Hard to Kill 2023
January 13, 2023
Impact Wrestling’s first pay-per-view of 2023, Hard to Kill, takes place on Friday, January 13, at Center Stage in Atlanta, Georgia. The show is nominally headlined by Josh Alexander defending the Impact World Championship against Bully Ray in Full Metal Mayhem.
Impact ran tapings in Atlanta last year, and the crowd was one of the best they attracted in 2022. With Hard to Kill fully sold out, you’d hope for more of the same for what’s a pretty good show on paper.
Countdown to Hard to Kill
The Death Dollz (Taya, Rosemary & Jessicka) vs. Tasha Steelz, Savannah Evans & Gisele Shaw (w/Jai Vidal)
I know they’re popular with a section of the Impact fanbase, but I’d happily handwave the entire Death Dollz group. At this point, they’re all pretty limited workers, and I’ve had enough of the spooky, supernatural baggage that comes with their act.
Far more interesting is the other trio involved here. Tasha and Savannah have had their sights set on the Knockouts tag titles, but recent losses have seen dissension grow between the two. With Gisele Shaw, meanwhile, they’re telling the story that she’s been bad luck for every tag team she’s partnered with – Tenille Dashwood and Madison Rayne are gone, VXT is no more, and so on.
The most interesting outcome is Tasha and Savannah getting along, with Shaw proving the difference-maker as they pin the champions. With Tasha having recently re-signed with Impact, I see no reason not to belt her and Savannah up at the next opportunity. Prediction: Tasha Steelz, Savannah Evans & Gisele Shaw
Countdown to Hard to Kill
Angels vs. Bhupinder Gujjar vs. Kushida vs. Mike Bailey vs. Mike Jackson vs. Yuya Uemura
The most surprising aspect of this match being announced was that the strongly built clash between Mike Bailey and Kenny King wouldn’t be taking place on the PPV. Aside from my initial surprise, I’m happy with the move – Impact needs to do a better job of saving things for TV, and the Pit Fight match will be worth watching.
Uemura and Gujjar are included here because they’re two guys Impact wanted on the card, and Mike Jackson is a novelty for his hometown crowd. Although Angels or Kushida winning would be logical outcomes, the former to give the new Design faction momentum and the latter to mark the Japanese star’s first appearance in the promotion in four months, the most sensible booking call is to have Bailey win. He’s the only one with an active program and it allows them to work a post-match angle with Kenny King to give their meeting on January 19 a bit more juice. Prediction: Mike Bailey
Jonathan Gresham vs. Eddie Edwards
Gresham and Edwards were originally supposed to face each other at Rebellion last April before Gresham was dropped off the show at late notice.
Since then, it’s been a bumpy ride for ‘The Octopus.’ He had a falling out with Tony Khan, left AEW/ROH, and then signed a contract with Impact as a permanent roster member. He returned to Impact at the December tapings, saving Delirious from an unmasking at the hands of Edwards and setting up this match.
Assuming these guys click, this should be really good. Eddie Edwards showed at Bound for Glory that he could still go, particularly with more technical opponents, and Gresham is always a treat to watch. With Edwards seemingly destined to renew hostilities with PCO after this show, this is a chance for both guys to have a good match and put Gresham over on his return. Prediction: Jonathan Gresham
Falls Count Anywhere
Steve Maclin vs. Rich Swann
Although Impact hasn’t labeled it as such, this is probably, more or less, a No #1 Contender’s Match for Josh Alexander’s World title.
Maclin believes he should be in this show’s main event and in recent weeks, has been taking out his frustrations on his opponents, firstly with Frankie Kazarian and then with Swann. His and Swann’s meeting ended in a double count out and a pull-apart brawl, leading to a Falls Count Anywhere rematch here.
The stipulation means this could get quite wild, and I think it’ll be a lot of fun. Although Rich Swann recently re-upped with the company, Maclin needs a good win here to move him into that top contender position because he’s ultimately the one that should dethrone Alexander. Prediction: Steve Maclin
Four-Way to determine the No #1 Contender to the Impact Wrestling Knockouts World Championship
Deonna Purrazzo vs. Killer Kelly vs. Masha Slamovich vs. Taylor Wilde
A match that seemed quite random when Impact first announced it in December, it was made even more so last when they said that Killer Kelly, who’s not been on TV in months, had been added to the match to make it a four-way.
Although this is to officially determine the top contender for the Knockouts title, the real plotline to watch here is the potential departures from the promotion in the coming weeks. Deonna Purrazzo’s contract with Impact expired at the end of 2022. While she’s scheduled for the tapings later in January, that’s likely where she makes her exit. While her leaving would undoubtedly be a loss, she’s done more or less all she can in the promotion at this point, and her departure frees up roster space for new additions.
There’s been some speculation about the future of Masha Slamovich as well, who has gone from a monster squash push to a three-match losing streak. Although that could mean she’s off as well, I think it’s more of a gimmick change and possibly a way to tee up a third match between her and Purrazzo.
Even with the contract season stuff in mind, my prediction was always tied to the main event – I think whoever wins is turning heel, so you want the winner here to be a nominal babyface. My suspicion is Killer Kelly, who pins Purrazzo to book a title shot for the next monthly special. Prediction: Killer Kelly
Impact Wrestling Digital Media Championship
Joe Hendry (C) vs. Moose
Much like with the last match, there’s been some speculation online about the Impact future of one of the participants in this contest. In this case, it’s Moose.
My perspective on this match is that it’s got very little to do with Moose’s contract status and is, instead, the culmination of a program designed to give Joe Hendry some shine and proffer some credibility upon the Digital Media Championship. Indeed, this is just the second time the title will appear on a PPV main show since its inception in late 2021.
I’ve always been a Joe Hendry guy, but he’s been very good since his return to Impact. He’s got his schtick nailed down, he’s over with the crowds, and his work with Moose has been entertaining. I think these two have got a very good match in them, and hopefully, they get the time to deliver. Prediction: Joe Hendry
Impact Wrestling X-Division Championship
Trey Miguel (C) vs. Black Taurus (w/Crazzy Steve)
This is a rematch of the X-Division title tournament final that took place at Over Drive last November. On that night, Miguel hit Taurus with a can of spray paint to secure the win, in the process turning heel for the first time in his Impact career.
Since that night, Miguel has cemented his turn by ‘tagging’ both fallen opponents, including Taurus’ quasi-manager Crazzy Steve, and the title with green spray paint. Taurus, meanwhile, has got a new presentation style of late as well, with Steve now preceding his match with in-ring introductions that have tried to put him over as a sort of dominating monster.
I think Impact has caught onto something with both character changes, and I’m looking forward to this match a whole lot. Although a title switch isn’t off the table, there seems to be a lot more mileage to explore with Miguel in this run, so I suspect he wins again. Prediction: Trey Miguel
Four-Way Elimination match for the Impact Wrestling World Tag Team Championships
The Motor City Machine Guns (Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley) (C) vs. The Major Players (Matt Cardona & Brian Myers) vs. Heath & Rhino vs. Bullet Club (Ace Austin & Chris Bey)
Although typically, I wouldn’t say I like multi-team matches, this has been solidly built, and it’s an elimination match, rather than four corners, so it does give more storytelling potential.
The story is a little bit like this:
- The Major Players felt that the Machine Guns cost them their title shot at Heath and Rhino at Over Drive in November
- They returned the favor on Impact TV the following week, causing a no-contest when the Guns challenged for the belts
- The Guns were granted a second shot, though, this time with the Major Players banned from ringside, and on that occasion beath Heath and Rhino to win the titles for a third time
All of that means that this is the Guns first defense, with Heath and Rhino getting their contractual rematch and the Major Players getting a shot at the team they’ve been feuding with. Ace Austin and Chris Bey have been shoehorned in here on the basis of their showing in NJPW’s Super Jnr Tag League.
Prior to them regaining the belts, Andrew’s fantasy booking logic was that the Guns third run as tag champions would end with them putting over Ace Austin and Chris Bey. Having fallen short twice before, you can tell a simple story of the younger guys finding their groove and eventually overcoming the respected veterans. If my suspicion is right, that will come later down the line, so the pick is for The Guns to retain. Prediction: The Motor City Machine Guns
Title vs Career Match for the Impact Wrestling Knockouts World Championship
Jordynne Grace (C) vs. Mickie James
I wrote about this earlier in the week, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but this is my most anticipated match on the entire card and the one that I firmly believe should go on last.
The story has been simple but brilliantly told, and all outcomes remain on the table, which is the dream scenario as a viewer. Either you have James keep her career alive and secure another title run, with the recent career retrospective giving you a huge amount of ammunition for a strong heel turn. Grace winning puts her and her title reign over in a big way, and a heel turn would benefit her hugely.
I think this could go either way, but my current feeling is that James is legitimately walking away from wrestling, and this is truly her Last Rodeo. I’ll probably change my mind a handful of times before the opening bell, but that’s where I’m at right now. Prediction: Jordynne Grace
Full Metal Mayhem match for the Impact Wrestling World Championship
Josh Alexander (C) vs. Bully Ray
Well, well, well. It’s 2023, and Bully Ray is still working his way into PPV main events.
The build to this has divided opinion, but my take is that it’s been quite good and probably the best that it could have been. Bully won the Call Your Shot Gauntlet at Bound for Glory and subsequently claimed that he wanted to do things the right way this time, not stabbing people in the back but telling Josh Alexander face-to-face, man-to-man when he’d cash his title shot in. He did that but as soon as he had, he went full heel and beat Josh Alexander down in a very visceral closing angle at Over Drive.
Since then, we’ve had a fair bit of melodrama with Josh’s family, far too much Tommy Dreamer and the classic Bully move of getting the promoter involved. Bully has also seemingly taken the new tag team of John Skyler and Jason Hotch under his wing – if he moved to more of a management role with them afterward, I’d be totally on board with it.
Prior to the go-home show, the final big angle was Scott D’Amore cutting a fiery babyface promo (seriously, he was superb) on Bully before Bully and the Good Hands (Hotch & Skyler) put D’Amore through a table.
The central theme of this story has been that Bully can’t beat Josh in a straight wrestling match, and he knows that. To have a chance, he needs weapons, and he needs mind games to get under Josh’s skin. By having Josh offer up the Full Metal Mayhem stipulation, he’s got the first, and by attacking his wife and then his mentor, he’s got the second. Now, the match has the dynamic of whether Josh can keep his emotions in check or whether all of Bully’s games will have worked.
As I said, all in all, they’ve told a decent, coherent story here. It only becomes a bad story and a bad piece of booking if Josh’s record-breaking title run ends in this match. Prediction: Josh Alexander