On one side, Steph, the FrenchNygma, your Impact Wrestling specialist, with 35 years of wrestling, and a viper tongue when she’s decided. On the other side, John “Deathman”, the Deathmatch specialist, a fan of Japanese wrestling, with more than 15 years of wrestling-viewing experience. We may be the strongest team when it comes to news, we have decided to confront our opinions on past events, past wrestlers… but with the 2019 look. Well, we decide to collide, just for the pleasure of it…
If TNA was born in 2002, the Knockouts Division was created in 2005 and made legit with the title in 2007. Are the Knockouts better now than they were before? We’ll try to answer this question, our very own way, in the second edition of our monthly collision…
The Intro – Some Knockouts Memories
Deathman: I came to TNA/Impact a little late. My earliest memories of the Knockouts Division are of the wars between ODB, Gail Kim, The Beautiful People and Awesome Kong. They always stood out to me because they seemed to get a lot of attention and could pull off way more moves than the WWE Divas at the time. Kim and Kong had some absolute wars and even got hardcore at times so it always appealed to me more.
Whilst women’s wrestling, on the whole, is doing way better now, TNA in the early days of the division was trying it’s best to make the women equal. ODB was also a favourite as she was so outlandish and unashamed that she made me laugh. These were characters that felt natural without being purposely sexualised or forced to take part in bra and panties matches.
Nygma: As far as I can remember, my very first memories of Knockouts Division are related to a time where the word Knockouts was not in TNA vocabulary yet. I think about Gail Kim, and then Miss Jackie, being America’s Most Wanted valet or SoCal Val as the ring girl. We were in 2004 or 2005. Following the debut of the iMPACT TV program in 2005, TNA featured female wrestlers in prominent on-air roles and feuds. Those matches had nothing to do with the bras & panties matches WWE was airing at that time, they were true wrestling matches.
The first TNA Women’s Knockout Champion was crowned on October 14, 2007, at Bound for Glory in a 10–Knockout gauntlet match which Gail Kim won by lastly eliminating Roxxi Laveaux. What sticks to my mind is the gallery of characters Impact Wrestling has been able to develop through the years. Strong women like ODB or Awesome Kong, technical wrestlers like Taylor Wilde, Mickie James or Gail Kim, and “out of norm” characters like Daffney, Havok, Roxxi Laveaux or Rosemary. For them, Impact made sure their matches were not supposed to be eye candy, they were meant to be true fights.
Match 1: Hardcore Rules match – ODB vs Jackie Moore (One Night Only: Hardcore Justice II 2013)
Deathman: Jackie Moore and ODB were some of the first ladies to grace Impact’s Women’s Division. To see them return in a hardcore match was an exceptionally fun sight. The match itself wasn’t the best but it did make the most of its gimmick. Rather than being a full-on a hardcore match, they instead attacked each other with beauty products, brooms and wigs. It was all a bit silly but seeing both women choked out with a broom was at least comical. There were also incidents with hair mousse to the ass, powder to the eyes and booze to the face. It was all a bit of a farce but the charisma of the two women in the ring made the match work. It would, however, have benefitted from better weaponry and some more technical wrestling. This match was probably just meant to be a fun throwback to Impact history and it achieved that at least.
Nygma: Former allies with the common bond of being two of the toughest Knockouts in history went at it here with the fight going in and out of the ring while using various feminine products in various ways such as vaseline, sprayed with shaving cream, hit with a broom, and choked with a veil. For what it was, the brawl was entertaining. ODB had always been depicted as a boyish female wrestler when Miss Jackie had always been a gorgeous woman, even if a tough wrestler.
That was fun but that also means in a PPV or One Night Only called Hardcore Justice, women were welcomed in the world of hardcore. Tools were not the usual hardcore ones, but I think everything becomes hardcore if well used. Like Tommy Dreamer once told me, you can’t imagine how a cookie sheet can hurt. The tools in the match may be unusual, for me they tell the world everything is possible, women can do it all, clean the house in the morning and wrestle a hardcore match at night.
Match 2: Knockouts Championship Monsters Ball: Jade vs. Rosemary – IMPACT – 26/01/2017
Deathman: Now I am going to be biased here as I love Rosemary. Her arrival into the Knockouts division is what drew me back to Impact. Her character was unique, her wrestling sound and her feuds with other knockouts became legendary for their violence. This match was part of the Red vs Blue feud as Jade wanted to dethrone Rosemary. This was probably their most violent match of the feud as Monster’s Ball is a fancy way of saying total hardcore chaos.
It was a mess of weapon shots, barbed wire and strikes. We saw thumbtacks introduced, barbed wire boards, tables and more come into contact with both women’s bodies with very little thought for safety. This stood out as it was women wrestlers in a proper hardcore match. This could have easily been an FMW or IWA Japan women’s match. It was violent, over the top and signalled a shift in what televised wrestling products would let the women wrestlers do. Rosemary won with a Superplex through a table after withstanding a barbed wire board assisted Springboard Moonsault to the face. It was a wonderful match for a deathmatch fan.
Nygma: After falling short in capturing the Knockouts Title in their Six Sides of Steel Cage match, Jade was more than determined to take on Rosemary in a rematch for the gold. Rosemary accepted the challenge but upped the ante by making their rematch a Monsters Ball match. The chaotic match saw bodies collide with tacks, trash cans, kendo sticks and a barb-wired table. A super suplex through a table allowed Rosemary to claim victory over Jade but that wasn’t enough for the Demon Assassin.
It was not the first women-only Monsters Ball match in TNA history as Taylor Wilde and Daffney experimented it in 2009 at Sacrifice PPV. May it come from the character of Rosemary of an absolute desire to have a match more barbaric than male’s, this Monsters Ball match is extraordinary. Because we have everything a Monsters Ball should be, well a huge mess of barbed wire, tacks, trash cans. Women are said not to be the biggest fans of everything hardcore, I’m not every woman.
Match 3: GFW Knockouts Title Last Knockouts Standing Match: Sienna vs. Rosemary (20/07/2017)
Deathman: We go two for two on Rosemary’s classics as our next example takes us to the Last Knockouts Standing match between Sienna and Rosemary. Once again, we get a hardcore slugfest that goes everywhere. KM was also involved as he accompanied Sienna and would interfere on her behalf. They fought with trash cans, chairs and tables as the action spilt into the stands where Rosemary choked out Sienna from the railings. There were also spots to the floor, strikes and power moves as Rosemary ate an AK47 to the floor and Sienna ate a Red Wedding to a chair.
It was another example of women taking on hardcore wrestling and making it fun. The finish saw Rosemary have a trash can lobbed at her face and fall through a ladder. She couldn’t make the ten count and lost her match. Had she not been distracted by KM, she would have finished Sienna off with a Coast to Coast to a trash can. Just another reason the Knockouts deserve respect. They were doing hardcore matches way before it became historical to.
Nygma: I had the chance to watch and review this match for this website. This Last Knockouts Standing match happened during a weekly show, as our previous match. Everything hardcore was becoming a norm on Impact. Rosemary has been in this Last Knockouts Standing situation before against Jade and Sienna had, perhaps, more power than any other Knockout in history at that time. But Rosemary has always been shining in hardcore style gimmick matches and this was no exception. Sienna seemed to feel less comfortable, despite being a former MMA fighter and being used to brutal fights.
At that time, I was also reviewing Lucha Underground Season 3, and women were putting themselves in such danger I was scared to watch. The same way the Lucha female wrestlers were doing, Sienna and Rosemary pushed a limit that day. “Unbelievable match. Chairs, tables, the crowd steel gates, KM and a trash can were involved. If it is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, this match deserved to be seen instead of being read.” Here is what I wrote on that match. I couldn’t say any better now.
Overall – Better than Ever?
Deathman: So, the big question? Is this current generation of Knockouts the best yet? Quite possibly, yes. Whilst previous generations have had stars and characters, this generation may be the most consistent on quality and talent. We have stars like Rosemary, Tessa Blanchard, Su Yung, Taya Valkyrie and more putting their bodies on the line in matches against men and women. Impact Wrestling had embraced intergender wrestling in the same way it embraced women’s hardcore wrestling.
This generation is putting on show-stealing matches, making the wackiest of storylines work and slowly breaching the gap between genders in wrestling. Tessa has been fighting members of oVe and will take on their leader, Sami Callihan, in what will certainly be an amazing match. Impact Wrestling may not be the most respected company in wrestling but it’s willing to be different. It is letting its female stars do what they do best be it technically wrestle, hardcore wrestle or fight men. This generation will be the best yet and the even better thing is, the potential for it to continue to evolve is there too.
Nygma: Impact Wrestling is currently experimenting a new twist in its history in including intergender match, not only on Impact but also on PPV this Sunday. As a fan of these matches, I couldn’t be happier, It’s happening now but it could have happened before. For me, this generation is not better, nor worse than the previous ones. The Knockouts have always been given the same opportunities and matches than men. Gail Kim told me a lot about that. Impact Wrestling created an identity for female wrestlers based on equality. Some characters may have been sultry, like Angelina Love or Velvet Sky, but these women were wrestlers.
I love this generation of Knockouts the same way I was loving the previous ones. The current generation is, in fact, walking in the footsteps of the former Knockouts. They can capitalize on what was tried before because Impact has never needed to use the words “Women’s Revolution” to justify anything because they made it. For me, it’s like a little line in the contracts, “You’re a female wrestler, you’re signing with Impact Wrestling, be ready to experiment everything, because that’s the way we have always done it.”
The intergender twist is a new opportunity for women to shine, but the fact is not every woman, like not every man, is ready to do it. World Champion Brian Cage, Knockouts Champion Taya Valkyrie or Tessa Blanchard have no problem with that. So the opportunities could be limited. My dear Deathman would probably agree with me if I say the next big thing for the Knockouts could be a female’s Barbed Wire Massacre match. Let’s dream…
You loved this, so watch it now! See you next month, this time the DeathMan will REALLY bring the Nygma into Death matches’ universe.
All pics, screencaps and videos courtesy of TNA/Impact Wrestling and Bazil Mahmud.