This Saturday, Impact Wrestling returns to PPV for the first time in the pandemic era as they present their biggest show of the summer, Slammiversary.

The event is expected to take place at the Skyway Studios in Nashville, the venue they’ve used for TV tapings over the last three months, and the main event is a four-way for the vacant World Championship involving Eddie Edwards, Trey Miguel, Ace Austin and a mystery opponent.

Saturday’s final card probably looks very different from the promotion’s original plans, but a combination of COVID-19 and the #SpeakingOut movement have got the company trending in a different, and hopefully better, direction.

The big hype for the show has focused on the spate of WWE releases in April, the expiry of their no-compete clauses on July 18 and the prospect of several new arrivals. The recurring focus has been the return of “a former Impact World champion”, which could include anyone from Kurt Angle and James Storm to EC3, Eric Young or (shudder) Bully Ray. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson seem pretty much nailed on to debut at the show, potentially as part of a reformed Aces and Eights, but it remains to be seen just how many debuts and returns we get by the time the dust settles

I’m particularly interested to see the way Impact Wrestling presents this show. Throughout the “empty arena era” so far they’ve just presented the matches in a sterile, studio environment, with no wrestlers at ringside to cheer people on unless it’s part of an angle. I’d hope they’d do something like what AEW has done, as that background will be essential to improving the whole aesthetic of the show, while a major plus will be the return of Don Callis to the announce booth.

At the time of writing, there are only six matches on the slate but I wouldn’t be shocked to see a tag team bout between Reno Scum and TJP and Fallah Bahh added. The four ran a cool angle on the penultimate show before the PPV and to be honest if you’ve got TJP at your disposal, why wouldn’t you add him to the PPV? I think it would also be a nice way to reward Adam Thornstowe, who has been working on the pandemic frontline doing the Lord’s work in his local hospital.

11-Woman Gauntlet for the Gold No #1 Contender’s Battle Royal

As far as I can tell, Impact’s entire female roster will be working Slammiversary. That’s something, right?

My expectations for this one are fairly limited, mostly because it’s a standard battle royal with a pinfall or submission finish for the final two participants, and these matches have their ceiling. However, Impact has done a good job of building multiple feuds in the division over recent weeks, so there are a number of directions in which they can go with the booking.

Kimber Lee, Alisha Edwards and Madison Rayne strike me as obvious candidates for elimination, although they may look to book Rayne strong in her return to in-ring action after her three-month stint in the commentary booth. That leaves Kiera Hogan, Tasha Steelz, Havok, Neveah, Kylie Rae, Susie/Su Yung, Taya Valkyrie and Rosemary, who have formed four separate tandems over recent times.

The goal with this match is presumably to provide a credible contender out of the gate for Deonna Purrazzo, who I assume is going over in the Knockouts title match (spoiler, sorry). While Kylie Rae is the obvious choice, it isn’t the right time to go in that direction (save that match) and she’s actually a better candidate in this stipulation for a deep run before being pinned. My pick is either Havok or Kiera Hogan, with Taya and Rosemary costing each other and kicking their new feud off in earnest. Prediction: Kiera Hogan

TNA World Heavyweight Championship – Old School Rules Match
Moose (C) vs Tommy Dreamer

As I wrote a couple of weeks back, I’m far more intrigued by this match than I probably should be. Since Rebellion, Moose has been walking around as the self-proclaimed ‘TNA World Champion’, removing himself from the World title contendership tournament and claiming to be the ‘Real World Champion’. It might have been a story borne out of circumstance, but it’s allowed Moose to do the best character work of his career. Tommy Dreamer, on the other hand, delivered an absolute home run promo two weeks ago to set this up that you should all check out.

The Old School Rules stipulation gives them some creativity but my expectations are mixed. Moose inevitably works to the level of his opponent and Dreamer is Dreamer in 2020, lots of heart and desire but the years have taken their toll. The booking is obvious, with Moose going over and potentially feuding with the returning EC3/Eric Young in the aftermath, but mostly I hope this is fun. Prediction: Moose

Impact World Tag Team Championship
The North (Ethan Page & Josh Alexander) (C) vs. Ken Shamrock & Sami Callihan

I had hoped that Impact would go with The North vs The Rascalz at Slammiversary, with Dezmond Xavier and Zachary Wentz finally defeating the Canadians and ending their year-plus title reign. However, that was not to be and instead Page & Alexander face the strange bedfellow team of Shamrock and Callihan.

Shamrock has played his role in the promotion to a tee and I thought the setup here was great. The North, claiming that they weren’t respected enough and lacked credible contenders, picked a fight with Shamrock, beating him down. Callihan came to his aid the following week, leading Scott D’Amore to book this match. Callihan has already planted the idea that he personally wants to end Shamrock’s career, setting the table for a retirement match at Bound for Glory and indicating that their challenge will go awry, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Impact belted them up for a brief run. However, for me, the play is for The North to retain, with Gallows and Anderson hitting the ring after and laying them out. Dead Man’s Hand and all that. Prediction: The North

Impact X-Division Championship
Willie Mack (C) vs. Chris Bey

On the grounds that Chris Bey admitted to using Johnny Swinger on the go-home show, I’m rooting for Mack to retain here. #TeamSwingman.

The story here is simple – Bey won a top contender’s match at Rebellion and then pinned Mack in six-man action a few weeks ago. Excluding the Swinger business, this has the potential to be match of the night and really steal the show. While Mack’s title reign hasn’t felt of much significance as yet, he’s a very solid hand capable of meshing with most opponents and Bey is a star in the making. He’s moved beyond being a spotty high-flyer and is now closing in on being the complete package. Although the build has been simple, there’s been nothing to really indicate that Bey will dethrone Mack, and I think there is more to come in their feud. Additionally, with Rich Swann presumably cleared soon, that’s the direction they should be going in the long-term. Prediction: Willie Mack

Impact Knockouts Championship
Jordynne Grace (C) vs. Deonna Purrazzo

One of the most hyped matches of the entire card and with good reason – Purrazzo’s presentation in the promotion thus far has been nothing short of fantastic. The vignettes marking her arrival created intrigue, she’s carried herself well in promos, they ran a nice little backstory on her that used promotional canon, and she’s been shown to have a clear edge of Grace in all of their interactions, leading to genuine animosity. It’s simple, yet tremendously effective, and feels like both a money match and the first in a feud that could help carry the promotion for a long time to come.

Grace’s title reign has felt quite stunted, which is a shame, but the pandemic is a b*****d. However, stunted reign or not, the title change is inevitable and fingers crossed it comes at the end of a great match. Prediction: Deonna Purrazzo

Vacant Impact World Championship
Eddie Edwards vs Ace Austin vs Trey Miguel vs TBA

Oh boy, where do you even start? This is the match most obviously affected by the promotion’s recent upheaval but to be honest, I’m glad – hopefully, it’ll lead to a line being drawn under the intergender experiment and it gives them a chance for a proper reset in the main event scene.

Given the circumstances, the video package Impact put together hyping this was excellent. It was long, as these things go, but it explained everyone’s motivations in detail and gave real color to the match. You’ve got Ace Austin, the cocky young buck who is looking to become the youngest ever World Champion in the promotion’s history. You’ve got Trey Miguel, who has been depicted as a plucky underdog who knows what it’s like to be hungry and wants this more than ever. You’ve got Eddie Edwards, who has been atop that mountain before and now he’s looking to get back there after a wild two-plus years. And then the mystery opponent, who conventional wisdom suggests will end up winning the whole thing.

The closing angle of the go-home show highlighted the blood feud they’ve managed to craft between The Rascalz and Ace Austin, and my view is that they’ll end up wiping each other out of contention here, meaning that we’re down to Edwards vs TBA, which should be the main event feud coming out of this show anyway. Edwards is as safe a pair of hands as you’ll get and whether they belt him up or have him chasing, that’s got to be the direction they go in. Who will TBA be, I hear you ask? I don’t know, my guess is EC3 or Eric Young. I doubt it’ll be anything more exciting than that (Rusev was never likely, but he’s also got COVID), but I just pray it isn’t Bully Ray. That’s all no one needs. Prediction: TBA