Bound For Glory 2023
October 21, 2023
Impact Wrestling returned to pay-per-view this past Saturday (October 21st) for Bound for Glory, typically their biggest show of the year. Headlining what was a momentous night at the sold-out Cicero Stadium in Illinois was Alex Shelley defending the Impact Wrestling World Championship against Josh Alexander.
On the Countdown to Bound for Glory, Traci Brooks, Mike Tenay and the late Don West were all inducted to the Impact Hall of Fame. Tenay’s speech in particular was great and got me quite choked up thinking about all of those iconic Tenay and West calls from the promotion’s early years.
Impact Wrestling X-Division Championship
Chris Sabin (C) def. KENTA
Aside from triggering my age-old frustration with champions making their entrance first, I thought this was a good, fun opening match with great energy.
The terrifically ageless Sabin brought the intensity early on but KENTA quite clearly had his working boots for this on. He laid it in with the openhand chops, his Go To Sleep tease and subsequent flicking off of the crowd was great and the referee involvement was pretty minimal by 2023 KENTA standards.
The shenanigans being toned down added to the drama for me and I loved the decisive finish, with Sabin following up the Clothesline from Hell, Michigan, with a Cradle Shock for his second defense in this 10th title reign. ***1/2
PCO def. Moose, Rhino & Steve Maclin
The Scottish half of me was a big fan of Moose rocking the tartan pajama trousers for this one – if you’ve been locked up in a room for 24 hours, wouldn’t you want to wear something comfortable?
The Steve Maclin/Bully Ray feud panned out here as expected, with Bully Ray getting involved and costing Maclin the win to presumably set up something between those two for later in the year.
Otherwise, if you’ve seen even just one plunder match this year, there won’t have been much novelty in this contest. The finish was a real surprise though, as PCO, who was seemingly on his way out of the promotion, pinned Moose. Given that Moose has a World title shot in his back pocket, will that be a fresh feud for the next couple of months? ***
Impact Wrestling World Tag Team Championships
ABC (Ace Austin & Chris Bey) def. The Rascalz (Trey Miguel & Zachary Wentz) ©
Through this match and the two before it, I was struck by how much the branded canvas and big crowd made Impact feel like a bigger time promotion than they’ve felt in a while.
As you would expect with four young, frenetic guys like these four, the match was great. The tag team exchanges were particularly entertaining, although if I’m being a proper nitpicking grouch there was one that felt a bit too over-rehearsed for my liking.
A particular highlight was that the result and finish paid off the story here simply, rather than being a tool to lazily extend the program for another couple of months. Instead of The Rascalz cheating their way to victory again, Wentz shot the spray paint into Miguel’s eyes and in the ensuing confusion got hit with the 1, 2, Sweet for a very popular title change.
It felt like they left a lot of meat on the bone here and that these two have a better match in them but it was still a ton of fun. ***1/2
Will Ospreay def. Mike Bailey
Sir Bobby Charlton, one of England’s greatest ever football players, passed away on the day of Bound for Glory and I was reminded of a quote of his when this match was all said and done.
“I found football was easy. I could never understand it when people couldn’t play this game.”
Will Ospreay makes it look like he finds this wrestling thing easy. And when wrestling is presented like these two did here for 18 minutes, it makes you wonder why some people make it so hard.
I’ve never been a fan of the move-by-move wrestling match reviews and I’m grateful in a way because trying to do that here would be nigh on impossible. The exchanges in the closing stretch were outstanding, just a breathtaking sequence of cool moves, innovative counters and relentless energy from two naturals at this wrestling lark.
Their kick exchange was vicious and had a great intensity to it, while Ospreay’s use of the Styles Clash was a lovely homage to his fandom of the promotion without being corny. Even though I knew he had no hope of winning, Mike Bailey connecting with Meteor Rain, an Avalanche Fisherman’s Buster, popped me out of my seat for a great nearfall.
Although I think this was easily the best match these two have had and on a par with Josh Alexander’s bout with Steve Maclin for the promotion’s best this year, I can’t hit the full five. Sadly, my longstanding frustration of the cool Hidden Blade spots – and they don’t get much better than Ospreay wiping out Bailey as he fired up the Tornado Kick revolutions – not being the finish but only being a setup for the Stormbreaker irritated me a bit too much.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the match and I’m still at ****¾.
Undoubtedly, this is a match you need to go out of your way to see.
20-person Call Your Shot Gauntlet
Jordynne Grace won by last eliminating Bully Ray
These Battle Royals (they’re not Gauntlets, thank you Captain Kraetsch for validating this perspective) have a decided ceiling to them. While this one was fun, it wasn’t anything to write home about.
Juventud Guerrera, Sonny Kiss and the returning Matt Cardona were your main surprise entrants, alongside the returning hero Johnny Swinger. Bully Ray and Sonny Kiss having a dance-off was unexpected but entertaining, as was Dirty Dango coming in at #20 and getting eliminated in record time by Jake Something. I was, however, much less of a fan of a clearly shot Oleg Prudius clearing house in the slowest, most cumbersome way possible.
The final two were Jordynne Grace and Bully Ray, which was pretty good heat as it got everyone behind Grace and allowed her to show off her power in the finish. Her moving into the Knockouts title picture was expected and she was a sensible winner, so I’ve no complaints. **
Impact Wrestling Knockouts World Championship
Trinity (C) def. Mickie James
I was about halfway through watching this match the first time when I was alerted to the fact that my refrigerator had given up the ghost.
My initial notes on it weren’t overly positive, and sadly, when I came back to it a few hours and substantial quantities of freezer emptying and floor mopping later, it still wasn’t any good.
James was visibly frustrated at the beginning of the match after David Penzer had got her ring intro wrong and that was likely a factor in the pretty rough early exchanges.
As it progressed, you could see the crux of a good match was there in terms of the layout they’d gone for and the story they were trying to tell. It was all about two friends trying to one-up each other. The issue was, however, there wasn’t really any chemistry there, and that meant that a lot of the exchanges were clumsy and awkward, while some were mistimed entirely. Although you can normally look past the odd thing, this just didn’t work for me at all. *1/2
Impact Wrestling World Championship
Alex Shelley (C) def. Josh Alexander
When these two first squared off for the Impact World title at Emergence 2022, Alex Shelley was the plucky challenger to Josh Alexander’s measured champion. Roll time forward 14 months and the roles were reversed and, boy, did that mean a different flavor of match.
Here, instead of being a man unsure of himself in the key moments, Shelley was the matador. He led the dance from the opening bell and worked the match like a champion dripping in that most ultimate of confidences – the belief that you belong at the top of the mountain.
Whether it was the breaks on the outside, working over Alexander’s surgically-repaired arm or being opportunistically vicious with a Shellshock on the guardrail, Shelley controlled the pace throughout the contest.
Alexander battled back in trademark fashion with crisp counters, limb work of his own, hard strikes and big suplexes. But he always felt like a challenger and one whose challenge Shelley was more than ready to meet.
The finish marked Shelley’s full-circle evolution from first title challenge last August to a champion entering his fifth month with the belt. Here, there was no frustration or shows of emotion that cost him in the key moments. This time he was decisive in the moments that mattered most.
Shelley knocked off Alexander’s headguard in a strike exchange and kept attacking him on the ground. In a strike exchange, he smashed his Canadian opponent’s mouthguard out of his mouth and out of the ring.
In the sort of exchange where last time Alexander was one step ahead, here Shelley had the sharper reflexes. One snap Shellshock put Alexander on the back foot and this time there was no thinking from Shelley, no thousand-yard stare about what to do next.
Another Shellshock, a spiked one at that, had Alexander bang to right. Shelley’s pin, with his hands pressing Alexander’s downwhile the champion had his fallen challenger mounted, was symbolic. It said that this wasn’t just a win, this wasn’t just Shelley proving himself. This was a forceful ripping of the torch – this is Shelley’s mountaintop now. ****1/4
Although it didn’t peak as high as the Emergence match, the story narrative of this one was just as compelling and interesting. Shelley feels like a made man as champion and, for now, he’s completed his story. New challenges against Moose and probably Frankie Kazarian await. As for Alexander, you’ve got to think he’s got an arc to undergo now to get himself back on top.
Alexander put over Shelley in the post-match and you’d normally think that was the end of the show. But no, as they played a video package that announced that from January, the promotion would be going back to its old TNA name.
As a long-time fan of the promotion, I understand the skepticism about going back to a name that carries, for some people, such negative baggage. Yet, I also think the worm has turned on that in recent years, and I think have effectively tapped into the positive TNA nostalgia in the best way with Slammiversary 2022 and their 1000th episode celebrations. I also think that Scott D’Amore and co have got the promotion on an even keel and moving forward, so why not go for a rebrand of sorts as they try to sustain that into 2024?
Bound for Glory was a really good show from Impact Wrestling, highlighted by Will Ospreay v Mike Bailey, a stellar main event and a big announcement about the company’s future. With a UK tour coming up and a few big matches already set, the promotion feels in a good place as we approach 2023’s end.