Ahead of the first show back under the TNA banner, I wanted to start distilling my thoughts about the best of Impact Wrestling in 2023.

It’s a tough year to sum up for the promotion, a veritable mixed bag if you will. The booking in the first quarter of the year wasn’t particularly good, but it shockingly improved once a certain Mr Jacobs trundled his way through the Undead Realm and went off to Jacksonville.

In April, the promotion was faced with the unusual scenario of having to vacate both World Championships as a result of injuries to their top two champions, Josh Alexander and Mickie James.

Alex Shelley finally won the World Championship in the subsequent stramash and led from the front for the second half of the year, a time when Trinity came in and helped to drive some business.

Will Ospreay made a much-appreciated cameo in October and November, but one of his best matches, against Mike Bailey, illustrated something frustrating at the heart of Impact’s year.

Bailey, who enjoyed a real breakthrough in New Japan’s Best of the Super Juniors, spent the entire year spinning his wheels, while new signings Jonathan Gresham and Frankie Kazarian struggled to make a continuous and concerted impact.

The announcement of the TNA rebrand stoked the final quarter of the year, but it’s also felt like a complete wet blanket, with no proper TV product since mid-November. That means that the Hard to Kill PPV feels flat, uninspired and isn’t exactly tickling any pickles right now.

To center back to my original point, 2023 was an up-and-down year for the promotion. At times, the in-ring work in Impact peaked very high with some world-class matches but there were a few duds too.

I had a slew of notebook matches from the promotion, in excess of 30, and after some considerable consideration, here is my Top 10 Impact Wrestling matches from 2023.

Steve Maclin vs. PCO
No Disqualification Match for the Impact Wrestling World Championship
Under Siege, May 26, 2023

When I pulled together my review of Under Siege back in May, I found putting a rating on this match particularly challenging. It didn’t tick the box of a conventionally great match, but it was so visceral and memorable that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. For that reason alone, I just had to include it here.

Maclin got busted open hardway early on, and I mean properly busted open. He bled buckets in this match, and at points, I wondered whether I was more invested in the match’s outcome or to see how much plasma a man could lose and keep going.

Maclin stapling PCO’s mouth shut was one of the most wince-inducing spots I’ve seen all year, perhaps only topped by a bloody PCO then staggering around ringside trying to pull them out with a set of pliers.

Even now, I struggle to distill my thoughts about this match into a concise form, but honestly, this hit me in a way few other matches did during the year, and the image of Maclin, caked in his own blood, being belted up made him feel like a STAR in the biggest way.

Steve Maclin vs. KUSHIDA
Singles match for the Vacant Impact Wrestling World Championship
Rebellion, April 16, 2023

The Rebellion main event always should have been Steve Maclin finally challenging Josh Alexander, but the Canadian’s tricep injury meant that Impact had to adjust and drop Kushida into the main event spot.

Steve Maclin had impressed me enormously in his Impact run prior to this show but it was in this match that he proved that he was a top-level talent to me and a number of others.

Kushida was the glue in this match, managing a structure that built on the story coming in and managed to accentuate the strengths of both men. You had grappling, power moves, strikes and a compelling closing stretch that built around the Hoverboard Lock.

Three times, Maclin powered out of it, and it was the third time that proved crucial as he put him away with the KIA DDT. ****1/4

Frankie Kazarian vs. Eddie Edwards
Killer Impact Match
Impact Wrestling #1003, October 12, 2023

Although it felt a bit long in the tooth at times, the feud between Frankie Kazarian and Eddie Edwards was the best and most focused thing either guy did all year.

One of the occasions where Impact specifically built to a big match on TV, this Killer Impact match was something different for the promotion, a variation on the two-out-of-three falls format with the first fall being by pinfall, the second by submission and the third by Last Man Standing.

Put simply, these two beat the crap out of each other for half an hour. Kazarian’s chest was ripped open with Edwards’ chops and while there were some spots with Alisha Edwards on the outside, this was very entertaining and the best performance produced by either man during the year. ****1/4

Steve Maclin vs. Alex Shelley
Singles match for the Impact Wrestling World Championship
Against All Odds, June 9, 2023

The slightly trite combat sports expression that ‘styles make fights’ was prevalent here in a stellar match between two very different wrestlers.

You had Alex Shelley, the thinking man’s wrestler, a trainer and methodical technician, and then Steve Maclin, a veritable wrecking ball in human form.

It was precision against power, technique against force, veteran contender against a champion in the embryonic stages of their first reign.

Given the story and the way these two meshed together, I’m pretty sure this was the best possible match they could have had and it delivered a superb finish with Shelley winning the title and starting a reign that would define the second half of Impact’s year. ****1/2

Alex Shelley vs. Josh Alexander
Singles match for the Impact Wrestling World Championship
Bound for Glory, October 21, 2023

The first meeting between these two at Emergence 2022 was my Impact Match of the Year for 2022.

Their second meeting wasn’t to the same level but it wasn’t the same kind of match.

When they first locked horns, it was the story of a veteran wrestler getting his first shot at a World title and eventually being outthought and outfought by a champion at the peak of their powers.

The challenger had become the champion the second time around, and the once-dominant champion was still trying to find his feet following a disruptive injury.

Shelley was the matador here, wrestling the match to his pace at all times. The only emotion he seemed to display was spite, laying into Alexander’s surgically repaired arm and jumping on him when he knocked his head guard and mouthguard out.

The story told was that on this night, in sharp contrast to 14 months prior, Shelley was the better man. And it wasn’t a fluke either, with Shelley’s pin after a spike Shellshock symbolic of a forceful ripping of the torch.

Motor City Machine Guns vs. ABC
Tag match for the Impact Wrestling World Tag Team Championships
Impact Wrestling #972, March 2, 2023

The only tag team match on this list, this TV match from March marked the culmination of one of Impact’s best bits of booking of the entire year.

I won’t relitigate the whole story here, I already did that when I wrote an entire column about this match last year, but it was fundamentally a simple one – the ABC were the young upstarts that wanted to take over the tag team division from a legendary team that they’d aped but had yet to beat in two prior meetings.

With ABC getting rare promo time before the match, Impact did a great job of making this feel special. The location, meanwhile, in Chris Bey’s backyard so to speak, meant that the dynamic of the crowd for this match changed and made it all the more compelling.

As the best feud-enders should, this match had callbacks aplenty to their previous encounters, with ABC using a bunch of the Guns signature offence before eventually winning it with the tag team finisher that they’d not managed to hit before.

The booking of the tag titles after this match was still a bit hot potato-y but this match was brilliant and the sort of long-term arc you were rewarded for investing time in following. ****1/2

Jordynne Grace vs. Mickie James
Title versus Career match for the Impact Wrestling Knockouts World Championship
Hard to Kill, January 13, 2023

Talking of compelling stories, the work these two women did to make Mickie James’ retirement feel legitimately in play had me hooked in the build and for every second of the match.

Mickie James’ entrance paid tribute to her Native American roots and her pre-match tears, rather than being some Stanford-pilled melodrama, compelled me as a viewer and made me appreciate the significance of this match and this moment to her.

Every big nearfall in this match had me hooked and while she isn’t normally my favourite worker, Jordynne Grace delivered the best performance of her Impact career as the defacto villain.

There was no turn in the finish as I’d suspected but the finish was controversial, laying the foundations for what could have been another PPV cycle work of good stories. Sadly those never came to pass with James getting sucked into the Bully Ray-verse and then getting injured, but that shouldn’t take away from this match.

As I said in my review at the time, this was a home run that paid off a brilliant story. I’d wager that there weren’t many better women’s matches in North America throughout last year.  ****1/2

Will Ospreay vs. Josh Alexander
Singles Match
Impact Wrestling #1008, November 16, 2023

It doesn’t take a genius to tell you that putting the best wrestler in the world up against one of the chasing pack for that crown was going to produce an excellent match.

A treat on Impact TV after Bound for Glory, this was just sensational from start to finish.

Although similar in stature, these two meshed well stylistically with Josh Alexander proving the technical wizard up against the dynamic, more physical Will Ospreay.

There were callbacks to the TNA icons that Ospreay had been inspired by, and there were the sort of dynamic, intricate exchanges and counter sequences that make you realise just how good the very best at this are.

Hampering this slightly was the fact that you knew Ospreay was going over but the fact he had to empty the entire tank to it, including adding in a headbutt sequence, put this to an elite level. ****1/2

Will Ospreay vs. Mike Bailey
Singles Match
Bound for Glory, October 21, 2023

Mike Bailey had a very odd year in Impact, lacking direction for most of it, but on this night in October he showed just how damn good he is when given the chance to shine against the sport’s best.

I was astounded at the final bell that this had gone less than 20 minutes because these two packed in a ton of action, including a phenomenal kick sequence, Ospreay doing his TNA tribute spots and Mike Bailey hitting an Avalanche Fisherman’s Buster.

What puts this match second, ironically enough, is probably my favourite spot of the entire year – Ospreay nailing Bailey with the Hidden Blade as Bailey looked to wind up for the Tornado Kick. The fact that spot wasn’t the finish annoyed me, it was that good.

That aside, this is worth 18 minutes of anyone’s time and it’s no surprise that so many people went five stars on it. Perfection’s not achievable but these two got mighty, mighty close. ****3/4

Josh Alexander vs. Steve Maclin
Singles Match
Victory Road, September 8, 2023

Five months later than originally planned, this was the match I looked forward to most anywhere in the world in 2023, and it delivered in absolute spades.

In many ways, the initial cancellation of this match from Rebellion in April actually evolved the story. No longer was it simply about Maclin chasing Alexander as champion, but now it was about Maclin feeling like his moment had been stolen and both men trying to prove they should be next in line for the belt after spending time on the shelf in the middle part of the year.

The injuries both men had suffered, Alexander to his tricep and Maclin to his groin, provided the foundations for most of the work in this one as both men tried to capitalize on the other man’s weaknesses.

These two matched each other step for step and strike for strike but in the end, for all of Maclin’s preparation and scouting of Alexander’s offence, it was Alexander’s more cerebral style that triumphed over Maclin’s gung-ho brawling energy.

The standard bearers of the promotion and the two men that I’d be building around, the long overdue meeting between these two was, without doubt, the best match in the promotion last year. ****3/4

Agree with this top 10? Feel there was anything I missed? Let me know on Twitter @AMSinclair97 or via the TNA-Wrestling channel on the VOW Discord.