Pre-Show: Jake Something def. Madman Fulton
Something is fresh off to JONAH on Thursday's edition of IMPACT! Wrestling, so he needed this win more than Fulton did (though I'll never understand why they don't protect Fulton more). This was a fun, nicely-paced hoss fight with both guys having good showings. I really want Something to get involved in a meaningful program, so hopefully he can capitalize off this victory and and start building momentum.
Pre-Show: "Speedball" Mike Bailey def. Ace Austin, Laredo Kid and Chris Bey in a Four-Way Match
I've heard a lot about Bailey over the years and what he can do, so I was excited to see him inserted into this match. Sure enough, he had a terrific debut and stood out more than anyone else, which is saying something because the other three guys are great. Not only that, but he also emerged victorious. This was the perfect X-Division showcase where it was all action from start to finish. I'm looking forward to seeing more from Bailey as he made a fan out of me with the performance he had here.
Tasha Steelz def. Chelsea Green, Impact Digital Media Champion Jordynne Grace, Rosemary, Lady Frost and Alisha in an Impact Knockouts World Championship No. 1 Contender's Ultimate X Match
This was the first Knockouts Ultimate X match ever and it was a car crash in the best way possible. Alisha was a last-minute replacement for Rachael Ellering. There was never a dull moment and all six women put forth a fantastic effort. This was wild. Green was heavily foreshadowed as the winner, so Steelz coming out on top instead was a pleasant surprise. She hasn't done a whole lot since the departure of Kiera Hogan, so hopefully this gives her the singles spotlight she deserves.
Impact X-Division Champion Trey Miguel def. Steve Maclin
This feud has developed in logical fashion over the last few months. Maclin's argument has been that he's undefeated and has never been pinned fairly in any of his shots at the X-Division title. He had no excuse here in that Miguel beat him decisively, but only after an excellent outing from Maclin (who has been a totally different person in the ring since being let go from WWE). These two have strong chemistry and it was a cool clash of styles. I'm glad Miguel's reign as X-Division champ isn't over yet as there are plenty more opponents for him to defend against.
ROH World Champion Jonathan Gresham def. Chris Sabin in a Pure Rules Match
What a surreal sight to see the ROH World Championship being defended in an IMPACT ring, and exactly 24 hours removed from when it was announced that Impact Knockouts World Champion Mickie James would be competing in WWE's women's Royal Rumble match, no less! Even cooler was that they got Ian Riccaboni on commentary and Bobby Cruise doing the ring announcing. Riccaboni brought up that Sabin beat Gresham three years ago and that Sabin felt he was owed a title shot. He also mentioned that they used to be stablemates in Search and Destroy, which I completely forgot about. This was a tremendous match. IMPACT fans already knew what Sabin could do, but Gresham might have been a fresh face to some viewers and he made an outstanding impression. The Pure Rules added a nice layer, and although I was worried the rope break spot would hurt the flow, they bounced back from it seamlessly and produced a fantastic finishing sequence. This was an awesome way to keep Ring of Honor's momentum going on a big stage until their next show in April.
Josh Alexander def. JONAH
The crowd was clearly exhausted coming into this contest after an insanely hot stretch to start the show, but they came alive once Alexander and JONAH picked up the pace about halfway through. They busted their asses, showed quality psychology and kicked it into that next gear when necessary. The outcome was genuinely unpredictable because JONAH has been protected up to this point, but I have no problem with him losing clean if he isn't going to be around long-term. Plus, Alexander needed the momentum boost as he likely prepares to reenter the Impact World Championship picture.
Heath, Rhino, Eddie Edwards, Rich Swann and Willie Mack def. Impact World Tag Team Champions The Good Brothers and Violent By Design (Eric Young, Joe Doering and Deaner) in a Hardcore War Match
Everyone came out at three-minute intervals, so this received plenty of time. After 90 minutes of exhilarating action, this is where the show hit a brief lull. At the very least, they kept things interesting with all of the brawling and hardcore spots and the crowd was into it. The tag titles have felt completely lost in all of this and The Good Brothers have been lame champions, so fingers crossed those belts can become a focal point again coming out of this. Post-match, several stars from ROH showed up including The OGK, Maria Kanellis-Bennett, PCO and Vincent. The commentators put it over as an ROH invasion, so that will probably be keeping the ROH folks busy until April. Personally, I'm a fan of all of those people and want them to get as much exposure as possible, so I'm all for the angle as long as they do it right.
Impact World Champion Moose def. Matt Cardona and W. Morrissey in a Three-Way Match
I'm glad they went with the women in the main event, but even if they didn't, this would not have disappointed in that spot. I was always under the impression Moose was walking away still the Impact World Champion, but they made me doubt myself multiple times with some of the nearfalls. There was a ton of shenanigans and overbooking in this thing. It benefited from the chaos in a way, but I could've done without Green being involved as much as she was. Morrissey had the match won at one point when the referee was done, so my guess is that we'll be getting Moose vs. Morrissey one-on-one coming out of this.
Impact Knockouts World Champion Mickie James def. Deonna Purrazzo in a Texas Death Match
We don't see many Texas Death Matches in major wrestling promotions nowadays, but basically, you have to pin your opponent for a three count before keeping them down for a 10 count like a Last Man/Woman Standing match. The crowd appeared to be confused at first, but they got with it as the matchup went on. Purrazzo has been one of the very best in the world over the last two years and James has had a hell of a run since leaving WWE last year, so the stipulation fit the feud and they belonged in the main event. I was worried it would feel too similar to the Hardcore War match from earlier in the evening, but that wasn't an issue at all as it was different enough and it was probably even more extreme with some of the spots they did. Unfortunately, it fell apart at the end a bit and the finish didn't come off the best, but it was a wonderful piece of business on the whole. With the win, James will be walking into WWE's women's Royal Rumble later this month as Impact Knockouts Champion. Whether she'll be bringing the belt with her is the question, and if it were up to me, I'd have her come out to her "Hardcore Country" song.
I feel like I say this a lot, but I truly believe this was one of IMPACT's strongest, most well-rounded pay-per-views in many years. They always deliver with their bigger shows, but this one specifically was straight fire for the first 90 minutes or so. Hardcore War slowed things down, but it picked up by the end and the rest of the show was equally entertaining. Seriously, if you missed this show, seek it out. There wasn't a bad bout on the card and the three hours flew by. I sound like a broken record, I know, but stop sleeping on IMPACT. This was an exceptional event that hopefully set the tone for what lies ahead for them in 2022. On a side note, Tom Hannifan (f.k.a. WWE's Tom Phillips) did really well as the new lead announcer for IMPACT and it will be refreshing to hear him in this new environment, away from the micromanaging, hashtags and everything else he had to endure while behind the booth for WWE.