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How should Impact handle the Tessa Blanchard situation?

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Social media can be a whirlwind scenario, especially within the world of professional wrestling, as more often than not, when someone is trending on Twitter outside of the time frame of a live event, it’s usually not good news. What that might say about social media’s immediate focus on a scandal or more generally the thought process of society is a different discussion for a different time.

Quite frankly, similar to why the tabloids sold steadily for years, the public can be fascinated to watch a train wreck or a scandal unfold on social media.

Less than 24 hours before Impact Wrestling’s Hard to Kill pay-per-view, one half of the main event world title match, Tessa Blanchard, was trending on Twitter. Unfortunately, the stellar athlete had some rather serious accusations made toward her in response to her tweet that women should be more supportive toward one another, perhaps a reference toward her main event spot tonight. That tweet prompted NWA Women’s champion, Allysin Kay to explain that Tessa hurled racist insults toward La Rosa during a tour of Japan a few years ago, which La Rosa later confirmed on Twitter. NXT star Chelsea Green chimed in and explained that Tessa had also been very rude and insulted her in the past as well. Several other female athletes took to social media to confirm these accounts of Tessa’s alleged behavior.

As much as current society seems eager to “cancel” someone from their profession or public view, it’s important to note that these are alleged comments that Tessa completely denied on Twitter. However, the story is making the rounds throughout the wrestling world and with the seriousness of the allegations, it’s something that Impact management might have to take into account, especially considering the unique nature of the main event scenario for their pay-per-view tonight.

In theory, Tessa Blanchard defies gender stereotypes and becomes the first female world champion for a major promotion in the United States, which is a tremendous story and allows for a very nice moment. Particularly with the rightful spotlight on women’s sports in recent years, she could represent something more than just a wrestling angle and stand as an example of female empowerment. From a business prospective, with as crowded as the current pro wrestling landscape is, the first female world champion gives Anthem something unique to promote for its newly acquired AXS network.

On the flip side, if these claims are true, it taints not only the opportunity and sincerity of a genuine moment, but also completely refutes Tessa’s original tweet of women supporting female empowerment. It’s also a tough sell to try to get fans to want to support or rally an organization that would book a possible a racist as their world champion. (I’m still not sure why the WWE uses Hulk Hogan) Quite frankly, IF Tessa used racist language toward an African American performer then she doesn’t the deserve the recognition or the accomplishment of being the first female world champion.

If this is true, it’s extremely disappointing on many levels. Obviously, any form of racism or prejudice is completely ridiculous. From a wrestling context, Tessa Blanchard undoubtedly has the skills to be a main event star in the pro wrestling industry, regardless of gender. She’s a top-notch athlete that performs at a main event level. Impact Wrestling, despite the departures of some of its best acts over the past year, still has a solid roster and would probably be the best choice for the promotion to have the first female world champion because of how it presents women on the roster. The women’s division in Impact has always been featured as a priority and not an after thought. The concept of inter-gender wrestling was blended into the product so it’s not some type of novelty, but rather used as a regular angle that can draw money, which is what gives a storyline more substance than just a one-off match. Speaking of inter-gender matches, the Hard to Kill main event isn’t the first time that the Sami Callihan/Tess Blanchard bout will be booked to close the show, as the two had a tremendous main event contest that told an emotional story at Slammiversary last year. More than just her family name, Tessa Blanchard is a nature in the squared circle.

At 24, she appears to have a seemingly bright future a head of her, considering that within just five years as a pro she worked in Mexico, Japan, WWE, and Impact. But, it’s also somewhat odd that despite her talent, she wasn’t offered a WWE deal after her appearance in the Mae Young Classic, and there were rumors online that her bad attitude prevented a contract offering. Granted, the pro wrestling rumor mill must be taken with a grain of salt, but the situation might lend some validity to the claims that she was very rude toward others. Ironically, Allysin Kay’s response about Tessa’s alleged racist comments were during a tour for Stardom a few years ago, which was rumored to be the reason she wasn’t brought back to the group after the incident. Blanchard hasn’t been booked for the company since 2017.

Sadly, when I read the story online about Tessa being rude to others, I wasn’t too surprised because I actually met her during a show I was doing commentary for in Pittsburgh in 2016. Thankfully, 99% of the experiences I’ve had within the wrestling industry are good and I’ve met some of my favorite people and best friends through work on the local scene. I’m been very thankful to work with and call matches for some very talented people that have always been helpful and made my job easier. One of the things that I’m most proud of about my work as a commentator is that people I genuinely respect have complimented my work. That said, as a part of the preparation for broadcasts, I usually talk to debuting talent to get notes on their career or if there’s something specific they would want mentioned during their match.

I’ve always found it extremely important to emphasize the skills of the talent in the ring on commentary and try to have as much relevant information as possible to do that during the broadcast. At this local event, I introduced myself to Tessa and asked if I could get some of her background information and asked if there was anything specific about her match she would like the fans to know. Her response was, “Don’t you know who I am?” At first, I thought this might’ve been some type of joke, but there wasn’t a punch line so I said that of course I knew her family name and most of the places she wrestled previously, but if there were any particular quotes as to why she pursued the family business it could give the viewing audience more insight into her character. She replied, “now this sounds like an interview and I hate interviews.”

At this point, her rude attitude suggested that she thought she was too important to provide information for the broadcast so I simply said, “Never mind, I can focus the story on your opponent.” Tessa’s response was “Well, she’s going to lose.” I walked away and continued with the work to be done prior to the start of the event. Apparently, the fact that Tessa was booked to win her one-off appearance at a local independent show was important to her.

Considering that much more tenured veterans such as Chris Hamrick, Chase Owens, and several other were very polite and appreciative that I asked them if they wanted anything specific mentioned on commentary last year, I don’t think Tessa Blanchard is too big of a star to talk to the broadcast team before an event. But, maybe that’s the problem? Blanchard is still young and perhaps her immaturity is based on her success in a relatively short time? Either way, the point being, I wasn’t surprised to hear that Tessa might’ve been rude to others in the industry. That said, I truly hope that the claim that she made racist comments isn’t true because it’s a terrible thing to do at anytime. Since others have responded to attempt to confirm the story, it’s difficult to believe that several random performers would randomly confirm it if it wasn’t accurate.

How Impact management handles this situation or more importantly the booking of the world title match tonight could be a key decision.

It’s tough to book Tessa Blanchard as the personification of female empowerment with the cloud of claims that she might’ve done the opposite outside of the ring over the celebration. Also, the organization has tried tirelessly to not only improve its image, but expand its distribution through Axis so the potential negative press surrounding this story wouldn’t help that. The direction of this storyline would logically conclude with the baby face victory, but if the social media controversy leads to Sami Callihan remaining champion, where does that leave Tessa?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKZ4Yahr7MA&w=560&h=315]

It seems like too often in modern culture, the general public looks to “cancel” someone or expect them to disappear from public view if they make a mistake. All things considered, if these things did happen and Tessa apologized, the public also always wants to watch a redemption story. Since Tessa flatly denies any of this happen, that doesn’t appear to be an option in this situation. So, it will basically be a decision of if Impact management believes Tessa’s story and if they think any of the story should affect their booking plans.

Obviously, nobody outside of those supposedly directly involved knows exactly what happened, but as I mentioned, at the very least, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tessa was very rude to other people during her career. Unfortunately, this might be another precautionary tale of “too much too soon” in the wrestling business, and if nothing else, maybe this will give Blanchard a chance to consider her actions towards others in the future. Considering her age and talent level, it would be very disappointing if her ego or attitude derailed or hindered a potentially stellar career. It will be very interesting to see how this story unfolds going forward and if it actually plays a role in the results of the pay-per-view.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta

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