The biggest component Impact Wrestling has been lacking over the last three years has been a clear and defined identity. They’re not the biggest promotion in the world, they’re not the most athletic and they aren’t the most unique when it comes to storytelling. So what are they? What can Impact Wrestling offer to wrestling fans who are already engrained in the universes of WWE, New Japan, Ring of Honor and Lucha Underground?
Last night at Slammiversary, Impact showed us what their identity can be. Impact can be the most violent of the “mainstream” companies in the U.S., and they went there in full force last night.
Impact presented three hardcore matches on its PPV. Eddie Edwards beat Tommy Dreamer in a bloody House of Hardcore match. LAX defeated the OGz in a bloody 5150 street fight and Pentagon Jr. beat Sami Callihan in a bloody Hair vs. Mask match. Are you noticing the common theme?
All three matches, while rooted in the same type of violence, were still uniquely different. Dreamer and Edwards was a slower more methodical street fight that featured a lot of weaponry, most likely to mask some of the physical limitations that come with Tommy Dreamer and his age and mileage in the ring. The LAX-OGz match used weapons like Drain-O and tables in the background, instead focusing on a wild brawl that featured some crazy athletics from Santana and Ortiz, creating the movement in the ring against two veterans in Homicide and Hernandez. Then there was Pentagon and Callihan, who blended the athletic violence and weaponry into the match of the night, and perhaps one of the most intense matches Impact has presented in several years.
Scott D’Amore and Don Callis have recognized at this point what Impact is, and where it ranks. They can’t hold a candle to WWE’s production values, so why try? Instead they opted for a unique setting inside the Rebel Entertainment Complex in Toronto (a concern venue) that featured some different lighting and aesthetics. The crowd — a paying crowd — was hot from the opening bell to the final pinfall.
Johnny Impact beat Fenix, Petey Williams and Taiji Ishimori in a Fatal Four Way Match
From a booking perspective, it’s good to see Impact get the win in his return to the company. He’s a guy that, if booked the right way, Impact can build around. I’d like to see him utilized as a cocky heel, just because I think he can pull off that type of character really well, but it doesn’t seem Impact is moving in that direction after the company sent him as an ambassador to the Blue Jays game earlier in the day to throw out the first pitch.
Tessa Blanchard beat Allie
The top rope hurricanrana that Tessa Blanchard gave Allie looked scary, as it seemed Allie got stuck or something and got spiked on her head — at least it looked that way — but she kicked out and appeared OK.
This match was good though. Allie looked strong despite the loss and Tessa gets an important win, considering how 50/50 she’s been booked since her debut with the company. The match itself was really strong, and a good step forward for the division. I’m expecting that this match, non-title, will out-do the Knockouts Title match later in the show.
Eddie Edwards beat Tommy Dreamer in a House of Hardcore Match
This was a good hardcore match, if you like that style. I’m a bit confused by the “passing of the torch” angle after the match, where Dreamer handed Edwards his kendo stick and limped to the back. It was just surprising and felt out of place, considering how heated everything was prior to this.
Dreamer shouldn’t have been so trusting right away, and that’s a story that could play out this week at television tapings. Also, while I certainly don’t want to see someone seriously injured, Edwards preventing Dreamer from lighting the table on fire at the finish, hitting him with a low blow, was a bit of a heel move, was it not? The crowd exploded at the prospect of a flaming table, and Edwards took that away from them. I was not a fan of the spot where Edwards smeared his own blood on Dreamer’s face. That was unnecessary and potentially dangerous.
Brian Cage beat Matt Sydal to win the X Division Championship
Cage winning the X Division Title should allow him to showcase more of what he has to offer from an aerial perspective. This is a step for Cage, who could be on pace to win the World Title in less than a year.
Su Yung beat Allie to retain the Knockouts Championship
Rayne referenced “her husband” in the pre-match package. In the past, Josh Mathews has acknowledged, on air, that he’s married to Madison Rayne. Funny that Josh didn’t seem overly concerned when his wife was getting stuffed in a coffin after the match, other than to say that Su Yung was sending a message. … The match itself was formulaic to a certain extent. It wasn’t really bad or really great. The Allie-Tessa match was far better from a match-quality perspective.
LAX beat The OGz in a 5150 Street Fight to retain the Tag Team Championships
Usually I’m OK with just one hardcore match on a show, but both feuds had culminated and called for a more aggressive match. Also, these two hardcore matches were much different. LAX vs. OGz was a lot more athletic with more big moves, while Dreamer and Edwards relied on more weapons.
Pentagon beat Sami Callihan
I’ve been screaming for months along with Andrew Soucek that Impact needs to do something that will differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack in wrestling. Whether or not you like the “style” of the show tonight — it’s very hardcore — you can’t argue that it’s different from anything else you’ll see on a mainstream wrestling level in the U.S. Callihan vs. Pentagon was the match of the night – so far – and delivered on what I expected it to be. The near falls were believable. This match is one of my favorite matches all year so far, across any promotion. Kudos to Callihan and Pentagon on a heck of a performance.
Austin Aries beat Moose to retain the Impact World Title
That’s a surprising finish. Given the build up to this main event, it seemed inevitable that Moose would win the World Title tonight, but Impact instead kept the belt on Aries which is probably the right move from a booking perspective. There are more heels ready to challenge Aries than babyfaces ready to challenge Moose. Plus, if the end game is to get the belt on Cage at some point, he needs to beat a heel. Still, this felt like it was being set up to be Moose’s crowning moment.
Mike McMahon covers pro wrestling here at Den of Geek. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonPW