At Genesis 2009, Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley had an X-Division title match that made me a lifelong TNA/Impact fan. This week, for the first time since then, the Motor City Machine Guns teammates went at it again in the main event of Impact.

Aside from having the same outcome and both being easy notebook matches well worth your time, a couple of similarities exist between the two matches. In both instances, their matchup was a case of friendly singles competition between tag team partners rather than by-products of some dramatic turn.

On both occasions, Alex Shelley was chasing history; history that Chris Sabin had already written. In 2009, Shelley was bidding to win the X-Division title for the first time. Sabin, meanwhile, had already won it four times previously and was looking to make it five. This time, Shelley was looking to secure a maiden shot at the Impact World title, a belt Sabin held back in 2013.

In terms of the matches themselves though, they’re both very different. In 2009, they were 26 (Shelley) and 27 (Sabin), and their meeting was the perfect exposition of the patented high-speed, high-octane X-Division style that 11-year-old me had never seen before and 25-year-old me holds very dear. You had dives to the outside, lots of big moves, counter-spots and a fantastic display of athletic ability.

Fast forward to 2022 and both men work very different styles. Sabin has had to be a bit more methodical after suffering three ACL injuries, while Shelley has reaped the rewards of working a more heelish, controlling style piqued by the occasional bursts of speed. Here, they treated us to a grappling exhibition framed around veteran savvy and small intricate details rather than big spots. Much like Sabin’s recent clash with Frankie Kazarian, it built gradually to a satisfying crescendo.

The finishes also tell different stories. Both play into the idea that as tag team partners they know each other’s games inside out and have had to adapt to seal victory. In 2009, Shelley grew increasingly frustrated that Sliced Bread wasn’t yielding a three count. Instead of losing his head, he decided to prey on Sabin’s caring instincts, dummying an ankle injury and using his teammate’s concern to catch him in a match-winning rollup. The finish was cool and worked with the story they’d tried to tell throughout. It also worked on me because I’d not seen it done before; as I’ve learned subsequently, novelty in wrestling is a rare thing.

This time round, Shelley knew that his big moves probably weren’t going to be enough. Therefore, his follow-up pin attempts were more a tool to chain offence together than a serious attempt to win the match. After hitting Sliced Bread, he maintained wrist control in the pin so that when Sabin inevitably kicked out, Shelley would have the leverage to roll him into the Border City Stretch. When he caught Sabin with Shellshock moments later, it was exactly the same setup – maintain wrist control in the pin and use the kick out to lock in the Border City Stretch.

Viewed in a vacuum, I think their Genesis meeting is slightly better (****1/2 v ****1/4 this time) but I think the stories of both matches are excellent and the fact they’ve managed to have such good matches that far apart is a testament to their abilities. When you consider how good this was and that it’s just one of several great matches both have had this year, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that they’re close to as good now as they’ve ever been.

This week’s main event hit me right in the feels, transporting me back to a time of discovery and excitement. I love the Motor City Machine Guns and I love what these two bring to professional wrestling. Oh, and Alex Shelley v Josh Alexander at Emergence is going to rock so hard.