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Impact Hard to Kill recap & review: Tessa Blanchard is the new face

History was made in Dallas, Texas at Impact’s Hard to Kill PPV. Tessa Blanchard and Sami Callihan clashed in intergender action for the promotion’s top title. That was the primary focus, but there was also a handicap tag title match, Taya trying to extend her Knockouts reign, the X-Division doing X-Division things, and plenty of big men clubbering and clobbering.

Let’s recap and review the full card from top to bottom.

World Championship: Tessa Blanchard defeated Sami Callihan to become new champ

At 24 years of age, Tessa Blanchard has conquered the world of Impact. She became the first woman to win the Impact World Championship. Kyle Decker’s match review covered the drama of the bout well. Give it a read here.

The express version is Sami worked Tessa’s knee. He was also a filthy pig by shooting a snot rocket and spitting on her. Tessa gritted through the pain to prevail with a Canadian Destroyer and hammerlock DDT to win.

This was a good match, and an interesting moment. I stop short of saying great match, because it was fairly obvious the plan was for Tessa to win and there was never that one instance from Sami that made me believe he was going to be triumphant instead. They worked well enough together to make me view it as two wrestlers doing battle and not watered down intergender action.

It will be interesting to see if Impact’s TV viewership gets a boost in ratings for upcoming shows due to Tessa as the new face. I’m also curious to see if Blanchard can shed the idea of being a novelty champ. Can she continue to knock down challengers in believable matches?

Tag Team Championship: The North defeated Willie Mack & Rich Swann to retain

Rich Swann injured his ankle in real life on Friday night against oVe. He could not compete, and the story reflected that. The doctor would not let Swann wrestle nor be present ringside. That meant Mack had to go solo in a handicap match.

There were no swerves in this bout. The North used their numbers advantage with smart tags and timely saves. Whenever Mack had a small window of opportunity, it was shut quickly. Mack fought with heart and even had a super dope super electric chair Canadian Destroyer.

That wasn’t enough to win though. Mack also hit a frog splash that had me believing he could shock the world on the upset. The referee counted 1, 2, then Page pulled the ref out of the ring. Some ringsmanship took place by the North, and they won in the end with back and forth strikes then their teamwork spinebuster finisher.

Of all the stories coming out of Hard to Kill, I’m most interested in seeing a healthy Swann team with Mack to challenge the North again. Mack had been the weak link, but he proved himself by himself. I don’t think the story was planned this way, but Swann’s injury altered plans. Instead of a soggy drama, give me Swann and Mack running wild as a well-oiled tag team.

Moose defeated Rhino

Spear vs Gore was the story coming in. Moose struck right away with a spear, but Rhino used his veteran savvy to roll out of the ring. I don’t believe this bout was advertised as no DQ, but it was announced as such. That guaranteed the use of tables, such as Rhino powerbombing Moose through one.

And a superplex onto a pile of chairs.

Of course, there was the spot of a Rhino Gore through a table in the corner. In this particular circumstance, Moose grabbed the referee and all three went through the table. When it came time for the finish, Moose low-blowed Rhino then speared him to win.

This match was surprisingly enjoyable. I wasn’t very eager to see it going in, but it turned out being my favorite on the card. It was a real slugfest. I do have one criticism though. Being that the story was spear vs Gore, every pinfall attempt not from those moves never convinced me that it could be the end.

Call Your Shot Trophy: Eddie Edwards defeated Michael Elgin to retain

Eddie Edwards needs a kayfabe concussion check. Michael Elgin knocked Edwards’ out on numerous occasions with thundering forearm blows.

The story of the bout was Big Mike blasting Edwards, and Edwards never quitting. Edwards would string together a chain of moves for momentum, but Elgin was the stronger man and took back control.

It was a fairly lengthy affair. Highlights include a twisting slam by Elgin on the concrete floor, an overhead belly-to-belly suplex by Edwards on the floor, plenty of powerbomb variations, a super German suplex, and a badass blow-for-blow extended strike exchange. That last moment was when the match really picked up.

For the finish, Elgin locked Edwards into an STF submission. Edwards reached the ropes for the break, but Elgin claimed Edwards tapped out. Elgin lost focus and confronted the referee. Elgin went back on the attack with heavy clotheslines and a buckle bomb. Elgin had Edwards in position for the Elgin bomb finisher, but Edwards countered up and over for a sunset flip pin to win.

This was a solid fight from Elgin and Edwards, but it wasn’t as good as their match earlier this week on Impact’s TV show. The PPV bout had long stanzas of domination, while the TV bout was more competitive. I suppose having Edwards win with the trophy on the line was the smarter call. If he cashes in and wins the World Championship one day, that would probably move more needles than Big Mike doing it. Elgin didn’t lose any shine by being pinned in the surprise manner. He is still a wrecking ball of destruction that is fun to watch in the ring.

RVD in a 2-for-1 special

RVD gave us a 2-for-1 special in more ways than one. He sort of had two different matches and also had two lady pals. Katie Forbes’ girlfriend, Jennifer, was ringside and made her presence felt.

RVD’s evening began with a backstage promo. Daga walked by. RVD assumed he was a fan wanting a photo. The reason for that scene would play out after RVD’s match with Cage.

Actually, I’m not sure if there was an official match against Cage. The opening bell may have never rang. The action started when Jennifer grabbed Cage’s arm and RVD attacked. RVD pummeled Cage with a Van Daminator and a Van Terminator.

Those lethal chair-assisted kicks left Cage with a bloody mouth and a woozy head. The referee stopped the action. RVD wasn’t satisfied and wanted more of a fight. Daga ran down to prevent further violence to Cage. The big man was taken to the back.

RVD and Daga got into an argument and that turned into an official match. Daga was in control with strikes and suplexes until Forbes grabbed his foot. That led to vintage Van Dam with a corkscrew leg drop and a 5 star frog splash to win.

This was a curious situation. Cage was pretty much destroyed. He couldn’t even muster up Machine status to continue. It made me wonder if Cage had an actual injury prior to the show. (Turns out there are rumors of Cage signing with AEW.) I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get RVD vs Cage as a full match, but Daga was a worthy replacement. Also, I’ll never complain about more RVD on my screen.

Knockouts Championship: Taya defeated Jordynne Grace and ODB in a three-way to retain

Keep counting Taya’s days (372) as the longest reigning Knockouts Champion. She was victorious with a little help from John E. Bravo. Jordynne Grace was in control after smashing ODB with the Grace Driver. Bravo hopped up on the apron to distract the referee. Grace got up off her pin to complain. Taya swooped in her the winning cover as Bravo grabbed Grace’s foot to prevent any breakup.

This match felt a little lumbering. Grace was the star with highlights of a flying senton and a Vader bomb. I’m happy Taya continues to be champ. As a fan of La Wera Loca, I prefer her to be more dominant. However, I understand the story they are telling as she often wins by sneaky heel tactics. I’m supposed to boo Taya, but she is just too darn entertaining. It also doesn’t help that I don’t find Grace’s character likeable. May Taya reign forever!

I’m tagging in Kyle Decker to handle the reactions for the first two bouts of the evening.

X-Division Championship: Ace Austin defeated Trey Miguel to retain

This match had the type of action you would expect from the X-Division. In the end, Ace Austin knocked Trey Miguel off the turnbuckle then capitalized with his Fold finisher to win. Afterward, Austin flirted with Mama Miguel. Trey saw this and charged down the ramp to whoop on Austin.

Kyle Decker: “This was a sharp X Division match between two talented, young Impact wrestlers. Ace Austin is a fantastic sleazy heel and is able to mesh that with his impressive in-ring style. This story gave Trey a chance to be more than one of the three stoners.

The ending was probably the right call. Ace could be a future star so keeping him as X Division champion makes sense to highlight him.

I don’t love that the match ended in such a way that clearly extends this feud, and not even in that creative of a way. Trey’s mom was in the crowd and Austin made sure to be a sleaze to her post match. While not all feuds end on PPV, running an angle to keep it going like this right after it’s finished is a bit lame. Especially because the Cage/RVD “match” later on ended in a way that settled nothing as well.”

Ken Shamrock defeated Madman Fulton

Physical bout. In the end, Ken Shamrock broke Madman Fulton’s shoulder with a kimura lock. Fulton didn’t quit, but he had to submit a short while later to an armbar. Shamrock remains the world’s most dangerous man.

Kyle Decker: “This was a fine opener. Not great. Not bad. Fine.

I’m still impressed with Shamrock’s physique and the fact he can go in general.

The angle here was a kimura lock broke Madman Fulton’s shoulder and he tried to continue to fight, even landing a mini one-armed powerbomb. But such an injury was going to be his undoing.

It’s also a big weird seeing 55 year old Ken Shamrock going over a young talent. Especially since later in the night, 49 year old RVD injured Brian Cage out of commission and then defeated Daga clean.”

Grade: B

Hard to Kill was a decent show. In a nutshell, it was enjoyable. Outside of that nutshell, I don’t think Impact raised their game high enough. The idea of Tessa Blanchard becoming top champ was an opportunity to bring in fresh eyes and hopefully convert them to regular viewers. The main event did its job. The rest of the show didn’t really elevate beyond the mark of a solid TV episode.

What would you rate Hard to Kill? What was your favorite moment? Which match stole the show?

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