“One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life. That word is love.”Sophocles
With WCW and ECW both undergoing their own demises, the early 2000s were looking like a bleak time for wrestling fans. But whilst the lights were dimming, one began to shine through the darkness in 2002 with the creation of TNA, now IMPACT! Wrestling. A weekly pay-per-view model saw the promotion use a mixture of former WCW stars such as Jeff Jarrett, Scott Hall, Rick Steiner and Curt Henning, alongside performers in the early stages of future-illustrious careers such as AJ Styles, Alexis Laree (Mickie James), The Briscoes and CM Punk.
Reading about this new promotion from afar I was desperate for the venture to succeed, to provide competition and a place for more wrestlers to thrive. Little did I realise that I would grow to love the promotion and over twenty years later, it would still be going strong.
“It is difficult to know at what moment love begins; it is less difficult to know that it has begun.”Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“It is difficult to know at what moment love begins; it is less difficult to know that it has begun” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
It was in the late 2000s that my love really started to grow. Extra investment allowed stars like Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash, Sting and Booker T to come onboard and draw more eyes; for me though, it was the newer stars like Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, Abyss and Gail Kim that kept me hooked to the screen.
I recently watched an old episode of IMPACT from mid-2008 and was delighted at how much exciting content it had: the soap opera style storyline of Angle thinking Styles was having an affair with his wife, a fantastic match between Styles and Consequences Creed (Xavier Woods), Bully Ray putting Christian through a glass table in what looked like an incredibly painful bump, plus a fantastic brawl between Taylor (Wilde) and Awesome Kong. There was so much packed into the hour and a half, I couldn’t look away.
“Love doesn’t make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.”Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The ride certainly wasn’t always plain sailing. Several times it looked as if IMPACT would fold, as key talent left for the WWE or elsewhere. The attempt at revisiting the Monday Night Wars was not remotely successful and woefully saw some of the more talented performers take a back seat to older stars like Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. Every time IMPACT was down though, it somehow bounced back.
The promotion has had it’s share of weirdness, the Claire Lynch and Mickie James train storylines being amongst the most maligned. But through the murkiness there there have been times of sheer brilliance. The cinematic Final Deletion match could have been a disaster but ended up as one of my favourite matches of all time, a creative precursor from the genius of Matt Hardy that would become more common place in wrestling many years later.
Broken Matt Hardy was always a guaranteed laugh with his deluded and historic references and Brother Nero was the perfect opponent, but the real stars were the cast of supporting characters: Senor Benjamin, Vanguard One, Rebecca and Skarsgard the dilapidated boat.
That absurdness has also led to a bizarre number of wrestling weddings, some of them the best wrestling weddings of all time. The unions between So Cal Val and Jay Lethal, ODB and Eric Young, Bully Ray and Brooke Hogan plus Braxton Sutter (Blade) and Laurel Van Ness (Chelsea Green) were all amazing.
“Nothing in the world is single; all things by a law divine. In another’s being mingle; why not I with thine.”Percy Bysshe Shelley
Knowing someone has your back is important in life and an area where IMPACT has excelled is tag team wrestling. In the earlier years I can remember watching the matches between The Naturals and America’s Most Wanted, thinking these were two of the best teams in the world.
The best of five series between the Motor City Machine Guns and Beer Money was ground breaking with athletic ability, tension and drama as the series built to a conclusion.
Through the last two decades plus, countless teams have stood out as tag team wrestling received the prominence and TV time it deserved. The men’s division boasted The Latin American Exchange to The Wolves to The North. In the women’s division you had The Beautiful People to Mexican America to The IInspiration. Whenever the titles were on the line, you knew they meant something to the competitors who held them and the company itself.
“Love is the only gold.”Lord Alfred Tennyson
Contrary to what they might say, the women’s revolution did not start with a tweet by the Bella’s. It had already been well underway for years in IMPACT’s Knockout’s division, the catalyst the incredible feud between legends Gail Kim and Awesome Kong. The perfect underdog storyline saw Gail use her skills and speed against the much stronger Kong in a long running feud.
A division also containing Mickie James, Tara, ODB, Angelina Love, Velvet Sky and Madison Rayne saw ratings continue to rise as it was clear there was a demand for women’s wrestling.
We had one of the best women’s matches of the 2010s between Gail and Taryn Terrell, featuring an incredible bump outside of the ring. As the decade progressed Sienna, Taya Valkyrie, Rosemary and Allie emerged to the fore.
The biggest, and now somewhat forgotten moment, came in January 2020 when Tessa Blanchard defeated Sami Callahan to win the IMPACT World Championship. Later revelations have overshadowed what an incredible match and statement that was at the time.
“With thee conversing I forget all time. All seasons and their change, all please alike.”John Milton
When you look at the landscape of professional wrestling in 2023, you cannot understate the role the company has played. Top stars such as Jon Moxley, Sami Zayn, Seth Rollins, Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley, CM Punk, Kazuchika Okada, The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega have all been a part of IMPACT at differing stages of their careers and with differing degrees of success.
With Rebellion in the rear view mirror, the future of IMPACT is looking bright. Husband and wife Steve Maclin and Deonna Purrazzo were crowned new champions at the landmark event, Maclin proving the doubters wrong. When he was released by the WWE, his signing with IMPACT was very low key, but he has honed his skills and character to now be a deserving champion.
The challengers are fast lining up though, recent signing Nick Aldis at the front of the queue. Josh Alexander, the greatest IMPACT World Champions, will be gunning for Maclin in a much anticipated bout when he returns from injury.
The tag team division is as strong as ever with ABC (Ace Austin and Chris Bey) the youthful and talented champions. I’m expecting more incredible matches with the Motor City Machine Guns in the months ahead. The tag division has really benefited from the enhanced relationship with New Japan, allowing teams such as Aussie Open and TMDK to appear in recent weeks.
The Knockouts division continues to be one of the best in the world and Deonna Purrazzo is the perfect champion to carry it forward. She is incredibly underrated and is great in any situation. Her match with the also underrated Jordynne Grace main evented Rebellion, women main eventing being commonplace in the promotion. Masha Slamovich, Rosemary, Taylor Wilde, Gisele Shaw and Tasha Steelz are amongst those helping stack the talented division.
I’m really excited about what lies ahead for IMPACT. The company seems to be in a very stable position, has exciting young talent and continues to produce amazing monthly pay-per-views. Whilst not every storyline, match or segment over the years has been great, when you are in love you can put some things to one side and remember those special impactful moments.