As I said last week, we’ve now reached the point in the year where Impact takes a hiatus from television, only offering a recap of what’s transpired throughout the year to date.
As such, I thought I would do the same. I gave out my awards last week for wrestler of the year and the like, with my ranking of the top matches of 2018 taking priority this week.
I have watched, for better or worse, every Impact match to make tape this year other than those on Xplosion so this is a holistic list and as I’m someone who considers themselves an accurate star-rater, you shouldn’t have any discrepancies with your own personal lists, but if you do, as always, contact me on Twitter – @AMSinclair97.
There were a lot of good matches this year, a product of Impact running more shows and having a competent leadership team that has crafted an excellent roster, so several matches were unlucky to miss out. Honorable mentions include Barbed Wire Massacre III, Michael Elgin vs Petey Williams, Austin Aries vs Pentagon vs Fenix from Redemption, LAX vs Jody Fleisch & Jonny Storm from the UK, Johnny Impact vs Fenix, Fenix vs Santana and the four-man opener from Slammiversary.
10. Andrew Everett, Dezmond Xavier & DJZ vs Aerostar, Drago & El Hijo del Fantasma (Impact TV, May 3, 2018)
The utilization of several Mexican stars in the early part of the year was a highlight on Impact’s weekly television show, as you got entertaining clashes like this. All six men flew around the ring in an entertaining lucha rules tag match that went just over 16 minutes, with the Impact stars proving they could match the pace and intensity of their Mexican counterparts. DJ Z was the most impressive person here, so it’s even more of a shame that he’s not been used in the second half of the year. ***3/4
9. LAX vs Killshot & The Mack (Impact vs Lucha Underground, April 6, 2018)
The LAX team of Santana and Ortiz have been incredible throughout 2018 and this match from Wrestlemania weekend was one of their best performances. They hung with the more seasoned team of Willie Mack and Shane Strickland and their 13-minutes were packed with great spots and tremendous intensity.
As this was streamed on Twitch, I’d highly recommend you check this one out if you haven’t seen it. ***3/4
8. Moose vs Eddie Edwards (Impact TV – Final Hour, November 8, 2018)
Both of these men have been prominently featured in 2018 for Impact and both have seen their styles change and adapt. Edwards began the year as the happy-go-lucky babyface driven close to insanity by Sami Callihan’s infamous baseball bat shot, whilst Moose got his big title opportunity at Slammiversary before turning heel and demonstrating a tremendous new fashion sense to the Impact audience.
Whilst their characters have changed, both have also had to change their movesets in subtle ways and alter the way they work, so whilst they had captivating years, they weren’t necessarily stunning from an in-ring perspective. This match, though, was where it seemed to come together for both of them as they had a hard-hitting affair that was the highlight of a quite disappointing Final Hour TV special. Eddie took a brutal flat back bump on the ramp to the ring, whilst Moose was really able to assert himself as a dominant heel.
I look forward to their rematch at Homecoming. ***3/4
7. Sami Callihan vs Fenix (Impact TV, August 16, 2018)
Fenix has been a breath of fresh air for Impact this year, bringing his entertaining high-flying offense to the weekly television show and proving why, for my money, he is one of the very best wrestlers in the world. Callihan too has had a good year and whether you like the man or not, it’s hard to deny that he’s actually shown some tremendous in-ring work against a variety of opponents. This match not only demonstrated that, but also showed the Callihan could thrive in an environment without the assistance of weapons and put out one of Impact’s best TV matches of the year. ****
6. Austin Aries vs Moose (Slammiversary, July 22, 2018)
There’s not that much more to say about this match than I did following Slammiversary itself:
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. ****
5. Austin Aries vs Fallah Bahh (Impact TV, September 13, 2018)
No, this wasn’t the best in-ring match of the year. Nor was it better from a workrate perspective than the matches I’ve already put on this list or some of those that narrowly missed the cut. What this was, though, was the most engaging match on Impact’s weekly TV show this year. It was a match that engaged me as a fan and made me believe. My reasons for doing so are outlined here.
Aries was simply exceptional yet again, playing his part in a tremendous main event. The real star was Fallah though, who showed the improvements he’d made all year and got the chance to show his talents in a big spot. The whole episode was built around one match and it worked. ***1/2
4. Brian Cage vs Fenix (Impact TV – ReDefined, August 30, 2018)
Prior to this contest, Fenix had been in the best match, workrate wise, on Impact TV against Sami Callihan. That bout got him a shot at X-Division Champion Brian Cage, resulting in an even better match.
Cage’s size and strength meshed well with Fenix’s bumping ability and high-flying moveset, as it has previously in AAA and Lucha Underground, and they had a tremendous back-and-forth to open the ReDefined special. Cage emerged with the victory, and the most impressive performance of his title run, but he was made to work for it. ****
3. Austin Aries vs Johnny Impact (Bound for Glory, October 14, 2018)
Unfortunately remembered for all the wrong reasons, this match was tight, snug and another impressive performance from Austin Aries.
The feud between these two started out weakly, with Impact just being announced as the challenger at Bound for Glory without any build, but it became incredibly personal with Aries’ comments about Impact’s wife Taya Valkyrie and their brawl at the Hall of Fame Ceremony the night before.
Impact is someone who has been quite hit and miss in the past and he worked a very different style here, landing a plethora of knees and body shots in addition to his usual flair. He eventually would get the win after Aries hit Taya with a suicide dive to the outside, as that seemed to spark something in Impact for the final closing stretch.
Aries may have no sold the finish but that shouldn’t take away from what these two men produced. Whilst I said this was my favourite Impact of the year in my initial review, on rewatch it did slip slightly but this was still right up my alley and an excellent main event. ****1/2
2. Sami Callihan vs Pentagon Jr (Slammiversary, July 22, 2018)
This will be where people will disagree with me.
Callihan and Pentagon’s feud was intensely personal and peaked at Slammiversary, with both men going above and beyond expectations to deliver a hellacious apuestas match. You had strike exchanges with railroad spikes and more superkicks than you could shake a stick at. It was brilliantly brutal and I actually appreciated it a lot more on the rewatch.
A career best performance for Callihan, and one of Pentagon’s several great showings of the year for Impact. ****1/2
1. LAX vs The OGz (Homicide and Hernandez) (Slammiversary, July 22, 2018)
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.
TOPE CON HILO THROUGH A TABLE. #SlamXVI pic.twitter.com/85PBGPcWZn
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) July 23, 2018
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.
That was what I wrote in my Slammiversary review and whilst the final battle between these two teams may have been a bit of a damp squib, this match was utterly brilliant. Homicide and Hernandez rolled back the years, proving themselves to really be one of Impact’s best ever tandems, and in the process allowed Santana & Ortiz to deliver a career-making performance. They’d been great but lacked that one match that got the rest of the wrestling world talking. This was it, and it was just as excellent on the rewatch.
Disagree? You shouldn’t, but if you do let me know on Twitter @AMSinclair97.