Champions have a special place in any sport. They are symbols of excellence, the benchmark for every team or individual to aspire towards and aim to dethrone, and the guide by which pundits and experts make their assessments and comparisons.
In wrestling, the significance of a champion is incredibly important. Usually at the top of cards, champions are tasked with being a ‘draw’, selling the tickets to fill out venues and put bums on seats. Whilst we all have our faves, problematic or not, it is the champion’s match at the top of the card that usually has to do the lion’s share of selling.
My biggest issue with Impact over recent weeks has been the somewhat limp portrayal of Johnny Impact, the Impact World Champion. The white meat babyface gimmick worked to some extent for Impact, allowing him to take the world title from Austin Aries and have a series of interesting title matches to close out 2018, but the issues were there. Impact was being engulfed as the top babyface by Brian Cage with relative ease – Impact’s limited mic skills and less presence in the ring made Cage easier to cheer and Impact seem somewhat of an afterthought, despite being World Champion.
His heel turn may have been telegraphed for a number of weeks now, but this week’s closing segment featuring Impact, his wife Taya Valkyrie, Killer Kross and Brian Cage was very well done, breathing new life into Impact’s character, his title run and the World title scene.
As a heel, there are a lot more options for Impact. It gives him the opportunity to cut the same relatively basic promos with the benefit of easy heat because he turned on Cage, and the ability to work with the other half of the roster. Given his look, Impact is someone who can pull off the smug, I’m smarter than you heel shtick fairly well and he will offer something different at the top of the card as we motor towards Rebellion in six weeks. Likewise, the fact it was Impact who hit Cage with the chair and cinder block, and not Killer Kross doing his dirty work, gives Impact an added edge, added heat and the potential for a future programme with Kross in the more babyface role.
Brian Cage’s world title win has seemed like an inevitability for a while now, and with him once again being slighted it will only add fuel to the fire for his eventual title win, something that will be magnified by actually having a strong face/heel dynamic in the World title picture.
Taya Valkyrie’s involvement helps as well.
Whilst I’m not always a fan of real-life couples working so closely together in wrestling promotions, Impact and Taya now have interesting avenues to explore as a conniving couple, giving Impact further heat and injecting some more energy into the Knockouts title picture. Taya was not a particularly convincing babyface outside of Mexico and now she can play into the manipulative, vicious female top heel in a programme with Jordynne Grace, which seemed to be set in stone this week.
With Impact as a heel, I now have an interest to see with what they can do with him and the direction he moves in as the year progresses. The door is now wide open for the age of Impact to restart and Brian Cage to ascend the mountaintop in the coming months, going to show the importance of having an interesting World Champion once again.
The Week in Review
- This week’s opener, the six-man between OvE and Rich Swann, Willie Mack and Tommy Dreamer, wasn’t great. There was too much Dreamer for me and the match felt like it would never end, which is a shame as Swann and Mack are great and OvE usually kill it in six-mans.
- Glenn Gilbertti can continue to go away.
- It’s good to see Fallah Bahh and KM rolling as a team, defeating Reno Scum to record their third straight win. That said, it seems really odd to bring back Reno Scum and hype them up, only to have them lose twice.
- Jordynne Grace against Tessa Blanchard was the best women’s match in Impact this year and did the brilliant job of elevating Grace cleanly and furthering the Tessa Blanchard/Gail Kim feud.
- Eddie Edwards and Eli Drake’s makeshift tandem kept rolling as well this week, and I do hope they go after the tag titles as they’ll be a fresh team in the mix as the year progresses.
- I liked Moose’s interaction with the Rascalz this week, as I think any match involving those guys could be a lot of fun and could give the young upstarts something to sink their teeth into.
- Next week we’ve got Moose vs Trey Miguel, Ethan Page vs Willie Mack and Rich Swann defending the X-Division title in the main event against Sami Callihan.
Well, until next time…