I was a little dismayed to learn last week that the first episode of Impact TV after an excellent Slammiversary show was going to be a recap episode, featuring just one first-run match.
As such, I thought I would use this opportunity to conduct a bit of a mid-year review for Impact, reflecting on an interesting six months for the promotion and the current clubhouse leaders for Wrestler, Knockout, Tag Team, Feud and Match of the Year.
All in all, the company seems to be doing good work in 2019. They may be stuck on Pursuit (although that may change soon), but the product has been good, all three PPVs have more or less delivered and they’ve told some good stories. Some big stars have gone, namely the Lucha Brothers and now seemingly LAX and Johnny Impact. Those losses, especially the last two, will be hard to take over the coming months, but with the addition of Michael Elgin and new long-term contracts for Rich Swann and Willie Mack among several others, there are reasons to be optimistic.
If you agree, disagree or have any thoughts on what I write below, let me know on Twitter @AMSinclair97.
Wrestler of the Year: Rich Swann
At this moment in time, this is an easy decision. Swann is effectively the Ace of Impact Wrestling right now.
He started the year by winning the X-Division title in an exciting Ultimate X match at Homecoming and then moved into a deeply personal and lengthy feud with Sami Callihan. Victory over the OvE leader at Rebellion set him up for a title match at Slammiversary with Johnny Impact, a bout in which he delivered a top performance and cemented himself as one of the company’s biggest assets. He has 9 matches at ***1/2 or better this year, including two at **** (vs Elgin on TV and against Impact last weekend). No one comes close at the moment, but if he can stay healthy Brian Cage will be a contender, as will Michael Elgin, who has probably been the best match-for-match guy in the company this year.
Feud of the Year: LAX vs The Lucha Brothers
Rich Swann and Sami Callihan’s issues were a close second, but this four-month feud produced the better matches and was a little more nuanced in its development. All based on friendship and muddled notions of respect, you had Konnan acting of the voice of reason between two teams he knows well (I mean, the man seems to be connected to the entirety of Mexico), who gradually began to frustrate each other more and more. Although I had certainly seen enough of the matches between these two teams by Rebellion (factoring in their matches in AAW and countless other indies), the blow-off was good and tied things up nicely.
Tag Team of the Year: LAX
Although they now seem to have finished up with the company and are likely destined for pastures new, LAX have had another killer six months atop the Impact tag team division. The Slammiversary match didn’t work in the end, but their feuds with the Lucha Brothers and then the Rascalz landed and cemented them as the aces of the division. It now remains to be seen whether it’ll be the Rascalz or The North who deliver more in the second half of the year.
Knockout of the Year: Tessa Blanchard
I wrote at the end of 2018 that Blanchard figured to be a major player for the company in 2019. That feels like an understatement now.
Her match with Taya Valkyrie at Homecoming ended up being a bust, but that set the scene for her feud with Gail Kim at Rebellion and probably the best women’s match in North America so far this year. Kim showed no rust, whilst Blanchard worked at a tremendous clip and managed to deliver an organic babyface turn in the post-match. The intergender program with Callihan might not have been for everyone, but it got her over on another level and demonstrated what a massive star Impact have on their hands.
Newcomer of the Year: Michael Elgin
I’ll get some stick for this, but I think Michael Elgin has been a welcome addition to the company. He’s brought intensity to the weekly TV and has delivered in his matches with Willie Mack, Johnny Impact, Rich Swann and then delivered the clubhouse leader for the promotion’s match of the year at Slammiversary. Elgin is the sort of name Impact need atop their cards to deliver blow-away matches, even if he himself is still problematic for a lot of people.
Top 5 Impact Matches of the Year
- Brian Cage vs Michael Elgin, Slammiversary XVII, 07/07/2019, ****1/4
- Tessa Blanchard vs Gail Kim, Rebellion, 28/04/2019, ****
- LAX vs The Lucha Brothers, Rebellion, 28/04/2019, ****1/4
- Michael Elgin vs Rich Swann, Impact TV, 17/05/2019, ****
- Rich Swann vs Johnny Impact, Slammiversary XVII, 07/07/2019, ****
The Week in Review
- The women’s triple threat was quite good. Hogan’s new character certainly has mileage, and Rayne working as a heel is a far better use of her talents.
- Next week will feature the Mash-Up Tournament, a concept I’m not sure I’m a particular fan of, but it should be a decent watch and will likely set up Michael Elgin vs Willie Mack for the No #1 contender’s spot.