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Impact Hard to Kill recap & reactions: A violent Barbed Wire Massacre

With another new year kicking off, Impact’s existence proves they are hard to kill. The promotion embraced that spirit for their Hard to Kill PPV last night (Jan. 16, 2021). Kenny Omega made history crossing over as an outsider into the six-man main event, Eddie Edwards and Sami Callihan took their feud to the next level in Barbed Wire Massacre, Ethan Page ripped his heart out of his own chest, and Deonna Purrazzo painted another masterpiece against Taya Valkyrie.

While Kenny Omega’s appearance was the attraction that garnered the most buzz, the Barbed Wire Massacre match was the true main event for many Impact die-hards. The three-year feud between Sami Callihan and Eddie Edwards escalated into madness that could only be settled with blood.

The Barbed Wire Massacre ring setup was intimidating. One side had a fence wrapped with barbed wire, one side had ropes wrapped in barbed wire, one side had tables wrapped in barbed wire, and one side had hanging weapons wrapped in barbed wire.

Callihan took the first touch of barbed wire after being kicked into the ropes. Edwards then wrapped a crown of barbed wire on Callihan’s head for first blood. Edwards’ turn to bleed came when Callihan dodged a suicide dive. Edwards crashed into a barbed wire board.

Callihan followed up by sandwiching Edwards with the broken board to deliver an elbow drop off the apron. He also grated Edwards’ head with barbed wire. Edwards came back with a backpack stunner, a chair shot with barbed wire, then a Blue Thunder Bomb onto the barbed wire chair. Callihan ceased Edwards’ momentum by dodging a spear through the ropes and kicking for a low blow.

Time for weapons. Callihan grabbed a barbed wire kendo stick, while Edwards grabbed a barbed wire bat. Throughout this feud, the bat had been Callihan’s weapon of choice. The same for the kendo stick and Edwards. The two men realized this then made a sign of good sportsmanship by exchanging weapons before resuming the violence.

Later, Callihan gained control on a super piledriver through an elevated barbed wire board.

That led to a callback of how the feud originally began when Callihan cracked Edwards in the face with a bat back in 2018. That incident sent Edwards to the hospital for broken bones in his face. In Barbed Wire Massacre, Callihan set up the same spot. This time, Edwards escaped by kicking Callihan in the cojones. Edwards went on the attack with Boston Knee Party using a barbed wire chair. He finally finished Callihan with Emerald Flowsion onto the barbed wire chair.

This bout was a satisfying conclusion for their epic feud. I’m not a fan of extreme hardcore wrestling, so I appreciate that the fight didn’t go overboard in blood and guts. Edwards and Callihan definitely took their lumps, but it wasn’t anything gross or visually disturbing. It also provided a feelgood moment for Edwards to slay his nemesis. Applause to both men for the blood, sweat, and tears put into this lengthy rivalry.

Let’s run the rest of the show down from top to bottom.

Kenny Omega, Karl Anderson, & Luke Gallows defeated Rich Swann, Chris Sabin, & Moose. (Full match recap here.) The main event delivered the goods. Impact built great drama throughout the show for whether Moose could be trusted as a replacement for Alex Shelley. When it came down to it, Moose is a competitor with a burning desire to win. He rocked the ring with amazing solo feats and teamwork moves as well. Unfortunately for Impact, the finish came down to Omega cleaning the competition with V-Triggers. He hit two to Moose, then pinned Swann after a V-Trigger and One Winged Angel.

Great stuff from all involved. The story of the match was put together fantastically. It built up anticipation toward a champ versus champ showdown between Omega and Swann. Team Impact worked well as a unit with Swann and Sabin performing Motor City Machine Guns signature moves. Moose backed up his words by assisting on triple team efforts. There were several close calls on pinfalls that widened my eyes in excitement.

Moose had the breakthrough performance. He stepped up to the occasion in a big way by feeling like a star. It started early with his big man clash against Luke Gallows. Moose had no fear. Later, Moose took the action to Omega. He actually made Omega look like the underdog. Swann versus Omega is the top fight right now for Impact, but I really want to see Moose battle Omega. If that bout never comes to pass, at least Moose set himself up as a legit top guy to carry Impact.

Kumite: Karate Man defeated Ethan Page. When the Karate Man calls, there is only one way to settle the score. Cinematic fight! This is a tough one to describe in words only. It was basically Ethan Page fighting himself in front of a green screen with an ever-changing background of landscapes. There were two big moves worth mentioning.

First was an extended sequence of bicycle kicks as Karate Man defied the laws of gravity.

Second was the finish when Karate Man ripped out Page’s heart from his chest.

Karate Man was victorious and walked off in glory.

There will probably be mixed reactions to this cinematic fight. One portion will criticize it as too ludicrous to fit in wrestling. They aren’t wrong. Another portion will praise it as over-the-top fun. They aren’t wrong either. For me, I thoroughly enjoyed it as an homage to classic action movies. The cheesy banter made me smile. The reason it works for Impact is that they have built this style of humor consistently over the years.

As for Page suffering death, there have been rumors of his exit from Impact. If true, then this was a memorable way to depart. Credit to Impact for giving the leeway for this creative experiment as a parting gift. If Page ever returns, they can just sweep this under the rug or pretend he had a heart transplant.

Knockouts Championship: Deonna Purrazzo retained against Taya Valkyrie. Rosemary, Crazzy Steve, Kimber Lee, and Susan were all ringside and suffered an early ejection after brawling on the floor. It had no effect on the match itself. It was used more as a smart way to close doors on interference.

Purrazzo took the lead by focusing on Taya’s arm. After a single leg crab, Purrazzo focused on the leg. The Virtuosa gave Taya an extended session in pain. That strategy paid off when Taya couldn’t execute Road to Valhalla due to the damage done.

Taya shifted gears for a brutal curb stomp. She slapped on a modified STF until Purrazzo got to the ropes for a break. Both women began throwing blows with buckling legs. Purrazzo whirled into applying an armbar. Taya rolled Purrazzo over for a pin, but Purrazzo rolled the position back into an armbar. The Virtuosa then transitioned into a Venus de Milo double armbar. La Wera Loca could only take so much and was forced to submit.

Impact is calling this one an instant classic. I wouldn’t go that far with praise. It was very solid and entertaining but also a bit simplistic at the same time. Purrazzo dominated early, Taya had a comeback, then Purrazzo showed championship spirit to secure the double armbar. It never had that moment when I thought Taya could win. The selling was great. Both women made me believe in the other’s effective offense and work of body parts.

It will be interesting to see where Purrazzo goes from here. She’s pretty much cleared out the Knockouts division. The victory was clean, so Taya has no claim for immediate rematch. Su Yung, as Susan, seems to now be aligned with Purrazzo. I could see a return to Su Yung being Purrazzo’s next defense at the Rebellion PPV on April 24. That leaves a lot of TV time in between for Purrazzo to stay busy.

X-Division Championship: Manik retained against Rohit Raju and Chris Bey in a three-way. This match rocked the house. It was classic X-Division style with constant action. For the story beats, Rohit was finally able to shed Manik of his mask, but the man was wearing face paint underneath. It was clearly TJP, however, the paint prevented a 100% positive identification from Impact officials.

The top move came from Bey. After Manik hit a tornado DDT to Rohit, he climbed the corner for liftoff on a mamba splash. That’s when Bey came out of nowhere for a cutter as Manik was in flight. Bey followed up with a springboard double cutter.

Rohit almost won in a callback to how he first gained the X-Division gold. Manik connected on a mamba splash to Bey. Rohit ran in to blast Manik with a running knee. Rohit covered Bey, but he couldn’t secure the three count this time.

In the end, Rohit was in control with knee strikes to Bey, then Manik swooped in for victory on a roll-up to Rohit.

This was easily the top match of the undercard. The action was fast and furious with multiple false finishes that had me on the edge of my seat. I’d expect some sort of final rematch between Rohit and Manik. Everyone knows it is TJP, but nobody cares since they all dislike Rohit. The big mouth still deserves one more shot though before the winner moves on to their next feud.

Matt Cardona defeated Ace Austin. (Full details here.) Austin interrupted the show to complain about not having a PPV bout, so Scott D’Amore matched him up with a surprise debut from Cardona (fka Zack Ryder). Cardona won via DQ when Madman Fulton interfered to clean his clock. Cardona bounced back for a jumping leg lariat to stand tall.

That was a great surprise. I was not expecting Cardona to appear, let alone a new debut on the PPV. I do wish that it came against someone else though. Ace and Madman are too good to be taking a loss to the Long Island Broski. This bout was a quick scramble, but I assume it will continue into a feud with Cardona coming out on top.

Knockouts tag title tournament final: Kiera Hogan & Tasha Steelz defeated Havok & Nevaeh. Hogan and Steelz debuted a new team name, Fire ‘n Flava. That was foreshadowing of victory. They attacked before the bell, but Havok and Nevaeh powered through to dominate early. Hogan and Steelz turned it back around with quickness and teamwork.

Havok had the spot of the match with a double fallaway slam.

In the end, Havok and Nevaeh were in the driver seat setting up a teamwork finisher, but Steelz was outside the ring to grab Nevaeh’s foot as prevention. Hogan wiggled free to hit a stunner on Havok. Hogan picked up Nevaeh for a fisherman’s neckbreaker to win as Steelz held Havok out of the ring.

Hogan and Steelz became the new Knockouts Tag Team Champions. They were presented the belts by Madison Rayne and Gail Kim.

Solid speed vs power affair. Hogan and Steelz proved to be too quick of body and mind. They operated smoothly as a team and used great strategy in the end. Fire ‘n Flava should represent the return of the Knockouts tag titles well.

Old School Rules: Eric Young, Joe Doering, & Cody Deaner defeated Tommy Dreamer, Rhino, & Cousin Jake. Young’s crew debuted a new team name, Violent by Design. This bout featured constant brawling. Doering absorbed chair shots from all three opponents then clobbered each one. The big spots were Cody tossing Jake off the turnbuckles onto two open chairs, and Dreamer using a back body drop to send Young onto a pile of thumbtacks. The match proceeded with a Gore from Rhino to Doering, a DDT from Cody to Rhino, and a Black Hole slam from Jake to Cody. Young bashed Jake with his hockey mask then won it on a piledriver.

The craziness was at a medium level for being Old School Rules. Doering was the standout with his power and ability to take pain. It was quite impressive and established him as a beast of a man in a very effective manner.

Rosemary & Crazzy Steve defeated Tenille Dashwood & Kaleb Konley. While this bout was intergender, the mixed action was mild to tame. The ladies mostly stuck with the ladies, and the men mostly stuck with the men. Rosemary and Kaleb had an exchange resulting in a superkick to the demon assassin. Tenille tried to cheat with hair spray to the eyes, but the referee intervened. Steve retaliated with green mist to Tenille. Kaleb clocked Steve with a spinning backfist. Kaleb tried to drag Rosemary into the ring, but she spit green mist in his face. Steve finished with a tornado DDT to Kaleb.

It was a fun little match. Green mist is always a good time, and it was nice to see the Decay reunion.

Brian Myers defeated Josh Alexander. Myers was up to his old tricks during the pre-show bout. At one point, he pulled the referee in front to block a flying attack. Later, Myers was trapped in an ankle lock, so he pulled Alexander’s headgear down over his eyes to escape. Myers charged forth with a big clothesline to win.

Interesting call to give Myers the nod. I think Alexander is the one with more potential, and he could have used a kick-start of momentum for his career without Ethan Page in The North tag team. Myers was shifty enough to snatch success once again. Perhaps his string of wins will set up a showdown with Matt Cardona.

Notes: Madison Rayne announced her retirement from wrestling. Matt Striker and D’Lo Brown took over as Impact’s new commentary team. Brian Hebner returned to Impact as referee. Acey Romero found the magic cologne that turned Larry D into Laurence D. It was in the Knockouts locker room, but the cliffhanger prevented us from knowing whose bag as the saga of who really shot John E. Bravo resumes. Fake crowd nose was used for the first time. Cheers and boos were piped in. The noise sounded awkward in the beginning, but it blended well into the broadcast by the end.

Parting thoughts: Hard to Kill turned out to be one of Impact’s better events. I liked how all the backstage scenes did well to close doors on logic questions. The new commentary duo of Striker and Brown brought enthusiasm. Striker laid on hyperbole a little thick at times, but he was on point overall. Best of all, there were no weak matches in the bunch. Well, maybe the quick scramble between Austin and Cardona, but I don’t count that as a full match. It was more about the big surprise of Cardona’s Impact debut.

The six-man main event and the X-Division Championship bout were the top matches of the show. Barbed Wire Massacre was in its own class as a spectacle driven by story and violence. I’d pick Moose, Kiera Hogan, Tasha Steelz, Havok, and Joe Doering as the stars who were elevated during the show. When all is said and done, I think I’ll most remember Karate Man ripping out Ethan Page’s heart.

Share your thoughts on Hard to Kill. Which match stole the show? Who was elevated by their performance? What was your favorite moment of the evening?

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