A little over two weeks ago, Impact Wrestling Knockouts Champion Jordynne Grace tweeted the following:
— Trisha Parker (@JordynneGrace) May 13, 2020
While it could simply be interpreted that it was a proud employee showing support for the company they work for, she makes a very serious point. A point that was made even more serious following this week’s episode of Impact.
For most of 2019, as I’ve said before, the Knockouts division struggled big time. Taya Valkyrie’s conniving heel champion gimmick wore thin very quickly but it lasted for the ENTIRE year. Decent matches at Rebellion and Slammiversary didn’t make up for the fact that the reign had an unshakable hold over the division. That’s not so much on Taya, who played her role to perfection, but on the creative team for not freshening things up. I get they wanted the record-breaking reign, but they should have pulled the trigger on Grace earlier.
The first few months of the year started a change. After Grace’s title win, we eventually got a conclusion to the seemingly never-ending angle involving Su Yung, Rosemary, Havok and Father James Mitchell. The company picked up Kylie Rae, the hottest female free agent on the market and one of the best female babyfaces out there. She has all the potential to be a key factor in that division for years to come.
They started to make more of Kiera Hogan, someone who has proved a steady hand in her first two years with the promotion, growing and developing as both a character and worker. She now has the edge and credibility to be a serious player.
It was only after the pandemic hit, though, that the promotion really kicked it up a gear. The promotion stepped in where the NWA and ROH either couldn’t or didn’t to sign Tasha Steelz, someone who is very much in the same boat as Hogan, a rough diamond with the potential to really develop in the coming years.
Neveah and Kimber Lee also joined the promotion after Rebellion. While your mileage on both may vary, it’s added depth to the division and fresh, viable contenders at the top. Likewise, it’s set Havok, who appears to be sticking around for the foreseeable, with a good new program and a purposeful sense of direction that thankfully doesn’t involve spirits and hanging people.
The true pièce de résistance came this week when a vignette aired showing that the promotion had signed recent NXT release Deonna Purrazzo.
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) May 27, 2020
I’m not as high as a certain individual in the internet wrestling community on the potential and abilities of ‘The Virtuosa’, but I’m thoroughly aware that she’s another great get. She’s a strong in-ring performer who will be able to have good feuds with the likes of Rae and Grace at the top of the division.
This is not to say that the booking of the Knockouts division has entirely turned the corner. The Susie/Su Yung stuff can get in the bin as far as I’m concerned, and while I’ll acknowledge that the Rosemary stuff with John E. Bravo has at least been mildly entertaining over the last few weeks, there have to be better things that you can do with her.
Additionally, the fact that the state of the Knockouts title hasn’t been addressed at all since the empty arena era began is frustrating. I know that both Grace and Taya were not available for the initial tapings but for the promotion to have addressed all the other belts and ignored that one does seem peculiar. They didn’t need to run another tournament or even necessarily a No #1 contenders match, but some acknowledgment of potential stakes down the line would give the matches a bit more edge.
However, this part of the promotion that in many ways felt overlooked and underwhelming throughout 2019 now feels positive and vibrant in 2020. There’s a lot of exciting new blood and fascinating new angles for title feuds; any combination of Grace, Rae and Purrazzo would suit me down to a tee. As things stand the Knockouts roster consists of: Alisha Edwards, Purrazzo, Havok, Grace, Hogan, Lee, Rae, Madison Rayne, Neveah, Rosemary, Su Yung, Tasha Steelz, Taya, Tenille Dashwood, and (tangentially at least) Tessa Blanchard. In my book, that’s a pretty damn good collection of women to be booking and promoting.
As Jordynne Grace said, we really do need to have a serious discussion about the Knockouts division. It appears to be on a firmly upward trajectory.
The Week in Review
- Ace Austin vs Trey Miguel was not the final of the No.1 contender’s tournament that I was expecting. At all. But, you know, the more I think about it, the more I dig it. It’s a way to build up someone different, with Elgin the obvious and inevitable pivot for the title, and it adds another roadblock to Elgin’s story. Austin has a history with Blanchard, while Miguel should have face self-proclaimed TNA champ Moose in the first round, so that’s another obvious setup.
- Elgin vs Trey was really good and probably Trey’s most well-rounded singles match in the promotion. The Callihan finish wasn’t perfect but it was done well and Trey had enough credibility that the win didn’t seem like a total fluke.
- Chris Bey vs Jake Something was a fun clash of styles. It also featured lots of Johnny Swinger, which I’m all for. As I said last week, Josh Mathews is wrong, there are Swingman fans out there and I’m one of them.
- Another cinematic match! Maybe I’m just a sucker for them or maybe I just needed cheering up but The North against Cody Deaner and Wheels was the perfect level of daft fun for me this week.
- Next week we’ve got Rohit Raju vs Chase Stevens, Kiera Hogan & Tasha Steelz vs Kylie Rae & Susie, The Rascalz vs TJP & Fallah Bahh to determine the new challengers for The North and Ace Austin vs Trey Miguel.
Well, until next time…