Over the last two weeks, IMPACT offered its own best of 2017 (you can find the reviews here and here), putting aside all the creative and management changes that made people think the company would be done. The fact is, IMPACT is still here and had a great wrestling year. I’ve had the privilege to review for you every week since May. If you read the weekly and PPV reviews, I’m sure you already know what some of my Top 10 moments could be. The most difficult was to classify them…
This Top 10 is really the Nygma one, I will agree with IMPACT on some points, disagree on others. So share your favourite IMPACT Wrestling moments of the year on Twitter (@frenchnygma and @steelchairmag), SteelChair Mag Facebook and Instagram.
#10: Johnny makes an Impact
His appearance last August at IMPACT New York was a sign John Hennigan/Johnny Mundo would sooner or later be a member of the IMPACT roster. The official announcement was made at Destination X that he would debut the next week. At a moment where IMPACT was suffering from the suspension of its Heavyweight Champion, Alberto El Patron, the company needed new faces to lead the roster, new wrestlers to show the way.
What better way to make an Impact than by making his debut in the 20-Men Gauntlet for the Gold match, that took place the week after Destination X, just to let people think he could become the Global Champion right now? It may have been a little too soon but, as 2017 is coming to an end, we can’t wait to see him raising the gold. He clearly demonstrated he was a serious contender for the Global belt, and a great Tag Team player, whether it was with Garza Jr. or Petey Williams. If Alberto El Patron is now back in the Impact zone, Johnny’s fate is not done and he has all of 2018 to prove it to the fans.
#9: The AAA, BCW and NOAH effect
One of the major assets of IMPACT Wrestling is its partnerships. Border City Wrestling in Canada, Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan, and The Crash and Lucha Libre AAA in Mexico have provided some great matches in the Impact Zone. A give-and-take situation that was fruitful for the company.
Scott D’Amore’s promotion was the place where IMPACT tried to find its future new stars, thanks to the Global Forged program. Wrestlers from all over the world came to Windsor, Ontario, Canada to the Can-Am Dojo, training facility of BCW, to have the chance to become an IMPACT future star. We wish Hakim Zane the best in 2018.
Eddie Edwards became the first-ever “gaijin” (non-japanese wrestler) to win the Pro Wrestling NOAH GHC Heavyweight Champion, an honour for Edwards who proudly defended it in Japan multiple times. At the same time, Taiji Ishimori, one of NOAH’s Junior Heavyweight talents, skyrocketed to the to the heights of the X-Division. He made his debut at Slammiversary XV alongside fellow superstar Naomichi Marufuji, competing in the Tag Team Championships Unification match.
If Lashley, Moose and Jeff Jarrett appeared at TripleMania XXV to seal a great partnership between the two companies, Lucha Libre AAA in a way invaded IMPACT this year. Johnny Mundo, Laredo Kid, Texano, El Hijo del Fantasma, Pagano, Drago, Octagoncito, Garza Jr. and Taya Valkyrie (even if the last two have left the company ever since) made an impact in every division of the company. Something a returning James Storm appreciated. At Victory Road being disrespected by some of the AAA guys led to a forgettable war between a Team IMPACT and a Team AAA. James Storm, Eddie Edwards and EC3 successfully defeated Texano, Pagano and El Hijo del Fantasma at Bound for Glory. And then…
As we haven’t heard from them since, the question is: will we ever see Laredo Kid, Texano, El Hijo del Fantasma, Pagano, Drago and Octagoncito in the Impact zone in 2018? The upcoming set of tapings in Orlando in mid-January will probably give us an answer.
#8: Big Poppa Pump, one night only
Before the Carlos and Alberto summer soap opera, Josh Mathews and Jeremy Borash were the stars of the soap of springtime. The war of the announcers was not only a war of words, as Team Borash and Team Mathews had to compete to determine who was the lead commentator of IMPACT. Even if Josh Mathews’s team lost, he came back week after week to remind Borash he was not done yet. A Tag Team match was set for Slammiversary XV. If Borash found an ally in Joseph Park, Mathews shocked the world when he introduced Scott Steiner as his tag team partner.
Even if Steiner and Mathews lost, even if Steiner came back for one night only, the return of Big Poppa Pump was a great thing as he’s been a huge part of IMPACT’s history, whether as a member of the Main Event Mafia or as a mentor to Petey Williams. To build a future, never forget about the guys who made company history. The fans never forget…
#7: Sonjay Dutt is finally X-Division Champion
Sonjay Dutt was there when IMPACT was born. He was one of the wrestlers who “made” the Legend of the X-Division, alongside AJ Styles, Low Ki, Chris Sabin and Christopher Daniels. But he has never been X-Division Champion himself. An incomprehensible situation for one of the pioneers of the division and an extremely talented wrestler.
When IMPACT went to Mumbai, India, last May, the time was right. Dutt was in “his” country. His time was now. Even if he has been on the losing side of tons of confrontations with Low-Ki over the years, this match was made for him. Made for cementing the Legend of Sonjay Dutt with well-deserved gold. Even the rematch that followed, Two Out of Three Falls at Slammiversary XV, was stunning. Another recognition, Dutt is now a member of the Creative Team and is able to help create a great future for a Division he helped build.
#6: Ohio versus Latin America, the War of Identities
As of now, we can’t say the Tag Team division is the most inspiring part of the company. Bruce Prichard came back in April with the idea of rebuilding it and made LAX come back. Konnan and Homicide brought a new brood of talents to the Impact Zone, with Diamanté – a talented wrestler I can’t wait to see back in the ring – and the duo of Ortiz and Santana who attributed Konnan’s influence and advice to their success on IMPACT. LAX quickly emerged as the Tag Team Champions when The Decay dismantled and The Broken Hardys teleported themselves out of the company. It seemed like they would never leave the top of the division until a duo of masked men made their debut at Destination X.
Ohio Versus Everything, aka oVe, proved right in their first match they would be serious contenders for the Tag Team belts. Jake and Dave Crist did it only 6 weeks later at Victory Road. Ever since, the two teams have been involved in a war that reached every possible height, mostly with the recent addition of Sami Callihan in oVe. However, they are still promising more to come at their Barbed Wire Massacre match (it should be aired on January 11 or 18 episode).
This war has taken so much space it almost made us forget two teams can’t be a division. Even if we can’t wait to see both LAX and oVe in the ring in 2018, new teams, new contenders are widely expected and absolutely necesary to keep the division alive.
#5: Petey Williams is back
Why the hell did Petey Williams retire three years ago? Honestly, that’s the first thing that came to my mind when I saw him back in the ring. First, at Destination X when he came to save Sonjay Dutt, then two weeks ago when he made his in-ring return against Caleb Konley. Thank you, Scott D’Amore, for convincing the Canadian Destroyer to come back to TNA. This X-Division pioneer has so, so much yet to offer in a ring.
He came back in the X-Division, trying to grab the belt from Trevor Lee’s shoulders, however, he emerged in the Heavyweight competition after Bound for Glory. Not only he proved he can be a legit contender in this division, and even a great Champion, but in it he found some new allies like Johnny Impact. What a team they made for the time of a few matches. I can only wish the best and tons of gold to this amazing gentleman I had the chance to talk to in 2018.
#4: The rise of The Demon Assassin, Rosemary
For the first part of 2017, she was a major asset of The Decay and the Knockouts Champion at the same time. When Crazzy Steve left, The Decay was put to an end. But not Rosemary. She kept her odd gimmick and continued a successful Knockouts Championship reign by defeating Sienna, ODB, Jade and Santana Garrett. Fans had no choice to fall in love with the face-painted wrestler.
At Slammiversary XV, Sienna, at that time GFW Women’s Champion, and Rosemary, still IMPACT Knockouts Champion, were involved in an impressive unification match. Sienna may have put an end to the 266-day reign of Rosemary, but she couldn’t stop The Demon Assassin. The Last Knockout Standing rematch that took place a few weeks later was a pure marvel to watch. Rosemary lost the match, but she earned even more respect from the fans and the wrestling world.
Her recent feud with Taya Valkyrie was interrupted abruptly, the two were supposed to wrestle at Bound for Glory but Taya was unable to come to Canada, but I’m sure the next set of tapings will reignite it. In two years, Rosemary has become one of the most impressive Knockouts of the company and I personally can’t wait to see her wearing the gold again.
#3: E-Li-Drake is the Cham-Pion
Eli Drake is not only good in a ring, he’s also good with a mic. His association with Chris Adonis made him a dominant force in the Impact Zone. But honestly who would have bet on him in this 20-Man Gauntlet for the Gold match? Who would have thought Eli Drake could be synonymous with the Global Championship? At Slammiversary XV, he was involved in a feud with Moose and De Angelo Williams, and lost the match. But the suspension of Alberto El Patron changed everything.
IMPACT needed a new top star. Eli Drake confessed he was extremely surprised when he learnt he was about to become the Champion and IMPACT decided he would be the face of the company. He entered the Gauntlet match as #2 and walked his way to the Gold on his own. He has managed to retain the Global Championship ever since. Petey Williams and Johnny Impact were defeated by the perfect teamwork of Drake and Adonis. However, El Patron is back now and he’s decided to regain a gold he never lost.
Whether he stays Champion or not in 2018, Eli Drake has established himself as a main-eventer and one of the best wrestlers of the IMPACT roster. Something The Namer of Dummies can be proud of as he really earned this new reputation.
#2: The return of the Super X-Cup
In 2003 and 2005, the Super X-Cup Tournament was established as an international tournament that would feature X-Division wrestlers from all over the world to compete in one-on-one matches, with the winner getting a shot at the TNA X-Division Championship. Wrestlers like Juventud Guerrera, Chris Sabin, Samoa Joe, Sonjay Dutt, AJ Styles and Petey Williams were all involved in this exhilarating.
The week after Slammiversary XV, Jeremy Borash announced the tournament will be back, as well as a Destination X event. Sammy Guevara, from Cuba, Lucha Libre AAA’s Drago, from Mexico, ACH, from AAW promotion of Chicago, Pro Wrestling Noah’s Taiji Ishimori from Japan, and IMPACT Wrestling’s Andrew Everett, Dezmond Xavier, Idris Abraham and Davey Richards offered a series of amazing matches, quick-paced, high-flying and death-defying, the way X-Division matches are supposed to be.
At Destination X, Dezmond Xavier and Taiji Ishimori competed in an incredible match, the best of the night. Dezmond Xavier may have won the Cup, but that night the X-Division won some new talents and even more credibility as the Flagship division of the company. Taiji Ishimori and Dezmond Xavier are currently the most serious contenders for the X-Division Championship, something current Champion Trevor Lee is fully aware of.
#1: The last ride of THE Knockout
While WWE is talking up a Women’s Revolution, they seem to forget TNA started it 10 years before they did, when they decided to stop the era of the “eye candy” women and created the Knockouts Division. Not only women would compete, but they would compete in the same matches as the men, and get as bloody and rough as they could be.
As the first-ever Knockouts Champion, Gail Kim set the bar for all the women of IMPACT. Becoming a TNA Hall of Famer in 2016 was something she earned. But after a severe neck injury, Gail Kim, already a 6-time Knockouts Champion, decided to come back for a last ride and possibly a last Championship reign. With Bound for Glory coming to Canada, everything was made to give the Championship to Gail Kim, to let her leave the ring as the Undisputed Knockout.
Of course, Gail Kim relinquished the belt two weeks later but she didn’t leave IMPACT completely as she’s now going to work backstage to help the new generation of Knockouts trying to be as good as she has ever been. If she was an inspiration for generations of girls and women, she will continue to be for the generations to come.
I can hear some of you saying she forgot something. If you carefully read my weekly reviews, I’m sure you were expecting me to add to the list the Nygma eye candy I talk to you about every week. Don’t worry, I saved the best for last (at 0’40 in the video below)…
I wish you, fellow readers, a very happy Nygma New Year, I’ll be there in 2018 with you to review every IMPACT weekly episodes, to give you my predictions and the results of the PPV (for the moment the rumours are going in the sense of an April PPV…), and also to share the media conference calls me and my SteelChair friends have the chance to be a part of. Your French Nygma is not ready to let IMPACT down in 2018… And if you agree with me, of course, I see you next Friday…