For the rest of the year, Impact will be running recap episodes highlighting what they consider their best moments of the year.
So we here at Cageside Seats decided we’d weigh in as well. I’ve recruited occasional Impact recapper and one half of the Not Your Demographic podcast Stella Cheeks to join me. We’re not going to just take the good though. We’ll look at some of the things we thought didn’t work well in Impact this year as well.
Let’s jump into it.
Kyle: Pentagon vs. Sami Callihan
This was one of Impact’s standout feuds for the year. It started out hot and built to a big match at Slammiversary. Early on, Sami poked the bear and stole Pentagon’s mask, making things really personal, putting some real heat behind the feud. That also led to a Mask vs. Hair stipulation at the PPV.
This feud culminated at a brutal match at Slammiversary that was match of the night. It was the best Pentagon ever looked in Impact. It was an exciting build with a strong match to pay it off where Sami had his head shaved (thankfully).
(This is leaving out the follow up of the feud after Slammiversary, which didn’t live up to the first half, but doesn’t take away from how good it was up to the first time they fought.)
Stella: Tessa Blanchard
Two words - Tessa. Blanchard. From her surprise appearance at Redemption to her impactful (heh) reign as Knockouts Champion, Tessa has brought a well needed legitimacy to the show. Don’t get me wrong, there have been great knockouts in the past, but with the mass exodus over the past few years and the devastating Rosemary injury, the Knockouts needed a masthead. Tessa’s popularity on the indies and name recognition created the right kind of buzz and her work on the show has consistently been one of the best (if not the best) part of the weekly product.
Kyle: The booking of Scarlett Bordeaux
When Scarlett Bordeaux entered Impact, she was introduced to us as the Smoke Show, a beautiful woman who knew she was beautiful and was going to flaunt it. She was a character that spit in the face of all the women’s revolution happening, preferring to be a throwback to when it was all about looks. In her first interview, she claimed she was “hot shamed” and talked down to Alicia Atout because she didn’t think she was on her level of attractiveness.
It was an intriguing start and held lots of promise, but it quickly devolved into juvenile comedy. She had a flop sweater known as Bobo following her around as her hanger on. The nameless bickering authority (a gimmick thankfully dropped) drooled over her. We got premature ejaculation jokes with Grado before he did a topless pole dance for her. Even referees lose their focus when she’s around in excessively comical moments (that aren’t all that funny).
I’ve accepted where she’s settled into as a backstage comedy role. She’s a talented performer and is making it work. But it’s always going to be disappointing that they teased us with a heel character that could be very intriguing this day and age and immediately turned it into comedy aimed for a middle school crowd.
If 2018 brought a diamond to the KO’s, it also brought us a big ole lump of coal and her name is Katarina. She was innocuous enough as Grado’s overly affectionate girlfriend, but once she started to low key fat shame him, her character took a turn for the worse. After the fat shaming came a love triangle, and after the failed love triangle (Scots before thots) came a scorned woman plot line. Very basic and very boring. But the worst thing, is that after her story line with Grado ended (or rather fizzled) she began to wrestle. She is a BAD wrestler. Her matches are clunky, her character is undefined, and she does this weird thing with her hands when she enters. On a roster with talent like Tessa Blanchard, Taya, Su Yung and Kiera Hogan, there is no room for Katarina. She needs to go.
Kyle: Better taping schedule
It’s not something you’re going to see on an episode of Impact’s “Best of” because it’s not a moment. But it may be one of the most important things Impact did this year. It was getting out of the Impact Zone.
Their shows in Orlando were the pits. Those crowds were lame and the atmosphere was terrible. That was immediately noticeable the first time Impact held shows in Windsor, Ontario instead of the Impact Zone. That crowd was actually excited for wrestling! And it immediately made the product better.
They’ve also stopped taping three months in advance, which was killing the later shows from those tapings. They’d risk lame duck issues (injuries or talent leaving) and never had enough material for the last month of episodes, having to resort to a ton of filler. Plus, the crowds were tiring out.
Now they tape a month of shows at once and it keeps the product fresh and the crowd engaged. There are no spoilers out on the web for months. And they can plan out their stories in smaller increments, adjusting sooner if something needs to be changed.
This may not be a flashy “best of” but it may be one of the most important.
Stella: Eddie Edwards
Eddie Edwards descent into madness was a delight to behold. Sometimes things go wrong in wrestling, and in March, Sami Callihan miscalculated an already dangerous spot and broke Eddies face with a baseball bat. Not going to sugar coat it, it was bad. But when life hands you lemons, you gotta make crazy ass lemonade.
If you had told me a year ago that Eddie Edwards could act and make me care about his character I would have laughed so hard in your face. To me, he was just the boring Boston guy that howled and wasn’t a dick like that boring Seattle guy that howled. But when that bat hit his face it must’ve knocked some creative genius free, because damn, this man has been amazing in Impact this year.
Watching Eddie struggle with his desire to murder Sami Callihan (in the woods) and keep his sanity at the same time was so compelling. And when he finally lost it completely, turning on Tommy with the kendo stick, a masterpiece. THEN the face turn into lovable off-kilter Eddie, a delight.
I mean no one wants their face broken, but it may have been the best thing to happen to Eddie’s career and selfishly, I am glad because this new Eddie Edwards is legit one of my favorite things about professional wrestling.
Kyle: The Mexico City tapings
After praising their touring and shorter tapings, I need to point out that one of the venues led to a lethargic month of episodes. That was their trip to Mexico City.
They tried to weave in a ton of Mexican talent to understandably try to sell tickets and please the crowd. But that led to more random matches, leaving the stories they were already telling to get off track. Plus, the Mexican crowd consumes their product different, not making as much noise. (That or they were really bored.) This led to the on air product having a lack of crowd sounds that detracted from the entire viewing experience. It’s easier to get into a show when the audience sounds engaged and harder when you can hear crickets.
And the fact that these four shows were the last four prior to Bound for Glory took some steam away from the PPV.
They head back to the same venue early 2019 and hopefully have come up with a way to address these issues.
While Eddie Edwards descended into madness, Moose continued to flounder in Impact. I don’t know what it is about Impact because I loved Moose on the indies. But since coming to Impact he has been painfully boring. And his latest incarnation is no different. Sure he has better fashion, but now, instead of being just boring wrestler with no gold, he’s a weird lecherous creep with no gold.
Then there’s his interactions with Alisha Edwards. I get it, he’s in a feud (or a least he wants to be in a feud) with the red hot Eddie Edwards, but he doesn’t have to threaten to kidnap her and do God knows what to her. It’s sooooo icky and gross and totally undercuts the badass character that Alisha has become.
Kyle: KM and Fallah Bahh
I’m picking this as a best for a couple reasons, and one main reason doesn’t actually have to do the tag team themselves.
Don’t get me wrong. I really like the team. They’ve got great chemistry and the fans love them. But what’s more impressive was how they got there.
They started with a story about KM (as a heel) fat shaming Fallah Bahh. However that was just the starting point. It morphed in to an unlikely partnership that was never able to click. Through twists and turns (and some prodding from backstage act Scarlett Bordeaux), they became a functional team who the fans adore. It’s an example of Impact telling a slow story over time that takes characters from one place and drops them someplace you wouldn’t have expected at the start. It’s something they do well.
Even more impressive, they found a slot for KM that worked. KM was a character I never gave a damn about before this. Whether he was Sienna’s cousin, a Biff Tannen like heel, or America Top Team wannabe, he was the blandest character. Just lacking any charisma for me to latch onto. But in this role, I care about him and this team. Identifying KM’s talents and using them to find a spot that works for him is exactly what a creative team should do.
Stella: Kiera Hogan
Kiera Hogan came into Impact a relative unknown and from day one has kicked ass. Not only has she proven to be a steady in-ring worker, constantly improving and delivering great matches, but she stepped up to the plate this year and was a great addition to the Allie/Su feud. She’s a young talent that I want to see so much more of in 2019. Saying it now, 2019 is the year that the girl on fire burns brightest.
Kyle: The Undead Realm
Truth be told, both Stella and I were going to knock the LAX for the attempted manslaughter and the overall OGz/LAX angle that went on so long. But she did such a good job below that I’ll just leave it to her. That frees me up to talk about the Undead Realm.
Su Yung has been a mystical character since her debut. Early on, they presented that very well, with vague videos that alluded to her mysticism but didn’t outward show it. Her setting Rosemary’s coffin on fire in the woods? That worked because it wasn’t too much.
But then Allie went into the Undead Realm at Bound for Glory (yes this was a video played in the middle of a pay-per-view) with a hatchet and started murdering undead brides before Su Yung and Rosemary had a CGI electricity fight.
That was was too much. It was cheesy and ran too long. The story lost me at that point because everything that came after was based off this ridiculous video.
These things need to be alluded to with small bits given over time. But when they try to give us the whole ridiculous pie at once, it’s not going to sit well.
Stella: OGz Attempted Manslaughter (and their entire LAX feud really)
There are a lot of things that I disliked about the feud between LAX and the OGz. Mainly that Santana and Ortiz are fantastic wrestlers that deserve all the accolades and the spotlight, but they consistently had to drag around the dated, often offensive, dead weight of Kingston, Hernandez, Homicide and Konnan. Their feud was mired in terrible stereotypes about latin men and really could’ve lasted 1⁄3 of the time it did. But the worst thing, and I mean THE WORST thing, they did was they ran over a little kid with a car. I repeat, they ran over a little kid with a car.
Running over a kid with a car is bad, but on top of that it was a character that we had NEVER seen before. They solely introduced him so that we would be like “awe cute kid. OMG WHAT THEY KILLED HIM? ...what was his name again?” If you’re going to run someone over with a car, the very least you can do is introduce him, establish his character, make me care and then run him over.
Simple story telling people.
These were parts of Impact this year we enjoyed and some we really did not.
Let us know below what you did and did not like about this year. We’ll be back next week finishing off our look back at Impact 2018 with the year in review and our Impact Wish list for 2019.