Impact Wrestling’s Wrestle House is great for pandemic-era wrestling.
In the era of COVID-19, professional wrestling promotions have been given a unique opportunity to make the most of a bad situation, and Impact Wrestling is no exception.
Along with safety precautions that some promotions may or may not have been undertaking, large crowds are an impossibility and closed sets are a necessity. Having little to no organic crowd noise during a standard match does admittedly take a lot of the weight and emotion out of the performances, but the closed set has allowed more attempts of cinematic matches.
If you need a closed set for your show, why not have some fun with it and make some wrestling short films? It makes sense, and it has led to some amazing results. I don’t need to tell you that WWE’s Boneyard Match was a masterpiece and AEW’s Stadium Stampede was tons of fun and a great usage of the facilities owned by the Khan family.
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But when it comes to making the most of the current situation in the long term, Impact may have struck gold with its recurring Wrestle House segment.
After Rosemary’s alone time with John E. Bravo in a vacant house is interrupted by Taya Valkyrie, Rosemary summons a multitude of Impact’s roster, makes leaving the house impossible, and just like that, Wrestle House is born.
It’s certainly a less-than-conventional scheme to win over the love of your life, but oh well. Because it is a reality show parody, there’s an interview couch for the participants, a gloriously corny pop theme song, and plenty of wacky hijinks from a cast that includes Kylie Rae, Susie, Crazzy Steve, XXXL, and Johnny Swinger.
The Appeal of Impact Wrestling’s Wrestle House
Let’s say you never watched Impact Wrestling before. You’ve heard of the company – even if you’re not sure why it stopped being called TNA- and some of their graduated stars, but you never actually watched anything from the promotion. But then you hear that their Slammiversary Pay-Per-View is advertising the return of multiple wrestlers that were callously fired by the WWE this past April. So, you decide to give the PPV a shot, and are met with seven crowd-less but fun matches and some cool reveals that keep you enticed enough to try out their main weekly show Impact!.
Pay-Per-Views by design tend to have a lot of payoffs to storylines and can only do so much in terms of introducing performers and really showing off who they are – though Impact did their best at showing a lot of their new and returning cast. But what better than a reality show to really showcase a large chunk of your roster? Once you get past the general absurdity of it all, letting the wrestlers show off their quirks in this way makes it really easy to become a fan of them. You even get to see Tommy Dreamer go from having a super serious Old School Rules match complete with a thumbtack spot at Slammiversary to being the wacky host of Wrestle House cracking jokes about him buying the house as an investment property with his “ECW checks”.
While these segments do obviously use reality TV tropes in a very tongue-in-cheek fashion, it is not exactly a biting satire of the genre. The way they use matches in the segments, however, is honestly pretty brilliant.
As is common with reality TV, there have to be little arguments and squabbles between the cast members. Not only are the arguments themselves over the top (the first match was to determine who will sleep in the ring due to limited beds at the house), but each one causes Tommy Dreamer to loudly declare “MATCH TIME”, and the score must be settled in the ring.
The matches themselves are almost exclusively shot outdoors via ringside hand-held cameras. While they won’t be topping any “Best of” lists, these matches are short, energetic, and a ton of fun. Like the character interactions, once you get past the absurdity of these match setups, each one does have its own little story and there are some creative stipulations. Sometimes the referee selected has a clear bias towards one side, like in the case of Taya Valkyrie refereeing a match between Rosemary and Kylie Rae.
These Wrestle House segments are not only a fun workaround to the limitations set by the pandemic, but they also enhance each week of Impact! as a whole. Each segment breaks the monotony of the crowd-less regular matches, thus helping with the pacing of the show and making it easier to get invested in the matches and storylines taking place at their Nashville home base. While this type of segment is not for everyone – anyone looking for serious storylines and angles should stay far away if that has not been made obvious already – credit must be given to Impact for at least trying something.
However, on the September 1st episode of Impact!, John E. Bravo proposed to Rosemary. The kayfabe reason for Wrestle House’s existence was fulfilled, and the cast was transported back into lthe Impact Zone by the end of the episode. While I am personally excited to see Kylie Rae challenge Deonna Purrazzo for the Knockouts Championship, it would be disappointing if it came at the expense of Wrestle House. One could only hope that Impact realizes what a useful format they have discovered and has some sort of suitable replacement in the chamber.
Regardless of what comes next, let’s raise a totally not stolen beer for Impact Wrestling’s Wrestle House: one of the greatest, and most clever, things to come out of the pandemic era of wrestling.