Hard to Kill 2021
January 16, 2021
Impact Wrestling returned to PPV with Hard to Kill 2021, headlined by Kenny Omega and The Good Brothers facing Rich Swann, Moose and Chris Sabin in a six-man tag.
One of the most notable things off the bat was the changes to commentary and production. Josh Mathews has moved to a production role and with that came canned crowd noise throughout the night and greater use of replays, with Matt Striker and D’Lo Brown replacing him and Madison Rayne, who retired during the kick-off show, on commentary. All in all, I liked both changes. Striker and Brown felt fresh and after a while got into a groove, while the canned crowd noise had the effect of minimizing the ‘in a vacuum’ vibes the Skyway Studios have given off over the last nine months.
Rosemary and Crazzy Steve def. Tenille Dashwood and Kaleb with a K
I was a big fan of Kaleb’s hair dye – I honestly feel that they’ve got him positioned as ‘the gay best friend’ of Tenille Dashwood right now and I like it. Rosemary and Steve were introduced as Decay when they came out, which was a nice throwback to their previous run together (a time when Rosemary was doing her best in-ring work). In terms of the match, it was every Tenille match at the moment, more gimmick than in-ring work. After getting misted by Rosemary, Kaleb got hit with a DDT by Steve and pinned. **
Old School Rules
Violent By Design (Eric Young, Joe Doering and Deaner) def. Tommy Dreamer, Rhino and Cousin Jake
Given that this show probably had more eyes on it with Kenny Omega in the main event, I liked that Impact made a point of giving Young’s new trio/faction a name. It’s a small thing but it gives them more of an identity and helps with brand recall.
Pretty much as expected, the match was a lot of walk and brawl. Worked as a tornado match, it was fairly formulaic but still enjoyable. Young’s guys had the advantage early on before Dreamer and the others were able to come back and focus on Doering. The finish came when we got into a finisher trade-off, Young piledriving Cousin Jake after he’d hit the Black Hole Slam on Deaner. When you’ve got Rhino and Dreamer right there, Jake absolutely should not be eating the pin in matches like this. Not at all. **1/2
Knockouts Tag Team Championships
Fire and Flava (Kiera Hogan and Tasha Steelz) def. Havok and Nevaeh
The last Impact Knockouts tag team champions were Eric Young and ODB, who were stripped of the titles back in June 2013. To mark a big moment like this, it was only right that Impact brought out the big guns. Brian Hebner is back!
In all seriousness, Impact did a good job of hyping the match and showcasing the new title belts beforehand. The action was very traditional, the heels (Hogan and Steelz) taking control after a hot start and working over Havok before she made the hot tag to Nevaeh after a double fallaway slam. They attempted to go for the wheelbarrow cutter but Steelz cut Nevaeh off and moments later Steelz would play a crucial role again, as she stopped Havok breaking things up when Hogan put Nevaeh down with a Fisherman Buster. **1/2
The finish felt a bit abrupt (that may be linked to Striker and Brown talking about something else at the time), but the match was fine. In a nice spot, Madison Rayne and Gail Kim presented Hogan and Steelz with the belts.
Ace Austin, fresh off his Super X Cup win last weekend, came out to call his shot and insert himself into the X-Division three-way. Scott D’Amore said no and instead said he could wrestle a man who is ‘Always Ready’…
Matt Cardona def. Ace Austin w/Madman Fulton
To be honest, this wasn’t much of a match. It was a bit of back-and-forth before Fulton stopped Cardona from hitting the Rough Ryder. Cardona then cleared house and stood tall, shouting ‘I’m here’ into the hard cam. Whether it’s a short- or long-term deal with Impact, Cardona is a decent get as he has a good following and is a solid hand. N/R
Impact X-Division Championship
Manik (C) def. Chris Bey and Rohit Raju
There was a lot to like about this match, there really was. Worked at a tremendous pace, this managed to avoid a lot of the common three-way tropes and produce my Match of the Night.
They managed to call back to a lot of the previous spots in the feud here, such as the double stomp in the corner which won Raju the title and the attempted unmasking of Manik. You had big spots throughout, like Chris Bey cutting off the Mamba Splash with a cutter, TJP getting a nearfall with a crucifix bomb and Raju running around like a madman putting everyone down with knees.
Everything in this match had snap to it and a good, gradual escalation in pace. The spot where TJP kicked out of a cover into one of his own on Bey popped me good. Raju looked like he was going get the win after locking the crossface in on TJP and rolling back to the center of the ring, but Bey broke it up. Raju then attempted to put him down before TJP snatched a rollup to retain. Everybody looked good in this but TJP looked sensational. As I’ve said before, when he’s on, he’s one of the best around. ****
Impact Knockouts Championship
Deonna Purrazzo (C) def. Taya Valkyrie
Once Rosemary, Crazzy Steve, Su Yung and Kimber Lee all got sent to the back, these two had a perfectly solid match. Purrazzo, as is her want, worked over Taya’s left arm and left leg to set up the submissions later in the match. After countering a piledriver attempt, Taya made her comeback with a back suplex, the Curb Stomp and a modified STF. She then went for a Sidewalk Slam, only for Deonna to (awkwardly) spin through into the Fujiwara Armbar. After synching in the second arm for the Venus De Milo, Taya verbally submitted. As I said, a perfectly solid ladies’ ***.
The Karate Man def. Ethan Page
This was, and I cannot stress this enough, absolute garbage. Cinematic matches are one thing but low-budget CGI and a guy who has already left fighting himself is too far beyond the shark for me. Karate Man ‘won’ when he ripped out the heart of Page. DUD
Barbed Wire Massacre IV
Eddie Edwards def. Sami Callihan
My gut feeling is that mileage on this will vary considerably. Personally, I thought it was very good. To be honest, though, anything was likely to get a big bump after the dross that came before.
The setup for the ring here was quite odd – one side was a cage wall with barbed wire, one was bare ropes, one was ropes wrapped in barbed wire and the other had a chain along the top with a series of implements hooked to it. Essentially, it was less barbed wire than I was expecting but they made good use of what they had.
Edwards started out strong but Callihan took control after throwing one of the barbed wire boards at Edwards in mid-air. The former oVe leader then threw bits of board at him and wrapped him in the wire before whipping him with the barbed wire-wrapped N64 controller. Edwards rallied back with a Blue Thunder Bomb onto the barbed wire chair but again was undone by his aggression, Callihan sidestepping as he crashed into the cage section. One of the nastiest spots in the whole thing came when Callihan shoved Edwards off the top rope and Edwards basically hung himself on the steel chain. Nasty.
I really liked the finish. After Callihan put Edwards through the big board with a Cactus Special off the top, he attempted to set up the two chairs. However, as he went to stand, Edwards drove the barbed chair into his face with a Boston Knee Party. That only got a one count but the Emerald Flowsion onto the chair that followed got the three. ***3/4
Kenny Omega and The Good Brothers (w/ Don Callis) def. Rich Swann, Moose and Chris Sabin
Moose was the late replacement here for Alex Shelley. I was surprised they only lost one person from this show, to be honest, but in the end, it was a decent trade. Not on a personal level because Moose is Moose, but he produced his typical big PPV performance and was arguably the star here. He looked in superb shape, moved with great purpose and felt like a big player whenever he got in the ring.
I was a little concerned that we were getting full t-shirt Kenny when he came out but I’m pleased he put forth a big effort too. The Bullet Club branding that they were all sporting was interesting – it could suggest a bigger link up with NJPW but it could also mean absolutely nothing beyond a basic IP deal.
Anyway, onto the action. Sabin and Anderson started things off with some neat exchanges but as soon as they tagged out, it all broke down and that was a common theme of the match. It was a little bit clunky and maybe repetitive structurally but the pace was good and the action kept going. The BC boys grounded Swann before Moose made the hot tag and that’s where he came into his own, chucking out big strikes, the discus clothesline to Kenny for a nearfall and a Spanish Fly off the top that looked great.
Swann and Omega led us through the final stretch, trading big spots. Moose and Swann put Omega down for a big nearfall with the Doomsday Device, while The Good Brothers got mighty close with the Magic Killer before Moose broke it up. Gallows cleared Moose to the outside, leaving Omega to hit Swann with the One-Winged Angel and pin him, clean as you like, in the middle of the ring. ****
Although it started off pretty slow, Hard to Kill was good. It was a breezy watch at just under three hours and the pace picked up as it went along. Take out the Page/Karate Man nonsense and you’re looking at something much stronger. The main event hit **** for me and the Barbed Wire came close, while the X-Division three-way was my Match of the Night. They’re the three I’d recommend you go out of your way to see. Overall it’s a big thumbs up as none of my pre-show fears were proved true and the work was good.