The first Impact Pay Per View of 2023 opened with Full Metal Mayhem for the World Championship in a bitter feud between Josh Alexander and Bully Ray, and closed with Mickie James putting her career on the line for one more shot at the Knockouts World Championship
Impact Wrestling 13/1/23 from Center Stage Theatre, Atlanta: Georgia
I did not watch the pre-show but here are the results:
- Kushida won the 6-way X-Division match over Mike Jackson, Mike Bailey, Angels, Delirious and Yuya Uemura
- Trey Miguel retained the X-Division Championship against Black Taurus. This match was moved onto the pre-show and the Knockouts 6-woman tag match was cut altogether it seems
The show opened with a tribute to Don West by Tom Hannifan, where most of the Impact roster and some executives stood on the ramp as they did the 10-bell salute.
There was then a video package which highlighted the main feuds of the show. Tom Hannifan welcomed us to the show and the camera panned around the arena to show a raucous crowd that were ready for the Impact World Championship match!
Match #1: Impact World Championship: Full Metal Mayhem: Josh Alexander (c) vs Bully Ray
Bully Ray was out first to a chorus of boos. He hastily went backstage for some unknown reason, whilst the Impact World Champion made his entrance. Bully then jumped Alexander behind and assaulted him with a steel chain. Bully took the Impact World title and smashed Alexander over the head with it. There were various weapons set up around the ring. Alexander was busted open already and Bully began to wrench at the open wound on Alexander’s forehead. Bully violently tossed Alexander back to the ring as we saw that a table has been set up. The referee called for the bell and the match is officially underway! Bully power-bombed Alexander through the table straight away! Bully covers but Alexander powers out after 2. Alexander was down on the mat so Bully hammered away at the wound on his forehead. Bully smashed Alexander over the head with the championship again. He went under the ring and got a grater. Alexander used the broken table to try and prop himself up. Bully went to use the grater but Alexander met him with a stiff right hand and then bounced off the ropes and nailed Bully with the grater. Bully was sent flying out of the ring so Alexander grabbed a trash can and set it up in the corner. Bully had also been busted open at this point. Alexander bashed Bully over the head with the trash can lid. He continued to assault Bully with the lid around the ringside area. Back in the ring, Alexander grabbed the grater again and ran it over Bully Ray’s forehead. He starting choking Bully in the ropes and grated the head of Bully Ray. Ouch. Alexander went underneath the ring and grabbed a black bag of tacks. He laid them out in the centre of the ring. Bully ran out of the ring and they brawled on the ramp. Alexander smashed Bully across the back with the chair twice and then choked him with it. The crowd was loud and enthralled in the violence of the contest. Alexander set up a ladder and a table on the ramp. Bully was face down on the table so Alexander climbed to the top of the ladder. Bully was just playing possum and tipped the ladder up so Alexander went flying into the ring, straight into the pile of thumb tacks! Alexander reversed the Bully Bomb and hit a huge German suplex. Alexander hit a clothesline in the corner and then a rolling senton into the tacks! Alexander grabbed the chain and wrapped it around his knee. He hit a flying knee strike to the head of Bully and got a 2 count. Alexander locked in the anklelock on Bully, who was face down in the tacks. Alexander then locked the steel chain around Bully’s neck and choked him out until John Skyler and Jason Hotch ran down to ringside to break up the submission. The 3 heels hit a 3D on Alexander into the tacks! Alexander kicked out at 2. Bully set up another table in the corner as Hotch and Skyler got the zip ties and tied Alexander to the top rope. Alexander was helpless so Bully got a trash can, but here comes Tommy Dreamer making his return. Dreamer took out Skyler and Hotch on the entrance ramp. Dreamer entered the ring but Bully handed him the trash can! Dreamer feigned hitting Alexander and then smashed Bully over the head! Dreamer went for the DVD on Bully through the table, but Bully raked his eyes and speared him through a different table. Bully screamed at Alexander to give up and then nailed him over the head with the trash can. Bully continued to yell insults at Alexander, who wouldn’t give up. Bully was staring off into the distance when Josh Alexander’s wife, Jade, got into the ring and got between Alexander and Bully. She was screaming at Bully to stop. Bully went to hit her over the head with the trash can and Bully told her to beg for mercy. Bully told her to hand over her wedding ring so Jade nailed him with a low blow. Jade, an ex-wrestler, nailed Bully with a Dudley Dog then freed Alexander from the zip ties. Jade tossed Bully a chair and then Alexander nailed him in the face with his own chair. He put Bully on a table and went back to the giant ladder which was still on the entrance ramp. Alexander hit a huge splash from the top of the ladder, through the table but Bully kicked out at 2! Alexander immediately slapped on the anklelock and Bully tapped after about 20 seconds. The match went 18 minutes.
Winner AND STILL Impact World Champion: Josh Alexander
Analysis: ***3/4 It was never going to reach the heights of Alexander’s past title defences which were wrestling classics, but this was a great brawl which brought together all of the elements of the feud; Alexander’s wife, Hotch and Skyler, Dreamer and the weapons. I enjoyed it but it probably didn’t reach the mark that I thought it was capable of. Alexander retaining the title was the right call. After the match, the camera showed the carnage inside the ring, whilst they recapped some of the big spots in the match. Josh and Jade went to the back as Bully looked frustrated in the ring.
Backstage, Mickie James was with Victoria/Tara who wished her well in her Championship match. Raven stopped by and didn’t think this was the end for Mickie and gave her a hug.
Analysis: James vs Jordynne Grace (Title vs Career) is the main event.
Match #2: Impact World Tag Team Championships: Fatal-4-Way Elimination Tag Team match: Motor City Machine Guns (c) (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin) vs The Major Players (Matt Cardona & Brian Myers) vs Heath & Rhino vs Bullet Club (Chris Bey & Ace Austin)
There was a lengthy promo video for this match. The Major Players were out first, followed by Bullet Club, Heath & Rhino and then the champs. All four teams began brawling in the ring. Bullet Club and the Guns were facing off inside the ring, but the match had yet to officially begin. Austin dropkicked Sabin out of the ring then the Major Players took him out. Rhino nailed Cardona and Myers with a double clothesline. The bell rang and Rhino and Myers are officially legal in the match. Rhino quickly tagged in Heath who hit a flying forearm in the corner on Myers, followed by a clothesline. Cardona distracted Heath, which allowed Myers to nail an enziguiri and make the tag. Cardona with a neckbreaker on Heath and picked up a 2 count. Myers tagged in and hit a single leg dropkick for another 2 count. Myers backed Heath into the corner and tagged Cardona back in. He hit a snapmare and tagged in Myers again who scored a 2 count. Myers tried a chin lock but Heath battled out and blocked a corner attack. He ran at Myers who hit a Flatliner. Myers covered but again only got 2. Myers climbed to the top rope but Heath cut him up with a top rope powerslam. Rhino and Cardona tagged in. Austin ran in but Rhino took him out with a clothesline. Rhino nailed Cardona with a belly-to-belly throw but Myers broke up the pin attempt. Myers raked the eyes of Rhino and Cardona rolled him up to eliminate his team.
Heath and Rhino have been eliminated.
Instantly, Bey rolled up Cardona and almost eliminated him. Bey tripped Cardona up, but Myers distracted him so Cardona hit a back suplex. Myers tagged back in and connected with a suplex for 2. Cardona tags himself in and hits a big running knee on Bey. Cardona hit a neckbreaker for 2. Cardona wrenched at the face of Bey, who tried to get to his feet. He wriggled out to his corner and tag in Austin. Cardona tagged Myers in. Austin fought Cardona off the apron and connected with a springboard dropkick on Myers. Alex Shelley flew into the ring and hit a Dragon Screw on the knee of Austin as he was stuck against the ropes. Shelley tagged in Sabin, then hit another Dragon Screw and Sabin got a 2 count. Sabin continued to worked on the left knee of Austin, then tagged Shelley in who locked in the Figure 4 Leg Lock. Austin slowly crawled to the bottom rope to break the hold. Austin blocked a back suplex and countered with an enziguiri. Austin sent Sabin to the outside and Bey tagged in. Shelley tagged in Myers but Bey hit a double team move on the Major Players. Austin threw Bey into the air and Bey hit a mid-air cutter on Myers, then Austin hit the Fold to eliminate Myers and the Major Players.
The Major Players have been eliminated.
We are down to two teams now. Sabin flew into the ring and connected with a crossbody on both Austin & Bey. Sabin sent Austin to the outside so Shelley came in and they hit a Magic Killer on Bey. Austin broke up the pinfall so the Guns double teamed him and dumped him outside again. They went for another double team on Bey, but Bey send them head-first into each other and then took out Shelley with a spin kick. Bey wriggled free of the Cradle Shock and Austin snuck back in and nailed a superkick. Bey hit the Art of Finesse but then Brain Myers returned to ringside and was arguing with the referee. Sabin took out he and Cardona who also had come down to ringside. Back in the ring, the Guns hit the Dirt Bomb and retained the Tag Titles after 14 minutes.
Winners AND STILL Impact World Tag Team Champions: The Motor City Machine Guns
Analysis: ***1/2 That was a fine tag match with plenty of chaos and action as expected. The ending was booked strangely with the heels Cardona and Myers coming back to ringside and ended up distracting the other heel team, costing them the victory. There didn’t seem to be any controversy at how they were eliminated so it was a bit odd.
After the match, Frankie Kazarian’s music hit and he congratulated the Guns on their win. He entered the ring and took a microphone. Kazarian hasn’t been sighted since losing at Over Drive in November. Kazarian remarked at how good it was to be back in Atlanta and back in Impact. He recapped on his X-Division success, his World Title failure and returning to AEW. Kazarian said something didn’t seem right and he hates complacency. He had to make a decision to sit complacently (doing nothing in AEW) or bet on himself and walk away. Kazarian announced that today he signed a long-term contract with Impact wrestling. The fans loved that and chanted ‘Welcome home’.
Analysis: That’s great news for Impact and probably something we will see more often with AEW’s gigantic roster size. Kazarian is instantly in the top-tier of Impact wresters and is main event calibre.
Jordynne Grace was seen warming up for her Championship defence.
Match #3: Impact Digital Media Championship: Joe Hendry (c) vs Moose
This match also got a lengthy video package, which was well-produced. It’s good to see Impact going to these efforts on their big shows. Moose entered first as the challenger, who thinks it’s time he held gold again. Hendry entered to his usual positive welcome and took a microphone, but Moose knocked it out of his hand. Hendry slapped Moose twice as the bell rang. Moose took down Hendry with a shoulder tackle. Moose ran at Hendry but copped a hip toss. Hendry hit his spinning scoop slam. Moose shoved the referee out of the way, which allowed him to rake Hendry’s eyes. Hendry recovered quickly and connected with his stalling suplex. Moose stood straight back up and tossed Hendry over the top rope. Moose sent Hendry into the steel post at ringside. Moose tried for a suplex but Hendry picked Moose up and walked him around ringside, then delivered the suplex himself. That was impressive. Hendry tossed Moose back into the ring and nailed a clothesline in the corner. Moose reversed the Irish Whip and connected with a series of dropkicks in the corner. Moose wrenched at the face of Hendry in the middle of the ring. He stomped away on Hendry who was down on the mat. Moose went back to tearing at the face of Hendry. He slapped Hendry but Hendry fired up and hit the Trust Fall over the top rope. Hendry hit a couple of running clotheslines in the corner. Hendry hit a running cutter that spiked Moose. Good selling there. Hendry got a 2 count. He went for a top rope attack but Moose bounced up and hit Sky High for a close 2 count. Moose placed Hendry on the top rope and tried for a Superplex. Hendry blocked with right hands to the back, which sent Moose to the mat. Moose quickly recovered and jumped back to the top to nail the Superplex. Moose kipped up but so did Hendry. They traded right hands in the centre of the ring. Hendry went for an uppercut but Moose turned it into a backslide for 2. Moose hit a roll up for another 2. Moose went for the spear but Hendry turned it into a roll up and almost scored the 3 count. Hendry hit a huge clothesline that sent Moose inside out. Hendry hit the pop-up powerbomb but Moose kicked out at the last second. Moose countered the Standing Ovation and turned it into a Uranage and got a 2 count. He hit another one, for another nearfall. Frustrated, Moose went to ringside and grabbed the Digital Media title. The referee took the belt away so Moose hit a low blow and a spear for the win after 12 minutes.
Winner AND NEW Impact Digital Media Champion: Moose
Moose’s celebration was short lived, as Santino Marella’s music hit with ‘Director of Authority’ on his Titan Tron graphic. Marella looked the same as he did in WWE just with glasses. The crowd was going almost as crazy as Tom Hannifan. Marella was wearing a police-type badge that looked ridiculous. He introduced himself as the Director of Authority of Impact Wrestling. Marella said Moose’s actions were disgusting and called Moose a ‘cheating son-a-ma-gun’. Marella restarted the match.
Moose went for another spear but Hendry moved out of the way and rolled Moose up for 2. Moose went for a Uranage but Hendry blocked it and sent Moose against the ropes. Hendry hit the Standing Ovation on Moose to retain the title, officially!
Winner AND STILL Impact Digital Media Champion: Joe Hendry
Analysis: ***3/4 Usually, I hate this kind of booking where they restart the match but I was actually fine with Moose winning and even more fine with Santino Marella showing up as the Director of Authority. I try and stay away from news and spoilers so close to a PPV, so I was very surprised that it was revealed as Santino. I enjoyed some of his stuff in WWE and he definitely can be entertaining in a non-wrestling role. Before the restart, I though the match was great. Moose was back to wrestling in his traditional power and athletic-based matches, whereas towards the end of 2022 he was involved in more hardcore matches. I enjoy Hendry’s moveset, as he brings some unique moves to the table. He obviously has impressive strength- displayed in his stalling suplexes and Trust Fall over the top rope. I didn’t think Hendry would be hurt by the loss, but still happy with the reversed decision.
They recapped the pre-show where Kushida won a 6-way X-Division match. Kenny King hit the ring and threw Mike Bailey off the top rope, which allowed Kushida to get the submission win on Angels. King cut a promo backstage and said he wants a fight with Bailey. He is sick of seeing Bailey wrestle. It’s time for a fight.
Analysis: Good promo work from King. He is really talented and probably under-used in Impact, in my opinion. It’s Bailey vs King in the Pit Fight this Thursday.
Match #4: #1 Contenders Match for the Knockouts’ Championship: Deonna Purrazzo vs Killer Kelly vs Masha Slamovich vs Taylor Wilde
It’s 2 heels, Wilde (who is trying a new gimmick which had really heelish promos but is getting good crowd reactions) and Kelly who is a crazy sort-of face character at this point. The crowd is mostly behind Wilde as the match begins. Slamovich sends her to the outside with a clothesline. Kelly and Purrazzo brawl in the ring. Purrazzo bails but Wilde sends her back in the ring and Kelly rolls her up for a 2 count. Slamovich pulls Kelly out of the ring so Wilde dives through the ropes and takes out both women. Purrazzo climbs to the top and hits a diving crossbody on Wilde and Slamovich. Kelly’s turn is next and she hits a diving somersault to take out the other 3 women. Slamovich gets a nearfall on Kelly in the ring. They sure both make a lot of noise as they wrestle. Wilde hits a double dropkick to take them both down and give us some quiet time. Wilde chokes Slamovich out with her legs in the corner. Purrazzo knocks Wilde off the ring apron with a clubbing forearm. Purrazzo hits a standing moonsault but Kelly breaks up the pinfall. Purrazzo counters a kick and turns it into a single-leg Boston Crab. In comes Wilde and grabs Kelly’s other leg to lock in the move. Wilde and Purrazzo are now going at it, trading forearms. Slamovich hits huge kicks on them both and then Kelly confronts her. Slamovich kicks at the face of Kelly and is smiling as she does it. Slamovich hits a German suplex on Kelly. Wilde hits one of her own on Slamovich. Kelly whips Wilde hard against the turnbuckle and hits a dropkick into the corner. Wilde recovers quickly and stomps Kelly’s face into the mat. Purrazzo is in now and hits a huge powerbomb on Wilde for a really close 2 count. Purrazzo wants the Queen’s Gambit but Slamovich sends her to the outside. Kelly hits the DVD on Wilde and starts to lock in the Killer Clutch but Purrazzo interrupts it. Purrazzo blocks the Killer Clutch and locks in the Fujiwara Armbar. Wilde breaks up the move with a kick to Kelly. Wilde locks the Crossface on Slamovich who enters the ring and then Kelly locks the Clutch on Purrazzo. Slamovich rolls through and hits the Snow Plow on top of both Purrazzo and Kelly, and pins Wilde for the win after 8:30.
Winner by pinfall and #1 Contender: Masha Slamovich
Analysis: ***1/2 This was an intense, shorter match with a clever finish. Killer Kelly can take a lot of punishment but in these types of matches, we need to see her repertoire of moves as she’s only really been in squash matches so far. Slamovich winning might give us a clue that Mickie is winning later on in the show, but that’s just guesswork from me at this stage as we have already seen two matches between Grace & Slamovich.
Match #5: Falls Count Anywhere: Steve Maclin vs Rich Swann
This feud has escalated over the last few weeks and I have enjoyed the intensity from both men. Raven has joined commentary for this match. A live mic is not a good idea for that man. Rich Swann joins Gia Miller for a pre-match interview but is attacked by Maclin and the fight is on. The match is starting backstage and the bell rings to signal the beginning. It could have been pre-taped but it was dark outside. Maclin runs at Swann who has opened a dumpster and Maclin falls in. He starts to pull items from the dumpster and hits Swann over the back with a piece of wood. Maclin hits Swann in the head with the wood and gets a 2 count on the loading ramp. They are now fighting on the sidewalk and Swann hits a cutter on the concrete but Maclin kicks out at 1. A car is driving up the ramp so Maclin throws Swann into the car. Maclin spears Swann through the metal barricades on the ramp. Maclin gets another 2 count. They brawl back underneath the arena again and Swann hits Maclin with a shovel and rolls him up for 2. He misses another shovel shot so Maclin rakes his face against a metal fence and gets another 2 count. The action spills to ringside and Maclin hits Swann over the head with a steel chair. Maclin hits a backbreaker for 2. He tosses Swann back into the ring but Swann stops himself and springboards off the ropes to kick Maclin into the barricade. Back in the ring, Swann dropkicks Maclin into the corner. He runs at Maclin who ties him up in the Tree of Woe. Maclin spears Swann who is upside down and gets 2. They go back to brawling at ringside and Maclin taunts the fans. This allows Swann to dive off the steel steps and hit a cutter for 2. Swann uses a camera cord to try and lock in a Half Nelson submission but Maclin fights out and rolls into the ring. Swann runs at Maclin who back body-drops him over the top rope onto the steel ramp. Maclin scores another 2 count and they exchange strikes on the ramp. Swann kicks Maclin who falls off the stage and goes crashing to the mat. Swann hits a Frog Splash on Maclin on the floor and gets 2. Maclin gets to his feet but Swann runs across the ramp and hits a running cannonball to take him down. Swann dives at Maclin from the ring apron but Maclin catches him and power bombs Swann on the floor. Maclin gets a close nearfall there. He misses an elbow dive then Swann nails an enziguiri which sends Maclin into the steel barricade. Maclin swings the metal gate into the face of Swann and nails the KIA on the steel ramp for the win after 12 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Steve Maclin
Analysis: ***1/2 That was a decent brawl that lived up to the feud. Swann was on top and then the finish came out of nowhere to a degree, so I was hoping for a few more minutes. They brawled in a variety of places but it was nothing ground-breaking. An obvious win for Maclin who hopefully moves up the card soon.
Match #6: Eddie Edwards vs Jonathan Gresham
The crowd is loud as this match kicks off. Edwards now has blonde streaks in his Mohawk. Gresham stands and soaks in the “Eddie sucks” chants. Edwards tries a side headlock but Gresham cartwheels out. Edwards bails to the floor in frustration. Gresham counters an armbar from Edwards and outsmarts him again. Edwards hits a back elbow to finally gain some ascendency. Gresham tosses Edwards outside and then hits a crossbody over the top. Edwards hits a huge chop but then Gresham hits an arm drag on the floor. Edwards hits an Atomic Drop and an overhead belly-to-belly back inside the ring. Edwards taunts Gresham as he chokes him in the corner. Edwards chops Gresham hard again the corner. Gresham fights back with a Legsweep and cranks the left arm of Edwards. Gresham grounds Edwards with the hold and scores a 2 count. Gresham manipulates the fingers on Edwards and pins him again for a 2 count. Gresham runs at Edwards who nails a powerslam. Edwards is frustrated that Gresham is too quick and too crafty. Edwards hits a straight right jab to the nose of Gresham, then follows up with a cutter using the middle ropes for a close 2 count. Edwards stomps at Gresham who is down on the mat, then hits a neckbreaker for 2. Edwards wrenches at Gresham’s face against the middle ring rope until the referee breaks it up. Edwards starts slapping Gresham, who slaps back, but Edwards slaps him again which sends Gresham to the mat. Edwards chops Gresham hard to the mat, but he pops up with forearms. Gresham blocks the chops with his chest of steel and fights back with one of his own. Gresham targets the left elbow again, whilst Edwards continues to chop. Gresham kips up and hits an enziguiri and then stomps on Edwards’ elbow. Gresham hits a tilt-a-whirl bulldog and a standing moonsault for 2. Gresham chops Edwards against the ropes but Edwards responds with a Blue Thunder Bomb for 2. Edwards tackles Gresham hard into the corner. He places Gresham on the top rope and sets up for the Backpack Stunner but Gresham evades it and hits a springboard moonsault. Gresham with a jumping stomp to the injured elbow of Edwards. Edwards bails to the outside so Gresham hits a suicide dive against the barricade. Gresham throws him back into the ring and slowly climbs to the top rope. Edwards is quick to nail an enziguiri. Edwards sets up for the Superplex but Gresham floats over in mid-air and tries to lock in the sleeper hold. Edwards slips out and drops Gresham face-first on the top turnbuckle. Gresham avoids the Boston Knee Party and nails a German suplex. Gresham hits a running forearm but Edwards kicks out at 1. Edwards hits a flipping sidewalk slam and a sit-out powerbomb for a close 2 count. Edwards set up for the knee again but Gresham avoids once more. He attempts a springboard hurricanrana but Edwards turns it into a pin, which Gresham reverses for a 2 count. Gresham hits another stiff forearm and runs the ropes but Edwards mauls him with a clothesline. Edwards hits the Tiger Driver but Gresham kicks out again. Finally, Edwards connects with the Boston Knee Party for the win after 18 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Eddie Edwards
Analysis: ****1/4 That was an excellent technical wrestling match with great psychology. Gresham was in Edwards’ head for the majority of the match with his counters and athleticism giving him the ascendency, but Edwards had to continue to go to the well and eventually hit the knee for the victory. Gresham is going to have lots of great matches in Impact this year if he is given over 10 minutes in the ring. This match had probably the least amount of interaction between the two wrestlers in the build-up, but it’s match of the night so far.
After the match, the lights went out and there were bolts of lightning on the screen. PCO appeared in the ring with a shovel. PCO spat up some sand and nailed Edwards with a chokeslam.
Analysis: I’m glad PCO didn’t affect the outcome of the match but it’s fine for this feud to continue after Edwards ‘buried’ PCO in the Las Vegas desert last year.
They showed a highlights package for the main event, which looks like the X-Division Championship match has been cut from the PPV.
Match #7: Title vs Career: Impact Knockout’s World Championship: Jordynne Grace (c) vs Mickie James
There were some special performers during Mickie’s entrance to pay homage to her Native American heritage. Her family was shown at ringside, but no husband Nick Aldis. Grace had ‘Final Stop’ printed on the back of her ring jacket, as she made her entrance. They shared a handshake as the bell rang. Grace backed James into the corner early on to show her strength advantage. James blocks a scoop slam attempt and tries for a roll up but Grace is too strong to move. Grace tosses James across the ring, so James slaps her a few times. Grace comes back with a huge slap that knocks James down. James tees off in the corner with some chops. She connects with the Thesz Press and lands some right hands. Grace blocks a running attack in the corner with her feet. She is getting booed loudly, which is understandable in this situation. They exchange forearms and Grace hit a backbreaker. Grace stomped away at James in the corner, then bounced her head off the turnbuckle 3 times. Grace misses a double knee attack in the corner so Mickie climbs to the top but gets cut off. They brawl on the top rope and James hits a bulldog off the top. They’re both slow to their feet and exchange forearms in the ring. James tries a clothesline but she can’t knock Grace down. She finally does with a big running kick. James goes to the top again but Grace meets her on the ring apron. Mickie walks the tightrope and connects with a Thesz Press on the entrance ramp. She tosses Grace back into the ring and gets a 2 count. Grace counters the MickDT attempt by putting James on the top rope. Grace hits an impressive stalling superplex then bounces straight up into the Juggernaut Jackhammer for a close nearfall. Grace sends James into the corner but is met with a hurricanrana then a flapjack. James hits a seating senton from the top rope for 2. Grace backs into the corner so James chops her hard. Grace resists an Irish Whip attempt then misses a corner clothesline. James bounces off the ropes into a big spinebuster for 2. She blocks the Grace Driver but not the powerbomb for another close nearfall. Grace is in control for the first time of the match now, as she clubs away at the chest of Mickie James. Grace hits a big strike to the back of the neck and then goes for the Piledriver, but James spins out and plants Grace on her head for 2. Grace sits up so Mickie hits her with a big kick to the face. James hits the Mick Kick but Grace powers through it and backs her into the corner. Grace wants the Muscle Buster but James turns it into a backslide for 2. Mickie with another roll up for 2 and tries again with no success. They trade near falls again and Grace hits another hard strike to the neck. James counters the Grace Driver into a small package for another 2 count. James hits another Mick Kick and the MickDT, spiking Grace on her head. Grace kicks out at 2! Great nearfall there. James tries for another MickDT but Grace counters and rolls through to lock in a sleeper with James on the mat. It looked like James was going to tap but she rolled over and almost scored a 3 count. James hit another huge kick but Grace shook it off and locked in the sleeper on the mat again. James reached for the ropes but Grace pulled her right arm back. James was fading fast as the crowd chanted “No” repeatedly. James got to her feet and Grace put her on her shoulders, ramming her against the top turnbuckle. Grace measured James in the corner, but went sailing into the middle ring post. Mickie capitalised with the Tornado DDT for the win and championship after 20 minutes. Her career lives on!
Winner AND NEW Impact Knockouts’ Champion: Mickie James
Analysis: **** I thought this was a great match and the story alone deserved the main event spot. After all the build-up wondering whether Mickie was still up to the level of becoming champion, she answered that question tonight. Grace dominated the early going with her power game, but James was able to work into the match and had the majority of the offense throughout. When Grace kicked out of the MickDT, the commentators wondered if the emotion of the moment would be too much for Mickie, but she picked herself up and won with the surprising move of a Tornado DDT. It has been a fun storyline to watch and I’m happy that she has another title run. She is still wrestling at a high level so I hope she continues as long as she wants to. I would’ve been also happy if Grace retained her title, as she was an excellent champion and consistently terrific in the ring.
After the match, Tara got in the ring to celebrate with Mickie who held up the title with pride. Mickie’s son, Donovan, and her family joined her in the ring to celebrate the special moment. The show went off the air there. No heel turns by Mickie’s family to end the show!
Final Rating: 7.5/10
It was a very good show, that didn’t quite hit my lofty expectations. I did argue previously that it was a stacked card with good matches throughout but no standout classic bout which fits the review. Two matches hit the 4-star mark and the lowest was only ***1/4. I understand why the World Championship match opened the show, but the placement of it took away a little bit of the atmosphere or big-fight feel that it would’ve had if it ended the show. Nevertheless, it was a wild match where Josh Alexander finally got some payback on Bully Ray. Everything else on the card was good to great. My favourite match of the night was Eddie Edwards vs Jonathan Gresham. They matched up really well and everything flowed nicely. Gresham is such a smart wrestler and will be a great addition to the Impact roster. There were a couple of surprise appearances which is always fun on a big show. Santino Marella stepping in as the Director of Authority certainly surprised me, and we also saw the returns of PCO and Frankie Kazarian. The main event between Grace and James was the culmination of one part of the story of the Last Rodeo. Now we will see what happens as James has to defend her championship. I thought the match was great and they worked at a fast pace for 20 minutes. There was some nice counter wrestling and plenty of near-falls, which added to the drama.
It’s been really fun building up to the PPV and interacting with some fans on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks to those who comment on the Facebook or Twitter pages.