This past Wednesday, RealSport was invited to participate in a conference call with GFW/IMPACT’s Chief Creative Officer, Jeff Jarrett and GFW/IMPACT’s Head of Media Relations, Ross Foreman.
As Global Force Wrestling rode a wave of momentum following Slammiversary Week, Jeff Jarrett vowed to answer all of the pertinent, pressing and high-pressured questions relating to the brand, the merger, the titles, and beyond! Jarrett began the call stating how excited he was about the conference call and how keen he was to engage with all the fans around the world via the media outlets taking part. The call began in earnest, with a statement about the current situation involving GFW World Champion Alberto El Patron.
El Patron update
Ross Foreman: "As everybody might be aware, GFW issued a statement this morning regarding Alberto El Patron, I’ll repeat that statement right now: 'Global Force Wrestling has indefinitely suspended Alberto El Patron, effective immediately, until the investigation is resolved following a recent incident in Orlando, Florida.' That is the only statement GFW will be making on this subject and we would ask for this teleconference that there be no questions on this matter; we have issued a statement and we are moving forward, waiting for the investigation to complete."
Jeff Jarrett: "The attorneys would rather I didn’t say anything but I do want to comment on the Alberto situation; obviously it’s very unfortunate, over the last 24-36 hours, Global Force Wrestling officials, as well as Anthem and a host of others that are part of our team, are continuing to dig into this matter. Concurrently, some people have reached out to me to advise on how best to handle the situation, I call them my 'mentors' in the corporate world, the CEOs and the like of the world, and really the two takeaways pieces of advice from all of it, is that it must be on a case by case basis when you’re dealing with athletes, entertainers and public figures in that kind of situation. There is never an absolutely correct decision to make and there’s not always an absolutely wrong decision to make but I left the weekly staff meetings here with the staff at Global Force and I addressed everyone in the room and said that I would take as much responsibility of this as people want to put on my shoulders.
"I’ve been blessed to be put in this position and I truly want to make the best decision, not only for everyone within the administration but for the wrestling fans. It’s an unfortunate situation, it’s a legal matter as well as a personal matter but we take both very seriously. We’ve just come off the heels of four fantastic days of production and it’s no secret that in this business that the incident took place after the live production was done, so it would further damage the brand to edit [Alberto] out. The decisions we make are to continue to grow the brand, we’ve made tremendous strides since Anthem took control of the asset in January and coming of the heels of Slammiversary with the early numbers that are in, it’s very apparent that we’re taking steps to success in the right direction."
Pulse nightclub tribute
Following this statement, Ross Foreman introduced Tony Morerro, an Orlando, Florida resident who survived the Pulse Nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016. Marrero was shot four times in the back and once in the arm. Marrero and Jarrett discussed the emotional tribute “Remembering Pulse Nightclub, One Year Later,” held July 3 at The Impact Zone in Orlando before opening up the floor to questions for Tony and Jeff, related to the Pulse Nightclub incident and tribute.
What are your thoughts as you reflect back on the tribute, a week ago?
Tony Morerro: "First of all, I want to thank the entire production for it. It was a beautiful way to honour the victims, the survivors and everybody affected by the terrible tragedy that happened a year ago. It was a very emotional night, for everybody, not just me, everybody that was involved, it was a very emotional thing to see. It was beautiful. You guys are amazing. What you did for us, for Orlando as a whole, is just something that I’m going to keep near to my heart."
What’s the status of the plans to turn the Pulse Nightclub into a memorial?
TM: "As far as I am concerned, it’s still in talks. The One Pulse Foundation has been working on it, but as far as I know there’s nothing that is completely concrete. It is going to be a memorial as far as I know, but that’s all the information I have on it. They’re still talking about it."
With Orlando being home for the company, how did the tragedy affect everybody at IMPACT?
JJ: "First of all, I wasn’t with the company when the shooting happened. I can tell you exactly where I was though. I was in New Jersey, I’d just got done with a GFW show and it was early in the morning, and I woke up, before I went and did my cardio and I turned on the TV, Karen was still sleeping, and like probably millions of Americans we were glued to the television on that morning. Then, our wonderful friend Joe Park (Abyss) shared a story with me last week that the production was actually in Orlando that night. When they left, went downstairs and got off the elevator, there were armed guards with machine guns and it was sort-of a mobile police headquarters. At that time, so early in the morning, it was really a horrific situation and it was so early in the tragedy that you didn’t really know what was going on so I know that it permeated throughout the talent and the production crew but it was just a really, really surreal day of 'just what is going on?'"
Ross Foreman thanked Tony Morerro for his time and focus turned to general GFW/IMPACT questioning.
The state of GFW
What is the progress on rebranding the company as GFW?
JJ: "We’re well aware that it’s going to be a step by step process. The name, or the initials TNA, in the double entendre doesn’t exist in international markets. Internationally, the name TNA and the PR gains, quite frankly, were massive over the last 24 months, so it is and will be a delicate balance. We had a meeting yesterday and as far as our digital front, GlobalForceWrestling.com, IMPACTwrestling.com, you’re gonna see that begin to roll out over the next 3-6 weeks. As we launch our OTT, that’s coming in play; all the social media channels, with GFW and with IMPACT, there’s gonna be a progression and we do have a plan in place but at the end of the day we understand that the viewers, specifically television viewers as opposed on online viewers, if you don’t watch it every week, maybe you tune in three out of four weeks in a month, that we want it to be a natural transition, a progression and at the end of the day we will get there sooner rather than later but it’s gonna be a transition."
Have you been thinking about taking pay-per-views on the road again?
JJ: "Sure, in every sense of the word, a traditional touring organization is the goal but it has to make financial sense. Taking IMPACT on the road a few years ago was a financial disaster and so you have to methodically look at every decision and make sure that it makes financial sense. We’re gonna start with our live events and put our toe back in the water. We realize that we’re not going to put and event on sale and it automatically sell out. Quite frankly, the WWE doesn’t do that for live events, but they’re out there, they’re touring, they’re a publically traded company that’s been around 50+ years and they have brand awareness in every market they go to. We’re obviously in a rebranding situation and so in getting out in that market you gotta make the right decisions and that’s why we’re excited to partner with NOAH and with AAA, and get into these markets. LAX, our current tag champs, are gonna be throwing out the pitch and doing a meet-and-greet over in Staten Island; we’ve got the Bridgeport baseball show, we’ve got the Long Island event… there’s a lot of positive things happening in live events. We’re also looking to add another live PPV to our schedule in 2018."
What plans are there for live event tours outside of Florida going forward?
JJ: "It’s no secret that we’re coming out to Staten Island, Long Island, and Bridgeport. Right now we have some staff in Ontario doing site surveys. We’re looking at Ontario for September, we’re looking at another North East run in the fourth quarter of this year and as we head into January, discussions have already begun about going back to our traditional first quarter United Kingdom / European tour. Las Vegas is on our radar without question, like Orlando it is one of the entertainment capitals, it’s a destination city. And yes, we’re looking at a West Coast swing, from Northern California all the way to Tijuana."
How important is it to get IMPACT live again?
JJ: "Again, it’s the dollars and cents. Anybody who knows me knows that I was raised on live TV, 90 minutes, in Memphis, Tennessee. Live TV is a different element, everybody in the arena, every wrestler, every production person, announcers, it goes down to the ring crew, everyone knows that when you’re live, adrenaline is at another level. It’s just physiological. It’s just the nature of the beast. Obviously that’s our goal but again, we’re running a business and you better have black ink as opposed to red ink and that is at the front of our mind. So would I like to go live every week? Yes. Is that a reality in 2017? No."
Do you plan to continue moving forward with the X-Division Championship and the IMPACT Grand Championship or are you going to eliminate those titles in favor of the NEX:GEN or new titles?
JJ: "Obviously, whether it’s WWE or back in the day WCW / territory days, whether it’s Six-Man Titles, Television titles, it’s always a work in progress. We have unique plans towards the end of the year for the NEX:GEN Championship but we looked at things and the plan going forward is that the four divisions going into Destination X are the Global Championship, the Women’s Division, the Tag Division and the X-Division Championships. The IMPACT Grand Championship is exactly what it was prior to Anthem coming on board."
There are other companies that like to push more of a PG product, will GFW be pushing the edge of sports entertainment?
JJ: "Being part of the Attitude Era, pushing the edge can mean multiple things: some positive, some negative. It’s something that I’ve been a part of and seen throughout the years, the most productive storylines are all reality based, whether it’s Stone Cold vs. Vince McMahon, the nWo, the WWF invading WCW or, going back way into my early years, Lawler and Dundee, a rivalry that existed for many years based on their great personal hatred of one another. So, quite frankly, when you say push the edge, not with the negative or language or smut, but we will and will always continue with reality based component. We’re certainly not going with smut. It’s all audiences, you can’t just focus on that 25-34 demo; it’s got to be much broader to be successful."
Can you tell us about the announcement on titles coming up in August?
JJ: "You’re talking about the new belts. I was up and answering emails at six o’clock this morning. It’s a work in progress but we’re excited for August 17th, the Destination X event, and the new titles."
How will induction into the Hall of Fame be administered under GFW?
JJ: "As tradition went, the Hall of Fame inductee was announced at Slammiversary. We, collectively, have a different philosophy and we just wanted to announce that on November 4th, the night before Bound for Glory, we’re going to have a Fan Fest and a Hall of Fame dinner. We have been having those discussions; there’s a very good potential that the first inductee of this class will be announced on August 17th but stay tuned, details will be coming. I’m super excited about that, there’s a lot of different candidates going forward and I’m of the mindset that a Hall of Fame inductee should certainly be in the twilight of their career."
Do you plan on doing any women’s tournaments in the future?
JJ: "For a long time we didn’t have any women’s wrestling in TNA because of the depth of the talent but then somewhere around 2009-2011, Gail Kim and Kong main evented a two hour television show for the first time in modern history. So, the short answer to the question is without question, because the depth of women’s wrestling quite frankly has exploded over the last 36 months. The timing of that would have to be a collaborative effort from the matchmaking group."
Can you elaborate on what the collaboration with Pro Wrestling NOAH and AAA will entail?
JJ: "The partnership with NOAH is ongoing and we’re going to have talent at their next show, which I believe is in Yokohama on October 1st, multiple talents, so we’re excited about that. Marufuji was a part of our tapings last week and he’s a guy whose credentials speak for themselves. Ichimori in the Super X Cup and then when you get to AAA - their 25th-year celebration of being in business, and TripleMania - it’s a mega event… 18, 19, 20 thousand, whatever that arena holds down there; there’s going to be Global Force stars on that show as well, so both of our biggest talent exchanges and promotional relationships are headed in the right direction. It’s something we envisioned and knew wouldn’t happen overnight but you gotta start somewhere in business. We’re very excited and obviously, there are independent promotions around the globe that we continue to look at - matter of fact, I talked to a promoter from Pakistan this week - so, wrestling is truly a global product."
One of the issues that IMPACT Wrestling faced in the past was that they let their best talent out of the door, what is the new regime doing to keep hold of their top guys this time around?
JJ: "It goes without saying – it’s a priority. That is a priority and we are making very good progress on that specific question."
How do you feel about the guys that have left and are seeing success elsewhere?
JJ: Personally, I couldn’t be happier for Joe, AJ, Bobby Roode, Eric Young - those guys, but professionally, in one soundbite, we were definitely promoting the right guys. They’re obviously on a grander and a bigger stage; Samoa Joe especially this past Sunday night and Joe has always had that tenacity. What really sets Joe apart, in my opinion, from a promoter standpoint, is his tenacity. When you drill it down and you look at his face, he’s a tenacious individual. AJ Styles athletic ability, always, was truly phenomenal. Very happy for those guys. AJ was with us 13 years, I wasn’t here when he departed, neither was I with Joe, but both of those guys contributed immensely to the success of this organization.
Is there potential for a GFW video game in the future?
JJ: "Y’know, that is at the top of the list. We’re looking into the licensing, and it doesn’t happen overnight, for video games and action figures. The steps have begun, although very preliminary baby steps, but there’s nothing more that I would love; we’re a global brand and there’s a lot of video gamers around the world, so action figures and video games are the top two categories in the licensing programme that we’re going to begin to develop."
Has any conclusion been reached in the dispute with The Hardys over the BROKEN intellectual property?
JJ: "As far as this situation goes, I have given my opinion on it. It’s no secret, I’ve said this in multiple interviews, me and Jeff Hardy’s friendship goes back well over 20 years. Our families have vacationed together. I’ve had a healthy exchange of texts with Jeff over the last couple of weeks; we wished each other a Happy Father’s Day and so it’s strictly an IP situation. The IP language that is used in our contract is almost identical to the language used in the WWE contract, almost identical back in the day for WCW. I’ve been fortunate, or maybe unfortunate, to grow up in Nashville around the music business and intellectual property law is rather cut and dry, that you have the publisher and you have the writers and then you have the performance. There are people in Nashville that can sing a song and take it to #1 and then ten years later another artist can come along and sing that exact same song and take it to #1 and they make their money from the performances, but the writers and the publishers continue to make that money.
"It goes without saying that the wrestling business is different. Vince McMahon owned the name The Rock until The Rock bought it back. Same with Razor, same with Diesel and I could go on and on about guys jumping ship, especially back in the Attitude Era from WWF to WCW. You know, Big Boss Man was never the Big Boss Man in WCW but quite frankly there was and will ever only be on Big Boss Man. With Matt’s performance, there’s only one BROKEN Matt, he did that, it transcended the Hardy Boyz or Matt Hardy and that goes without saying. Hats off to those guys for the performance but it goes to the ownership, and there’s multiple writers that were part of the BROKEN Brilliance that are no longer with the company: Dave Lagana, Matt Conway, and Billy Corgan, to be exact. But there’s Jeremy Borash in production and writing, and then you have Jimmy Long and Matt and Jeff, so there was a group of writers, without question. But ownership always lies with the publisher and that’s not new to this industry or intellectual property law."
Have there been any conversations regarding bringing CM Punk into GFW?
JJ: "To my knowledge, no conversations have been had. It’s my understanding that he’s signed to a UFC situation and that’s where his energy is headed. Unbelievable talent, and I said it when it first came out, hats off to the guy, to step into that octagon, win, lose or draw, he’s a winner in my book for chasing his dream."
Three of your producers left the company recently; do you have any names in mind for replacements for them in the company?
JJ: "No. For all three of those guys, their contracts ran to the very end, the decision not to renew had zero - and I want to overstate zero - to do with performance. We went to India and because of economics we had a shell crew for the production but eight agents for a two hour show is overkill. I wish Shane [Helms], Al [Snow] and Pat [Kenney] nothing but the best. Who knows when they’ll be with us again. Pat has been with us since the Asylum days, there was only a short period where Pat wasn’t with us but I want to thank all three of them publically for the contributions they made. We’re happy to have Gail Kim on board: a Hall of Famer, a pioneer, working with the women’s division. It was strictly a financial decision and with that being said we have no plans to bring in new producers, going forward."
Jeff Jarrett closed out the conference thanking those who took part in the conference call and summarized the company’s successes from the last few weeks. They couldn’t have been happier with Slammiversary and the subsequent IMPACT tapings and look forward to Destination X live on August 17th.
What do you think of the direction GFW is taking IMPACT Wrestling? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below or message me on Twitter @JezDoesWords
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