25 April 2017

Make It Grand

Fellow viewers of Impact Wrestling, this is MisterTNA I'm going to discuss something that seems to have lost a lot of peoples interest within this community and maybe further abroad in the Impact fanbase, the Impact Grand Championship. Watching over the comments like Sting used to the Impact Zone, I've noticed that most, if not everybody that has commented on the subject is resigned to the the Grand Championship being a failure, and hoping for its imminent end. Some want the rules to be removed while others would like it to be merged and replaced by what's currently the GFW Next-Gen Championship. Personally after 6 months and two different creative teams, I can accept the flaws in such a unique concept, however there is potential there and with some tweaks the new management team can make the grand rules interesting and unique.

The first change that needs to come is the judges. When the Grand Championship launched, the biggest thing was the introduction of judges, who if the matches went three rounds would be the ones that would determine the outcome. Now with such pressure to dissect a match as it's happening and note all the offence to determine who's winning in line with a points system, you would think the judges selected to officiate would be important, instead they're almost never seen, barely mentioned and from what I recall have no background relaid to the audience as to why they are there, judging a wrestling match. This one is an easy and simple fix, get rid of the extras that are being used and use some of the knowledgeable wrestling minds in the back. When you have 3 random nobodies names called when a decision is being given at the final bell, it makes you question the legitimacy (I know, the irony) of the concept, but if the judges just so happen to be a trio of Al Snow, Pat Kenny, Scott D'Amore, Shane Helms, Bruce Prichard, Dutch Mantell or any other agent backstage that's an established name in the business, instantly there credentials for being a judge are obvious and there decision making has validity and knowledge behind it. With those kind of names in judging positions, Impact can play off the judging issues in Boxing & MMA and say their judges are experienced wrestling minds who know what they're judging and as Impact employee's want the best for the company which is fair, impartial scoring in these Grand rules matches.

With the judges themselves addressed, the next step is the scoring. The scoring itself, which is taken from Boxing/MMA is totally fine in my eyes, rounds being scored 10/9 with point deductions is what combat fans are used to, so using that built in knowledge instead of trying to force on a totally new scoring system makes complete sense. Since they've taken the scoring system from combat sports, it boggles my mind why they haven't taken how the scoring system is presented. There really is no need to reveal and announce the winner of the first two rounds or who the judges have individually given the final round to. The way it's currently done makes it predictable and very repetitive, which is probably why a lot of fans aren't interested by the concept and want it to be retired. Impact need to bring over one of the key things that combat fans are intrigued by, and that's the grey area that surrounds the scoring throughout fights. Remove the announcement of the first two round winners, as well as which competitor has won the third round in the eyes of each judge, leave the official score announcements until the final bell, and then announce the scores just like they would be in any other combat sport "judge Al Snow scores the bout 29/28". Keep the mystery of the result until the very end when the announcer reveals the winner. Of course in some instances you want to lead the viewer into a certain way of viewing how the scoring is going, that's where you use your colour commentator, Da Pope. Set the stage with him explaining his curiosity as both a former wrestler and boxer as to what the judges are looking for and how they're scoring the bouts, with him offering his scores for the round and even have a graphic displaying his scorecard for the match. While it can give fans an idea of where the matches points wise are heading, it's not accurate with how the bout has been scored across three judges, and Popes predicted outcome isn't necessarily what the outcome will actually be. It would be a good utilisation of Pope's experience to further enhance the grand rules concept, help viewers understand what the judges are seeing and either lead them to the outcome or totally throw them off the scent of what the outcome may be.

With more logical judge selection and a change to how the scores are presented, it should give Impact more freedom to book grand rules matches in so many different ways. Right now a Grand Title match is pretty predictable, if the challenger is a lesser talent, then he's more than likely getting beat in the second round, if it's an equal challenger, then it's most likely going to be 1-1 going into round 3, then judge one gives round 3 one way, judge two the other, and judge 3 the final decision. With it being like this, it's no wonder a lot of core fans have given up on the concept as it's easy to call and doesn't really interest the viewer. In theory by changing the presentation of the scoring, it should create an array of ways the matches can go. Instead of the standard two finishes, have unanimous decision wins, 3-0 round wins, 3 round matches where round 3 isn't exclusively the most competitive round. Make the matches unpredictable, not only from a scoring basis, but how matches finish, early pins or submissions, guys dominating the first two rounds only to get pinned or submitted in the third and so on. With real combat sports what happens is unpredictable, and with grand rules the same should apply, creating scenarios we don't often see in standard wrestling bouts. To add a further wrinkle to the concept, a stipulation could be added where PPV title matches are 5 rounds, so if you've built up a rivalry for the title, you can provide the two wrestlers the platform to have a competitive 15 minute match, or do a total 180 and use the 5 round stipulation to make fans think its going to be what I said above, only for it to be quick and really take fans by surprise. 

Even if all these changes are implemented, one thing certainly needs to be done in order to get the concept over, more grand rules matches. The only time we see the matches is when it's a title match, and if your to make a title match feel special and important you can't book one every other week as it just looses its prestige. Impact need to start booking other matches as grand rules matches, start off doing it with #1 contender matches, then build it up to eventually having a grand rules match almost every week, have a couple of guys going on winning runs and build them up to challenge for the title, build an interest for someone to get a shot at the title instead of just randomly giving out title shots. There doesn't always need to be a storyline or set up to a feud because the division is based around combat sports, where for the most part you earn your opportunity at a title, so embrace it and run with it.

I understand it must be hard for the new creative team to pick up an idea that they had no part in envisioning or bringing to life, however now they are in control they should be motivated by whats happened in the past to take it, make it their own and make it work. They want to #MakeImpactGreat, claiming it once was, and when it was it was unique, the X Division, the six sided ring, Ultimate X, an all steel cage PPV and so on, so why not in an attempt to restore their former moniker identify the Grand Championship and its concept, tweak it to make in better, and then feature it to offer yet another concept no other promotion can. It's clear with what Moose is doing touring the globe Impact value the Grand Title as a valuable championship, but to continue the concept as it is would be a waste, and to never tap into its potential would be a travesty. So Impact management, take the suggestions above, and any suggestions made in the comments below, and take them under consideration and really look at improving the Grand Championship concept, so far you've listened to your audience on array of things, please don't let us down on this one.

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