The discourse around telling stories in wrestling is all the rage right now. Not a day goes past without some of the worst people online arguing about who does and doesn’t tell them and what constitutes a good one and a bad one.

It’s tiresome, I know, but I hope you’ll indulge me for the next 1,000 words or so because Impact Wrestling is coming toward the end of what has been one of the most satisfying stories of the Scott D’Amore era. That story is the coming together and months-long elevation of Ace Austin and Chris Bey from being just a team to being the promotion’s top tag team.

The first time Austin and Bey teamed up anywhere for a straight two-versus-two tag was at Impact’s Against All Odds event last July. They lost that night against the Motor City Machine Guns, but I loved it. Austin and Bey showed a level of natural chemistry that was indicative of a fruitful future together. Still, it was also clear in the match structure that they didn’t have the experience to hang with the veteran aces of the division. I gave it **** and ended my review with this.

“Add this to his previous tussles with Frankie Kazarian, Jonathan Gresham, Jay White and Steve Maclin and you realize that Chris Sabin is having a magical year. I say give him and Shelley the tag team titles pronto. Oh, and Gedo, if you’re listening, stick Austin and Bey in the Junior Tag League later this year please.”

Post that event, Austin and Bey became a regular team in Impact, losing out to Aussie Open but beating Matt Taven & Mike Bennett and also Laredo Kid & Trey Miguel. Victory in a four-way match that also involved the Motor City Machine Guns set up a second meeting between the teams last November at Over Drive with the No #1 Contendership to the tag titles on the line.

Austin and Bey once again lost, but there was a bigger story at play. In just their sixth two-versus-two match as a team, Austin and Bey’s were clearly better than on their first outing. Although they didn’t have the element of surprise this time, they showed more tag team savvy and cohesion. Still, it wasn’t quite enough, as a miscue on their tag team finisher backfired, allowing the Guns to grab the win.

That second match came in at ***1/2 for me, and after the final bell rang, it was so obvious to me that the long-term goal for the promotion was to build to a third match in 2023 where Austin and Bey had finally evolved to have enough to overcome the standard-bearers of the division.

That missing bit of seasoning came in the Super Junior Tag League at the back end of 2022 (cheers for reading the bat signal, Gedo). Just three days after their second defeat to the Guns, Austin and Bey worked in Japan.

I know some people weren’t super sold on them in that tournament, but I enjoyed their work, and they were undoubtedly booked very strongly. They ultimately posted a 7-2 record before losing in the final to Lio Rush and YOH, who’d also beaten them in the block phase.

The Bullet Club duo’s return to Impact came at the Hard to Kill PPV in January, where they were rewarded for their strong showing in Japan with a spot in a four-way elimination match. They got to the final two, all set to face the Guns again, only for interference from the Major Players to cost them.

Successive wins over The Major Players and Kevin Knight & Kushida gave Austin and Bey momentum heading into a six-man tag match alongside stablemate Kenta against Kushida and the Guns at the recent No Surrender special.

That showed proved another milestone in their elevation as it was on that night that Austin and Bey scored their first pinfall victory over the Guns. What was nice, though was that it wasn’t super decisive – it wasn’t in a two-versus-two setting, so there was still something to prove, and the pinfall was a backslide.

Personally, I suspected that they’d drag the third two-versus-two meeting between the teams out to Sacrifice later this month or even to Rebellion in April, saving something fun for their Canadian return. Instead, they pivoted and did it on TV in what was a masterful bit of booking.

Bey and Austin got some promo time, which was more or less a first, and they spoke about their history in Las Vegas. Austin made his Impact debut in that city and got a significant singles win over Chris Sabin there. Bey, meanwhile, made a second home in Las Vegas as he chased his wrestling dream. He worked local indies there and got his reps in while setting up rings for various promotions, including Impact. It was also the venue where they’d beaten the Guns just a week (in kayfabe) before. Suddenly, Bey and Austin were the home team, the ones everyone was rooting for after the goaded the Guns into putting the titles on the line that night.

The face and heel lines had been as you’d expect in their two previous matches. Sabin and Shelley were the babyfaces, while Austin and Bey were Bullet Club tweeners. Here, though, the roles were reversed in a match that deserves tremendous praise.

Austin and Bey were the clear babyfaces, fighting from underneath against the veteran champions who worked with a viciousness and a nastiness you don’t normally get from them. As Bey got his arm worked over repeatedly, being thrown into the ringposts and locked into submission attempts, the story was evident – the Guns didn’t respect the Bullet Club duo, they didn’t see them as equals. They wanted to teach these young punks a lesson.

There were callbacks to the recent six-man tag and their previous two-versus-two meetings. Austin got a great nearfall on a backslide attempt, while when Austin and Bey went for their tag finisher the first time, they missed out on it just like they did at Over Drive.

This time, though, they had the experience and the tag team nous to stay alive. This match ran about five minutes longer than the previous two, and it was in those five minutes that their evolution approached its natural conclusion.

Austin and Bey copied some of the Guns offense, symbolic of the passing of the torch undertone to the series, before finally hitting their tag finisher – a lifted Art of Finesse followed by The Fold – cleanly in the middle of the ring.

The final touch that resonated with me was the pinfall itself. So often the pin-eater in their matches, here Chris Bey was the man getting the pin. He was the hometown hero, and he was the one that got the win for his team. The crowd loved that, and so did I.

It’s hard for me to do justice to how good I thought this match was and how much I’ve loved this story. I’ve gone ****1/2 and I know that probably makes me the high man. But, this has been a near nine-month arc that has rewarded those with a long-term investment in the promotion.

At no point in this series were there big angles, a panoply of promos or any sense of mutual hatred. Instead, it embodied the phrase ‘if at first, you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again.’ It was the story of two young guys getting thrown together, realizing they had something, and getting better and better until they were good enough to beat their more experienced rivals. Rivals who had inspired them when they were younger and rivals who stood as the pinnacle of the division.

What excites me is that there’s clearly more meat on the bone. The Guns getting sucked in and having the match on that night, rather than at a later date when they had more time to prepare, gives them enough plausible deniability to say that Austin and Bey couldn’t do it a second time. After all, the Guns are 2-1 up in the series.

This week’s TV and a recent social post from Austin cements the fact we’re not done yet. On this week’s TV, Austin and Bey were back to being tweeners, mocking the babyfaces before ultimately getting disrespected by Josh Alexander. His words struck at this notion that despite winning the titles, Austin and Bey still aren’t seen as these super credible champions, they’ve still got something to prove to a guy like him that’s been to that mountaintop multiple times.

Likewise, on Twitter, Austin said that he hoped the four-way tag match at the Mania weekend show Multiverse United, also involving Aussie Open and TMDK, would count as the Guns rematch. That’s obviously foreshadowing that it won’t be and it also sows seeds of doubt – is it that Austin and Bey don’t believe they can catch lightning in a bottle again and beat the Guns twice in a row?

At a time when a lot of the Impact product is going in a direction that I don’t like, this story has been a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding one. I think there’s still a final blow-off to come, potentially in a Ladder Match or something at Rebellion. Either way, everyone involved should take a bow because this has been a job well done.