For almost the umpteenth time in their existence, Impact Wrestling finds itself in a period of transition. The new administration, led by Don Callis & Scott D’Amore, have a bright vision for where they want to take the company and thus far have made all the right noises. They’ve talked about taking their time, growing their own stars and perhaps most importantly, trying not to be WWE-lite.
One of the most notable steps taken thus far has been the launch of their Twitch channel. The video streaming platform had mostly been used by gamers but several other wrestling companies are now using it as a vehicle for their content, including House of Hardcore and Mexico’s AAA. Impact opened their Twitch channel with the airing of Barbed Wire Massacre III and since then they’ve mostly re-run classic matches and PPVs, all of which have been excellently advertised through their Twitter account.
That changed this past Friday. Every month they will be airing Twitch-exclusive events run in co-operation with their partner promotions from around the world. The first such event was a co-produce show with the New Jersey-based promotion Wrestle Pro, headlined by a singles bout between Dan Maff and Johnny Impact. Well, in truth the show was headlined by a singles contest between Angelina Love and Tenille Dashwood (fka Emma) but due to Emma’s legal commitments associated with her WWE release, she was unable to appear on the Twitch broadcast.
The premise of the show was simple, eight or nine matches featuring Impact stars like Eli Drake, Moose and Matt Sydal against WrestlePro regulars like Chris Avery Queling, Shawn Donovan and Maff. Over 1,000 people attended the show in Rahway, NJ and 1,125 watched live on Twitch, which is a pretty good start.
Your commentators for the show were Josh Mathews, who was slightly better than usual, and Scott D’Amore, who was actually quite entertaining.
Chris Avery Queling, Delroy & Habib from the Car Wash def. Reality Check (KM, Talon & Chris Steeler)
As a show opener this was really entertaining. A fun six-man tag, worked to a house show style that wouldn’t look too out of place on an episode of Impact. CAQ is the current WrestlePro Gold Champion and he unsurprisingly got a lot of shine here (although I’m not too sure about the whole escaped psych patient gimmick), but the real star was Habib. He had the crowd firmly on his side, his offense was entertaining and he worked really hard. KM was also quite impressive, coming across more menacing and dominant than in any match in Impact in the year he’s been there. The match eventually broke down with every wrestler landing their finisher, with CAQ getting the win for his team with a reverse clothesline. **3/4
After the match Reality Check laid out all three men, with KM challenging CAQ to a match for his WrestlePro Gold Championship. He offered him any match stipulation he wanted, with the added clause that if KM were to lose, he’d never challenge him for the belt again. CAQ eventually accepted the challenge – inside a steel cage!
Then followed a segment that is bound to divide opinion. UFC star Colby Covington, who was regularly featured as part of the whole ATT vs Impact storyline, came to ring demanding a title shot against current UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. He got a title match of sorts, facing off against Tyquil Woodley, a rather pudgy replacement! It was a mock UFC fight with all the Bruce Buffer-esque entrances and Colby ‘won’ in 13 seconds to become the new UFC Welterweight Champion.
Look, this wasn’t a match and was obviously a PR stunt, but I thought it was hilarious. The announcer was great and would be a good addition to the Impact roster and positioning it so early on meant that the segment didn’t detract from the rest of the show.
Matt Sydal & Chris Payne def. The Heavenly Bodies (Desirable Dustin and Gigolo Justin)
This was originally scheduled as a singles contest between Sydal and Payne, an NYPD cop. Payne’s stablemates Dustin and Justin beat Sydal down on the ramp and seemingly set Payne up for an easy victory, only for the cop to do the honourable thing and turn on his buddies. It seemed quite odd having a break-up of a group completely new to Impact fans, but it set up a passable tag match.
A very formulaic tag match that really lacked any juice. The Heavenly Bodies heat segment wasn’t particularly entertaining and certainly didn’t do a lot to help their claim that they are the ‘Best tag team in the world’. Payne eventually fought back to make the hot tag to Sydal who landed a shooting star press to net his team the victory. Sydal continued to impress and again proves to have been a very astute addition, despite his indiscretions outside the company. **1/4
Moose def. Shawn Donovan
Moose is great. I’ve said in my column for the past two weeks that I expect Moose to get a big push this year, especially given he was trained by D’Amore, and it makes sense. He’s over everywhere he goes, has done good work out in NOAH and is consistently improving on the mic.
Donovan, a 15-year vet, jumped Moose before the bell and did a reasonable job but the match again lacked much oomph. Donovan’s heat segment also wasn’t the most engaging and it constantly felt only a matter of time until Moose fired up and put him away. That he did, eventually pinning him after a spear. **1/4
Nikos & Nikki Rikos def. Braxton Sutter & Allie
First things first, Nikos’ gear was awful. No idea what it was supposed to be, but it wasn’t good. Another issue was the camera. Ringside cameras aren’t something I’m used to and whilst it was largely ok, sometimes it was too close and you felt like you were missing out on the action. That was often a theme in this match, which felt largely disjointed. It was worked along intergender rules and just as it seemed to be kicking up a gear, it ended. Allie and Nikki brawled out of the ring distracting Braxton, who was hit with a backstabber and pinned. An upset for sure, but it didn’t come off as well as I think they would have hoped. **
Bobby Wayward def. Teddy Hart
I wasn’t expecting this! Bobby was originally scheduled to face Eddie Edwards, who wasn’t cleared to wrestle after suffering a bad concussion at the recent Impact tapings. Eddie informed Wayward, who garnered some impressive heat from the crowd, that he would have an opponent and that that opponent would be Teddy Hart!
Easily the best match of the night thus far. Hart’s reputation outside the ring is well documented but he’s still a tremendously talented wrestler and was great here, as was Wayward. It was my first time seeing him and I came away a fan. Two big lungblowers and a Gotch piledriver through the ropes looked to have Hart well on the way to victory, until Wayward reversed into a roll-up, used the ropes for leverage and stole the victory. If I were to make a criticism of the match it would be that it perhaps lacked the connective tissue to really pushed to being great, but it was still very entertaining and a good showcase for both men. ***1/4
Anthony Bowens def. Eli Drake and Matt Macintosh
Anthony Bowens was someone I’d heard good things about before this show and I wasn’t disappointed on my first viewing. He had a great look, some great athleticism and a pretty unique move-set. He had an impressive showing here and picked up a bit of a shock win after hitting Macintosh, a fellow former WrestlePro champion, with a penalty kick. Like Wayward and Habib from the Car Wash in previous matches, Bowens came across as the sort of guy who would be a sensible addition to the Impact roster, which has to be another purpose of those co-produce shows. As for the match it fell into the trap most triple threats do of being very clunky, but it was entertaining nonetheless. ***
Alberto El Patron def. Fallah Bahh
Fallah Bahh is my guy. After entering Impact as one half of an in-house jobber team with Mario Bokara (interestingly they both came in from WrestlePro), Bahh has gradually become more and more featured in the weekly television product. He’s doing the whole Yokozuna-type gimmick really well, and is engaging the Impact fans. As a fellow fat kid, I endorse Fallah Bahh wholeheartedly and want me some merch right now! BAHH! BAHH! BAHH!
The match of the night. El Patron had his working boots on but Bahh was the real star. Like his performance against Matt Sydal recently, Bahh is proving that when he’s given the opportunity he’s more than capable of running with it. They traded big moves back and forth, with Bahh even managing to land his patented Bonsai drop on El Patron, only for the dastardly Mexican to grab the bottom rope! Bahh had big spots and looked like he was on the way to his first win under the Impact banner but Patron had other ideas. A double foot stomp and that was all she wrote. ***1/2
Johnny Impact def. Dan Maff
When I saw the announced card, this seemed like an interesting choice for the de facto main event slot. Impact is obviously one of the company’s biggest stars and has a lot cache, but to my mind there wasn’t a huge amount of star appeal to the match-up. Perhaps I’m short-changing Maff, but this didn’t seem like the sort of main event I’d want if I was going to see the show live.
Impact was his usual charismatic self and for a hardcore-free, non-brawling environment, I thought Maff was quite good here. Maff doing a suicide dive is not something I thought physically possible and definitely warrants and extra quarter-star on the snowflake scale. My main gripe with the match was the ref bump. As a stickler for interference and cheap shenanigans, I don’t like seeing ref bumps anywhere on my wrestling shows, but especially not in main events. If they’d ended it at the first Starship Pain I’d have been happy. In the end we had the Maff visual pin before Impact hit Starship Pain for the second time and secured victory. **1/2
A breezy, enjoyable watch for Impact’s first show on Twitch. Using Twitch as a platform for exclusive content is a good business idea and one I fully endorse and as opening gambits go, this was almost as good as they could have hoped for. There’s obviously technical issues that need ironing out, like camera work and audio issues, but the content was good and it was a really easy watch. It’s excellent background viewing if you want something on whilst you’re doing things and I’d recommend checking out El Patron/Bahh because it really was quite good.