Of course, as an unabashed Josh Alexander mark, I’ve been delighted by his return to Impact Wrestling in recent weeks.
Not only because it lifted me out of the quasi-existential crisis I was staring down the barrel of when I thought he was gone for good but also because he genuinely lifts the Impact product. Positioned as the promotion’s ace, he is their best worker and their benchmark.
To cement his return at Sacrifice, which was well executed, Alexander needed a strong follow-up promo. His mic skills are, it would be fair to say, still a work in progress but his return promo was good. He ran through the narrative arc he’s been on since winning and dropping the Impact World title on the same night at Bound for Glory in October and set the stage for its natural culmination at Rebellion next month.
He made a point of acknowledging his unfinished business with the Honor No More faction, setting up his return match in this week’s main event against Matt Taven. Unsurprisingly, it was very good. Coming it at ***3/4 for me, I was pleased with how Taven was presented as a legitimate main event-level talent but that Alexander was dialed in and seemingly never in that much danger of actually being beaten.
Typically, I usually find segments where champions or title challengers go to their next opponent’s homes a little grating but the closing angle they ran with Moose doing it this week worked. Instead of any egregious violence towards Josh’s family, there was just a menacing threat from the champion.
There was the real risk that following Alexander’s return at Sacrifice, the story over the next month into Rebellion would all be about him and his journey, rendering Moose, the champion who sent Alexander on that redemption journey, a bit-part player and an afterthought. Closing the show in the way they did, with Moose telling Josh’s son Jett that ‘Moose says Hi,” signifies that they’ll keep up that personal intensity and animosity all the way through to the pay-per-view.
Running almost parallel to Josh’s disappearance, return and general redemption angle has been the Eddie Edwards heel turn. While there was a feeling in some quarters that it was a turn for turn’s sake, for my money it was an important and necessary move.
For the better part of eight years, Edwards was a white meat babyface. Yes, there was the psycho phase when Sami Callihan hit him with the baseball bat, but he was still the face in that program. He had a plethora of title runs as a good guy, as Mr. Impact. He was the dependable option they turned to in 2020 when they had to strip Tessa Blanchard of the title. He was always there or thereabouts in title programs, a cert for every PPV, but in recent times it had felt like he was running out of interesting new matches. His character had no edge to it and no real intrigue.
This turn changes all of that.
Edwards now gets to showcase a different set of skills on the mic and in the ring. A fresh set of matchups with the other half of the roster have opened up for him, all of which will allow him to work a different style, one perhaps more attuned to his current level. He’s never been a killer promo but as a heel, and one with legitimate kayfabe gripes fuelling his frustrations, he has new material to work with.
Looking at the roster, there weren’t a huge number of heel challengers for Alexander to take on after he inevitably dethroned Moose. Now, a collision between Alexander and Edwards seems inevitable is likely going to be one of their bigger matches of the year. How does top billing at Slammiversary, possibly in Canada, sound?
Alexander versus Taven capped off another great week of Impact TV, undoubtedly their best of year. Okay, any show that opens with a killer Motor City Machine Guns match would get a good grade from me but the show was genuinely strong from top to bottom.
As should always be the case, there was no wasted motion on the show. Every segment had a purpose, advancing a story or setting a match up. That’s typical of what has made Impact so good and easy to watch in 2022. They’ve dropped the supernatural nonsense and focused on keeping their booking simple. They’ve consistently put good matches together, delivering a 90-minute show every week that logically builds forward to the next. It’s all killer, no filler.
Beyond Honor No More and the World title picture there’s great stuff taking shape for Rebellion, from Ace Austin and Mike Bailey’s simmering issues and an eight-team Tag title extravaganza to a resurrected PCO hunting down Jonah.
Having Josh Alexander back in the fold locks in the final piece of the puzzle Impact Wrestling need to have a truly stellar year.
Don’t sleep on them.