Total Nonstop Action
Hard To Kill 2024
January 13, 2024
Palms Casino Resort
Las Vegas, Nevada
So, we finally made it. Hard to Kill 2024, the first show under the auspices of the freshly rebranded TNA Wrestling, takes place this coming Saturday (January 13) at the Palms Casino Resort.
The TNA rebrand was first announced at the end of the Bound for Glory PPV in October and it got the promotion firmly in the news cycle for about a week or so. Having taken a playful look at their past with Slammiversary 2022 and the Impact #1000 episodes last year, they’d managed to move the conversation sufficiently far away from the chortles and responses of ‘LOLTNA’ to draw a much more positive nostalgia pop when Scott D’Amore made his big announcement.
To capitalize on the rebrand and the potential intrigue, it might have generated at Hard to Kill, you would have thought that Messrs D’Amore and co would have tried to smash it out of the park in the final quarter of 2023 to ensure that this PPV was as stacked as possible and that they hit the ground running at full pelt when the first bell rang at the Palms.
To some extent, you could contend that they have tried. They’re running a much bigger venue than they normally do in Las Vegas and have done well in ticket sales. They’ve teased a big free agent signing, El Hijo del Vikingo, and Alexander Hammerstone are coming in for the PPV, and you’ve got Will Ospreay and Kazuchika Okada booked for the following day’s TV tapings.
Yet, there have only been two/three weeks of proper TV product since Bound for Glory. Granted that October-December is usually their weakest quarter with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year, but 2023 closed with an absolute whimper as they ran clip shows focusing on TNA nostalgia and recapping 2023, as well as a couple of welcome but largely non-canon trips to England and Mexico.
It would be remiss not to acknowledge their supposed broadcast retooling in this period, which should lead to higher production in 2024. That’s largely moot, though, considering that the time spent making those changes has led to more staccato programming output and only three matches on this card with a semblance of a build to them.
The World Title main event feels as cold as ice. Moose has been downcycled from the main event scene for a while, and he’s been booked like a midcard cartoon heel for most of 2023. Here, he’s cashing in the shot he won at Feast or Fired, and on the way, he’s really demonstrated his credentials with a shenanigans and ref bump-assisted victory over Rhino.
The second most significant match, Trinity against Jordynne Grace, feels important in that it’s the biggest bout they can book for the women’s title, but the rumors swirling of Trinity’s departure mean that one’s interest was nipped in the bud before it even had the remotest chance of being piqued.
In order to drive people to the promotion’s rebooted streaming platform, TNA+, the pre-show has been made exclusive to there and is booked stronger and longer than normal.
Ultimately, Hard to Kill is a grab bag show. There’s some good, some odd and despite the change of logo, name and branding, the same frustrating number of multi-person matches. It’ll likely be good when it happens but you can’t but feel that the promotion haven’t grasped the nettle in the way they could or should have done.
Countdown to Hard to Kill
Rich Swann vs. Steve Maclin
There was an element of me that was going to make a big song and dance questioning why these two were fighting again but that ran contrary to my smirking delight that they were booking a fun singles match just for the sake of it.
These two are both former Impact World Champions and they had a decent little feud towards the end of 2022 that actually culminated at this show last year, with Steve Maclin going over in a Falls Count Anywhere/Street Fight gimmick.
Both men can be counted on to deliver a strong performance but sadly there is the chance of the match being sullied by the looming spectre of Bully Ray. Ray and Maclin were feuding when we went on the current break, so I suspect that there’s some continuation of that either in the finish to this or in the post-match.
Personally, I’d rather Maclin won here and they did the Ray angle afterwards but I can definitely see Ray costing him to give Rich Swann his win back and ‘add more heat’ to the inevitable Maclin/Ray blow-off match. Prediction: Rich Swann
Countdown to Hard to Kill
Eddie Edwards and Brian Myers (w/Alisha Edwards) vs. Eric Young and Frankie Kazarian
Brian Myers appears to have found a new midcard heel tag team partner in Eddie Edwards after seemingly breaking up his tandem with Moose after Bound for Glory last year.
The pair had their first outing together at Final Resolution in December and I thought they worked really well together. There was nothing flashy to them but they were a functional, effective heel pairing and I think it’s probably the best use for both guys at this stage.
Facing them are the TNA Originals and former TNA Tag Team Champions Eric Young and Frankie Kazarian. Young had been teaming with Josh Alexander towards the back end of 2023 and I thought those two might be going for the tag titles but that’s on ice for now with Young in tag action here and Alexander facing Alexander Hammerstone on the PPV.
Kazarian is a perplexing one as he came over to Impact to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond but also felt like he was spinning his wheels for much of 2024 outside of his feud with Edwards. I think that changes in 2024, with those two reigniting their issues as the babyface duo pick up a big win. Prediction: Young and Kazarian
Countdown to Hard to Kill
No Disqualification Match for the TNA Digital Media Championship
Tommy Dreamer (C) vs. Crazzy Steve
Tommy Dreamer’s run with the Digital Media Championship is on pace to be the second longest in company history. While this title is ultimately fairly meaningless in the grand scheme of things, his run betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what his story should be.
As has always been the case, Dreamer’s value, like that of any tortured babyface, was and is in the chase. If he ever does reach the mountaintop, it should be short-lived. He’s not the top man, that’s not his gimmick, he’s the everyman, the one who could, on one night, catch lightning in a bottle and make his dreams comes true. It’s not hard, that’s basic wrestling characterisation and booking.
Instead, we’ve got Dreamer getting the enjoyable victory over Kenny King and now holding the title for four months. Indeed, he’s faced Crazzy Steve for the belt already and instead of dropping it then, Dreamer got himself disqualified.
I had thought that this new Steve gimmick, after his promos where he spoke about suicide, would be something different and interesting. However, he’s transpired to be this Jimmy Jacobs-esque creation, a demented maniac who, much like Christopher Walken, must have a weapon of choice.
It’s not for me and I’m not sure Steve can do anything special with the belt but the most important thing here is Dreamer losing. That’s the play, don’t mess it up. And don’t belt up Flop Dolla either. Prediction: Crazzy Steve
Dirty Dango (w/Alpha Bravo & Oleg Prudius) vs. PCO
Ostensibly, this is on the main show because the matches they’ve booked for the pre-show have far more potential to drive subscriptions for TNA+ than this does.
Yet, I can’t help but ruminate on why it’s happening at all. We’ve got a few singles matches that are booked for the sake of it but this, unlike the others, won’t be any good and I don’t think it’s supposed to be.
I know this isn’t for me. Dirty Dango’s current gimmick of an uninterested, smarmy cheating heel hasn’t clicked for me at all but I know some have enjoyed it in a bijou, meta kind of way. As for PCO, I wouldn’t have re-signed him – how many big bumps is he actually worth – but we’re stuck with him.
On the surface, what this should be is a simple win for PCO to put him over, potentially with the sprinkling in of a post-match angle. What I suspect this is though, is a dirty ruse to set up a clash of the big men between PCO and Oleg Prudius.
As much as I quite enjoyed Vladimir Kozlov back in the day, Prudius is shot to pieces now and a match between him and PCO has got disaster written all over it.
I don’t want it but I can’t unsee it now. Prediction: Dirty Dango via DQ
Josh Alexander vs. Alexander Hammerstone
I love this so much.
Josh Alexander is my favourite wrestler in the world, I’m unabashed in saying so, and here he goes up against someone I’ve got a lot of time for in Alexander Hammerstone.
Hammerstone’s output levels can fluctuate quite significantly but when he was good in MLW, he was really good. The three Jacob Fatu matches come to mind, as does the bout with Alex Kane where he got turned by the crowd and dropped the title.
I’d like Impact to bring Hammerstone in permanently but I doubt they will. It feels too obvious that AEW will come calling for him and Richard Holliday to work with MJF at some point, although with the latter’s injuries it’s hard to say.
Likewise, you affix your eyes in a Stanford direction and you can’t help but think that they’d take one look at Hammerstone and snap him up, particularly with the shape that Messrs Orton and Styles have got themselves in.
With that in mind, and a Limitless booking clashing with the next Impact tapings, it looks like this will be one and done for the former MLW man and that’s fine. Hammerstone will be motivated and he’ll have a more than willing dance partner in Alexander. The two men’s styles will clash marvellously and I’ll have a great time, with Alexander going over ahead of his rematch with Will Ospreay. Prediction: Josh Alexander
Knockouts Ultimate X to determine the No. 1 Contender for the TNA Knockouts World Championship
Gisele Shaw vs. Xia Brookside vs. Jody Threat vs. Tasha Steelz vs. Alisha Edwards vs. Dani Luna
I don’t want to be that person but this match has got disaster written all over it.
As stipulations go, Ultimate X is a lot better than your run of the middle ladder match, not least because it requires the matches using it to have so much less dead time while things are being set up. However, it is a lot riskier and requires you to have a couple of good bases in the match for it to work properly.
I get that they want to get a classic TNA gimmick on the show but who are the experienced heads who’ll keep this match together?
Tasha Steelz and Alisha Edwards were involved in the first women’s Ultimate X, which is something to bear in mind but the other four are new to it and likely to climbing-based matches in general.
If they keep this tight and a shade under 10 minutes, I think it has a chance to be okay. To my mind, the best booking option here is Dani Luna – she’s a newly-signed talent and I think she’d match up well stylistically with the inevitably new champion Jordynne Grace. However, I suspect they go with a heel winner here and that means it’s a choice between Gisele Shaw and Steelz. Prediction: Gisele Shaw
Three-way dance for the TNA X-Division Championship
Chris Sabin (C) vs. Kushida vs. El Hijo del Vikingo
I did at first wonder, a little sardonically, whether this was a rib and callback to the three-way only era of the TNA X-Division.
Ultimately though, it’s a way to get El Hijo del Vikingo on the show without him having to do a job, isn’t it?
2023 was a big year for Vikingo. He finally got his AEW TV break and that brought with it both good and bad. It was good because his incredible talent and mesmerizing moves got showcased to a much wider audience, but it also exposed more of his limitations in telling a story throughout a match with proper connective tissue.
Those limitations will be less relevant here as the expectation from everyone watching is for him, Kushida and Chris Sabin to just do cool stuff.
As much as I love Chris Sabin, this title feels primed for a reset and if they’re going to pull the trigger on him facing Alex Shelley for the World title, he doesn’t need the X-Division title for that.
Kushida is now officially with Impact full-time, so this seems a good way for him to go over and kick off his tenure with a title reign. Prediction: Kushida
Four-way tag team match for the TNA World Tag Team Championships
ABC (Ace Austin & Chris Bey) (C) vs. The Rascalz (Zachary Wentz & Trey Miguel) vs. Speedball Mountain (Mike Bailey & Trent Seven) vs. Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake)
Another multi-person match, oh joy. I do, however, take solace in the fact that I at least expected them to do a multi-team title match after the events of Final Resolution in December.
There, the debuting Trent Seven picked up a win alongside Mike Bailey against the Rascalz duo as a result of ABC coming out during their match. The champions only came out, meanwhile, because Miguel and Wentz had jumped them earlier in the night and demanded that most dreaded of things, the contractually obligated rematch.
With Speedball Mountain having a win over the No #1 Contenders and Seven signing, it seemed obvious that they’d go for a three-way. Well, that was at least until they announced that Grizzled Young Veterans would be debuting at this show and were being put in this match.
I have no doubt that this will be very good but the booking frustrates me because they’re speedrunning through a bunch of stories and I think there are better ways to use Gibson and Drake. Perhaps I should be grateful though, as at least it means that Mike Bailey is on the show while Jake Something, Joe Hendry and Jonathan Gresham aren’t.
Although the last time they did something like this it was with Subculture and they won the tag titles, I think Impact pivot back to The Rascalz in this one. Prediction: The Rascalz
TNA Knockouts World Championship
Trinity (C) vs. Jordynne Grace
A few weeks ago, the story here was simple enough. Jordynne Grace, having returned to the promotion in September and won the Call Your Shot trophy at Bound for Glory, was coming for Trinity and chasing a third Knockouts title reign. Trinity, meanwhile, was riding the crest of an eight-month unbeaten run to start her tenure in Impact and looking to keep her run going with a win over another credentialed contender.
Then, however, the news started doing the rounds that Trinity was imminently finishing up with TNA and likely heading back to WWE.
With that in mind, this becomes much simpler. Trinity does the job here, dropping the title in the process, and likely does another one in a rematch at the promotion’s tapings the following weekend in Florida.
It’ll bring an end to a decent little run that gave the promotion a shot in the arm, popped a few ratings, and definitely bolstered Trinity’s confidence. It does though, particularly with Deonna Purrazzo having gone as well, leave a rather large vacuum of star power in the women’s division. Grace as a three-time champion is fine but there’s not much else there beyond the Knockouts tag champions Killer Kelly and Masha Slamovich who frustratingly aren’t booked on this show. Personally, I’d chuck all the money in the world at Kamille because there’s not a ton else out there but we’ll have to wait and see. Prediction: Jordynne Grace
TNA World Championship
Alex Shelley (C) vs. Moose
Alex Shelley has been Impact/TNA World Champion for a little over six months and he’s been a superb champion. His work has matched his story, oozing confidence and cockiness, and he’s had notebook defences against Steve Maclin, Josh Alexander and Jonathan Gresham. It’s fitting too that he is going to be the one kicking off this new era on top.
In many ways, Moose is a fitting opponent here given the time he spent running around with the TNA World Heavyweight title during the pandemic times.
The issue though is that I’m pretty much completely out on Moose at this point and it’s because of how he’s been booked. He was a midcarder for all of 2023 and his push since winning Feast or Fired has been rubbish because he’s been cheating to beat Rhino of all people. They went down the psychological route when he feuded with Josh Alexander for the title and that wouldn’t have worked here but why couldn’t they have presented Moose as just this big, dominating monster that could overpower the champion. Instead, he’s been this cartoonish heel that feels minor league compared to the confidence exuded by Shelley.
Bell-to-bell, I have no doubt that this match will be very good. Moose can deliver in big spots and Shelley is one of the very best in the world. It will struggle to compel because the build was flat and the outcome doesn’t feel in doubt but you live and learn. Prediction: Alex Shelley
All that remains to be seen is whether their big mystery person appears after this match to challenge Shelley or whether they emerge at some other point.