By Jason Powell
Sonjay Dutt vs. Lo Ki in a best of three falls match for the X Division Championship: A good title match with one hell of a finish via the moonsault into a double stomp. The match was given enough time to that the three falls felt natural rather than being crammed into the same amount of time a typical match would receive. It’s been a treat to see the emphasis placed on X Division singles matches rather than the big spot-fest multi-person matches designed to get all of the X Division wrestlers on the show. Here’s hoping this continues and that the creative team realizes what they have in Trevor Lee, and spend more time building up the overally division beyond just the title matches.
LAX vs. Naomichi Marufuji and Taiji Ishimori vs. El Hijo del Fantasma and Drago vs. Garza Jr. and Laredo Kid in a four-way for the Impact Wrestling and GFW Tag Titles: Impact had their big spot fest opener without including the X Division talent. And this was a hell of a spot-fest with all four teams going above and beyond. It’s a shame that they weren’t able to tell a better story with these teams going into the pay-per-view, but the overall athleticism was sensational. I continue to be impressed by the way LAX has clicked as the coolest act in the company despite the addition of three new wrestlers, and I hope the company has enough access to Garza and Kid to book a full on title feud between them and LAX.
Scott Steiner and Josh Mathews vs. Jeremy Borash and Joseph Park: I didn’t see the Broken Universe-like twist coming, so it was good fun to see the surprise appearances of Shark Boy and especially “Sinister Minister” James Mitchell. So much of the focus was on Steiner heading into the match, but he wasn’t the story coming out of it. He played his role well, but this went from being about the danger of Steiner into being good, silly fun. Well, except for poor Borash, who performed the top rope splash and landed mostly hands first onto thumbtacks. Even so, the build to this match was terrific (aside from the broadcast team bickering during matches) and the actual match delivered in a fun way.
Moose and DeAngelo Williams vs. Eli Drake and Christopher Adonis: Williams did a wonderful job for a guy working his first match. It’s such a shame that he overshot the top rope splash through the table, as that’s the thing that seems to be getting mainstream attention today even though the NFL running back did an outstanding job. Kudos to Scott D’Amore and anyone else who helped prepare him for this celebrity guest spot because he far exceeded expectations, and obviously Drake deserves a lot of credit for what he did with Williams during the match. Here’s hoping that creative will do more with the talented Drake going forward.
James Storm vs. Ethan Carter III in a strap match: A good strap match with Storm getting some revenge by whipping EC3 32 times before ultimately losing in the end to keep the feud going. Storm collapsing brought back memories of the Shawn Michaels angle on Raw years ago, and the live crowd seemed legitimately concerned before they figured out that it was a planned moment. I liked the way they had EC3 blow off the referee to perform another move on the fallen Storm, as it put some of the focus on him as a heel and not just on Storm’s health.
Overall Show: A fast paced pay-per-view with strong effort from the talent, and the creative team wisely delivered mostly clean finishes. The show being held at the Impact Zone didn’t help when it came to making it feel like this was a prestigious event. Obviously, the company needs to be cost effective and running in Orlando is perfectly logical from that standpoint, but hopefully they can get to the point where they take their pay-per-view events on the road again so that they feel more special. The broadcast team of Robert Flores and Don West was solid considering this was Flores’s first time calling pro wrestling and West’s return from a lengthy hiatus. Flores was knowledgeable and did a nice job with the undercard matches, but he didn’t have that next gear to deliver big match and main event calls as the show went on. West was likable and always feels like the most excited guy on the broadcast. He was mostly good, though I would like to see him tone down some of the hyperbole for the sake of credibility with the viewers if he ends up calling more shows for the company. Slammiversary had good energy. Everyone involved seemed inspired to make this the best show it could be. It was also refreshing to see the company work hard in the weeks leading up to the event from a PR standpoint. There were too many times last year when it felt like company officials were going through the motions when it came to promoting their own shows, so it was good to see strong effort for the first pay-per-view of the Anthem Era.
Lashley vs. Alberto El Patron in a Unification match: A minor Miss in that they failed to close the show with a memorable main event. The cornermen didn’t help the cause, as Caras is not a big name to most Impact viewers, and King Mo’s return to Impact meant nothing to most viewers. It was comically bad to see MMA fighter Mo selling for Caras’s weak chop. The finish of the match was also flat. Viewers saw Sonjay Dutt perform the amazing moonsault into a double stomp in the X Division Title match, so El Patron’s double stomp while Lashley was hanging awkwardly in the ropes didn’t pack a punch. The live crowd didn’t seem to see the move as a potential match finisher until the referee’s hand hit the mat for the third time. I did enjoy the post match scene with El Patron celebrating in a way that made the match feel more important than the storyline build ever did, and the shot of a dejected Lashley sitting in the corner with his eyes closed was especially good.
Impact Wrestling Knockouts Champion Rosemary vs. Global Force Wrestling Women’s Champion Sienna in a unification match: A minor Miss for the busy finish. The creative team did a nice job of delivering mostly clean and decisive finishes while avoiding their ref bump Achilles heel. This was as close a rare instance on the show where a finish felt overbooked. The multiple appearances of Laurel Van Ness combined with Allie running out with the kendo stick felt unnecessary. Factor in the oddball green mist finish and it felt needlessly complicated. By the way, did you notice that Global Force technically won both of the unification matches? For that matter, Sonjay Dutt, who was also a GFW wrestler, is the X Division Title holder. I’m not sure if this was by design or if it’s a coincidence, but the fact that no one is really talking about it says a lot about the lack of interest in the GFW vs. Impact storyline. Here’s hoping they announce the name change and simply move forward with everyone working under the same banner.
Davey Richards and Angelina Love-Richards vs. Eddie Edwards and Alisha Edwards in a Full Metal Mayhem match: Davey and Eddie crammed a lot into what turned out to be the shortest match of the night. And while both men and their wives get an A for effort, I just didn’t enjoy the hardcore elements of the match. Was there a lack of communications between the agents? We saw thumbtacks in back to back matches, the main event double stomp was overshadowed by the X Division double stomp finish, and there were additional moments that felt a little too similar.
Jeff Jarrett returns to television: Given the hero’s welcome that Karen Jarrett received when she returned to the Impact television show, I expected the Impact Zone crowd to be far more enthusiastic than they were for Jeff’s return to television. It was a flat segment with Jeff expressing gratitude rather than addressing the name change or introducing new title belts. I assume that will occur on television this week, but it was disappointing that Jeff’s first appearance since returning to Impact was so underwhelming.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Frank Zarrillo discussing his film "The Wrestler: A QT Marshall Story", which includes appearances by Matt Riddle, Damian Priest, Gerald Brisco, Kevin Kelly, Steve Corino, and many more, the involvement of Marshall's wife and mother, and much more. Stick around after the interview for Powell's audio review of Wednesday's AEW Dynamite television show...