June 2020 has been a shocking month for wrestling, and boy does it keeps on giving. It has been announced that Impact has released Tessa Blanchard and stripped her of her Impact World Championship.
Whilst the details are still on the vague side, it’s been said that Tessa had not sent on to the company some recorded promos that she had agreed to record at home in Mexico earlier in the month. Impact allegedly attempted to get Tessa to come back to drop the title but terms could not be agreed on.
How Tessa and Impact went from one state of affairs to the other is still not completely clear (you don’t usually get fired or asked to drop your title for failing to send promo material in). What we can say is that Tessa Blanchard is a free agent, perhaps one of the hottest free agents on the market. But she faces a problem that contradicts the high-standing of her position: which companies will actually want to do business with her?
The talk amongst the wrestling community is that Tessa is hard to deal with backstage. It’s been suggested that it’s for this reason the WWE passed on signing her after her appearance in the Mae Young Classic tournament in 2017. There were also the allegations of racism, something Tessa strongly denied, on the eve of her history-making Impact Heavyweight Championship win, a title only held previously and competed for by men.
With all this in mind, it can be easily discerned why Tessa would be a very appealing signing for a lot of companies, and yet, with her reputation, why a lot of companies might be put off from actually getting her signature in ink on paper.
So: what options does Tessa have moving forward?
What with the current pandemic, she’s really tied to America and Mexico, ruling out big women’s promotion Stardom, as well as other name promotions in Japan, as she won’t be able to travel there.
In America, there are women’s promotions such as Shimmer and Thunder Rosa’s newly announced Mission Pro Wrestling. But I can’t see Tessa wanting to follow this path when she’s already she can hang with the men as well as the women in Impact.
Which brings up a consideration: Tessa is a former World Champion in Impact. Not just a women’s champion, but the holder of the big one. She was the company’s figurehead, no matter how short that period was. The likelihood is she won’t return to the indies unless she has to, instead seeing a level of worth and value in herself that being a recent world champion connotes. This will, I’m sure, which companies she will deal with moving forward.
I can’t see her joining the NWA, even with the family heritage. Allysin Kay was pretty outspoken about Tessa on Twitter during the racism allegations, so I can’t Tessa wanting to enter that locker room. Plus, the NWA is not currently producing content and have some restructuring to do in the upper management. Tessa, one assumes, will want to get straight into the action on a bigger stage.
MLW is always an option, and her style would suit their ‘hybrid wrestling’ philosophy. The only problem is that MLW doesn’t currently have the biggest women’s division, so unless they would be looking to run Tessa in an inter-gender series again, Court Bauer’s promotion will possibly not be Tessa’s choice of a new home.
Realistically this leaves WWE (including NXT) and AEW. While both are potentially attractive propositions to Tessa, with both having major media exposure and large audience shares (WWE more so, of course). As a former Impact World Champion, she might even see both companies as the next logical steps in her career progression.
It’s for AEW that Tessa poses the biggest risk. Promoting themselves as a ‘woke’ company, the hiring of Tessa, with the allegations of racism against her, might play further into the hands of critics who are already questioning how much of AEW’s ‘wokeness’ is just lip service. Yes, the company took action against Jimmy Havoc and Sammy Guevara in the wake of allegations against both men, but the statements against both were almost grudgingly given and begrudging in their tone. The fact that not even 30 seconds out of Wednesday’s edition of Dynamite was taken to address or reassure the TV audience was both surprising and telling.
It’s this ambiguity between word and action which makes me believe AEW could make an offer to Tessa if they thought they could do business together. It’s easy to take potshots at a certain retired wrestler and his ex-wife when they’re longer actively and regularly involved in the business. But when there’s someone who could massively bolster their much-criticised (but admittedly improving) women’s division…
As for WWE, they turned Tessa down before, but would they do it again? Tessa has built up more of a name for herself since their last dealings in 2017 and has more star and name value now then she did then. As WWE tend to continue to push Charlotte Flair as one of the company’s top women, and as the real top woman in cash-generating terms, Becky Lynch, is absent, Tessa might be an ideal solution to the problem, particularly with Charlotte now dropping out as well due to injury. Tessa is a ring tested and much-skilled athlete who could be trusted to put on top-quality matches at the main event end of the women’s division. There’s even a ready-made storyline for when Charlotte returns: who wouldn’t watch a feud between the daughters of the Four Horsemen?
Whatever Tessa’s choice and whatever options are available to her, she has a hell of a lot to offer to the business. The question is: will her reputation do her more harm than good in the long run?