This week The North recorded another defense of the Impact Wrestling tag team titles, extending their run atop the division to 349 days.
By the time we get to Slammiversary they’ll have surpassed the year mark, as they won them at Bash at the Brewery on July 5th 2019. They have broken all sorts of records and currently stand as the longest-reigning tag champs in the promotion’s history. That’s a mightily impressive milestone and it reflects how well both Ethan Page and Josh Alexander are thought of by the powers that be.
A reign of this length should stand out. You should be able to point to memorable feuds, specific standout matches and clear character progression. Even though their match this week with The Rascalz was tremendous and could potentially have cracked the color-coded section of my spreadsheet (4*+) with a crowd, I wasn’t necessarily sure that their run has been as memorable as perhaps it should have been, so I decided to delve a bit deeper.
The match with The Rascalz was, in my mind, ultimately indicative of their run. It’s been populated with good matches and interesting short programs, but you’d be hard-pressed to identify a huge number that has progressed to the level of great. The match between the two teams at Sacrifice is right up there as one of their best, aside from the late Rohit Raju interference, as is their battle with Naomichi Marufuji and Eddie Edwards last year following Bound for Glory.
They have had good exchanges with Dezmond Xavier, Zachary Wentz and Trey Miguel, and that feud has been one that has rumbled away in the background. It’s a long-term story where The Rascalz earn yet another shot, only to fall short. Meanwhile, they also had a nice little feud with TJP and Fallah Bahh just before the pandemic really took hold. While these have been solid, they have not been the sort of month-long, defining, back-and-forth feuds you’d expect from a title run over a calendar year long.
However, the more I looked at it, the more it became clear that their run has been limited by circumstance. Their feud with Willie Mack and Rich Swann, the one that seemingly had the best chance of being that key, defining program I alluded to above, had the legs cut out from under it when Swann mangled his ankle before Hard to Kill in January. They had to go ahead with the handicap match against Mack, which was good, but I had very high expectations of the planned title match. To be honest, if they’d had the match I was expecting they probably would, I doubt I’d be even writing this today.
After that, they had to go in a different direction and although the tag division feels as fresh and prominent as it has in a while, The North’s promo after this week rang very true – they’ve beaten everyone and there’s not really a challenge left for them heading into Slammiversary (I sincerely hope it isn’t Callihan & Shamrock…). It is important to consider that for much of their run, the division’s depth, especially at the serious top end, has been rather limited.
Additionally, looking at their PPV matches tells another story. The three-way match at Slammiversary last year where they were defending the belts felt quite stunted, while their defense at Bound for Glory was dragged down by the presence of Rob Van Dam and Rhino and the fact Van Dam’s heel turn was the biggest spot of the match.
A clear emphasis since Don Callis and Scott D’Amore took the reins has been giving credibility back to the promotion’s titles and one of their key tools to doing this has been through long reigns. Santana and Ortiz broke the old tag title record before The North smashed it, Taya Valkyrie got a calendar year as Knockouts Champion, Austin Aries, Johnny Impact and Brian Cage all got roughly six months with the World title and the same can be said for Rich Swann and Matt Sydal with the X-Division belt. Longer reigns have become the norm, so one could contend that The North’s title run is a natural product of that and that ultimately, their run has been prevented from hitting that elite level by a dearth of contenders and one focused program that got the chance to run its course.
It could also be, quite simply, that I’ve conflated long reigns with reigns that are particularly memorable. It wouldn’t be unknown for me to work myself into a far too artsy shoot in an attempt to be clever.
LAX passed the torch to The North as aces of the division, but there was no real middle ground after they left. The promotion wanted to get The North over with the early title win and a flurry of early defenses, and since then they have been sort of stuck.
None of this is to say though that their run has been bad. In fact, far from it. I think they have shown that they are one of the world’s best tag teams, they are a brilliant foil for each other in backstage segments and the recent times have given Ethan Page a chance to flex his creative muscles. I look forward to every one of their matches and they are regularly the best part of the weekly product.
So, after all this meandering, what’s the skinny of their run? Without wishing to sound like a school report, it’s more or less something like ‘Good, but room for improvement’.
They have had a good run with the belts, replete with a staggering 22 defenses across multiple promotions. They have clearly developed as performers and been presented as a very serious part of Impact’s plans moving forward. Interestingly, they have lost fewer TV matches as time has gone on; their presentation has become more dominant and they feel like they’ve evolved. However, they haven’t had that defining set of matches that LAX had with the OGz or the Motor City Machine Guns had with Beer Money. That is a product of where the promotion is, their booking and the circumstances they’ve found themselves in, but also my disappointment that that hasn’t happened is almost certainly a reflection of how highly I value them.
I also don’t know where their run goes next, which has undoubtedly influenced my assessment of their title run and prompted me to consider it more recently. Whenever and wherever The North eventually lose the belts, it will hopefully be obvious that they are one of the best tag teams in the world, and that there is still so much more that they can do in the promotion.
The Week in Review
- This week’s episode was… underwhelming? I don’t know, it looked good on paper but for various reasons, it didn’t quite deliver to the level I expected it to. It wasn’t bad, it was just very run of the mill
- The video feature looking at Deonna Purrazzo in more detail gets a big thumbs up from me. It played into promotional canon, it gave you a genuine insight into her as a character and performer and then they followed it up with her laying out Jordynne Grace again. Chef’s kiss
- I miss Don Callis
- Johnny Swinger continues to be the man. The main man. If they truly have brought Russo back in any capacity, they might as well give me the pencil and let me book Swinger Enterprises vs a rehashed Team Canada led by Michael Elgin and The North
- The mystery of who laid out Trey deepened this week, although it may have been solved by the reveal during the main event that Madman Fulton is Ace Austin’s new insurance policy
- We got more teases for Slammiversary, as well as a very well-timed drop of EC3’s ICONIC old theme song after Moose defended the TNA title against Hernandez. Bring him home
- It was good to see Reno SCUM back in action this week. They aren’t the crème da le crème in the ring, but Adam Thornstowe was doing the Lord’s work during the pandemic in his local hospital, so power to them.
- Next week we’ve got Taya vs Susie, Crazzy Steve and two mystery partners vs Cancel Culture and Chris Bey, Johnny Swinger & a Mystery Partner vs Willie Mack & The Deaners. Welp
Well, until next time…