Impact Wrestling star Eli Drake is excited about the changes that have been going on in the wrestling company he’s called home for more than two years. That includes a long overdue change in its name.
“I don’t think it’s any secret — just telling people I worked for ‘TNA’ in the past could be a bit of a chuckle,” said Drake, who in 2015 joined Total Nonstop Action, which was recently re-branded Global Force Wrestling. “ ‘GFW Impact’ — I dig it. And I like what we’re doing, where we’re going . . . It’s just a matter of just letting things happen. But at the same time, kind of making them happen, which is really the key to the whole thing.”
And Impact Wrestling will take another major step in its transformation when it returns to the New York area for the first time in two-and-a-half years for a pair of shows this weekend, including one on Long Island.
On Friday, GFW brings its Impact Live tour to the Sports Arena in St. James for an event with an 8 p.m. start time. Tickets are available at the box office or at the Sports Arena website. Then on Saturday, the men and women of Impact will make their debut at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark in Staten Island, home of the Staten Island Yankees, starting at 6 p.m. Tickets to that show are available at the ballpark or the Yankees’ website.
Drake will join GFW stars including Lashley, EC3, Low-Ki, Cowboy James Storm and Unified GFW/Impact Knockouts Champion Sienna for the New York shows. The Northeast swing is a rare excursion away from the company’s home base at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., where it tapes its weekly television series airing on Thursday nights on Pop TV.
“The Northeast, New York, that whole area — that’s a hotbed for wrestling right now. So to get up there and get in front of that crowd, I’m actually very excited about that,” Drake said. “As much as love the Impact Zone [in Orlando] and we love the fans there, a lot fo the times, a good portion of them are the same returning fans. And that’s a great thing. But at the same time, to get new, fresh faces right in front of us, you can’t really beat that.”
Drake himself may be a new fresh face to some fans. Although the Hagerstown, Md. native was signed to a WWE developmental contract for a number of years, he was not featured on the company’s televised programs. But, Drake said, he turned enough heads in WWE that one of the company’s producers recommended him to TNA, which brought him on board in 2015. Since then, Drake, 34, has made a name for himself as one to watch on Impact, both for his talent in the ring and on the microphone.
“Wrestling is important. But the guys who really make the money and who make a spot for themselves, historically — and that will never change—are the guys with character, the guys who can talk, the guys with personality,” Drake said. “And so my aim was, ‘Every time you give me that microphone, let me knock it out of the park.’ And I think I’ve done a pretty [darn] good job of that for the most part.”
Now, with the a new owner — cable sports conglomerate Anthem Sports and Entertainment — and TNA co-founder Jeff Jarrett back running the company’s day-to-day operations, Drake said he’s optimistic about his future. That will require Impact getting away from some past mistakes, including an over-reliance on former WWE stars.
“I think that’s really the key to building this company — not taking the guys, necessarily, who came straight from WWE, because we’re, again, giving them attention and giving them props. [Expletive] that,” Drake said. “Let’s take those guys and use them as best we can. But at the same time, let’s build our own talent, and show that Impact is a real force. I guess I’ll call it a global force.”