In the late mid-to-late 1990s during the heyday of the Monday Night Wars, WCW and WWF would regularly take shots at one another, WCW Monday Night Nitro in particular capitalising on their live episodes to attack the recorded episodes of WWF Monday Night Raw.
A famous example of the rivals using each other to generate interest was when Rick Rude appeared on a live episode of WCW Nitro one hour after having already featured on a recorded episode of WWF Raw, an attempt to get audiences to gravitate from Raw to Nitro to see whether it was true. WWF Raw would often retaliate by either having terrible skits dedicated to old men portraying parodies of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, or having D-Generation X driving a jeep to try and get WCW wrestlers to face them, while WCW Nitro would give away results, infamously backfiring when they revealed that Mick Foley was going to win the WWF Championship, with millions instantly turning over to WWF Raw.
Whilst these attacks would gradually dissipate from late ’99 onwards, at least on WWF’s side, they would return to some degree when Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff joined TNA in January 2010 in an attempt to reignite the Monday Night Wars by having TNA Impact! move to Monday nights. During the second Monday Night Wars, TNA adopted the same strategy by regularly taking shots, including Kazarian making references to Nexus, or Mr Anderson alluding to his previous career as Mr Kennedy and being sabotaged by Triple H. WWE in comparison only ever made one reference to TNA, a cutting remark in 2018 from Raw Commissioner and TNA Hall of Famer Kurt Angle to recently fired Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, telling them he heard “TNA is hiring”, a sign of how far TNA had fallen at the time that they were no longer considered an enemy or even a risk to mention. Neither side mentioned the other for several years, until the beginning of June this year.
At the end of a recent episode of Impact, a promo was shown that featured an unknown individual pouring himself a drink and sitting in front of a television, watching a news broadcaster with a huge “You’re Fired” sign behind him. The broadcaster makes mention of how over twenty superstars were released from their contracts during the global pandemic, to the shock of the professional wrestling world and how nobody knows where they’ll end up, but they will be watching. The promo then cuts to clips of Eric Young holding his newly-won TNA Championship, then a shot of a Bulgarian flag on a pole, then Doc Gallows walking towards the ring before blurring to a clip of Karl Anderson of Bullet Club. They then show quicker glimpses of Rockstar Spud, Brian Myers celebrating outside a six-sided TNA ring, Mike Kanellis hugging his wife Maria and finally a shot of Ethan Carter III looking over his shoulder to the ring, all while a hooded figure sits on the sofa watching, before cutting to Impact Slammiversary 2020, on Saturday July 18th.
Unsurprisingly, this thirty second clip quickly lit a fire under the wrestling world, fans wanting to know what was going to happen and which wrestlers were going to show up at Slammiversary. Some of the clever subliminal tactics included the sign “You’re Fired”, an obvious reference to WWE owner Vince McMahon, the use of the word “Superstars” a reminder of McMahon’s preference for that word over “wrestlers”, and the little quip from the news broadcaster wishing them all the best in their “future endeavours”, a saying commonly used by WWE when letting someone go from the company.
By using these subtle references to their competitors, but making sure the focus is purely on the possibility of who could be joining, Impact have made an excellent move, generating interest and mystery without stooping to any attacks or slander, thereby making sure the conversation won’t be about “did you hear what Impact said about WWE?”. Instead, the conversation is about wanting to see Slammiversary.
This clip would be one of the more original promos in many years, more akin to a movie trailer or a huge Super Bowl preview, using the mystery to entice the audience in to see which recently fired WWE wrestler could appear. There are currently six weeks before the PPV, and the next six weeks will be full of anticipation, theories, fantasy booking of possible feuds, but importantly, the best form of publicity: word of mouth. The clip on YouTube as of 6th June has only been up three days, and already has over 52,000 views as of this writing, which will only increase as more fans learn about the anticipation, especially after EC3 released a clip late Friday June 5th, replying to the video. The clip features EC3 watching the original promo, before removing his hoodie and throwing a glass against the wall in anger, before staring directly at the camera. EC3, or, as he’s referring to himself currently on Twitter, Essential Character III, captioned the video “New World. My Rules. Nostalgia is dead. Click Bait. #ControlYourNarrative #FreeEC3”.
While this suggests an attempt from EC3 to recreate himself, this is still intelligent marketing to capitalise on the interest generated from the promo. With the uncertainty of who was in the original promo watching the clip, there are six weeks to build up more anticipation towards who exactly might debut on July 18th. Who will debut at Slammiversary will generate peak interest, but Impact Wrestling has a history of surprising fans, whether Hogan being joined on his debut by multiple unexpected legends, or even last year’s Impact Wrestling: Rebellion PPV, where Michael Elgin walked out after Brian Cage’s victory to challenge for the Impact World Championship.
There’s every possibility that the actual debutant will be someone not hinted at. Maybe an angry Curtis Axel feeling that, for too long, he has been overlooked for his talent, just like in the promo piece, and he uses the opportunity to attack someone to make a statement for himself. Or if they want a large, dominating figure, it could turn out to be an Erick Rowan figure, similar to the pushing of Moose and Michael Elgin this year? Rowan may even be used in a similar bodyguard role that he did for Daniel Bryan, possibly for an Ace Austin figure challenging for the Impact World Championship after recently becoming Number One Contender?
If it does turn out to be one of the figures hinted at in the promo, with Eric Young and EC3 both being former TNA World Champions, this makes them favourites to return to expand the main event scene, where they could offer variety to the current scene. Meanwhile, Brian Myers and Mike Kanellis (his wife Maria gave birth in February, which makes her likely to be on maternity leave) could also be favourites to join as a possible team, even if the tag team division in Impact is currently quite strong, but the inclusion of Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows especially would always be a benefit to any company. However, the biggest interest could be the use of the Bulgarian flag, referring to the possible surprise debut of Rusev, who could instantly enter the main event scene to battle Tessa Blanchard, Moose, Sami Callihan and Michael Elgin.
On the other hand, that could just be a red herring for fans who are overanalysing the promo, but then again, that just demonstrates how successful the clip was. Maybe even the focus shouldn’t be on the people in the promo, but the one watching it? Kurt Angle recently turned down a new contract to be Matt Riddle’s manager after his firing, and he originally debuted in Impact Wrestling in a darkened hoodie, similar to the guy in the video. Maybe the biggest return for the company is the one we haven’t even thought of yet, Angle ready to lead his own group into battle, returning to the place he spent twelve years of his career. The next six weeks will most likely be full of possibilities, hints, and reveals, but one thing is now for sure: I, for one, cannot wait for Slammiversary.
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