Impact Wrestling has been through a great deal of change over the last few years – ownership battles, attempted name changes, and roster churn made for a rough transition for the former TNA promotion as they tried to compete on the national level. As the calendar changed over to 2020, though, people began taking notice that Impact currently has stability in name, ownership (Anthem Sports), and service provider (AXS TV as well as Fite TV). Moreover, talk began building about their roster of developing talent that seemed set to blossom in the near future. By the time Impact’s signature event, Slammiversary, came around, talk turned into legitimate buzz especially when some certain individuals made it official that they would be showing up (more on that later)! So what did we see and what can we take away from Slammiversary 2020? **SPOILERS INCLUDED, obviously**
The Knockouts Division is coming back for its crown
Back in the days of TNA, the Knockouts division represented a light in the darkness of women’s wrestling. With competitors like Awesome Kong, Gail Kim, Jacqueline, and ODB putting on quality, hard-hitting bouts up against the pre-Women’s Revolution era in WWE, the division came to stand for what female competitors could do given time and actual stories and booking. NXT had moved to the forefront in recent years, but watching the caliber of action the ladies at Slammiversary gave us, I felt put on notice.
In recent months, Impact has taken long-term talent like Kiera Hogan, Rosemary, and Jordynne Grace and added in some of the leading independent talent available. Newcomers Kylie Rae, Deonna Purazzo, and Tasha Steelz have made this a deep and combustible bench that can steal the show, which is exactly what we saw at Slammiversary. The women’s Gauntlet Match lit up with a continual clash of styles as wrestlers moved between various dance partners. The character work hit as hard as the strikes, and by the time Kylie Rae prevailed you could see any number of fleshed out feuds following this up. Grace and Purazzo then put on a clinic in the title match, going shot-for-hold as Grace tried to use her power to blunt a technical, Hart-worthy assault from the challenger. In the end, Purazzo dramatically locked on her signature armbar to take the title, and the division, to new places. Her first stop? A smiley new #1 contender. Keep your eyes on this division and enjoy the ride.
A Changing of the guard is in motion
Coming into Slammiversary, there was finally clarity to the title pictures. Willie Mack kept the X Division title locked down for going on 6 months, tag team champions The North reigned for over a year, and there was a clear call on how the world champion would be named. It felt like we were getting a consolidation; what we got was a shakeup. 20-something breakout star Chris Bey showed agility and aerial moves worthy of the X Division even without the criss-crossed ropes high above the mat. In taking down Mack, he showed the ability to steal any show he’s on moving forward. Purazzo followed that tone in her own title win. In the main event, the newer hardcore version of Eddie Edwards then stepped forward to take the Impact World Championship and lead the company.
As a worker who’s shown he’s willing to do it all to get his hand raised, Edwards can set an exciting tone for what’s to come. Unlike their fellow champions, The North hung on to their belts. The scene they rule, however, got plenty of shaking up in its own right. We learned at Slammiversary that there are some fresh threats gunning for them (to turn a phrase)…
Familiar faces look to rewrite stories
News broke shortly before Slammiversary that The Good Brothers (Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows) had signed with Impact, unleashed to be their fun selves and still beat fools down. In the first match of the card, another seismic tag team shock hit in the form of the Motor City Machine Guns. Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin had legendary feuds over the TNA tag team belts, and they took the Rascalz to school and back to the salad days of 2011. They popped up later to call out The North, setting up a dream tag feud of epic proportions and perhaps my personal biggest pop of the night! Elsewhere, we saw Eric Young compete in an Impact main event in a meaningful way, something that felt right and was missing from wrestling for too long for no good reason.
The industry’s hottest Free Agent, Heath (formerly Heath Slater in WWE), also appeared to try to again change history by storming a ring and rocking a microphone with nothing to lose. He made it explicit that this is a “new Heath,” showing some piss and vinegar and a bit of attitude that made me excited we’ll see more depth and in-ring opportunity for the One Man Rock Band and less pure comedy punchlines. Overall, Impact did a great job letting these talents show that they’ve got more to give us than we know and are not just “playing the hits” – rather they’re here to come hit someone. I can’t wait for more!
Building on the “TNA Legacy” for future success
Having re-established its current identity has made Impact more free to overtly make homages to its TNA Wrestling history. Not only has the imposing Moose walked around with a version of the original TNA title belt (before Edwards was crowned as the official Impact champion), but we saw at Slammiversary that Impact isn’t afraid to rely on and revisit what made that first company great.
1) Emerging amazing talent is laying it all on the line for what’s supposed to be the secondary belt in the X Division, just as AJ Styles & Samoa Joe did before them.
2) Stacked tag team competition at the highest level, which Impact gave a shot in the arm by lining up the Machine Guns and Good Brothers to come for The North, harkens back to the days of Beer Money Inc. fighting LAX and Team 3D.
3) Allowing true storytellers and craftspeople a chance to show off talent which may have been overlooked elsewhere, which led to people like Eric Young and Jay Lethal showing they could go in the first place. Now Heath and Purazzo can carry that torch onward.
Add in a women’s division that is taking a backseat to nobody, and Impact has kept the touchstones that built the original TNA reputation and latched on a clearer plan for the future from leadership. If Slammiversary was any indication, that plan had better include more seats for more butts around their now 4-sided ring once quarantine comes to an end.