Sunday, January 12, 2020

Impact Wrestling Hard to Kill

By Steve Ward

Impact Wrestling’s first pay per view of 2019 emanated from The Bomb Factory in Dallas, Texas. After their change of networks (again) to AXS TV the show was appropriately titled Hard To Kill as that personifies the spirit of Impact. This company has overcome adversity time after time but has stuck around because they try to give fans what they want - innovative matches, storylines reminiscent of the Attitude Era, and bouts featuring veteran stars who are well beyond their prime but can certainly still go. There was no shortage of that this evening as the eight bout card featured all of the Impact titles contested, showcased ring veterans such as Rob Van Dam, Ken Shamrock, and Rhino, and included the history making main event that pit Sami Callihan defending the Impact World Championship against Tessa Blanchard. 

Ken Shamrock vs. Madman Fulton
Winner: Ken Shamrock via submission

The opening contest of the show immediately got the raucous crowd engaged as it featured a 55-yr old, absolutely shredded, UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock against former NXT Superstar Madman Fulton. Ken Shamrock systematically dismantled the much larger Fulton’s shoulder until he finally earned an impressive submission victory.

X-Division Championship
Ace Austin (c) vs. Trey Miguel
Winner: Ace Austin via pinfall

After weeks of taunting Trey by making advances towards his “mother” each time she appeared on Impact programming, tensions came to a head this evening as Atlantic City’s own Ace Austin defended his title again the Rascalz member. While this match presented some impressive displays of acrobatics, it seemed as if it lasted a few minutes too long. Overall, Austin put on a strong performance and finalized the defense of his title with The Fold which put Trey away for the 1-2-3.

Impact Knockouts Championship Triple Threat Match
Taya Valkyrie (c) w/ John E. Bravo vs. ODB vs. Jordynne Grace
Winner: Taya Valkyrie via pinfall

Taya Valkyrie entered this match riding a 370 day streak as Impact Wrestling Knockouts Champion as she entered a dire situation where she needed to defend her title against the upstart (and native Texan) Jordynne Grace and 4-time Knockouts (or as she puts it “Knocked Up”) Champion ODB. Taya has maintained her standing as a bona fide champion, even after the departure of her husband Johnny Impact several months ago, by withstanding all oppostion.  After these three powerhouses brutalized each other in a very physical contest, it appeared Grace was in a prime position to win her first title after she executed the Grace Driver on ODB. Before the referee could count the pinfall, John E. Bravo distracted him also drawing Grace’s attention. This allowed an opening for Taya to slip in and steal a pinfall to retain her title.

Rob Van Dam w/ Katie Forbes vs. Brian Cage/Daga
Winner: Rob Van Dam via pinfall

This bout materialized after RVD, who’s undertaken a bit of a metamorphosis to a heel, accused Cage of stealing all of his moves - something The Machine took exception to. Cage who had already entered the match with his left bicep heavily covered in KT Tape, was surprisingly overwhelmed to the point where RVD, with an assist from Forbes holding a steel chair to Cage‘s face, executed the Vanterminator. RVD attempted to pin Cage but the referee refused to count saying The Machine was injured. This presented an opening for Konnan’s protégé Daga to make his way to ringside and step into the match. Daga presented more of a challenge for RVD but in the end, he also met his demise as the recipient of an impressive Five Star Frog Splash.

Michael Elgin vs. Eddie Edwards
Winner: Eddie Edwards

The stakes were high in this contest as the Call Your Shot Trophy hung in the balance. The trophy, which is essentially the equivalent to WWE’s Money in the Bank briefcase except that it applies to any title, landed in Elgin’s possession after he stole it from Edwards’  belongs recently on Impact - this bout was essentially Edwards’ opportunity to try and reclaim it. Michael Elgin brought a heavy dose of striking and power moves as he put on an outstanding display for the fans in attendance. One of the highlights of the match was a beautifully executed German Suplex from the top turnbuckle that propelled Edwards across the ring. After Elgin thought he had earned a submission victory following an STF, he tried to close the deal with a buckle bomb. Following the first successful buckle bomb, Edwards reversed Elgin’s second attempt into a rollup pinfall.

No Disqualification Match
Moose vs. Rhino
Winner: Moose via pinfall

This bout culminated after weeks of jawing back and forth and exchanges of Rhino’s Gore and Moose’s Spear. It appeared Rhino was going to walk out victorious from this brutal encounter when he had Moose propped up against a table in the corner in prime position to receive a Gore. Rhino successfully landed the Gore, however, it was not before Moose pulled the referee in front of him. This left the referee incapacitated so there was no one to count the pinfall. By the time another referee made his way to ringside, Moose had recovered enough to land the spear and earn the victory.

Impact Tag Team Championship
The North (Josh Alexander & Ethan Page) (c) vs. Willie Mack
Winners: The North

Following an injury sustained at Bash at the Brewery, Rich Swann was ruled unable to compete in this match. Rather than elect not to compete or find a substitute, Willie Mack proceeded to go forward in a handicap match. Willie Mack brought his A-game but the numbers game was simply too much for the South Central L.A. native to overcome. Mack landed a phenomenal Canadian Destroyer that witnessed him launch from the top turnbuckle to take Alexander off the shoulders of his own partner and drive his skull into the canvas. In the end, it wasn’t enough as The North finished Mack with their patented tandem Death Valley Driver to retain their titles.

Impact World Heavyweight Championship
Sami Callihan (c) vs. Tessa Blanchard
Winner: Tessa Blanchard via pinfall

The long-standing rivalry between Tessa and Sami Callihan reached it’s climax this evening as she aimed to make history by taking the World Heavyweight Championship from him. This match finally came to fruition after Callihan defeated Brian Cage in a steel cage match and had his celebration cut short by Tessa making her way to the ring - something Callihan took great exception to. Callihan jumped the opening bell tonight as he delivered a pump kick followed by the Cactus Special 97 piledriver but Tessa quickly kicked out of his pinfall attempt. Tessa answered with Magnum (a code breaker delivered from the top rope) but Callihan also kicked out promptly. This set the tempo for what became a ferocious encounter. The closing moments of this contest were insane. Tessa withstood a sit-down power bomb and yet another Cactus Special 97 to deliver consecutive Canadian Destroyers and a hammerlock DDT to send the crowd into complete pandemonium as she made history and became the first female to win the top men’s title in a major pro wrestling company!!!

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