10 Impact Wrestling Stars Having A Breakout Year.

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Hi folks, I’m back again with an article on Impact Wrestling and its current roster. When Anthem Sports took over, there were some who doubted their decision-making when they played hard ball with The Hardys. They let James Storm go. Hell .. they even let Jeremy Borash leave for WWE. And where’s “The Monster” Abyss these days? He was written off and is doing backstage work. So there’s literally no TNA Originals left working on Impact television. The closest we get are highlights of old matches they place in the middle of episodes to advertise their free “network” app GWN. They’ve gone further by staying away from “TNA” gimmick matches like Ultimate X/King of the Mountain and the Impact Zone.

The philosophy has changed to one of giving new talent the chance to shine on a platform with little restriction. And I’ve really enjoyed Impact in 2018 .. in fact, I think it’s been one of the best they’ve ever had. There’s still a long way to go, but the collaboration with other promotions (Lucha Underground, ROH, New Japan, even WWE etc.) has been highly refreshing. I said during the Dixie Carter regime they shouldn’t box themselves into a corner, but they did and Impact struggled to bring in fresh talent. It’s a better product with Anthem, but is something which needs careful handling if it wants to be special. And the way to make it special is by working hard on building the talent available to them.

#1 – Brian Cage (X-Division Champion)

Did you know? Cage got in to wrestling by being such a fan of Chris Kanyon, the former WCW talent befriended and helped him train to become a wrestler. Cage’s first matches were victories over his mentor. This was 14 years ago, and he’s been through a lot to get to where he is today. In 2008 he got the chance to prove himself in WWE’s development territory FCW. He won a tag team title with Justin Gabriel, but was released from his contract the following year. After his dreams were dashed, he’s worked for many indy promotions, as well as Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, TNA, Lucha Underground, AAA, and Pro Wrestling NOAH.

Cage returned to Impact with a ton of hype. One of the first things he did was face former World Champion Bobby Lashley. They teamed up to take out OVE before turning on one another. In the following weeks, he picked up two massive wins over Lashley, which solidified him as the big man to watch out for. To show how athletic he is, officials booked him to win a six-way X-Division match with the best they had to offer. And he fit right in as he’s no rigid heavyweight, he’s got the speed to go with the strength. There’s a reason he’s called “The Machine”, and sometimes fans give him “The Terminator” treatment.


It’d been easy to push him to the Heavyweight title right away, but officials decided to go the slow route; Cage transitioned into working in the X-Division. He also picked up two victories over the larger and probably stronger Kongo Kong. After a count out loss to Matt Sydal in a title match, the feud culminated in a rematch at Slammiversary. Sydal gave him everything, but Cage couldn’t be denied. And much like others in the past, he’s dominated the division. It’s hard to see anyone beating him for it, so I’m expecting him to use “Option C” at Destination X; vacating the title to get a World title shot. He uses the F-5 as a finisher, but he’s nothing like Brock Lesnar. He’s no part-timer, and his athleticism (for a big man) reminds me of Bam Bam Bigelow and Vader combined. He doesn’t talk much, but when he does he seems focused on one goal. To achieve everything he possibly can.



#2 – Eddie Edwards

Eddie has done a lot in his career since debuting in 2002. Arguably his biggest success was his time in Ring Of Honor. He’s a former World Champion, two-time Tag Champion, the first TV Champion, and the first Triple Crown Champion. He and tag team partner Davey Richards set their sights on WWE in 2013, but after debuting in NXT with new names, WWE released them from contract. The Wolves didn’t appreciate it, and showed up in Impact Wrestling wanting to prove WWE made the wrong decision. And did they ever, by claiming five Tag Team Championships, including wins over Team 3D (Dudley Boyz) and The Hardys. After splitting from Davey, Eddie added two X-Division titles and the TNA World title to his résumé. Despite the success, he didn’t evolve much as a character and did most of his talking in the ring.

His career changed forever on March 1st. In a post-match brawl with Sami Callihan, he was accidentally struck near his eye by one of Calllihan’s baseball bat shots. He was taken to hospital, and a scan confirmed he had a broken nose and broken bones in his face. After recovering, he set his sights on destroying Callihan and OVE. Eddie was so irate he began losing his mind after accidentally hurting his wife and friend Tommy Dreamer. He became obsessed with Callihan (repeatedly saying he wanted to “kill him”), and for weeks he put himself and his wife in danger in the hope of getting revenge. Despite Callihan being seen as the monster for smashing his face, Eddie gradually transformed in to what he was fighting against. After putting Sami in the hospital, he struggled to let the hate go. Tommy Dreamer and his wife tried their hardest to get him to snap out of it, but from Eddie’s view, they were getting in the way of his revenge. It culminated in a House of Hardcore match against Tommy Dreamer at Slammiversary, where the unhinged Eddie defeated his former friend with no remorse.

Oddly enough, the change in character turned him back in to a face when he confronted the World Champion Austin Aries. Still showing unhinged qualities, Eddie sported a kendo stick and got a title shot against Aries. He was unsuccessful, but to this day he still fights Aries, Killer Kross and former friend Moose. He may not have won many titles this year, but the character change has helped (me at least) to appreciate him more. He transformed in to a character with more potential than he had. There’s a long way to go, but at least he’s got something to work with.




#3 – Fallah Bahh

BAHH! BAHH! BAHH! Is what Fallah Bahh says. And sometimes he might say “No No No!” while waving his finger in disagreement. He’s got KM by his side to guide him, and somehow it’s working. But despite this, he’s had a low-key career since debuting in 2005. He’s spent twelve years working for indy promotions, and the opportunity with Impact Wrestling is his first shot working on global television.

2017 wasn’t a good year as he lost most matches, whether it be singles or teaming with Croatian wrestler Mario Bokara. And early 2018 didn’t do much either, as he regularly lost in singles. After briefly feuding with him, KM decided he wanted to help Fallah .. but it didn’t feel genuine (as he’s a heel). In fact .. it still feels like KM is using Fallah to keep himself relevant. The segments of KM training Fallah helped make him a fan favourite, despite the team losing, usually due to blunders on their end. The team needed direction and motivation, so KM turned to Scarlett Bordeaux for advice. From that, KM started to dress like Fallah and they mustered up some wins. Hell, she even motivated them to confront Austin Aries, which resulted in Fallah getting his first-ever World Heavyweight title shot. He lost .. of course, but the fans care and that’s the main thing. He’s funny, lovable and entertaining in the ring. Don’t judge a book by its BAHH!


#4 – Fenix

Fenix defies gravity. 11 years in to his career and he’s established as one of the best luchadors in the world today. Much of his success is attributed to his time spent in AAA and Lucha Underground. Impact noticed his athleticism and signed him up, and he’s been setting Impact alight ever since. He even worked for CMLL this year .. which is unprecedented. Usually AAA talents are highly discouraged from working for the enemy. He’s been billed by some to be the next Rey Mysterio.

His only singles loss in Impact this year was to Brian Cage, which is understandable. Other than that, he’s usually on the winning side in tag matches. His partnership with his brother Pentagon Jr is really impressive. Possibly the biggest achievement thus far, was getting to work the All In main event. He worked in a six-man tag with Rey Mysterio & Bandido against The Golden Elite. They didn’t win, but he pulled out an impressive performance. Watch this space. Fenix will keep rising from the ashes to bring the fire necessary to become a legend in the world of lucha libre and beyond.



#5 – Killer Kross

I love everything about the character and how Impact introduced him. The scariest thing is he’s only been wrestling since 2014! So he’s got a long way to go in terms of ring work, but he’s not terrible considering. He was found by Jeff Jarrett and hired to work for GFW. He also spent some time in Lucha Underground and AAA.

For weeks wrestlers were attacked backstage, and a card marked “X” was found near their bodies. It made the roster paranoid, and management promised they would get to the bottom of who was behind it. On June 14th, Petey Williams was accused of being the mystery attacker, so officials called for security to eject him from the building. A security guard came and said he’d handle it. After officials and wrestlers had left him to it, the security guard savagely beat Petey before revealing himself to be the mystery attacker. Killer Kross had arrived and no one was safe. After a couple of matches he seemed to disappear. A couple of months later, Anthony Carelli (Santino Marella) got involved in Austin Aries’ business. At the end of the episode, it was shown he’d been attacked backstage. The next week, it was revealed Killer Kross had done it on behalf of Aries. Kross continues standing by as Aries’ hired mercenary. In the news, it was reported both WWE and NJPW were interested in signing Kross in future.



#6 – Pentagon Jr

Cero Miedo (Zero Fear)! Pentagon has taken Impact by storm, and I’m grateful I’ve been able to experience his magic. Much like most luchadors, details of his personal life remain a mystery, but what isn’t a mystery is the fact his career’s been a slow-burner since 2007. He spent his early years in AAA, and was introduced as Pentagon Jr to be the arch-enemy of Octagon Jr. He was accepted as more of a big-time player when he joined the stable Los Perros del Mal in 2014. But it wasn’t til he joined Lucha Underground in the same year, did his name become more known to the world. Displaying evil qualities as Pentagon Dark helped him to reach the top, and the success gained him interest from other American wrestling promotions.

Now playing a face in Impact Wrestling, Pentagon Jr. was quickly thrust into the spotlight when he claimed the World Championship by beating Austin Aries and Fenix in a three-way at Redemption. He defended it against Eli Drake, but lost it back to Aries in their rematch. Afterwards he was mostly featured in tag matches with his brother Fenix, and in a hair vs. mask match against Sami Callihan (which he won) at Slammiversary. He & Fenix quickly became fan favourties, and Pentagon had some of the best singles matches of any Impact show/PPV in 2018. He even caught the eye of Cody Rhodes & The Young Bucks, who booked him to wrestle IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega at All In. He lost, but not without tearing the house down. There were rumours he & Fenix had interest from WWE, but the Lucha Brothers say they’re content making a living working for any wrestling promotion who appreciate their work til anything official happens.



#7 – Sami Callihan & OVE

Initially known for his success in the hardcore-fuelled CZW, Sami looked to fulfill his dream of a WWE career in 2012. Despite signing in October, he didn’t debut til August in NXT as Solomon Crowe. He made his wrestling debut against Sylvester LeFort, but the match was removed from the episode before air. In August the following year, he was sidelined due to an injury sustained in a tag match against The Ascension. When he was cleared, NXT hyped his return for a month. He made his wrestling NXT TV debut in February 2015, defeating Bull Dempsey. But yeah .. he was released. Sami had to return to the indy scene. Some solid work in Lucha Underground gained interest from Impact, and he debuted as the leader of OVE in late-2017.

While Callihan’s leadership helped Dave & Jake Crist in the short-term, it took a while to get the full effect of his presence. As explained above, Sami accidentally injured Eddie’s facial features, and the incident gained him a ton of heat. A heel promo on TMZ took it to another level. Sami got so far in to Eddie’s head he snapped, and therefore won the feud as he succeeded in turning Eddie in to a monster. With the Eddie feud, the unique backstage promos and a reliance on repeating “Ohio Versus Everything .. Everything!”, his act is really difficult to like. But in a way you have to appreciate the effort, and it may be rewarded if he gets the chance to work with bigger names in the future. He may have lost his hair in a match with Pentagon Jr, but I’m betting he’ll be reaching another level before the year is out.


#8 – Scarlett Bordeaux

The biggest prima donna in Impact history has already made her mark. Referring to herself as “The Smoke Show”, she is known for being overly demanding and sexual. She does not appreciate being “hot shamed”. And she’s been playing the role since early 2012; so she’s spent the past six years working on it.

She started in OVW, losing to a young Heidi Lovelace (Ruby Riott). She got her first win over Taeler Hendrix. She lost her remaining matches, including her last OVW match to Taryn Terrell before being released. In ROH she became one of Matt Taven’s Hoopla Hotties. In 2014 she was called up by TNA to lose to Knockouts Champion Angelina Love. In late-2016 she had her most watched match to date, when she jobbed to Nia Jax on an episode of Raw. She’s wrestled sporadically against more experienced opponents, and her last recorded match was in August. It’s safe to say she’s lacking wrestling experience.

But the main thing is she’s brought her character to a bigger audience (I like saying she’s “done an AJ Lee”). I’m unsure if it’s a bit too much for some, considering WWE going the other way by not objectifying women like they used to. What Scarlett says makes sense in that, if you want to treat women like equals, you can’t force them to act a certain way. They should be allowed to be Scarlett Bordeaux if they wish, but not if it’s non-negotiable. That’s like saying Joey Ryan can’t be a giant penis, if he wants to act like a dick then that’s his deal. We have to remember Scarlett Bordeaux is a character and she’s showing what it’s like to be a prima donna. I don’t think she’s perfected it yet, but it’s early days yet. And she might even wrestle on Impact one day! Whether you love, like, or hate her, she’s having the time of her life.


#9 – Su Yung

She’s almost as far into the character as Mark Calloway is with The Undertaker. Impact saw the writing on the wall and figured Laurel Van Ness was leaving, so they needed another “bride” type, only much darker. Rosemary and Su Yung seemed destined for a lengthy feud, but unluckily Rosemary was injured and buried alive. She quickly got a title shot against Allie but was unsuccessful. A “Last Rites” match for the title helped her seal her first and only reign to date. And the character escalated from there, as Su Yung summoned undead bridesmaids to interfere and help her retain.

She got in to the mind of Allie, who was unable to overcome Su even after absorbing some of Rosemary’s spirit. Madison Rayne gained a shot as well, but the mind games threw her off and Su left Slammiversary as champion. Unluckily for her, another heel knockout was making waves and talking a lot of smack. Su lost her title in a triple threat shortly after, and we’ll have to wait to find out if she’s able to regain. Nevertheless, Su Yung is a name with more weight than it had a year ago.


#10 – Tessa Blanchard (Knockouts Champion)

The daughter of Four Horsemen member Tully Blanchard and step-daughter of Magnum TA is a diamond. Not only is she 23-years-old with five years of experience, she’s also the current Knockouts Champion. The future is bright, and the comparison to Charlotte Flair is easy to make. She was trained by George South, her father & step-father. She’s already worked over a recorded 130 matches. Tessa worked in NXT, losing matches to Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, and Carmella. She also worked the first Mae Young Classic, being eliminated by eventual winner and current NXT Women’s Champion Kairi Sane. WWE decided not to sign her, so she debuted at Impact Redemption in April this year.

She came firing out of the gates with a win over Kiera Hogan. Seemingly her inexperience caught up with her, as veteran Madison Rayne defeated her twice in as many weeks. But since then? She’s undefeated, taking out Kiera, Allie, Rebel and Alisha Edwards. Away from Impact she’s wrestled a crazy amount of talent, including a match with Brian Cage. And it all kicked off in August, as Tessa won the Knockouts Championship in a triple threat with Allie & Su Yung. A couple of weeks later, she won a huge fatal four-way at the All In PPV against Chelsea Green, Britt Baker and Madison Rayne (with Tully & Magnum in attendance). She’s arrived. There’s no doubt WWE will try signing her back in 2019. Til then, she’s carving her legacy as a woman who dominates the world outside of WWE. She’s improving at an incredible rate and is one of the main reasons to tune in.


Conclusion

I believe Impact’s doing a good job of what it used to do well in its early days. It’s capable of making new stars by simply giving them the platform. Commentary is better in getting the guys & girls over, and the fans in Canada are more receptive than the dead Impact Zone. I’m not saying Impact is the greatest product in the history of the world, but from where it was a few years ago? There should be something for everyone.

I’ve been critical of the company in the past, but it’s difficult these days without sounding overly critical. It’s a wrestling show, and if you don’t like wrestling then don’t watch. There’s some sports-entertainment aspects too, so again .. if you’re really into 5-star matches then it’s probably not for you. Did I leave anyone out? Please let me know if so. At least they’re surviving and moving on up, which is what I should leave with. Thanks for reading! Much appreciated.

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