July 22, 2018
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Watch: PPV/ FITE.TV ($20)
This Sunday, Impact Wrestling hosts their second pay-per-view event of 2018 with Slammiversary XVI marking the 16th anniversary of the company’s existence.
There are many moments in the company’s history that I’m sure they’d rather forget, and there’ve been many occasions where most fans will have doubted they’d even get this far. This year has, in many ways, been different. There’s been surprisingly little mention of late pay, very few rumours of the company going under and a constant sense that Don Callis and Scott D’Amore have managed to generate some buzz in the company.
The key to that buzz has been simple, yet effective booking. Every match on this show—headlined by Austin Aries against Moose—has been well built and feels like it has a purpose. The TV has occasionally been hit and miss and the TV viewership numbers show eyes on the product may well be on the wane, but much like Redemption, Slammiversary XVI gives Impact an opportunity. An opportunity to put on a good show, feature some brilliant matches replete with complex storytelling and providing fans with satisfaction and value for their money.
I have high hopes for this show and in the new regime more broadly, but I’ve also learned with this company in the past not to get too excited. Anyway, this time I’m joined by the excellent Joe Lanza and my old WWE preview partner August Baker, so that shows they must be doing something right. That, and the fact the show has SOLD OUT. Onwards with the preview and predictions!
Meet your previewers
Andrew Sinclair: Andrew is Voices of Wrestling’s resident Impact mark and weekly columnist. After weeks of expecting to fly solo on this preview, Andrew is overwhelmed to be joined by TWO, yes TWO, other writers. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AMSinclair97.
Joe Lanza: Hello. I’m Joe Lanza. The King of Banter. The Most Compelling Voice In Wrestling Media. A Reasoned And Well Explained Man. I do audio reviews for our subscribers every Monday. It’s only $5 per month, and you can subscribe here. Do it.
August Baker: August felt like he had to jump in on previewing the one weekly show he doesn’t fast forward all the way through. Follow him @augustbaker12 on Twitter
Tessa Blanchard vs Allie
Andrew Sinclair: The big story heading into this has to be the recent news that Tessa has now signed a proper contract with Impact Wrestling. She’s been heavily featured since debuting at Redemption but it always felt as though her push was stunted by the fact they hadn’t tied her down. Now they have, I expect her to be pushed in earnest. I expect she overcomes Allie here because she needs the win more; it gives her a win over a two-time Knockouts Champion and presumably shoots her into title contention. Prediction: Tessa Blanchard
Joe Lanza: Now that Tessa is under contract, there’s really no reason to think a Don Callis led regime isn’t going to push her directly to the moon, immediately, since Don Callis basically professes his love for her on a weekly basis while on commentary. I’m not nearly as high on Blanchard as most others, but she does have a great look and a family name, two things that matter a lot in pro wrestling. I’ll give her every chance to win me over, now that she has a chance to settle in and really sink her teeth into a promotion. Prediction: Tessa Blanchard
August Baker: Tessa looks impressive, and that’s half the battle. The wrestling and the promos are nothing to write home about though, but she’s still young. With a sustained push, she can only get better, hopefully. She’s certainly going to be at the forefront of the Knockouts division going forward, and it could be worse. You could have some sort of goofy undead bride as champion or something. Prediction: Tessa Blanchard
Impact Tag Team Championship – 5150 Street Fight
LAX (Santana & Ortiz w/Konnan) vs The OGz (Homicide & Hernandez w/King)
Andrew Sinclair: One of the big things the new regime have done is try things that are a little more edgy and out there for the television product. Some of it has sunk but some of it has gone firmly out of the park, and that’s no more true than for this feud. LAX’s road from dropping the titles at Redemption, their lengthy losing streak, King steering them back to gold and then being jumped by the original LAX was excellent. It showed how you extract maximum value from backstage segments and the whole story has been great from start to finish.
I’m intrigued to see how Homicide and Hernandez look as I’ve not seen much of either man over the last few years, but they were one of my favourite tag teams growing up. The street fight stip definitely protects them and also presumably allows for the influence of King. I expect that this feud has months to run yet, likely involving Konnan coming out of retirement, possibly at Bound for Glory. As such, the OGz are my pick to win, starting their fourth TNA/Impact tag team title run with a MOTN candidate. Prediction: The OGz
Joe Lanza: This is not only the best current storyline in Impact, but quite possibly the best long term TV story in all of wrestling. I don’t really care who wins the first of what should be a long series of battles, I just want more clubhouse scenes with wink wink nudge nudge references to drug deals, blatant references to “broads”, white girls, & strippers named Peaches, heated banter between Konnan and King(ston) with Konnan calling King a human GLORYHOLE, a psychological deep dive on King’s insecurities about being called racial slurs back in the day in “the neighborhood”, and more blatant ripoffs of Brian De Palma movie tropes. All of this rules and feels very different than anything else happening in major league wrestling these days, with no regard whatsoever to keeping things safe or inciting the wokes. Wrestling could use a few more doses of real world grittiness, but I’m not sure who can pull it off as well as Konnan, King, Homicide, and the rest of the fractured LAX crew. Prediction: The OGz
August Baker: How cool was it seeing Homicide and Hernandez back? LAX was one of my favorite acts when I was last watching TNA regularly, so seeing them together again was really cool for me. The new LAX needs to win this feud, but do they win this match? Though really, Konnan called King a gloryhole, so they’ve already won the feud. If this feud goes all the way to Bound for Glory, The OGz should win their first match to show what Santana and Ortiz need to overcome. But even if LAX wins, having Homicide and Hernandez beat them down would accomplish the same thing. Common sense says the OGz win, but the idea of LAX retaining their titles appeals to me. Either way, the feud will continue. Prediction: LAX
House of Hardcore
Eddie Edwards vs Tommy Dreamer
Andrew Sinclair: I’m aware that the Eddie Edwards storyline hasn’t been to everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve enjoyed it and kudos to Impact for making something interesting out of something potentially disastrous. Dreamer’s work in the build-up to this has been excellent, especially in his reply to Eddie’s suggestion that he was having an affair with Eddie’s wife Alisha. In a match designed to get Edwards more sadistic and bitter side over, Dreamer obviously loses, but I expect this to be pretty good. Prediction: Eddie Edwards
Joe Lanza: Pivoting away from Sami Callihan to Tommy Dreamer as the object of Eddie Edwards insanity was not where I was expecting this to go, but it has worked out just fine, with the insane Edwards not only channeling his inner 1995 Tommy Dreamer (which Dreamer saw coming all along while failing to prevent it), but now motivated by insecurity and jealousy, convinced that Dreamer has been fucking his wife while he’s been focused on trying to (literally) kill Sami Callihan. This is as dark as the LAX stuff is gritty, dragged down a bit by a few goofy skits but otherwise another fine job by Impact of at least exploring the type of story that makes no attempt to appeal to all ages. Prediction: Eddie Edwards
August Baker: This has been the kind of goofy, melodramatic story I can sink my teeth into. Watching Edwards descend into madness has made him more interesting than he’s ever been, at least for me. I was skeptical when the focus of this feud changed from Edwards/Calihan to Edwards/Dreamer, but it’s the clearest example of how Edwards isn’t thinking clearly. Instead of keeping his focus on his hated rival, he’s let himself be distracted by this ridiculous idea of infidelity. After beating and bloodying Dreamer, will Edwards be able to regain his focus on what’s important while keeping this edge? Prediction: Eddie Edwards
Fenix vs Johnny Impact vs Taiji Ishimori vs Rich Swann
Andrew Sinclair: To quote Dizzee Rascal, this is entirely Bonkers. A great mix of four tremendously talented athletes in what is my shoo-in to be both show opener and match of the night simultaneously. Fenix is exceptional every time he gets in the ring, Ishimori looks so energised by his jump to NJPW, Swann has been good since moving to Impact and Impact is always a safe bet. Impact is actually the person I’m really looking forward to seeing. He is someone who has grown stale on me in the past, but his prolonged absence due to his appearance on Survivor and his summer wedding to Taya means that I’ve not seen him in months.
Asking me to pick a winner is a real lottery. You’ve got to guess that the winner is next in line for an X-Division title shot, but you can make an equally good case for each man. I honestly don’t have a real strong feeling but as Ishimori is reportedly sticking around for the tapings, I’ll plump for him. And his wonderful abs. Prediction: Taiji Ishimori
Joe Lanza: The one match on the card with no build or story behind it, this is clearly here to be a wacky spotfest, and I believe it will deliver. This is a reintroduction of Johnny Impact, who was off filming Survivor, and I expect him to win. Prediction: Johnny Impact
August Baker: I wonder if we get Taiji Ishimori, or if we get The Bone Soldier. That could change the dynamic of this match, but either way it’s going to be fun. There’s not much to say about this one really. Just sit back and enjoy the flippy-do’s in a match that could steal the show. Prediction: Johnny Impact
Mask vs Hair
Pentagon Jr. vs Sami Callihan
Andrew Sinclair: Luchas de Apuestas! This is another match that I think could be brilliant. Think what you will about Callihan outside the ring, or in it for that matter, he can go when motivated and this is a spot where I expect him to shine. This feud was a bit of a surprise to me but I think has been an interesting use of Pentagon and the six-man on Impact last week involving these two was probably the best company match this year. That match was designed to make Sami look strong because he’s definitely losing here. I’m certain. I mean, I’ve been wrong before, but I’m definitely certain. Prediction: Pentagon Jr.
Joe Lanza: This has had an incredibly hot build, and to me comes off as the real main event of the show. This is easily the most interested I’ve been in Sami Callihan ever, because even during the Eddie Edwards storyline, Callihan was really more of a prop, a lightning rod for Edwards insanity, than a true foil. Look, there is no way Pentagon is losing his mask. But they’ve done a tremendous job making this feel like Callihan is a legitimate threat to do something insane, even if he can’t take the mask. Prediction: Pentagon Jr
August Baker: Two of the preeminent brawlers in wrestling in a violent brawl with high stakes. This is why Impact is so much fun to watch right now. This match has a very high ceiling and a very low floor, but either way, I can’t complain about a fight that makes sense. The only downside about this is the obvious winner, as there is no way Pentagon loses. Pentagon, Fenix, and the rest of the masked Lucha Underground crew always risk descending into aimlessness, so hopefully a win keeps Pentagon in the main event scene. As for Callihan, he’s the kind of character that can be fitted in any story, as we saw here when he transitioned from Edwards to Pentagon, but I have to imagine the Eddie Edwards story still has at least one more chapter in it. Prediction: Pentagon Jr
Matt Sydal (C) vs Brian Cage
Andrew Sinclair: Since taking on the sizable mantle left by Garrett earlier this year, I’ve extolled the virtues of both Matt Sydal and Brian Cage at great length. Sydal’s X-Division title reign has brought some much needed stability to a long-maligned title that has seen its fair share of hot potato over recent years, whilst Cage has been (aside from the crappy finish in the first meeting between two) booked superbly. It has seemed a virtual lock for weeks now that Cage is winning here and moving onto bigger things – presumably involving the participants in the earlier four-way and Dezmond Xavier. Despite overthinking almost everything on this show, Cage seems like a sure bet. Prediction: The Swolverine, Brian Cage
Joe Lanza: Sydal is doing the best character work of his career, but if Cage fails to win the title again, I will demand mental evaluations of everyone on the creative team. The countout loss in the first match cooled off Cage considerably, and this is a chance to heat him back up after dispatching Kongo Kong in a short feud. If Joe Lanza had the pencil, this is a 30 second squash. Prediction: Brian Cage
August Baker: This takes you back, perhaps intentionally, to the X-Division days of matches like Samoa Joe vs AJ Styles or Christopher Daniels. Cage is that high-impact, explosive big guy who is a perfect fit for the X-Division, and Sydal is more than skilled enough to fill in as the talented high flyer opposite him. This could be a shenanigan filled match with a bunch of potential outside interference, but I’m hoping they keep it one on one and really give the X-Division a showcase match. Prediction: Brian Cage
Su Yung (C) vs Madison Rayne
Andrew Sinclair: You know how I said earlier that some of the more edgy stuff has sunk? Yeah, that’s whatever Su Yung is meant to be. I don’t like her gimmick, I think it’s incredibly cringe and her in-ring isn’t at a level where I can overlook it. It seems apparent that the original plan here was probably Su vs Rosemary, but the latter’s ACL injury put a spanner in the works and leaves us with Madison Rayne as challenger. Rayne is good and her comeback story has been passable, but it’s not really over and I can’t see a way she wins. This match, which is Su’s first title defence, is designed to get Su over. What’s next for her probably depends on Rosemary’s status, but she should be winning here, much to my chagrin. Prediction: Su Yung.
Joe Lanza: If the LAX stuff has been a home run, and the Eddie Edwards storyline is a ground rule double, this attempt at edgy storytelling has been a strikeout with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7 of the World Series. Undead Bride Su Yung is total shit to begin with, but the goofy supernatural nature of the storyline, combined with a rapidly regressing and uninteresting Madison Rayne, makes for a match I couldn’t give a single shit about. Prediction: abstain
August Baker: So, the Su Yung stuff hasn’t really been working for me. Or anyone it seems. But even more annoying than her is Madison Rayne. Rayne is not Gail Kim, no matter how much Impact wants us to think she’s some pillar of the Knockout division. She’s been boring in the ring and on promo. At least Su Yung has some personality, even if it’s very cringe. I assume Tessa Blanchard will be getting a title shot, and Rayne makes much more sense as an opponent than Yung, so I’m guessing Rayne will win. Prediction: Madison Rayne
Impact World Championship
Austin Aries (C) vs Moose
Andrew Sinclair: After initially being quite down on this match, the build has won me round. Aries is a spectacular arsehole when he wants to be and his barbs about the XFL and Moose’s mother were what you want from a heel champion. Aries deserves tremendous credit for leaving 205 Live where he was just spinning his wheels and betting on himself. He’s a real star and deserves all the titles he’s managed to accumulate. This year he’s been bang on the money in every big match and I expect that to be the case here also.
On the flip side of the coin, this is Moose’s big shot (if we exclude the throwaway title match he had in India) and we’ve seen in the past, mostly when he was in ROH, that he could step up when given a challenge to rise to. Whether he’ll do that here is a big question, as he’s had a pretty uninspired year thus far. Still, as Aries has shown time and again, he’s a more than willing dance partner for even the most uninspired opponent (*cough* Baron Corbin *cough*).
I genuinely think this could go either way. Aries is the better anchor for the promotion and there’s an obvious rematch with Pentagon waiting on the other side. However, Moose as a face gives you a whole host of options and a logical trail to a title match with Eddie Edwards. Either works for me as long as the match is good, but I think you can tell better long-term stories with both men if A Double wins, so I’m plumping for him. Prediction: Austin Aries
Joe Lanza: The Moose stuff simply hasn’t connected. Aries is a great talker and an even better wrestler, so retaining and moving on to bigger and better things should be the move. This is the world title match, but I keep forgetting it’s actually on the show. That’s not good. Prediction: Austin Aries
August Baker: Heels are supposed to be somewhat justified in their actions to give them some validity. But I’m not supposed to agree with every single thing they say. That makes your face look like a chump. And Moose looks like a chump. I’ve never seen a really great Moose match, though I admit I haven’t seen a ton of his work, so we’ll see what Aries can get out of him. Going forward should be a no brainer. Moose isn’t on Aries level, and if Impact wants to keep gaining momentum, they need the star of their show to have the charisma of an Austin Aries. Prediction: Austin Aries