Impact Wrestling
Hard to Kill 2022
January 8, 2022
The Factory in Deep Ellum
Dallas, Texas

Watch: FITE

Impact Wrestling held their first pay-per-view (PPV) of 2022 this past Saturday, with Hard to Kill emanating from The Factory in Dallas. The main event saw Mickie James defend the Knockouts Title in a Texas Deathmatch against Deonna Purrazzo.

There were a couple of changes in the days before the event. Rachael Ellering was replaced by Alisha Edwards in the Knockouts Ultimate X match, while the Knockouts Tag Team title match got scratched after the champions, Cassie Lee and Jessie McKay, had to back out because of COVID exposure. That saw the X-Division title match between Trey Miguel and Steve Maclin promoted back to the main card and two matches coming in for the pre-show: Jake Something vs Madman Fulton and Mike Bailey competing against Chris Bey, Laredo Kid and Ace Austin in a four-way scramble.

The other change came in the commentary booth with Tom Hannafin (fka Tom Phillips in WWE) replacing Matt Striker as the play-by-play announcer. If this show is any indication, that’s a fantastic upgrade.

Countdown to Hard to Kill pre-show
Jake Something def. Madman Fulton (5:29)

Surprise hoss fights are always going to be an enjoyable way to kick off a show. These two went at it from the opening bell, delivering an action-packed sprint that left them both looking strong – Fulton nipping up while goozling Something was very impressive.

Fulton looked in the driver’s seat after hitting two Chokeslams but the third time very much wasn’t the charm, with Something reversing, sending him into the corner and using the momentum to put him down with the Black Hole Slam. **3/4

I’ve always had a lot of time for Jake Something and Madman Fulton is a guy who I think Impact have barely scratched the surface with. Hopefully 2022 is the year that they both get concerted pushes.

Mike Bailey def. Ace Austin, Chris Bey, Laredo Kid (8:28)

This was Mike Bailey’s first match in the USA in almost six years. Perhaps it was that duration of absence or perhaps it was his weirdly low-fi theme music but ‘Speedball’ got a fairly muted reaction when he hit the ring. When the bell rang and he had his arm raised, the reaction was thankfully much louder.

As a means of introduction, this was a good showcase for Bailey. The nature of the match allowed him to show off a lot of his impressive offence without giving too much away. Laredo Kid’s Spanish Fly on Bailey to the outside was probably the spot of the match but the Mexican wasn’t involved in the finish, with Bailey instead lighting Austin up with the Tornado Kick before pinning him after the Shooting Star Knee Drop. ***


First-Ever Knockouts Ultimate X match
Tasha Steelz def. Jordynne Grace, Rosemary, Alisha Edwards, Chelsea Green and Lady Frost (10:12)

As I mentioned in my preview, this match was one of the last big milestones left to tick off for the women of Impact Wrestling. While there were a couple of rough spots, which were almost to be expected with the nerves you imagine these women had, this was paced well and had a layout that gave everyone some shine. Ultimately, it exceeded expectations.

Some of the highlights include Jordynne Grace hitting a Sky High off the ropes, Rosemary spearing Alisha in a callback to the Edge/Jeff Hardy spot and Lady Frost nailing a picture-perfect moonsault off the frame.

In the end, it came down to Jordynne Grace, Tasha Steelz and Chelsea Green. Grace fell off the structure, with Steelz and Green both unhooking the X at the same time. Only one could win though and it was the two-time tag team champion Steelz that yanked it free and dropped down to claim victory. ***1/4

X-Division Championship
Trey Miguel (C) def. Steve Maclin (12:58)

While the route to this match was more convoluted than it needed to be, this was still one of the best-built matches on the card and carried a lot of promise. When all was said and done, it absolutely delivered.

Maclin hitting the scud dive to the outside before the bell rang matched the intensity of the feud and ensured this started at a red-hot pace; Trey’s flying Meteora attempt and knee-slide DDT showed that he was more than up for the challenge in his third title defence.

Bringing a more physical, brawling style to the table, Maclin offered a great contrast to Trey and thankfully they had great chemistry. Maclin’s work over the back slowed Trey down and gave greater purpose to his high spots and his best asset – working from underneath with great fighting spirit. The tree of woe spear was downright NASTY.

Trey’s big Meteora to the outside probably would have been enough to get him a countout win but he wanted to finish things once and for all, rolling Maclin back in for a second Meteora. When the challenger kicked out, becoming one of the first to do so in Impact, it looked as though Trey’s pursuit of a definitive victory might cost him his title. Instead of getting frustrated or bothered by Maclin’s verbal barbs, Trey stayed focused and a flurry of strikes, a big Brainbuster and a third Meteora was all she wrote. ***3/4

I’ve written before that Maclin had shown potential before but perhaps seemed a little run of the mill or generic in his presentation. That’s not the case anymore. While it’s not clear where he goes from here, the former Forgotten Son now feels like a made man in Impact and a big part of their future direction.

ROH World Championship
Jonathan Gresham (C) def. Chris Sabin (12:41)

Sometimes you watch a match and you’re just reminded of why you fell in love with wrestling in the first place. It’s not always the best match but it’s a moment or a story that just makes you go ‘Wow’. This was one of those matches.

Presentation has always been something that factors into my reviews and they absolutely nailed that aspect for this match. With Bobby Cruise on announcing duties and Ian Riccaboni in the booth (as an aside, the three-man booth for this was just an absolute chef’s kiss), this was made to feel like an authentic ROH match and the addition of the Pure Rules cemented it as something different.

In my preview, I noted that these two men are masters of building a match and delivering a natural escalation in pace and drama. Here they produced a clinic. Gresham was made to look in a different league early on in the grappling exchanges, always staying one step ahead and wrenching over the left arm of Sabin, before getting absolutely leveled with a big running kick on the outside.

While Gresham may have been the technical master, he was the one who had to use two rope breaks compared to one for Sabin, one to break a submission and one to survive a three-count from Sabin’s patented Cradle Shock.

Understanding the urgency he needed to retain his title after the second rope break, Gresham initiated a vicious slap exchange with Sabin that got the crowd on their feet. Neither man was able to gain an advantage there nor in the kick exchange that followed. Sabin went for another Cradle Shock but Gresham escaped, initiating a pinning sequence that saw him trap the left arm Sabin in a Magistral before using the bridge for the extra leverage needed for a three.

As advertised, this was fantastic. Sabin is on a tremendous hot streak right now and Gresham is in the process of cementing himself as one of the very best in the world. This had everything, escalated beautifully and produced one of the best finishing sequences I’ve seen in a long time. Simply brilliant. ****

Josh Alexander def. Jonah (17:07)

I absolutely adore Jonah’s theme music, you can’t go wrong with a bit of rap like that. As he showed here, Jonah is so much more effective as a dominant, brutal heel than the athletic marvel babyface angle they ran with in NXT.

The two stories coming into this match were that Jonah had got the better of every exchange he’d had with Josh since debuting in Impact and that Josh was in this position because he’s been struggling to contain his emotions since losing the World title to Moose. Both converged here as they produced a great match.

Josh’s emotional approach may have led him to goad the bigger man into hitting him and to dive off the top rope and over the guardrail to take Jonah down but it was his technical approach that won him the match. After Jonah missed the big Moonsault, Josh strung together a Rolling Elbow, a German Suplex and a Powerbomb before synching in the Ankle Lock. While Jonah muscled free the first time, Josh’s stomps to the face allowed him to lock it back up and wrench it before the tap.

I can’t remember the last big Josh Alexander match that wasn’t great. This was no different. If we get more matches like this before he reclaims the World title, great, and if Jonah is chasing a big year, the performance he produced on this night augurs well for him. ****1/4

Hardcore War
Eddie Edwards, Rich Swann, Willie Mack, Heath & Rhino def. Violent By Design (Eric Young, Deaner & Joe Doering) and The Good Brothers (Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows) (25:50)

Matches like this tend to have a ceiling, in part because they’re pre-ordained to be quite long and disjointed with all the entrances, but they should always be fun and this absolutely was.

Rich Swann and Deaner were the right choices to open for their teams, while Rhino coming in last made total sense, both in context of the feud coming in and his general physical condition. His arrival led to almost everyone bleeding and a series of big spots that heralded the finish – Eddie Edwards using a burning kendo stick, Eric Young putting Eddie through a table with a Piledriver and Joe Doering reducing Rich Swann to screams with a Death Valley Driver through a barbed wire board. As I had anticipated, the finish saw Rhino pin Karl Anderson and presumably set up a future Tag Title match.  ***1/2

Post-match, the babyfaces barely got any time to celebrate before they were laid out by an invading quartet from ROH – reigning Tag champions Matt Taven & Mike Bennett, Vincent and PCO. While I’m not sold on Vincent and Taven being together after feuding for two years, this was a great angle.

Impact World Championship
Moose (C) def. Matt Cardona and W. Morrissey (15:58)

I had pretty limited expectations for this coming in but the one thing I was sure of was that they’d all work hard to make this a success.

In reality, they did all work hard and this was on the way to being something quite good before we were treated to an exorbitantly overbooked finish that would have looked more at home in Hogan-era TNA.

I understand that I have an aversion to ref bumps pretty much at all costs but I’d like to think that my stance has mellowed somewhat in the years I’ve been writing for this site. The overbooking of the finish undid a lot of the good work these three had done in the opening 10 minutes or so, work that was more fluid and engaging than I’d expected, and I don’t know that it particularly helped anyone. Yes it gives them an obvious in for a Moose vs Morrissey title match going forward but there were other ways to do that and the finish, in my view, made Moose look pretty weak. They’d done a good job in his reign so far of making him look strong but all the bells and whistles detracted from that. The long slow count on Cardona also made him look like an absolute schmuck, which I’m not sure was necessary.

Whereas Hard to Kill 2021 was where Moose stepped up and gave a great account of himself, the most impressive guy for me here was Morrissey. He showed his power and a new-found agility and generally looked at home in the ‘main event’ scene. My rating is based on the first ten minutes and not the last few. ***

Texas Deathmatch for the Knockouts Championship
Mickie James (C) def. Deonna Purrazzo (19:43)

With the story these women had been able to tell over the last six months and the stipulation involved, this was absolutely the right choice to go on last. It ensured Hard to Kill was bookended by two big moments for the Knockouts division – a first Ultimate X match and a first PPV main event.

While the match we got was good, this didn’t quite deliver in the way I’d have hoped. Firstly, I think the slavish interpretation of the traditional Texas Deathmatch rules was lost on the crowd and meant that the match seemed stuck in second gear, in a staccato holding pattern without developing a real flow. Another key factor was that the previous two matches had been very heavy on the plunder, so the effectiveness of the weapons in this match was diminished. As such, there was an element of fatigue for both myself and the live crowd. The third issue, and by far the most minor, was that the finish didn’t look as good as it could have as Deonna seemed not to commit properly to the rebound chair shot.

I don’t want to be too negative though. This was still good and the Matthew Rehwoldt involvement was nicely done. After a slow start, this picked up steam down the stretch and peaked for the finish, James using her veteran smarts to get one over on Deonna. James winning was a surprise but with the Royal Rumble angle it made sense and her first challenger, crowned earlier in the night, is waiting in the wings. ***1/4

Final Thoughts

Hard to Kill was excellent. You had history at the beginning and the end of the show, two notebook-worthy matches, a fun debut for some ROH talent and a great new commentary team.

The first four matches on this show were perhaps the best stretch Impact has produced in a long time or maybe ever. Factoring in Hardcore War and the ROH angle, this was well on the way to being an all-time great show. The last two matches let the wind out of the sails a bit but this was still a fantastic way to start 2022 for Impact Wrestling.

I’d recommend watching the whole show but if you’re cherry-picking, go for the X-Division title match, the ROH title match and Josh Alexander vs Jonah – you won’t get many better hours of wrestling this year. A very firm thumbs up from me.