The last Impact show before Friday night’s Hard to Kill Pay-Per-View was headlined by a big 6-man tag team match, as well as The Design looking to initiate Sami Callihan by shaving his head.
Also, Impact World Champion Josh Alexander and his Hard to Kill opponent, Bully Ray, went face-to-face (of sorts) via Zoom.
Impact Wrestling 12/1/23 from Charles F. Dodge City Center, Pembroke Pines, Florida
The show opened with a video package of Bully Ray’s reign of terror over the last two months which included violent attacks on Tommy Dreamer, Rich Swann, Josh Alexander and Scott D’Amore from last week, who he put through a table. Tom Hannifan and Matt Rehwoldt welcomed us to the show and cut straight to Josh Matthews, complete with early 2000s dial-up Internet quality, who was hosting a discussion between Josh Alexander and Bully Ray. You can read my Hard to Kill preview column here.
Josh Matthews hosts Bully Ray and Josh Alexander over Zoom
Alexander spoke first. He said he was sick of everyone important in Impact that he cared about being attacked by Bully. Alexander said Bully doesn’t abide by any rules and he just does what he wants. Bully Ray dialled in from his studio where he records his Busted Open podcast (with Tommy Dreamer!). Bully said there’s lots going on in Alexander’s head at present. He said Alexander was on the cusp of admitting that Bully is getting to him. Alexander admitted that Bully is in his head, like no one has ever been before. He doesn’t think that this gives Bully the advantage at the PPV. Alexander said that last week Bully continued to do whatever he wanted and shouldn’t have been in the Impact Zone. Bully sarcastically asked if Alexander saw D’Amore punch him in the face first. He said that his past actions didn’t give D’Amore the right to assault him. Bully says he beat Alexander with a chair, Dreamer with a ladder and put D’Amore through a table so that Alexander could see that he has to beat him at Bully’s own game, which is Full Metal Mayhem. Bully admits that he can’t wrestle Alexander for 60 minutes and compares him to Kurt Angle. He says that Alexander made a huge mistake asking for Full Metal Mayhem, which Alexander has never wrestled in before. Alexander acknowledges this, but says he is a fighter and to hold the Impact World Championship for a record amount of days he has to be accustomed to pain. Bully says that Alexander is going to feel pain than he has never felt before and in 24 hours he becomes the 3-time Impact World Champion. Bully signed off but Alexander said that tomorrow night the talking stops, which is what Bully is best at, and when the bell rings we will see who the better man is.
Analysis: This was an interesting way to kick the show off and I understand why they did it because both men are not allowed in the arena. It was a little awkward watching them argue with no crowd response but overall it was fine and no new ground was really covered. Bully is in his element when delivering these condescending heel promos and Alexander has slowly improved to be more comfortable on the mic. Hannifan announced that the World Title match will kick off the show tomorrow night. Wow.
Match #1: Brian Myers w/ Matt Cardona vs Heath w/ Rhino
These two teams will be involved in a Fatal-4-Way Elimination Tag Team match for the Impact World Tag Team Titles at Hard to Kill. They lock up with some mat wrestling at the start and Myers mocked Heath by slapping him around the ears. Myers with a shoulder tackle but Heath quickly recovers and traps Myers in the corner with a spear. Heath hammers away with right hands in the corner as Myers does his best Flair flop to the outside. Rhino and Cardona confront each other, then Myers pretends to get knocked down by Rhino so the referee sends Rhino to the back. She then sends Cardona to the back, much to his disgust. Amongst all the chaos, Heath hits a cannonball from the apron to take out Myers. They make their way back into the ring but Myers escapes to the ring apron and hangs Heath up on the ropes. Myers hits a running forearm on the outside area. He throws Heath back into the ring as we go to a commercial break. Myers hits an elbow drop and gains the first near fall of the match. Myers runs the ropes but Heath takes him down with a single-leg dropkick. Heath begins the fightback with a running big boot and a flapjack. Heath hits a big neckbreaker for a 2 count. Heath calls for the Wake Up Call but Myers avoids it and counters into the Implant DDT for a close 2 count. Myers measures Heath for the Roster Cut but Heath blocks it with a boot to the face. Myers ducks under a clothesline and hits a big spear for another close 2 count. Myers climbs to the top rope but Heath springs up and nails a powerslam from the top! Heath covers but Myers just kicks out before the 3. The crowd was starting to come alive now as both men exchanged right hands in the centre of the ring. Heath backed Myers into the corner and placed him on the top turnbuckle. Heath continued to beat down Myers with right hands. He set up for a Superplex but Myers stuck his thumb in Heath’s eye, sending him crashing to the mat. Myers nailed an elbow drop from the top for 2. Myers complained to the ref so Heath rolled him up for another 2 count. Myers continued to get in the ref’s face so Heath nailed him with a Wake Up Call to win the match after 9 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Heath
Analysis: ***1/2 A really solid start to the show and probably a win that Heath needed. There were some close near falls in the match and the crowd began to buy into the match towards the end. I love excited Hannifan gets for Heath’s finisher. He really makes it sounds like a devastating move. I wish they pushed Heath as more of a serious character in WWE. He has the skills and the charisma to do well in the mid-card or tag team division. That being said, I’m really glad he’s doing so well in Impact and it looks like he’s really enjoying himself.
After the match, Chris Bey and Ace Austin (Bullet Club) cut a pre-taped promo letting everyone know they’re back in the US and ready to win the Tag Team Championships at Hard to Kill.
Analysis: They’ve been tagging in Japan so it’s a good move to remind us that they’re in the match. I think this would’ve been more effective a few weeks ago when Impact announced the title match.
Backstage, Jessicka retrieved Rosemary because something had happened to Taya Valkyrie. Rosemary was incensed as a referee told her that her match was up next.
Analysis: That was weird. Valkyrie was just sitting on the ground crying. At least they could’ve had her laid out or something that looked a bit more believable. Pretty poor stuff here. We assume it was Savannah Evans, Tasha Steelz, Gisele Shaw and Jay Vidal who attacked Taya.
Match #2: Rosemary w/ Jessicka vs Savannah Evans w/ Tasha Steelz, Gisele Shaw & Jay Vidal
It’s Rosemary, Jessicka & Valkyrie vs Steelz, Evans and Shaw on the Hard to Kill pre-show. Rosemary jumps Evans as soon as the bell rings. She starts biting Evans’ forehead whilst standing on the top turnbuckle. Evans uses her strength to push Rosemary off. Rosemary takes Evans down with a snapmare and begins choking Evans on the mat. Rosemary tosses Evans into the corner turnbuckle then misses a clothesline. Evans begins clubbing Rosemary with forearms to the throat. Evans whips Rosemary into the corner but she jumps off the middle turnbuckle and connects with a forearm. Evans tries to regroup on the outside with her posse, who then stand huddled for 30 seconds whilst Rosemary slowly climbs to the top and hits a sloppy crossbody. I hate that spot.
Back from the break and Rosemary is beating Evans down in the corner with right hands. Rosemary blocks a corner clothesline and chokes Evans out with the Upside Down in the ropes. Vidal distracts the referee which allows Evans to hit a big boot. Evans tosses Rosemary into the corner turnbuckle and then Shaw strikes her with a right hand as Evans distracts the referee. Evans hits a big splash in the corner and then a Butterfly Suplex. She tries to lock in a sleeper but Rosemary gets to her feet. Evans tries for a Samoan Drop but Rosemary nails a reverse DDT. Rosemary hits a series of clotheslines and a slingblade, then a forearm in the corner. Rosemary hits an impressive T-Bone suplex for a 2 count. She tries for a double underhook but Evans just clubs her in the face and hits a spinebuster. Evans hits a Fisherman’s Suplex with a bridge for a close 2 count. She misses a clothesline so Rosemary bounces off the ropes and takes Evans down with a spear. Rosemary goes for the cover but Vidal distracts the referee. Evans sets up the Full Nelson slam but Shaw is up on the apron now. Rosemary pushes Evans towards Shaw and they almost collide. Rosemary runs at Evans who moves and she takes out Shaw. Evans nails Rosemary with the Full Nelson slam for the win after almost 9 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Savannah Evans
Analysis: **3/4 This got better the longer the match went on. There were a lot of shenanigans going on at ringside and a lot of really obvious spots, but the finishing sequence was well done. I’m not a huge fan of the Death Dollz so I hope a title reign for Steelz and Evans is on the horizon.
Post-match, the four heels left Rosemary and Jessicka laying in the ring.
Analysis: A win for Evans and a post-match beatdown probably means that her team is losing Friday night.
The Impact Flashback Moment of the Week was from Hard to Kill 2020. It was a No-DQ match between Moose and Rhino, which Moose won. The excellent Don Callis was on commentary at this point and this was the show that Tessa Blanchard won the World Title. I enjoyed her run but she was fired and stripped of her title 5 months into her reign, after accusations of racism.
Taylor Wilde cut a pre-taped promo calling herself the Dark Feminine and the People’s Witch and said that she would be the new #1 contender at Hard to Kill.
Analysis: Wilde faces Killer Kelly, Masha Slamovich and Deonna Purrazzo in a 4-way match at Hard to Kill. That should be great.
There was a video package recapping Mickie James’ ‘Last Rodeo’ run where she has put her career on the line in every match since September. She faces Jordynne Grace for the Knockouts Title at Hard to Kill.
The Design Initiate Sami Callihan
Deaner, Angels and Kon made their way to the ring. There was hair-cutting equipment already set up in the ring. The yellow-hoodie thugs are back at ringside which is good to see. I’m not sure why Kon is in the Design as his head is not fully shaved. Maybe rules don’t apply when you’re 6’5. Deaner says the process of Callihan joining the Design starts now with Callihan being shaved bald. Callihan enters the ring and Deaner says it’s time for Callihan to lose the bat and lose his identity. Callihan reluctantly gives Kon the bat. Deaner tells him he made the right choice. He tells the story of Samson and his hair. He asks if Callihan is ready to become weak. Deaner tells Callihan that this process is going to be difficult and violent, and asks if Sami is willing to see this to the end. Callihan asks if Deaner is going to talk all night or cut his hair? Callihan throws his hat at Deaner and sits down. Angels begins to cut Sami’s hair as the fans boo. Deaner gets in Sami’s face and tells him he’s making the right choice. He says the fans have never cared about Sami and gets the clippers. Some fans are chanting “You sold out” as Deaner starts to shave Callihan’s hair. Sami stops him and does it himself. Deaner tells him to make the next right choice and look at himself in the mirror. Callihan grabs the scissors in a threatening way but hands them over to Deaner. Deaner says we have just witnessed the death of the Death Machine and the birth of Callihan.
Analysis: The fans were waiting for Sami to take the Design out but it didn’t happen. It looks like a legitimate heel turn for Sami but I feel there’s more to the story than that. It’s certainly intriguing.
Gail Kim was interviewed backstage by Gia Miller. Miller asked if Gail was going to step up now that Scott D’Amore is out of action. Gail said she has too much on her plate at present but said they’ve found the perfect person which she would reveal at Hard to Kill.
Analysis: That could be a surprise authority announcement. I’m looking forward to that. Please be Dixie Carter. Not!
Match #3: Mike Bailey vs Anthony Greene
Bailey has gone from wrestling a 60-minute World Championship match three weeks ago, to performing in a random 6-man X-Division match on the Hard to Kill preshow. I understand they want to have the Pit Fight stand out on next week’s Impact show, but Bailey could’ve been in a tag match with King or something to have them interact at the PPV. Greene debuted last week and looked okay in his loss to Black Taurus. Greene chopped Bailey against the ropes to start the match. They exchanged strikes and Bailey took Greene down with a kick as he bounced off the ropes. Bailey hit combination kicks on Greene to send him out of the ring. Greene was able to whip Bailey shoulder-first into the steel steps. Greene went back into the ring and connected with a tope suicida to the outside. Back in the ring, Greene hit a flying crossbody for a 2-count. Greene chopped Bailey hard down to the mat and then hit an impressive suplex into a backslide for a 2 count. Greene turned this into a single-leg Boston Crab but Bailey got to the bottom rope quickly. Greene went for a powerbomb but Bailey flipped off his shoulders and onto the ring apron. Greene ran under the bottom rope so Bailey hit a springboard moonsault to the outside. Back in the ring, Bailey hit a missile dropkick and a series of kicks. Bailey hit a running Shooting Star Press for a 2-count. Bailey ran at Greene who side-stepped and slammed Bailey’s head hard into the bottom turnbuckle. Bailey reversed a back suplex then Greene hit a spinning sit-out powerbomb for a close 2-count. Bailey reversed an Unprettier into a roll up for 2. Bailey with a standing Moonsault where his knees landed on Greene’s ribs. Greene caught a kick attempt but Bailey sent him back into the corner and nailed the kick. Bailey hit Ultima Weapon for the win after 6 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Mike Bailey
Analysis: *** That was really competitive for a quicker match. Greene was given plenty of offense and looked better than last week. Bailey is a better opponent at making you look good, as opposed to Taurus.
There was a quick promo video for Hard to Kill, especially highlighting the Impact World Championship match between Josh Alexander and Bully Ray. They then ran through the rest of the card, which I have covered below.
Match #4: Moose, Eddie Edwards & Steve Maclin vs Joe Hendry, Rich Swann & Jonathan Gresham
They took the commercial break after Moose’s entrance. These 6 men are involved in singles matches at Hard to Kill and all of them should be very good. Hendry and Swann got entrances for the face team. Hannifan screamed at Rehwoldt for talking during Hendry’s theme because Rehwoldt had told him off previously. Hendry took a microphone and talked about Friday the 13th, when the PPV takes place. Hendry said tonight he was up against Dancing Moose and his two back-up dancers. He says tonight the fans believe in Swann, Gresham and Hendry. Gresham and Edwards start the match. They were supposed to fight at Rebellion in April, but Gresham was injured with a concussion. Edwards immediately tags in Maclin. There was a lot of counter-wrestling to begin the match and Gresham got the first shot in with a dropkick to the knee. Gresham tags in Hendry who hits a snapmare and a series of shoulder tackles. Hendry hits a spinning scoop slam and a delayed suplex. Maclin kicked out at 1 so Hendry tagged in Swann and Maclin tagged in Edwards. Swann nailed a dropkick straight away and tagged Gresham back in, who finally got his hands on Edwards. Edwards tosses Gresham into the turnbuckle and tags Maclin back in. Gresham tries to lock the Octopus submission in but Edwards and Moose break it up, then Hendry and Swann enter the ring and we have a face off. Moose hits a pump kick on Swann, then gets taken down by Gresham. Hendry takes out Maclin with a kick, but Edwards blindsides him with a forearm. Swann nails Edwards with a dropkick that sends him out of the ring. Swann takes out Edwards and Moose with a cannonball to the outside. Out of nowhere, Maclin nails Swann with a single-leg dropkick.
We return to the action with Maclin dominating Swann. He tags in Edwards, who begins choking Swann with his wrist tape. Gresham tries to enter the ring so the referee stops him, which allows Moose to ‘tag in’ which the referee never saw. Moose pulls at the dreadlocks of Swann and tags in Edwards again. Edwards whips Swann hard against the turnbuckle pad and then takes Gresham off the ring apron with a clothesline. On the outside, Moose tosses Swann around the ringside area. Moose knocks Hendry off the ring apron. Edwards tags Maclin back in and chokes Swann out in the corner. Moose is tearing at Swann’s dreadlocks in the corner while the referee deals with Hendry. Maclin covers for a 2-count then locks in a modified Crossface. Swann slowly gets to his feet and hits a jawbreaker but he is too far from his corner to make a tag. Maclin tags in Edwards who connects with a few knees to the face of Swann and gets a 2-count. Edwards tags Moose, who hits a quick and then tags Maclin quickly. Maclin runs at Swann and they both connect with a clothesline. Maclin makes the tag first to Edwards, who grabs the leg of Swann but Swann is able to nail some of an enziguiri and finally tags in Gresham. Gresham takes Maclin and Edwards both down with a dropkick off the top rope. He takes them both down again with a springboard moonsault. Hannifan announces that Gresham has signed a deal with Impact, which is excellent news. Gresham turns around and is met by Moose, who tosses him to Edwards and into a Blue Thunder Bomb. Gresham barely kicks out at 2. Moose chops Gresham viciously against the corner turnbuckle. Moose wrenches at the nose of Gresham and shoves Hendry on the ring apron. Moose tags Maclin back in. Gresham tries to fight the heels off in the corner and wriggles free of Maclin to tag in Hendry. Hendry takes down Maclin with a Trust Fall and sends Moose to the outside. Hendry hits a Fallaway Slam on Maclin but Moose interrupts the count. Swann comes to aid Hendry who hits a big lariat on Moose. Hendry runs at Maclin in the corner, but Edwards locks him in the Tree of Woe. Maclin’s attempted dropkick on Hendry is intercepted by Swann. Edwards nails Swann with a hard clothesline. Gresham hits an incredible cutter on Edwards after launching out of a roll-up attempt on Maclin. Maclin levels Gresham with a quick and tags in Moose. Hendry doesn’t see the tag and nails Maclin with a pop-up powerbomb. Moose with the spear on Hendry for the win for his team after 14 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Moose, Eddie Edwards & Steve Maclin
Analysis: ***3/4 Really good action here that was hard to keep up with at times. It followed the usual formula of a 6-man tag where one man (Swann) is isolated for a period of time before making the hot tag. I really liked how they blended three feuds here into one. It took me back to my early wrestling days (only 2001!) where WWE would do that a fair bit. It doesn’t happen much nowadays. Moose getting the win for his team here probably means that Hendry retains at Hard to Kill which would be the right call. I was glad to hear that Gresham has signed a deal with Impact. This makes sense as he is married to the Knockouts Champion Jordynne Grace. I think he’s a unique talent and will be a big player in Impact in 2023.
After the match, Maclin was taunting some fans at ringside while Edwards was left alone in the ring. The lights went out suddenly and then came back on, as Impact went off the air.
Analysis: That’s a sign that PCO will be returning, probably at Hard to Kill. With that and Gresham now signing with Impact, I would now predict him to beat Edwards not the other way around as stated in my preview column.
Final Rating: 7/10
It was a very good show to hype up the PPV which airs on Friday night US time (Saturday morning for me). They kept the show to 4 matches, which allowed some promo time between PPV competitors, some video packages promoting the PPV as well as a lengthy main event match. The only thing I think the show was lacking, was an interaction between Mickie James and Jordynne Grace. Now that their match has been announced as the main event, I think there should’ve been some sort of altercation. There were a few video packages that were fine, but something (live) on the show would’ve been better. Only a small gripe on a pretty solid show.
The next PPV, Hard to Kill, is on Friday and the final card looks like this:
– Impact World Championship: Full Metal Mayhem: Josh Alexander (c) vs Bully Ray
– Knockouts’ World Championship: Jordynne Grace (c) vs Mickie James (if Mickie loses she must retire)
– Impact World Tag Team Championships: Fatal 4 Way Elimination Match:
The Motor City Machine Guns (c) vs the Major Players vs Bullet Club vs Heath & Rhino
– X-Division Championship: Trey Miguel (c) vs Black Taurus
– Impact Digital Media Championship: Joe Hendry (c) vs Moose
– Knockouts’ Championship #1 Contendership: Killer Kelly vs Masha Slamovich vs Deonna Purrazzo vs Taylor Wilde
– Falls Count Anywhere: Steve Maclin vs Rich Swann
– Jonathan Gresham vs Eddie Edwards
Pre show match: Mike Bailey vs Kushida vs Angels vs Yuya Uemura vs Bhupinder Gujjar vs Mike Jackson
Pre show match: Tasha Steelz, Gisele Shaw & Savannah Evans vs Death Dollz (Rosemary, Taya Valkyrie & Jessicka)
You can read my Hard to Kill preview column here. I hope to get a review up in about 24 hours, which would be my third Impact column this week. It’s a good time to be a fan!