In January of this year, I took over the mantle of reviewing Impact Wrestling, aiming to do something a little different to your standard weekly TV show review.
2018 has thankfully been one of Impact’s best years in probably a decade, with a number of new stars and solid pay-per-views boosting the company’s reputation and giving them some credence once again. With us now approaching the awards season, I thought I’d do a couple of weeks of recap, first by giving out my awards and then next week by covering my top 10 matches in Impact this year.
The categories chosen for these awards were mostly based off those used by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and are not in any way definitive, just my thoughts over the whole year. Please let me know your thoughts on Twitter – @AMSinclair97.
Wrestler of the Year: Austin Aries
This was a difficult one, as the roster in Impact this year has chopped and changed a lot and in the end, I settled on Austin Aries, someone who has now left the company in acrimonious circumstances.
Aries’ return at the start of the year to dethrone Eli Drake was probably the best moment of 2018 in Impact, and following that his body of work was tremendous. He had high-caliber encounters with Johnny Impact, Pentagon, Moose and Eli Drake and managed to fit in two world title reigns. He may well have burned his bridges with his exit, but his character work was masterful and he really seemed to energize the roster, so he was the strongest candidate.
2nd place: Johnny Impact, 3rd place: Sami Callihan
Character of the Year: Eddie Edwards
Not all of it landed, but Eddie Edwards’ transition from happy-go-lucky babyface to deranged psychopath was entertaining to watch and he managed to reinvigorate his Impact run.
Edwards really did feel at the beginning of the year as though he’d achieved about all he could with his gimmick then, and unless he started a new tag team, he seemed likely to drift aimlessly under the new administration. He then suffered the eye injury at the hands of Sami Callihan and whilst they lucked into the story, his descent into madness as he battled Callihan, Tommy Dreamer and latterly Moose was captivating. It was probably too wacky for a lot of people, but it hit the mark for me and Eddie now feels like a fresh and interesting character moving through to 2019.
2nd place: King, 3rd place: Fallah Bahh
Feud of the Year: LAX vs The OGz
I don’t think there’s much debate to be had over this one.
Although the blow-off match at Bound for Glory ended up underachieving, the chemistry between these six guys was electric and it felt real and gritty. Joe Lanza of this very site said that no one could do the real-life gangster storyline like Konnan and Eddie Kingston and he was spot on – no segment was ever wasted, and Konnan referring to King as a human glory hole will go down in the pantheon of great wrestling putdowns.
Whilst in the modern era great feuds somehow seem to have become essentially 50/50 until one side gets the definitive victory, this was an example of how you can have a feud be one-sided in terms of results and trajectory, but thoroughly entertaining and plausible throughout.
2nd place: Sami Callihan vs Eddie Edwards, 3rd place: Sami Callihan vs Pentagon Jr
Tag Team of the Year: LAX
LAX began 2018 by winning the Impact tag team titles back against the Crists in Barbed Wire Massacre III, and they’ve never looked back. They dropped the belts at Redemption to Eli Drake and Scott Steiner, but that was merely the catalyst for their epic feud with the OGz and throughout that period they peppered my spreadsheets with a number of stellar performances. No one even came close.
Knockout of the Year: Tessa Blanchard
Whilst she only made her Impact debut in April, and was only secured to a long-term contract in the second half of the year, Tessa Blanchard really brought some energy to the Knockouts division and figures to be a major player in 2019.
Her initial feuds with Kiera Hogan and Madison Rayne saw her struggle to find her feet in the ring, but develop her character. Since winning the belt back in August, she’s led the division by example, putting in excellent defenses against Su Yung, Faby Apache and Taya Valkyrie, who she’s managed to bring the best out of.
I wondered how they’d cope without Rosemary – Tessa’s performances have shown they’re perfectly fine.
2nd place: Allie
Newcomer of the Year: The Lucha Brothers
Ok, this is a bit of a cop out as there’s two of them, but Pentagon Jr and Fenix thrilled Impact audiences in equal measure throughout 2018 and to my mind made a bit more of a dent than Brian Cage.
Pentagon came in hot by winning the Impact World Championship at Redemption and whilst that reign wasn’t a particularly long one, it didn’t matter. It gave him credibility in Impact canon and from there he engaged in an intense feud with Sami Callihan that was highlighted by their brilliant clash at Slammiversary.
As for Fenix, he has been nothing short of excellent every time he’s stepped in an Impact ring. He’s had brilliant matches on TV against Rich Swann, Sami Callihan, Johnny Impact and Brian Cage and is now poised to star alongside his brother at Homecoming.
2nd place: Brian Cage, 3rd place: Rich Swann
Most Improved Wrestler of the Year: Fallah Bahh
Most Improved might not be completely accurate, as he has a good wrestler before, but the greater opportunities presented to Fallah Bahh this year have seen him thrive and become a company mainstay.
Bahh had been just a jobber before the start of 2018 but he began to get more offense in and win a few matches, and his tandem with KM has given them both something to do and has been thoroughly entertaining.
And hey, Fallah Bahh’s match with Austin Aries was bloody brilliant.
Commentator of the Year: Don Callis
Another fairly easy call. Callis joined the booth at Redemption and has just replicated his excellence for New Japan in an Impact setting.
He’s by far and away better than Sonjay Dutt, Jeremy Borash and Scott D’Amore, who’ve all commentated during the year, and he’s made Josh Mathews far better, which takes a considerable level of skill.
All the praise for the Golden Announcer.
As I said, please let me know your personal highlights on Twitter!
The Week in Review
- This week Impact posted its best viewership in the 10 pm timeslot as we continue to roll towards Homecoming in January.
- Trey Miguel/Trevor Lee was my favorite of the Ultimate X qualifiers thus far and it’s interesting to see Miguel being pushed as the singles star of the Rascalz trio at the moment.
- I’m very intrigued by what’s happening between Rich Swann, Willie Mack and OvE. Definitely feels like there’ll be some ramifications in that Ultimate X match.
- Ruby Raze is not a good wrestler. Please let Jordynne Grace move on to something more meaningful. I don’t ask for much.
- Please don’t tell me Raven is going to wrestle anytime soon…
- Fenix vs Santana was brilliant, which shouldn’t be a surprise really and I also really enjoyed Cage vs Moose in the main event. Overall a much stronger episode than last week.
- The next two weeks of TV are best of 2018 episodes, so there’s only one actual show left before Homecoming.
Well, until next time…