By John Moore, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
Dot Net Members are listening to Jason Powell’s 39-minute audio review of Impact Wrestling Slammiversary and will hear his Q&A audio show and WWE Raw review today. Join us on the members’ site and unlock a decade of content via PWMembership.net.
Impact Wrestling Slammiversary Hits
Austin Aries vs. Moose for the Impact World Championship: Going into this match, it felt like an NXT Takeover main event in a negative way because the previous matches had so many reliable players that exceeded expectations. In other words, it felt like the main event match just couldn’t exceed the quality of the rest of the hot show. Yet like most Takeover matches, Aries and Moose brought that attitude in Impact and stood out in a good way by delivering a very fun world title match. This was Moose’s best match to date in Impact. Talk about reliable players, Aries deserves an MVP award for carrying and making this whole program work. Because of this company’s TNA history, everyone instinctively had the fear that there would be a ref bump or overbooked finish. Curtis Granderson was roaming at ringside and thankfully the company didn’t do any thing too gratuitous. This was a fun main event and Moose has come out of this feud a lot stronger than he came in.
Pentagon Jr. vs. Sami Callihan in a mask vs. hair match: While I feared LAX vs. OGz as being the match that would let me down, I had “zero fear” that this match would disappoint in the ring (sorry, I couldn’t resist the Zero Miedo joke). Both wrestlers went all out here despite the goofy storyline and predictable outcome. Yes, Edwards vs. Callihan would have made more sense, but we’ve seen them in a hardcore match at the Lucha Underground vs. Impact show and that was extremely underwhelming. Pentagon has a tendency to phone it in sometimes, but when he’s taking a match seriously he’s on fire. Both men were on fire here. This was really violent and had to follow up a very similar match, but the hardcore stuff was different enough and the LAX Civil War didn’t overshadow this match at all. Hopefully Impact sees the star that they have in Pentagon at this point and will deliver more from the character end. They started doing that recently by putting him in cinematics with Callihan and by having Pentagon cut subtitled promos. Impact knows that they have a star in Callihan and whatever he’s going to do next should be very fun.
LAX vs. The OGz for the Impact Wrestling Tag Titles: I feared this would be the match that would not live up to my high expectations. In my predictions article, I noted that the only way this was going to be a show-stealer is if somehow we saw the Homicide from the early 2000s as opposed to the Homicide of 2017, which was a shell of his former workhorse self. I had less confidence in Hernandez and was 100 percent right in my assessment there. I first saw him start appearing in pro wrestling again around February of this year in a handful of matches, and in every match he’s been gassed. The problem seems to be conditioning and hopefully now that he’s a full-time wrestler again, he’ll easily fix that with a few weeks in the gym (look at the wonders that Moose going into exile did). This was a fun tornado tag hardcore match with Homicide doing most of the things for his team while Santana and Ortiz were their reliable selves. I’d be afraid of WWE scooping up Santana and Ortiz because they are low-key one of the best tag teams in pro wrestling with their consistent track record of thumbs up tag team matches with a variety of opponents. I didn’t expect OGz to lose here, but they did get their heat back in the end by spray painting the title belts.
Matt Sydal vs. Cage for the X Division Title: I had high expectations for this match and both men delivered on those expectations. This was fun aside from the very scary botch at the end during Sydal’s shooting star press. Sydal has hit that move probably well over a thousand times. I’ve criticized some of Cage’s matches in the past for his overselling to smaller opponents. The ones that stand out in particular were his matches against Chavo Guerrero and Vinnie Massaro, where he got manhandled for several minutes from wormy undercard heels when he totally destroyed guys taller than him. This match was a war and Sydal is a credible enough in-ring force for him to have a 50-50 match with. Hopefully both men develop from this. You can have Sydal gain a bit of a psychotic edge (not too much but a little bit) to move away from the California yoga hippy that he currently is (interestingly enough, when you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you run into a ton of people who randomly want to sell you on being vegan and wanting to help you open your third eye). Cage needs some sort of character definition other than just being the guy who shows up for random matches and has random matches in other promotions. It’s almost like he’s not an Impact wrestler. The one piece of character development he got was when he ate cereal in front of Lashley. Cage likes cereal? It helps that they are performing in front of real wrestling crowds nowadays because Cage was having great matches in the Impact Zone only to have the tourists and overexposed Impact fans crap all over his matches with apathy. Seeing how wonderful Austin Aries was in resuscitating the damaged Moose character, we might be in for a very similar path here with a person who is better in the ring and without any real damage. This is presumed given how it looks like it appears they will end up going the Option-C route with this one.
Moose’s suit: A subjective Hit from me. Moose had a good shiny silver suit. The promo was rough, but I did like him trying to look a bit more smooth. This look and smooth demeanor would work well if they give him a mouth piece where he can get limited lines and his manager can hide Moose’s awkwardness in long promo segments. If they want to continue with this black Flash Gordon thing with Moose, they can label Moose’s manager a “coach”. We’ve also learned lately via his promos that Moose really likes to say the word “ass” a lot.
Johnny Impact vs. Fenix vs. Taiji Ishimori vs. Petey Williams: Here’s sending best wishes to Rich Swann, who was injured via concussion at the MLW Battle Riot event this past week. Thankfully, Impact had a suitable replacement in the bullpen with Williams and he performed well in the place of Swann. This was a good show-opening spot fest that delivered more than typical X-Division spot-fests due to the veterans with a lot of star power in the ring. I like Taiji Ishimori’s new look where he took over for the role that Captain New Japan played in Bullet Club. The Bullet Club look is a huge upgrade over the ripped shorts that exposed his hips and the goofy buffalo mask. Fenix is a star that some company needs to figure out can carry their company. Since the guy is a free agent, I would hope that Impact brings back Abyss’s kayfabe brother, Judas Mesias, to feud with Fenix. Given my experience seeing them in tons of matches, I would have them feud and semi-main event a PPV. Johnny Impact looked great in his return as well and he is just such a fun wrestler to watch.
Alicia: A minor Hit that she is (kayfabe) alive. Last time we saw her she was in an interview set where she suddenly teleported away and a canvas with “blood” was left behind. We barely knew her and still don’t know her last name on Impact television.
Broadcast Team: A few of Josh Mathews’s Vince McMachon-isms were annoying such as overuse of the word “bedlam” or calling every single false finish with “we have a new champion” or “we have a winner”. That criticism aside, Mathews and Don Callis did a great job on this show. Mathews stands out over your Kevin Kelly’s in a way by being a bit more unique (I like Kelly’s work, but Kelly can be bland sometimes, and is the proto-Michael Cole after all). Callis has been a treat to listen to. He enhances all the matches he calls as a heel color commentator and doesn’t overshadow the talent in the ring. This was something Jerry Lawler and Jessie Ventura did back in the day. Remember last year when Mathews was the heel color commentator and he made the matches worse by yelling over everything when he was talking about himself and Jeremy Borash?
Overall Show: While it’s tough to recommend a $40 PPV in 2018, if you did spend the money or split the cost with friends, you treated yourself to a good quality wrestling show. It was definitely better than Extreme Rules last week. If you took the best five matches from this show, you could come up with a quality Takeover Card (Takeovers still come off as better due to the overall quality and shorter length of time). This was a fun show and a step on the right direction to move away from the crappy TNA history. Hopefully they keep things up at the next set of tapings. We’ve seen this company be good creatively before (in 2016) and the only thing that derailed that was the freak accident known as “Dixie Carter”. Dixie’s gone, which is good, but I’m hoping that we don’t get any more freak accidents that derail the positive direction that this company is moving in.
Impact Wrestling Slammiversary Misses
Su Yung vs. Madison Rayne for the Knockouts Championship: The women had a tough act to follow in the Sydal vs. Cage match, but this match ultimately ended up being a disappointment. It wasn’t horrible by any means but we’ve definitely seen better from these two. Rayne is really underrated in the ring by the hardcore wrestling crowd, but that’s mostly because people have avoided TNA like the plague. I wouldn’t mind seeing Madison Rayne in the next Mae Young classic since she comes off better outside of Impact these days. Yung takes shortcuts via pageantry and hocus pocus, but she looked solid in all her matches leading up to this. The finish ended similarly to what I expected with the Undead Bridesmaids getting in the head of Rayne, but the in-ring story was just forgettable. It also hurt a bit that the story being told, which was well done when they built Rayne as a powerhouse, made a right turn into random Lucha Underground territory.
Tommy Dreamer vs. Eddie Edwards in a House of Hardcore rules match: With three hardcore street fights and the man previously known as Cyrus on color commentary, if this was back in the TNA days they would have called this PPV “Hard Justice” (one of the many porny PPV names of TNA’s past, now viewable on the GWN app!). Joking aside, Slammiversary had an overload in similar hardcore matches. This was the odd match out because the other comparable matches were superb, told a better story, and made more sense coming in. Even the oddball Pentagon and Callihan storyline worked more than this premise of Eddie thinking that Dreamer was sleeping with his wife Alisha Edwards. This match wasn’t bad. Similar to the Tessa Blanchard vs. Allie match, the effort was there but in the end it was forgettable. I’m also confused as to why they want to make Eddie Edwards the ECW hero. If I were to rebook this card to christen the new “innovator of Violence”, I would have gone with Killer Kross vs. Tommy Dreamer, which would have been an easier feud to book.
Tessa Blanchard vs. Allie: The in-ring effort, technique, talents involved were not the issue here. Both women tried hard and put on a good indie/house show type of match. It was just rushed to and didn’t have any reason to happen aside from one time Allie ran in to antagonize Blanchard. Allie didn’t stand out too much in this match either. The best part of the match was Blanchard and hopefully they figure out that there is something they can do with her now that she has signed long-term with the company. I wonder if Impact was afraid that she was going to bolt to WWE for the Mae Young Classic after Slammiversary? That might explain why they kept their options open and it seems similar to how they handled Eil Drake at the last taping (see his loss to Joe Hendry last week).