Impact Wrestling returned to the UK for the first time in more than two-and-a-half years this past weekend for a Twitch special. The show, headlined by a Barbed Wire Baseball Deathmatch between Jimmy Havoc and Sami Callihan, took place at the Bowlers Exhibition Centre in Manchester. Your commentary team were Andy Boy Simmonz and Sonjay Dutt.
Rich Swann def. Trevor Lee and Matt Sydal
This was a disappointing start to the show. I think highly of all men as in-ring competitors and I’m of the opinion that Lee has been criminally underutilised by Impact of late, but this fell foul of the tropes of triple threat matches and never got out of first gear.
The story of the match was the growing tension between Swann and Sydal, who I suspect are on course for a singles contest at Bound for Glory. Sydal worked over Swann’s leg in the early going, before Trevor Lee started to get back into it. Lee was quite over with the Mancunian crowd but as soon as things picked up, it ended in quite clunky fashion. Swann cradled Lee but it looked as though Lee perhaps should have kicked out and didn’t, leaving everyone a little confused. **1/2
Adam Maxted & Robbie X def. Jake McCluskey and Lucas Steel
A fascinating contest between four competitors of varying levels of exposure on the UK scene. Maxted and Robbie X have recently been featured on ITV’s revival of World of Sport and they were clearly presented as the stars against 12-year veteran McCluskey and the much less experienced Steel.
Steel reminded me far too much of Baron Corbin before he had his hair cut at the start which was quite off-putting but he looked perfectly solid. The whole contest was fairly back and forth, with the heel team of McCluskey and Steel working over Robbie X, the undoubted star of the match, until a hot tag was made to Maxted and the match broke down. The finish came when Robbie X reversed an attempted powerbomb by Steel, who was taken out by a springboard slingblade by Maxted. Robbie X then landed a handspring cutter and shooting star press to get his side the win.
A very impressive performance by Robbie X, he’s someone I’d love to see get a longer term opportunity with Impact moving forward. ***1/2
Su Yung def. Lana Austin
The sole women’s match on the card featured the recently dethroned Knockouts Champion against Manchester’s own Lana Austin, a mainstay of Northern promotions. I thought this was a perfectly fun contest, with Su showing a bit more fire than usual and Austin impressing me. Austin was able to evade Su’s patented Panic Switch twice with some big headbutts and a DDT, but she wasn’t so lucky the third time, having been misted by The Undead Bride whilst the referee was distracted. **1/2
Impact World Tag Team Championships
LAX (C) def. Jody Fleisch and Jonny Storm
Fleisch and Storm are a combined 79 years young.
That stuck with me throughout this excellent tag team encounter as the two UK veterans really rolled back the years, pushing the LAX tandem to their limits.
The match started at a tremendous clip with several dives to the outside, before LAX slowed things down by grounding Fleisch. Jody got back into the match by landing a double Code Red and a massive Asai moonsault to the outside, allowing Storm to clean house.
Storm and Fleisch came within a whisker of victory with an excellent British Airways (a senton by Fleisch turned into a powerbomb by the onrushing Storm). Ortiz broke that pin up, paving the way for him and Santana to hit the springboard cannonball and street sweeper to retain their titles.
Whilst it’s undeniable that Fleisch undoubtedly lost a step during his retirement, he’s still in terrific shape and here him and Storm but in an excellent performance. They had a banger with LAX, who continue their excellent year, and proved they can still go with the best. Easily the match of the night. ****
Joe Hendry def. Eli Drake
Eli Drake seems to be in a bit of a rut. Since signing his new contract he’s felt a bit lost in the shuffle and without direction, although I’m intrigued to see where his current open challenge gimmick goes on Impact.
That rut didn’t help my biggest problem with these two together – an apparent lack of chemistry. I like both guys both on the mic and in the ring, but they seem to not quite click together in the way I had hoped. That said, this was the best match so far between the two and one that saw Hendry move to 2-1 against the former World Champion. The Scotsman secured the victory after reversing the Gravy Train into a tight roll-up, indicating that the business between these two isn’t completely done. **3/4
Eddie Edwards & Justin Sysum vs Moose & Nathan Cruz
When this match was announced a couple of days before the show, I’ll admit I was pretty excited. I’m totally digging Eddie Edwards’ new gimmick, I’m a big fan of Moose’s new change in character and I think Justin Sysum is simultaneously one of the most athletically gifted and underrated talents on the British scene.
The contest served its main purpose, teasing some interactions between Edwards and Moose ahead of a potentially big singles match at Bound for Glory, allowing Edwards to build some momentum and offering a showcase to the two British talents. Cruz was his usual solid hand, whilst I thought Sysum gave an excellent account of himself and he’s someone I want Impact to sign and give big opportunities to.
A big pescado from Sysum to the outside ignited this contest going after a fairly slow start, and that start is the only thing that stops me going any higher with my rating. Eddie got a nearfall with a Tiger Driver before Moose pulled the referee from the ring, whilst Cruz almost won it with a diving headbutt on Edwards after a Go to Hell from Moose. Before the end we got an excellent exchange between Moose and Edwards, giving fans a taster of what to expect when the two go one-on-one in the near future, which end with a Blue Thunder Bomb that took both men out.
Moose would walk out on Cruz before the end, with Eddie Edwards going to retrieve his beloved kendo stick. He nailed Cruz with it, hit a big DDT and allowed Sysum to hit his picture-perfect 450 splash for the win. A really good tag match, a notch or two below the level of great. ***3/4
Barbed Wire Baseball Bat Deathmatch
Sami Callihan def. Jimmy Havoc
Your appreciation of this will depend a lot on your feelings towards hardcore matches. Yes, there was some comedy throughout with staples to the backside, Havoc running a full lap of the ring only to poke Callihan in the eye, and a lemon coming in to play, but by and large this was an entertaining hardcore match between two men who are pretty good at them.
The barbed wire bat barely came into play in the opening half of the contest, before Callihan scraped it up Havoc’s arm and squeezing lemon juice in to his open wounds. Lovely! Havoc then tried to staple his own arm closed, which was certainly an interesting spot.
Havoc’s best moments came with two consecutive death valley drivers on a pair of chairs and an acid rainmaker with the barbed wire wrapped round his wrist. Callihan survived those though and got the win with a piledriver, only after rendering Havoc shoeless and letting the Brit jump onto a load of thumbtacks. That spot got a huge reaction and from there it was treated as a formality, which was a nice touch – from a kayfabe spot, that’s something you couldn’t just tough out as everything in the ring requires pressure on your feet.
I liked this a lot, but as I said, it won’t be for everyone. ***3/4
A very good return for Impact Wrestling to the UK. In many ways it was long overdue but they didn’t overdo it last weekend, managing to put on a show with a number of really good matches that clocked in under the three hour mark. It was a breezy watch and whilst the tag team title match was definitely the highlight, I’d recommend you check the whole show out on Twitch whenever you’ve got time.
More importantly, the crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy it and there is definitely call for Impact to come back to the UK, so hopefully we’ll see that some point next year.