It was clear from this week’s episode of Impact Wrestling that the road to Slammiversary XVIII has begun in earnest.

We got the World Championship match set and to me, this has always been the central moment in a PPV cycle. That belt, in theory at least, any promotion’s most prized asset and most featured program heading into a big show and once this match is in place, the rest of the jigsaw pieces come together.

The promised resolution of the World title picture, which had been in limbo because of Tessa Blanchard’s prolonged absence from the promotion, was, perhaps inevitably, somewhat underwhelming. They were never going to strip her of the title, not in these trying times we’re in and with the momentum, the promotion is building at the moment, and it was highly unlikely that they’d just go with her against Ace Austin. However, a five-way elimination match that is essentially a re-run of the canceled Rebellion main event with Austin and Trey Miguel tacked on the top isn’t the most scintillating option.

If I, in my obviously esteemed wisdom, were given the pencil, I’d probably have opted for a four-way, with Austin and Trey facing off prior to the PPV, running back the final of the No.#1 Contender’s tournament that we never actually got, to determine who the fourth person was alongside Tessa, Michael Elgin and Eddie Edwards. Still, I’ve not got the pencil and that’s not really the purpose of this review.

In all fairness, the five-way does have merits. The elimination stipulation, while a little clunky, gives them multiple storytelling avenues and one thing the promotion deserves credit for at the moment is actually making the most of a reduced roster and actually just telling simple, effective stories from week-to-week. What they’ve put together hasn’t been overly elaborate or intense but it’s rolled along nicely and the last few weeks have been a really easy watch. Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned there.

Additionally, all the participants have got wins over each other previously or at least a backstory with each other. Elgin and Edwards had the best of five at the start of the year. Tessa was supposed to wrestle those two previously. She’s wrestled Austin for the belt before and she’s teamed with Trey. Trey beat Elgin in the tournament and he should have met Austin, who he feuded with for the X-Division title, in the tournament final. Edwards and Austin had their feud in 2019 when Austin was making a move, shall we say, on Alisha.

There’s also the little narrative of Austin being a position to become the promotion’s youngest-ever World Champion if he wins. It’s a small thing but it adds layers to the match. As a famous ogre once said, it’s all about the layers.

The match has a nice interwoven narrative they can break out in a number of ways. With so many moving parts, they can keep everybody in the match, particularly Tessa, strong.

They also managed to weave in their key promo strategy for the PPV, the arrival of several recent WWE releases, with this week’s closing segment.

Elgin’s mystery caller could have been Eric Young, a potential insurance policy for the match or a key puzzle in them eventually reforming Team Canada (it’s the right thing to do Don and Scott, you both know it). It could just as easily be either Callis or D’Amore, or someone else entirely and the Canada thing is a dastardly ruse. Either way, it adds another layer (ANOTHER ONE) to everything, which can only be a good thing.

Another marquee match for the PPV also appeared to be set by the Knockouts title match at the end of the show, with new signing Deonna Purrazzo locking the armbar on Jordynne Grace after she’d defeated Taya. They gave Deonna the big sell throughout the show and the interaction at the end made her look great and added spice to the match, which may end having a submission stipulation. The match looks great on paper, is a great second to the World title contest, and will likely generate more casual interest that all of their other options.

The conclusion of the Knockouts title match is also likely to lead to another feud between Taya and Rosemary, which could well feature as a second women’s match on the PPV. While I’m not as high on their previous matches as some within the promotion obviously are, they have delivered solidly before.

With another five weeks to go until the PPV and a number of other feuds simmering in the background, the signs are already good for Slammiversary XVIII. The road to the promotion’s biggest show of the summer began in earnest this week and it’ll be interesting to see where it takes us by July 18. You never know where your future endeavors may lead.

The Week in Review

  • The opening triple threat between Elgin, Sami Callihan and Ken Shamrock was fine, I guess. It was a bit slavish to the standard 3-man formula but they got round the limitations of Shamrock, who was decent here, and Elgin getting the win was the right finish. Can’t complain too much.
  • Trey wearing a Johnny Swinger tee has redeemed him somewhat in my estimation.
  • Talking of the Swingman, he continues to be the best bit of the show every week. His tag match with Chris Bey against Willie Mack and Jake Something was fun, and the spot at the end with the Deaners was a nice touch.
  • Tasha Steelz got a good win over Su Yung and the interaction between Tasha, Kiera Hogan, Havok and Neveah wasn’t what I was expecting but it was good. Tag match inbound.
  • I loved the interaction between Rhino and Rohit Raju, and the blatant Heath Slater tease was well done – could he arrive next week?
  • Cancel Culture rolled on but I wholeheartedly object to Josh Mathews calling Crazzy Steve a TNA Original. He’s just wrong.
  • Grace against Taya was a perfectly solid main event and it was good to see Grace back in particular – she brings a real energy to all of her matches.
  • Next week we’ve got Raju vs Rhino, Austin vs Edwards in a Street Fight, Moose defending his TNA World Title against Hernandez and The Rascalz getting their tag title shot against The North.

Well, until next time…