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Slammiversary XVI recap & reactions (July 22, 2018): Coming Out Party

Impact Wrestling returned to pay-per-view (PPV) last night (July 22) with their Slammiversary XVI show. It emanated from the Rebel Complex in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. You can check all the results here.

Overall thoughts

When in comes to Impact PPVs, I always like to start about the delivery as a whole. Because of the company’s bumpy history, the impression they leave is the most important part of anything they do. It’s going to take a long time for people to stop thinking LOLTNA when they think about the promotion. A decade and a half of saying it isn’t something that goes away over night.

But efforts like tonight are sure going to help.

The first PPV of the Don Callis/Scott D’Amore era was Redemption back in April. It was a good first installment. It was an above average show that didn’t carry much extra baggage. (There was some as they had to change the main event last minute due to firing Alberto del Rio.) For their second PPV last night, they stepped it up and blew the roof off.

They finally held a PPV outside of the Universal Studios Impact Zone and that did wonders. The Rebel Complex was a unique looking venue, something I very much appreciate when it comes to wrestling locales. More importantly, the crowd was HOT. They ate everything up from the first match to the last. They never tired. It’s much better than the crowd they got when people would randomly mosey in from the heat at Universal Studios.

Obviously, the promotion has to give the fans something to cheer about and they did here. Every match delivered in some sense with no clunkers on the card.

There was an array of everything. This was a true variety show. There were high flying spectacles like the fatal 4-way that opened the show. There were straight up good standard wrestling matches, like the X Division title match and the world title match. There was wild pageantry in the Su Yung/Madison Rayne match. And there was definitely some violence, highlighted by the war Sami Callihan and Pentagon Jr. had.

It helps that Impact has started telling long form stories. The Eddie Edwards/Tommy Dreamer match is part of a six month long arc. The LAX feud has been going on since the last PPV. There are stories fans have been following and want to see paid off, or at least the next chapter.

This long form storytelling is becoming Impact’s style. They’ve needed a hook to make Impact different than other promotions. The way they tell their stories may be that.

Now let’s look a bit at all of these matches.

Austin Aries def. Moose to retain the world championship

Man, this match moved a mile per minute. They didn’t stop for rest holds or really anything There was selling but no long stretches of down time. They just went at it.

They clearly presented the idea that this was Austin Aries slyness, cunning, and veteran ring intelligence vs. the raw power and heart of Moose. The champ took any advantage that was presented to him and had his opponent well scouted.

Aries had the wherewithal to avoid a Moose tope from the ring onto the apron. He delivered a brainbuster to the floor. He continued kicking Moose in the head when it was down. Any little opportunity he saw, he took, including a swift kick to the junk when the referee wasn’t looking. (Moose was either wearing a cup or has a dong of steel because that didn’t phase him, which is my main nitpick of the match.)

And in the end, Aries’ strategy paid off. He retained his title.

This was probably the best call. Moose is talented, but Austin Aries has that swagger that you want from your world champion.

This was the match that may have had some of the least anticipation heading into the night. Plus it had to follow the Callihan/Pentagon match that the crowd went nuts for. Despite those things, they lived up to the main event spot and put on a match worthy of it.

Pentagon Jr. def. Sami Callihan in a mask vs. hair match

There was a House of Hardcore match on the show, but that didn’t hold a torch to the violence Pentagon Jr. and Sami Callihan unleashed on each other.

The two most sadistic members of the roster went at each other, and it was a vicious affair. At one point, they traded turns shoving spikes into each other’s skulls. Seriously, that’s the type of brutality we’re talking about here.

No one was safe. Not even the referee.

When Sami tossed powder into the eyes of Pentagon, the luchador broke the referee’s arm because he thought it was Callihan. He got his man later, ripping Callihan’s arm out of socket as well, leading to a Pentagon Driver and the victory.

Despite winning the title at their last PPV, Pentagon was always missing something in Impact. He didn’t have the allure that he does in Lucha Underground.

He found that tonight.

Sami Callihan’s own brand of brutality brought out the Pentagon we all know and love... and kind of fear. On a card filled with great things, unleashing the full Pentagon could be the most important.

Eddie Edwards def. Tommy Dreamer in a House of Hardcore match

Did we just see a passing of the Torch?

Eddie Edwards and Tommy Dreamer had themselves a pretty violent hardcore match. (Though not as violent as the hair vs. mask match, which was wisely placed much later on the card.)

They didn’t do much wrestling, which was the right decision. I don’t want to see Tommy Dreamer have a wrestling match. I want to see him get violent. And the way this story has unfolded, with Eddie becoming more unhinged and sadistic, starting right off with the hardcore style was the way to go.

The first shot was Tommy stapling Eddie’s head. We also saw him later deliver a middle rope DVD to Eddie through some chairs.

Tommy tried too much though. When he was slathering a table with lighter fluid, Eddie took control of things and kneed a chair into Tommy’s face for the win.

Things got interesting post match.

It looked initially like Edwards was going to beat up Tommy with a kendo stick, punishing his friend more. But before he could, Edwards broke down and started crying, still struggling with what he’s become. Dreamer offered his hand for a handshake when Eddie’s wife Alisha came down insisting Eddie make nice with Tommy.

It looked like Eddie was going to possibly attack, but he ended up sharing a hug with Dreamer.

In the end, Tommy handed Eddie his kendo stick and left. Alisha left him alone in the ring as well. It was just Eddie alone with a kendo stick in his mouth.

Was that the passing of the torch? Is Dreamer saying he’s the new Innovator of Violence? Is Eddie a good guy? Bad guy?

There were more questions than answers in this post match angle, but it definitely took the story of Eddie’s journey in a new direction. The direction itself wasn’t clear, but it was enough to have me curious. They’ve done a great job telling this story so I’m interested in finding out what’s next.

I commend Impact for having me interested in a Tommy Dreamer/Eddie Edwards match. Dreamer is a legend, but he’s also getting long in the tooth. And Edwards has always been impressive, but also somewhat bland. They told a great story to remedy both issues.

Su Yung def. Madison Rayne to retain the Knockouts championship

With Su, it’s more about the image than the matches. Women in tattered dresses carried Su to the ring in a coffin as her eerie music played. (Su Yung’s music is pretty perfect for the gimmick.) She’s about the character’s odd motions as she stumbles towards the ring wearing her creepy face paint. Her finish is a mandible claw (while wearing a nasty looking glove) that leaves her opponent paralyzed. It’s a finish that works very well for the character. Leaving the opponent knocked out is much more frightening than pinning them for 1-2-3.

Then after the match, she carried Madison to the coffin, and the bridesmaids slammed the lid shut. The champion celebrated on top of the casket that held her fallen foe.

With all that captivating pageantry, the match itself feels like something that just needs to happen because this is a wrestling show. In this case, it felt shorter than most of the other matches, with multiple distractions by the brides. It never had time to get into a full rhythm.

The character of Su Yung is strong. It’s definitely rooted in the mysticism that wrestling has in its darker corners (and that’s not for everyone), but Su commits to the gimmick and they present it very well. They still need to figure out how to transition it into the actual matches. There’s still a bit of a disconnect between the fantasy gimmick and two people locking up in the squared circle. Once they figure that out, things will be gravy.

Santana & Ortiz def. Hernandez & Homicide in a 5150 Street Fight to retain the tag team championships

Wow, that LAX street fight ended up being nuts.

Despite Henandez often just standing around, it ended up being a very fun match that lived up to the street fight stipulation. There were plenty of tables a breakin’ and Santana, Ortiz, and Homicide were flying all over the place.

In the end, Konnan had to help Ortiz out of a jam when it looked like Homicide may have him in a bad position. K-Dawg jumped on the apron to distract his old mate. Homicide started jawing with the former leader of LAX, and that’s when Konnan tossed Ortiz a bag of tacks. Ortiz threw the tacks in the face of Homicide before dropping him on them and hitting a splash for the win.

This finish plays into the story they’ve always told with the young Santana and Ortiz. They’re extremely talented (and Lord are they) but they need a little guidance to win. They can’t win without someone in their corner. That didn’t change tonight.

After the match, the OG squad proved to be sore losers, attacking not just the champs, but laying out Konnan as well. They took the titles and spray painted “OG” on them.

Not surprising with the way Impact has been booking their stories, the LAX feud will continue after tonight.

Brian Cage won his first Impact title last night, defeating Matt Sydal for the X Division title.

Matt Sydal was ready for the bigger Cage, wisely working the challenger’s legs early on. He had counters ready for most of the moves the big man tried. And when Cage did hit his big moves, Matt was able to kick out.

In the end, it was a mistake that cost him. His feet hit the ropes on the Shooting Star Press he’s done hundreds of time, and he tumbled down to the mat. Brian Cage delivered the Drill Claw immediately afterwards.

It surely looks like that wasn’t intentional. Cage even had his feet up read to counter the move. But it works either way. The cocky Sydal losing in part because he messed up the finish he never messes up is somewhat poetic.

This was just a very good wrestling match. They told a good story with the cocky Sydal outthinking the powerful Cage, but not being able to overcome the power (and his own unforced error).

The Openers

  • The opening match was a crowd pleasing, non-stop fatal 4-way with Johnny Impact, Petey Williams, Fenix, and Ishimori. Johnny picked up the win on his return to the promotion after a couple months of island living and marriage. It was a good match to kick off the show and set the stage for the night.
  • Tessa Blanchard picked up a win over Allie. Tessa is a great heel, who aggressively worked over the smaller Allie. Allie was the perfect plucky underdog with a fire she can unleash. Ever since she started adding a slight angry streak, she’s been great. Tessa is the future so her picking up the victory makes the most sense.

As someone who’s been writing about Impact on this site for about 3 years, I want them to do well. I’m going to be watching them either way, may as well be watching when they’re good.

For much of the time, that hasn’t been the case, and I haven’t been shy saying so. But it genuinely feels that they are on an upswing now. Since Callis and D’Amore took over, the product has been slowly improving and tonight, they got to show everyone that. This show was their way of saying “Forget all you remember about us because things are changing.” Of course, one show isn’t a guarantee of the change, but the last six months have been the most promising sign of that in a while.

I should comment on the fact they’re still using the PPV model. To be fair, I don’t know what goes into those decisions, but asking any wrestling fan to plop down $40 - $50 a show nowadays is asking a lot. When you can pay $10 to watch WrestleMania and $8.99 to watch any big New Japan show and get a bunch of other content with that, $50 for just one show is steep. Tonight it was probably worth it for three hours of great wrestling, but it only takes a mediocre show to make you feel like you’ve wasted a good chunk of change.

Luckily, tonight was a show worth the money. Now we see if they build off their success and if Impact can eventually become a consistently good pro wrestling product.

Grade: A

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