IMPACT Wrestling 2023 Year in Review

impact wrestling alex shelley world champion

A look back at the year that was in Impact Wrestling in 2023 as the company brings back the TNA name in 2024.

With so little to write about in regards to Impact Wrestling of late, I thought I should probably put together a little end of year review write-up. The facts are that there will have been almost two months between the last regular Thursday night Impact Wrestling show and the January Hard to Kill PPV. TWO MONTHS. My last review was on November 16th, there was Final Destination in December, but then there’s been a Thanksgiving Special, comedy show, a trip to Mexico and some other highlights shows. There’s a concrete example of how not to build a rebrand of your company! That being said, I look forward to what 2024 holds for TNA. The in-ring product is there. It’s just the scheduling and booking that can be mystifying at times.

Impact Wrestling- 2023 Year in Review: By Kristian Thompson

I’ve never done one of these review articles before, as it’s only my second year covering Impact for TJR but it should be fun to walk through the year that was and remember some great matches. I promise not to be too in-depth as I know you will all be looking forward to the WWE Johnny Awards from John in the coming weeks.

Top Ten Matches of the Year

If my calculations are accurate, I believe I reviewed every single regular Impact show (Thursdays, monthly specials and PPVs) except for the Turning Point show in the UK. That probably accounts for between 300 and 325 matches if you average about 8 matches per monthly show and 5 on each weekly show. I’m no Dave Meltzer, though. I don’t just go handing out awards and 6-star matches at the drop of a hat. I model my ratings on John’s and we have similar thoughts on most matches. I also bounce my ideas off other reviewers and often get my reviews mentioned weekly on the ‘Discuss TNA Impact Wrestling’ podcast with Jason Siniscalchi which for a little Aussie writer like me is pretty cool.

After revisiting all of my reviews this year (the power of the Internet and CTRL-F make this much more efficient than that sounds) I have found that I did not rate any matches at 5 stars, and only 16 matches made the 4-star or higher rating. I was sweating that I wasn’t even going to get a top-ten of 4-star matches but I just got there. Let’s have a look at how it all panned out. Some matches have received the same rating (e.g. ****) but I have chosen a personal preference as the top choice.

  1. Will Ospreay vs Mike Bailey: ****1/2 @ Bound for Glory

I’m hoping a lot of Impact fans agree with me that this was the best match of the year in the company. Bailey consistently steps up to the big-match scenarios and his exposure in Japan has obviously helped. He rarely cuts a promo, but just goes out there and does his thing. Some people criticise his style and lack of selling at times, but in the biggest match of his career here he stepped up to the plate and matches Ospreay for athleticism and believability of his offense. It was high-octane, high-flying and high-Impact 18-minutes of chaos and I loved it. One of the only matches this year that I have re-watched by choice, not to review.

  1. Josh Alexander vs Steve Maclin: **** 1/4 @ Victory Road

This is the match we were supposed to get for the championship in April at Rebellion, however Alexander got injured and had to miss almost 6 months of action. This was also Maclin’s first singles match in nearly 3 months after an injury, too. Alexander effortlessly stepped back into the main event scene with a fantastic outing. The World Championship was not defended on this show, so these two stepped up as headliners and made it count. I was hoping for a Maclin win, to build him up after a pretty uneventful and short first-title reign, but Alexander was coming back after a long spell out and it was probably the right call.

  1. Impact World Championship: Alex Shelley (c) vs Jonathan Gresham: ****1/4 @ Impact November 9th

This match was randomly thrown together and Gresham hadn’t been doing much, however, he was in a new heel role. This has been highly entertaining as he goes about cheating and doing all of the things that he complained were being done to him for most of the year. This is one of my favourite matches this year because everything was just so smooth. Gresham had a game plan and targeted the legs of Shelley, who sold it well throughout. The commentary during this match really put over Gresham’s heel shenanigans, too. There were lots of really good nearfalls in the match, not the predictable flurry of 2 counts that can be overdone. I’m hoping Gresham features prominently in TNA in 2024.

  1. Frankie Kazarian vs Eddie Edwards: 2/3 Falls Match: ****1/4 @ Impact October 12th

These two had a series of matches before this, including one in a Dojo, but this was the stand out. The TV time was 30 minutes and Kaz is such a tremendous athlete that he probably could’ve gone another 30. I really enjoyed this feud. It played out over a long period but I was pretty engaged throughout. Edwards won the first fall quickly by pinfall, Kaz made him tap in the ‘Submission only’ 2nd fall, and then the 3rd fall as Last Man Standing really showcased the personal rivalry that we witnessed throughout the 2nd half of 2023. Kaz took out Eddie’s wife through a table, and then destroyed him off the ring apron through a table with the Fade to Black to win the match. They would face each other again in a mixed-tag match at Impact 1000 so it did continue on a bit.

  1. Will Ospreay vs Josh Alexander: ****1/4 @ Impact November 16th

I rated this lower than the other 3 matches on the ****1/4 scale, just because it was slow to start and not the usual style we get from an Ospreay match. They worked into it very well and Ospreay showed his selling ability by being unable to nail the Hidden Blade on a few occasions because his leg gave out after all the ankle lock damage. The last few minutes with Alexander absorbing so much punishment and still kicking out was fascinating to watch. I look forward to a second serving of this in January.

  1. Vacant Impact World Championship: Steve Maclin vs Kushida: **** @ Rebellion

I’m very happy that Kushida has signed with Impact permanently. This match show what he is capable of and was better than any matches of his I could recall in NXT. He was pushed here as a main-event guy and, even though I didn’t think he was going to win, he proved that he belonged in the title scene. I just thought that the plan was Maclin going over Alexander, so Maclin winning the vacant title with Alexander out injured made the most sense. This match was all about Maclin proving that he could back up everything that he said about being the real deal. The last five minutes was outstanding. Maclin kept having to find ways out of the Hoverboard Lock. He somehow turned the move into a spiked version of his KIA to win his first World Championship.

  1. X-Division Championship: Chris Sabin (c) vs Lio Rush: **** @ Impact 1000

Not only was this a terrific match, but they turned it into an all-time memorable Impact moment by closing out the 1000th episode with Sabin winning the title for a record 10th time. Rush had earlier in the year won the title by knocking Sabin out as he entered for the match. Sabin had to bide his time but eventually got his shot and they had a fantastic back and forth match where Rush looked like a star. I wish he stayed around.

  1. Deonna Purrazzo vs Jordynne Grace: **** @ Victory Road

These two fought twice already in the year but they just didn’t live up to my expectations for such a high-profile match. On the third attempt, everything just clicked. Grace having some time off might have helped her reset and get motivated again. This is the only Knockouts match on my top 10.

  1. Impact World Championship: Alex Shelley (c) vs Josh Alexander: **** @ Bound for Glory

The story for this match was that Alexander taunted Shelley as a transitional champion as Shelley hadn’t beaten Alexander since his return from injury. Shelley went all paranoid and consumed by the need to beat Alexander and prove him wrong. It was a very well-done storyline. The match itself was very good but not the instant-classic that most Impact fans had hoped for. I was pleased that Shelley won clean though, as that cemented this title run as legitimate. It is probably time for a change in January.

  1. Impact World Tag Team Championships: Bullet Club (c) vs Subculture @ Under Siege

It’s only fair to put a tag team match in the top ten and this one was electric. They clicked from the moment the bell rang. Everything in the match looked so crisp and well-executed. This was Subculture’s debut in Impact which makes it even more impressive. I hope we see more of them in 2023.

Other matches I rated **** in 2023:

* Impact World Championship: Alex Shelley vs Steve Maclin @ Against All Odds
* Triple Threat Elimination Match for the X-Division Championship: Trey Miguel (c) vs Mike Bailey vs Jonathan Gresham @ Rebellion
* Impact World Championship: Alex Shelley vs Nick Aldis Slammiversary
* Knockouts Championship: Trinity vs Mickie James @ Bound For Glory
* Impact World Tag Team Championships: Bullet Club (c) vs MCMG @ Impact March 2nd
* Monster’s Ball for the X-Division Championship: Trey Miguel (c) vs Crazzy Steve @ Impact February 23rd

Pay Per View of the Year

Bound for Glory (October): 8.25/10

Impact’s biggest show of the year, Bound For Glory, was certainly their best. The best show on the card was between Will Ospreay (best in the world- sorry, Phil) and Mike Bailey. That was one of the best athletic displays I have seen in a wrestling match in a while (4.5/5). The main event was built up really well and put over Alex Shelley big-time as he beat Josh Alexander, who rarely loses in Impact, clean. The show dragged a bit in the middle, with a very long Gauntlet match that Jordynne Grace won, but picked up again with Trinity consolidating her title reign by beating Mickie James in a shorter match but a very good one (4/5). Sabin and KENTA had a great opener (3.5/5) that I wished went another 5 minutes and the other undercard matches in Monster’s Ball and Bullet Club finally avenging the Rascals were both solid (both 3.5/5)

Other PPVS: Hard to Kill (Jan), Rebellion (April), Slammiversary (June) all 7.5/10. At least I’m consistent!

Impact Plus Monthly Special of the Year

Under Siege (May): 7.75/10

My highest-rated non-PPV show was headlined by Steve Maclin successfully defending his Impact World Championship against PCO. These shows are usually pretty predictable and are usually to fill a gap between PPVs. There are usually decent matches but nothing must-see. PCO vs Maclin wasn’t everyone’s pick for Maclin’s first title defense but they made it a violent, personal rivalry and the match was decent with Maclin destroying PCO with a KIA on the concrete for the win (3.5/5). The best match on this show was Subculture challenging Bullet Club for the Tag Team Championships (4/5). Both teams brought their A-game and it showcased what Subculture could bring to the Impact tag division. Unfortunately, they weren’t consistently on Impact programming which is a shame because they are terrific. Side note: TJR’s John Canton was ringside for this show, so they had their working boots on for him!

The rest:

Victory Road, Emergence, Against All Odds, (7/10)
No Surrender, Final Resolution, Sacrifice (6.5/10)
NB: I did not review Turning Point

Male Wrestler of the Year: Alex Shelley

Shelley had a memorable year as the face of the company when he won the World Championship for the first time at Against All Odds in June. This was very much a surprise for me as I assumed Steve Maclin was going to have a long run as a heel champion, before Alexander returned from injury to give us the match we should’ve had at Rebellion in April. Shelley admirably carried the company with a series of excellent matches against Maclin (****), Nick Aldis (****), Alexander (****) and Gresham (****1/4). He was also involved in some very good tag team matches with Chris Sabin against Josh Alexander and Zack Sabre Jnr, Eric Young and Alexander, The Rascalz, Subculture and Bullet Club. None of those tag matches made 4 stars for me personally which was disappointing but the Guns did go through a phase where they cheated a lot and the crowd loved it, but it completely took away from the flow and quality of the match. I actually got quite fired up about it on a number of occasions. Shelley continues to be World Champion and faces Moose at Hard to Kill. At this stage, they have had barely any interaction due to Impact not having any regular TV shows lately. I’m not sure if that’s enough for Moose to win the title (it’s time for a change) but we will see what happens.

Female Wrestler of the Year: Trinity

There’s not much doubt in my mind that Trinity was the stand-out Knockout in 2023. Mickie James was easily leading the pack with her Last Rodeo storyline but then she got injured and had to forfeit the title. Then she was out for a long time and only came back for a few matches so I’m not sure of her status now. Trinity lit up the ring (literally and metaphorically) with her high-energy performances and improved mic work. She had a ton of quality opponents (even dragging a very good match out of part-timer Alisha Edwards) in James, Deonna Purrazzo, KiLynn King and Gisele Shaw. Her run has been even more impressive due to the fact that she did not wrestle for almost a year after leaving WWE. Trinity faces Jordynne Grace, in her toughest test so far, at Hard to Kill. That could steal the show.

trinity impact knockouts champion

What to Look Forward to in 2024

Looking ahead to 2024, here are some things I’m looking forward to.

* The rebrand to TNA: What will this actually achieve? Will old fans tune in simply because the name is back to TNA? Will it bring back some old wrestlers or attract some new or returning blood? We have already seen the signing of Kushida as well as Ospreay and Okada who are going to show up for the tapings the night after Hard to Kill. Impact needs more wrestlers on permanent contracts for consistency and storyline development.

TNA Impact banner

* Re-establish the tag division: It was all going so well when there was a stack of tag teams gunning for the titles. Then all of a sudden they were throwing teams together just to provide challengers for Bey and Austin. Subculture are here and gone, Sami Callihan left, Aussie Open went to AEW. However, the Rascalz are the best team in Impact and hopefully they can reclaim the gold soon.

* Push Mike Bailey to the main event level: We have seen Bailey perform at outstanding levels when given the opportunity. He has had stellar matches with Ospreay, Gresham, Miguel and Alexander (60-minute match in December ’22). Yes, he needs work on the mic and some polish on his character but he has so many great attributes that a company like TNA needs. Plus, the fans love him.

* Restack the Knockouts Division: They gave the tag titles to Masha and Killer Kelly because there were no teams left. They have barely been on TV in the last 3 months. Even their Bound for Glory match got pulled at the last moment. Trinity has faced pretty much everyone except these two now. TNA needs to get some more women to rebuild the division and blood some specialist women’s tag teams. We lost The Coven when Taylor Wilde disappeared, the Hex lasted one PPV match and Rosemary turned into a normal person which at least was more interesting than the awful Death Dollz. Even they don’t seem to be given a look in at present.

* Creative using their brains: This one is simply wishful thinking. Scott D’Amore, please, can you look into the timing of the wrestling on your weekly shows? We cannot continue with these 7-8 minute matches that just do nothing for the wrestlers or the fans. Cut down a match, promo or two throughout the show and given the fans lengthy matches that showcase your talent. AEW does it every week with multiple 15+ minute matches.

That’s about it. This review was pretty much borne out of my frustration at writing one Impact show in the last month. Also, I am on holiday for the year as work finished today for the Christmas break so there is some time on my hands for writing. Unfortunately, there are no Impact shows again until Hard to Kill so I will be with you again then. If you can take the time out of your day after reading this to leave a comment, ask a question, or offer your alternative view on a match or something I have written, I would love that.

Special shout out to John Canton who continues to provide a platform for me to do what I enjoy and engage with a great community of fans.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Impact’s 2023. Any feedback or comments are welcome. My email address is in case anybody wants to get in touch with me and my Twitter handle is @thomok6 as well. Thanks for reading!