Hello, and welcome to weekly Impact Wrestling coverage on With Spandex. And also welcome to me, LaToya Ferguson, your stressed out recapper and friend.
Now for some good housekeeping: You can follow me on Twitter here, With Spandex here, and Uproxx here. And don’t forget to watch Impact Wrestling on Pop at 8 pm on Thursdays so you can read these pieces and share them with the online world. This recap should be posting right before the latest episode of Impact Wrestling, so it’ll all work out, won’t it?
Previously: “And it feels like / I’m at an all-time low”
Before we start: If you take away one thing from these recaps, I hope it’s that when it comes to Impact Wrestling, I really am trying. It would be so easy to write this entire promotion off, especially after Bound For Glory and even the shows leading up to that. But as I’ve written before, I want Impact Wrestling to succeed. I want it to be something other than the butt of all the jokes. So even though we’re currently in its 241st reinvention period, I’ll give said reinvention period a chance. As I’ve also written, a lot of Impact Wrestling circa Global Force Wrestling is something the audience didn’t sign up for. We also didn’t sign up for a Canadian wrestling promotion. But that’s currently what we’ve got, so now it’s time to criticize it appropriately.
ACE: Welcome To Impact Wrestling (Take 241)
This week’s episode of Impact Wrestling opens with Jeremy Borash and Josh Mathews’ introducing the show from the center of the ring, signalling the beginning of a new era, yadda yadda. It’s a different choice for the show, and later in the episode, they also give a rundown of what to expect next week.
Hopefully this isn’t a one-time thing, because it’s a quicker and easier way to create hype for the rest of the two hours of the show. It also sets the tone in the form of there actually being a planned, scheduled show, which considering how scattered Impact Wrestling can be, is not easy. Based on literally everything since Slammiversary XV, we know that these months of tapings have a lot of “card subject to change” aspects to them, but imagine if at least one thing could remain consistent here. This could be that thing.
Also, Josh Mathews really needs to stop busting out his genuine smile. Unless he’s decided to just lean into looking like a kid on the middle school morning news team.
EH: What’s Its Mission?
I brought up Josh Mathews’ school picture day smile, but I really need to address his current role in terms of heel/babyface alignment. Because right now, he’s not so much heel as he is Annoying Guy Who Always Asks You & Your Friends What You’re Up To This Weekend, Then Tries To Play It Off When You Don’t Acknowledge Him At All. He’s of course obsessed with Colby Covington and American Top Team, which doesn’t so much make him heel as it makes him a proxy for Anthem Sports. But at the same time, he still can’t help but bust out the misogyny when it comes to Allie, even after he’s just complimented her.
This is an early statement from Josh that simply makes no sense:
“Yeah, Eli Drake should be sharing his Bound For Glory check with Alberto El Patron.”
A big part of this is that Impact Wrestling still hasn’t quite decided if Eli Drake is actually a dangerous man or if he’s all talk, but the other part of that is, even though Alberto El Patron came back heel, they still want us to know they 100 percent support him. That means things like him cutting a meandering promo about how Impact Wrestling screwed him and making sure the audience will cheer with his talking points. (Because, come on, even when it comes to the staunchest Impact Wrestling supporters these days, no one actually likes Anthem Sports.)
And I’ve written about it before, but despite his supposed heel designation, Josh Mathews really likes to undercut Eli Drake whenever he gets the chance. There’s this here, which is just like the ‘I totally don’t think he’s boring, but I should make sure everyone knows Eli Drake being boring is a talking point’. It’s one thing when he says Eli Drake has gone too far on certain things — like when he Gravy Train’d Johnny Impact onto the wood of the deconstructed wrestling ring — but when he intentionally points out that Eli Drake is a scrub, there’s no explanation.
ACE: Say “YEAH”
“Still the face of Impact Wrestling.” “YEAH.”
“Still the one man revolution.” “YEAH.”
“Still Canada’s favorite wrestler.” “YEAH.”
“Still the Defiant One.” “YEAH.”
This would almost even count for a full ACE for Chris Adonis, but then he says, “And with absolutely no help from every— anybody.” Maybe next time, buddy. (He also gets an EH for his amazingly awkward failed attack on Petey Williams.)
I don’t know much, but I know these 100% have to be paid actors:
EH: Oh No Baby! What Is You Doin’???
You know how I always call out the Impact Wrestling camera people for not knowing how to zoom out when they’re trying to do surprise backstage folks? Well apparently they just love to zoom in on things unnecessarily — not just “surprises” — as that’s the direction they decide to take during Eli Drake’s promo. Like, it’s clearly not an accident. Despite the obvious cover-up job on the front of the title, someone thought it would be a good idea to zoom in and focus on the GFW (aka the thing this company definitely is not) sideplate that should probably also be covered up in the first place.
I often worry if Impact Wrestling is opening itself to a lawsuit of some sort every time they have JB and Josh hit the “global” buzzword button, but zooming in on the GFW plates is definitely a better case for that. If the people who work at this company don’t even know what it’s called — see Gail Kim at Bound For Glory, as she kept saying “TNA” — maybe that should be one of the first things that’s addressed during a reinvention.
EH*: Oh, Canada?
* This EH is the Canadian phrase, not the ACES AND EHS pejorative.
This week’s Impact Wrestling introduces to a strange wrestling phenomenon: There is absolute no main event level talent on the Impact roster who hails from Canada. That sounds strange, considering this is a professional wrestling company — and now it’s a professional wrestling company based out of Canada — but while Petey Williams is understandably over in Canada and makes sense to challenge Eli Drake (it’s not about weight limits, it’s about no limits, etc. so of course an X-Division guy should be able to easily step out of that division), it’s weird to realize that he’s also the only viable Canada guy in the company to make the challenge.
Who else could possibly do it? Braxton Sutter? (Spoiler alert for the rest of the episode: No, not Braxton Sutter.) The role of main event Canadian talent on the Impact roster was once played by Bobby Roode and Eric Young, but they’re not here anymore. I’m not saying any of this to insult Petey “The Man, The Move, The Muscle” Williams’ ability or even his connection with the crowd — I’ll even give his challenge to Eli Drake an ACE, and I’m excited for the clash of styles in their title match — but it’s pretty amazing when you really think about it.
Anyway, when exactly did Petey Williams physically transform into a Canadian Jon Glaser —
EH: The Voice Of The … Good Thing No One’s Watching
Two of the squarest men possible are tasked with selling this show on a weekly basis. And at least in JB’s case, he’s not trying to pretend he’s cool. Every time Josh Mathews discusses something or something being a “trending topic” or “trending worldwide” on these pre-recorded shows, it not only dates them but essentially makes anything that’s supposed to actually seem cool anything but. However, the bigger problem is trying to use two men who aren’t good at selling things to sell Jimmy Jacobs to the viewing audience.
So Jeremy Borash — who’s supposed to be the fun, likable one, right? — is getting bent out of shape by Jacobs interrupting the commentary flow and not giving him straight answers. You also have Jimmy doing better play-by-play commentary in five seconds than Jeremy Borash does this entire broadcast. (I don’t think we’re supposed to acknowledge that, but it happens.)
Then, because of the “princess” part of Jimmy’s “Zombie Princess” moniker (because “I always get what I want,” he explains), it leads to Jimmy’s unprofessionalism coming in the form of petulance. Specifically, in the form of him leaving commentary because JB won’t “pay attention to [him].” Then Josh and JB just keep chuckling over what just happened instead of focusing on the match, because WWE taught Josh Mathews that white guys guffawing over irrelevant things is what people want to hear on commentary. And JB just doesn’t know any better.
You also have Josh Mathews’ weirdly sucking up to Jimmy … but also making fun of him for wearing silver finger nail polish. Josh, you wear store bought ripped jeans to work and have a faux hawk. I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m being meaner about Josh this week than usual. Actually, scratch that, I do: This week’s Impact Wrestling is honestly relatively good and probably the best episode in a long time. So the things that regularly stick out as really bad — the commentary team — stick out even more.
ACE: Down At Club X
This match is even good enough that the aggressively bad commentary that goes with it isn’t as distracting as it would usually be. It’s one of those X-Division matches based on nothing but mutual respect, but considering that’s at least a logical concept — and in the case of Matt Sydal, it segues into the next segment — it’s worth praising. Hey, Impact Wrestling lowered the bar. I’m just adjusting to it.
EH: That’s Literally Not What Happened
“Due to Trevor Lee and Caleb Konley and Andrew Everett, Sonjay Dutt was defeated.”
I don’t even know if Andrew Everett is even still with this company, but whether he is or he isn’t, that doesn’t explain why Jeremy Borash is just making things up. It was bad enough that this show never explained why Andrew Everett turned heel to be under his rival Trevor Lee’s thumb — and you know, we still don’t know the whys or hows of Trevor Lee being a cult leader — but you would think they’d at least know that happened after the Sonjay Dutt stuff. “Storytelling” isn’t the same thing as just “making things up.”
And as the people whose primary roles are to tell and sell these stories, they don’t get the excuse of just forgetting what happened. Especially when they’re the ones who commentated on it in the first place: It’s not like they’re just following up after whatever a previous commentary team said.
EH: Come On, Don’t Act Like You’ve Don’t Still Got It
Watching Sonjay Dutt’s matches right now, I don’t quite think he’s lost a step as much as most people on the streets do. But I do think he’s got obvious weaknesses that are only going to show the more he’s featured (instead of just doing his work behind the scenes). This match, specifically, you have Matt Sydal working really hard to ground Sonjay Dutt and take out his leg— and then Dutt does basically everything he can just to shrug (or I guess barely shake) it off so he can still do the same offense he always does. He’s not even like they’re head of steam or fighting spirit bursts of energies. It would be one thing if this was a fast-paced sprint of an X-Division match, but that’s not what they’re doing. Dutt just moves through his offense the same way he usually would, then remembers at the last minute he’s supposed to be selling an injury.
This is an in-ring heavy episode — and the in-ring work is good enough and relatively relevant enough to defend that — and Dutt obviously isn’t the key component for what this match leads to, but it’s one of those things where the match itself is doing what it sets out to do … with one big exception.
ACE: Evan Bourne Versus Derrick Bateman
Evan Bourne versus Derrick Bateman is actually a match that never happened in WWE, so please accept this Yoshi Tatsu versus Derrick Bateman from the best thing WWE’s ever done: NXT Redemption. And no, I’m not playing a prank by suggesting a clip from a Yoshi Tatsu match. I’m actually doing everyone a favor by suggesting a clip from a Yoshi Tatsu match where Tyson Kidd shows up to beat the crap out of him. You’re welcome. Never forget the origin of that feud was an action figure.
But yes, after the X-Division match, EC3 comes out to mock Matt Sydal for being a choke artist. Remember, Sydal beat Lashley to become the third best wrestler/athlete/sports entertainer and then went on to fail at winning the Global Championship (while Lashley went on to play muscle to ‘80s movie villain coach Dan Lambert). After that, Sydal dropped back down to the X-Division, pretending that he was really excited to TakeOver despite the fact he spent weeks saying how much he didn’t want to be considered an X-Division star. Like EC3 says, Sydal “wins and he wins and he wins,” then “comes up a little short.” EC3 is a “killer,” and Matt Sydal is a “nice guy.”
This segment is also smart because it doesn’t let Matt Sydal speak, but then again, what could Sydal possibly say to prove EC3 wrong? He just beat Sonjay Dutt, but that falls right in line with what EC3 is saying.
EC3: Arrive. Verbally Eviscerate. Leave.
EH: But Um …
The thing is: Why does EC3 care? Yes, I get this is starting a feud that will supposedly lead to an Impact Grand Championship match — because they won’t just take my suggestion to throw the title in the garbage — but … Can’t we just have a regular EC3 versus Matt Sydal match? That would actually be worth getting excited for. And assuming that Matt Sydal wins the title, Impact Wrestling is then shackling one of its best in-ring performers to the Grand Championship match format. Why?
ACE: Thnks Fr Th Mmrs
The Global Wrestling Network is still very far from perfect, but this is the type of thing Impact Wrestling should be plugging on the show, as well as the type of “fill for time” material that works. This is a separate segment from the Pluto TV rewind, but if those are going to be moments for the casuals or people they’re trying to sell on the product — for example, no actual Impact Wrestling fan would be happy to be reminded of Hulk Hogan’s time in the company, but you can understand why channel surfers would — then the GWN stuff should be action-packed strolls down memory lane. Of course, I’m selfish and hoping that means a Paparazzi Productions clip or two in the near future.
Also, LOL Hector Garza doing nothing at all until it’s time to get the win. And LOL Bobby Roode’s hair.
ACE: Wrestling Matters Here
For once, I’m not using the past “Wrestling Matters Here” tagline as a joke. It actually really sucks this will get lost in wrestling history (because LOLTNA, no matter how many times they talk about their “global reach”), but this is kind of a big deal. It’s the first time the GHC Heavyweight Championship has been defended on North American television. (It’s been defended in Ring Of Honor before, but: 1. Pre-television days, obviously. 2. There is literally no way that JB and Josh know that. Come on, son.) The match even gets JB doing his rightful onscreen job of ring announcing to provide the big fight feel of the match, even though it’s not the main event of the show.
Eddie Edwards starts off the match by playing to the crowd, which is actually pretty key considering the Impact Wrestling audience doesn’t necessarily know what the GHC Heavyweight Championship is, why it’s important, and why this match is important. It could easily become wrestling for wrestling’s sake, but Eddie and Fantasma both sell the importance of this match in the ring. (And commentary, for all its flaws, does its best too.) Then after the match is over, they shake hands, because that’s how it’s supposed to go.
Though, one has to wonder why any wrestler finds it smart to do a suicide dive when in a match against Fantasma. I mean, he does the best one. It’s not even about looking the coolest: It truly looks ways more effective than Eddie Edwards’ suicide dive. I know the suicide dive is a part of Eddie’s regular arsenal too, but sometimes it’s just like, don’t embarrass yourself in front of The Son of The Patrick Swayze, you know? But then again, maybe it’s the fact that he has the best suicide dive that causes Fantasma to be so cocky: He spends this entire match doing lackadaisical covers, almost as though he thinks Eddie Edward’s should be easy enough to beat without maximum effort. Unfortunately for Fantasma, you gotta take Eddie Edwards seriously. Just ask Lashley.
EH: Team Impact Versus Team Triple AAA
First of all, thank god that feud is over. But it really provided a couple of things that briefly took away from the match. Like the fact that Fantasma, of all people, is the one that initiated the pre-match handshake with Eddie Edwards. I know that Eddie was barely part of that team warfare or whatever, but he was still part of it — and Fantasma tried to kill him on the ring apron as a result of him being part of it.
Speaking of Bound For Glory, JB says Fantasma did the apron spot on Eddie because of his “desire to get a chance at this championship.” Except, as I believe I brought up in my Bound For Glory write-up, the title match was already announced before the pay-per-view. If JB had said he had done it to get a leg-up going into the championship match, that might have made sense … but Bound For Glory had them say that this title match was booked as a result of the apron spot. Regardless, because of that one moment in the Bound For Glory match, Fantasma should not have offered his hand to Eddie before the match. At the very least, Eddie should not have accepted it. Actually, at the very least, Impact Wrestling shouldn’t have done the Team Impact versus Team Triple AAA feud. But you know what I mean.
EH: impact Versus Tag Teams
oVe have literally only faced off against jobbers (sorry, Fallah Bahh and Mario Bokara), randos who aren’t even in the company, and LAX. And we know how those matches have gone. At what part in this particular reinvention do we get a tag team division?
ACE: This Should Be The Gang
If only oVe debuted in this, its final form, with Sami Callihan on lead vocals. That’s the best version of oVe/OI4K/the Crist Brothers, after all. We really wouldn’t have had all the problems. Like, for example, Jake Crist’s obsession with chanting “oVe.” That doesn’t happen once here. And Dave Crist’s ring gear is finally presentable, relative to what it was before. Even the masks kind of work now with Sami around to lead the way.
What a waste of time literally everything else before this was. I mean, sure, the stuff before this created the feud between oVe and the only other tag team in this division … but please remember how “edgy” 99% of the feud was. Papa Roach, Sev, but not Ludacris, etc. Actually, in thinking about just how Pepsi Blue edgy this feud has been, Papa Roach and oVe seem like a perfect comparison. No offense to Papa Roach though — we all just wanna be, wanna be lo-oved.
By the way, here is the “uncomfortable” video Josh Mathews mentions he had with oVe prior to this match:
They don’t air it on the episode, so that means I haven’t watched it. So I assume they mock his faux hawk, since that’s the only thing I could think that would make Josh uncomfortable.
EH: How Many Times A Week Can I Question What The People Who Help Make This Wrestling Show Think Is Happening On This Wrestling Show?
According to JB, Sami Callihan “has changed the game everywhere he has appeared.” I’ll accept that lie, because it puts Sami over and doesn’t actively hinder the story they’re telling with him and oVe. I will, however, not accept JB saying Homicide was “not even part of the 5150 Street Fight.” He says that to show just how brutal Sami is, but you know what? Homicide was part of the Street Fight. Because the entire part of the match was that all of LAX was in this match — that’s what made it 5150. They said this, that was a promo that happened:
Then Diamante got injured and Homicide didn’t show up at Bound For Glory (though his body double did) and they instead decided to turn LAX face. The face turn is obviously a better option, but come on. Can Impact Wrestling even tell a story — one story — from beginning to end that makes sense and/or doesn’t get screwed over by personnel changes from top to bottom? Without having Jeremy Borash and Josh Mathews either screw up or just make up (I’m not even sure if their mistakes are intentional or not at this point) in the process? Is it even possible?
ACE: The Knockouts Segment
Oh look, a Knockouts match. It’s not in the Canuck Zone (do we really still have to call it the Impact Zone?), but it’s still got a purpose. As commentary (Josh specifically, even) points out, “Allie looked great on Sunday,” but she didn’t get the W. So she needs to start back at the end of the line to return to contention.
Then you have KC Spinelli, who wants to become a Knockout full time and will try to make a name for herself off of beating the beloved Allie. There you go: It’s a match taped from an indy show in advance, but it’s able to have Impact Wrestling-based ramifications. It’s not “just a match.” And while we know absolutely nothing about KC Spinelli — other than “she loves to have fun,” thanks to Josh — she’s putting in the type of work in this match where she’s basically saying, “I’m here to show the world.”
The added story from commentary of an “outsider” possibly winning and Allie having to explain herself to her colleagues is actually a really good one that would have made all of the other “global” showcases matter a little more. Because instead of not portraying the non-Impact roster members as threats, they should point out how a possible win from any of these people could severely threaten the actual roster members’ spots. Because, in theory, the Impact Wrestling roster should be more elite than the indies it works with.
EH: The Calendar Strikes Again
Love you Allie, but of course Gail Kim’s retiring. She said she’s retiring at the end of the year and it’s literally the end of the year. It doesn’t matter that she won the Knockouts Championship.
EH: Impact’s Version Of The Miz, I Guess
Global Forged didn’t teach its competitors how to cut a promo outside of a wrestling school, barely-a-reality-show context, did it? Actually, did we even see any promos outside of the beginning auditions from episode one? God, what did Global Forged accomplish other than signing someone who has already wrestled in this company and was going to get signed anyway?
But also: lol Hakim Zane saying winning Global Forged “makes me important” and “makes you ‘you’” as if that means literally anything. Too bad Johnny Impact trucked him, because I want to know if there could be any more promo material after that.
ACE: Johnny Impact Trucking Impact’s Version Of The Miz
Way to Jannetty the kid right from moment one, Johnny.
But yes, now I can finally write about the overarcing story of this week’s Impact Wrestling: Johnny Impact wants to murder Alberto El Patron. He doesn’t just want to take him to Slam Town, he wants to send him to the end of the road. That’s Hell, I think.
It starts with Johnny dramatically driving up to the venue without even taking the time to properly park. In fact, he kind of parks like he assumes there’s a valet, but there’s not because Impact Wrestling can’t afford valet. He paces through the halls of the Canuck Zone, out for blood and interrupting the interview time who is now 0-2 in terms of having any in-ring time on Impact Wrestling. (Still don’t know why he didn’t have a match at Bound For Glory, especially with the filler match.) This is so much better than cutting promos about “sneaky meatheads” and “dads.”
Also, it’s not even a dick move that he just pushes Zane out of the way, because: 1. He apologizes immediately to McKenzie Mitchell, which is the way to my heart. 2. See: Literally everything I’ve just written about Hakim Zane and his role in this segment (and company so far).
ACE: Perro Pueblo
Please bear with me. I just realized that Alberto El Patron’s version of Slam Town would be “Perro Pueblo,” and now I’m practically giddy.
I already got into just how ill-advised all things Alberto were at Bound For Glory, but I’ve also written before in the past how frustrating it can be when it comes to Alberto’s nonsense because of how genuinely talented he is. It’s he naturally talented, Randy Orton thing, right down to that also translating to a lot of discussion about him just being boring. Smooth but boring. Or crazy, depending on the day.
But speaking about this segment (and the rest of the stuff with Johnny Impact here)? It’s all so good. Everything he does in these few seconds is just such a shitbag thing to do, and he does it all with the midlife crisis sweatsuit ensemble. Like, he’s about to blast “My Adidas” and try to pick up UCF students. Wait, we’re not in Orlando anymore. University of Ottawa students then. He’s also showing up to work late, just to lounge at catering and poke the bear without even having a match. In this moment, it’s clear he truly deserves what’s coming to him.
ACE: Let Them Fight? Let Them Fight!
I know some people hated this or thought it went on too long, but to me this segment is a reminder that guys like Johnny Impact and Alberto El Patron are big deals and carry and present themselves that way, even outside of WWE. It’s the difference between guys like them post-WWE and guys like Damien Sandow and Jack Swagger. It’s why Caleb Konley and Braxton Sutter look like complete dorks, besides the fact that they are complete dorks. (Though, does this mean Braxton Sutter is feuding with the Cult of Lee now? And is Jerk Boyfriend Braxton Sutter the B.S. Man just over?)
Sure, the brawl went on forever, but it did so in a way they couldn’t quite do in the Impact Zone. You know, because they apparently never turned on a light and the only place they could really go was either outside or to the Broken Universe. Plus, Johnny Impact uses a water bottle as a weapon on Alberto El Patron, which I’m choosing to see as the ultimate callback to R-Truth’s heel turn on John Morrison. The downside to all of this is still that Eli Drake is seemingly third fiddle in the main event, but at least he is the champion and has an interesting little story going on with Petey Williams. Because Eli Drake isn’t exactly a blood feud guy. Not even when he was destroying Johnny Impact was he a blood feud guy; he was just sending a message.
Now it’s your turn. Please don’t forget to share this recap, because otherwise I won’t be able to keep these up. I know how they write James Storm out of the company, and I can assure all of you that you’ll want to read that edition of THE ACES AND EHS.