Here’s the thing: I, probably similar to many fans watching Impact Wrestling last week, have no idea who Sugiura is. So when Cage beat him in about eight minutes last week (the full match ran closer to twenty five), I didn’t know what to think. Was this a big deal? Is this a career highlight for Cage? Is this like beating someone around Heath Slater’s level and therefore Cage struggled and looked horrible in the Japanese fans’ eyes? Or should Cage be in line for a World Title run in Noah?
As it turns out, Sugiura is a major, major star in Noah, having been World Champion the month before that match was taped and winning it back the month after. He’s currently in his fourth reign as GHC Heavyweight Champion (the Noah World Title) and has held the title for more combined days than anyone else in the titles seventeen year plus history. In other words, Cage just beat one of the biggest names in the history of the promotion and did so on their home turf. That should be like coming to WWE and pinning John Cena clean. This however brings us to the problem: I found all that out on Wikipedia while writing this up.
I watched Impact Wrestling last week and I had no idea who Sugiura was because they didn’t tell me a single thing about him. I knew his name and that he wrestled for Pro Wrestling Noah. That’s it. Here’s what needed to be said: “Sugiura is a multiple time World Champion and the reigning GHC Heavyweight Champion, a title held by such greats as Kenta Kobashi, Mitsuharu Misawa and Minoru Suzuki. This win puts Cage right in the title hunt and shows that the best of Impact can compete with the best in the world.”
But no. Instead, we got Josh Matthews acting like this was any other match against any other opponent. I mean, I know Matthews isn’t the brightest guy in the world but he can at least read a statement that someone else writes for him. We didn’t know a single thing about Sugiura, including his legacy, his title reigns, his recent success or anything about him. Cage was hyped up and that was the point of the thing, but it’s like picking up a quarter off the ground when you have someone holding out a $100 bill right in front of you. You’re kind of missing the obvious here.
This is a problem in other promotions too and it’s leaving a lot of assistance on the table. The commentators are there to let you know what’s going on in wrestling. They’re your guides for the night and should be letting you know what you’re watching. Who is this person, why should I care, what are they doing, how big is this match and so on. You have an open line of communication to tell your fans whatever you want them to know. Why would you not tell them something that can make your wrestler look that much more important when the point of the match is to make them look important?
It wasn’t just on this match either. Earlier in the night, we saw an angle where Sami Callihan attacked Don Callis at a show held in Canada. Callis was being honored for being a Canadian wrestling legend…and that’s all we know. I know who Callis is, including his history in the business and what he’s doing now, including why he’s so important to Impact Wrestling. The problem is, that’s not the case for everyone.
To the Impact Wrestling viewer who only watches Impact Wrestling and doesn’t read behind the scenes news and information about this or any other promotion, Callis is the bald guy who started doing commentary at Redemption and isn’t Sonjay Dutt. If I’m an average fan, I don’t know who he is, what his current job is in Impact Wrestling or why he’s such a valuable asset to the company. You know what would solve this?
“Welcome to Impact Wrestling everyone. I’m Josh Matthews and with me is Impact Wrestling executive and member of the board of directors, wrestling legend Don Callis.”
Is all of that accurate? Who cares? It’s wrestling, meaning you can make up whatever statements you want and everything is fine. Callis hasn’t been on the big stage in wrestling for a long time now and it would make sense to let us know who this guy is and why he’s a big deal. If I don’t know any of that stuff, sure it’s a big deal for Callihan to attack someone, but it could be a bigger deal if you tell us who that person is. It’s not like this is hard to put together.
Flash back with me to 1997. Mankind has been in the WWF for a little over a year and while he and Undertaker have had one of the most violent feuds in the history of the company, we still don’t know that much about him. Then in June he sat down with Jim Ross for a one on one interview where he was able to tell us a lot of his backstory, going into detail about being lonely as a child and hating everyone else. To cap the interview off, Mankind attacked Ross, putting him in the Mandible Claw and leaving him unconscious.
This interview launched Mankind up the ladder and set off a long string of character changes that opened up several doors for him. It was the start of a road that took Mankind from being an Undertaker adversary to a three time WWF World Champion and an inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame sixteen years later. Not bad for someone whose claim to fame at that point was a feud with the Undertaker and one awesome match with Shawn Michaels, the man capable of having an awesome match with your aunt Flora.
Now, did attacking Ross make him a Hall of Famer? Of course not. However, it did change the game for Mankind, as he was beating up someone beloved by WWF fans. It gave the fans another reason to hate him as he was suddenly attacking someone who the fans cared about. That’s different than attacking Undertaker, who could fight anyone. This made Mankind into a different kind of animal and given his natural talents and abilities, it was no surprise when he took off like a rocket and was World Champion less than two years after the segment took place.
I’m not saying that attacking Callis could have been that big of a deal for Callihan (who would be lucky to carry Mankind’s bags) but it could have been done so much better. Have the segment be about someone beloved in the company (Is Mike Tenay still around?) or at least build Callis up a little bit more. It’s such a wasted opportunity, which is where Impact Wrestling tends to excel.
Commentary is more than just telling you what’s going on in a match. It’s telling the stories that the company wants you to know. Callis being attacked makes Callihan a horrible person? Cool. Tell us about it. Cage beating Sugiura is a career game changer? Cool. Tell us about it. Wrestler A winning a match should make him a World Title contender? Cool. Tell us about it.
For some reason Impact Wrestling doesn’t use this opportunity when it’s right in front of them and that’s wasting a lot of time and potential. By not doing so, it comes off as lazy and makes you wonder how much bigger things could have been, which might as well be Impact Wrestling’s motto. Make commentary better and see how much further you can go.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 26 wrestling books. His latest book is the WWE Grab Bag.
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