Dear Impact: Maybe Don’t Turn a Domestic Violence Incident Into a Storyline, Okay?

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On July 12th Impact Wrestling announced the indefinite suspension of Alberto el Patron, after TMZ broke the news that the former world champion was being investigated in conjunction with an alleged incident of domestic violence that took place at an airport in Orlando. The situation also involved his girlfriend, who wrestling fans know better as WWE Superstar Paige.

In the weeks that followed it was revealed that Orlando police actually recommended that criminal charges be filed against Paige – not el Patron – although the case was officially closed and no charges were pressed against either party. TMZ had also released an audio file that seemed to indicate a loud, verbal altercation where Paige can be heard screaming “leave me the f–k alone,” as well as “stay out of my life”.

There’s still no definite information on what exactly happened in that Florida airport, but one leading story is that the two-time WWE Divas Champion was actually yelling at an unrelated third party. The alleged individual was apparently a woman who was caught trying to take photos of the couple while Paige was crying, after receiving some upsetting news about a family member – at least that’s her story.

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The important part here is that while no official charges were handed down, Impact saw fit to strip Patron of the Unified GFW World Heavyweight Championship (now the Global Championship) largely due to an outpouring of negative backlash against him on social media at the time. As his suspension carried through multiple sets of television tapings, he was never brought back to Impact Wrestling in the weeks and months leading up to Bound For Glory, making his return to the ring this Sunday his first appearance in nearly four months.

Alberto made his presence felt this Sunday by interfering in the main event championship match between Eli Drake and Johnny Impact, but not before cutting an extremely long-winded promo that made a whole lot of people very uncomfortable.

The former WWE star took to the ring earlier in the night and began ranting and raving about Impact management “screwing him over”, claiming that the company refused to pay him while he was gone despite the fact that he “never did anything wrong”. He doubled down several times on the idea of his own innocence, while calling the Impact staff and talent “cowards” and “dogs” for the way they treated him and “stabbed him in the back” over something that allegedly never happened. He even brought up his three small children, and singled out ring announce Jeremy Borash in an extremely awkward and off-putting moment.

Obviously, as pro wrestling exists in a bubble somewhere between complete fabrication and a shade of the actual truth, it’s impossible to tell what el Patron really thinks of his time served away from Impact. That being said, to many fans and people within the industry, that’s not really the point here… Clearly the company wouldn’t let him just go out there and run wild about a domestic abuse case without having a hand in the mess.

Both Impact and el Patron have been heavily criticized by many writers, critics, websites and even a few personalities from within the industry since the segment ran on Sunday night’s pay-per-view. It seems the decision to turn an alleged domestic violence scandal into a fake wrestling storyline isn’t sitting well with too many people, especially considering that the 40-year-old star has a long track record of controversy, and the other party in question is a WWE Superstar who is rumored to be just “days away” from making a return to the ring.

Not only did people question the moral implications of running this story, the live crowd in Ottawa didn’t seem to know how to react either. There were some people cheering and doing the “si” chants, while others booed, and some even called for JB to be put through a table at one point. Mostly though, people were just uncomfortable.

It was a mood that unfortunately resonated throughout the rest of the show; before Patron’s promo the audience was hot for X-Division action and seemed to be having a good time. Later in the night even Sami Callihan and Jimmy Jacobs’ surprise debuts were meant with deafening silence. When Alberto returned to close out the show, fans once again had no idea how to react to the seemingly random attacks, resulting in the headlining act of Impact’s biggest annual show to fall completely flat.

Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet wrote the following:

“Is Impact writing the show to attract fans or turn them off? Because pushing a guy to the main event who is complaining about not being paid while under investigation for domestic violence is a MAJOR turn off to most. It would be one thing if the incident had been some National Enquirer bulls–t, but there was audio of an intense public verbal altercation between he and his fiance. Her family also made a public cry for help. Additionally, ‘the media’ didn’t make stuff up about him. Cops were on record saying he was under investigation. That’s what should happen when there’s a possible domestic situation [re: his suspension]. Just because he doesn’t have a firm grasp of the law, doesn’t mean he was wronged.”

So he’s been back for less than 24 hours and Impact has already completely killed the momentum of a main event story that’s been built up over the past several months. That might just be a new record in terms of terrible decision-making by Impact, and that’s saying something.

If you want people to react to things, maybe don’t develop a decade-long reputation for never giving the fans a satisfying payoff to a story they’ve invested in. Maybe don’t charge $39.99 for your biggest annual event in an era of $10 subscription services, just to close it out with a B-level angle you could see on free television. Maybe don’t claim to be this “new and improved” company going in a different direction, with all this incredible, fresh talent and then subject them to the EXACT SAME booking you do every single year.

I don’t know – maybe next time don’t handle an alleged domestic violence incident involving a ridiculously controversial human being, by turning the whole thing into an uncomfortable and inappropriate story. The fact that we even need to be having this conversation right now speaks volumes about why this company continues to be the most out of touch wrestling organization on the planet.

But hey, at least Sami Callihan is back on television. If Impact management had any sense whatsoever they’d hand him the book, give him a live microphone every single week, and never look back.