April 16, 2o23
Rebel Entertainment Complex
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Impact Wrestling returned to Toronto for the first time since 2019 this past Sunday (April 16th) for their second PPV of the year, Rebellion. Coming into the show, Impact were profoundly on the back foot with their two top singles champions, Josh Alexander and Mickie James, both having to vacate their titles through injury. That meant that Rebellion was capped off by a double main event of Steve Maclin facing KUSHIDA for the World title and Deonna Purrazzo battling Jordynne Grace for the Knockouts title.
Countdown to Rebellion
Champagne Singh & Shera def. Heath & Rhino
This was a professional wrestling match that definitely, categorically, happened.
Truthfully, there’s not a lot else to add. This was more paint by numbers than the relatively fun match between these two teams a few weeks ago, with Singh on this occasion sneaking out a win with a leverage pin after six minutes of basic tag action. This did a job and the babyfaces got their heat back with a post-match Gore, so I can’t complain too much. **
Impact Wrestling Knockouts World Tag Team Championship
The Coven (Taylor Wilde & Kilynn King) © def. The Death Dollz (Rosemary & Jessicka)
Taylor Wilde only seemed to have one tarot card on the apron this time, down from the whole deck she had for the match where her and King won the titles. So, working on that basis, she’ll eventually have no tarot cards with her, which is the only correct number of tarot cards to have at ringside.
Jessicka saw the least action of the four women here, which meant that the match here was actually pretty decent for the most part. The blind tag involved in the finish was quite clunky and clumsy but the champions ultimately got a clean win so should be moving onto something more interesting soon. **3/4
Ultimate X for the Impact Wrestling World Tag Team Championship
The ABC (Ace Austin & Chris Bey) © def. The Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin)
It feels strange saying that this didn’t peak nearly as high as I hoped it would because it was still a good, fun way to start the show and firmly cemented Austin and Bey as the promotion’s top tag team. Ultimately though, I just don’t think everything they tried here landed in the way they wanted it to.
The Guns leaned into a more heel dynamic here, focusing on working over the limbs (YIKES) of their younger opponents. That allowed the Bullet Club duo to rally from underneath and I was pleased to see that the Toronto crowd gave them the grassroots babyface reaction that this programme has tried to give them.
The finish tied into the history between these teams and seems to have wrapped a neat bow on their programme for now. In their second meeting last year, Austin and Bey’s mistimed their pop-up cutter and it cost them the match. It worked in their third match, netting them the titles and here, in the fourth match, it proved the difference-maker. After landing it once, they teased going for it again. However, the second one was a ruse, instead acting as a means to jack Bey up onto the structure and allow him to rip the belts down. ***1/2
Joe Hendry, Dirty Dango & Santino Marella def. The Design (Deaner, Angels & Kon) & Callihan
Excluding some good energy from Dango and Joe Hendry, I think I hated more or less every aspect of this match.
Firstly, you’ve got the commentary team and Joe Hendry telling you that this was Santino Marella’s first match in nine years. Factually that was wrong but they kept going on about it and it was only at the finish that Tom Hannifan actually explained that they meant last televised match for a major promotion or something to that effect. Annoying but not a total deal-breaker if the rest of the match and booking are fine.
Yet, alas, the rest of the booking was not fine. The four-versus-three handicap stipulation telegraphed Sami Callihan turning on The Design and costing them the match. That sort of angle would be fine if Deaner and the others had forced him into their group or he was fighting for freedom. But he ASKED to join in the first place. Even then, this would be fine if it was a quick, simple story to give Callihan a rub. But, this has lasted FOUR MONTHS. So, effectively, you’ve made people invest time over four months of TV into a former World Champion joining this rebranded faction only for him to get fed up, turn and punk them out.
All of that served to make the Design look like absolute dorks and if that wasn’t bad enough, there wasn’t a ref in position for the finish, so Angels was down for a six/seven count to The Cobra.
I’m grumpy but this was so dumb. *
Last Rites Match
PCO def. Eddie Edwards
I had a lot of reservations coming into this match but when all was said and done, I thought this ended up being pretty damn good.
On a basic level, these two just ran at each other, wailing big shots and taking big bumps for 13 minutes. On top of that, they wrapped up their programme decisively with a match that hit all the right storyline beats.
Alisha, who ran PCO over when he tried to get revenge the first time and then cost him in his and Edwards’ first singles match, tried to interfere with the shovel but she got cut off and miscommunication saw Edwards put her down. PCO then used the shovel to stun Edwards before chokeslamming him into the coffin. No complaints at all from me. ****
Three-Way Elimination Match for the Impact Wrestling X-Division Championship
Trey Miguel © def. Mike Bailey & Jonathan Gresham
I’m so pleased that Trey Miguel has abandoned drawing the TM logo during his entrance. No matter how many times he tried, he was never quite aligned with the LED animation and that always bothered me.
As for the match, this absolutely rocked and on a night where a lot was up in the air for the promotion, this was a big vote of confidence in Miguel.
The three-way portion of the match was engaging and competitive, with Miguel’s heel shtick allowing Bailey and Gresham to continue their singles rivalry without the match feeling too tropey. Bailey and Gresham’s issues played into the first elimination, with Miguel pinning Gresham with a Meteora while Gresham was applying a figure four on Bailey.
Miguel and Bailey, who have fantastic chemistry, then had a good final four minutes that actually featured some impressive Bailey leg selling. He landed Ultimo Weapon on the outside but whiffed in the ring, allowing Miguel to retain the title with a tights-assisted pin. ****
Team Dreamer (Tommy Dreamer, Frankie Kazarian, Yuya Uemura, Bhupinder Gujjar & Killer Kelly) def. Team Bully (Bully Ray, Kenny King, Moose, Brian Myers & Masha Slamovich)
Earlier in the show, Tommy Dreamer cut an incredibly emotional promo about his mother suffering a brain bleed earlier in the week and being unresponsive in hospital. He rambled a bit but he was enormously choked up and the sight of his four teammates just standing next to him in silence signified this as 100% real. Albeit a dreadful situation for Tommy and his family, that speech got me more invested in his and Bully’s feud than anything else they’ve done has.
As for the match, where do I start? Hardcore War matches, by nature, are long but the final section of five-on-five ran close to 10 minutes, giving the whole match a run time of almost half an hour. That’s way too long, especially when a lot of the action was quite disjointed and there was an awful lot of standing around waiting for spots.
There was some good storyline continuity with The Good Hands getting involved and I thought the structure of the match gave Killer Kelly some real shine but there was also a lot of it that just didn’t work for me, like all ten people sitting in the ring and applying submission holds like some sort of human centipede.
This probably worked better for the live crowd than it did for me but overall it was fine as a feud ender. Now it’s over, let’s chalk this one up to experience. **1/2
Vacant Impact Wrestling World Championship
Steve Maclin def. KUSHIDA
Tag ’em, bag ’em and mayhem for all. The Steve Maclin era in Impact Wrestling has begun.
When Steve Maclin washed out of the WWE in 2021, he was a fairly middling tag team worker that I’m not sure anybody thought had top guy potential. Impact took a punt on him though and over the last two years they’ve given him a concerted push, putting him in with their best talents and allowing him to prove himself. He did that in spades and all of that work should have led to a match with Josh Alexander at Rebellion. That didn’t happen because of Josh’s injury but make no mistake, Rebellion was Maclin’s moment and he nailed it.
Although he’d challenged for the X-Division title, this was Maclin’s first main event level title match and as such represented both a development experience and a test. He passed it with flying colours and that’s in no small part down to KUSHIDA, who provided the glue to a match structure that built well and accentuated both guys’ strengths.
The opening exchanges were all about grappling, with Maclin holding his own in large parts (which you’d expect given that he was preparing for someone in Josh Alexander who works a similar style) but KUSHIDA always being one step ahead as he sought opportunities to work over Maclin’s arm and set him up for the Hoverboard Lock.
The middle portion saw Maclin establish control, dominating the smaller man with power offence. The final stretch then saw both men empty the tank in pursuit of victory. The Hoverboard Lock gave KUSHIDA a built-in story and although the crowd were pretty mixed during this match, they were right behind him every time he snagged it.
However, try as KUSHIDA might, Maclin had an answer for his trademark submission. The first time, Maclin powered his way out with forearms from the guard. The second time, he powered him up and spiked him in the corner with a running Death Valley Driver. Then, the third and final time, Maclin adjusted his positioning to plant Kushida with an elevated K.I.A DDT. ****1/4
Maclin winning clean was the right call but it meant he needed to get his heat back, which came during the post-match. He demanded that Scott D’Amore present him with the title but when D’Amore wouldn’t strap it around his waist, Maclin brained him with the belt. That drew the ire of Nick Aldis, who’d joined commentary (where he was much better than Matthew Rehwoldt) for the match as Impact’s newest signee. Aldis and Maclin then had a staredown, teasing what should be a fun programme with them down the line.
Vacant Impact Wrestling Knockouts World Championship
Deonna Purrazzo def. Jordynne Grace
Given the history between these women and the way they were going with the booking, it made total sense to put this on last.
Tom Hannifan pointed out that while these two had wrestled twice before, both meetings were in the dark days of the empty arena tapings at Skyway Studios, so this was their first singles match in Impact in front of fans.
Both women have improved a lot since 2020, not just in terms of their in-ring but also in terms of confidence and projection, and that was noticeable here as they had what was definitely the best match between them yet.
There’s not necessarily anything here that’ll blow you away but it was just a clean, well-worked match that had a proper main event feel to it and stakes attached. There were a number of big spots, most notably when they teased recreating the Taryn Terrell/Gail Kim cutter off the ramp and when Grace got a nearfall on a particularly gnarly Grace Driver.
After a little over 17 minutes, it was Purrazzo who became a three-time Champion, planting Grace with a spike Queen’s Gambit piledriver. If that transpires to be Grace’s last big match for the promotion, it ranks as one of her best. ****
On the back foot and finding themselves in an unprecedented situation going in, Impact Wrestling absolutely put their best foot forward with a stellar Rebellion event.
Even though I didn’t like the Handicap match and the Hardcore War match dragged, hitting **** or more with four matches on a show doesn’t usually happen unless you’re doing something right.
With two new champions in Steve Maclin and Deonna Purrazzo, homegrown talents holding the tag and X-Division titles and Nick Aldis now under contract alongside a number of other great workers, Impact feel like they’ve got the potential to really kick on and build something special as 2023 progresses.