Hard To Kill couldn’t be a more suitable name for Impact Wrestling’s first PPV of 2020.
Over the past decade alone the formerly known company of TNA, has sullied its name countless times through moves such as; failing to hold its own on a new version of Monday night wars, losing it’s moniker of TNA, a failed run as GFW and finally the move to and from countless networks. What its first event in 2020, is that being Hard To Kill, it has survived throughout all of it and is now promising to deliver a new direction, one which will indeed fight for its survival throughout its next decade.
Leading into this PPV, many of the storylines had their own share of controversy. Tessa Blanchard was accused of being a racist and a bully allegedly. RVD had a very steamy love angle with his real-life girlfriend Katie Forbes, kissing her passionately every chance he got on TV. Going into this event Impact Wrestling was certainly being spoken about but perhaps for some of the wrong reasons, this event, therefore, is an extremely important one in establishing where this company goes from this point moving forward. Did this PPV deliver however and made cynics rethink how the company is seen from this moment forward?
Ken Shamrock defeated Mad Man Fulton
To give this match its due for the age Ken Shamrock is (55) and the fact he isn’t really established as having a legends slot, he held his own … somewhat. Some of his submissions from his old days in UFC and a lot of his throws were thrown to a far larger opponent in Mad Man Fulton. Within saying this, however, he is slowing down and the match did feel like it started the PPV on a bit of a slow opener.
The fact is simply if he wants to be wrestling he should be positioned in such a way that he isn’t doing standard exhibition matches and that he should be kept as a special event type performer. Growing up watching old WWF tapes it felt Shamrock could snap any wrestler in two but it did feel that throughout a lot of this match Fulton was allowing him to give a lot of moves to him. There was even a part in the match where Shamrock tried to suplex Fulton and instead just dropped him partway through, making it look extremely sloppy.
The ending of the match where he popped Fulton’s arm out the socket did look cool, but the pinning sequence afterwards became very sloppy. Fulton is an incredible opponent and Shamrock was good for his day but that at this point in time is at the most 18 years ago. This match felt unnecessary and writing this makes me feel sad to see a performer I loved age so ungracefully.
Impact X-Division Title: Ace Austin defeated Trey
The X Division contest was a good match with flashes of brilliance. The highflyers did some amazing flipping spots and good fast-paced momentum. Within saying that this never felt like it reached the level that any of these competitors should be capable of. Don’t take the previous statement as saying the match was bad though, because compared to many other wrestlers they still outshone the vast majority.
The main issue with this match was that Trey truthfully felt green and this is not an insult. He has been in a major promotion, not even for a year at this point and he normally wrestles as part of a tag team. The man had kinks in his game a lot and it’s not really his fault, especially as he is so new to the business. Giving Trey his credit, he did perform the moves with precision and showed a good ability in the ring, but he never had that panache and flair that many great performers do, especially when looking at the X Divisions classic competitors in AJ Styles, Samoa Joe or Low Ki.
Ace Austin, however, did look amazing. He will be a future star of the company and one which they will likely build this division over, the match never felt flat when he was obviously in control, so he knows how to work perfectly. Give him some more established talents such as Rich Swann and Willie Mack, allow Trey to develop as a solo performer. In a year if they do both work together more, this will have the potential to be a far greater match than we got on this night.
Impact Knockouts Title: Taya Valkyrie defeated ODB and Jordynne Grace
This was just a generic triple threat match where everything felt formulaic. Two people attack, one is out, they get up, someone else is out … etc. It felt clunky, sloppy and slow and that the wrestlers at times weren’t working together. ODB especially seemed a bit out of her depth here (and considering she’s a legend in this business) this confused me why. A lot of suplexes and running at the other women were her arms open.
The match itself wasn’t bad, it just didn’t have anything special to warrant a repeat viewing. Taya was at least trying to have a bit of drama, taking the match to the ramp and showing off her high flying ability, but it did little to make this match good. If you want slightly clunky and extremely formulaic wrestling watch this match. The state of the knockouts division worries me, if this match is looking to where the future is heading. Taya hopefully can drive the others surrounding her to increase their game and give a match that is truly PPV quality.
RVD defeated Brian Cage
This match focused more on the storyline than the actual wrestling. The only thing I figured truthfully was the referees in Impact Wrestling are inept. RVD clearly got his girlfriend Katie Forbes to get involved before hitting Brian Cage with a steel chair busting him open. It wasn’t until he pinned him that the match was stopped. The fact is I also didn’t think RVD won, I’d have thought Cage would have by DQ but the referee stopped the match, literally on the pinfall. The match ended by referee stoppage rather than pinfall making for a rather confusing state of affairs.
RVD defeated Daga
At this point, Daga (who RVD literally created beef within a forgettable angle, where he kissed Forbes in the background of his interview) came out and challenged RVD. The two had a fairly passable match showing a lot of flips and intense moves that accentuated the match … at least for the time being. Right towards where the match was looking to increase the state of the PPV, Katie Forbes tripped up Daga before RVD went to give him a high kick and five star frog splash. This ending was messy and ruined what was going to hopefully be at least a passable match.
The two then showed on TV they were in a polygamous relationship with Jennifer Barlow. The two danced in very revealing clothing, twerking as RVD watched from the top turnbuckle, and created quite a provocative angle. The real-life throuple, is commendable in the respect that it shows quite an extreme form of relationship that some in the audience might relate to. It was clearly done to be provocative but it is good that they are showing something that is outside the norm in the hope to get a conversation going. The one part that wasn’t positive was the actual match itself being on PPV (this could have easily been on Impact and it would have had a similar effect) and how shoddy the referee was in making any decision in this whole RVD segment. Hard To Kill up till now is nothing worth being excited or special about.
Call Your Shot Trophy: Eddie Edwards defeated Michael Elgin
Suddenly the PPV for some reason increased massively in quality as Michael Elgin and Eddie Edwards gave a very hard-hitting match. Edwards showed a sense of urgency in retaining the title whilst the powerful Elgin tried to hit him with hard punches. Some of the highlights from this match include; Elgin suplexing Edwards on the exposed floor (after he pulled up matches), Edwards diving suicida and the double suplex spot from the top rope to the floor.
This match created a sense that Impact had chosen to keep their best performers till last and it showed. Any promotion could have run this match and it would have still been a classic match on an event. The only problem was that it was for a trophy with a smiley face with tape across it; I get it matches Edwards slightly insane character, but it looked stupid and took the drama out of any outcome for the end of this match. The commentary did explain it well, meaning a lamen could understand the importance of this match, but to actually sit looking at the quite frankly ridiculous looking trophy, took any drama out of it.
The ending of this match worked to perfection as Elgin tries to submit Edwards with a crossface, Edwards tapped the mat but did it to amp himself up rather than as a way of submitting. Elgin tried arguing with the referee before clotheslining Edwards and powerbombing him. Edwards rolled him up after this to show he won with the very skin of his teeth. It shows Edwards as tenacious and Elgin as tough. For two of the companies top performers this is important to keep them looking strong and thankfully they did, without jeopardising anything future title match that trophy might allow Edwards to have.
No Disqualification Match: Moose defeated Rhino
Despite the fact that Impact’s number one criticism is that they rely on old talent, it’s because they genuinely look old. Rhino in this match, however, did not. Both men brawled from the opening bell and used weapons such as tables, chairs and the metal ramp. This was more like a fight between two big bruisers and thankfully it created an intense atmosphere. It might not be the quality that Rhyno had in the original ECW but Rhino still comes out strong.
The referee bump, despite being cheesy, added for a fun ending to this match. It was just a case of waiting to see who got speared first with these two and it ended up being Moose after being speared through a table. Wrestling rules dictate that he wins the contest, therefore, and after the referee runs out and counts 2, Moose low blows Rhino and spears him himself. This match didn’t reinvent the wheel but it took a good staple of wrestling and created a serviceable match with it. Nothing you need to go out of your way to view, but it was a good match to watch as part of the entire PPV nonetheless.
Impact Tag Team Championships: The North defeated Willie Mack
A real-life injury to Rich Swann at Friday’s Bash at the Brewery event left Willie Mack to go in this match alone. A handicap match for the tag team championships does feel predictable though and unfortunately, this match suffered as such. It became formulaic as when The North went to attack Willie he would be beaten down and attempt a comeback before being beaten down again. Towards the end of the match, he did give an amazing doomsday destroyer to Ethan Page as he was sat atop Josh Alexander’s shoulders. The match did show senses of brilliance but obviously the quality had dipped due to Rich Swann not being in the match.
Hopes are these two do a rematch as it would end up being an amazing PPV classic but, for the time being at least, it’s a case of waiting and seeing what happens.
Impact World Championship: Tessa Blanchard defeated Sami Callihan
This was the match everyone tuned in for and this is the match that stole the night. Sami Callihan looked like a despicable heel, spitting and raking the eyes of Tessa. Tessa came back looking like an incredible babyface, and everything in this match was perfect. The fact it opened with both their finishers inside the space of 3 minutes allowed for the tone to be set and for an amazing in-ring classic to be achieved.
Tessa was in this for talent alone, as she gave some of the smoothest suplexes, submissions and dives the knockouts division has seen. Sami Callihan played the part of a Terry Funk type heel perfectly and was so ruthless throughout the duration of the match. When both wrestlers were shouting hit me at each other as it reached the true apex of the entire PPV every shot felt vicious and intense. Everything felt truly worth the accolade of being called one of the best American PPV matches of the year so far, and one it would take a lot to beat.
The ending of this event seeing her hit two Canadian destroyers, giving the classic thumbs up and thumbs down motion of Callihan’s OVE faction and then finally her buzzsaw DDT to end this match showed that women should be fighting men. Away with chivalry, away with WWE being scared of upsetting the censors and away with any controversy online. This was one of the best matches of IMPACT Wrestling history and a match that’ll be forever within American Wrestling history for a millennia.
Overall Show Grade: C-
Whilst only one match is worth watching on the show as its own event (Tessa vs Sami) the whole of the PPV was serviceable and it created a continuation of storylines. It also challenged the mode of what wrestling PPVs should include content-wise, having the two main storylines going into the weekly IMPACT show a women’s main champion (never seen within an American company … ever) and the start of a polygamy angle.
Matches such as Elgin vs Edwards and The North vs Rich Swann and Willie Mack warrant a repeat booking and talent such as Trey and Daga can grow with the company itself. It’s not worth watching down as an event, but if IMPACT learns and develop from these ideas it can have a solid 2020. Make sure you watch the main event but the rest of the show is honestly entirely skippable.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @bradcassidy170. Thanks for reading!