As someone who has expressed an interest in a career in writing and journalism for a few years now, I’ve picked up a fair bit of advice along the way. Some of that advice has been useful and some of it has been, well, the less said about it the better really. One piece of advice that has stuck with me though was that when reviewing something, it is essential to simply review what’s in front of you, not what you want to see or what you would have done differently.
I have regularly tried to implement that strategy in my writing but it’s something that’s very hard to do with regards to wrestling. More often than not our reviews of wrestling shows are influenced by our prior pre-conceptions of a feud or a match.
The recent MLW SuperFight show is a perfect example of this. Tom Lawlor’s title match with Low Ki was one of the best-built matches in recent memory but the execution was poor, with the match being short-changed on time. However, in most reviews, the majority of criticisms were driven by people saying how they would have booked the match or what they would have done differently, rather than actually assessing the match that took place. The match itself was always mentioned, but it felt like it was an afterthought to the bigger picture of, ‘Hey, you should have actually booked it like this’. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but merely an illustration of how the two things are easily conflated in writing about wrestling.
Attempting to review what was in front of me and not what I want to see was particularly challenging for this week’s Impact Wrestling TV special, Uncaged.
My personal highlight of the show was the angle between Rich Swann and Sami Callihan. After weeks of meandering back-and-forth between the two, this week we got Callihan a viciously beating Swann down and launching the X-Division champion off the entrance ramp and through a table.
It was a simple angle, as old as TV wrestling itself really. The heel doesn’t get what they want so they demonstrate a ruthless mean streak that gets them over. I felt it gave Callihan his heat back after a weaker couple of months for him after a strong 2018 and also ensured that the story would progress. Swann is a wrestler with an authentic back story, a back story they’ve started to tap into over recent weeks, and someone who thrives in feuds where’s able to really embrace the fiery babyface side of his character.
All in all, a great segment. I thought it accomplished everything it needed to do and got me excited for how that feud plays out in Las Vegas and on the road to Rebellion in April. But then, when the show ended, there was something about the segment that started to annoy me. I started to dislike it. Not because I didn’t like the way it played out, but because it wasn’t what I would have done.
That annoyance mostly stemmed from the Willie Mack/Ethan Page match earlier in the show. It was the definition of filler, with absolutely no meaning or ramifications for the company moving forward. Mack is already over as a star and the result just left Page treading water and looking like an X-Division jobber. I want matches like that to mean something, for the division in X-Division to mean something. Trey Miguel has had a series of singles matches in recent weeks but the results seem utterly meaningless because there’s no sense of him moving up the card or challenging for the belt because Swann is preoccupied.
Swann/Callihan as an X-Division title programme is fine, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the division, if there even is a discernible one at this point, should be neglected. Why not have wild four-way matchups between competitive young guys and top contender matches and weave Callihan in that way, as a constant thorn in Swann’s side who distracts him during matches or makes him more on edge and snappy in backstage segments.
The more I sat and thought about it though, the more I realized that it was a matter of perspective that was causing me issues. I am someone who favors promotions that are as close to a pure sports-style meritocracy as possible – in my fantasy booking universe I’d have something like the X-Division based on a win-loss record and a ranking system. However, Impact is not that. It is a promotion that is booked around big, emotional storylines with high-quality pay-offs at the quarterly PPVs. I have no issue with that and I’ve loved reviewing it for the past 13 months and I will continue to do so for as long as possible. But I think I needed to remember that my vision for the company and the X-Division is not the same as that of Don Callis and Scott D’Amore and that’s fine.
So, in the end, I rewatched the angle, putting my personal objections to the side. End result? I loved it, the same as I had the first time before I started overthinking and projecting. That said, it is important to recognize that there feels like no X-Division outside of the title feud at the moment, something I hope they attempt to change in Las Vegas.
The feud between Sami Callihan and Rich Swann has been compelling thus far and this week was another interesting chapter between the two men. It might not be what I’d book, but I’m enjoying what’s in front of me and that’s the most important thing for reviewing.
The Week in Review
- Taya Valkyrie’s street fight with Tessa Blanchard was really good fun. On a par with their meeting at Bound for Glory, it once again proved that these two bring out the best in each other. It also felt like a crossroads bout and I’m very intrigued to see the direction both women go in.
- The World Cup match was fine, coming out more or less as I expected. It gave the AAA guys some shine and furthered the Eli Drake/Eddie Edwards feud.
- I enjoyed the main event four-way for Johnny Impact’s World title. Impact once again slunk away with the title in his grasp, with Brian Cage once again looking like a star in defeat. I also thought Impact pinning Moose, the most recent introduction to the title feud, was a nice touch.
- Eddie Edwards signing a new Impact extension is massive. He was someone who would’ve been a big player in free agency, but he’s clearly happy with his freedom in Impact and I’m glad he’s staying.
- Next week is the first of the six episodes of Impact they taped in Las Vegas, featuring Alisha Edwards against Delilah Doom, The Rascalz against the Desi Hit Squad and Eli Drake versus Eddie Edwards.
Well, until next time…