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Taking photos in the Impact Zone a rush
By MIKE MASTRANDREA - SLAM! Wrestling


The Impact Zone at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL, on March 29, 2008. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea.


ORLANDO, Fla. -- It's funny how just the other night I was sharing war stories with other notable wrestling photographers, some who shoot in Japan and ringside for WWE. One of the most common complaints that arose from the group was how generic the business of shooting wrestling has become.

All arenas, all TV sets, all production set-ups are virtually identical these days. At times when we get so involved with the shooting, a momentary lapse of judgment occurs and we actually have to think about what city we are actually in. The days of venues full of character such as Maple Leaf Gardens or the Boston Garden are long gone and thanks to cookie-cutter atmospheres. It can be rather difficult to get excited about an assignment sometimes.

Lucky for me I was able to get excited again. Last Saturday was my first time shooting in the Impact Zone. That’s right, I got a photo pass for TNA tapings in Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. Just the thought of going to the intimate settings of Soundstage 21 instead of "Fill in Corporate Name Here" Arena was enough to get my auto focus revved up.

It all started when SLAM! Wrestling’s own "Bloodthirsty" Bob Kapur (the man with enough connection to set this up) and I were greeted at the gates of the soundstage by a very welcoming TNA Media relations director Steven Godfrey. Without wasting any time on release forms, legalese and rules and regulations -- that I have now memorized from the other company -- he quickly escorted us through the backstage area, right underneath the hard cameras in the Impact Zone.

It's an area rarely seen on camera, and there are about three rows of seats where most guests and VIPs of TNA sit including TNA president Dixie Carter and friends and family of talent. Behind those three rows is a two-foot high ramp, which is the wheelchair accessible area and photo pit. That placed me no more than 15 feet from all the action, excellent positioning which would result in excellent photos.

Over the next couple of very fluid and smooth hours of taping, that excitement returned again. It almost felt like that first time my dad brought me to the local arena. Back then, I was in awe, just staring at all the surroundings with no wrestlers even in sight. Saturday, I had a job to do, but it was a similar feeling.

I highly recommend that if you are ever in the Orlando area, make some time to check out a taping at the Impact Zone -- it might actually make a fan out of you again ... at least until the next set of tapings. Thanks TNA!

See Mastrandrea's TNA Impact Photo Gallery (Air date, April 10, 2008)

RELATED LINKS

  • Mike Mastrandrea's TNA Impact Photo Gallery (Air date, April 10, 2008)
  • Impact recap, Apr. 10, 2008: Impact: Last push to Lockdown
  • More on Mike Mastrandrea

    Mike Mastrandrea is SLAM! Wrestling's resident photographer, and also shot WrestleMania (Gallery 1, Gallery 2, Gallery 3, Gallery 4), the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, and the WWE Bacon, Bagels, Biceps Brunch while he was in Orlando.