A fresh new year brings with it a renewed enthusiasm for Impact Wrestling. Fans (new and old) should, in fact, be optimistic about what could happen in the next 12 months and all it kicks off at Hard To Kill in Dallas, Texas.
This is Impact’s time to shine and really grab people’s attention in a way that they haven’t been able to for a few years. In 2020, Impact Wrestling is going to make significant strides when it comes to growth, branding and awareness. All of those probable macro projections will boil down to the company being willing to take risks. I’m not talking about “hail mary” football plays or a “half-court heave” in basketball. I’m instead referring to calculated risks that will continue to make them stand out as a true alternative to anything else out there in mainstream pro wrestling.
The official debut of Impact on AXS TV last October provided one of the best episodes that I had seen in quite some time. It was action packed and featured some of their best stuff. Sami Callihan won the World Title in an epic steel cage rematch with Brian Cage. That specific edition of the show felt much different and improved from the prior shows on Pursuit. To me, the subsequent episodes that followed were still very good, but things kind of stalled out a bit for various reasons. I’m not saying that they weren’t still quality shows, but the overall momentum of moving to AXS and that initial episode seemed to slow down a bit. I theorized at the time that Impact was maybe holding back a bit to really hit the ground running at Hard To Kill and beyond. I will hold to that theory as I’m sensing some considerable improvements and/or changes coming soon.
With that being said, here’s a look at the very unpredictable Hard To Kill PPV card (as of January 1st). I will update this preview if something significant is added or changed:
Moose Vs Rhino: Two tough, rugged dudes slugging it out is what we should expect here. Rhino has done a nice job since his return to Impact and is proving to still be legit in the ring and a valuable member of the roster. However, Moose is in the midst of a decent push and it’s one that he deserves. This will be a hard-hitting big man brawl that ends with Moose getting the win over another respected veteran.
Madman Fulton Vs Ken Shamrock: I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how Shamrock has fit into the Impact roster as he’s had some entertaining angles so far. This is a good opportunity for an up and coming monster like Madman Fulton to get more exposure in a fight like this against a MMA legend. I’d be surprised if Fulton didn’t get the win but Shamrock did make Joey Ryan tap out so anything is possible.
Brian Cage Vs Rob Van Dam: This is one of the bouts on the card that I have no idea what exactly to expect. It’s a first-time dream match with one of the best wrestlers in the company in Cage and a revamped heel version of RVD who doesn’t lose very often. Katie Forbes will undoubtedly be involved and try to secure a victory for her man. If both men are really on their game, this match could steal the show. I’m predicting a Cage win but I wouldn’t be shocked if Van Dam got a cheap W either.
Swann & Mack Vs The North (Impact Tag Team Championship): All four men here have the ability to really go in the ring (especially if Josh Alexander is healed up). I see this being a “match of the night” candidate as Rich Swann usually does crazy stuff and Willie Mack is one of the most underrated wrestlers in the world. Ethan Page is also underappreciated for how good he is as a heel. The North have been fantastic tag champs and are in the upper echelon of tag teams in any promotion, no doubt. This figures to be a long and somewhat fast-paced affair that ends with The North retaining their championships but Swann and Mack would also be a great choice if a title change is in the works.
Michael Elgin Vs Eddie Edwards: Wrestling purists should love this one as these are two of the best technical wrestlers on the planet. When is the last time that either of them had a bad match? I can’t think of it because they’re both absolutely tremendous professional wrestlers. Eddie is probably the most versatile member of the Impact roster both in and out of the ring. There will be many chops. Oh yes, there will be many, many vicious chops. Elgin seems destined for the World Title picture so I’ll pick him to win, but with the “Call Your Shot” trophy on the line, it adds another level of unpredictability.
Trey Miguel Vs Ace Austin (X-Division Championship): The craziest and most dangerous moves and dives of the night will probably happen in this match-up as it should be when the X-Division Championship title is on the line. The storyline with Trey’s Mom being involved has been entertaining as Ace Austin attempts to seduce her and maintain his scumbag image. The One True Ace has been the most improved wrestler in Impact when you look at character development (although Fallah Bahh is a close second in my opinion). As much as I love The Rascalz, I don’t see Ace Austin losing here because he has all the momentum in the world.
Jordynne Grace Vs ODB Vs Taya Valkyrie (KnockOuts Championship): There’s been some blow back out there when it was announced that ODB would be added into this KnockOuts Title match, but personally it doesn’t bother me much at all because I’m a big ODB fan. Obviously Jordynne is much younger and more believable as someone who could legitimately end Taya’s record-breaking title run. This should be a very fun match-up if it turns out how I think it might. I’m not sure if they’ll pull the trigger with a title change but I will take Jordynne Grace as the new champion.
Tessa Blanchard Vs Sami Callihan (Impact World Championship): The most anticipated match of the evening is this World Title bout and that’s the way it should be. I’ve gone back and forth on this one like fifty times. Tessa would be the first female World Champion in any major promotion and also the youngest World Champion in Impact (or TNA) history. So there’s the potential for some ground-breaking things here that could make Tessa a mainstream media story. Blanchard winning could help propel Impact onto a higher level of awareness that we haven’t seen in several years. I’m torn because I think Sami Callihan and oVe are awesome and that The Draw deserves a long run with the belt. There are so many pros and cons that could be debated with who should win but I think that Tessa will capture the World Title. Whatever way this shakes out, it will provide some great rematches in this crazy feud with Sami as the ultimate bad guy. In turn, this is the hook that can make Impact Wrestling stand out as a true alternative in the industry.
This is the way. It’s the way to make a real splash whether it happens at the pay-per-view or later at one of the tapings in the next few months. Whenever it actually takes place, it’ll be sooner than later. This monumental feat will be new and different. Providing something genuinely new is a difficult task to accomplish in a cyclical pro wrestling business nowadays. I applaud them as they take a fairly big chance and really dive into the new year. Making a real statement that the entire industry will have to look at is a smart, savvy business decision. Impact Wrestling will be setting the bar for 2020, starting at a packed Bomb Factory on January 12th.