Back in the saddle for my first pay per view watch of the new year! 2023 starts off with Hard to Kill from Impact Wrestling (see what I thought about last year’s Hard to Kill here). This year’s show was once again main evented by Mickie James, except this time she was challenging for the Knockouts Title and not defending it. The other match that had people talking was the Impact World Title match between champion Josh Alexander and Bully Ray. Yes, Bully Ray of the Dudley Boyz and Aces and Eights fame. Bully Ray shockingly won the Call Your Shot Battle Royal last year (Impact’s version of the Money in the Bank match), and not long after would announce that he wanted his title match at this show. The whole thing engendered some real ‘WTFs’ from the Internet Wrestling Community; the idea that 51 year old Bully Ray was getting an Impact World Title match on a Pay Per View in 2023 seemed like a joke more than anything. This was another ‘Impact gonna Impact’ decision in a lot of people eyes, and even I was flabbergasted at first.
But you know what? For one, a good story can make a seemingly uninteresting match worth watching. They managed to put one together on television where Bully pretended to change his ways, including calling his shot the honorable way and not when Josh was laid out already, only to reveal his true self in December by attacking both Josh and Josh’s wife who was the front row one night at TV. But secondly Josh Alexander is an outstanding wrestler, maybe the best one who is not working in WWE or AEW right now, and if anyway can get a good match out of Bully Ray it’s him. Third, the match rules were such that Bully wasn’t gonna be out there trying to put on a 25 minute technical clinic at 51 years old. So everything was in place for it to be not so bad. And finally, who else were they supposed to get? The downside to having a champion who regularly defends on pay per view is that if they have the title for any sizeable length of time it’s real easy to run out of opponents on your regular roster so you have to do this kind of thing sometime (see Roman Reigns and Goldberg last year).
Knowing all of what I just said Scott D’Amore, the booker for Impact Wrestling, smartly had Josh and Bully open the show instead of close it. That honor was saved for Mickie James and Impact Knockouts champion Jordynn Grace. In another example of story trumping all, James’ Last Rodeo was great angle in which she put her career on the line every match while she made one more attempt to climb the ladder and win the title once again. And while we knew the road would end with this match they executed well enough along the way to put a real sense of drama into it. The last piece of the puzzle was to make sure the defending champ didn’t look like a patsy in this whole story, and they took care of that great. Jordynn Grace had several successful title defenses going into this show, including a big one of the previously undefeated Masha Slamovich, and came in looking as formidable as one could expect a champion to be.
But enough about me. How was the show? Let’s take a look.
Impact World Title: Josh Alexander (c) vs Bully Ray
This was a Full Metal Mayhem Match, which meant it was basically an ECW style no DQ match. On the one hand this was the best way for to get any kind of entertaining match here, but on the other hand they did way too much here. Here’s all what happened during this match:
- Blood in the first minute
- A chain
- A cheese grater
- Multiple table spots
- A trash can
- A run in
- A second run in
- A third run in
- More blood
- Zip ties
- Multiple kickouts on finishers
If ECW style matches are you bag then this is right up your alley and you would absolutely love it. If not, then you were like me saying ‘this is too much’ through the whole thing. I do have to say that everything was executed perfectly, to the point where even I can’t call this a bad match. Ridiculously overbooked? Absolutely. But what they did was done so well that I can only downgrade this from the vantage point of someone who thinks more is less and less is more when it comes to these matches. If you dig this kind of thing then you’ll love this match. And by the time it was done I was like ‘yeah that was a lot, but for what they need out of a world title match it did the job’.
Impact Tag Team Title Match: The Motor City Machine Guns (c) vs Ace Austin and Chris Bey vs Heath & Rhino vs Matt Cardona & Brian Myers
This was a 4 way elimination match. Good match here, standard 4 way tag team match stuff but really well done. The MCMG should be in the conversation for best tag team in the business along with the Usos, FTR, and the Briscoes and they’ve been doing it for a long time. Austin & Bey are both two very talented workers who should get a run with the belts this year. Myers and Cardona are two vets and good heels (Cardona of course has mastered this on the indies over the past year and a half). The match came down to the MCMG and Bey/Austin and they really turned it up in closing minutes. Perfect follow up to the plunder fest that was in the opener.
Digital Media Title Match: Joe Hendry (c) vs Moose
The Digital Media Championship is Impact’s version of a TV title. I almost passed on this one because I’m not a big fan of Moose to be honest. But I stuck with it, for you guys! The match was fine, but it mainly existed as a vehicle to introduce Santino Marella as the new authority figure in Impact Wrestling. Moose seemingly had the match won after a low blow to set up a spear, but Marella restarted it which enabled Hendry to pull out the win. Given all of this 14 minutes was about five minutes too long here, and that time could have gone to the next match, which was much more important.
Knockouts Number One Contenders Match: Deonna Purazzo vs Killer Kelly vs Taylor Wilde vs Masha Slamovich
This one was fine, but could have really used more than the nine minutes they got. It had some good spots never really hit that next gear. The biggest takeaway from this match is that the core of the Knockouts Division is good even after losing several names last year. Slamovich got the win here means she’s up next and has a good shot at winning gold this year.
Falls Count Anywhere: Rich Swann vs Steve Maclin
As expected this was a wild brawl. They started in the back, spilled out onto the streets of Atlanta, back into the parking garage, then to ringside in the building, and finally in the crowd. They didn’t resort to all the weaponry that the opener did and instead relied on the environment to provide the extreme elements. The match was fun, there were a few spots where some things got kicked out of that I would have rather there not have been but this was a good change up for this spot on the card. And at 11 minutes it went just about the right amount of time.
Jonathan Gresham vs Eddie Edwards
This was the workrate extravaganza of the night. These two put on a technical clinic for 19 minutes with Edwards getting the win. Either of these guys going up against Josh Alexander should be really great when it happens. Gresham is a welcome addition to the company and has a chance to do well there.
Impact Knockouts Title, Title vs Career, Jordynn Grace (c) vs Mickie James
Many times in wrestling the story doesn’t live up to the match, or vice versa. This was not one of those times. From the entrances to the ring introductions this was treated like the big deal that it was. The match itself delivered. Mickie can still go, and Jordynn Grace is one of the best working today. The match was a classic test of Grace’s power vs. James fighting spirit and tenacity. Grace used her strength advantage to shut down several of James comebacks while Mickie refused to stay down every time she got put down. While they hit a lot of big moves on each other, Grace did not get her finisher in on Mickie (a good thing; kicking out of finishers happens way too much nowadays) while Mickie did get one in for a two count, but thankfully it was done in such a way that it emphasized how strong the champ was and how hard it was to keep her down. This match was worthy of the main event slot it received and is definitely going to end up on my list of best womens’s matches of the year.
Good but not great show. The opener, while not my cup of tea, was great for those are into that kind of thing. The main event was great, and the matches in between were mostly fine. Nice way to start off the year for Impact.