Last week, Impact Wrestling were very excited to announce a new TV deal in the UK and Ireland, that will now allow the company to reach more homes and offer more content, like monthly special events or PPV, to the British fans. After North America, the UK and Ireland are the countries that have supported Impact Wrestling the most and helped them stay on top, even when the company was not at the top of his game. A few years ago, the British Boot Camp, a show custom-made for UK TV, and the UK tours were reuniting thousands of fans around TNA talents.
When I talked to Impact Wrestling Executive Vice-President Scott D’Amore, nearly three years ago, when he and co-Executive Vice-President Don Callis just took the helm of the company, under the Presidency of Ed Nordholm, he already insisted on the fact the UK was an important market to Impact Wrestling, and they were looking for partners and wrestlers there to work with. It took a little more time than they were expected, but it is finally happening.
This Tuesday, Scott D’Amore took part in a media call to talk about this new partnership, but also about expanding the roster with British and Irish talents, and the evolution of the company over the last three years and for the years to come.
On this UK deal
“UK fans have been a huge part of Impact Wrestling over the years. I don’t think it’s overstating it to say that without the rabid and loyal support of UK fans, I’m not sure that Impact Wrestling would still be here today. It’s been a great market. It’s been a great fan base. Everybody gets to see if you’ve got a television, then you can see I think in over 20 million homes in the UK. You can see Impact Wrestling, you can see it for free, and you can see it less than 24 hours after it happens all here in the States. I’m so excited about that. That’s on Free Sports and then also, the monthly specials and all the pay-per-views, you can see that at Premier Sports, which is a great paid channel. I think it has the Premier League and the NHL. We’re just super excited to get over there and even increase our engagement with that UK fan base.
“We’re super excited about this relationship. It’s been in the works for a while. These things don’t happen overnight, but we’re excited to have it here on the eve of our debut on Free Sports. Certainly, the goal with Free Sports and Premier Sports is to build a long-lasting relationship and to grow that relationship with some of the other content that we put out. We’re certainly open and looking to discuss with Free Sports and Premier Sports the opportunity to put some other programming on there because we know the UK audience is loyal. We know they love the wrestling, and we want to go out there and help fill that itch that they have. We’re hoping it’s a great relationship, confident it’s going to be a great relationship and looking to, hopefully, grow it with other programs and things. Maybe one day we could return to the days of British programming like British boot camp.
“I can’t understate the value of this deal as it puts us out there. It makes us available to so many, but it puts us out in front of so many UK fans. It makes us so discoverable and watchable in a great market like that. I think, in many ways, it’s similar to last year when we made our move to AXS TV, obviously a bit of a different relationship between AXS and ourselves than it is with Free Sports and Premier Sports but, at the end of the day, what it is very similar about it is it’s putting us back with great broadcast partners that respect and appreciate wrestling fans and will work with us to get the product out. We definitely, as I alluded to earlier, want to be in the UK market. Certainly, if we get the opportunity to broadcast from the UK. It would be great for our US fans around the world to be able to see. The fans are loud, they’re rowdy, they’re engaged, and they’re as passionate as any fans. We’re certainly hoping to use this as a base to expand our UK operations.”
On the history behind this deal
“It’s been something that, right away in 2018, when Ed Nordholm, Don Callis, and myself really took the reins here, getting re-engaged and reinvigorated in a meaningful way in the UK was an important part of our plan. Unfortunately, we had to kind of focus on our home base for a while and get organized. That’s happened, and then, obviously, the whole world has turned upside-down recently. This deal with Free Sports and with Premier Sports really has us excited because we want the same thing that UK wrestling fans want, we want to entertain them, we want to be there with them every week. I’m going to hear it a ton of times, as I do in my Twitter on a weekly basis, when are you coming back to the UK? The situation of 2020 and the pandemic have kind of pushed some of those plans back, but silver lining now that we’re on Free Sports. We’re really going to be able to out there and run some great events when the world allows us to. I would like to get that done. We were hoping 2020, obviously, but with everything that has happened, 2021. We’d like on the latter part of 2021 to be over there in front of the UK fans.
“I’ll never forget the first time when we went to the UK on our first tour. I think for a lot of us, it was our first real opportunity. We weren’t the Beatles, but we were rock stars. When we got over to the UK, for that first tour, and that meant a lot to us, and that’s why the UK has always held a special place.”
On expanding the roster with UK talents
“That’s one of the things we were looking at earlier this year, as we look to the future. We wanted to add some UK talent back to the roster. We hit a couple of hiccups with everything going on this year, but it’s still something that remains a priority. There’s so much good talent over there. I spent my summer in 1996 doing the holiday camps, the Butlins camps over there. Going over there with World Wrestling All-Stars, and then with this company, it’s always been a great experience. When I was over there in the mid-90s, respectfully, the UK scene was not as strong as it had been previously and certainly not as strong as it’s grown now. As I look out and follow the UK scene, there’s just so much great talent out there. I have to give a shout out to one of my old students, Eddie Dennis, who I try to follow pretty closely as he continues to chase his dream. There’s the perfect story, he was a school teacher, had a great job, had a great life, but something was missing. He went out there, chased his dream, and he’s doing great. Maybe one of these days, we’ll steal him and get him to appear in an Impact ring.”
On being at the helm of the company
“Coming back, honestly, I was shocked to see that Impact had kind of lost its way a little bit, and I was excited to be tasked and challenged with being part of the team to help it find its way. With Ed Nordholm and Don Callis, and then a great group, we just rolled up their sleeves, and it didn’t matter everybody took on three, four, five jobs to try to get things going and to make things work. As Josh Mathews says, people here wear a lot of hats and, without that type of hard work from everybody, I don’t think we’d have got it done. I’m very proud of where we are. I’m very proud of how hard we came. In February 2018, when myself and Don and Ed were over in the UK on a media junket, we kept stressing to people that this is not going to be easy, this is not going to be overnight, this is long-term planning, this is a quick fix, this is building sustainable success. I think two and a half years in, we’ve shown that we’re well on the way to doing that. I think we put out a great product week after week, we put out great pay-per-views and Victory Road showed what our supercharged new Impact Plus specials can be like. It’s an exciting time, and I’m proud of everybody that’s here with Impact Wrestling and those that aren’t anymore but contributed. I’m also really proud to be associated with this group and what we’ve done.”
On how trending and having more viewership may have changed his vision on Impact Wrestling’s future
“It’s exciting right now. I mean, it truly is exciting. All the things that have happened from, to look at where we’ve gone from just earlier this year, to now and see where we are as we are on the road to Bound For Glory, coming off a Victory Road event that I was very proud of and I hope everybody enjoyed. On social media and everything else, I think you can see the buzz has been very good on Impact Wrestling, and I think that in great part is due to our talent, old and new, that have gone out there and just performed above and beyond. When you look at it on all aspects, our team, our talents top-notch, our production team, such a small group that goes out there and gets so much done. I think between providing great professional wrestling in-ring, between providing great storytelling, and then trying to bring you different things like the recent Wrestle House, some people loved it, some people didn’t but taking advantage of these turbulent times to try different things and explore and experiment. I think as we head into Bound For Glory, we’re certainly hitting on all cylinders, and it’s extremely exciting to be part of Impact Wrestling at this time. On October 24, Bound For Glory, we know our roster is going to go out there, just lay it all on the line and do fantastic. I’m pretty darn confident that we’re going to have a hell of a show for you, fans.”
On a no-fan Bound For Glory
“Everybody’s tackling things in this unprecedented time differently, and I applaud all wrestling organizations and people in general as we try to find some type of normality. I know other people have had fans there. I mean I’ve seen it, and we monitor everything. We’ve kind of looked at our own situation, and we just don’t feel comfortable with it and even with the talent. We’re not a place that carries 150 talents and can just place talents out there. Our talents are at the show or, if you’re not seeing them on camera, they’re probably either backstage, stretching, getting ready for this stuff, they’re shooting content backstage that might be for Impact Plus, Twitter or YouTube or something else. Our talents have very busy days and the idea of slowing them down to put them out there in the crowd. It doesn’t seem fair to them and, as much as possible, we try to follow safe practices and limiting the number of people that are in close contact.
“For now, it’s the status quo, but we monitor it on a daily basis. I have got to really tip my hat to our roster. I don’t know how our roster and really wrestlers all over the industry are going out there and doing what they do. We’re all attention-starved, and without any instant gratification of that crowd response, I really just tip my hat and comment on all of our talents for going out there and busting their butts. The men and women go out there and put on unbelievable performances night after night, week after week, and they do it because they know that, even though there’s nobody in that studio, there are millions of fans that are getting to see this content and the show around the world, and that’s what spurs them on. Until we feel like we’re in a situation to allow people back into the arena, our talent will do what they do best, which is go out there and perform no matter what the circumstances.”
On EC3 and James Storm status
“Look, historically, wrestling has clamped down very tight on talent, and sometimes having a very close relationship is great, and sometimes it’s required, and often it’s something that both the company and the talent want. EC3 is a different talent. He’s a different guy. If you’ve followed him, and certainly if you’ve ever had a conversation with him off-camera, you’ll know that he walks to the beat of his own drum. He’s been a guy when he got unchained, shall we say, from where he was previously, it was really important to him to go out there and get to experience as much different stuff as he could, and that’s fine by us. He’s got a long history here. We’ve got a lot of respect for him – even though it looks like sometimes he doesn’t respect our company’s history the way he has treated poor Moose’s championship belt – but he’s a great talent, he’s an engaging and entertaining performer and, just like we support other wrestlers’ outside projects, we are happy to have him go expand his wings and try different things.
“As long as it works for him, and it works for us, we will let him in the door and, hell, as seen with Heath, even when we don’t let them in the door, the talent makes it in any way – so we are excited to have him, and he’s a unique guy, so he’s going to be around when he feels like being around, he may disappear when he feels like disappearing – or when somebody gives him a good thumping, and he’s got to walk away with his tail between his legs – but certainly it’s been great and exciting having him around with us.
“Never say never, I’ve had a few run-ins with the cowboy. I recall him and Wildcat handcuffing me to the Ultimate-X structure once. I’ve been on the wrong end of way too many superkicks, but I also respect James and have a long history with him. In the wacky world of pro wrestling, you never know what’s going to happen. You never know who’s going to show up where. Certainly, we’ve had an open-door policy over the years. You just have to tune in and see if long necks and rednecks play in the Impact Zone sometime soon.”
On his experience and pride as a trainer
“As far as for people I’ve trained, there’s a lot over the years. Some of them of that I’m most proud of are obviously Rhino, Bobby Roode, Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley, but there’s also so many other that come through the system that most people have never heard of, but being part of their personal journey and being part of letting them live out their dream. Not everybody wants to be a big television wrestler because doing this does, in many ways, consume your whole life. There are so many “weekend warriors,” as we used to call them, that came in and put the work in just as hard to achieve their dreams and achieve their goals. As a coach and sometimes a mentor, I find that if I do my job best, I’m not getting them to do what I want or what I think is best. I’m helping facilitate them doing what they want to do.
“A guy who I didn’t train, but is currently somebody that blows my mind on a nightly basis, I’ve been in the ring with him some, and he actually trained with some other friends of mine and students of mine, but I was just down watching Trey Miguel teach a class at his training centre last week and, to see somebody that I met as a teenager, that was just barely more than a child, to see him grow into such a great young athlete, to see him teaching the next generation, that is a pretty cool thing. Jim Ross always talked about the coaching tree, it’s a football term, when I see not just the guys I train, but when I see the people that have been trained and mentored by Alex Shelley, and so many of the other ones. It’s great to see the people that I got to have a role in developing seeing them develop the next generation, and I’m pretty damn proud of that.”
IMPACT Wrestling is airing on Tuesday at 8/7c on AXS TV and Twitch in the USA. The show is available to view in the UK from 2 am Wednesdays on the IMPACT Plus app and airs on Free Sports at 10 PM every Wednesday and 5STAR on Fridays in the late evening (please check local listings weekly).
All pics, videos and screencaps courtesy of Impact Wrestling, AXS TV and Basil Mahmud