brother Nero created the most recent version of their wrestling personas themselves, something that was acknowledged prior to their departure. Also, even if Anthem executives claim they have the rights to the "deletion" characters because those variations appeared on their TV show, Matt Hardy used the "broken" gimmick several months before Anthem bought the promotion so there's precedence of the persona being used before their purchase, which might indirectly give the Hardys the legal rights to use the characters outside of TNA, similar to how Christian was allowed to use the name "Christian Cage" during his TNA run because he performed using that name prior to his original run in WWE. Again, it's a very murky situation so who knows what resolution will be determined?
As a company that is trying to rebrand itself, Anthem made the wrong PR move here, because their sells pitch on TV is that the company should be about providing entertainment for the fans. Anthem went as far as to send a cease and desist order to pay-per-view providers that carried the ROH PPV last weekend, threatening to sue if the show featured "Broken" Matt on the broadcast. Essentially, Nordholm is putting the ROH pay-per-view deal in jeopardy, and what does Anthem gain from it? It doesn't send a positive message when Impact Wrestling tried to disrupt a smaller promotion's event. As I said previously, the WWE dominates the market in the United States and it makes sense for other promotions to have somewhat of a working agreement rather than divide a smaller piece of the pie. Ring Of Honor has a lot of great talent that many fans enjoy watching, so what benefit is there for Anthem to try to sabotage that?
In truth, this all appears to be sour grapes from Nordholm and it seems very petty. The Hardys didn't want Anthem to take a percentage of their indy money and opted to leave the promotion so management is attempting to hassle them when they work elsewhere. Keep in mind, the fans primarily support the talent, not necessarily management. Fans don't tune into Impact and say, "I hope management does a great job!" The point being, who are the fans going to support in the Hardys/Anthem dispute? Obviously, the fans are going to support the wrestlers before they side with the suits.
The bottom line is, despite the new ownership, this is basically the same pattern Impact had for years prior to the Anthem purchase. There's a talented roster that the fans want to see be successful, but management makes decisions that will make you shake your head. Again, why try to cause problems for ROH? It's not as though the threat of a lawsuit will prompt the Hardys to resign a TNA deal. Aside from negative PR, what does Anthem get from this situation?
The legal side of this will probably get extremely convoluted, but as a guess, I will say that I think the Hardys will eventually be able to continue the "broken" gimmick in some form or fashion. As for Anthem, it does nothing but bring more negativity for the company, and they don't gain much even if they "win" a legal battle. If anything, shouldn't Impact Wrestling management focus all their efforts toward the reset of a completely tarnished company? Considering the lack of brand identity and lack of substantial revenue streams, doesn't Anthem have more important business than to try to sue the Hardys?
Until next week
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