Johnny Impact on the Upward Trajectory of IMPACT Wrestling & Why He Enjoys Playing a D-Bag
Johnny Impact may have lost the IMPACT Wrestling heavyweight championship at the Rebellion Pay-Per-View event, but he remains in high spirits. That’s because the star, real name John Hennigan, can feel a shift in fan perception.
Since joining the promotion in 2017 the Californian has been a stalwart soldier putting on stellar matches and using his name value to bring new and returning eyes to the product. It’s been an uphill battle for organization to earn the trust of its audience again, many of which took off due to lack of creative consistency and being burned by prior management.
“With the response from fans and critics online, the locker room has seen this upward trajectory,” Impact said. “Right now, I feel the locker room is proud and happy and positive. That kind of energy is the most important thing for a roster. Nobody wants to jump in if they aren’t excited.
"It feels like we’re accomplishing something and doing something together. People are having good matches. There is an electricity backstage constantly. That’s why you are seeing this tangible change and been seeing it for the last year or two.”
IMPACT the company continues to build bridges and partner with other promotions on events. They continue to run television tapings in different markets. Another step forward includes the launch of IMPACT Plus. The multi-platform digital subscription video-on demand (VOD) service features live monthly premium specials, instant access to 3,000-plus hours of content within Impact Wrestling’s 17- year library, new original series, exclusive events from other companies and more.
For Impact, these enhancements help with accessibility that will benefit them long-term. Another shot in the arm is the acquisition of top talent like the returning Rob Van Dam, set to appear at the May 3 and 4 TV tapings from the famed 2300 Arena in Philadelphia.
“I love Rob. Him and I are legitimate friends,” Impact said. “The last couple of years when we were both living in Los Angeles, we were hanging out a lot. We would hang out in Hollywood and do stuff before he moved to Vegas. So, the idea of seeing him now is really cool for me.
"He is someone I was a huge fan of before I even got into the business to the day I started in WWE. He was someone I looked up to because of the way he saw wrestling and the way he conducted himself. So, signing him is a big win.”
Don’t expect the welcome wagon to be rolled out for RVD by Impact, who has gone to a more heelish onscreen persona alongside real life wife Taya. The “Prince of Parkour” is enjoying the switch.
“Change is fun. It’s fun to be bad,” he said. “It’s not fun checking into the airport and checking in your bag that is 52 pounds and you have to take two pounds out. Whoever is checking you in is saying, ‘52 1/2 pounds is still too much.’ When you have those moments, you feel like letting bad guy Johnny Impact slip out, but you can’t because that is real life. You have to behave as there are social norms to abide by because we are civilized people.
“But in the context in the ring, you get d-bag Johnny Impact and d-bag Taya. It’s all straight narcissistic pride. No filter where we say what we want and do what we want. And that is fun. It’s fun to just be raw and impulsive. I think having fun is key to me enjoying what I do. I think people responding to me when I’m being a jerk. Me having fun being a d-bag works for me.”
The athlete left WWE under the John Morrison name and found success on his own terms. Now more than seven years later, he is seeing a wave of others doing the same.
“It’s a cool time in the business. It’s awesome to see it working for other people like Cody, the Bucks, Kenny [Omega] and Chris [Jericho] and the rest of the ‘Being the Elite’ team and tons of other talent too.
"The idea that one company has a monopoly on the business is starting to become something of the past. I know how wrestling works. It could change and be exactly how it was 10 or so years ago or it could continue the way it’s going and become a thing where it’s one organization with less power with other organizations that become legitimate competition.
“I like that. It’s good for wrestlers when there is a lot of organizations that have the ability to draw. A lot of independent federations that are drawing constantly thousand, two thousand, three thousand people. More power to do all that. It’s a cool thing to see.”
One thing Impact isn’t cool about are reports how Lucha Underground has handled its relations with certain talent who were or have been in limbo. With no word on a season five, the athlete who wrestled as Johnny Mundo does feel the show is done for now.
“It’s hard to say if it’s permanently done. Never say never in wrestling, but if Lucha Underground is holding wrestlers under contract without knowing if there will be a season five and costing wrestlers work. That’s a big no in my book,” he said.
“If they are holding wrestlers to their contracts, they are costing them money. That’s completely unfair because it’s not easy to be successful in pro wrestling and make money. You have a small window to compete and work and make a living. People in this business can’t afford to lose opportunities. The window closes sometimes due to injuries, all kinds of things come up. If people are being held back, that’s something that really pisses me off.”
The Survivor alum is hopeful things get worked out in the end for everyone involved. He is a little more confident when speaking about his future with Impact Wrestling.
“I’m planning on sticking with them for the foreseeable future for a variety of reasons,” he said. “I love working with my wife. I love the roster. I feel like I’m part of something and changing and the rise of Impact Wrestling.”
Watch Impact 10/9c Friday nights on the Pursuit Channel and Twitch.
The company’s next Pay-Per-View event is Slammiversary XVII coming Sunday, July 7, from the just-announced host city of Dallas.