2/15 Moore’s Impact Wrestling TV Review: Austin Aries vs. Eli Drake for the Impact Global Championship, Taiji Ishimori vs. El Hijo Del Fantasma for the X Division Championship, Brian Cage debuts

By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)

Impact Wrestling on PopTV
Taped January 11, 2018 in Orlando, Florida at Universal Studios

The opening teaser was a Austin Aries package, a video package of course (now I’m playing into his joke). Aries talked about viewers are going to get the Austin Aries they remember. He talked about having all of his tools at his disposal. Aries said people are going to be reminded what Aries is all about. Aries said Drake didn’t know what Aries is all about. Aries said when he’s at the top of his game he’s as unbeatable as anybody in this industry. The impact intro theme aired…

The Ohio Vs. Everything theme played as Sami Callihan made his entrance with Dave and Jake Crist flanking him. Josh Mathews and Sonjay Dutt checked in on commentary from “ringside” (as he says). Bobby Lashley made his entrance for the upcoming singles match. Josh Mathews recapped the attack angle which set up this match with Lashley demanding a singles match against the leader of his assailant. Josh talked about how OVE wanted to attack the big fish and they attacked Lashley who’s the biggest shark in the pond…

John’s Thoughts: Just to contrast Lashley’s booking with Moose. If this were the dumb Moose character, based off of the way he’s written, Moose would have requested a three on one handicap match against the Ohioans because his character is dumb. I like how they write Lashley as competent by targeting the head of the beast known as OVE. I totally expect three on one shenanigans but at least they put logic behind Lashley’s challenge.

1. Sami Callihan (w/The Crist Brothers) vs. Bobby Lashley. Callihan tried to catch Lashley off guard with a quick pace but he was turned inside out with a Lashley lariat. Callihan went for a springboard lariat but was swatted out of the air by Lashley. Jake Crist pulled down Lashley from the apron, and no DQ? Lashley easily manhandled the OVE guys. Callihan gave Lashley a punt kick to the chest. Callihan tried to keep Callihan outside of the ring to get a countout victory.

Callihan kept Lashley down outside with a tornado DDT. Lashley still managed to beat the referee’s ten count. Lashley reversed a Callihan Suplex with one of his signature delayed vertical suplexes. Jake Crist pulled Lashley’s leg again to allow Callihan to gain the upper hand. Callihan hocked a loogie into his hand and slapped the spit on Lashley. Sonjay Dutt talked about how OVE takes their state pride to another level. Callihan distracted the referee to allow the Crist Brothers to put the boots to Lashley. Callihan tossed around the unnamed Ring Announcer (it’s not Dave Penzer these days). Callihan went for his run around cannonball lap but Lashley intercepted the cannonball with a spear. [C]

Lashley and Callihan traded momentum punches. Sonjay Dutt informed the viewers that Dave Penzer’s Ring Announcer replacement was named “Jason James” (I think that’s what he said). Lashley dominated with a back elbow and lariat. Callihan ate a shoulder tackle in the corner. Callihan caught Lashley with a rope enziguri. Lashley came back with a crossbody and spinebuster. Lashley nailed the spear but Callihan used Lashley’s momentum to pull him down into a guillotine choke. Lashley hit Callihan with the Dominator Power Slam. Callihan kicked out at two.

Lashley punched Callihan in the corner, but Callihan bit Lashley to slip away. Lashley took a superkick and sitout powerbomb for a Callihan nearfall. Callihan caught a staggered Lashley with a pump kick. Lashley nosold two pump kicks and banged on his chest like a gorilla. Lashley hit a reverse power slam on Callihan. Lashley hit the spear. Jake Crist broke up the pin to invoke a disqualification.

Bobby Lashley defeated Sami Callihan via DQ in 10:43 of TV time.

Jake and Dave Crist were putting the boots to Lashley. Eddie Edwards ran in to clean house. Mathews noted that Edwards and Lashley were longtime rivals. Lashley Gorilla Press Slammed Jake Crist onto Callihan. OVE retreated up the ramp as Lashley and Edwards celebrated in the ring…

John’s Thoughts: What beef does Eddie Edwards have against Ohio? Maybe he just dislikes the Cleveland Cavs? I kid, but moving along, I like that we’re seeing Lashley being dominant and in a meaningful role again. The finish makes sense as it sets up Lashley and Edwards against OVE with slightly evened odds. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here since Bobby Lashley’s Impact Wrestling hourglass is drying up. I just thought it would have been good to have Lashley run through Dave and Jake Crist in two succeeding weeks and then find a way for Callihan to pick up a somewhat clean win. That said, this booking does make some sense given the limited time they have with Lashley.

Josh Mathews hyped up Austin Aries vs. Eli Drake for the Impact World Championship where the winner coming out of this match with the title will face Johnny Impact as the “Crossroads” themed show on March 8. Mathews also hyped EC3 and a Mystery Partner vs. Matt Sydal and Johnny Impact…

McKenzie Mitchell interviewed Eli Drake about his World Title rematch later on in the show. Eli Drake mocked Austin Aries for walking to the ring eating bananas. Drake said this isn’t a rematch, this is the real first match since Drake is the recognized world champion. Drake said Aries has been around the world winning titles. Drake then ran through his list of catchphrases which include “E…Li Drake” and “Fact of Life”. After the interview, a Brian Cage debut vignette aired which said he will be unleashed… [C]

John’s Thoughts: To throw out some positives, I do like the “Crossroads” themed show as opposed to “Turning Point”, “Sacrifice”, or any of the other vintage TNA names since this company really needs to develop a positive identity for itself rather than live in a past that turned away so many fans of alternative pro wrestling. I also like Austin Aries rebranding the title back to being a “World Championship”. Maybe it was just me, but when I think “Impact Global Championship”, I think of Eric Young’s renaming of the Booker T Red Toy Belt to the Global Championship when he was World Elite Eric Young.

It was time for an LAX cinematic. LAX were playing dominos. Konnan said Trevor Lee is a country caveman while Caleb Konley is a fruit rollup. Konnan called Lee and Konley the Tossed Salad Boys. Konnan then sent Homicide to Mexico City to “expand their operations”. Konnan said they will call Homicide when they need him. Santana asked the other LAX members to stop wearing shades because it allows them to cheat in dominos….

John’s Thoughts: Are they temporarily writing out Homicide again? Weird, since they just keep having him leave and come back for some reason and when he’s here he doesn’t do much. The last time they sent him away to “Sell LAX beer” per the storyline explanation.

In the Global Wrestling Network Flashback Moment of the Week, they aired the ending of the Braxton Sutter and Laurel Van Ness wedding. Braxton Sutter left Laurel at the alter while also proposing his love for Allie. Also at the wedding was Smackdown Wrestlers Mike and Maria Kanellis. 205 Live General Manager Drake Maverick was playing the role of the chauffeur for Aron Rex (Damien Sandow/Aaron Stevens). For some reason that I can’t for the life of me remember, Brooke Tessmacher and Robbie E ran in to attack Maria and Mike Bennett. The segment ended with Braxton Sutter and Allie sharing a kiss…

John’s Thoughts: Remember when Impact Wrestling was appointment viewing and really good just over a year ago (when Matt Conway and Dave Lagana wrote the show)? Good times. Maybe this can serve as an advertisement to the Ten pounds of Gold series.

Allie was shown walking in the Universal Studios lot. Suddenly she was stopped by something. Magic? The invisible force put a note on her bag that told her to meet her secret admirer at the tunnel ” <3 XOXOXO “…

Austin Aries was interviewed by an off-camera person about defending the World Title for the first time. Aries clarified that he’s defending the Impact title for the first time and has been winning/defending titles all over the place for more promotions than just Impact. Aries noted that it was his second reign as Impact World Champion. He said it was unexpected how he shocked the world. Aries said he’s been in the company through bad and good times. He said things are different now, a rebirth. Aries said he can only make a difference if he’s at top. Aries said Drake wants to talk about Facts of Life, but he hasn’t stepped in the ring with a man like Austin Aries. Aries said he won’t beat Drake in under 60 seconds but he will walk out as Impact World Champion…

McKenzie Mitchell tried to interview Moose. Before Moose could say his thoughts, he was blindsided by Alberto El Patron. Patron and Moose brawled as the camera fell and the feed was lost. Mathews calmly said that we will get a update later on. Mathews said that Brian Cage will be making his debut later in the show…

Hania the Huntress made her entrance looking like she would rather be anywhere else…

John’s Thoughts: I don’t mean to be so harsh in my assessment on Hania, but she doesn’t play this huntress/hunter character with any aptitude. To make a parallel comparison, El Hijo Del Fantasma plays the exact same gimmick as the Bounty Hunter King Cuerno. He wears a dead animal on his head too. Fantasma’s great as the Cuerno character. To compare one facet, Fantasma exudes confidence and his eyes are focused and calculating. Hania either looks like she’s half asleep or she is rolling her eyes. That’s just one of many comparisons of a person who plays this hunter character well and one who doesn’t. Hania has a good look but she should try out a different character or alter this one. Another reason she should quit at this character, look at how good her opponent is character-wise.

2. Hania the Huntress vs. Rosemary. Rosemary quickly started the ground and pound early in the match. Dutt compared Rosemary’s quick start to Lashley’s quick start earlier in the night. It’s Schitt’s Creek season as Mathews did his plugs. Mathews and Dutt also advertised the “Let’s get Physical” show. Mathews and Dutt talked about Allie’s secret admirer. Dutt talked about Bollywood movies. Dutt also hypothesized that Standby Wrestler Richard Justice was the secret admirer.

Hania got some offense in but Rosemary conquered with her modified Tarantula. Hania sidestepped a Rosemary missile dropkick. Dutt compared Hania to some song about red bottoms and bloody shoes which caused Mathews to crack up. Hanie did a front slam and some strange howl. Dutt talked about how Hania’s showboating could cost her the match.

John’s Thoughts: If Hania did the Revolver Ocelot meow I’d totally forgive her for being so apathetic. Just a little bit of forgiveness there.

Rosemary escaped Hania’s Scorpion Death Drop. Hania followed up by hitting Rosemary with an axe kick. Hania landed a crossbody on Rosemary but Rosemary rolled through for the rollup win.

Rosemary defeated Hania via pinfall in 4:00.

Hania attacked Rosemary from behind. Hania tossed Rosemary into the steel steps. Hania went for a Scorpion Death Drop on the steps but Rosemary bit Hania. Hania escaped a Red Wedding by grabbing the ropes. Hania then retreated up the ropes. Rosemary roared at Hania “you better get your [rabies] shot”…

Johnny Impact and Matt Sydal were doing some yoga backstage. Johnny didn’t think his hips were supposed to twist that way. Matt Sydal said his “Spiritual Advisor” told him that they have to do this to open their third eye. Johnny said he’s he’s down for some togetherness. Matt Sydal ended his promo by saying “namaste”. The camera cut to EC3 revealing that his mystery partner as the returning Tyrus (a.k.a Brodus Clay).. [C]

John’s Thoughts: Odd that Rosemary picks up a win with little resistance. Rosemary is probably a victim of her feud with Taya Valkyrie being put on hold. It is a bit odd though that she’s not really getting any focus as (even though I don’t have the numbers) based off of some people we see in the crowds, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rosemary was their top merchandise seller. She does have some Jeff Hardy qualities to her.

Allie followed the note to the Stage 22 tunnel. She walked into a roadie case with a box of chocolates. There was a letter with a poem in it. The first letter in the stanzas of the poem spelled the acronym “LVN”. Laurel Van Ness popped out of the roadie box like it was a Jack in a Box. Comically, Allie slammed the valentine’s chocolates into Laurel’s face and easily dispatched of Laurel by slamming her into the box. Allie yelled “get back in the box” and put her back in the box. Allie then walked away but before then she was far she went back to give the box a light kick…

John’s Thoughts: That segment was short, stupid, and made no sense; but for some reason I couldn’t help but smile at it. It was pretty fun and it also screamed “Jeremy Borash Production” with the multiple camera angles and post produced background music. I hope that with him gone, that the current creative team manages to retain some of the cinematic techniques which made their product stand out. It also has me looking forward to reviewing NXT in a few months to see what Jeremy Borash can bring to their stellar character vignettes.

Ethan Carter III and Tyrus made their entrance. Josh Mathews advertised that Tyrus has a weekly segment on the Fox News Channel every Saturday…

3. Ethan Carter III and Tyrus vs. Matt Sydal and Johnny Impact. Josh Mathews and Sonjay Dutt were trying to figure out who Matt Sydal’s spiritual advisor was. Johnny Impact forgot to change his logo since it still has a hexagon. Should he change it to a square? Josh Mathews noted that Ethan Carter III was world champion when Tyrus was around. Sydal put his hands together and told him “namaste”. Sonjay Dutt went on record to talk to the Indian members of the Impact audience that Sydal is appreciating the Indian culture not appropriating it.

Sydal tagged in Johnny. Carter tried to go for a quick rollup but Johnny kicked out. Johnny grounded Ethan with a side armbar. Sydal tagged in and hit a double stomp on the chest of EC3. Sydal went into some chain wrestling on EC3. Dutt and Mathews continued to loudly point out that there was some sort of change in Matt Sydal with his “spiritual advisor”. Tyrus tagged in and ran through Johnny and Matt. Johnny slid under Tyrus and hit him with an enziguri. Johnny Impact did an impressive somersault and flew several feet over Tyrus to tag in Sydal.

Sydal dominated Tyrus with kicks. Tyrus used his power to return the favor to Sydal. Tyrus hit Sydal with a heart punch. Speaking of hearts, Sonjay Dutt announced that Teddy Hart will be making his Impact Wrestling debut at WrestleCon. Tyrus and EC3 traded quick tags to cut the ring in half against Sydal. Tyrus caught Sydal by the leg to hit him with a T-Bone suplex. Mathews noted that you can find Tyrus on Netflix and in movies in the future. Sydal landed a Rolling Sobat on EC3 which allowed him to reach Johnny Impact for the hot tag. Johnny hit EC3 with the moonlight drive for the nearfall.

EC3 tossed Johnny outside. Sydal chopped down EC3 with kicks. Sydal tried to crossbody Tyrus but Tyrus tossed Sydal and pushed him into the apron. Johnny dodged a stinger splash. Johnny went for the Flying Chuck but was tripped off the springboard by Tyrus. EC3 won with his feet on the ropes.

Ethan Carter III and Tyrus defeated Johnny Impact and Matt Sydal via pinfall in 8:27.

Ethan Carter III and Tyrus shared a hug on the outside. Matt Sydal tried to beg Johnny Impact for forgiveness. The camera cut to Austin Aries stretching backstage while wearing a bunch of title belts. Josh Mathews dubbed Austin Aries “The Belt Collector”…

John’s Thoughts: Again, why can’t heels get a somewhat clean win on this show? I’m nitpicking, but it would have been fine if they left the Tyrus cheating in there, but it was unnecessary with EC3’s feet on the ropes. Minus the nitpick, I liked the return of Tyrus. The ship may have sailed on him being a dominant force but in a company, that needs to create stars I would say roll the dice with him. The guy’s an affluent talker and no one has taken advantage of that other than Fox News. EC3’s on his way out. Why not try something with Tyrus?

Jimmy Jacobs and Kongo invaded the offices of Park Park and Park. For some reason, they walked into his empty office and the door wasn’t locked. Jacobs mocked the clean office and the picture of “Grandma Jenny”. Jacobs told Kong to “burn it down”. Instead of putting it on fire. Kong tossed around some things and broke Grandma Jenny’s picture. Jacobs said Park would get the message.

John’s Thoughts: When Jacobs said “burn it down”, they missed out of the perfect opportunity to do some actual burning. Could they not have put in the extra effort to find a plywood office to burn down? Callihan was allowed to use fire. Jimmy Jacobs was also around when Randy Orton burned down the Wyatt Family outhouse.

4. “The Machine” Brian cage vs. John Cruz. John Cruz had no chance and was quickly manhandled by “They Call Him” Cage. The enhancement guy rebounded into a bucklebomb (good sell). Cage hit Cruz with a discus lariat and a Suplex Driver to pick up the win.

Brian Cage defeated John Cruz via pinfall in 1:18.

John’s Thoughts: Simple, strong, and effective debut for cage. This is exactly how this match should have gone. One criticism I had with Cage in two matches in particular is how he sometimes sells to much to his tiny opponents including Lucha Underground’s version of Richard Justice (go back through my LU reviews to find out which ones). This was a good start and they should feed him more victims to build him up to real opponents.

Trevor Lee and Caleb Konley were shown acting paranoid backstage. They walked into a random dressing room and saw Fallah Bahh eating M&Ms. Bahh said “ohhhhh”. Trevor Lee then saw the Mumbai Cats and expected they were LAX. Konley and Lee beat up and unmasked the Mumbai Cats to reveal two Indian guys… [C]

John’s Thoughts: First of all, Fallah Bahh was only on camera for but a few seconds but the guy exudes some sort of strange charisma that they have to strike while the iron is hot with this guy. I also like the throwback to Sonjay Dutt attacking Trevor Lee as a Mumbai Cat back in India. This company usually doesn’t have any attention to detail like that so it was refreshing.

Before the next match, Josh Mathews finally explained why Taiji comes to the ring wearing a mask. Mathews said that the band who sings his entrance theme is called Mothball and the song is “Fight it Out” where he is one of the band members. Taiji Ishimori is member number 6 which is why his face has the number 6 on it…

John’s Thoughts: I paused to verify this and was pretty impressed. So this guy is the Japanese Mark Andrews? Thumbs up for keeping Pop Punk alive. I approve!

5. Taiji Ishimori vs. El Hijo Del Fantasma for the Impact X Division Championship. Fantasma dominated the early shoving match. Ishimori and Fantasma had an early stalemate in the chain wrestling sequence. Ishimori dominated the next sequence with an armdrag. Ishimori taunted Fantasma with a flip. The two traded shots in the ring with Fantasma dominating. Fantasma snake eyed Ishimori on the top rope. Fantasma locked in a modified Indian deathlock on Ishimori with Ishimori making it to the ropes for the rope break. Fantasma hit Ishimori with a tilt-a-whirl backbraker heading into the break. [C]

Ishimori hit Fantasma with a seated senton and then ripped off his shirt which Sonjay Dutt really liked. Ishimori hit Fantasma with a Tope Con Hilo. Ishimori hit Fantasma with a Vader Bomb double stomp. Fantasma hit a jumping thrust kick on Ishimori. Fantasma hit Ishimori with the Arrow from the Depths of Hell Tope Suicida which Dutt called the best Tope in the history of pro wrestling. Ishimori hit Fantasma with a running huracanrana. Ishimori hit Fantasma with a tiger feint kick to the gut and the Ibushi Golden Moonsault. Fantasma caught Ishimori with an enziguri and crossbody to get a nearfall on the champ.

Mathews talked about past X Division Champions like AJ Styles, Amazing Red, or Sonjay Dutt. Sonjay Dutt wanted to make sure that Mathews mentioned Jay Lethal as a legendary X Champion. Ishimori used his knees to escape the Thrill of the Kill. Ishimori reversed it into his gutbuster driver. Ishimori hit Fantasma with the 450 to retain his championship.

Taiji Ishimori defeated El Hijo Del Fantasma via pinfall in 7:48 of TV Time to retain the Impact X Division Championship.

Josh Mathews was really excited to hear the Mothball theme. Josh then advertised Moose vs. Alberto El Patron for next week. He also advertised LAX vs. Cult of Lee in a non-title tag team match…

Eli Drake made his entrance for the main event. Austin Aries made his entrance wrapped up in random title belts from other promotions…

6. Austin Aries vs. Eli Drake (w/ Chris Adonis) for the Impact World Championship. Eli Drake had to shhh down the Austin Aries chants. Drake locked in a hammerlock and taunted Aries with his Eli Drake catchphrase. Mathews noted that Eli Drake didn’t get close to Bobby Roode’s Impact title reign record. Aries had the Last Chancery locked in for a bit which caused Drake to retreat outside for a breather. Aries struck the Tranquilo pose in the ring.

Aries picked up the pace and dug in some armdrags. Aries escaped a headscissors and nailed Drake with a basement dropkick. Aries and Drake traded shoulder tackles spots in the corners heading into commercial. [C]

Aries hit a hanging Elbow Drop on Drake and dominated the former champ. Aries hit a springboard uppercut to the back of Drake’s head. Sonjay Dutt pointed out that one thing that makes Aries a tough opponent is Aries being a southpaw. Drake trapped Aries on the second rope and hit him with a guillotine legdrop. Aries tried to regain momentum but Drake grounded Aries with a neckbreaker. Aries caught Drake with a jawbreaker. Drake came back with a power slam. Aries dodged a leg drop. Drake pulled out a move he doesn’t do often with a moonsault which he missed. Aries and Drake trade punches with Aries dominating with the southpaw strikes. Aries hit Drake with a neckbraker on the middle rope.

Aries caught Drake with a missile dropkick for a nearfall. Drake escaped a brainbuster. Aries hit a thunder clap on Eli Drake. Drake hit Aries with a Superplex and followed through into an Attitude Adjustment. Aries sidestepped Drake in the corner and dropkicked him. Drake blocked another brainbuster with a front suplex. Aries tossed Drake outside with his own momentum. Aries tried to Tope Drake but accidently hit Chris Adonis with the Dive. Drake tossed Aries into the ring apron.

Drake called for the Gravy Train but Aries rolled into a crucifix and into the Last Chancery. Aries was distracted by Chris Adonis which allowed Drake to get a rollup attempt. Aries managed to nail Eli Drake with the brainbuster to pick up the clean win on Drake.

Austin Aries defeated Eli Drake via pinfall in 13:12 of TV Time to retain the Impact World Championship.

Chris Adonis went to check on Drake at ringside. Josh Mathews noted that Johnny Impact will defend his title shot against Ethan Carter III next week on Impact…

John’s Thoughts: Why couldn’t Eli Drake have matches like this when he was champion let alone have match like this and win. This was a good match and as far as Aries being champion is concerned, the right man went over. This still isn’t as good as the Eli Drake vs. Alberto El Patron match from last year (if you can go out of your way to see that one, that was a very unique and fun match to watch), Drake is proving that he can hang in ring and more than just a voice on the microphone.

Overall, the show was okay. I’m still waiting for this show to wow me and I’m keeping my patience up. One huge positive compliment that I can give this show is I haven’t been compelled to say “only in TNA” during the D’Amore and Callis era. Unlike 2016, this show isn’t doing anything to warrant being an alternative though. The Paul Heyman and Dave Lagana Smackdown Six Formula worked like a charm. Impact wants viewers to watch the Global Wrestling Network to watch some crappy TNA matches, maybe they should go back in their archives from 2016 (as well as some of the Bully Ray era episodes) and see how to positively move the needle in this company. The only problem with those years was Dixie’s business incompetence. Again, maybe we have to wait until Lashley and EC3 are gone. It’s still wait and see. I’ll be by in a few hours for the Dot Net Members with the Impact Wrestling Audio Review.



The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...


Readers Comments (2)

  1. I can go on the Global wrestling network and watch some Aj styles vs Christopher Daniels matches and plenty others that far from crappy! This guys nostalgia act, nitpicking and waiting to be wowed attitude sucks ! This was a great show!

    • There are great matches on the GWN, I’ll give them that. For every one good match there seems to be two or three turnoff segments. And the GWN doesn’t even have some of their good work on the GWN yet even though they run ads on the show (you can’t watch Drew Galloway vs. Ethan Carter III from Impact even though they ran it as a “flashback of the week” and told viewers to watch it on their network).

      One example is an experience I had last week. I ran across a segment where they were building up Matt Morgan as a monster heel who wanted to destroy people. Then for no appropriate reason that made no storyline sense, they have Matt Morgan sexually harass the backstage interviewer. I’m not saying that using sexual harrassment to draw heat was bad but they do something tasteless and not related to the character out of nowhere. If Bully Ray, Kevin Nash, Christopher Daniels/Kaz, and other people did that it would have made sense but they had Matt Morgan do something classless like that for no reason. For another crap TNA example you can check out the Nick Aldis interview that Wade Keller did recently.

      Impact can be good. They did it in 2016. The worst show on television 205 Live found some way to get good. I hope I addressed some of your concern about Impact 😉

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