WrestleWatch- Impact Wrestling Hard To Kill 2022
By Mick Robson
This isn't a review I ever expected to write. My pro wrestling fandom is mostly contained to WWE, AEW and the Aussie indie scene. But Impact Wrestling played a blinder.
On this past week's edition of Smackdown, Mickie James was announced as an entrant in the 2022 Women's Royal Rumble. On the surface, that may not be too surprising- WWE often reach out to alumni to fill Rumble spots, and indeed here, Mickie joins the likes of Kelly Kelly, Summer Rae and The Bella Twins in the field of 30 women. This year, however, it's a bit different. Mickie James is the reigning Impact Knockouts Champion- and she was acknowledged as such on commentary and WWE's social media! The Forbidden Door has now been opened!
In slightly less major, but still interesting to me news, Matt Striker has been released from Impact Wrestling, and his replacement was named hours before Impact's Hard To Kill PPV- Tom Hannifan, FKA Tom Phillips in WWE. Tom was one of the more baffling releases of 2021 (your Wyatts and Strowmans aside). Here's a young guy who had been with WWE since 2012, groomed for all intents and purposes as the next Michael Cole... and they just let him go? Phillips got criticism as a "Michael Cole clone", but I've always been a fan. He was fantastic on NXT, alongside Corey Graves where the reigns were a bit looser. So between the Mickie news and the Tom news, I ordered Hard To Kill.
I've never followed TNA/Impact all that closely. And despite Impact diehards saying, "it's a whole different company!", I see Impact Wrestling on social media all the time throwing to TNA footage and calling it #ImpactHistory, so... yeah, that TNA stigma remains for me, as someone who was almost strictly a WWE guy before AEW came along. I did give Impact a bit of a look around Bound For Glory when the Iinspiration debuted, and it was alright, but nothing that made me want to add to the seemingly endless amount of content out there to consume as a dedicated wrestling fan.
Let's see how Hard To Kill does. Let's do this!
Match 1: Jake Something def. Madman Fulton (at 5:25)
Match 2: Fatal 4 Way- Mike "Speedball" Bailey def. Ace Austin, Chris Bey and Laredo Kid (at 8:10)
Match 1: Ultimate X Match- Tasha Steelz def. Alisha Edwards, Chelsea Green, Jordynne Grace, Lady Frost & Rosemary (at 9:00)
Thoughts: I really enjoyed this. It was the first women's Ultimate X match in history. Tom Hannifan was dialled in right from the start as the lead PBP guy, giving a little history on the Ultimate X match for newbies like me who might not quite be up to speed. I had a passing knowledge of Chelsea and Jordynne- the latter impressed with her strength, while the former caught my attention with her willingness to take risks. My first time seeing Lady Frost, and I really enjoyed her character and her work, hitting a particularly crisp moonsault off the scaffolding to the outside. When my only complaint about this match is that it was too short, you've got a winning opener. (***1/4)
Match 2: X-Division Championship- Trey Miguel (c) def. Steve Maclin (at 12:50)
Thoughts: This was a chaotic battle, with Miguel and Maclin flying around ringside with some dazzling moves before the match even officially began in the ring. I knew that Maclin was a former WWE wrestler, but it took me forever to click that he was the former Steve Cutler. Forgotten Son, indeed. But Maclin showed more in this match than he ever did across NXT & WWE, looking like a total badass opposite the flashy Miguel. Perhaps the spot of the match was a Meteora to the outside that sent Maclin's head into the guardrail, but thankfully he seemed okay and the champion prevailed in an excellet showing by both men. (***3/4)
Ring of Honor commentator Ian Riccaboni and ring announcer Bobby Cruise joined the broadcast for the ROH title match.
Match 3: ROH World Championship- Jonathan Gresham (c) def. Chris Sabin (at 12:40)
Thoughts: It looked like ROH were closing shop after the Final Battle PPV, but Riccaboni said that operations will resume in April. The talent and the championship has been kept active in various indies over the past month or so, and got further exposure on this Impact show. The match was contested under Pure Rules- no punches, handshakes before and after the match, and each wrestler only gets 3 rope breaks a match. I've only seen Gresham a handful of times- was it Best of the Super Juniors he was in?- but I appreciate his grappling style- extremely innovative and never dull. He turned Sabin into a pretzel, and the finish was slick, as Gresham turned a La Magistral cradle into a bridging pin for the successful title defence. Another high-quality clash. (***3/4)
Match 4: Josh Alexander def. JONAH (at 17:05)
Thoughts: It was a pleasant surprise to see the former Bronson Reed on this card. He now goes by the nickname "The Top Dog", which just makes me think of Neel Kolhatkar. Anyway, both Jonah and Alexander traded heavy strikes- big meaty men slapping meat!- until Alexander worked the injured ankle of the 340 pounder. Production issues plagued this match, as the first half of it had persistent audio problems, and the feed completely dropped out for a moment later on, but that doesn't take away from the excellent shift these two monsters put in. After a missed moonsault, the big Aussie was forced to tap to the ankle lock. Sad to see the loss, happy to see the match. (****)
Match 5: Hardcore War- Eddie Edwards, Rich Swann, Willie Mack, Heath & Rhino def. Violent By Design (Joe Doering, Eric Young & Deaner) & The Good Brothers (Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson) (at 23:25)
Thoughts: This was an interesting concept. The rules were like a cageless War Games- wrestlers enter at set intervals, anything goes, and the match can only end by pinfall or submission once all wrestlers had entered. Lots of chairs, tables and even a flaming kendo stick! That's not an Alf Stewart impression- Edwards actually set a stick on fire and hit Gallows with it. A big Gore ends it for the good guys. This was different from everything else on the show to this point, which had featured high risk gimmick matches, pure wrestling and a hoss battle. Gotta love a show that delivers something for everyone. (***1/2)
After the match, ROH's Matt Taven & Mike Bennett hit the ring and attacked the winning team. They were soon joined by PCO and Vincent for a big beatdown. Maria Kanellis then appeared ringside and celebrated with the ROH crew in the ring. Oh, Maria. Be still my beating heart. But more importantly, holy invasion, Batman!
Interviewer Gia Miller catches up with Impact exec Scott D'Amore backstage. He didn't know anything about these ROH guys showing up, and he's going to get on the phone to "Baltimore" (the base of ROH operations).
Match 6: Impact World Championship- Moose (c) def. Matt Cardona & W. Morrisey (at 16:00)
Thoughts: An Impact original went over two former WWE guys! How times have changed. But don't worry, things haven't changed too much, as this triple threat was littered with the ref bumps, interference and general shenanigans that were commonplace when I was trying to give TNA a chance in the 2000s. The three guys worked hard, and credit too to Chelsea Green, who dived off the stage onto Moose after competing in the Ultimate X match. Moose also took a nasty bump where he kinda got sent through a table at ringside, but hit it wrong and seemed to get more concrete than table. A little too gimmicky for my tastes, especially the finish, but the effort was there. (***)
Ring of Honor Women's Champion Rok-C was shown ringside doing some scouting for the main event. The plot thickens...
Match 7: Impact Knockouts Championship- Texas Death Match- Mickie James (c) def. Deonna Purrazzo (at 19:40)
Thoughts: Not going to lie, as much of a fan of Mickie as I am, and I was looking forward to seeing how this would go down given the whole Royal Rumble thing... this was rough. I don't think either lady is overly used to working the hardcore style, and the rules were kind of jarring- you need to score a 3 count pinfall, then keep your opponent down for a 10 count like a Last Man Standing. I don't think the crowd was really clued in, as Mickie scored an early 3 count which seemed to throw everyone off. Both women bled and used a fair amount of weapons, but the big spots didn't fully hit- a piledriver by Purrazzo through a table looked awful, and the finishing sequence was slow and clunky. They definitely tried, but trying doesn't automatically make it good, especially for a PPV main event. (**3/4)
Weirdly enough, the top two matches brought things down on this show. Not that it was terrible, but everything else before it was such high quality that it fell short of that bar. Overall, a very positive sign for Impact in 2022- they created a nice buzz with a couple of announcements before the show, and the product they delivered was, on the whole, very entertaining. The ROH invasion storyline is an interesting wrinkle, and helps keep that company alive to where the April return that Ian Riccaboni spoke about might actually be viable. This was definitely good enough to make me a bit of an Impact fan, and I'll be checking out more shows from them in the future.
Overall Score: 8.5/10
Until next time, take care.