Monday, 19 February 2018

Impact Wrestling Review // 15th February 2018

The new regime of Impact Wrestling continued to find its feet this week on their TV show. Austin Aries defended the Impact World Championship against Eli Drake in the main event and Tyrus returned to the company for his first match since August, tagging with old pal EC3 to take on Johnny Impact and Matt Sydal. But how did all go down in Orlando? Lets take a look.

Impact World Championship // "The Truth" Austin Aries (C) def. Eli Drake // Pinfall

Austin Aries picked up his first World Championship defence against the man he won the belt from two weeks ago, Eli Drake in a good main event, with a brainbuster. The match was pushed throughout the episode this week, with a few simple things making the match feel important for both men. Obviously, this included a hype package at the top of the show, with Aries taking part in a sit-down interview, that did well at getting over the storyline and why the viewer should stick around to see it at the end of the show. Both men would have promos later in the show, with Drake being interviewed by McKenzie Mitchell and claiming to still be the champion in an energetic segment, whilst Aries cut a to-camera promo, discussing winning championships all over the world and seemingly full of confidence ahead of the match. For me, this method of promoting was much better than having the two start the show trading promos in the ring and took up far less time. It covered all the ground it needed to, kept the show feeling punchy and allowed the rest of the show enough time to breath. 

The main event was another step in the right direction for the company, as the two put on a good slow-burner, with clearly defined roles and a thrilling intricate conclusion. Drake has grown into his role as main eventer at Impact, repaying the faith shown in him by the previous regime and whilst it took him some time to grow into the setting, he bought some solid intensity to proceedings later on, when in control of the match. I hope that he is rewarded by the new creative team for the hard work he has put in over the last six months. Whilst the majority of the match was passable and perhaps could've done with a few more moments of interest, it was the gear-change heading into the stretch that made this match. From Aries suicide dive that connected with Drake's second, Chris Adonis, onwards the match the wrestling was brilliant. The two traded a series of slick reversals and near falls, including Aries escaping a Gravy Train attempt into a Last Chancery, that was super crisp and felt like it could've been the finish. I'm looking forward to seeing where Aries' title run can take us, with a number of interesting options for challengers across the roster, including Johnny Impact, Matt Sydal and even perhaps someone like Sami Callihan.

EC3 & Tyrus def. Johnny Impact & Matt Sydal // Pinfall 

Tyrus is back! Yes, the man formerly known as Brodus Clay returned to our screens this week, being revealed as EC3's mystery partner in a victory over Johnny Impact and Matt Sydal, with EC3 getting the pin over Impact with his feet on the ropes. I'm going to be honest and say I'm not a fan of Tyrus as a wrestler, I saw him live a few years ago, in a dreadful match with Michael Elgin at PCW, however he was used well in this match. The story played out that EC3 was out matched by both Impact and Sydal in the ring, with the pairing often getting the upper-hand when Ohioan was in the ring, whilst Tyrus would be able to match their speed with his power. This was seen clearly in the finish when Tyrus caught a Sydal suicide dive and sent him into apron, before tripping Impact on a Flying Chuck attempt and allowing EC3 to get the pin. It would be a stretch to call this a "good" match, but it was inoffensive, had a solid story and built to what should be a top drawer match between Impact and EC3 on next week's episode with the Number One Contendership on the line.

"Walking Armageddon" Bobby Lashley def. Sami Callihan // Disqualification 

After oVe broke up the pin cover resulting from a massive spear from Lashley, Sami Callihan suffered a disqualification loss in his first singles match in Impact, this week, in what was a physical opening match. Whilst it was slightly confusing to have oVe bundle Lashley into the boot of a car on week and then have Lashley face Callihan the week after, that didn't really stop the match from being a heated, hard-hitting slugfest. The pair spent the majority of the match on the outside, so it was a shame that the camera work out there couldn't equal the quality of the scrap and I have to say that that ended up damaging the viewing experience on a number of those spots. The Crists on the outside allowed Callihan to control large portions of the contest, also giving Lashley some lads to lob into things when necessary, whilst Callihan's wild brawling style complemented Lashley's power game nicely. The guillotine out of the spear spot still doesn't work, but Callihan doing his signature run around the ring, only to be met with a thunderous spear from Lashley definitely did. Eddie Edwards came out to save last after the match, with it later being announced that Lashley & Edwards would tag up next week against the Crist Brothers.  

Impact X Division Championship // Taiji Ishimori (C) def. El Hijo Del Fantasma // Pinfall

Taiji Ishimori racked up his fourth X Division title defence this week with a victory over AAA star El Hijo Del Fantasma with a 450° splash, in a fun junior heavyweight jaunt. This was easy to watch, but didn't quite live up to my own high expectations. This is mostly down to how brief the contest was, because almost all of the action was very good, with lots of aerial offence and a back and forth style that suited the two competitors, alongside an appreciative Orlando audience. There just wasn't enough of it, it almost ended up feeling like a taster, probably not helped by its slot just before the main event, when it could have been more effective at the top of the hour with an extra five minutes at least. The stuff on the outside was particularly strong with lots of sweet dives, including Ishimori's Golden Moonsault and a great sequence that saw the champ miss a moonsault off the apron and then leg it up and back down the ramp hitting a running step up hurricanrana on the way. Like most of the show, the X-Division has really began to heat up lately, hopefully it's just given a little more time to breath, with the talent allowed to reach their full potential in the coming months.

Rosemary def. Hania the Huntress // Pinfall 

Just one Women's match this week as Rosemary defeated her rival Hania the Huntress at the first time of asking, with the classic high crossbody counter in a match that never really got going. Everything looked alright, but for a match between two rivals there was distinct lack of intensity and I got the feeling the pair went through the motions for most of the match, although this wasn't helped by the distracting commentary talking about every other storyline, expect for the one going on in front of them. This included for the finish, where neither Josh Mathews or Sonjay Dutt seemed to have noticed Huntress had gone to the top rope until Rosemary had her pinned. I've enjoyed the Mathews & Dutt partnership for the most part over the last two weeks, but they both let the competitors down here. After the match, Huntress attacking Rosemary, before both managed to escape finisher attempts on the steel steps, so it appears this feud isn't over just yet. For me, Huntress really could've done with the win here, seeing as she only had her first match on the main TV product last week, it seems daft to have her take the fall in only her second match.

Also This Week

- NOAH's "The Machine" Brian Cage def. John Cruz in a quick squash, winning with a delayed Steiner Screwdriver.

- The GWN Flashback of the week was Braxton Sutter and Laurel Van Ness's wedding from last year, in a segment that also included Allie, Sienna, Maria Kanellis-Bennett, Mike Bennett, Rockstar Spud, Aaron Rex , Brooke Tessmacher and Robbie E. 

- LAX had a segment, but I'm not sure what was actually happening, but Konnan certainly said some things, before later on The Cult of Lee attempted to find LAX, attacking a pair of blocks dressed as The Mumbai Cats, who turned out to be neither Latin American or from Mumbai. 

- Jimmy Jacobs ordered Kongo Kong to destroy Joseph Park's office, which included smashing a photo of an elderly woman. 

- Allie's secret admirer was revealed as Impact Knockout's Champion Laurel Van Ness, but Allie hit her with a box of chocolates and threw her into a production box whilst shouting "Get back in the box.

- Alberto El Patron attacked Moose during an interview with McKenzie Mitchell, so it looks like those two are feuding now.

ATPW Scale Rating // 5.29 out of 10

Written by James Marston // @IAmNotAlanDale

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