The Story So Far: The Global Force Wrestling & Anthem Situation

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The past few days have cast a long shadow on what seemed to be a growing resurgence within Global Force Wrestling, the company formerly known as TNA Wrestling. It’s flagship show, Impact Wrestling, was building momentum. It was growing with new stories that felt fresh again, new stars – both indie stars like Dezmond Xavier, OI4K, and Angel Rose (Diamante) and international stars like Drago, Noamuchi Marifuji and Garza Jr. – bolstered the line-up, a return of familiar favourites like Low Ki, Matt Sydal and John Morrison (aka Johnny Impact) added some unforced nostalgia, and the Knockouts division, with Sienna, Gail Kim, Rosemary, Allie, Laurel Van Ness, Taya Valkyrie and Taryn Terrell is poised to arguably become the company’s deepest KO division ever. And then we got to September 5, 2017.

Yesterday morning, Jeff Jarrett started the morning bright eyed and bushy tailed at the prospects of GFW going forward.

But just hours later, Anthem Sports & Entertainment, the parent company ownership of Global Force Wrestling, sent out this press release:

Effective immediately, Jeff Jarrett is taking an indefinite leave of absence from his position as Chief Creative Officer to focus on personal matters. Jeff will be available on a consultative basis as needed.

It seems by Jarrett’s jovial morning tweet that he wasn’t aware of this leave of absence coming. It was then reported that going forward, GFW’s creative would be still be handled by Scott D’Amore and Sonjay Dutt, but that Jarrett’s position as CCO would be filled (at least temporarily) by former CCO John Gaburick. While Jarrett would be retained on a “consultative” position, the future for his wife, Karen Jarrett, could very well be up the air.

To further the speculation, it was reported that Jarrett wasn’t seemingly removed because of any lack of faith in his creative direction, but rather his recent behavior around staff and Anthem management, which was described as “erratic behavior”. It was first brought to light back on April 25 of this year, when Jeff Jarrett had a very public and loud argument with longtime Impact employee Bob Ryder. Later in June, during Reby Hardy (wife of Matt Hardy) got into a verbal tirade on Twitter against Impact over the Broken Hardy Universe, she alluded to a potential drinking problem with Jarrett:

When the reports filed in that Jeff Jarrett had arrived at Triplemania XXV last week to represent GFW in their partnership with AAA, he had gained some weight and was having trouble maneuvering the ring steps, apparently the last straw for Anthem’s Ed Nordham. Reby responded instantly when those reports surfaced, as many speculated that Jarrett’s “erratic behavior” could be the end result of a more serious drinking problem than previously thought.

But just as the world was recovering from September 5th’s news, Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated released an article this afternoon, where he stated that things were far worse than appeared.

“GFW is hemorrhaging funds, and sources close to the situation have confirmed that Anthem is ready to withdraw itself from the wrestling industry and sell GFW. Anthem even needed to gut the Fight Network in order to finance GFW.” Justin Barrasso, Sports Illustrated, September 6, 2017

What began as a somewhat awkward chuckle on Tuesday, became an sense of shock the next. Many had expected Anthem’s bank account to right the ship and the stabilized leadership of Impact Wrestling’s creative team from it’s peak years back in place, than Impact Wrestling would return to it’s place just behind the WWE. But now the reports seemed to indicate that things were not right in Denmark. Or at least Toronto.

It was also reported that despite it being announced on television that TNA Impact Wrestling and Global Force Wrestling had merged into one company under the GFW banner, that the merger itself was “nowhere near as completed” as people assume. The trademarks for GFW and it’s likeness are still owned by Jarrett’s company, Global Force Wrestling LLC. Should things with Jarrett not reconcile, the company may have no option but to return to TNA – or at least, just Impact Wrestling.

Around 5:30pm tonight, John Pollock of LAW (Live Audio Wrestling) Radio – which is owned by The Fight Network (thereby Anthem Sports & Entertainment), released a statement via the LAW website that he wasn’t entirely buying that GFW was in as bad a shape as SI was reporting:

“After speaking to a variety of individuals on Wednesday, I cannot confirm Barrasso’s report with one person outright denying the story to me that Anthem was looking to sell GFW.

If you have followed the history of any pro wrestling and MMA companies that are looking to sell, they are not going to announce such a plan in advance as it would come off very badly to the talent, broadcast partners and other business partners to announce that you are looking to get out. So, I cannot confirm or deny the sale talks other than to say it was denied to me when I inquired today. GFW is still going ahead with plans for the launch of their Global Wrestling Network streaming service and launching on television in Germany & other markets, which have been mentioned on television the past two-weeks.” John Pollock, LAW Radio, September 6, 2017

While one would assume this is just Pollock towing the company line – since his radio show is owned by the same owners as Impact Wrestling – he also took his bosses to task as well:

“Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this news is the mounting frustration that the talent must have. For those that watch the weekly television, it is generally a very good wrestling show and the talent has never been an issue throughout all of the stories and issues with the business side of the company. This year has been dominated by the Hardy’s story, the Alberto El Patron situation in July and now with Jeff Jarrett and a report out on the promotion’s future. It would be in the best interest of Anthem to issue a public statement immediately if they are committed while silence is only going to fuel speculation and unrest among the talent.” John Pollock, LAW Radio, September 6, 2017

Anthem Sports & Entertainment issued a press release shortly after Barrasso’s piece, seemingly to deflect the rumours of a potential sale, by showcasing all the global partnerships and progressions made by GFW over the past week, including it’s television deal extension with PopTV, the US cable home of Impact Wrestling.

All of this lead to shouts of “damage control”, that Anthem was trying to put some water on the fire before the smoke turned into flames, while others, like GFW’s Dutch Mantell blew everything off as simply “gossip”.

For the sake of the hundreds of employees working for Impact Wrestling – or Global Force Wrestling – let’s hope this situation ends well for everyone. While naysayers love to mock Jeff Jarrett or Impact’s troubles over the past several years, the product has definitely improved monumentally over the past six months and was finally starting to showcase a different product that relied on its strengths instead of working with other’s failures. Impact Wrestling’s road ahead just got a little tougher, but they’ve somehow pulled through every time and survived another day. It’ll be an interesting next few weeks in the Impact Zone.