What does it mean, making history? Hard To Kill was built up around this idea of changing something so radically it would enter history books. If you’re fellow readers of the weekly reviews, you know that history has been in the making for 2 months. We knew even before the match happened who was going to be the challenger for the World Championship. The build-up then went fast, maybe too fast. I’ll probably sound like a broken record tonight because following a show every week and reviewing it as I do has a soap-opera effect. You knew, you saw, you expected, you wanted. And in the end, you’re surprised. To start the new year and the new decade, Impact Wrestling unveiled new belts. No more silver or gold, just red and owls. 

The major question was: could history shadow all that Hard To Kill means to a roster? History is made of an ensemble of people, moving together in the same direction, with many histories melting into one. All Championships were on the line tonight, lots of questions marks were on the menu… Who are the survivors and the winners of that great night? How many “I told you” and “I saw it coming”?  It’s time to find out, but your French Enygma Steph way…

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  • Ken Shamrock vs Madman Fulton w/ Dave & Jake Crist

It was one of these three that seemed to come out of nowhere, three collisions of generations. Shamrock, 55, vs Fulton, 29, opened the PPV. The good thing when you have no specific expectations from a match is the effect of surprise. Because this match was a very good surprise. With Dave and Jake Crist by his side, we had reasons to think things could have ended badly. In fact, no. First, because they were pulled to the back when they tried to interfere, second, because Fulton was really able to make it on his own. The way his right shoulder popped was unexpected.

Compared to Bound for Glory, Shamrock was able to show what he was really able of and, mostly, that he was not done yet. He worked the submission angle with a flurry of armbars, a hanging kimura lock and The Rings of Saturn to win the match. With a man the size of Fulton, that was the best strategy and, sorry, don’t explain to Shamrock how to wrestle… I appreciated seeing Fulton wrestling, and not just be the Monster puppet of oVe. I’m afraid we won’t see him for a while, which is sad, but at Hard To Kill, he proved the world he is a true and legit member of the Impact Wrestling roster.

  • Impact X-Division Championship: Ace Austin (c) vs Trey

One of the great things with The Rascalz is the “variable-geometry” aspect of the trio. They are good on their own, as teams, and the 3 of them. Trey made his way to the ring on his own, focused for himself and his Mum. Ace Austin didn’t let his cockiness backstage and went to straight to Mum to remind her of him. It was enough to infuriate Trey and make him attack. As any good X-Division match, it was intense, high-flying, innovative and full speed. But this one had the taste of hate. Ace and Trey offered a brilliant match.  There was no shadow of smoke in this match but a good mix of high-flying moves, submission work, Lucha libre style. Of course, Austin needed to attack Trey in front of his Mum.

But if Trey was on fire, Austin was focused on the belt. He unloaded a Fosbury flop before throwing Trey into the barricades. They both worked with the ropes with stunning counters. Austin then targeted the knee, got his playing card and cut Trey with it. Trey didn’t relinquish and fired back with a dragon sleeper, later with the Cheeky Nandos/619 combination. The Fold from Austin came a little out of nowhere, after a Nutcracker, but both men gave it all in that match. Ace won, he came to say hi to Mum again and Trey snapped. This feud is not over yet… and it’s good because both are able to show us more.

  • Impact Knockouts Championship: Taya Valkyrie (c) w/ John E. Bravo vs ODB vs Jordynne Grace

May we say Taya Valkyrie would not be Knockouts Champion anymore without John E. Bravo? I’m afraid to say yes because once again, he was the reason why she won and retained. Does it mean Taya Valkyrie had to lose the title? That’s another story. The addition of ODB into the equation of this match was obviously giving an advantage to the Champion. When ODB and Jordynne Grace were busy by their sides, she had all the time to recover and think strategy. ODB attacked right at the bell, she targeted Jordynne who never really had a chance to show what she was able of in this match.

Taya unloaded her classic repertoire, double knees, curb stomp, but she was unable to lift ODB into the Road To Valhalla. ODB showed she still has some BAM in her bras with the powerslam on the apron and the bulldog from the second rope on Taya as Jordynne was holding her up. Despite what every woman could show, and Jordynne Grace really did her best, John E. Bravo held her leg and prevented her from stopping Taya as she was pinning ODB. With all the respect due to ODB and her legacy, this was all about Jordynne and Taya. Any title change was impossible. The three women did their best but it was clearly not what was expected.

  • RVD vs Brian Cage

The joke of the night. People dared to call this a dream match. The girlfriend’s girlfriend involved. Katie Forbes doing more than her man in the ring. She was telling him what to do and how to do. It was just unbelievable to see Cage be beaten down this way. I talk of Brian Cage, former X-Division and World Champion. If, as it seems, Cage was injured, that parody of match was not necessary. RVD dropkicked a chair into Cage’s face, his mouth was busted open. RVD continued with the coast to coast/Van Terminator. The referee stopped the match. Daga, who already confronted RVD backstage before, arrived and RVD attacked him.

  • RVD vs Daga

Daga had more chance to compete than Cage had before. RVD controlled until Daga made the comeback and dumped him. He followed with a dive, back in and Daga flew but got cut off. Daga hits a gutbuster and suplex. He followed with strikes, Katie unloaded a Nutcracker as RVD attacked. The leg drop followed and RVD headed up top. The 5-Star frog splash finished it. The Daga/RVD thing came out of nowhere, broken record sentence of the night. It filled what seemed to be a blank, opened the gates for a new feud. Then, RVD watched his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s girlfriend party. All this was ridiculous.

  • Call Your Shot Trophy Match: Eddie Edwards vs Michael Elgin

I told you I was suspecting this match to be a modern classic. Elgin and Edwards have known each other for years, their chemistry is indisputable. I was right. Edwards was the challenger in this match and what he showed yesterday was incredible. He was quite simply monumental, to quote Josh Matthews. On this other side, Elgin was so desired to grab the Trophy and the title shot he really gave the best of him but made Edwards get the best of him. These 20 minutes were the Match of The Night, at least mine. It may have been classic mat work, nothing hardcore or hard-flying, but it worked. Add to all of this the idea of drama with Elgin so desperate to win and Eddie never keen to relinquish and you had enough to have goosebumps.

They got right to action, trading and Edwards dumped him and followed with a plancha. They traded strikes and chops, Elgin dropped Edwards with a forearm strike and removed the mats. Edwards countered back, but Elgin again dropped him with strikes. Back in, Edwards knocked Elgin to the floor, but Elgin cut off the suicide dive with a forearm strike. He followed with an anarchist suplex onto the exposed floor and clotheslines back in the ring. Edwards fired back, but Elgin cut him off with a fisherman’s suplex. Elgin continued to deliver strikes, working him over in the corner and controlling with ease. He grounded things, hits an enzuigiri and fell to the floor. Edwards followed with an overhead belly-to-belly on the floor, rolled back in and followed with the suicide dive. Back in, Edwards hit an enzuigiri, followed him up top and Elgin fought back until Edwards hit the backpack stunner. Elgin fired back, dropped Edwards, followed with an overhead slam and Edwards countered the German into a Blue Thunder Bomb.

Elgin countered the Boston knee party into a spinebuster, hit clotheslines and Edwards countered into a German suplex, Elgin popped up and hit a lariat. Elgin followed with a suplex, Edwards fought off a powerbomb, they traded and Edwards was down. Back up, they traded again, as Elgin dropped him. Edwards kept fighting back, they traded lariats as Edwards finally levelled him, the Tiger Driver followed. Edwards hit a hurricanrana, Elgin fired back with an enzuigiri, a superkick and they worked up top. Edwards tried to fight him off, Elgin delivered elbow strikes and hit an avalanche German suplex. Elgin fired up with a lariat and the splash mountain. Edwards attacked the knee, worked a half crab but Elgin kicked his way out. He countered into a crossface, Edwards fought to the ropes. Elgin had enough and argued with the referee. He hit a lariat and 2 buckle bombs, but Edwards countered into a cradle for the win. This was awesome.

  • No-DQ Match: Moose vs Rhino

The last of the three matches that came out of nowhere turned into a no-DQ match. As there was no hardcore match in the card, that was the moment to get the tables, the chairs and the trashcan lids (where was the barbwire, would say Mr Deathman?). Like I told you in the predictions, Moose is Mr Impact Wrestling PPV. And there was no reason for him not to be at Hard To Kill. But let’s give to Rhino his stubbornness and his eagerness. At 44, he still looks perfectly legit working the good-old ECW hardcore style. Moose’s gear was paying tribute to Macho Man Randy Savage. And he attacked like a savage right at the bell.

They brawled on the floor. Moose followed with chair shots, they battled up the ramp and Moose bit him. Rhino hit a huge backdrop and Moose crashed onto the ramp. Rhino followed with chair shots, Moose got a table. Rhino slammed him to the apron. Rhino powerbombed him through the table, tossed more chairs in, but Moose replied with trashcan lid shots. Rhino piled up chairs and follows with a superplex onto the chairs. Rhino put up a table in the corner, Moose cut him off and hit a dropkick and another. Rhino cut him off with a lariat. Rhino gores the referee and Moose through the table. Rhino fired up and picked Moose up. Moose hit a Nutcracker before the spear finished it. A pretty good match even if we could feel Moose was suffering.

  • Impact World Tag Team Championship: The North (c) vs Rich Swann & Willie Mack

Even before the PPV started, the bad news fell that Rich Swann was injured. Impact Wrestling made us wait until almost the end of the show. We saw Swann and Mack chatting and Mack decided to go it alone. Chemistry wise, these two teams are perfect and I was looking forward to watching this match. But let’s give to Mack what belongs to Mack, he tore the house down on his own. He was competing alone, for the World Tag Team Championship, against probably the best team of the Impact roster today and he shut everybody down.

Mack really fought hard against 2 opponents. The North worked the double-team game perfectly but Mack killed them with this marvel of Doomsday Canadian Destroyer. At that very moment, we could have thought Mack would make it, become the Tag Team Champions alone. But The North remained a team, and a hell of a great team, and they finished him with the double team spinebuster. We can retain two good things from this match. The first is to see Mack being so damn good, on his own or in a team. The second is to know the expected match will happen when Rich Swann will be better. And if this match was a fantastic one, the real Championship match will be tremendous.

The next PPV will be “Rebellion” from NYC in April (a little bird told me, expect the 12th or the 26th…)

  • Impact World Championship: Sami Callihan (c) vs Tessa Blanchard

Compared to Slammiversary, and despite the Championship on the line, Sami vs Tessa 2 was suffering from a lack of appeal. We have eaten and drunk this match for 2 long months that was announced way too soon. We have had no time to endorse Sami as a Champion that Impact Wrestling was insisting on the fact history will be made. Compared to Slammiversary, the belt was giving Sami a level of confidence I truly appreciated. I confess, I was in Team Sami. I have never hidden it. I was not against Tessa becoming Champion, barriers are meant to be broken or pushed. What was very enjoyable in this match is that the belt prevailed on intergender or equality. There were two wrestlers in the ring, not a man and a woman, just two fighters.

The match lasted 23 minutes and I won’t tell you the whole story here. Sami attacked, unveiled a side of his repertoire we’ve hardly ever seen on Impact since his debut, like these submissions. He was the bad guy until the end, when he removed the mats outside or strangled her eyes. Tessa was undeniably good. The Magnum on the apron was stunning. She also strangled the eyes, hit the Nutcracker before unleashing 2 Canadian Destroyers (was it Saint Petey Williams yesterday?). And she hit the buzzsaw DDT and won. It was a great match, we have a new Champion. She is a woman. That has never happened on Impact Wrestling’s history. All I want now is for us to move forward. No Sami vs Tessa 3, no more propaganda to ensure the fans will follow this way. History is made, now histories have to be made.

Hard To Kill was a good PPV, but it suffered from the attention put on the Sami/Tessa match and the idea of making history. We had good surprises with Trey and Ace, Shamrock and Fulton. RVD, his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s girlfriend were the joke of the night. When all the spotlight was on the main event, Michael Elgin and Eddie Edwards delivered the match of the night. The Trophy was on the line, but there was nothing about this match related to making history. These 2 guys gave everything they had in the Impact Zone in perfect chemistry. I really thought Willie Mack could win the Tag titles for him and Rich Swann. Alone against the best Tag Team of the company, he did something absolutely huge.
Speaking of Tessa and Sami, yes, history was made at Hard To Kill. I am deeply sad Sami was stripped of the belt so fast because he was able to make something great of it. Then, the storyline between the 2 has been on for more than 6 months. There was no reason for her not to win after such a long battle against her best enemy. The way they pushed each other proved they were the right ones to promote equal wrestling on Impact.
Now, Tessa Blanchard will have to deal with a huge sword of Damocles hanging above her head. She is the World Champion, but which Champion is she going to be? Eddie Edwards has a Trophy, Sami Callihan a desire of revenge, Michael Elgin the greed for Gold, Daga clearly expressed his will to compete for it. It’s up to her to show the roster what is the right direction to take, a huge responsibility for a 24-year-old woman…
It was a Super Canadian Destroyer party and it was nice to watch. On the other side, I’m afraid Impact Wrestling will tape in Mexico this weekend without a bunch of wrestlers. Madman Fulton clearly suffered a shoulder injury during his match with Ken Shamrock. We saw Ace Austin suffering from his left eardrum. Rich Swann had his foot and ankle wrapped up to below the knee at the show and was on crutches. Moose put on Twitter a pic of him in hospital after the show. And Brian Cage was wearing a strapping on his left arm. Hard To Kill was not synonymous with easy to injure, as far as I can remember.
Well, that’s another story, new tales I will tell you very soon. 2020 started with very good and pretty bad things for Impact Wrestling, but 352 days remain to make incredible things.

*****

Hard To Kill Full Results:

  • Ken Shamrock defeated Madman Fulton
  • Ace Austin defeated Trey to retain the X-Division Championship
  • Taya Valkyrie w/ John E. Bravo defeated Jordynne Grace and ODB to retain the Knockouts Championship
  • RVD defeated Brian Cage via referee stoppage
  • RVD defeated Daga
  • Eddie Edwards defeated Michael Elgin to retain the Call Your Shot Trophy
  • Moose defeated Rhino
  • The North (Ethan Page & Josh Alexander) defeated Willie Mack in a handicap match to retain the World Tag Team Championships
  • Tessa Blanchard defeated Sami Callihan to become the new Impact World Champion

All pics, screenshots and videos courtesy of Impact Wrestling, AXS TV, Basil Mahmud, and Fite TV. All photomontage by @frenchnygma exclusively for @steelchairmag @vulturehoundmag.