Impact Wrestling
Against All Odds 2023
June 9, 2023
Ohio Expo Center
Columbus, Ohio

Watch: FITE

Impact Wrestling were back in Ohio this past Friday night (June 9th) for Against All Odds, a noteworthy show headlined by Steve Maclin defending his Impact Wrestling World Championship against Alex Shelley.

Countdown to Against All Odds
KiLynn King (w/Taylor Wilde) def. Nevaeh

A pretty basic opener to kick off the night. You had Neveah, wrestling her first match in Impact in two years and first match anywhere in 13 months, showing some fight early on before KiLynn King, with assistance from Taylor Wilde on the outside, got back into it and won with relative ease.

My floor is usually two stars for matches like this but this dips below that threshold as Nevaeh, likely owing to being rusty, looked like she had two left feet and some of the early exchanges between these two were really clumsy. *1/2

Countdown to Against All Odds
Impact Wrestling Digital Media Championship
Joe Hendry (C) def. Dirty Dango

Joe Hendry gave the people of Ohio, and me, what they wanted with some custom entrance music for Dirty Dango. It wasn’t new music, as he’d used it on the go-home show, but it was good. As a connoisseur of Hendry’s videos over the years, this was one of his best efforts. It had depth, it was funny and the vocals sounded decent.

That was, however, the most entertaining part of this. Dango’s current gimmick is that he’s only still wrestling because people keep paying him and he’d actually rather get the Iron Sheik WCW treatment where he’s paid to stay home. That attitude has transposed into his matches, where they’re a pattern of hit one move, work the crowd, rinse and repeat. Hendry got sucked into that pattern himself, ultimately making the match the one thing wrestling should never be: dull. **

As Hendry won decisively and there was no post-match angle, I sincerely hope we’re done and can now move Hendry’s title reign on to something more interesting.

Frankie Kazarian def. Eddie Edwards (w/Alisha Edwards)

In my preview for this show, I spoke about sending things to a Wrestling Room 101. Now I’ve spoken that into existence, I’d like to consign manager ejection spots there too. I get why they work with a live crowd but with so much wrestling accessible nowadays, it’s an overused crutch.

That aside, this was decent and had some good energy to it. Early on Kazarian was trying to be respectful, showing off what he took from Killer Kowalski’s training, but in the end, Edwards’ goading led him to channel up the aggression and really get into it.

My rating is just a flat three, though, because the finish was very clunky. After a superplex off the top, Kaz tried to go for a leg lace pin attempt. The referee counted three but as neither guy moved or kicked out, he claimed it was two, forcing the two to reset and Kaz to win seconds later by reversing a Tiger Driver attempt into a pinning combination. ***

Impact Wrestling World Tag Team Championship
ABC (Ace Austin & Chris Bey) (C) def. The Good Hands (John Skyler & Jason Hotch) (w/Brian Myers)

At Against All Odds 2022, Ace Austin and Chris Bey had their first-ever tag match together. Their blossoming over the last 11 months has been great to watch and is a credit to Impact’s bookers. I know I’m a big fan of theirs, but I genuinely believe they’ve been one of the world’s best tag teams this year.

I might have hated the build because it undermined the credibility of The Good Hands as challengers, but this match absolutely rocked. Both teams had great chemistry, and I thought the involvement from Brian Myers, which was restricted to coaching outside of one blindside lariat, worked nicely.

Special mention has to go to Jason Hotch, who I thought excelled. His sells for Bey’s Hurricanrana and Code Red were fantastic, as was his bump for Austin’s match-winning Fold. Hotch himself hit a lovely post-assisted Moonsault to the outside and continues to deliver on the genuine upside I see in him. ***1/2

Dog Collar Match
Masha Slamovich def. Killer Kelly

Thanks to AEW, the bar for modern Dog Collar matches has been raised to new heights. I’m not sure if it was that or the atrocious crowd in Ohio, but this match ultimately fell flat for me.

That’s not to say it was bad though, as both women did as much as they could with the almost 12 minutes they were given. They worked a callback to their first match, where Slamovich used the turnbuckles to reverse a Sleeper hold into a winning pin, for a nearfall. Kelly used Slamovich’s own signature move, the Snow Plow, for a great nearfall of her own and showed more doggedness when chasing the Sleeper.

They also made decent use of the chain, notably when Slamovich used it to pull Kelly up on the outside and choke her and then when Slamovich used it in the finish, breaking Kelly’s choke with the chain and then using it to set up a Snow Plow of her own for victory. ***1/4

Post-match, Slamovich appeared to give her respect to Kelly. With Kelly booked to face Taylor Wilde at the following TV tapings, Slamovich and Kelly becoming a tag team seems the logical next step.

Impact Wrestling X-Division Championship
Chris Sabin def. Trey Miguel (C)

I’ll be a happy man if I’m ever as smooth at anything as Chris Sabin is at pro wrestling.

This match was what I wanted their Under Siege meeting to be, just an exhibition of slick wrestling between two excellent workers. I do mean two there because as good as Sabin is, credit has to go to Trey Miguel because he’s evolved enormously since he first joined the promotion.

In the build to this match, Sabin called out Miguel’s antics with the spray paint as disrespecting the X-Division title and its entire lineage. He leaned into that here, paying homage to two former champions by hitting the Angel’s Wings and a Styles Clash for a pair of great nearfalls.

Miguel also leaned into the spray paint, here using two cans – one as a decoy for the referee and the other for actual use. This time, though, Sabin kicked out and after clearing his eyes, hit Miguel with a decisive Cradle Shock to become a nine-time X-Division Champion. Hail Sabin. ****

8-4-1 Match
Stage 1: Nick Aldis, Bully Ray, Heath & Jonathan Gresham def. Mike Bailey, PCO, Rich Swann & Moose
Stage 2: Nick Aldis def. Bully Ray, Heath and Jonathan Gresham

Considering that two weeks before Against All Odds, Bully Ray had put his boss through a burning table, it was weird that he was a) in this match with no explanation and b) the central focus of most of it.

Ray’s presence did give the match some structure, as he was the one they all wanted to fight in the eight-man tag and then the one they all ganged up on in the four-way. You also saw him taken out of the equation in an awkwardly long (and crappy) spot with Scott D’Amore, culminating in a chair shot to the back.

Outside of that, the 8-4-1 concept worked well, and the matches were fine. It was easy to understand, which isn’t always a given in this company, and both sections worked well. Aldis secured his spot in the Slammiversary main event by breaking up Jonathan Gresham’s Figure-Four Leglock with an Elbow Drop and then tapping Heath with the King’s Lynn Cloverleaf. ***

Trinity & Deonna Purrazzo def. Gisele Shaw & Savannah Evans (w/Jai Vidal)

After the main card opener, this was the second match on the show that ended with a wonky, mistimed finish.

For the bulk of the match Impact avoided the ‘can they co-exist’ melodrama, instead presenting a standard TV-level tag where the babyfaces were full of fire.

The finish sucked though. After Vidal took out Trinity with a Clothesline on the outside, they panned into the ring where Deonna Purrazzo had rolled up Savannah Evans with a Magistral. Gisele Shaw stayed standing on the apron, seemingly tipping off that Evans would kick out. She didn’t though, so Shaw was seen just stood there as her partner lost.

They tried their best to salvage things with a post-match beatdown that ended with Trinity running them off and the babyfaces standing tall but this wasn’t great. **1/2

Ohio Street Fight
oVe (Sami Callihan, Jake Crist & Madman Fulton) def. The Design (Deaner, Angels & Kon)

The crowd was quiet for much of the night, but they absolutely loved this, a plunder six-man tag that put over three of their fellow Ohioans.

If you are looking for a ton of fresh spots or new weapons, you’ll be left disappointed. If you’re looking for good energy, a ton of action, and a match that was a ton of fun, you’re in luck.

The match gradually reduced the numbers down to just two men, the faction leaders Sami Callihan and Deaner. Madman Fulton, who looked good in his return to the company, brawled with fellow big man Kon for most of the match and those two went off the stage through a table to make it two-on-two.

Deaner then put Jake Crist, who’d hit a brilliant interception cutter on Angels earlier in the match, through a barbed wire board with a Burning Hammer to give the Design a two-on-one advantage. That became one-on-one when Angels got hit with Callihan’s baseball bat, and the bat proved key to the finish, with Callihan clocking Deaner with it and then putting him away with a Cactus Driver ’98 on the other barbed wire board. ***1/2

Callihan and Deaner being the last two made the finish feel decisive. Does that mean we’re now moving on, with both factions likely to slot into the tag title picture?

Impact Wrestling World Championship
Alex Shelley def. Steve Maclin (C)

When I thought they’d zig, Impact Wrestling zagged. The Steve Maclin era is over. Long live the new face of Impact Wrestling, Alex Shelley.

Maclin and Shelley, as wrestlers and characters, are proof that there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Shelley is the thinking man’s wrestler, always a couple of steps ahead. He’s the sort of man who hits a Dragon Screw on the apron and holds on to your ankle. No, not to hit another one or even to work over your knee more. It’s to tie you up in the ropes so that he can hit a diving Knee Drop onto the arm he’d attacked before, thereby opening up an armbar attempt now and weakening you for the Border City Stretch later on. He’s also the sort of man who traps one of your arms during a forearm exchange to reduce your power and open you up for leg kicks.

Maclin, meanwhile, has been the living embodiment of “when reason fails try force” throughout his Impact tenure. He only has one gear, and that’s forward; here, he responded to submission attempts by hitting Suicide Dives to the outside, powering out of armbars with Olympic Slams, and using headbutts to stop you from locking in a Kimura.

That dichotomy made for a wonderful match. In the end, it was Shelley’s precision that wore Maclin down, and it was Maclin’s explosivity that gave Shelley too many windows of opportunity for him not to capitalize.

On this night, Shelley was more dialed in than ever. He was more confident than in his first title challenge against Josh Alexander last year, indicative of his own self-belief growing, indicative of his ability relative to his opponent, and indicative that he knew fate is a one-way street.

There was no panic from Shelley here when Maclin rolled out of the Border City Stretch and only limited frustration when Maclin kicked out of the Avalanche Sliced Bread. When Maclin came up short on his second Tree of Woe Spear attempt and hit the exposed turnbuckle, the look in Shelley’s eyes told you that he knew that it was time. No more near misses, no more being the best man to never be the World Champion. Now, after one Shellshock, he was the one on the mountaintop. He completed his story. ****1/2

Make no mistake, this felt like a super surprising result when watching the show. Impact had made you think that they were going to go in a different direction with Shelley, keeping up the narrative of him not being able to win the big one and teeing him up for a heel turn. Although they might still do something with him and Sabin, that’s not for now and if they do do it, it’ll be in a different way.

Much of the reaction I’ve seen to this match was plaudits for Shelley winning but criticism of Impact for souring on Maclin and cutting his reign too short. I think most of the Maclin commentary is wide of the mark, and I’m not sure who needs to hear this, but I’ve got THOUGHTS.

Firstly, not every title reign has to be long. No one likes hot shotting title changes, but for long reigns to feel significant, you have to have variance in length. Maclin’s reign ended at Against All Odds at 54 days. If he’d dropped it to Nick Aldis at Slammiversary, he’d have gone to 90 days. Is that inherently better? All of this discussion stems from the notion that in modern wrestling that everyone needs a turn, which isn’t how it works, and it’s not how it should work.

Secondly, Maclin has done everything he could as champion, so I’m not sure that they’ve ‘soured’ on him. He’s projected well, and he’s proved in-ring that he’s a main event-level worker that belongs at the top of the card. This match with Shelley will be a MOTYC for some people, and his performance against PCO will live long in the memory. Even if you look at business metrics, it’s too early to comment on his drawing ability, and it’s not like they know Shelley is going to pop a house either.

The other issue and one I suspect people parachuting in for Shelley’s title win will miss, is that Maclin’s story isn’t done. His story is inextricably linked to Josh Alexander. Alexander was the target Maclin had acquired, and beating him for the title was his mission. That got taken away from Maclin because of Alexander’s legitimate triceps injury. If Maclin had beaten Alexander at Rebellion, as was seemingly the plan, does his title reign end here? Probably not, no, because his story looks different. If he’d beaten Alexander, there was no asterisk, no caveat to that title run. He was a made guy. Now, though, they have weaved it into his canon that people didn’t entirely respect him as champion, and he was working like a guy with a chip on his shoulder, a point to prove.

I think this is just Impact changing their booking plans and using the circumstances they found themselves in to do two things: a) establish Maclin as a viable champion and b) give Shelley a moment that he richly deserves. It also makes these live specials more appointment viewing because they’ve normalized title changes happening on them, adding a ton of intrigue to the Slammiversary main event. Wrestling will always be better when it’s unpredictable.

They can now do something else with Maclin until Alexander returns and then tell that story properly. To my mind, at least, if they do it then, with Maclin winning the title for a second time against the guy he was supposed to beat originally, you’ve got the potential to give him a proper babyface run.

Whatever way they play it, this is ultimately a fascinating pivot for Impact Wrestling. It sets them up for a busy summer that sees them go to Australia and Canada and then team up with New Japan in August.

Final Thoughts

Against All Odds was a decent show from Impact, headlined by an excellent match and a surprising title change. Nothing on the main show was terrible but the crowd were pretty flat and that wasn’t helped by two of the matches having very clumsy finishes. The main event is absolutely worth your time, as is Chris Sabin’s X-Division title win earlier in the night.