The Aces And Ehs Of Impact Wrestling Slammiversary 2017

Hello, and welcome to supplemental Impact Wrestling coverage on With Spandex. And also welcome to me, LaToya Ferguson, your recapper and friend. I’m sure you’ve seen GLOW by now, but if not: You can do it after reading this (and watching Slammiversary). Really, I promise GLOW will still be on Netflix.

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 on Pop at 8 pm on Thursdays so you can read these pieces and share them with the online world.

Previously: Despite creating what sounded like an amazing card on paper, Impact’s go-home show for Slammiversary 15 betrayed a sense of the show’s recent burst of competency. Basically, it really made ya worry about this pay-per-view.

ACE: You Deserve It!

Holy crap, you guys. Slammiversary was great. Even though I experienced mild PTSD over the sound of Jeff Jarrett’s theme. I’d possibly even call it “lit,” but it turns out I’m not a middle-aged white man. You might be thinking, “But New Day says ‘lit’!” To that, I say, think about the people who write for them and everyone in WWE.

But seriously, despite giving us a card that seemed like it could be amazing, there was always a possibility all of that potential could be squandered in an instant. After all, that is the “LOLTNA” way, and this past Impact really did nothing to build off the genuine momentum the company had been building to this event. Plus, the very existence of Slammiversary requires looking back and remembering how Impact had and seemingly squandered so much amazing talent in the past 15 years.

However, you can’t deny that everyone so very clearly wanted to put on a great show and give their best for this pay-per-view, and that was the best motivation they could possibly have. Plus, it’s wholly possible that if anyone did a bad job, the Anthem Owl would find and murder them:

So now we know why the Impact crowd was also mostly on point for this show.

“If you don’t cheer, you’ll die.” – The Anthem Owl (with Barry Scott’s voice)

ACE: Let’s Get It Started

As it was the pre-show — there was a pre-show! — the competitors in KM/Laurel Van Ness/Kongo Kongo versus Braxton Sutter/Allie/Mahabali Shera weren’t working under the fear of death by owl. That explains the proper return of Shera being more incompetent — completely missing the breaking of a pin to the point where Sutter had to kick out of a KM move he shouldn’t have — than endearing in the ring, at least. (This week’s Impact also relied on that, though it was at least from a character standpoint.)

The match itself is still a good start to the show, getting the crowd hyped, because you can’t not be hyped when Allie’s involved. She and Laurel Van Ness have to be physically separated at the beginning of this match (after Braxton finally tries his best to try to reasons with Laurel’s crazy), and they keep the contempt going as Allie later chases Laurel with a kendo stick during the Women’s Championship match. I believe I actually have the proper soundtrack for all of this, right here.

Impact has focused more on Allie and Braxton versus the stable of Sienna and company, but if they’re finally going to focus specifically on the Allie/Laurel of it all, I can’t wait for their one-on-one confrontation. I’m the rare person still enjoying everything about Laurel Van Mess, but I admit her character definitely needs to hit the next stage. Fingers crossed that’s what’s on the horizon.
Also: I can’t believe Braxton Sutter’s finisher is called the B.S. Express. I understand literally nothing about this guy. Whatever makes Allie happy though …

ACE: Latino (& Japanese) Heat

Do you think everyone backstage had individual moments of thinking better of having to follow the tag team Fatal 4-Way? Because hot damn was the tag match amazing. Again, this is a story of Impact giving us something beautiful on paper and delivering on that process. Actually, over-delivering on said promise, because while Impact may have Naomichi Marufuji and Drago on a show, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to let them show what they’re all about. But truly, everyone got time to shine.

As far as I’m concerned, Garza Jr. removing his pants provided the pop of the night, but that’s mostly because it basically transformed me — and to be fair, most of the ladies in the Impact audience — into Mary Cherry, proclaiming “I’ve got the vapors,” and fainting at the sight. “Off come the pants” is a legit line from commentary.

Just a note: Garza Jr. and Laredo Kid are a fun tag team to fill out the division, but dream weaver Garza needs to end up a singles star, as soon as possible.

I’ve obviously been enjoying this new version of LAX and their vignettes, but I think this was the first match to truly highlight just how good Santana and Ortiz are. Especially Santana, who looks like a million bucks in this match, especially in his early face-off against Marufuji. Also, Diamante may be one of the coolest members of the entire roster, as the crowd could not get enough whenever she interfered, and her hypeness can’t help but get the crowd hyped. Homegirl also hurts herself from getting too hyped.

That’s how it’s done. Go back and check the reaction of the blonde lady she high fives when she first gets involved in the match — that woman’s entire night was made in that moment.

Hopefully this match is the end of Impact trying to push LAX as a true heel team. No, they’re definitely not clean cut babyfaces, but they’re also just way too cool (and to good) to boo. We (including Impact) knew that when they went against Veterans Of War, a team so one-dimensional that… I actually can’t even think of anything funny to say about them.

EH: Hate To Say I Told You So

Actually, that’s a lie: I’m a huge fan of saying “I told you so.” From this week’s Impact recap:

“You end the TV story with their powerful (goofy, but still powerful) training montage, then you bring up the Joseph Park is Abyss thing (if you must) at the last minute, on the pay-per-view. This is ridiculous, so why not keep that ridiculousness going by doing the expected at the right time? The same goes for JB basically informing Josh Mathews that he didn’t fully read the contract and their match is No DQ; it’s an offhand comment, but why would he tell his hated opponent the one other thing that would give him the advantage?”

Fast-forward to Slammiversary, and here we have a backstage segment where Joseph Park: 1. Mentions the fine print of the contract. 2. Drops the “Don’t be afraid to rely on old friends” line to foreshadow Abyss. So, I ask again: Why was any of this included in the go-home show? Especially if Slammiversary was going to have the company apparently forget all of that (despite the video package footage remembering), with JB asking Joseph Park about the fine print and being bloody terrified of the No DQ stipulation. With that, they tipped their hand way too hard, all because they seemingly only had three weeks of material but four weeks of shows.

Spoiler alert (and surprise warning): Even though they botched the go-home, the actual mess is a work of art.

ACE: Let’s Hear It For The Boy

You know how friendship-based wrestling is often the best wrestling? Apparently DeAngelo Williams learned that in his training, because before we even get to the ring, Impact reveals that Williams and other NFL guy Gary Barnidge wore matching USA jumpsuits to the venue. You know how some wrestlers wear suits to the arena, you know, to look professional? These are their professional USA jumpsuits. This isn’t their ring entrance or wrestling gear. This is their “I’ve arrived at work” gear. And it’s a beautiful thing, baby. Of course, the kicker is that Moose just wears his standard Moose shirt when he arrives with his friends, because Moose isn’t going to be made to look like a fool.

By the way, I love that Moose is such a dork he always strums his toy belt (this time the designation feels pretty fitting), unafraid of anyone mocking him.

As for the actual match: Who the heck saw that coming? There’s a moment where Eli Drake decides to go up to the top rope… and walk it … and fail? I’m really not sure what he meant to do, but of course the crowd chants “YOU FUCKED UP.” But the key is Eli Drake, ever the delusional egoist — sorry KM, he beat you to that concept — acts like he meant to do that.

And DeAngelo Williams’ training vignettes looked pretty impressive, for sure, but I don’t think anyone expected him to be as good in the ring as he actually ended up being. Yes, there was the botched table spot where Williams totally face-planted, but, like he still came out looking cool during that? All I really know is that I took notes calling him “adorable” and also making sure to voice my pleasure that Robert Flores calles it the “NFL.” (Josh Mathews always calls it the “National Football League,” as though that’s a normal human thing to do 100% of the time.)

Williams showed an impressive aptitude for the fundamentals, took some risks, and came across like someone who was ultimately concerned with making sure to keep his opponents safe, which is an important quality for any wrestler to have. The audible to call for the post-match table spot is the type of thing that would usually be an example of “babyfaces being dicks,” but in a night of pleasant surprises, it’s really more a matter of giving the people what they want.

ACE: The Assassination Of James Storm By The Coward EC3

2017 is a pretty weird year. I mean, this is the third strap match I’ve seen this year, and despite having no interest in the gimmick, it’s been pretty much three for three in terms of my enjoyment. (On a useless note, I’m really happy Storm’s ImpactTron video no longer has clips from his theme’s music video or promoting the record. It was always so damn tacky.)

Sometimes when you watch wrestling, you just want to see hatred and resentment come to life, and EC3 versus James Storm is Slammiversary’s singles version of that match. It’s also one that doesn’t tell a story of triumph and catharsis. Because heroes don’t always win, especially when the villain is so convinced they’re the hero. But hey, at least Storm gets some revenge on EC3 with the 32 lashings (in response to the original 31 lashings) — especially after a handcuffed EC3’s lame attempted “I’m sorry” followed by a literal spit in the face. Sometimes you’ve just gotta whoop your opponent like you’re their daddy, you know?

I’ve watched the match a couple of times and thought about the finish even longer than most, and while I’m still iffy on James Storm’s lapsed reaction to the steel ring post, I like that it has EC3 make good on his promise. His pre-match interview has him calling James Storm a “foundation” and promising to “tear [him] apart.” So with that finish, that’s exactly what happens: The foundation that is James Storm completely gives out. Though that’s still not enough for EC3, and when Brian Hebner tries to get EC3 to just pin Storm and end it — without doing the decent referee thing of even checking on Storm first — EC3 decides to go for the killing blow instead. The best part of his character work is that he doesn’t even betray a sense of happiness with that; he’s deluded enough that he truly believes that he’s doing a service to the world by taking Storm out of it.

He wanted to destroy James Storm, and he does, to the point there isn’t even a Hall of Fame ceremony at Slammiversary as a result. There’s no celebration of his legacy, and it takes a long time for Storm to even make it out of the ring afterward. What’s next for The Cowboy? I have no idea, but a return to the vicious EC3 who keeps the promises he makes is absolutely welcome.

ACE: There Can Be Miracles, When You Believe

After all this time setting up Slammiversary and messing with all the power dynamics in Impact, Bruce Prichard is missing in action. Dreams do come true. Don’t ruin this for me with reminders of “storytelling” and “let’s see where this goes” and “he has podcast.”

ACE: Abyss Things Poppin’, Steiner Things Stoppin’

All of this was necessary. Obviously, if you’re reading this, you probably know that this match quickly turned from a “real” match (one where Josh made sure to cover his chicken legs!) to a backstage vignette, and that was honestly the best course of action. Not just because the crowd was very clearly receptive to it — seriously, the pops at Shark Boy and James Mitchell gave me true joy, and I never cared about Shark Boy or James Mitchell back in the day — but because Scott Steiner did not look great. Especially on close-up. (Psst. He’s old. Don’t tell him I said that.)

Don’t mean he can’t still randomly remove a barricade for no reason other than he’s Scott frickin Steiner. Then everything just turns to magical vignette world:

  • Single. Time. “Fatasses.” Was. Uttered. You might have thought it would get old — it did not.
  • Scott Steiner and Josh Mathews transforming into a live-action, human version of Spike and Chester right before our very eyes.
  • The fire extinguisher releasing tapioca pudding mix. Because fatasses.
  • The poor truck guy from the Broken Hardy segments finally getting a new car, marking out over Big Poppa Pump, then getting slapped (and his new car stolen) for his troubles.
  • JB finding a way to actually pull off his pool flip by leading Josh to a pool.
  • SHARK BOY being in the pool, biting Josh’s butt, and then rooting for JB to win or run or whatever. “Oh shell yeah.”
  • Father James Mitchell — a man that used to terrify me but made me say “HOLY SHIT” like the crowd — seemingly being completely over this Joseph Park nonsense and telling him to get his head in the game (slash mask).

Then we get back to real time, where you have Josh calling Robert Irvine “Gordon Ramsay” before getting punked out and JB splashing his hands into a pile of thumbtacks. (Of course, later when JB introduces the main event, he does so with completely bandaged up hands. Like a badass.) It’s great, I love it, Slammiversary is weirdly great, and now we have to talk about the aftermath.

Robert Flores asks, “Is this finally over?” I mean, it could be. Flores and Don West stay on (competent) commentary, JB sticks with ring announcing and being the jack of all Impact trades, Josh stays behind-the-scenes and maybe learns about style from actual fashion experts. This can all work, even with Pope — he’s never been easier to ignore than during this match. This. Can. Work. Even if such a dream really is only a dream, I do truly hope this is the end of JB versus Josh Mathews. It leading to this match doesn’t erase all of the torturous commentary and segments we had to get through to get here.

ACE: “The Worst Double Date In History”

Don West: “It’s like they’ve got a plan!”
Me: “Just like the Cylons!”

I didn’t know quite what to expect with this match, because I haven’t exactly been feeling the Alisha Edwards part of it that much, but it truly exceeded my expectations. I’d even go as far to say Alisha may have been the MVP, as she finally got on Angelina Love’s ride or die level, directing tandem offense and making Eddie powerbomb her onto Davey. She also has no problem going for crotch shots, because she knows the Love-Richards duo are going to play dirty anytime they possibly can. Have I mentioned how much I loved that Alisha and Eddie attacked Angelina and Davey mid-entrance? Because I did.

I still maintain “Full METAL Mayhem” shouldn’t have kendo sticks and tables (especially tables that almost kill Eddie Edwards), but the match is the biggest surprise of the card (that only features full-time wrestlers in it).

It’s also a nice touch that this match finds a way to do a thumbtack spot right after we just had a match with one and does it completely differently. I bet JB’s happy he doesn’t get kicked with a mouthful of thumbtacks, but based on so many Impact vignettes, I can’t even begin to figure out what goes through that man’s Broken mind.

ACE: xXx

This match promised to deliver from the moment Low-Ki made his entrance with a look that says, “I’ll kick everyone’s ass in this room!” One day, Low-Ki will deliver on that classic Mike Dexter promise, and we’ll all look back, wondering why we were still cheering him on.

Low-Ki’s entire attitude and demeanor always makes him terrifying, but just witnessing his missed stomp attempts — which have so much force he basically breaks his own ankles in the process — is next level. There are quite a few reasons why Alberto El Patron should just give up his corner foot stomps, but just the idea of Low-Ki missing them is a great reason. What I’m saying is: More wrestlers should give up when they see Low-Ki doing things.

Somehow, Sonjay Dutt doesn’t take that advice though, and he actually finds himself bringing the fight to Low-Ki. Seriously, at one point towards the end he just keeps kicking Low-Ki in the face a disturbing amount of times. I’d ask, “Who hurt you?” but I already know the answer: It was Low-Ki. For 15 damn years. Two out of three falls isn’t enough. Give them the whole damn show to get it out of their systems.

This match honestly reminds me so much about what I once loved about the X-Division and what I definitely won’t miss if this is the direction of the division going forward. The opening of the match? So much genuine wrestling, sizing each other up, trying not to crash and burn early in fear of making a mistake. At one point both men just showed off their intense core strength so much that I wouldn’t have been surprised if Matt Sydal showed up and asked to join in too. The crowd doesn’t quite know how to handle it at first though, so Low-Ki and Sonjay — two absolute pros — make sure to rile them up before they get into the meat of the match.

I’ve said it before, but as much as I like DJ Z, I’d be more than fine with the X-Division never going back to the state it was when he was The Guy. The X-Division has always been spot-heavy, but at its best, it’s also always had wrestlers who could do so much more when the time was right. Too much trying to wrestle like a videogame — as opposed to Low-Ki’s strategy of just being a videogame character — above all else has not been great for Impact’s X-Division. The future of the X-Division surprisingly relies on its past. Go figure.

EH: Don’t Boo Him! You Should Be Booing Yourselves

I swear, if the Impact Zone ruins Sonjay Dutt’s championship reign, I’m going to… complain about it right here in these recaps. Yeah, I’m talking to you, one guy who tried to start a “USA” chant at the beginning of the match.

Yes, I understand the comparisons to Sonjay Dutt and Jinder Mahal. Really, I do. (I also understand that Low-Ki just a badass, in general.) It’s something I’ve discussed briefly in these recaps and have just seen all around in wrestling discussions. Jinder Mahal’s WWE Championship run happened onscreen first, so anything with a passing similarity after the fact is called a rip-off, true or not.

That thinking doesn’t factor in that Sonjay Dutt is a much overlooked babyface. That thinking ignores Impact’s past work in India with Ring Ka King and the fact that the company signed a multi-year deal with Sony SIX (to tour in India) back in 2015. That thinking ignores the pitch perfect storytelling that came from the combination of Sonjay Dutt’s return eye injury and the scheduled India tour. So it’s honestly stubborn to watch this match and act as though Dutt’s in-ring work isn’t impressive, which is exactly what happens in Impact’s return to the Impact Zone. He ends the match beating Low-Ki at his own game by yanking on his stupid tie, but that’s after a match of Low-Ki trying underhanded tactics and also constantly trying to murder Dutt with the Warrior’s Way.

Unless the Impact Zone now boos who they usually cheer and vice versa, I don’t see a legitimate reason for this.

EH: The Devil’s In The Details

No, I’m not going on another The Devil’s Advocate tangent. At least not right now. From this week’s Impact recap:

“It’s because GFW — you know, the company responsible for the redundantly named “GFW Global” Championship — is taking over. So tune in next week, when I personally apologize for every “toy belt” comment I made about our new cash-for-gold scamming overlords.”

So, if you were betting heavily on the Impact champions retaining — even after the news — the fact that one of its two “unification” matches is actually proven to be a GFW Women’s Championship match might change that. Also, despite LAX also having both tag team championships (so I suppose they already long did their whole unification thing), their defense was a defense of the GFW Tag Team Championship. The main event makes sure not to do a graphic and to really hit home the “unification” aspect, but the show literally tells us from the beginning that GFW is going over.

That includes the end title card for the pay-per-view, as well:

You know who I really feel bad for, though? During the main event, there is a guy in the front row who makes sure to talk as much trash about GFW as possibly every single time Alberto comes anywhere near him. Nobody told him the news, and he was probably so dejected once he got home and read reactions about the show. He already has to be bummed over Alberto winning the championship, but I’m sure there was still a light at the end of the tunnel for him. “We’ll see how things shake out at this week’s tapings,” he thinks. “They’d never let GFW completely remove the impact (hehe) of TNA.”

ACE: “Hi, We’re *NSYNC!”

Fun fact (that I didn’t fact check): Sienna’s theme starts exactly the same as Gail Kim’s theme. But that’s not all! The music for Rosemary’s theme? It’s clearly just a slowed down version of Gail Kim’s music. Don’t believe me? Just sing the “Puppets On A String” chorus when they get to the “Left Behind” chorus. All of these women have the same theme, and I love it.

ACE: Class Trumps (Demon) Ass(assin)

Ah, “classy” Sienna from Detroit. She’s like the female version of Prince Simon from Burning Love, only with a lot more brain cells. She keeps her pinkies up, wears a bitchin’ collar, and exudes a sense of true superiority. She won’t shake Gail Kim’s hand (Rosemary will — with saliva!) and also bites the heck out of demon pinkies, so she really is multi-faceted.

The women’s “unification” match honestly has a lot more shenanigans than it really needs, especially given the finish. There’s a nice touch with Sienna finally snapping over “focused” Laurel, but Laurel’s return — which lets Sienna use the title as a weapon and still not get the three count — is more important to the Allie story than it is Sienna and Rosemary’s. Unless you consider it more proof that Allie really is a bad luck charm for Rosemary and any other wrestler she associates herself with.

Really, the fact that KM and Laurel wait to come out for Sienna is pretty weird, but it’s hard to think about that at the time, because you’re probably still thinking about Rosemary and her zombie girl swarm. So good. (Sorry, Moose. Your cheerleaders were just alright.) The match itself is solid between the two, and speaking just as a Sienna fan, I’m happy she got the win. Rosemary (like Allie) is a star who’s going to be just fine without a title, whereas Sienna is someone Impact needs to show some confidence in before she can reach that level. This could be the start of that.

Plus, Rosemary kind of deserves to know just how bad that poison mist feels. It’s a terrific touch that it burns Sienna’s hand — it’s not just blinding, y’all — but the fact that it also works on Rosemary adds a new layer to just how dangerous it is.

ACE: Si You Next Thursday

Impact has had a lot a lot of really good singles main events lately, and in a lot of ways Lashley versus Alberto El Patron feels like one of them. That’s not as much an insult as it sounds, I swear. As it tradition with big matches, Lashley hits Alberto’s cross armbreaker and Alberto one up him with a spear through the ropes. Though, Alberto one ups life expectancy by his earlier suicide dive onto the concrete. What an overachiever! It’s the type of match Alberto has when he’s motivated — so, you know, when he’s wrestling someone other than Chris Adonis — and while I don’t think it’s the greatest thing ever like he promised, it’s a good match.

EH: But

Earlier in the match, Alberto hits the quick version of the corner stomp that should be the only way he wins with the corner stomp. It’s fast, it’s devastating, and it doesn’t assume that both the opponent and the audience are absolute idiots. So of course the match ends with the worst possible version of the corner stomp, with “Walking Armageddon” Lashley going out like that. His post-match reaction, realizing that he played himself, is great though. Shame the finish actually went down like that.

Maybe Alberto’s strike finisher should just be the low angle superkick. Definitely not the backstabber, because he only gets all of it about 25% of the time. Exhibit A: This match.

EH: There’s Another “But”

The only thing that really makes it more of a pay-per-view match — since it lacks a major stipulation, that is — is the presence of the champs’ corner men in the form of King Mo and Dos Caras. The problem is, these corner men really don’t make the “big fight feel” aspect of the match as much as Impact tries to pretend they do. No, it’s not the fact that Lashley’s entrance relies on his whole, “I’m also an MMA guy, remember?” shtick to draw heat. (At least one of his many MMA guys wears flip flops to the ring, which is so Florida but also keeps the weird alternate reality of football guys being better for wrestling than MMA guys theme of this show alive.) It’s more that the match didn’t need these corner men, and they never really mattered to the story either competitor was telling inside the ring.

For example Don West — bless his heart — tries to argue that Dos Caras is there to give Alberto “a little something extra” in the ring. You know, whenever Alberto looks to his dad, he’ll remember what he’s fighting for. Quite the beautiful story, right? Yes, but the actual match plays as though Alberto just forgets his dad is even there most of the time. No digging down deep for inspiration from his father’s approval, no staring into his eyes as he’s about to die by Lashley’s hands. There’s nothing there.

Then you have King What Do I Do With My Hands?” Mo on Lashley’s side of things, who really just makes everyone sad that the old guy who can barely move in real time punks him out. Yes, professional wrestling finally gives us the moment where a wrestler beats up an athlete from another field, and it was the wrong choice.

ALSO: We know Brian Hebner is a bad referee, but it’s pretty amazing how the unnecessary corner men aspect of the match forces him to pretend to be a blind one as well. Just how many times did King Mo go for Alberto or prepare to use a chair with Hebner staring right at him? By my calculations, it was approximately infinity times. It was actually the entire match, but camera angles missed it some times.

So that’s it. That’s Slammiversary 15, and it was … awesome. It was awesome. The whole GFW thing puts something of a cloud over the show, but the sun’s still peeking out, you know? Let the sunshine in, Impact.