This Sunday (April 28), Impact Wrestling descends upon the Rebel Entertainment Complex in Toronto for Rebellion, their second pay-per-view of 2019.
Headlined by Johnny Impact against Brian Cage for the World Championship, this is as important a PPV in Impact’s recent history. The last time the company visited Toronto, they managed to capture lightning in a bottle with Slammiversary XVI. That night seemed to create a tremendous buzz around the company, an indication that perhaps some of the negative images of years past had been lost, but now, nine months later, that buzz is virtually non-existent.
The TV deal with Pursuit has had the expected consequence of getting fewer and fewer eyes on the product, at a time where North American companies are competing for every square inch of real estate and public attention. The television product has been good recently, especially the stuff taped in front of the Canadian audiences, but none of that matters if it isn’t resonating beyond a very narrow audience. As such, delivering another great show here is important to trying to get Impact wider audience recognition.
On paper, the card looks rock solid. As I wrote earlier in the week, Eli Drake’s release from the company means they lost one of their marquee matches from this card, and at present we’ve got a six-match slate. There’s some good stuff there and the live Smokeshow with Scarlett Bordeaux should hopefully lead to another match, perhaps involving Ace Austin and Petey Williams or Killer Kross and Willie Mack.
Moose & The North (Ethan Page & Josh Alexander) vs The Rascalz
I am a huge fan of this match, which will likely open the show. It’s a nice way to maximise the roster whilst delivering a pay-off to the recent Moose/Rascalz interactions. Their issues started in one of the backstage skits, when Moose felt humiliated by the trio of Trey Miguel, Zachary Wentz and Dezmond Xavier. Since then Moose has beaten Trey and Wentz in singles competition before getting caught in a roll-up by Dez two weeks ago. The inclusion of The North here was a later development but one that’s welcome. The team of Page & Alexander figure to be heavily featured moving forward so this is a chance for them to shine in front of Canadian audience.
I personally see The North as babyfaces moving forward, so whilst I expect them to win here, I would not be shocked to see them have a small programme with Moose after this. However this match goes, this has the potential to be really fun and a great way to open the show. Prediction: Moose & The North
Impact X-Division Championship
Rich Swann (C) vs Sami Callihan
Sami Callihan may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he has been tremendous throughout his tenure with Impact, especially when he’s had a lengthy feud to dig his teeth in to. That has been perfectly true of his interactions with Rich Swann, which have lasted almost six months now and have done a good job of tapping in Swann’s backstory and his roots in the industry. I do take somewhat of an issue with the fact that Swann’s reign as X-Division champion (he won it back at Homecoming in January) has been entirely dominated by his issues with Callihan, but as I’ve written previously, it has made for compelling television.
Trying to work out the booking here is interesting. Having Swann retain wouldn’t surprise me at all, as you’ve got Johnny Impact with a future X-Division title shot after his win at United We Stand and young Ace Austin on the come up, but I think the right call is belting up Callihan. Whilst the OvE leader has delivered in every big feud he’s been in, he’s always come up on the losing side. I feel that in order to give him some further credibility, a title reign of some form is necessary and this is the perfect opportunity to give it to him. The recent addition of Madman Fulton makes OvE feel like a strong faction requiring a belt and there are several babyface contenders they could pair Callihan up with like Willie Mack or the returning Rob Van Dam. Prediction: Sami Callihan
Tessa Blanchard vs Gail Kim
It may have been telegraphed months in advance, but I’m thoroughly looking forward to this match. A large part of that anticipation is because we’ve not had Gail Kim wrestling on a regular basis in an attempt to build her up as Tessa’s equal. The story has been simple: Tessa thinks Gail cost her the title, Gail thinks Tessa is entitled and it’s a passing of the torch match. Gail doesn’t have to wrestle every week – her legacy is enough to sell the match – and the focus has rightly been on Tessa being a star. This match may not be an in-ring classic but it should be good and a big victory for Blanchard as she moves back towards the title picture. Prediction: Tessa Blanchard
Impact Knockouts Championship
Taya Valkyrie (C) vs Jordynne Grace
The story here has also been relatively simple; Grace won an opportunity at Taya’s title, Taya took the countout defeat and this is the rematch. Both women are very solid and Taya’s work is always better when there are greater stakes involved, but I have found it fairly difficult to get excited about this match. I am not sure why, but this is easily the match on the card so far that I have the least investment in as a fan.
Predicting an outcome is difficult. My initial instinct was that the Power Couple of Johnny and Taya would both drop their titles on this show, but I am less sure in this match. I could see Taya having a longer reign with the belt, but I also feel that the logical pivot after this show is for Grace against Blanchard for the title and Taya rekindling her feud with Rosemary. I’ll stick with Grace but this could go either way. Prediction: Jordynne Grace
Impact Tag Team Championships – Full Metal Mayhem
Lucha Brothers (C) vs LAX
Before I wax lyrical about how great this is going to be, I have a couple of niggles. One is that the third match between these teams was marketed as the ‘Final Chapter’ on television, but they then immediately blew through that and moved to a fourth contest here. Also, from a results perspective, this one feels like a bit of a foregone conclusion with the Lucha Brothers off to AEW in the coming weeks, but that shouldn’t stop this being match of the night and a potential MOTY contender.
Santana and Ortiz are my favourite tag team in the world right now and they kill it every time they are in big gimmick matches like these. The previous clashes between these teams have been brilliant spotty sprints, whereas this Full Metal Mayhem stipulation gives them the freedom to go longer and produce something absolutely magical. Fenix and Santana will take some exceptional bumps, Pentagon’s star will shine bright and Ortiz will continue to show his improvements. I cannot bloody wait. Prediction: LAX
Impact World Championship
Johnny Impact (C) vs Brian Cage w/Special Guest Referee Lance Storm
I don’t want to end this preview on a negative note, but there’s a lot about the build to this match that I don’t particularly like. Even if it made sense, doing a heel ref gimmick on a random episode of the television a few weeks out from the PPV was needless, and I object wholeheartedly to the special referee stipulation. Lance Storm will be massively over in Canada and that’s all well and good, but the focus here should be on Brian Cage proving that he’s the better man after all the screwy moves before by beating Impact clean; not the spectre of potential shenanigans involving Storm. Perhaps I wouldn’t object to the stipulation as much as I do if they hadn’t literally DONE THE SAME THING at the last show. I mean come on, I expect that sort of goldfish booking from the fed, but not the Callis/D’Amore dream team.
My other issue with this match is a product of the current card. With only six matches, it is likely that this match will get a good chunk of time. Impact is someone who only thrives in longer matches if he’s in there with someone who can plan out something elaborate and intense (see Austin Aries, Bound for Glory 2018), whilst Cage is also better in shorter, more intense sprints. These guys got 20 minutes at Homecoming in January and it seemed to drift aimlessly for parts, and I can’t see them getting much less time here. With all that in mind, the ceiling for this match seems quite low to me, but at least we should finally see Cage get the World Championship and he should be very over with the Toronto crowd. Prediction: Brian Cage