Since I began providing weekly coverage of Impact Wrestling for this site in 2018 I’ve been writing these end-of-year awards pieces. Based largely on the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s criteria, they’re my attempts to distill the best parts of what the promotion has produced over the past 12 months. What’s the point of watching every match that’s made tape for Impact in a given year without pontificating about it?
As I noted in my piece earlier in the week covering the promotion’s best 10 matches of the year, 2022 was a strong year for Impact in-ring. They may have lacked eyeballs on their product but Impact’s monthly specials were among the safest bets in wrestling and their pay-per-views were invariably good for at least two really strong matches.
2022 was the first year since 2019 that the promotion had a full year of shows in front of paying audiences. It was also a year that saw:
- Josh Alexander win the Impact World Championship for a second time and go on to record the longest individual reign in company history
- Mike Bailey join the company and embark on a stellar X-Division title run
- New milestones in the Knockouts division with the first female Ultimate X and Queen of the Mountain match taking place
- An overlap with Ring of Honor before Tony Khan bought the promotion, with Deonna Purrazzo winning the ROH Women’s Title
- Impact’s relationship with New Japan develop, with Jay White making multiple appearances in Impact, a big Bullet Club angle running on an Impact special, Yuya Uemura coming to Impact on excursion and Ace Austin getting to feature in both the Best of the Super Juniors and the Super Junior Tag League, the latter with Chris Bey
It was also a year that sadly ended with the passing of former Impact announcer Don West. The commentary team of Mike Tenay and West remains my favourite ever commentary duo in professional wrestling. West’s enthusiasm for pro wrestling was infectious and as a natural salesman, he was able to make things seem important and get you as invested and amazed as he was. He was an iconic voice in those early years and as all the tributes from former colleagues have shown, no one had a bad word to say about him and he’ll be sorely, sorely missed.
The tribute to Tenay and West at Slammiversary was really lovely. pic.twitter.com/gryl1UXWZx
— Garrett Kidney (@garrettkidney) December 30, 2022
On a brighter note, here are the awards. I have added a new award this year, namely Show of the Year, but I’ve still not included categories for ‘worst’ anything yet. If you want to know what those might have been or you have any thoughts on what I’ve got here, let me know on Twitter @AMSinclair97.
Wrestler of the Year: Josh Alexander
As per my highly accurate spreadsheet, Impact Wrestling had 26 matches clocking in at **** or better this year, with Josh Alexander featuring in eight of them.
Alex Shelley also had eight appearances, while his tag partner Chris Sabin had slightly more with 10. However, Alexander’s best work was at a higher level, he had the main event pressure and that’s the reason he gets this award.
Regular readers of my work on this site will know that I’m a big Josh Alexander guy but I honestly believe he had a superb 2022. It wasn’t just the quality of his output that stuck with me but it was the variety of opponents he produced it against – from working with monster heels like Jonah and Joe Doering to trying to get the upper hand in more technical matches with Alex Shelley and Frankie Kazarian. Alexander got the best match possible out of everyone he was in the ring with and his reign has given the Impact World title a real sense of credibility.
This is his second successive win in this category and I see no reason why he won’t make it a three-peat in 2023, although he has got a tricky start up against Bully Ray…
Character of the Year: Heath
Similar to the way in which the WON has the distinction between the Lou Thesz winner and the Most Outstanding worker, I’ve got this award so that I can focus on someone who delivered strongly on their gimmick and character work in a way that they perhaps didn’t in-ring.
Eddie Edwards was a strong contender here following his heel turn in February 2022 but in the end I plumped for Heath.
I enjoyed the ‘I Got Kids’ storyline Heath had in WWE in 2016 and I enjoyed the similar version Impact ran with him back in 2020 but he wasn’t someone, particularly when he got injured, that I thought I’d ever really care that much about again.
He was completely reinvented as the Red-Headed Rebel though and his surprise attacks on various members of Honor No More repeatedly popped me. I loved the idea of him using the element of surprise to outwork the numbers game used by the heels and of him being the outlaw to attack the outlaws. For me, it was an authentic and cool gimmick and because I never expected to be a Heath guy in 2022, he gets this award.
Feud of the Year: Mickie James’ Last Rodeo
For the second successive year, Mickie James wins my Feud of the Year award. If we’re being strictly honest, this year it’s more for a story than a feud with anyone in particular but no one is going to get finicky here.
Having lost the Knockouts title earlier in the year and then lost to her former friend Chelsea Green, James walked away from the promotion and seemingly called time on her pro wrestling career.
She would return in August though, kicking off a four-month long angle that will culminate with her challenging for the Knockouts World title on January 13th at Hard to Kill. On her return, James said she was determined to go out the right way, by working her way up from the bottom of the roster towards either a defeat, which would make her retire, or another Knockouts title run.
Although there’s not necessarily been a huge level of drama in all of her matches, it’s been a well-booked story and the matches have had the story embedded into their layout. She’s not as good as she once was but that’s the point – she’s fighting with everything she’s got to compete and just about keep going. Eventually though that skill differential will prove a problem, giving you the perfect opportunity for a heel turn that sees her cheat to win a fifth title and save her career.
The fact that you can totally buy James being done with wrestling as an in-ring competitor has given this story a real credence and arguably means her and Jordynne Grace should main event Hard to Kill.
Tag Team of the Year: The Motor City Machine Guns
In 2022, I’d argue that Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin were as good as they’ve ever been.
That might be slight hyperbole but they were both brilliant and their tag work in Impact was consistently better than that of any other team in the promotion. There was a bit more edge to their work as they used their veteran savvy a lot more and that meant they gelled with everyone they worked with, be that strong teams like Aussie Open or the OGK or newer teams like Ace Austin and Chris Bey. Heck, they even got a decent match out of The Good Brothers which is probably worth an award in itself.
The Tag titles were a hot potato in 2022, changing hands on six occasions during the year, but they ended the year in the possession of the Guns and I couldn’t think of more worthy champions.
Knockout of the Year and Most Improved Wrestler of the Year: Jordynne Grace
2022 was the year that Jordynne Grace took a number of large steps forward in her career.
Her powerlifting work away from wrestling put her in the best physical shape of her career and it told, with her matches benefitting from her extra power and physicality.
Still only 26, Grace has carried herself far better as Knockouts champion in her second title run, posting the promotion’s two best matches in Impact this year involving a woman – the first with Mia Yim at Emergence and the second with Masha Slamovich at Bound for Glory.
She featured in two Ultimate X matches, won the inaugural Queen of the Mountain and had a short but very fun little tag run with W. Morrissey before he left the promotion. Grace has also been the perfect foil for the end of Mickie James’ Last Rodeo story and looks poised to build on all of her great work in 2022 in 2023.
Newcomer of the Year: Mike Bailey
This one was never really going to go to anyone else really, was it?
Mike Bailey finally ended his five-year exile from American shores in January and Impact look oh so wise now for snapping him up. Speedball has killed it absolutely everywhere in 2022 and definitely should be in the conversation for Most Outstanding Wrestling.
He worked 35 matches in Impact all told, highlighted by a stellar X-Division title run that saw him defend the belt on nine separate occasions. He’s first defense against Trey Miguel is on my 2022 MOTY list and I think his recent match with Josh Alexander will likely find its way onto a lot of other people’s.
Bailey is an absolutely vital cog for Impact now and I, for one, am looking forward to seeing him hit new heights with them in 2023.
Show of the Year: Slammiversary
The new award for 2022, the Show of the Year, goes to my favorite show from any company in the whole year and that’s Slammiversary.
I honestly struggle to think of a time I’ve loved pro wrestling more than I did while watching Slammiversary. The promotion’s 20th-anniversary show, it was a wonderful, nostalgia-fuelled trip through the promotion’s highs, lows, past and present.
Everything about it appealed to a fan like me, from the very wink wink nudge nudge Reverse Battle Royal on the pre-show to the World title main event between Josh Alexander and Eric Young that was an absolute treasure.