Impact Wrestling kick-started the AXS era on Tuesday night with Sami Callihan dethroning Brian Cage to become the promotion’s World Heavyweight Champion.
In all things, first impressions are vitally important. While they may not be an accurate representation of reality, they tend to be the thing that fans, viewers and colleagues, fickle beings that we are, remember most.
When AEW debuted on TNT at the start of last month, they did an excellent job of making the right impression. They gave time and prominent spots to the right people, they showcased every division within the promotion, they put on some good wrestling and they closed the show with a hot angle that drew you back in for the following week. While I neither wanted nor expected Impact to copy that model, it certainly offered them a blueprint to go with for their first show on AXS.
What Impact produced wasn’t faultless or without issue, but it was a good show that managed to tick most of those boxes and, most importantly, convey the right impression on their new TV home.
The show opened with tag team champion Josh Alexander in singles action against Naomichi Marufuji. The two had a good match that allowed commentary to put over the NOAH star and produced a result and angle that presumably sets up a title match down the road.
On the note of commentary, while Josh Mathews usually gets a fair amount of stick, a lot of it probably deserved, he did a pretty good job in this match. He gave Don Callis the platform to explain things like why Alexander wrestles with a head guard, something that is obvious to regular viewers but something that a more casual audience might question. Small things like that are essential to the overall presentation.
We then had a six-woman tag team match that saw Jordynne Grace pin reigning champion Taya Valkyrie. While the match was objectively fine and I think Grace is the right person to probably dethrone Taya, it seemed slightly odd that half of the participants didn’t get an entrance or much of an individual focus. The finish also bugged me because it was effectively a carbon copy of the match before. While I understand that it is a tried and trusted booking technique, it only works if used sparingly, and not in successive bouts.
Rich Swann and Willie Mack got a rebound win following their tag team title defeat at Bound for Glory, a match that signified that they will probably be the next big challengers for the North’s titles and one that allowed them to show off their chemistry and obvious talents.
We got a, shall we say interesting, segment involving Ken Shamrock and Joey Ryan, which obviously wasn’t too my taste but I knew that going in so I slapped that fast forward button accordingly. It set something up for next week and allowed Ryan to do his shtick, so I suppose it achieved its purpose.
X-Division champion Ace Austin also got some spotlight, winning a fun plunder brawl with Eddie Edwards. The run-in from Reno SCUM was minimal and was dealt with appropriately, and the finish saw Austin get a definitive win over his rival to start his title reign in the right way.
And then we finished the show with a video package promoting the main event and a rock-solid cage match that crowned a new World Champion. The match started hot from the get-go and while I had some stylistic issues with it (Cage kicking out of three consecutive piledrivers is a spot I could have done without) it was good and it was a strong use of the stipulation, one we hadn’t seen since the company went back to a four-sided ring.
Callihan as the “face of the company” is not something I’d go with, I’ve said that before, but he is one of the promotion’s most reliable performers and someone who can always carry a personal feud. Likewise, as the obvious payoff is Tessa Blanchard eventually beating him, it at least makes sense.
So, overall, Impact’s debut on AXS was a pretty solid effort. It wasn’t a home run, but it was a good showing from a promotion that has to make the most of their new TV home in this current marketplace.
The Week in Review
- Impact signed up OVW champion Tony Gunn last week, which is a move I’m totally behind. From what I’ve seen he looks a solid talent and he’ll probably link up with Callihan and OvE.
- Next week we’ve got Shamrock vs Ryan, Michael Elgin going up against Fallah Bahh and Willie Mack taking on Moose.
Well, until next time…