Impact Wrestling
Slammiversary XVI
July 22, 2018
Rebel Etnertainment Complex
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Watch: PPV / FITE.TV

The Rebel Complex looked like a tremendous venue for Impact Wrestling Slammiversary XVI, having its own unique look and packed crowd, and I have to say I was a big fan of the yellow ring ropes to match the traditional Slammiversary colours. Don Callis and Josh Mathews were on commentary.

Johnny Impact def. Petey Williams, Fenix and ‘The Bone Soldier’ Taiji Ishimori

Petey Williams was a late replacement in this match for Rich Swann, who suffered a concussion at MLW’s Battle Riot last week. That change didn’t make too much of a difference to the flow of this match, which was an excellent show-opener. In the style of car crash X-Division matches of old, every man was able to get their stuff in and shine. Impact was unsurprisingly the focus of this, making his first appearance in months, and he walked away with the victory after landing Starship Pain on Fenix, who was brilliant throughout. Fun four-way to open the show? Check. Get the crowd hot for the rest of the show? Check. Give Impact a big return win? Check. All boxes ticked and a thumbs up from me. ***1/2

Tessa Blanchard def. Allie

I feel comfortable in calling this the best performance from either woman in their respective tenures with the company and also saying that the Tessa Blanchard push has begun in earnest. The story of the match was simple – Allie emptied the locker trying to put Tessa away, Tessa powered through all of it and secured the victory over the former two-time Knockouts Champion. After taking a Death Valley driver on the outside, surviving a Best Superkick Ever and a Code Breaker, Tessa hit Allie with the hammerlock DDT and that was it. A perfectly paced 11 minute match that did exactly what it set out to do. ***

House of Hardcore
Eddie Edwards def. Tommy Dreamer

Eddie came out for this with a new theme song to fit his new gimmick and I was a big fan. As for the match itself, it was pretty much exactly what you’d expect of Tommy Dreamer in 2018. It was a pretty standard hardcore match that did what it set out to do. I did enjoy it, especially Don Callis’ call of the Spicolli Driver that Dreamer executed from the second rope. He is by far and away the best commentator in the game right now. Tommy got the crowd going with a flaming table tease, before Edwards landed a low blow and hit a chair-assisted shining wizard for the victory. **1/2

After the match, the two men teased putting each other through the table, before eventually shaking hands. Dreamer then passed the kendo stick to Edwards, which commentary put over as a symbolic passing of the torch. I’m all in on Eddie Edwards as a plunder specialist to be honest.

X-Division Championship
Brian Cage def. Matt Sydal (C)

I’m probably the odd one out here, but I found this really disappointing. Cage winning seemed like a formality from the opening bell and whilst Sydal put in an impressive showing, effectively working the size dynamic between the two men into his offence, it felt quite lethargic. I’ve found Cage hit and miss in the past, and I think this was just a miss for me. The finish came when Sydal clipped the ropes on the Shooting Star Press and Cage hit him with the Drill Claw. Cage is a throwback to the halcyon days of Samoa Joe in the X-Division, and I’m sure some enjoyed this more than me, but this was an inauspicious start to his first Impact title reign. **3/4

Knockouts Championship
Su Yung (C) def. Madison Rayne

A little better than I expected, this was fine. Coming in at just shy of seven minutes didn’t allow the match to break down or there being too many Undead Bride shenanigans to frustrate me or the crowd, who were excellent throughout. Madison showed good fire, landing a couple of good near falls that made you think she had a slight chance, but the outcome never really felt in doubt. The finish was neat, as Yung reversed Rayne’s version of the Cross Rhodes into a mandible claw, choking her out for her first title defence. **1/4

Rayne was put in the coffin post-match, perhaps suggesting that she is on her way to the second Mae Young Classic.

VOW Flagship Patreon Exclusive: Instant Reaction – Slammiversary XVI

Impact World Tag Team Championships – 5150 Street Fight
LAX (Santana & Ortiz w/Konnan) (C) def. The OGz (Homicide & Hernandez w/King)

LAX did the whole entrance through the crowd thing to start, although the cameras seemed to miss most of it. Still, they came out with war paint on and then it went all over the place. Santana and Ortiz, the young guns, dominated the early going before Homicide and Hernandez came back into it. I was unsure how the OGz team would look as I’ve not seen much of either man recently and despite looking like they were going to fade in the middle, they gave their all here in what is easily the best Impact match this year. You had Ortiz getting thrown into the crowd, Homicide rolling back the years with a cannonball senton through the ropes to a table on the outside and carrying a bottle of Drain-o in a throwback to his ROH days, LAX landing a Street Sweeper only for the ref to get yanked out and a border toss from Hernandez to Ortiz through another table. In the end, the difference maker was interference from Konnan.

Normally I’d rag on interference but here it was perfectly timed. After a balls to the wall 15 minute battle of wills that is likely the first match in a feud that could roll on for the rest of 2018, it seemed fitting that the man at the heart of it all, K-Dog, had the final say. He distracted Homicide and threw a bag of tacks to Santana. He didn’t hesitate, scoop slamming Homicide into place before landing a beautiful frog splash to see LAX retain their tag team titles. ****1/2

After the match, King and the OGz laid out Konnan and LAX, before spray painting the tag team titles. Josh Mathews called the match between these teams ‘a war’, but he’s wrong. That match was just a bloody skirmish at the beginning of a longer, more brutal war between two sets of proud warriors. If that installment was a taster, bring me the rest of the meal. I’m ready.

Mask vs Hair
Pentagon Jr def. Sami Callihan

After beginning as a prolonged beating of Sami Callihan, this match morphed into something quite special. Callihan got a foothold in the match as soon as weapons came into play, trying to scratch and claw at Pentagon’s mask, whilst driving a metal spike into his head. Pentagon matched him, using the famed baseball bat to hammer the spike into Callihan’s scalp and split him open. Where elbows and forearms usually take centre stage in a strike exchange, these two traded spike shots in the middle of the ring.

Things went a little awry for me when OvE got involved and they did a ref bump after Callihan threw powder into Pentagon’s eyes, culminating in a sequence that saw both men score visual pins. I understand why they did it, but it just didn’t feel necessary. Pentagon beating Sami clean was the right outcome and you can just present Callihan as a dastardly heel whose mouth writers cheques that his body just can’t cash sometimes. Anyway, after Callihan kicked out of the Fear Factor through four chairs, Pentagon hit him with three superkicks, broke the arm and hit another Fear Factor piledriver to win. ***3/4

Callihan attempted to run away after the match, only for Fenix and the Impact security to stop him, allowing Pentagon to shave him bald, much to the crowd’s delight.

It was then announced that Bound for Glory will take place on October 14th at the Melrose Ballroom in New York City.

Impact World Championship
Austin Aries (C) def. Moose

For the first time in a long time, this match felt like the culmination of something special. A really important World title main event that had the chance to take a show from ‘great’ to Show-of-the-Year calibre. We all know what Aries brings to the table, he’s a damn star, so all the question marks related to Moose. Could Moose, who has had a downright disappointing in-ring year up to now, deliver in the biggest spot of his career?

Could he ever. Moose played his part in a top-level, dramatic main event that genuinely felt it could go either way at any point. Every strike Moose landed had malice, intent and purpose behind it. He used his size and strength advantage to try and bully Aries, at one point launching him from the ramp into the crowd.

He landed his Go to Hell powerbomb for a nearfall. He even hit Aries with a brainbuster of his own after the champion had tried to low blow him, a spot that was an excellent callback to the way Aries won the title back against Pentagon.

Aries, meanwhile, had to use all of his veteran savvy and speed to counter Moose. He blocked the spear with a Last Chancery submission, he landed a Death Valley driver on the apron alongside a plethora of chops, slaps and kicks. Still not enough to put Moose away. Aries landed a brainbuster on the floor and a couple of vicious soccer kicks, but they too were not enough. The challenger would not go down without putting up the fight of his career.

In the end Aries tried to use the world title belt but was stopped by three-time MLB All-Star Curtis Granderson, allowing Moose to get a schoolboy roll-up. In a split second it looked like Moose was going to do it. He would scale the mountain top in Impact Wrestling and become World Champion. And then he wasn’t. Aries found a way out, hit him with another soccer kick and managed a second brainbuster, this time in the ring, to retain his title.

In a match that could very easily have bombed, and could have resorted to the tropes of the past, they scored a home run. Moose gave his best performance of the year and possibly of his entire career in defeat. He loses nothing in that match because he showed that he wasn’t far away. He can go again and now he stands a made man, a bonafide World title contender in a company on the up.

Aries, well I’ve run out of superlatives for him. He led that match like a true ring general, continuing his stellar year and establishing himself firmly as King of the Mountain. ****

Final Thoughts

Impact Wrestling has been building something special in 2018. The TV has improved and every match on this show was set up tremendously. The builds were logical and most of them had juice to them. All they had to do was deliver and boy, did they manage that in spades.

Booked like a NJPW show, with the big matches saved to the end, the wrestlers were given time to go out there and do their thing. They rewarded an excited, sold-out Toronto crowd with an excellent show with four matches that could be considered great, one outstanding, and nothing that was particularly poor other than the women’s title match.

Having watched this company relentlessly since 2009, despite all the nonsense and booking failures of past regimes, Slammiversary XVI is without doubt the best top to bottom TNA/GFW/Impact PPV I remember watching. They knocked it out of the park and delivered a surefire North American Show of the Year contender. They maximized their roster in a way WWE haven’t for several years and ROH don’t seem capable of doing anymore. Impact has an identity now and it’s one they can actually be proud of.