Last week I began my mini-series of pieces reflecting on the year that was 2019 for Impact Wrestling by giving out my awards for the promotion’s best male wrestler, best character, best knockout and so on.
One category notable by its absence was ‘Match of the Year’, something that will be covered here as I count down my top 10 matches that the company produced over the last calendar year. Although 2019 was not as strong as 2018 was, there was still a lot of quality over the year.
Agree with my suggestions? Think I’ve completely missed something? Let me know on Twitter @AMSinclair97.
Honorable Mentions: Eddie Edwards vs Moose (Homecoming, January 6th), LAX vs The Lucha Brothers (Homecoming, January 6th), LAX vs The Lucha Brothers (Impact TV, February 8th), Taya Valkyrie vs Su Yung vs Havok vs Rosemary (Slammiversary XVII, July 7th), The North vs The Rascalz (Impact TV, August 2nd), Michael Elgin vs Naomichi Marufuji (Bound for Glory, October 20th), Brian Cage vs Sami Callihan (Bound for Glory, October 20th), Michael Elgin vs Fallah Bahh (Impact TV, November 5th).
- Sami Callihan vs Tessa Blanchard (Slammiversary XVII, July 7)
While Dave Meltzer was considerably higher on this match than me, Callihan and Blanchard combined well to deliver a strong match in the Slammiversary XVII main event. It never overstayed its welcome and Callihan, who continues to thrive in Impact more than anywhere else, broke out of his traditional mold to work a fun back-and-forth that would have come a little higher without the referee shenanigans.
- Rich Swann vs Johnny Impact (Slammiversary XVII, July 7)
Rich Swann was my Impact MVP for 2019, with his X-Division title run a particular highlight. This match was a high point in his reign, with the two producing a crisp, clean match that showed off Impact in his best light and allowed Swann to overcome the challenge to cement himself as the star of the division. Although it ended up being Johnny’s last match with the promotion before he went back to the WWE, he did a tremendous job here and gave real credibility to Swann as one of the promotion’s biggest stars.
- The North vs Eddie Edwards & Naomichi Marufuji (Impact TV, November 12)
Bringing in Josh Alexander was one of the company’s best moves in 2019 and he more than delivered in this tremendous match. While there was probably never any real likelihood of The North losing their belts, these four produced probably the best ‘traditional’ tag match in the promotion all year, and it was a big win that further established The North as the aces of the division following LAX’s departure.
- Brian Cage vs Sami Callihan (Impact TV, October 29)
It was a tossup as to which of their singles matches to include but ultimately I went for their steel cage match from the promotion’s debut show on AXS. Both matches were of similar quality but the one at Bound for Glory, in my mind at least, felt like it had much more baggage, whereas this one felt like a simple rematch. That is undoubtedly a reflection of me overthinking things and having expectations where none were necessary, but I still feel the TV match delivered a little more as an overall package.
- Jake Crist vs Ace Austin vs Ace Romero vs Tessa Blanchard vs Daga (Bound for Glory, October 20)
While this was match was proof to some in the VOW Slack that ‘Andrew loves all ladder matches’, I genuinely did enjoy this. I went over **** in my review of the show and that rating held up when I rewatched it. Everyone did their bit to make the match feel special and the bigger picture story of Tessa finally overcoming oVe only to be stopped by someone else was superb. Ace Austin has a very bright future and this match was a milestone for him and there was the small matter of Ace Romero taking THAT bump.
- Tessa Blanchard vs Brian Cage vs Rich Swann vs Michael Elgin vs Moose vs Daga (Impact TV, November 19)
The longest single match to have ever aired specifically on Impact TV.
Rich Swann’s performance here and Tessa Blanchard’s big win were the key takeaways but this was a genuinely well-crafted elimination match and one that told some interesting stories. It gradually picked up in pace, with Swann outsmarting Moose before getting viscerally beaten by Elgin, who delivered a sneaky great performance. People’s mileage on the outcome will obviously vary but to keep a crowd engaged for as long as these guys did, you have to have done something pretty special.
- The Lucha Brothers vs LAX, (Rebellion, April 28)
I remember being blown away by the first title match between these two teams in January. It does not hold up as well in reflection but the work was very crisp and fast-paced. The rematch in Mexico, which saw the Lucha Brothers win the tag titles, was very similar. By the time the third match came around in late April, I was very much done with the feud as I had seen the four men wrestle each other so many times in various promotion. But, and this is a big but, the Full Metal Mayhem match they worked was unlike the others and is deserving of a place on this list. All the high spots were nailed, the drama was great and LAX winning the titles back very much tied the Lucha Brothers’ stint with the promotion up with a neat little bow.
- Michael Elgin vs Rich Swann (Impact TV, May 17)
If Swann’s match with Impact was a highlight of his X-Division title run, this was Swann’s best performance of the year and the sort of showing that singled him out as the promotion’s biggest star in 2019. Elgin worked tremendously here, getting his ‘send people to the hospital’ gimmick over with a vicious beatdown and Swann, helping out in the main event scene with Cage still injured, sold it magnificently. His offense is perfectly crafted to his underdog role and he has some of the best facial expressions in the company to boot. The match did everything it was supposed to do, getting Elgin over in a big way and it was easily the best thing on the TV all year.
There’s not been a clean finish between these two in their two singles encounters in Impact thus far, with Swann edging both by DQ. I sincerely hope we get more matches between them in 2020, as they’ve got something very special in them.
- Brian Cage vs Michael Elgin (Slammiversary XVII, July 7)
Although Elgin/Swann told the better story, these two delivered a brilliant hoss battle at Slammiversary, very literally emptying their respective kitchen sinks to try and win. Elgin delivered his ‘big G1’ performance and Cage overcame his poor back to produce a tremendous match that clearly meant a lot to both of them. Cage’s title run ultimately ended up being a bit of a washout because of his injuries but this was everything I wanted from him and showed the level he can operate on with the right opponent and in the right setting. Here’s to more of the same from them both in 2020!
- Tessa Blanchard vs Gail Kim (Rebellion, April 28)
If my decision was purely based on the quality of the bell-to-bell action, this probably wouldn’t win. It would still make the top 10, but it wouldn’t win. However, emotion, storytelling and match psychology have always disproportionately influenced my decision-making and for that reason, as well as the subsequent significance of the match, this takes the top spot in matches of the year list for Impact in 2019.
Kim rolled back the years with an excellent performance that gave her the proper retirement match she deserved and Blanchard delivered a showing that still stands as her best in terms of all-round ability. She showed a number of new facets to her character in the match, showing a greater ability to chain offense together, look dominant and emphasize her presence. These were all things she had clearly taken from Kim’s work in the late noughties and Gail matched her every step of the way.
Tessa’s post-match turn felt entirely organic and set the promotion up with their biggest storyline, most pushed act and perhaps largest overall takeaway from a show in 2019. This match stands out as the most significant of the year and the fantastic storytelling from both women carries this to the top of the list.
As I said, if you agree with my picks or feel I missed anything, let me know on Twitter @AMSinclair97. Next week I’ll be back with the final part of my end-of-year series, outlining my wishlist for Impact Wrestling in 2020.