Impact Wrestling
Victory Road 2023
September 8, 2023
Westchester County Center
White Plains, New York

Watch: FITE

Impact Wrestling returned to New York for the first time in almost a year this past Friday for Victory Road. A singles match between Josh Alexander and Steve Maclin led their third live special in the past four weeks.

Countdown to Victory Road
Alan Angels def. Guido Maritato

Technical issues meant that the livestream dropped out for roughly half of this five-minute match so I can’t really rate it. I saw a local veteran in Maritato coming out to answer the challenge of the cocky undercard heel and, after getting a few hope spots in, ultimately falling short.

Countdown to Victory Road
ABC (Ace Austin & Chris Bey) def. The Most Professional Wrestling Gods (Brian Myers & Moose)

These two teams had a better match together on Impact’s Australia tour earlier in the year but this was good for what it was, which was essentially a decent little TV tag match.

Myers and Moose, as the big, burly heels, controlled most of the action before Austin got the hot tag and proved the difference-maker, ducking Myers’ Roster Cut attempt and rolling him up for three. ***

Impact Wrestling X-Division Championship
Lio Rush (C) def. KUSHIDA

Although I preferred their meeting at Multiverse United a few months ago, this was a fun opener that set the tone for what was ultimately a card full of story-driven finishes.

Early on, Rush and KUSHIDA dived at each other with wayward kick and tackle attempts in an attempt to show how well they knew their opponent’s offense. While I got what they were going for, it looked really clumsy and took me out of things early on.

They won me back by the end with a series of fun spots and exchanges, highlighted by Kushida snagging the Hoverboard Lock on after a brilliant Rush dive to the outside. Rush won it with the Final Hour, having previously low blowed Kushida after distracting the referee. ***1/2

Impact Wrestling Knockouts Tag Team Championship
MK Ultra (Masha Slamovich & Killer Kelly) (C) def. Gisele Shaw & Savannah Evans (w/Jai Vidal)

This show might have been called Victory Road, but this match was a Victory Lap for yours truly (I’ll leave now) as Masha Slamovich and Killer Kelly once again proved that they are the most compelling team to have held these titles since the belts were reactivated in 2021.

The New York crowd, who were good all night in truth, were really into this match. Shaw was able to elicit some good heel heat early on and then the crowd were all aboard the Slamovich hot tag that culminated with her landing a Snow Plow that secured victory for her team. ***

Crazzy Steve def. Black Taurus

Over recent weeks, Impact has been trying to do something a little bit different with Crazzy Steve. They did some interview segments with Tom Hannifan that were initially quite revealing and impactful but eventually veered into the creepy and supernatural.

For the most part, I enjoyed this. It was a good showcase for this new side of Crazzy Steve that they’ve tried to showcase and it gave Black Taurus, who shock horror looked really good, a very rare singles match on an Impact live show.

Sadly, the match didn’t end so well as it reverted into the sort of tropey melodrama I can’t abide by. After Steve started begging off that he didn’t want to fight anymore, Taurus had a pang of conscience that he no longer wanted to hurt the former friend he’d seconds earlier hit with a gnarly backbreaker. Obviously it was all a ruse, with Steve jumping Taurus, shoving his thumbs into his eyes and then pinning him with the diving DDT. **1/2

Impact Wrestling Digital Media Championship
Tommy Dreamer def. Kenny King (C) (w/Sheldon Jean)

One of the matches on this show that I’m sure will divide opinion.

Irrespective of my thoughts on the use and pushing of Tommy Dreamer, I enjoyed the story to get here. It built naturally from the Johnny Swinger match at Emergence, the promos from both guys in the lead-up were really good and they both worked to the occasion.

You had Tommy Dreamer coming out looking all emotional, hugging his family in the front row, wearing his old ECW boots and donning Terry Funk-inspired gear. On the flip side, you had King was the perfect heel foil, goading Dreamer’s daughters and mocking the hometown hero.

There were a lot of very necessary bells and whistles here as Dreamer looked as bad physically as he ever has but it was ultimately a fun, feel-good moment and I enjoyed it. As long as Dreamer doesn’t have a long reign, you can’t really complain. ***

Jordynne Grace def. Deonna Purrazzo

I’ll always have a bit of a disconnect with Jordynne Grace as a wrestler (she’s got that Ethan Page ‘playing at being a wrestler’ thing going on), but her performance here and this match evidenced that Impact’s Knockouts roster is far healthier with her as an active part of it.

Much more moves-y than their previous meetings, this was a thoroughly entertaining 11 or so minutes that firmly re-established Grace and gave her a big win over the woman he’d always been her Kryptonite. The best spot saw Grace hit a Deadlift Superplex and immediately chain it into a Jackhammer for a nearfall.

Grace eventually won with a Grace Driver and seems poised to be back in the title mix sooner rather than later. As for Purrazzo, one wonders if she’ll be cycled down a bit now after losing three straight singles matches on Impact live shows. ***3/4

Anything Goes Match
PCO def. Bully Ray

Oh boy…

The story to get to this match was largely silly, with Bully Ray in a seemingly endless quest to kill off PCO and then being startled when the Canadian roared back to life. The play had a few more installments before we even got to the opening bell, with Ray ‘running over’ PCO on the pre-show and then trying to leave the building before the match started.

He didn’t leave, though, and the match we got involved tables, chairs, ladders, trash cans, cheese graters, and the same implements you’ve seen a thousand times before. Also, as you’d expect with Ray, management was involved in one of his matches for the fiftieth time as Santino Marella came out and hit him with The Cobra.

The finish was rough – they had to adapt on the fly (with Ray talking very loudly) after PCO’s Deanimator failed to break the table but bent one of the legs so they couldn’t go back to the spot.

I could moan a lot here, but I won’t. I’ll say that while I’ve seen both men do worse work this year, this still wasn’t any good. *1/2

Impact Wrestling World Tag Team Championship
The Rascalz (Trey Miguel & Zachary Wentz) (C) def. The Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin)

How do you like your stories, fellow kids?

There was the crux of a good match here, as you’d expect with these two teams and the fact Alex Shelley was involved with Miguel and Wentz’s training. I even think there was a good story with the Guns proving dominant and much smarter than the cocky, young upstarts opposite them.

I get too that they wanted to further establish the cheating gimmick of The Rascalz (was cheating in every match to the titles not enough?) and also protect Shelley and Sabin ahead of a big few months for them but a cleaner finish here would have been so much better.

Instead we got a bait and switch spot with the title belts, John Skyler yanking the referee out of the ring on a nearfall and then Wentz using the spray paint in the finish. All in all it was just too much for me, particularly when you had Tom Hannifan and Matthew Rehwoldt on commentary banging on about the fact the shenanigans were fine because the referee didn’t see them… ***

Impact Wrestling Knockouts World Championship
Trinity (C) def. Alisha Edwards (w/Eddie Edwards)

Given that Alisha Edwards has been treated as a bottom rung of the totem pole, jobber-adjacent act for her entire Impact run, it made all the sense in the world that this match was all bells and whistles.

It would have, for me at least, affected the suspension of disbelief if they’d just had her and Trinity wrestle a straight match, so I didn’t hate them doing a ref bump or getting Eddie Edwards, Frankie Kazarian and Traci Brooks involved.

Now, that’s not to say I enjoyed this much. It was fine but with so many other shenanigans-filled matches on the show, I was pretty glazed over for much of this. **

I do wonder though whether they’ll consider canning Trinity’s glowsticks after they all got thrown in the ring before the match started…

Josh Alexander def. Steve Maclin

It’s funny really that when you put two phenomenal wrestlers together and let them have a match that plays off a long-term story and evolves it with strikes, moves and in-ring psychology, it’s actually really good.

After what had been a pretty middling to poor show in my view up until the main event, this was a pallet cleanser and then some.

The story coming into this match was brilliant. Two former World Champions, both returning to singles competition after injury, for a first-time match that should have happened four-and-a-half months prior.

The match itself was then focused on those injuries, Maclin repeatedly targeting Alexander’s surgically-repaired left tricep and Alexander picking his moments to attack Maclin’s previously torn right groin.

Alexander sold brilliantly throughout, whether it was his arm giving out on an attempted float over in the corner or him instinctively using the left arm to block Maclin’s strikes in an exchange and then immediately regretting it as Maclin drilled him with a Brainbuster.

As for Maclin, he did what he always does – come forward, all in, 100% of the time. It made sense – he’d prepared, almost single-mindedly, to face Alexander for the past 16 months. He’d scouted his offence, he knew how to take it and have counters ready for it. It was no coincidence that he got out of every Ankle Lock attempt and even transitioned out of a German Suplex sequence into an armbar that targeted Alexander’s weakness.

Alexander had a few tricks of his own though, countering a Maclin dive into a belly-to-belly throw and giving just as good as he got as they beat the proverbial tar out of each other in some intense slap and chop exchanges.

In the end it was Maclin’s gung-ho attitude that cost him, as after he came up empty on a big splash, Alexander kicked out his injured groin and finally put him away with a C4 Spike.

These two probably have a better match in them, particularly with even more on the line, but this match cemented that these two are the standard bearers of the promotion and the two men who they should be building around.

I’m an avowed fan of both but I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that this was the best match in the promotion so far this year. ****3/4

Final Thoughts

Victory Road was a decidedly mixed offering from Impact Wrestling. It peaked very high with Alexander vs. Maclin and a quality bout between Grace and Purrazzo but it also had quite a few lows and a lot of shenanigans.

Go out of your way to see the main event but nothing else is must-watch. The build to Bound for Glory, which figures to be a big night, starts now.