Hello Impact fans and curious rubberneckers! I’m Elle Collins, and this is the Knockout Report for the fourteenth annual Slammiversary pay-per-view, which was live from the Melrose Ballroom in New York City. Since this is such big show, I’m not splitting the divisions up like I usually do, and instead doing my best to give all the matches equal weight. You can follow me on Twitter here, With Spandex here, and Uproxx here. You can watch the weekly Impact Wrestling show on Pop every Thursday at 8 p.m. Then on Fridays, read the regular edition this column and share it with everyone you know (do that with this one too).
Without further ado, here’s the Knockout Report for Bound For Glory 2018.
Willie Mack and Rich Swann Defeated Ethan Page and Matt Sydal
This was a fun match to start with. Not particularly consequential, but lots of exciting spots, and it gives a spotlight to two new guys. As I’ve mentioned before, I really love Willie Mack. I like a big thick charismatic dude who can really move in the ring. Mack also has a great working class hero vibe to him that makes him a fantastically resonant babyface. In fact, of everyone wrestling today, I think he’s the most reminiscent of Dusty Rhodes. I’m not saying he’s on that level, but just in terms of the specific brand of charisma, physicality, and blue-collar realness he brings to the table. Oh, and he can dance a bit too.
Ethan Page, on the other hand, I don’t really know prior to this. I’ve heard a lot about him, but he’s mostly wrestled for companies I don’t watch regularly, so he’s new to me. I liked what I saw here, but I’m going to need to see more to be fully won over. He does seem like a perfect partner/sidekick for Matt Sydal, with a similar pompous energy, but a totally different look and move set.
Rich Swann was great in this match as well. I may not personally like him, but I can acknowledge that he makes a great Face in Peril. Not to mention that his high-flying is always fun, and he and Willie Mack go great together. Also, I don’t know if it was deliberate on Swann’s part or just a natural occurrence, but that shot of him dazed with visible spittle in his beard really sold the legitimacy of the match for me. I’m sure there’s a lot more to this feud, and I’m pretty here for it.
Eli Drake Defeated James Ellsworth And Then Something Exciting Happened
Honestly, when James Ellsworth came out, my first thought was “Thank god he’s not showing up at WWE Evolution, then.” Unfortunately, I’ve since heard the report that he’s scheduled for Smackdown 1000, so that reassurance has evaporated. It felt really cheap to do the New Yorker Open Challenge and then deny the crowd an actual hometown hero, but of course James Ellsworth is pretty much the embodiment of cheap heat, so that fits. On that note, I’m pretty sure Carmella would object to the implication that they ever dated, but we all know that saying they did is totally in character for him.
The match was actually less of a squash than I expected, but it was still fun to see Drake beat up Ellsworth. On the other hand, as annoying as Ellsworth is, Eli’s a heel too, so it was also fun seeing him get beaten up by Impact Hall of Famer Abyss.
Tessa Blanchard Defeated Taya Valkyrie To Retain the Knockouts Championship
I got something wrong last week. Taya Valkyrie and Tessa Blanchard were never in the ring together in the buildup to this feud. Lacking that context, I talked about Taya being about the same size as Tessa, which I genuinely thought was true. When they got to the ring for this match, I realized I had underestimated Taya, who in fact makes Tessa look tiny by comparison. Whereas Tessa is a mighty strong woman, Taya is a monster, albeit a very attractive one.
The amazing thing about this is that Tessa Blanchard is such a great heel that even against a bigger stronger opponent, she never seemed like a babyface for a moment. Even trying the hardest she’s ever tried to overcome the odds against her, she still seems like a horrible entitled braggart. Sure the crowd cheered for her when she powered out of a submission and suplexed Taya, but that just makes her exciting, it doesn’t make her the hero.
This match was spectacular from beginning to end, and when Tessa managed to retain it felt like she’d fought harder for that belt than ever before (certainly harder than when she won it). She does this thing after a pin or sometimes an attempt, where she rapidly sucks in air through her mouth, and I don’t know how intentional it is but it makes her look like the perfect combination of desperate animal and exhausted human. Tessa Blanchard, if I haven’t conveyed this before, is very good at what she does.
As for Taya, I hope she sticks around Impact for a while (the main event, which we’ll get to, seems to imply that she might). She’s one of the very best, and even though she didn’t win the Knockouts Championship tonight, it’s easy to imagine her with it in the future. On the other hand, I didn’t love her cornrow pigtails, but they were a perfect counterpoint to Blanchard’s equally ridiculous hairdo.
Eddie Edwards and Tommy Dreamer Defeated Moose and Killer Kross
This whole thing was a bit of a mess, which admittedly it kind of had to be considering who was involved and what the story had been so far. Going from a singles match between Eddie and Moose to a DQ because Kross attacked Eddie, to a sanctioned tag match felt like much more of a free TV thing than a PPV thing, but whatever.
As of this show, I feel like Moose has really gotten it together as a heel. He gave a great calmly menacing promo early in the show, and the African outfit he wore for that and the main event looked great on him, as did his gear for this match. Heel Moose is where it’s at.
And of course, Tommy Dreamer was here too. I’m pretty sure nobody really minds when he shows up, at least I know I don’t. He may have never been a great wrestler, but he’s an excellent Hardcore Dad. Still, with the next two matches on the card being planned multi-man hardcore matches, I don’t really feel like we needed to watch these four guys beat the hell out of each other too. I was glad Edwards and Dreamer won, though.
oVe Defeated Brian Cage and the Lucha Brothers in an oVe Rules Match
The official big deal here is that this is where Cage was pinned for the the first time in Impact. That’s what happens when you let your opponents make the rules. Why anyone would agree to something called an oVe Rules Match against oVe is an open question, but I guess between Cage’s super strength and the Lucha Bros’ magical powers, they were a bit overconfident. Apparently oVe Rules mean everybody was allowed be in the ring at once without the need for tags, and that means three guys kicked Cage over and over at the same time before Sami went for the pin. That’s a pretty good way to eat a pin and still look strong as hell.
The Lucha Bros looked great too, especially Fenix, who just moves like nobody else (check out the clip above). This match and its ending almost certainly lead to Sami Callihan facing Cage for the X-Division Championship. I’m here for that, and if Sami manages to win it somehow, I’m probably even more here for Fenix being the one to take it off Sami. Or maybe that won’t happen at all, but wherever things go, Fenix deserves some gold sooner rather than later.
LAX Defeated the OGz in a Concrete Jungle Death Match
I don’t want to make too big a thing of this, because it’s silly anyway and there’s no reason you can’t play older than your real age in kayfabe. But I have to admit I did snicker when King talked about how Ortiz and Santana grew up in Rudy Giuliani’s softer New York, while he and the OGz remember the old, dirty, dangerous New York. Just for the record, Eddie Kingston was twelve when Giuliani took office, so I’m pretty sure he only remembers 25-cent peepshows from watching HBO’s The Deuce.
For the match itself, the mat and turnbuckle pads were removed to make the ring into an unforgiving structure of bare wood and metal. This is apparently a regular practice for Japanese death matches, especially in Big Japan Pro-Wrestling, but it’s a lot less common in the States. The boards weren’t even secured to anything, so they just slid around on the metal frame. Frankly, it looked scary as hell, albeit more in a “somebody’s going to accidentally die” than “they’re going to kill each other.” They did do their best to kill each other, of course, which is something all of these guys are good at.
I made no secret of finding the buildup to this match tedious, but I have to admit the payoff was pretty good. Santana and Ortiz deserved this win, and while they had some help from Konnan towards the end, it was mostly a triumph for the duo themselves. Now I just hope the OGz back off and let LAX be LAX, and feud with some other teams.
Allie and Kiera Escaped the Undead Realm with Rosemary’s Help
I’ve repeatedly talked about how this storyline has had the structure of a horror film. But what happened at Bound For Glory wasn’t a horror film-inspired wrestling angle. It was literally a short horror film. Allie travels to the Undead Realm (let’s be real, it’s Hell) to rescue Kiera Hogan. Along the way, she slaughter’s a couple of Su’s bridesmaids with a hatchet, blood spatters and all. She even manages to put her ax into Su Yung’s neck, but that’s not enough to stop the Undead Bride.
Allie also sees her soul, which looks like her but in creepy doll makeup. She doesn’t try to take it back (it belongs to the Devil now), but she does touch it, which she’d been warned not to.
Father James Mitchell, who doesn’t seem to be THE Devil but certainly an Archduke of Hell at least, tries to keep Allie and Kiera trapped in the underworld but (as predicted) Rosemary shows up to help them escape. The Demon Assassin uses her magical powers to counteract Su’s (we’re talking literal SFX lightning and glowing hands), and only Allie and Kiera make it back to the world of the living.
This may mean that Rosemary’s not fully ready to return to the ring, and we won’t necessarily see her again for a while. Regardless, it was great seeing her tonight. If I can let myself fantasy-book for a minute, all I want is for Rosemary to win a match against Su, putting an end to the Undead Bride’s evil once and for all (or until they figure out the next Su Yung storyline). Then I want Rosemary to feud with Tessa for the Knockouts Championship, because that will rule. Wherever things go next, hopefully Rosemary brings Allie’s soul with her when she does return. After all, she never promised to leave it in Hell.
Johnny Impact Defeated Austin Aries for the Impact World Championship
Let’s talk about what people are talking about: the ending of this match. After Johnny Impact won the title, Austin Aries immediately popped up, retroactively no-selling Johnny’s finisher after taking the pin. He stormed to the back, flipping everyone off and visibly (though not audibly) yelling. Because this is a thing that happened in wrestling, everyone’s debating whether Aries was going off script or starting some kind of authorized worked shoot angle.
Obviously I have no special information, but it looked real to me. The camera, shooting from the far side of Johnny, did its best to avoid Aries after the match. Commentary didn’t mention it, and everyone in and around the ring looked weirded out by what was happening. Of course it’s possible we won’t know anytime soon if this was a work or a shoot, because if it was a shoot and Aries doesn’t get fired, they’ll probably turn it into a work.
Aside from the ending, this match was pretty great. Johnny Impact makes a surprisingly great babyface, and he and AA really went hard for each other. So hard in fact that some have questioned if there were some potatoes in there leading up to the weird finish. I think that seems possible too, although I’m less than sure about it. Despite everything that’s up in the air, I do know that for all his talent, Austin Aries seems like a real jerk, and I’m happy to see him not have the World Championship. The Impact Era of Impact Wrestling has begun, so to speak.
That’s all for this special Knockout Report. Join me on Friday, when the fallout begins!