No stranger to the wrestling business, Scott D’Amore is approaching his third decade in the industry, and he has helped shape Impact Wrestling into a platform for emerging stars and for overlooked veterans who still have a lot to offer.
D’Amore is part of Impact’s three-member executive committee. Along with Don Callis and Anthem Sports and Entertainment president Ed Nordholm, his focus has been building a balanced roster that can attract new viewers to Impact! every Tuesday night on AXS TV.
Impact is in the early stages of a crossover relationship with All Elite Wrestling, and the timing could not be better. The partnership has brought a very bright spotlight on Impact, which has its own new crop of stars—like Deonna Purrazzo, Chris Bey and Ace Austin—who appear poised to become household names. Impact’s upcoming Hard to Kill pay-per-view on Jan. 16 is headlined by a six-man tag pitting Kenny Omega and the Good Brothers against Rich Swann and the Motor City Machine Guns, who are, respectively, the reigning world champion and tag-team champs for Impact. Omega has been making appearances on Impact!, which is groundbreaking territory for AEW and Impact, especially considering that Omega is AEW’s world champion.
D’Amore spoke with Sports Illustrated about Impact’s relationship with AEW and whether there will be any further crossover between talents, as well as the COVID-19 testing policies in Impact and the upcoming Hard to Kill pay-per-view.
The AEW-Impact partnership has started off on such a great note.
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t an exciting time after an insane downer of a year.
Kenny Omega is bringing an incredible amount of excitement to Impact, and he’s even in the main event of your upcoming Hard to Kill pay-per-view. But for all Omega’s brilliance, Hard to Kill is not a one-man show. The foundation of Impact has been rebuilt over the past couple of years, and there is genuine interest in talent like Ace Austin, Rich Swann, Deonna Purrazzo and the Motor City Machine Guns. Is that the key for you—having Omega help shine a brighter spotlight on your talent?
A big part of it is what you just hit on. Kenny is a forward-thinker, and he doesn’t think in the confines of traditional wrestling. It’s the same with the Young Bucks and Tony Khan [of AEW], they’re all forward-thinkers. And we are very proud of what we’re building at Impact Wrestling. Since Anthem came in, the goal has always been the long-term. You can’t do this in a day, a week, a month or a year. Incrementally, we’ve tried to get better, brick by brick. So yes, this is a chance for us to show off our talent.
This isn’t just a chance to see Kenny Omega—it’s a chance to see Kenny Omega reunite with Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows. That’s a Bullet Club reunion, and you’re putting them with Rich Swann, who is showing he can be a great world champion, and one of the most iconic teams in wrestling, especially Impact Wrestling, in the Motor City Machine Guns. They’re a team that constantly gets overlooked for their contributions in revolutionizing tag-team wrestling, and they’re as homegrown for Impact as anyone. This is a match for wrestling fans, you get to watch these six men go at it in the ring.
There are other important building blocks for Impact, like Jordynne Grace, the North and Taya Valkyrie. Do you assess the current roster against where you were from previous years?
I’ll compare this roster to the roster that was here when I got here. The Knockouts have grown in size and quality, and we have talent that takes pride in great performances and efforts. I’m really proud of our group. Twenty-twenty was a really tough year, but our talent has continued to go out and put on a great product.
You can try to buy success, and that can be achieved to a certain level, but for us, long-term success is built on finding talent that hasn’t had that national stage. Look at the people you mentioned. Look at Chris Bey. The North, they were able to build an even bigger platform here. Ace Austin is another example. Look at his development over the past couple years. Deonna Purrazzo already had a great résumé, but maybe wasn’t quite clicking where she was. We wanted to give her an environment where she could develop, grow and prosper.
You need that mix of established talent and up-and-coming talent. We’re trying to make the whole team great and we’re working our hardest to make the product as special as possible.
Looking more closely at the partnership with AEW, will we see more crossovers? A meeting pitting the Motor City Machine Guns against the Young Bucks could headline a pay-per-view.
The Young Bucks are two great guys. If someone isn’t happy with their success, I feel like they’re not a fan of great human interest and success stories. They went out and built this incredible thing.
The Bucks have teased a return to Impact, and I’ll keep saying this—the door is always open. I worked with them briefly when they were first here, and they were great then and they were also great in Japan. They’re great people, and they’ve revolutionized the wrestling business and the way it looks.
There is a bond that connects the Young Bucks and the Motor City Machine Guns. It’s a match we saw years ago, and seeing them hook up one more time is a dream match. They would put on an unbelievable, emotionally rewarding match for wrestling fans.
AEW is perhaps the hottest promotion in wrestling, but does it bother you when people ask, “What does AEW have to gain from a partnership with Impact?”
Everyone is entitled to their position. Look, AEW built a great product in a very short period of time. Our hats are off to Tony Khan and his team. I’ve always believed that success in the wrestling business is like a rising tide in that it leads to more success for everyone.
I’m very happy we get to do some crossover stuff with them. Often in wrestling, the question is “Why would we work with someone else?” This has put eyeballs on both companies. We’re very appreciative, and we think it’s added a buzz for both shows. The collaboration on the talent level creates the potential for a lot of fresh matchups. We’ll see where it goes next, but it is a great time to be a wrestling fan and a great time to be in the wrestling business.
Especially with AEW’s involvement, in terms of testing and on-air presentation, this is an opportunity for Impact to show itself as a top-tier promotion. And someone that has benefited tremendously from the extra screen time is your fellow Impact executive Don Callis, who is perfect in his role beside Kenny Omega. There is plenty of speculation that Don is leaving Impact to work full-time with Omega in AEW. Can you comment on those rumors?
Everybody is going to speculate, but that’s a good thing. Speculation can lead to buzz. Don has been a huge part of what we’ve done here. We’ve been friends for the past 25 years. In life and in business, people make changes, but I will say that Don has been an integral part of everything we have done at Impact. Again, we’ll see what comes next, but Don is executive vice president at Impact Wrestling. He’s also the mentor and manager for the AEW world champion, and he’s helped create this crossover and a very special time in the wrestling business.
Whether Don and I are both at Impact Wrestling, or if we’re in different parts of the world or in different industries, there will always be a connection and a friendship. Fans should continue to speculate and enjoy, but don’t let it get in the way of enjoying the ride of some really cool and exciting times.
The Hard to Kill pay-per-view, at least on paper, has the potential to be your best show in years. Why should people invest their time and their money in the show on January 16?
Hard to Kill is going to stand as an epic moment in wrestling history. Kenny Omega, the AEW world champion, is going to cross over into the Impact Zone. The main event is going to be fantastic, but one thing we’ve consistently done is provide quality from top to bottom. The return of the Knockouts’ tag titles is something fans have been clamoring about for a long time, and we’re going to have a great finals to determine the new champions. Those new titles add something unique to our show. The X Division is going to play an important role in the show, and then you have people like Eddie Edwards and Sami Callihan. It’s a mix of great athletic wrestling, and from the opener to the main event, we’re going to provide a card that is going to be money well spent.