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What: IMPACT Wrestling traveled to Mexico to tries to rebuild their brand and regain their “cool factor.”
Why it matters: IMPACT Wrestling is trying to recapture the fans’ trust with help from leveraging relationships with Lucha Underground and Mexico’s Lucha Libre AAA.

IMPACT Wrestling teamed up with Lucha Libre AAA (@AAALucha), this past week, as they took over the newly renovated Frontón México, to tape a month’s worth shows for their weekly telecast.

This was IMPACT Wrestling’s (@IMPACTWRESTLING) first trip to Mexico City, the company’s first ever television taping south of the border, and first show in the country since 2009. The shows will air on Pop TV in the U.S. (@PopTV) and 52MX (@52mxtv) in Mexico.

“We are excited about this historic trip to Mexico as we continue to expand our live event schedule globally,” said IMPACT Wrestling president Ed Nordholm (@EdNordholm). “We look forward to working closely with our promotional partners at Lucha Libre AAA and our broadcast partner 52MX to bring an unforgettable experience to our passionate fan base in Mexico heading into the final stretch for Bound for Glory this October.”

Nordholm took over IMPACT Wrestling in early 2017 after long-time president and owner Dixie Carter (@TNADixie) sold the company to Anthem Sports & Entertainment Corporation.

Lucha is far more celebrated in Mexico than pro wrestling is in the United States, so if Impact can capture that passion and bring it to their viewers, it will make the company seem far more alive.

At its peak, IMPACT Wrestling was arguably the second-biggest pro wrestling organization, in the U.S., having signed big name talent such as Sting (@Sting), Kurt Angle (@RealKurtAngle), and Ric Flair (@RicFlairNatrBoy) to their roster; as well as helping launch the careers of Bobby Roode (@REALBobbyRoode), Samoa Joe (@SamoaJoe), and current World Wrestling Entertainment (@WWE) Champion AJ Styles (@AJStylesOrg).

However, bad decisions by Carter led to a decline in the company, sending them deep into debt, and rumors of problems paying their talent and production team. Carter sought help borrowing money from Anthem Sports & Entertainment (who aired IMPACT Wrestling in Canada on the Fight Network (@fightnet)) as well as marketing and production firm Aroluxe, and Smashing Pumpkins (@SmashingPumpkin) lead singer Billy Corgan (@Billy). After a series of lawsuits, Anthem Sports & Entertainment gained control of the company, in 2016, and found itself in the wrestling business.

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It was a tough transition for Anthem Sports & Entertainment, stumbling out the gate, including a failed partnership with former IMPACT Wrestling owner, Jeff Jarrett (@RealJeffJarrett). Since hiring Scott D’Amore (@ScottDAmore) and Don Callis, in late 2017, the company is making a rebound.

Rey Fénix

“We’re re-establishing trust with the talent, with business partners, with fans,” said D’Amore to Newsweek (@Newsweek). “You can’t fix it overnight.”

Callis, who does English commentary for New Japan Pro Wrestling (@njpwglobal) events, on the New Japan Pro Wrestling World website (@njpwworld), felt the company needed to capture a “cool factor” if they wanted to separate themselves from other wrestling organizations.

“There wasn’t a buzz about the product, part of that is on the booking side, doing things that don’t make sense,” said Callis. “Why is it that promotions in the U.K. or Northeast in the U.S. can rent wrestlers, put on a show and get a tremendous buzz on the internet? You have to be different. People try to be WWE-lite. We can’t be that. We have to try to be different, whether that means more athletic, more edgy, whatever it is. We have to be different.”

One platform IMPACT Wrestling has decided to leverage, to regain their cool, is Twitch (@Twitch). The wrestling company signed a deal with the social video service, launching an IMPACT Wrestling channel. The company’s Twitch channel features a 24-hour live stream and exclusive weekly programming, including lifestyle shows featuring IMPACT Wrestling stars outside of the ring as well as events such as April’s “IMPACT Wrestling vs. Lucha Underground” showcase during the annual WrestleCon weekend.

The interactive content and larger-than-life personalities of IMPACT Wrestling are a perfect fit for the platform whose passionate communities have demonstrated an increased appetite for professional wrestling and live events,” said Nordholm. “As we adapt to new content consumption methods, our partnership with Twitch gives us an opportunity to interact directly with our audience, while engaging and growing our fan base across the world.”

IMPACT Wrestling also sought to build their own stars, as they sought to refind their cool. While stars like Eric Young (@TheEricYoung), Drew McIntyre (@DMcIntyreWWE), EC3 (@therealec3), Bobby Lashley (@fightbobby) and the Hardys left for WWE, IMPACT was scouring the planet, looking for the next generation of talent.

While losing talent like Lashley, Roode, EC3 and The Hardys is a set back for most organizations; Callis, D’Amore and Nordholm saw the challenge as an opportunity. The trio has added new stars to the roster; such as Austin Aries (@AustinAries), Brian Cage (@MrGMSI_BCage), Johnny IMPACT (formerly known as John Morrison in the WWE (@TheRealMorrison)), and Su Yung (@realsuyung), as well as Los Lucha Brothers — Rey Fénix (@ReyFenixMx) and former Lucha Underground champion Pentagón Jr. (@PENTAELZEROM).

Former IMPACT Wrestling Champion Pentagón Jr., AKA Penta El 0M, of the Lucha Brothers

The company is also developing relationships with other organizations such as Lucha Libre AAA and Lucha Underground to help regain its “cool factor” and the trust of the fans, after burning bridges with NJPW under Carter’s tenure running IMPACT wrestling.

“It’s given Impact a lot of other players to use as they try to keep things fresh and move forward without the far larger budget they were playing with in the past.  It’s a different company now, one that is trying to make the most with the least,” said PWInsider.com Mike Johnson (@MikePWInsider). “The relationship with AAA and Lucha Underground is working out far better than the New Japan relationship did.  Impact management at the time didn’t seem to know how to utilize the international talents and many were used in stereotypical caricature roles that were more an insult to their heritage than an attempt to use them in the best way possible for Impact or New Japan.  Now, we see Pentagon holding the Impact World title and we see so many international talents being used in marquee storylines and matches. Everyone is getting the most out of the relationship. It won’t fix Impact’s perception overnight but it’s absolutely helping the company to move in the right direction.”

Touring is also a big part of the company’s turnaround, which is why the trip to Mexico was important for IMPACT Wrestling. Rey Fénix and Pentagón Jr., who are established stars in Lucha Libre AAA and Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (@CMLL_OFICIAL), will showcase the tour, as will Mexican lucha legend Konnan (@Konnan5150), currently managing the tag-team of Latin American Xchange (LAX) — Santana (@SantanaLAX) and Ortiz (@Ortiz5150). The Mexican tour will help set up the October 14 Bound for Glory pay-per-view, being held in New York City, which will feature LAX against The OGz — Hernandez (@SuperMexCTM), Homicide, and King ( — in a six-man tag team hardcore match.

“Impact has been in a rebuilding phase for years it feels,” said Johnson. “One of the moves that they have made is to try and get out filming in Florida, so the show doesn’t have the same, antiseptic look every week.  Taking the show to Mexico should provide them with a fresh, vibrant look and hopefully some real passion from the fans South of the border. Lucha is far more celebrated in Mexico than pro wrestling is in the United States, so if Impact can capture that passion and bring it to their viewers, it will make the company seem far more alive.”

Callis, D’Amore, and Nordholm believe that tours, such as the one in Mexico, will help build the brand back to its former glory, drawing fans back into the fold.

“We’re making small, incremental steps,” D’Amore. “It’s grassroots stuff so we can build this product from the bottom up.”

What: Andrade “Cien” Almas made his WWE pay-per-view debut during WWE’s SummerSlam weekend.
Why it matters: WWE covets the Hispanic wrestling market, and the sports entertainment company hopes Andrade “Cien” Almas can replicate the success he found in Mexico and Japan, growing their international fanbase.

World Wrestling Entertainment (@WWE) took over New York City over the weekend, as the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, hosted NXT Takeover: Brooklyn IV, SummerSlam, Monday Night Raw, and Smackdown Live.

SummerSlam is the company’s second biggest pay-per-view (PPV) of the year, behind Wrestlemania, showcasing the company’s best and brightest talent.

One of those stars, Andrade “Cien” Almas (@AndradeCienWWE), made his WWE PPV debut this year, defeating Rusev (@RusevBUL) and Lana (@LanaWWE) in a mixed tag team ma

(credit: WikiMedia Commons)

tch. Almas, 28, is a rising star whose popularity is well established back in Mexico.  The WWE, who has long had a tradition of showcasing Hispanic wrestlers such Rey Mysterio Jr. (@reymysterio), as well as WWE Hall of Famers Pedro Morales, Tito Santana, and the late Eddie Guerrero, is hoping that Andrade can be the next WWE superstar that can help them continue to tap into the Spanish-speaking market.

“When you look upon the WWE roster, there isn’t anyone else who looks poised to break through as the next big Hispanic star for the company.  There are other talented Hispanic stars on their roster but I don’t currently get the impression WWE is using them with the goal of trying to cultivate their next big star out of them,” said Mike Johnson (@mikepwinsider) of PWInsider.com (@PWInsidercom). “With Almas however, there’s a ton of potential.  He has that necessary chip on his shoulder that radiates through the arenas when he’s performing. He has crisp timing that comes with being a great in-ring performer. He looks and carries himself like a star.”

Born in Durango, Mexico, “El Idolo,” as Almas is calling himself during his Smackdown run, is a third generation wrestler who followed on his grandfather’s (El Moro) and father’s (El Brillante) footsteps. Almas began his career at the age of 14, in his family’s wrestling promotion before signing with Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (@CMLL_OFICIAL), the oldest active professional wrestling promotion in the business, taking on the masked La Sombra persona, as his gimmick.

I wanted to be internationally known, and we all know that the WWE is that global company.
(credit: WikiMedia Commons)

“My grandfather, my father, my uncles, a lot of people in my family are in wrestling,” said Almas to Mexico’s Sale El Sol morning show. “To me, it was just playing around. To do pro wrestling, to me, it was a kid’s game.”

While working with CMLL, Almas leveraged the Mexican lucha company’s ties with New Japan Pro Wrestling (@njpwglobal), competing against NJPW’s talent, as La Sombra, and eventually winning the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, defeating Shinsuke Nakamura (@ShinsukeN) for the title.

While Almas / La Sombra started his career as a técnico (a “face” / hero), it was not until he turned rudo (a “heel” / villain), in 2014, establishing the Los Ingobernables stable that he became highly popular, both in Mexico and in Japan. With his star on the rise, in two different continents, Almas signed a development deal with WWE in 2015, hoping to become an even bigger international star.

“My dream, as a professional wrestler, I knew was not going to achieve more in Mexico,” said Almas to Mexico’s Sale El Sol morning show. “I wanted to be known worldwide, I wanted to be internationally known, and we all know that the WWE is that global company.”

After signing with WWE, Almas, wrestling without his La Sombra mask and under the “Cien” moniker, competed in the company’s NXT (@WWENXT) development league winning the NXT Championship after defeating Drew McIntyre (@DMcIntyreWWE), at the NXT TakeOver: WarGames show, in November 2017.

A key part of Almas success can be attributed to being paired up with Zelina Vega (@Zelina_VegaWWE). Billed as Almas’ business manager, the 27-year-old Puerto Rican from Queens, New York has become the mouthpiece and advocate for the Mexican luchador.

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“La Muñeca” jumped into the wrestling business in order to honor her father, a telecom analyst for the firm Cantor Fitzgerald who died September 11, 2001, in the World Trade Center attacks, having competed in Impact Wrestling (@IMPACTWRESTLING) before joining the WWE.

(credit: WikiMedia Commons)

“Zelina Vega is, in my opinion, an extremely unique, rare and special talent that only comes around so often in professional wrestling,” said Johnson. “She has an amazing personal backstory, having gotten into the industry to honor her father, who died on 9/11 as wrestling was one of the things that bonded them.  She has continuously improved on all levels and since coming to WWE, has found the perfect voice and characterization to make herself shine.”

Vega, who is bilingual, has helped Almas communicate with the WWE Universe, handling promo duties for Almas as he continues to learn English. Promos are the speeches that wrestlers deliver to audiences before and after matches, not only helping convey the talent’s storylines but also helping them develop a personality that draws the fans’ boos and cheers.

“Vega is so great in her current role, in fact, that from the second she and Almas were put together as an act on WWE NXT TV, he immediately meant more,” said Johnson. “Vega was the last piece of the puzzle Almas needed to go from being another WWE wrestler to a legitimate WWE act that mattered. I do believe knowing English can only help Almas as the company loves to have bilingual talents, but Vega does such an excellent job in her role that is helps maintain some of the mystique around the Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas persona.”

Whether competing as La Sombra or alongside Vega as Cien, whether rudo or técnico, whether competing in the United States or Japan, Almas always represents his Mexican roots to the fullest; something that draws sponsors to the charismatic luchador and the companies that employ him, looking to tap into the popular Hispanic wrestling market.

“There’s a ton of upward mobility for Almas,” said Johnson. “WWE has yet to scratch the surface with him on their Smackdown Live TV series.”

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