Hello, and welcome to weekly Impact Wrestling coverage on With Spandex. And also welcome to me, LaToya Ferguson, your recapper and friend. Who loves ya, baby? Me, the person who gets down to the nitty and the especially gritty of Impact Wrestling every week just for you.
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Previously: Recaps. Even more recaps than usual too, all thanks to Alberto El Patron.
But be still my wrestling heart. I wrote that Redemption had all the tools to be a good (even great) pay-per-view. In fact, it would be difficult for Impact Wrestling to include the very apparent problems with the weekly TV into the pay-per-view. Voy did this show exceed my expectations. It exceeded a lot of people’s expectations, and now the key is to continue to do that on TV. We shall see. Until then, let’s look back at the most appropriately titled pay-per-view ever, shall we? Also: NEW BELTS, BABY!
The Friday before this show, I went to night one of PWG’s All-Star Weekend. The card featured Trevor Lee, Taiji Ishimori (making his PWG debut), and Dezmond Xavier (rightfully winning the tag championship with Zachary Wentz). All three men were amazing — seriously, seek this show out when it finally comes out DVD — during their matches, but I want to address Lee and Ishimori specifically. They were in the first and second matches, respectively, and they really highlighted (to me) that disconnect I’m always writing about when it comes to the match quality in Impact Wrestling and its X-Division.
Lee’s match (against Rey Horus) did a lot to remind people in attendance (if not inform them for the first time) that he’s such a phenomenally special talent. He cut a pre-match promo, and he’s honestly the complete package … but so many people have no idea of that when they just know him from Impact Wrestling. They think he’s just boring black trunks guy who can’t hang with the X-Division guys, even though he can wrestle and talk circles around a lot of them. He shouldn’t just be relegated to “X-Division guy” or goof with a “cult.”
As for Ishimori, you really have to see his match with Bandido when the time comes. You know how I mention the true “HOLY SH*T,” innovative spirit of TNA/Impact Wrestling that doesn’t really exist anymore? That’s what the live experience watching this match was like. Being part of a few hundred people losing their absolute minds upon seeing these two men work was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life as a wrestling fan.
As good as Ishimori is on Impact Wrestling, you wouldn’t even know a fraction of what he’s capable of just with how the company displays him. Again, it’s the same with a lot of the X-Division talent. There’s no division in Impact Wrestling that feels special anymore, so seeing members of the X-Division feel special outside of the company is exhilarating … but also frustrating. Also, Ishimori’s theme was the least over thing about him in this match, so I have no idea how Josh Mathews would have reacted.
I know people are probably thinking I’m complaining about Impact Wrestling not being a super indie spot fest, but honestly, an “indie spot fest” is the majority of the X-Division these days. These two matches were wrestling clinics, to be perfectly honest, and not in the same way.
EH: Diamonds In The Rough
Yikes. I’m as surprised as anyone here.
In theory (and a bit in execution, I admit), it’s an ACE. The crowd is hyped as they should be with the first match of the night. They’ve got the “OLE! LUCHA” chant down, and there’s even a “THIS IS AWESOME” chant. But this is really a bizarre match full of timing issues, miscommunications, and a genuine worry that Aerostar is going to hurt himself. It’s truly surprising how sloppy this match is, considering Drago and Aerostar’s familiarity with each other. And as an introduction to the Lucha Underground stars, it’s not that great.
Then again, I know from personal experience that Lucha Underground runs its ship like a television show first and foremost — so it has the pleasure of masking these kinds of issues in editing, in a way a live pay-per-view just can’t do. Obviously, this match was already a downgrade from the original Lucha Underground exhibition match for this show (Pentagon Jr. versus Fenix), but it was still expected to be a good match. Again, thankfully the crowd’s enthusiasm is a saving grace of sorts for covering up this match’s flaws, but again, I say: Yikes.
The finish is also screwed up during Aerostar’s interaction with the top left corner of the ring, an area that gives wrestlers (see: Brian Cage and Fenix, a wrestler I have never seen stumble on the ropes) all night long.
EH: Voodoo Kin Mafia
Thank god Don Callis gets his two “Stamford” barbs out of the way early. It’s such a “vintage TNA” bingo situation that I was actually shocked the first time Callis started going on about Mathews sitting next to “a real star” unlike his time back at Stamford. I know Callis’ whole thing is commentary to “pop the boys” — and I genuinely enjoy that most of the time, with the exception being his first few NJPW shows as a commentator — but the last thing an Impact Wrestling needs on a show all about its redemption and how “this time, it’s different” is jabs at WWE.
ACE: The Front Line
Despite that early issue with commentary — and the general disappointment that Josh Mathews would remain on commentary — the rest of the show’s commentary is very good. (Except for when Mathews says his hardcore match buzzwords: “bedlam and anarchy and chaos.”)
Josh Mathews should not be the veteran voice on commentary. He’s technically on lead here, especially since he’s more familiar with the product, but he needs an authoritative voice on commentary with him. And I’m not talking people like Pope or even Sonjay Dutt (poor guy is just off commentary now with no send-off) but someone who you can actually buy having any sort of seniority over Mathews in any way. Someone who’s not a peer. Someone who Mathews doesn’t feel too comfortable mocking or cracking jokes with, instead focused on just calling the match … while he gets appropriately mocked. Callis does this — mocks Mathews — during the Matt Sydal match, but that’s far from the predominant topic during commentary, and Mathews stays as neutral as he possibly can. Thankfully.
Also, another ACE on top of this ACE: Josh Mathews’ faux-hawk is officially dead. I first realized this either in the most recent Impact Wrestling episode or the Redemption preview, but either way: Thank you, hair gods. Thank you so much.
“ … and then everyone said ‘jabroni’.”
This doesn’t make up for all the weeks of “one true spirit guide” Josh Mathews — and the years of downright obnoxious Josh Mathews — but I’ll give Impact Wrestling for doing the damn thing and pulling the plug on character Josh Mathews in favor of commentator Josh Mathews. And to do so early in the show, so there’s no need to dwell on potential guru Mathews interference.
ACE: World Elite
I think at this point, it’s impossible to watch any LAX segment or match and not see “breakout singles star Santana” during it. In the clubhouse, it’s just something as simple as Santana deciding he’s “feeling like the jefe today.” Of course, little does he know the jefe’s not coming in today — thanks to a phone call from King (hey, “Rey” is Spanish for King!) — which leads us to the Tag Team Championship match …
… where Santana has to be physically restrained and calmed down by both Ortiz and Kid Ref before the tag match can officially start.
I glossed over it during the WrestleCon recap, but while the signs of age are very visible, Scott Steiner can still pretty hold his own in the ring. His parts of the match are very much Scott Steiner’s Greatest Hits — I’ll admit I popped from the Frankensteiner and the Eli Drake/Highest Peaks Elbow Drop double team — but thankfully, the other three men in this match more than carry the load of this match.
The crowd is so into the match, so loud and rowdy, that there’s a segment where Drake and Santana basically have to scream at each other to call the match … and that’s honestly kind of awesome. Especially when you consider this is happening in the Impact Zone, of all places. Even at the beginning of the match, there’s a shocking “F*CK YOU STEINER” chant, which seemed impressively hostile. LAX is so beloved in the Impact Zone, and it really helps the vibe of this match, even though it ends with them losing their titles.
Also, I complimented the commentary (and mentioned “breakout singles star Santana”) before, but let me hit you with a direct example from this match. After we get the color about “the street” from which LAX come, Josh Mathews gives us a previously unknown backstory about Santana and his love of professional wrestling. “The day that he got his diploma, he started wrestling school.” It’s such a simple reason to care about someone and something that has been absolutely lacking on commentary on Impact Wrestling — and since Josh Mathews has been the one guilty of this, being good now does not completely absolve him — and something that sells the passion of this wrestler and why the Impact Zone is so ride or die for LAX.
Of course, that love from the Impact Zone is what creates LAX’s downfall. Their “critical mistake,” as Callis calls it. LAX are feeling themselves so much by the end of the match that Santana doesn’t go for the win with the Street Sweeper and instead chooses to diving outside to take out Scott Steiner. That allows Eli Drake to get the upper hand, and the rest is Big Bad Booty Gravy (eww) history.
By the way, on mute? This match looks 100% like a bizarre form of elder abuse. Then again, on mute, you can’t hear Don Callis say: “They don’t want to be frontin’.” You can still read Santana’s lips when he incredulously says “A f*cking old man?!?” to Ortiz after the match though. Professional wrestling is weird, y’all.
EH: The Band
Soooo, Eli Drake’s new entrance theme… When I hear it, I feel like I’m watching WCW.
ACE: Sports Entertainment Xtreme
Yes, after my opening remarks about the X-Division and indy spot fests, the six-way X-Division match on this card ends up being a very good one. Again, it helps that the participants are actually going full speed (or at least, near full speed) when commentary talks about lighting fast X-Division action, as opposed to the half-speed Impact Wrestling usually goes with. And knowing Ishimori, Xavier, and Lee had been in two back-to-back nights of PWG action before this show, I was even more impressed by how on fire they were in this match.
Seriously, everyone looked like a million bucks here — and the crowd finally got off their butts to respond to Cage appropriately as he kept up with these X-Division guys. Some highlights (and a hard recommend for y’all to watch this match):
- The crowd appropriately chants “WELCOME BACK” to DJZ, and Impact Wrestling appropriately hits the DJ air horn whenever he cues it.
- Trevor Lee poking the bear with Brian Cage — twice — first leading to the “YOU F*CKED UP” chant and then “CAGE IS GONNA KILL YOU” once Cage finally tags himself in.
- The thing that’s made Cage work so well so far in Impact Wrestling is just the simple fact that he reveals a new offensive skill every match. He slowly but surely gets his sh*t in, if you will.
- DJZ’S SPRINGBOARD DDT TO TREVOR LEE — TO THE OUTSIDE — IS INSANE AND HOW DOES NEITHER MAN DIE?!?
- Redemption plays with the rule of threes throughout the night, and here, it’s third time’s the charm for El Hijo Del Fantasma hitting the Arrow From The Depths of Hell.
- Josh Mathews: “Dezmond Xavier may never kick out.”
But because I’m me (and because I’m not going to let the little things go), let me just point out the couple of production snafus in this match though:
- Ishimori comes out … only for the info on the screen to say he’s “El Hijo Del Fantasma.” (No, Fantasma’s info doesn’t say he’s “Taiji Ishimori.”)
- The match starts with some DJZ versus Dezmond Xavier action, and the camera decides to zoom right in on Xavier’s face during a rest hold … as he’s very clearly calling the match to DJZ. He’s practically reciting a monologue, and the camera never zooms out/production never changes the camera. Come on, you guys.
ACE/EH: Ink Inc.
There’s a guy in the front row who functions as Impact Wrestling’s Sign Guy during this pay-per-view, basically with the same miss-to-hit ratio but without any of the actual effort put into the signs. (Seriously, all the signs look like they were done five minutes before show time.) I’m giving the EH to his signs for “WRESTLINGFORUM.COM,” “LAX’S TOKEN CRACKER” (newsflash: that’s everyone in the Impact Zone), a “69” “joke” (during the first Knockouts match), and then finally just random shout-outs to people he knows.
Honestly, the ACE here is only for the sign during the six-way X-Division match: “WHERE’S MARSHE.” Sometimes it’s good to laugh about such a weird time in the X-Division.
ACE/EH: The Dollhouse
Remember the Tyson Dux versus Taiji Ishimori match from Bound For Glory 2017? No, probably not. But this match is a better version of that, at least in the way the show technically tries to focus on it while it’s happening. That’s the EH. At a certain point, I honestly wrote in my notes, “Oh, this is still happening.” There’s a reason the one official YouTube video for this match isn’t even specifically about the match. Unfortunately for Kiera Hogan and Taya Valkyrie though, the real point of this match — besides to get Taya a win back after losing a big match and feud to Rosemary — is to introduce new Knockout Tessa Blanchard to the viewing audience, via guest commentary. That is the ACE.
In case you missed it, Tessa Blanchard is the daughter of Tully Blanchard and the stepdaughter of Magnum TA. She’s a “third generation Knockout,” meaning we now have confirmation that and Tully and Joe (her grandfather) Blanchard were in fact Knockouts. I knew it! On the indies, she comes out to a remix of the Four Horsemen theme with a “Diamonds Are Forever” intro — thus all the “diamond” and “Tessa is forever.” talk — so I look forward to the Impact Wrestling knock-off of either one of those. (That wasn’t sarcasm.)
Mathews brings up Tessa’s … “reputation” on social media. Speaking as someone who has only heard things very, very vaguely about her — specifically that she has a “bad attitude,” which describes very little and suggests even more — I will say I’m a big fan of her as a sports entertainer. (You can add me to the list of people who very much enjoyed her WrestleCircus match against Brian Cage earlier this year.) Adding her to Impact Wrestling’s Knockout Division can only be a good thing as far as I’m concerned, so let’s just hope this alleged “bad attitude” doesn’t lead to a Hania situation. Especially since the Knockouts locker room is reportedly one big happy family.
Also, based on this segment, Don Callis either doesn’t remember hiring Tessa or someone is making big decisions without his knowledge. POWER STRUGGLE STORYLINE. (Just kidding. I assume she saw that Jimmy Jacobs got a job by just showing up on commentary at Bound For Glory, so she did the same thing.)
ACE: No Limit
You can’t even understand the joy that I had in seeing Little Petey Pump doing some Steiner math, only for Steiner to interrupt and drop some true knowledge. And it doesn’t just hit the Steiner math button: It hits Steiner’s affinity for Petey’s wife, it has Steiner talking about Canada (you know, “Mexico North”) and “Canadian miles,” it has Steiner just being genuinely happy to see his protege. And really invested in knowing that Petey’s love life with his wife was much better when he was sitting under Steiner’s learning tree.
And of course they’re going to Cracker Barrel after the show.
ACE: The Naturals
- LOL Matt Sydal’s new third eye-centric tron.
- Thank you, Impact Wrestling. Thank you for returning Matt Sydal to his previous theme, as opposed to that terrible “enlightened” theme no one could get into.
- That stupid cat mask! Sydal literally has patches on it on the back and front of his jacket. Beautiful.
It’s slightly disappointing that Petey Williams doesn’t get the win here, but one assumes they’re saving that for the next Canadian sojourn. His strategy here is a good one too, as he keeps going for Sydal’s legs and back (a fact that Josh Mathews points out, as he actually has insights now) to make the Shooting Star Press harder for him to pull off.
Unfortunately — like with LAX — he’s also too focused on firing up the crowd to capitalize at certain moments or stop Sydal from getting away. Which is exactly what happens when Petey finally hits the Canadian Destroyer — the second time Petey kills Sydal and can’t pin him, after the slingshot Codebreaker on the apron. Sydal pretty much survives in order to win, which allows us to continue on with this feud.
ACE: The Rising
“Honestly, McKenzie, I can’t explain what I’m feeling right now. …”
Eddie Edwards starts another sentence — one about Sami Callihan — after that one, but it’s cut off by Moose. Knowing what we know about the post-match situation, Moose shouldn’t have interrupted Edwards. And not just because he only cut him off to make some awful analogy about how professional football was like a hardcore match.
Maybe if Edwards could’ve sorted through his thoughts about this entire situation, he wouldn’t have continued to go for blood after the match. (This ACE is obviously for the touch of foreshadowing before we get to the rest of the promo. And for the matching leather vests the boys all have. Aces and Eights, y’all!) Maybe they actually would have won the match, and we wouldn’t have to watch Tommy Dreamer — of all people — keep saving Eddie Edwards until it’s too late.
Speaking of “of all people” …
EH: The Revolution
Moose’s part of the promo is awful, but Tommy Dreamer is on the spectrum of all things bad. The man literally quotes MLK and says he wishes he were alive today … to watch Dream’s stupid hardcore match. And to see — because the guy whose House of Hardcore shows have never met an “LOLGAY” moment they didn’t love as much as they love waxing nostalgia about the trash of the ‘90s is woke now — “white stands with black … man stands with women … youth stands with age …” After that, he promises that Eddie Edwards (and the rest of them) will have his redemption tonight, no matter what … and again, they really should’ve kept an eye on Edwards.
I’ll just fast forward to the match now, so I can call out the biggest problems with it, which just so happen to come in the form of the wrestlers who are the biggest problems with the pre-match promo.
The worst thing about the match — which was expected from the way he even entered this feud — was Tommy Dreamer constantly having to save Eddie Edwards, supposedly the focus of this feud. I’ve written before that I’m not the type of person who chants “ECW” at the slightest of hardcore match behavior, so Tommy Dreamer does absolutely nothing for me (unless he’s being abused by Edge and Christian) … but I hope people see how objectively bad he was in that pre-match interview segment. He’s still able to “go” as much as he’s been able to in the past decade or so, but the problem since his joining this storyline — and I acknowledge it hasn’t even been that long — has been his “wise veteran” shtick in a feud that’s extremely personal. He just looks like a glory hog.
The “glory hog” thing is also kind of Moose’s problem, as he rarely shows or knows how to show vulnerability, which is why he promos about football instead of the fact that he’s only even part of this feud because oVe chose to go after Edwards’ loved ones. A list which includes himself. In fact, the second worst thing about the match — which feels like a result of the worst — is that I couldn’t tell you a single thing Moose does in this match. My notes literally say nothing about him, as he’s dropped down from Eddie Edwards’ second in this match for some reason.
ACE: The Beat Down Clan
This match is pretty much the car crash that Barbed Wire Massacre III tried to pretend it was, right down to Sami Callihan’s crimson mask in the post-match. Yes, Josh Mathews refers to it as “bedlam and anarchy and chaos,” but that shouldn’t deter you from watching it. Eddie Edwards’ die hard attitude is the key to this match, because oVe give him everything they’ve got, and he still won’t stay down.
The thing I find most fascinating about this match is Callis commentary about the “trailer park cult” oVe are apparently a part of, as he talks about their “compound” and “wrestler house” back in Ohio. Like the Santana backstory earlier in the night, this is something we never knew about the characters before — something that actually makes for some interesting backstory and three-dimensionalism.
Remember when oVe debuted and all Josh Mathews and Jeremy Borash would tell us is that the Crist brothers are “polar opposites?” We never actually got any explanation on that one, and it wasn’t until Callihan came to round the crew out that anything about the Crists — other than their annoying Pepsi Blue aesthetics — stuck out.
The post-match is the key to continuing this feud and storyline, as Tommy Dreamer ends up taking the poorly-placed pin (Edwards is right there and could’ve broken it up) and losing the match for his team. Throughout the match, Callihan tries to get Edwards with the baseball bat again — at one point, he even has Dave Crist choked Edwards out with duct tape to set that up — and eventually, this leads to Dreamer bringing out the barbed wire bat (after a kendo stick has already been introduced, of course).
This is all important, because these become the tool of Eddie Edwards’ “redemption.” After the loss, Edwards immediately goes after Callihan with the barbed wire bat, right for the eye … and here comes the blood. He then ties Callihan to the ropes in a way I’m sure Matt Striker would compare to the Crucifixion. (Lucha Underground Season Four premieres June 13.) Mathews instead says: “Eddie Edwards is going to sacrifice Sami Callihan live on pay-per-view.”
Because he’s Sami Callihan, he spits blood in Edwards’ face — twice, even after a low blow — but Edwards just keeps on keeping on, smearing the blood on his face before wailing on Callihan with the kendo stick (essentially getting his receipt for that original baseball bat shot). “F*CK HIM UP EDDIE, F*CK HIM UP,” the Impact Zone chants. Kid Ref tries to put a stop to this, but Eddie Edwards takes him out with the stick and keeps going. The Impact Zone loves it.
In my notes, I wrote, “Eddie needed this.” Not just in story but as a character. Dreamer tries to stop him, but Edwards pushes him out of the way — then hits the “kill shot” on Callihan, before taking out both Crists. But he doesn’t stop. He just keeps going with the kendo stick on a lifeless Callihan. Then Alisha comes to stop him, and … BLAM. … and now we have ourselves a story.
I’m not a fan of the very Orlando crowd making light of the situation like that, which is the biggest problem with a story like this. (Some choice chants of the Impact Zone at this point: “NOW YOU’RE SINGLE” and the to-the-point “WIFE BEATER.”) This story, however, has much more nuance than you’d expect from a story with oVe, the least subtle members of the roster.
(Technically, I’d also call Moose out for lacking subtlety, but he basically disappears in the post-match, despite the fact he should probably be trying to calm his best friend down.) It’s also just a risky spot for the pay-per-view, as the Impact Zone has been hot all show, and the length of the segments checking on Alisha (yet, not Callihan, the one bleeding to death) could easily deflate the crowd. Thankfully, it doesn’t.
Eddie Edwards’ “redemption” coming at a price — basically turning him into a monster like Callihan — is an interesting story. And I thought this feud peaked at Sami Callihan in a dress.
ACE: The Beautiful People
Don Callis calling Braxton Sutter “a gigolo” is actually the ACE of the night.
This match is really important to cement Allie as a solid, fighting champion. As she tells McKenzie Mitchell earlier in the night, she’s not a “paper champion.” She’s beaten Laurel Van Ness, Sienna, and Taya Valkyrie since she won the championship, so what more does she have to prove? Well, she’s able to prove she can take on Su Yung, even with Braxton Sutter’s presence and interference. Why? Because she’s ALLIE.
Seriously, there’s something special about a crowd chanting “ALLIE,” only for Allie to scream “I’M ALLIE” to fire herself up and the same crowd to chant “YES YOU ARE” right back at her. I mean, if you couldn’t already tell that the Impact Zone loves Allie — with all the people rocking the bunny ears in solidarity — that would be the moment to show you.
Also, Su Yung introduces a raggedy glove in this match, and classic “LOLTNA” would suggest that it will have something to do with a wonky finish. Fortunately, it does not. Instead, they save that for the post-match, when she (after some red mist action) Mandible Claws the heck out of that gigolo (he tries to propose to her before she does all this) Braxton Sutter. Not a face turn though, surprisingly.
ACE: Main Event Mafia
I don’t want to do it, so I’ll sneak it in here: An EH to McKenzie Mitchell. Oh, McKenzie. Bless your heart. I mean, congrats to her for getting the big match ring announcer promotion. But I swear, this is like throwing the woman into the deep end. She’s not great. (“Great” is the fact she does a wardrobe change for this, though.)
But as for the match itself: Those crazy bastards. I can’t believe they did it.
I literally wrote in my notes, before the match even started: “LOL the Impact Zone is going to hate AA when he beats the most over guy in the match.” (In this case, I assumed Fenix would take the pin, but that would still count as Austin Aries beating Pentagon Jr.) Little did I know “the most over guy in the match” was actually going to win the match and the championship. (Poor Fenix takes the pin in either scenario.) I also wrote a note asking what Lucha Underground players being the most over guys in the Impact Zone says about Impact Wrestling as a whole, but that’s another topic for another day. I’ll just say, it made sense when that was the case at WrestleCon, but this is Impact Wrestling’s home turf.
[By the way: Leading up to this match, we have some pre-tape promos from both Pentagon and Fenix, which isn’t much but is definitely more than before. The video package for this feud even features footage from Lucha Underground now too, as before there was only AAA footage.]
Like the WrestleCon match, this main event is unsurprisingly great. In fact, it builds off that previous match’s story, this time with Aries trying to avoid repeating history — specifically in the form of not being a part of the final decision — only to again lose that battle because of the bond of brothers. A bond, of course, that Pentagon is able to use to lull Fenix into a false sense of security before he takes the win for himself, again. Aries tries his best at the beginning of the match to take out both men at the same time, quickly switching back-and-forth between the Lucha Bros. during his offense, but that’s a method that has a short shelf life. He then starts just doing moves on both of them at the same time (like the double 450), but that honestly softens the blow for both men instead. He’s really up against the damn numbers game here, unfortunately.
The finishing sequence of this match is just unreal. From the superkick party on Aries, to Pentagon “turning” on Fenix with a superkick, then Pentagon’s Gory Special on Fenix as he also hits Aries with a driver — that seems like it could be it. But they give us the full Pentagon experience, with him breaking Aries’ arm before hitting another driver. And surely Fenix will either come back to life to save the day or — in a questionable choice — Aries will kick out at two. But neither of those things happen, and we have a new Impact World Champion.
Like I said before: Those crazy bastards. I can’t believe they did it.
And now, it is your turn. Please don’t forget to share this recap and also comment. Do it for Impact Wrestling’s redemption, which is actually going pretty well.