IMPACT WRESTLING
Rebellion 2023
April 16, 2023
Rebel Entertainment Complex
Toronto, ONTARIO, CANADA

Impact Wrestling returns to Toronto for the first time in four years this coming Sunday, April 16th, for Rebellion. The top of the show doesn’t look as initially planned though, with Josh Alexander’s tricep tear meaning that the main event will be between KUSHIDA and Steve Maclin for the vacant Impact World title. 

Elsewhere, the vacant Knockouts title will also be on the line following Mickie James’ recent shoulder and rib injuries, and there are not one but three gimmick matches on the show. 

Regardless of the obstacles they’ve faced coming into this show, Rebellion marks Impact’s fifth successive sell out and I suspect the Toronto crowd will be loud throughout. From a personal perspective, the Rebel Entertainment Complex is the coolest-looking building that Impact run, so it’ll be nice to see them back there. 

Countdown to Rebellion

Heath & Rhino vs. Champagne Singh & Shera

Raj Singh is going by the name of Champagne Singh now because he’s got money. He shows off that money during his matches. Geddit? 

These two teams have faced off twice before, with Heath and Rhino winning on both occasions. Their most recent meeting came a couple of weeks ago and while it was nothing special, a red-hot Windsor crowd firmly behind the babyfaces certainly made it entertaining.

Billed as a battle for momentum in the tag division, it makes sense for Heath and Rhino to complete the hat-trick. Prediction: Heath and Rhino

Impact Wrestling Knockouts World Tag Team Championship
The Coven (Taylor Wilde & KiLynn King) (C) vs. The Death Dollz (Jessicka & Rosemary)

They might only have had one match together so far but I genuinely think that The Coven might be the best in-ring pairing to have held the Knockouts tag titles since their relaunch. Their gimmick, with the spooky stuff and tarot cards, well, the less said about that the better. 

Truthfully I don’t have any major thoughts on this as a match other than the fact I’d prefer it if Impact were able to build to tag title matches with fewer singles matches between the participants and that I don’t think Jessicka is any good. 

These belts have been the promotion’s hot potato but putting this on the pre-show surely cements The Coven retaining and hopefully means they can move on to something a bit more interesting in the next cycle. Prediction: The Coven

Rebellion

The Design (Deaner, Angels & Kon / Callihan) vs. Joe Hendry, Dirty Dango & Santino Marella

Any interest I may have had in the Sami Callihan/Design story waned a long time ago because they’ve managed to drag his ‘seven steps to entry’ out for far too long. 

He finally hit step seven, which involved removing all authority from his life, a couple of weeks ago when he supposedly attacked Impact’s Director of Authority Santino Marella. That set up this six-man tag that also involves Marella’s deputy Dirty Dango and the Impact Wrestling Digital Media Champion Joe Hendry. 

Ultimately, Impact needs to get their act together with this Design story. The right move is to have them win convincingly, potentially by pinning Hendry, and then move them into a title picture or bigger feud at the post-show tapings. 

I have a fear though that they either have Deaner, Angels and Kon turn on Callihan or they do it the other way round and it’s all been a waste of everyone’s time. That path may or may not involve putting Marella, who spoke in his match announcement promo about wanting to prove something to his son, over, which also isn’t a good outcome unless he’s going to be a regular in-ring act and Scott D’Amore is going back to the on-air authority position. 

Get this one right, guys. Prediction: The Design

Hardcore War
Team Bully (Bully Ray, Moose, Brian Myers, Kenny King & Masha Slamovich) vs. Team Dreamer (Tommy Dreamer, Yuya Uemura, Bhupinder Gujjar, Frankie Kazarian & Killer Kelly)

Talking of stories taking a long time to get anywhere, can this feud end already? This has to be the blow-off. IT HAS TO BE. 

Anyone who has read my writing on this site knows how much I have hated this ego-driven Tommy Dreamer-Bully Ray programme that to-date has served to put over no one other than two 50 somethings who should have better things to do. Anyway, this isn’t the place to rag on it any further, I’ll save that for the review if things go awry.

Hardcore War matches are typically pretty enjoyable but they have notable limitations. Firstly, they consist of a lot of people hitting other people with stuff, which I suspect most are fairly tired of by now. The other issues surround timing – the matches are long by default because you’ve got 60-90s gaps between entrants and also because the match has a ceiling on intensity until the final entrant comes in because no one can win it before then. 

The one silver lining here (aside from this ideally being the feud ender) is that the match involves some younger, fresher talent who need the spotlight. They might have cycled out Jason Hotch, who I like a lot, and John Skyler for Moose and Brian Myers but Yuya Uemura, Bhupinder Gujjar and Killer Kelly will hopefully all benefit from getting a win here. Prediction: Team Dreamer and the saving of my sanity

Last Rites Match
PCO vs. Eddie Edwards (w/Alisha Edwards)

The first, and most memorable, Last Rites match in Impact Wrestling history took place all the way back at Destination X 2007 and was between Sting and Abyss. The core concept was of a standard Casket match, with the twist being that the Casket was then lifted up to the rafters at the end of the match. If you’ve not seen it before, it wasn’t any good and in many ways birthed the ‘Fire Russo’ chants. 

The second Last Rites match took place in 2018 and was between Allie and Su Yung for the Knockouts World title. That was just a standard Casket match and I think (hope, definitely hope) that’s the version we’re getting here. 

As much as I largely find Coffin/Casket matches pretty cringe, this one does at least make sense in canon. Eddie Edwards figuratively buried PCO as the weak link of Honor No More throughout the faction’s existence and then literally following the group’s dissolution as he tried to put him six feet under in the Las Vegas desert. That didn’t work and since then a lot of their scraps have involved shovel-based attacks. 

The core story between these two is fine, it’s a standard betrayal/revenge thing, but it’s indulged a lot of PCO’s worst excesses and it’s overstayed its welcome. The stipulation signifies that they’re putting the lid on the feud at Rebellion and the only logical outcome is for PCO to win and move into the title picture at the next live special. Prediction: PCO

Ultimate X match for the Impact Wrestling World Tag Team Championship
The ABC (Ace Austin & Chris Bey) (C) vs. The Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin)

My gut feeling is that this will open up Rebellion. Ultimate X has often been put in that spot before because it always yields high-intensity action and therefore engages the crowd. They also desperately need to space out the three gimmick matches across the card. 

It was on July 1st, 2022 that these two teams had their first meeting. The Guns were too good that night but, over time, Bey and Austin narrowed the gap and in late February they finally beat the Guns for the first time two-on-two to claim the tag team titles. Even with that win, you got the sense that it was a case of circumstance and them catching lightning in the bottle on one night, rather than them definitively becoming the top dogs in the division. To do that, they need another win over the standard-bearers and where better than in their proverbial wheelhouse, Ultimate X? 

All four men have been in Ultimate X matches before but one side’s records far outstrip the others. Sabin was in the very first one and over the years he’s won them, including with Shelley in tag team Ultimate X clashes with the Young Bucks (then Generation Me) and Lethal Consequences. Austin and Bey have been in them but have never been successful, so to do so here would cement their elevation. 

I’ve loved this story and it excites me no end that Shelley and Sabin, two great wrestling minds with an eye on elevating young talent, are re-signed with the promotion. This has the potential to peak very high and is my projected match of the night. Prediction: The ABC

Three-way Elimination match for the Impact Wrestling X-Division Championship
Trey Miguel (C) vs. Jonathan Gresham vs. Mike Bailey

Will this likely be a very good match? Yes. Was the means of getting here, with Miguel interrupting the contender’s match to try and weasel out of a defence, rubbish? Also yes. 

Positioning this as an elimination match, rather than a standard three-way dance, will take this up a notch, as will the fact that I’ve genuinely got no idea which way they’re going to go with the booking.

The World title seems like it’s in Bailey’s purview later in the year, although I’m not sure how much Josh Alexander’s injury changes things for him. Either way, giving him the X-Division title again would feel very much like a holding pattern move.

Miguel is a more natural fit as a heel and I think, some missteps aside, his second reign with the belt has been better than the first. Should he retain here, you can either move Laredo Kid, who won a four-way on the go-home show, into the picture or pair up Miguel and Gresham.

That leaves Gresham, which I think is the more interesting play. You can leave the indicated heel turn in progress, with the degree varying by opponent, and then potentially revisit him and Bailey down the road. Prediction: Jonathan Gresham 

Vacant Impact Wrestling Knockouts World Championship
Jordynne Grace vs. Deonna Purrazzo

Impact went right up to the wire with a decision about Mickie James’ involvement in this match but she’s out with injury. The go-home show ended with this stark but great segment. 

The nature of her Last Rodeo story meant that it was all about the chase and the moment of the title win and not about having some sort of long reign. That’s a story with an end and one that meant that it was a case of when she dropped the title rather than if. 

The choice for Impact now is which well they go back to. It’s either Grace, who came on leaps and bounds in her second reign last year, or Purrazzo, who hasn’t held the title since she lost it to James back in October 2021. 

More heavily featured in the build-up has been Purrazzo, who has been rechanneling her Virtuosa gimmick. Grace has had spots here and there but she’s also been busy elsewhere with her bodybuilding competitions. 

Ultimately, I feel like the right direction is Grace, what with the phantom tap at Hard to Kill and her having never beaten Purrazzo before, but I think they’ll go the other way. Prediction: Deonna Purrazzo

Vacant Impact Wrestling World Championship
Steve Maclin vs. Kushida

Strap in because I’ve got a lot of thoughts here. 

Losing Josh Alexander is a hammer blow for Impact Wrestling. That would be true of anyone that I’d consider one of the very best wrestlers in the world but it’s especially true when he’s the top champion. It’s especially true when he’s your top Canadian and you’re finally looping back to Canada for the first time in three years. It’s also especially true when he’s coming to the end of a historic reign, the best in company history, and doesn’t get the chance to put the next person over. 

His absence, however, does make Steve Maclin’s story all the more compelling and it has me all the way invested going into Rebellion. 

When he was facing Alexander, Maclin’s story was simple. He was a heel that sometimes cheated and sometimes didn’t. He was a heel with big wins but also some big losses too. He was a somewhat deluded heel that moaned about being ducked and not getting opportunities despite either losing those opportunities (getting pinned by Bully Ray in the Call Your Shot Gauntlet last October) or not being eligible (he’s not a former champion, so couldn’t be in January’s Golden Six Shooter). He was also likely going to be the biggest heel in the promotion because he was going to be the one that dethroned Alexander, the company’s top babyface, workhorse and standard-bearer and he’d do it in Canada. 

Now though, the story shows so much more of Steve Maclin the human being. He tried to explain to Frankie Kazarian and Rich Swann at No Surrender that Josh being injured affected him too because it meant that the guy he’d been psychologically and physically preparing for for more than a year was gone and now he’d got to face Kushida instead. Kaz and Swann dismissed him as selfish and uncaring but it spoke to Maclin’s military background of focusing on set targets and missions, something Impact haven’t themselves hammered too much, and his personality. 

Like the rest of us, Maclin needs validation. He’s beaten Moose, Sami Callihan, Chris Sabin, Rich Swann and Jay White over the last year. He’s established himself as a guy in Impact. But he’s never been a champion and, as Alexander said pre-injury, Maclin would always be ‘just a Forgotten Son’ until he beat someone like him. Maclin had to beat Alexander to give himself validation and get validation from his peers and the wider fanbase. He had to beat Alexander to become the guy. If he’d done it, he’d have been as credible a champion as you could ask for. 

Now, though, it’s an injury, one Impact are selling that Kushida’s Hoverboard Lock caused, that beat Alexander and not Maclin. For all his preparation and destiny, Maclin now knows that no matter what he does, no one will look at him like a legitimate champion. 

You saw all of that play out in the fantastic closing angle on the penultimate episode of TV before the PPV. Josh cut a very emotional promo and his son, who obviously hadn’t been clued in, tried to stop his dad handing back the title. Maclin heeled it up by talking to Jett and telling Scott D’Amore that he should just give him the title now and save the Rebellion match because he’d have won anyway. He’s insecure not just as a heel but also because he knows that win against Kushida or not, it’d be as credible as just being given the strap by management. 

Scott D’Amore, speaking on Kushida’s behalf, cut a fiery promo on Maclin, calling him a pathetic coward and pointing out that Maclin tapped to Kushida’s Hoverboard Lock at No Surrender. As much as Maclin claimed that was self-preservation, questions will remain about that as a vulnerability coming into the match.

Kushida may not cut promos but man am I more invested in him now than I have been in a long time. When he washed out of the WWE and went back to New Japan, he felt ice cold. He was the same guy, with the same music, moves and gimmick he’d had before he left. Working in Impact with Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin has reinvigorated him though and his in-ring work has picked up massively. His match with Chris Bey a couple of months ago was the best singles outing on Impact TV this year and his tussle with Lio Rush at Multiverse United was the best thing on the show. 

He’s a lock to deliver here and I think Maclin will too. His intense, aggressive style lends itself to facing smaller opponents and he showed in his X-Division title matches with Trey Miguel last year that he can go in a big way. This match preview probably could and should have been a column about Maclin’s story resonating on an emotional level with me but alas time got away from me so it’s all in here. Anyway, however high this peaks, this match should mark the beginning of the Maclin era and it should be clean. 

Can he be an effective top guy? Only time will tell. Will Impact be able to pick up on the nuances of his story that Alexander’s injury has created? Perhaps not. I, for one, though am keen to find out if Impact’s investment and two year elevation of the guy can pay off. Prediction: Steve Maclin