There has been a lot of discussion recently about IMPACT Wrestling's role in the landscape of professional wrestling. Where are they headed? What do they need to focus on? To be able to answer this question, you need to have a pretty solid understanding of the professional wrestling landscape in the United States. I will happily help you with this. Look to my trusty little graphic to the left (which was created by me and will likely be seen on other websites in the future).
While TNA was a step above a few years ago, their loss of Spike TV put them in a pack with two other companies, Ring of Honor and Lucha Underground. These three companies have national TV deals and really are the most accessible.
From there you have the top independent companies like Chikara, Evolve, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and more. I'm sure I have missed some but those really are the top ones. After that you can look at companies like Paragon Pro Wrestling, Shimmer, House of Hardcore and more.
We are going to look at the top four in this column as they are most relevant to this conversation. Each of the four companies has their own style, features, strengths and weaknesses. Knowing these things can help you move forward.
Like their company, WWE is also very cookie-cutter in their product. There is a certain predictability to everything they do. While they are top-notch in production and setting a strong atmosphere, they lack creativity. There may be a top storyline on the show but WWE creative doesn't do much with the talent below that. If there is a storyline or some character development it is often very shallow. WWE likes throwing two stars in multiple matches and calling it a rivalry.
Ring of Honor has the most traditional professional wrestling product, focusing on the in-ring action over character development or storylines. If you like professional wrestling being treated like a sport, ROH is your company. They have an old-school mentality of focusing entirely on titles and grudges. The matches tend to be really good. They also have a very passionate but divisive crowd. I personally have been turned off of the product due to the crowd. The cool thing about ROH is that they know exactly who they are. They have a gameplan. They know what they want to feature. They are "The Greatest Pro Wrestling on the Planet."
Lucha Underground is easily the most progressive product. They are doing things in a completely different way. Their production is equal or better than the WWE at times as they focus on creating a mythology in their brand while also using new and fresh backstage segments. At times, the product can be over-the-top as science fiction and magical elements are brought in. Lucha Underground has its roots in Mexican culture including in the Spanish Soap Operas. While I like the cool presentation ideas of the company, I sometimes am turned off by how cheesy some of the characters and ideas are.
Even though there is a huge focus on storylines and characters, the in-ring action doesn't suffer. The Lucha Libre action is top notch. Usually we get at least one excellent match per week. Lucha Underground uses its Temple well as an instrument of destruction.
This brings me to IMPACT Wrestling. IMPACT is very similar to WWE in many ways, just without the corporate atmosphere and routine and structure of their shows. IMPACT has a solid mix of drama and wrestling. The show usually starts with a promo that builds to something later on. This makes sense since many in TNA right now have histories in the WWE. IMPACT Wrestling is in a strange place as they have to battle for their position. They were the WCW to the WWE. One was the Coke while the other was Pepsi. It appears that WWE has been developing their own brands to water down that field.
IMPACT Wrestling has a different backstage presentation style than WWE. While WWE's is very cinematic, TNA has a reality television vibe to theirs. With that said, they also have some backstage segments with heavy production elements as well (such as background music).
If WWE was the standard for what wrestling is, IMPACT Wrestling would be the most middle of the road product. ROH is much more traditional while Lucha Underground is much more progressive. The true question in all of this is how IMPACT Wrestling utilizes their role in the industry to advance forward.
I discuss what I feel TNA needs to do to create stability and carve their niche in the industry.