Last Thursday, TNA produced the first of what would hopefully be many successful episodes of Impact away from the Impact Zone in Orlando. Although TNA has experimented with the show outside Universal Studios here and there in the past, it appears that TNA has left the Impact Zone for good, and all events will be held in different locations from now on.
In the past year, TNA has shown a strong commitment to making aesthetic improvements to their product. Last May, they announced that Impact would no longer be taped far in advance, and instead a majority of the shows would be shown live. The live shows, in theory, would force undecided fans to tune into the show to see what would happen, instead of relying a spoilers released on the internet.
As important as going live was for TNA, taking the show on the road is a much larger step in the progress of the company. One of the most frequent knocks on the company was that the Impact Zone was filled with tourists who were looking to get out of the Florida sun for a little while. By traveling to places such as Chicago to broadcast the shows, TNA can hopefully get a consistent showing of actual wrestling fans that paid to watch the show.
Almost everything in wrestling comes down to atmosphere. Even if two guys are putting on a five-star performance, the match can still come off as boring if the crowd is silent throughout the whole event. Too many times in the Impact Zone, great wrestling was met with mediocre responses by the lackluster crowd. Comparatively, the shows Impact has done in Britain, where the crowds were often appreciative and starkly vocal, have come across extremely well. If the same exact show that took place in the UK instead was showcased at the Impact Zone, I guarantee the reception of the show would not have been as positive.
Something that might be overlooked in Impact going on the road is that the fan reaction will hopefully be more honest. What I mean by this is that the crowd that normally showed up at the Impact Zone were at best, casual fans of pro wrestling. The casual fan of course, may not have a great idea of who Bobby Roode or Austin Aries is, but they probably will know who Hulk Hogan and Jeff Hardy is. Therefore, those are the performers who are going to get the largest reaction from the crowd. Anyone that has been to an independent wrestling event can Testify that even someone like a Marty Jannetty can get a large pop from the crowd, simply because they spent some time working for a national promotion.
A big issue with this is that TNA may be getting an untruthful representation of what their audience really wants. Just by going by the comments on this site, there are a large amount of fans who are tired of seeing Hulk Hogan all the time on Impact. Yet Hogan would always get the biggest reaction from the casual fan base which filled up the Impact Zone. By having a crowd filled with "real" TNA fans, a more accurate depiction of who the fans of TNA really appreciate and who they want to see more of. Maybe they already do, I'm not claiming to be an expert on TNA fans and maybe a majority of them are huge Hogan fans. However, I do believe that it is a possibility that the Impact Zone may be sending mixed signals, and it's good that by going on the road, they can hopefully clear that up.
A potential problem with Impact going on the road that a lot of fans are concerned about is that it would make the traveling schedule for TNA much more strenuous. Since TNA was almost entirely based in Orlando, and a month's worth of shows could be filmed in one weekend, it allowed wrestlers to work a light schedule, especially compared with the WWE. This light schedule enabled TNA to sign former WWE Main Eventers such as Kurt Angle and Jeff Hardy, guys who had been burned out by the brutal touring schedule of the WWE.
Fortunately for TNA, Impact on the road really does not add that many extra dates onto the schedule of the company. Since they film one episode live and tape a second one after, between now and Slammiversary, there are only going to be 5 television tapings. Including house shows, TNA is only producing 12 shows over the next 3 months as of the writing of this article. Compared to the WWE, who produce about 12 shows every two weeks, the schedule is practically nothing.
The major hurdle for TNA is that they need to have some form a business improvement for these shows to be successful. Despite the anticipation of going live, the ratings for Impact last summer were down compared to recent years. The first of the road shows, which premiered last week, was met with slightly disappointing ratings. TNA stopped producing shows on the road previously because they were not able to turn a profit, (if they were turning a profit, they would have never stopped them, right?) hopefully that will not happen again.
After cutting down their PPVs to just 4 major shows a year, it is the general impression that TNA is working with some extra capital, which is hopefully enough to get the road shows up enough to justify their continuation. By going on the road, TNA took a large risk, but it appears to be a necessary one. For the further advancement of the company, they needed to get out of the Impact Zone and into the open, and that is exactly what they did.