Impact Wrestling
Rebellion 2020 – Night 1
April 21, 2020
Skyway Studios
Nashville, Tennessee

Watch: AXS.TV

Impact Wrestling was the latest promotion to continue producing content throughout the COVID-19 outbreak by hosting their Rebellion pay-per-view as a two-part special from a TV studio in Nashville. Night One was headlined by Sami Callihan taking on the newest member of the promotion’s Hall of Fame, Ken Shamrock, with commentary provided by real-life couple Josh Mathews and Madison Rayne.

Before I begin with the traditional review of this show, it is worth me noting something. Grading empty arena wrestling matches is not particularly easy. If they work traditional spots designed to pop a crowd (stalling, leverage pins, double knockdowns etc), they don’t resonate as well and they take you out of the match. However, there only seem to be so many variations on a theme being utilized at the moment. I have found myself respecting the work and trying to adjust my rating accordingly, but in a sense that leaves me feeling as though I’m grading on a curve, which is notionally wrong.

I’m not sure if that makes much sense, but essentially star ratings for these matches should vary more than your traditional fare because people’s respective mileage on them is going to vary.

The cold open for this show was superb; I live for content like that in my pro wrestling presentation.

Tommy Dreamer, Rhino & Crazzy Steve def. oVe (Madman Fulton, Jake Crist & Dave Crist)

Crazzy Steve is back! If he’s back full-time that’s pretty cool because a) he never reached his full potential during his first stint with the promotion, despite winning the tag titles with Abyss, and b) he looks in great shape. His return, even if flat because of the empty arena, was also a massive upgrade on the potential of the sixth man being Sabu.

I think it says a lot about this match, which was a very formulaic house show six-man, that one of my biggest highlights was Josh Mathews going into Crazzy Steve’s previous debut in Impact as part of The Menagerie (what a faction…). The story of oVe struggling enormously without Sami Callihan’s leadership continued here as after it all broke down, Rhino was in position to hit Dave Crist with the gore and pick up the win. He now moves to 10-3 for the year… **1/2

After the match we got video packages confirming the absence of Eddie Edwards and Tessa Blanchard from Rebellion, leaving the World title situation in limbo. The promo Michael Elgin cut was very good, even if I’m not sure how I feel about him using Eddie not being prepared to travel for some form of heat.

The Rascalz def. XXXL (Larry D & Acey Romero) and TJP & Fallah Bahh

This was basically a rematch of the multi-team match from the final Impact before Rebellion, only without Reno SCUM (probably because Adam Thornstowe’s doing the Lord’s work in an American hospital).

My overall assessment here is that the match probably went a couple of minutes too long as it hit a dip in the middle after a hot start featuring some incredibly slick transitions from TJP. In a purely wrestling sense, the virus has been such a shame for him because he was set to have an incredible year across the world. Anyway, after the dip during Larry D’s control section it picked up for a hot closing stretch. XXXL got a big nearfall after hitting the Pounce but it was the Rascalz who picked up the win, a cutter from Wentz and the Final Flash from Dez securing the victory. ***

The booking here did seem a little odd, after TJP & Fallah won the one on Impact the week prior, but perhaps they’re going to go for the triple threat with the tag titles involving both teams. Also, I thought it was a travesty that no one picked up on my guy Fallah wearing shoes for the first time!

X-Division Championship
Willie Mack def. Ace Austin (C)

Coming into Night One, this was my most anticipated match. When the dust settled, this was a fun match that delivered a good title change but it ultimately never really clicked with me.

Perhaps it was Ace Austin’s stalling at the start, an action that would have generated a good reaction live but one that slowed the pace of things right down in this setting. Maybe it was the fact that the timing on a couple of things was a little off, which again felt heightened because of the circumstances they were wrestling in. Whatever it was, the match was still good. Ace got the control period before Willie fired back, which led to a neat little sequence where Ace rolled through a Stunner to hit The Fold for a nearfall.

Willie hit a pop-up stunner and a big coast-to-coast but he came up short on his first Six Star Frog Splash attempt. Austin’s leverage pin was another of those odd spots, as was the finish. Willie supposedly hit a Stunner on the top rope, even if it looked like he crotched himself and Ace did a backflip. Anyway, that set Mack up for another Six Star attempt and this time he connected, securing his first title in Impact in the process. ***1/4

Kylie Rae def. Kiera Hogan

As anticipated, this match was packed full of energy, highly entertaining and told the right story of getting the new signing, Kylie, over in victory while making Kiera look strong in defeat.

Normally I would object to wrestlers just talking during matches but the grunting here really worked, playing off the environment and adding an extra couple of layers to things. Kylie looked tremendous here – she has so much potential – but so did Kiera and I thought they meshed tremendously well. Both got convincing looking nearfalls, Kylie with the Kylie special and the cannonball and Kiera with a superkick, before Kylie took advantage of Kiera’s hubris, trapping her leg as she was talking to lock up the STF and secure the tap. Simple pro wrestling done well. ***1/4

Unsanctioned Match
Ken Shamrock def. Sami Callihan

Another cinematic match!

Impact doubled down on the flavor of the month, the cinematic match, with a main event that effectively had three acts. People far wiser than I have already written about the merits and flaws of these matches for this very site, so I won’t attempt to go into the aesthetics too much here.

Act One – The brawl in the ring and wider studio area. You had Sami land a cheap shot before Ken hulked up and came back at him with punches and kicks. We even got Shamrock attempting a dive off the stage that essentially saw his body fail him and his feet never get off the ground, leading to him crashing into one of the LED lights before weirdly falling off the stage onto Sami. That led Sami to take things to the back…

Act Two – The brawl in the corridor with the background music. Sami catches a mad Ken unawares, lamping him with chair shots and bin lid strikes. Callihan looked to choke him out with a chain before eventually letting go. Ken eventually found himself back in control, landing strikes from the full mount before the oVe goons came to help their master, Madman Fulton laying into Shamrock with trash can lid shots. As they looked to finish Shamrock off with the old Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down routine, Callihan turned on oVe, laying them out with baseball shots. Callihan and Shamrock then have a dramatic stare-off. They’re going to finish this – OUTSIDE!

Act Three – The brawl in the car park. We get all the tropes of cinematic matches here – the big lights, drone shots of the two of them squaring off and the dramatic music. This is the Final Boss for both men. They eventually break out of their pawing and shadow boxing, with Callihan sinking in a sleeper hold. Shamrock fights and fights before breaking free, throwing Callihan to the floor and then synching in the ankle lock. Sami never taps but referee Brandon Tolle rules that he passed out, giving Shamrock the victory.

There’s a lot to unpack there. Why did Impact double down on the cinematic match after the probable overkill during Wrestlemania? The simplest answer there is that it was the original plan and to be honest, it made the most sense – a traditional match between those two simply wasn’t going to work well enough in the main event slot.

Then there’s the finish. Why give Sami this big repackage and the turn on oVe, only for him to lose to Shamrock like this? This is more difficult to understand. It feels like a weird decision on multiple counts but there’s also seemingly a logic to it – oVe can’t cope without Sami and this shows that ultimately he can’t really cope without them. An attempt to find the darkest part of his psyche simply didn’t work, even with the turn on his closest allies. Reading too much into small things is a specialty of mine, but my thinking is that this is part of a wider and deeper story for the faction in 2020.

When it comes to grading the match, it’s not easy. As my expectations for the match were very low, this was a pleasant surprise. The finish does drop it for me but I still respect the craft here and for what it was, I found myself engaged and I enjoyed it. It wasn’t bad and it didn’t overstay its welcome. ***

Final Thoughts

Rebellion Night One is a thumbs in the middle pointing up for me. It’s an easy watch at under two hours and the wrestling is, for the most part, solid. Nothing on the show is bad and in Kylie Rae vs Kiera Hogan and Ace Austin vs Willie Mack there are two fun and entertaining matches. The main event even offers something different. However, it has the same issues as all other empty arena shows in that there’s seemingly a definite ceiling and it’s hard to break through. Still, the company came good and provided a good show.