Sunday, 19 July 2020

PPV Review // Impact Wrestling Slammiversary XVIII //

I don't know about you, but I can't remember an Impact Wrestling PPV having this much buzz in a long time. Now, a lot of that buzz came from a number of rumoured returns and debuts, as well as the card having to be reshuffled after a number of high profile firings, but Impact has done a brilliant job of building the hype around their promotion being shaken up at the PPV with some great hype packages and a well worked social media campaign over the last few months. On paper, the card wasn't all that great, but still looked like it had the potential to be a sleeper hit if things went the right way and the surprises were nailed. Our main event featured a scrap over the vacant Impact World title with Eddie Edwards, Ace Austin and Trey being joined by the returning Eric Young and Rich Swann, whilst the odd ball tandem of Sami Callihan and Ken Shamrock challenged Ethan Page & Josh Alexander of The North for the Impact World Tag Team straps and The Rascalz's Dez & Wentz had their open challenge answered by the Motor City Machine Guns as well action featuring Tommy Dreamer, Madison Rayne, Willie Mack, Moose and Kimber Lee...but was it any good? 

// Impact World Championship // 

// Five Way Elimination Match //

// Eddie Edwards def. Ace Austin, Rich Swann, Eric Young and Trey //

Eddie Edwards captured his second Impact World Championship reign, three and a half years after his first, when he pinned Ace Austin at the end of an exhilarating five way elimination match, but before we get into that, lets talk about our surprise returns. After six months on the shelf, Rich Swann made his return to Impact in what was, if we're being brutally honest, a bit of a letdown. After the build-up Impact had given this mystery spot in the match, it was hard not to be disappointing when it was a guy already on their roster and, for someone who doesn't watch their programming on a regular basis, a guy I didn't even know had been out for such a long time. Some of that is on me! BUT Impact knew what they were doing and they got me with the big swerve when Eric Young's music hit and the World Class Maniac entered for his first match in an Impact ring since March 2016. To be fair, having Swann come out before EY meant that I gave much more of a shit about Young, than I would have done if Young had come out as the surprise entrant on his own. That's because after some of the guys Impact had teased, Young is clearly not the biggest name, but after the initial disappointment of Swann (not a comment on either man's abilities in the ring), the swerve with Young felt like a much bigger deal. I like to think Impact knew exactly what they were doing, especially considering their were three more returns/debuts still to come! 

After the initial buzz for big mad EY turning up, the match did not disappoint as five high quality workers unsurprisingly put on a high quality match. In the early stages, Trey Miguel was completely stealing the match for me. Trey absolutely killed everything he did here, looking almost effortless in the ring with crisp and clean wrestling, strong babyface fire and exciting highspots. Opposite Rich Swann he produced high-paced, intricate, flippy fun shit that was joy to watch, with Ace Austin he showed off thunderous aggression that really got across the personal issue that's been brewing between the pair for sometime and then pulled off a ridiculous, difficult-to-describe-how-fucking-sweet-it-was spot that saw him duck an Eddie Edwards clothesline and simultaneously fly under the second rope to nail Swann with a sick as fuck Canadian Destroyer on the floor. Lads, I really like Trey. Even being the first eliminated from the match, following a well-worked high spot with Austin and Edwards that saw him stumble into an EY piledriver, Miguel shone brightly. Here's hoping Trey continues to get big opportunities like this, because he's gone under the radar for too long. 

The rest of the match continued to produce at a high level with a spectacular high spot, some strong storytelling beats and number of convincing near falls once we got down to our final two. Lets begin with that spot! Edwards and Austin battled on the top rope for some time with one guy either side of the turnbuckle, at the same time Young had set Swann up for a powerbomb, before having second thoughts and using Swann as a battering ram to knock Edwards and Austin off the top rope and through the time keepers table below. It was creative and looked great with good timing from all involved, with the build creating a real sense of intrigue as I wondered what exactly was about to happen. The storytelling was most focused around Rich Swann and came after he managed to get an upset pin to eliminate Young. EY was vicious in his post-elimination assault, embodying his World Class Maniac gimmick as he went absolute bat shit mental, targeting the leg that kept Swann out of action for six months with a steel chair. This set-up two interesting storylines for the future, one where Swann looks for revenge on Young (and judging by their interactions in the match the pair have promising chemistry) and another more immediate story, where Swann had to battle with a major injury against Ace Austin. Swann sold the injury for everything it was worth, creating a number of dramatic moments as he managed to grab a couple of near falls, all whilst keeping that leg injury at the forefront of his performance. Once, Swann had succumbed to Austin's The Fold (Running Blockbuster) finish it was down to old rivals Edwards and Austin to battle it out for the vacant World title. Crisp, physical and with plenty of twists and turns this was a more than solid finish to the match with both men coming close to sealing the victory (Edwards with the Boston Knee Party and Austin with The Fold) but it was a second Boston Knee Party and a Diehard Flowsion that were enough to see Edwards walk out of Skyway Studios with the Impact World Title. 

The after-the-bell action was as notable as the match, as Good Brothers made good on their midnight promise and made their presence felt at the close of the show. The returning Doc Gallows and the debuting Karl Anderson have collected tag gold in WWE and NJPW and the pair initially teased a partnership with Austin and Madman Fulton, only to join forces with Edwards to wipe out the villains and give us a feel good finish to the show. Gallows & Anderson join a growing tag team roster, that offers a number of interesting match-ups against the likes of The North, Motor City Machine Guns, The Rascalz, XXXL, Reno Scum, even Heath & Rhino, so there's a lot of potential for the Good Brothers, whilst a partnership with Edwards opens up more intriguing options. Who knows where this is going to go?! 

Then as the show looked to be heading off the air, we got what, for me, was the biggest return of the night. Three slashed lines appeared on the screen, before a hooded figure appeared on screen. The hooded figure turned round, removed the hood and revealed himself to be...Ethan Carter III. Carter smashed a glass against a wall and left and the show faded to black. Saving this rumoured surprise until the very last moment, when many had decided that we were getting no EC3 appearance was a great bit of business. There's now a mystery around what EC3 is going to do next, we have no idea who is going to be coming after or exactly how he's going to fit back into the promotion, but whilst we didn't get any answers, we did get one big reason to tune into Impact Wrestling on Tuesday night. 

// Impact World Tag Team Championship //

// Tag Team Match // 

// Ethan Page & Josh Alexander def. Sami Callihan & Ken Shamrock //

I have mixed feelings on the show's Tag team title match, because it was for the most part a 
very entertaining match, but the booking of Ken Shamrock as an indestructible machine throughout the bout did bug me. This is for two reasons, one being that this is a man in his mid-fifties who basically shrugged off anything that was thrown at him by Page & Alexander and at points looked genuinely unstoppable. The second was that the booking of Shamrock disrupted the flow of the match on numerous occasions, leading to a very stop-start narrative, that wasn't always to the benefit of the match. Of course, Shamrock would end up taking the pin off The Monster Mash, but this was only after Ken being a mad bastard lead to him deciding to attempt a dive over the top rope. Another problem this match was faced was that the latter stages completely disregarded the concept of the legal man, with one awkward spot that saw Shamrock and Alexander lock in Ankle locks on their respective opponents making this stand out even further. 

Now, let's get to the positives, because as I said this was an entertaining match and despite moaning in the previous paragraph I think I did actually enjoy it. In many ways, this match managed to be a four-man clusterfuck, with a lot going on and a lot of what was going on performed well. The North have got some lovely tandem offence, Callihan and Page worked a nice back and forth sequence with some intensity, Shamrock hit an overhead belly to belly suplex that sent Alexander out of the ring, there was a lot of cool spots to enjoy for sure. Both Shamrock and Callihan got decent near falls, that would have been even better in front of a crowd, even if there was little to no regard to who was supposed to be the legal man. I think, if I'd had a couple of pints and could have been less bothered by the booking of Shamrock, then I would've enjoyed this much more, but the action was always interesting and despite going over 15 minutes it didn't outstay it's welcome. 

Post-match, The Motor City Machine Guns continued to make their presence felt, informing The North that they'd be facing each other on Tuesday's Impact Wrestling. Impact clearly knew they had a lot of eyes on them with this PPV and the build up that they'd done and the company making an effort to build future match-ups and storylines to get people to tune in on Tuesday was a good bit of business.

// Tag Team Match // 

// Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin def. Dez & Wentz //

Lets talk about those MCMGs a bit more, because Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin are back as a team in Impact for the first in over eight years! The Detroiters answered The Rascalz open challenge at the top of the show and I popped huge for it. The obvious money was on The Good Brothers and MCMGs hadn't even crossed my mind. As a massive fan of both teams, this was one of those dream matches that I hadn't even considered a possibility, so to get it out of nowhere was pretty damn cool. There's an argument to be made that the buzz could've been even higher for this match had Motor City Machine Guns actually been announced for it and not having a live crowd robbed us of the pop they could've got from the surprise appearance, but honestly I don't care. It provided a nice moment, that hooked me straight into the PPV from the very beginning and I got to watch a super cool match that I wasn't expecting. That's all good with me. 

However, both teams still had to deliver the goods and considering their paths have never crossed before this could've ended up being a letdown, but man, did Shelley, Sabin, Dez and Wentz deliver the goods here. The action was as speedy as you'd want it to be, with the Machine Guns more than keeping up their end of the bargain against the younger team, full of beautifully smooth wrestling, physical strikes and double team manoeuvres. Often I'd forget that I was supposed to be writing notes about this, because I was simply just enjoying how fluid the wrestling. Dez in particular moves like water and his hot tag was an absolute delight. There was a little bit of narrative here and there, with MCMG's working more aggressive and taking the defacto heel role in the match, with their being elements of the classic veteran team vs. up and coming team trope, but this was definitely not explored as much as it could have been. The finish did however use this, as Dez went for a Poetry in Motion-esque move that he'd used to knock Shelley apron earlier in the match, but the veteran team had it scouted and countered, using the space to pull out a number of their greatest hits double teams. It was a nice little touch, that lead to MCMG's getting the pin on Dez with the Dirt Bomb, and with just a little bit more of this the match could have been better than it was. I'm definitely looking forward to these four going toe to toe again at some point in the future.

// Knockout's Championship // 

// Deonna Purrazzo def. Jordynne Grace (C) // 

This was an absolute belter. Just a really good professional wrestling match, which told a story and kept things simple. There were no bells and whistle here, no crazy booking decisions, just Deanna Purrazzo and Jordynne Grace wrestling each other for 15 minutes. It was a classic power vs. technique style match, playing into the size differential between the pair, as Grace looked to plough her way to retain the Knockout's title, whilst Purrazzo quickly zoned in on the champions arm to set up her numerous armbar style submissions. Grace seemed intent on hitting her Grace Driver finish, but this would often leave her open for another attack on the arm as the pair weaved their offensive moves together in a number of cute sequences, performed with finesse. In fact, there were couple of really couple of downright clever sequences, including a strong near fall for Grace after blocked an O'Connor roll attempt by locking in a Coquina Clutch, whilst moments later Purazzo had to relinquish a guillotine armbar thing after Grace was able to pin the challenger's shoulder to the mat. 

Purrazzo's work on the arm was lovely stuff, locking in a number of submissions after targeting the body part early, whilst, for the most part, Grace's selling was spot-on. In numerous breaks in the action, Grace would be trying to shake life back into the arm, keeping the injury in the mind of the viewer, whilst the commentary team did their best work (of a disappointing night). I think the match could have benefited from having seen Grace struggle with a few of her power moves or strikes, as more often than not Grace appeared to be having no trouble at all during the action. Grace was even throwing strikes with the supposedly injured, including multiple forearms at one point, which was a little frustrating to see. Chucking in a few spots where Grace was struggling to hit her big moves would have lifted this to the next level. 

All in all, this was a cracking clash between two well suited opponents. I wouldn't argue with anyone if they wanted to give it the nod for match of the night.

// Knockout's Championship Number One Contendership // 

// Gauntlet Match // 

// Kylie Rae def. Taya Valkyrie, Rosemary, Kimber Lee, Kiera Hogan, Neveah, Alisha Edwards, Madison Rayne, Rosemary [John E. Bravo], Havok, Susie, Katie Forbes, Tasha Steelz and Taya Valkyrie [John E. Bravo] // 

Oh my christ. This was easily the worst match on the show and very well could end being the worst worked match of the year. There's some talent in this match for sure, but unfortunately very little of it was on display here. I don't even know where to begin. Okay, I'm lying, I do. Who the fuck is John E. Bravo? And what the fuck is he doing in this gauntlet? Him dressing up as Taya Valkyrie and Rosemary may have been in funny, it would never have been funny. Even if it was funny, the reason for his appearance given by the commentary team made absolutely no sense whatsoever. They explained that Bravo had entered a #3 because his mate Valkyrie didn't like her number so sent him instead. Okay, I can deal with that, I suppose. That is until Valkyrie herself turned up at #10. How the fuck does that work? Then Bravo was back out as fourteenth and final entrant dressed as Rosemary, who was already in the ring! In kayfabe, what happened here? Why was Bravo allowed to enter the match? Outside of kayfabe, why on earth was Bravo booked eliminate Havok? This was awful. 

The shithousery doesn't stop there however, as this match was rammed with stupid shit. Katie Forbes and Susie both got eliminated during entrances, which is dumb because it means we miss the elimination and it ends up meaning very little. Susie's palm strikes seemed to be socially distancing from her opponents, Kylie Rae seemed to miss her cue for Tasha Steelz elimination, Madison Rayne started doing a little jig at ringside to pop Josh Mathews when she thought she was off-camera, the booking of Rae and Kimber Lee in the closing stages was nonsensical, only Havok looked remotely interested in getting a shine when she entered the ring and most importantly there was absolutely no story or thread running through the match. Nothing. The highlight ended up being a fun comedy spot where Rae attempted to gorilla press Alisha Edwards, eventually getting some help from Havok who then lobbed Edwards at Rae. By the time the match finished with an awfully overworked and awkward looking sequence between Rae and Valkyrie, I was more than happy it was over.

// TNA World Heavyweight Championship // 

// Moose (C) def. Tommy Dreamer // 

This was much better than it had any right to be. I wouldn't go as far as to call it good, but as an undercard plunder brawl it worked well. It was brawly, it had a couple of weapons and a handful of decent spots and a solid near fall for Dreamer. There was also a nice intensity throughout from both men, with a sprinkling of comedy thrown in as well. Moose was saying all kinds of mad shit and I actually sort of like this character that he's developed lately. Dreamer taking all kind of verbal abuse as Moose pushed his face towards some thumbtacks only to be able to find a second wind when Moose claimed he'd never watched ECW was genuinely funny and quite sweet moment of the match. I'm honestly not sure why Tommy Dreamer is still getting a run out in 2020, even if he is trying to emulate his mentor Terry Funk, for me "The Innovator of Violence" doesn't quite have the same appeal, but fuck it, this wasn't bad.

// X Division Championship // 

// Chris Bey def. Willie Mack (C) // 

Tucked away at the bottom here, we had Chris Bey becoming the 45th X-Division Champion in a very fun match with Willie Mack. This was ten minutes of action-packed wrestling, in the style that you'd expect from the X-Division. Not a whole lot of substance, but an exciting fireworks display non-the-less. The two went back and forth for the majority of the match, with both men putting together some lovely combinations, with slick movements, include the build to Mack hitting a standing moonsault and Bey hitting the slingbeyed out of the corner. The ref bump for the finish didn't feel particularly necessary, but maybe I've missed something by not watching Impact for a while, plus considering this was the only mildly screwy finish of the night, I'll let it slide. An eye rake and brand new finish, The Art of Finesse (a funky springboard cutter type deal) gave Bey the victory in a match that reminded me I liked wrestling following directly on from the gauntlet match. 

// Promo // 

// Heath's debut //

Heath is here and he's got kids! It was a cool to see Heath Slater in Impact, he's a fun character that could become even more of a joy to watch given the extra freedom he should be afforded in Impact. However, his segment with Rohit Raju was hard to watch, because it was clear that neither man's mic was working. At one point, the commentary team were audibly heard talking to each other in the background. A real shame. Slater would quickly rebuff Raju, hitting him with a variant of the Zig Zag. We'd later see Slater reuniting with his former WWE tag partner Rhino backstage, only for Scott D'Amore to break up the chat, informing Slater that this was a closed set and seeing as he was a free agent he had to leave immediately. Impact might be rehashing the storyline from a few years ago when Slater ended up being undrafted by either RAW or SmackDown, but I really don't care, if done properly it still has entertainment potential. The segment closed with Rhino telling Slater to turn up on Tuesday anyway, setting up another point of intrigue for Tuesday night.

// ATPW Rating // 

// 5.97 out of 10 // 

Oh man, without the Knockout's Gauntlet this would have been a really high scoring PPV. Even with the horrendous amount of production errors throughout the show (certainly this was the most poorly produced PPV in TNA/Impact history), the wrestling on display was of a really high quality. The main event and Deonna Purazzo vs. Jordynne Grace both delivered in spades for different reasons and I'd find it hard to separate them for my match of the night, whilst MCMGs vs. The Rascalz wasn't far behind either. Even matches like Tommy Dreamer vs. Moose, which one paper had no right be anything resembling a watchable match, ended up being just that. That's without getting into the company seriously beefing up it's roster in a number of areas with EC3, Eric Young, The Good Brothers, The Motor City Machine Guns and Heath Slater all making appearances throughout the show. Impact put themselves out there with ambitious promotion around returns and debuts, but their regular roster made sure that Scott D'Amore and Don Callis have more than a few headaches when it comes to the booking heading into the next PPV, October's Bound for Glory...

All the best xoxo


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