Impact Bound for Glory 2019: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2019

Impact Bound for Glory 2019: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights

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    Credit: Impact Wrestling

    The top rivalries, intense feuds and most anticipated clashes unfolded inside The Odeum in Chicago Sunday night when Impact Wrestling presented the biggest event of its calendar year, Bound For Glory.

    Heavyweight champion Brian Cage defended his title against Sami Callihan in a match as much about revenge as successfully retaining his gold. Was Cage able to avenge the physical assaults endured by wife Melissa Santos at the hands of The Death Machine in the marquee bout of the extravaganza?

    Tessa Blanchard, Daga, Ace Austin and a mystery opponent sought to end the X-Division Championship reign of Ohio Versus Everything's Jake Crist in a five-way intergender ladder match. Would Blanchard make history by capturing the gold and sticking it to an OVE faction she had been at war with for the better part of the year?

    What success, if any, would Ken Shamrock find upon setting foot back in the same ring in which he became the first world champion in Impact Wrestling history for a showdown with Moose?

    Fans found out the answer to those questions and more at the October 20 pay-per-view spectacular.

Call Your Shot Gauntlet Match

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    Credit: Impact Wrestling

    The opening match of the evening was the Call Your Shot Gauntlet match with the winner receiving a championship opportunity against any titleholder of his choosing.

    Former world champion Eddie Edwards, driven to the brink of insanity by his relationship issues with wife Alisha, was the first competitor through the curtain.

    Reno Scum's Adam Thornestowe and Luster the Legend joined him in the ring at spots two and three, while Jake Deaner evened the heel-face ratio at two apiece at No. 4. The Desi Hit Squad's Rohit Raju entered at No. 5 and unloaded on the babyfaces to a chorus of boos.

    The first surprise of the night came in the form of Joey Ryan, who entered to a thunderous ovation at No. 6. Surrounded by heels, he dared them to touch "it." Luster tried an atomic drop and hurt his knee. Thornestowe ate a big boot and fell head-first on Ryan's nether regions, knocking himself out.

    With everyone attached, he executed his trademark flip, sending Deaner and Raju over the top and out of the match. Jessicka Havok entered at No. 7 and dropped Ryan with a chokeslam. She pummeled the competition, slowing the pace.

    Rosemary entered next at No. 8. She tossed the opposition with a suplex and paired off with Havok. Ryan oiled himself up but ate a double clothesline from both women for his trouble.

    OVE's Fulton hit the ring at No. 9 and eliminated the Knockouts, sending Rosemary and Havok out with a double clothesline. Thornestowe was sent packing and Fulton eliminated Ryan as Cody Deaner entered the match at No. 10.

    Fulton eliminated Deaner with a chokeslam to the floor as Johnny Swinger entered at No. 11. Jordynne Grace became the third woman to enter the bout, entering at No. 12. She wasted little time showcasing her power, delivering a German suplex to the massive Fulton with the help of Edwards. Chants of "Jordynne" filled the Odeum in appreciation of the young competitor.

    "King of Small Style" Swoggle entered the match as the next surprise at No. 13, emerging from under the ring and bringing Swinger with him, preventing the old-school heel from cheating his way to victory. He teamed with Grace to eliminate Swinger.

    Kiera Hogan arrived at No. 14 and wasted little time targeting Grace. The women came face-to-face, rekindling their rivalry. Her stint was short-lived as Grace eliminated her over the top and to the floor. As Raj Singh made his entry at No. 15, Luster the Legend was eliminated.

    Tommy Dreamer was out at No. 16 to a sizeable pop from the Chicago faithful. Former AEW star Kylie Rae made her Impact PPV debut, entering to a big ovation at No. 17 and dropping Dreamer with a superkick. She followed with a senton on Singh. Fulton halted her momentum, though, while Dreamer sent Singh flying to the floor.

    Fulton eliminated Dreamer to a chorus of boos. Fallah Bahh entered at No. 18 and unloaded on Fulton. Madman responded with a shoulder block that failed to take the heavyweight off his feet. Fulton took the sky and paid dearly, smashed with a Samoan Drop. The remaining competitors laid into him, realizing the importance to fending off the most dominant wrestler in the match.

    Sabu entered at No. 19, continuing in line with the company's ECW influence. Mahabali Shera was the final competitor to enter the match at No. 20, eliminating Rae, Grace and Sabu to a chorus of boos. That left Bahh, Fulton, Shera and Edward as the final four competitors in the match.

    Shera powered Bahh to the floor, leaving three. Edwards hit the ropes but Fulton bowled him over. Shera tossed Edwards with total disregard before trading blows with Fulton. Edwards took advantage and sent Fulton to the floor.

    Per the rules, Edwards would now square off with Shera in a singles bout. Any chance he had of victory, though, may have come to an end when Fulton pulled Edwards to floor and chokeslammed him into the ring apron.

    Shera powered Edwards back into the ring. He set up for a big kick, but Edwards rolled through and delivered the Boston Knee Party to score the victory and set up his future title opportunity.

         

    Result

    Edwards won

          

    Grade

    C

              

    Analysis

    The surprise entries of Swoggle, Rae and Ryan were fun and added a hint of unpredictability but the moment Josh Matthews first mentioned the length Edwards had been in the match, it felt like the former world champion was destined to overcome the odds and win the match.

    To their credit, the creative team did a fantastic job of building Fulton into an unstoppable force. He was a standout in this one, and his path of destruction set him up for a significant singles push if management opts to go in that direction.

    Shera, of whom a big deal had been made, looked like a fool for failing so miserably to take advantage of the beating dealt to Edwards. That was likely not the desired intent.

    Edwards has endued a downward spiral of sorts since the drama involving Alisha and Ace Austin engulfed his career. Even if it was nothing more than a new take on an old concept, this match sets up a redemption story that may be fun to watch in the coming weeks and months.

Impact Knockouts Championship Match: Tenille Dashwood vs. Taya Valkyrie

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    Credit: Impact Wrestling

    "Wera Loca" Taya Valkyrie entered Sunday's event as the longest-reigning Knockouts champion in the 17-year history of Impact Wrestling.

    After 287 consecutive days as the titleholder, Valkyrie would have to defeat Tenille Dashwood, the woman against whom she had her very first match against. Dashwood earned the match by defeating Kiera Hogan, then Madison Rayne and finally both in a Three-Way Dance.

    Dashwood was fast and aggressive from the opening bell, scoring the first near-fall of the match. But Valkyrie dropped her challenger with a German suplex as she looked to turn the tide. The champion continued to display her unabashed arrogance as she wore Dashwood down with her oppressive arsenal, looking for the latest successful defense of her run atop the division.

    The Australian challenger delivered a crossbody for a near-fall, but Valkyrie halted her momentum with a running double-knee in the corner that sent Dashwood’s head crashing off the bottom turnbuckle. The challenger recovered and delivered a sunset flip powerbomb for a two-count of her own. Consistent with the match to that point, Valkyrie cut off Dashwood’s momentum with another close two.

    Wera Loca set Dashwood up for a package piledriver on the ring apron and delivered it, not prettily, though. The blow was not enough to put the challenger down as Dashwood delivered consecutive corner crossbodys. The Spotlight followed and it appeared as though the title was about to change, but a late save by Valkyrie's manager, Johnny Bravo, prevented it. 

    As the official ordered the second to the back, he tossed Valkyrie a chain. She failed to deliver a blow and appeared to be in trouble. Dashwood's refusal to cheat as she threw the chain out of the ring created just enough of a distraction for Valkyrie to deliver the Road to Valhalla for the win.

           

    Result

    Valkyrie defeated Dashwood

               

    Grade

    B

            

    Analysis

    The finish was a smart one in that it creates doubt in Valkyrie's ability to defeat Dashwood straight up, with the heel champion relying on interference and chicanery, not to mention a momentary opening late in the match, to score the tainted win.

    Dashwood could have resorted to the same underhanded tactics but didn't, establishing her as a babyface going forward and creating an argument for a rematch sometime in the near future.

    The story is strong enough—especially with every day that passes with the heel at the forefront of the division—that creative can even revisit the match later down the line as Valkyrie forces Dashwood to overcome more obstacles before getting a rematch.

    Rarely pretty, the match was strong enough and featured some even better storytelling to justify its grade.

Three-Way Tag Team Match for the Impact Wrestling World Tag Team Titles

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    Credit: Impact Wrestling

    The North's Ethan Page and Josh Alexander may have sent LAX's Santana and Ortiz packing to All Elite Wrestling but Sunday night, they faced the unenviable task of defending their Impact Wrestling Tag Team Championships against the teams of Rob Van Dam and Rhino and Rich Swann and Willie Mack in a Three-Way Dance.

    Swann and Mack took the fight to Page and Alexander early, frustrating the champions and proving there would be no easy path to a successful title defense. Despite an attempt to keep things between his team and the champions, Swann rolled to the corner, where Rhino tagged into the match continued the attack on Page.

    Alexander, though, delivered an assist on the outside that allowed Page to down The War Machine and take control of the bout. A tag to Van Dam saw the former WWE and ECW champion explode into the match, delivering Rolling Thunder and scoring a near-fall on the champions.

    The titleholders, though, were able to slow the pace of the bout down again as they isolated and worked over the smallest match in the match, Swann. The North continued its concentrated attack on Swann, utilizing legal double-team maneuvers to wear down the former 205 Live Superstar.

    Swann dropped Alexander with a DDT and followed with a reverse rana on Page. A hot tag to Mack led to a fiery comeback by the set of challengers. A modified 3D had Swann and Mack rolling but Van Dam and Rhino broke up the pin. RVD flattened Page and tried for the Five-Star Frog Splash but Alexander held him up.

    Mack delivered the Six-Star Frog Splash and Swann covered for a near-fall as an unhappy Van Dam watched from the turnbuckle.

    The action broke down, each competitor delivering some trademark offense. Rhino dumped Alexander over the rope with a clothesline but ate a standing shotgun dropkick from Mack. The athletic big man delivered a tope con hilo on the floor that laid out Van Dam, Rhino and Alexander.

    Back in the ring, Page delivered a wicked gorilla press slam to Swann from the top rope. A big backbreaker from Alexander and swanton from Page failed to put him away, though.

    Moments later, Rhino set up for the Gore but Van Dam blasted his partner with a superkick in a shocking betrayal. As boos rained down from the stands, the former Mr. PPV blasted Mack and Swann with a kicks before leaving to a chorus of disapproval.

    The North flattened Swann and retained the titles as fans and commentators alike tried to make sense of Van Dam’s actions. 

          

    Result

    The North defeated Van Dam and Rhino and Mack and Swann to retain

          

    Grade

    B+

              

    Analysis

    Just before the match, Rhino cut a promo on The North about defeating them for the titles, when Van Dam jumped in front of him in classic ECW style and mugged for the camera. What felt like a nice throwback was a bit of foreshadowing as Van Dam embraced his inner heel for the first time in 20 years, turning on a partner he felt was stealing the spotlight and walking out on the tag title match.

    The North is a fantastic team and their win should have meant more but it was completely overshadowed by RVD's shocking actions.

    There are those who will question why the turn had to happen but after two decades as a babyface, a heel Van Dam is a much-needed change of pace. At this point, he is not stealing the shows he once did. He can rely on his confidence, cockiness and unabashed arrogance to portray a heel persona that suits him better at this point in his career than the crowd-pandering babyface.

    It also allows him to take less risk between the ropes, an overlooked advantage to the turn.

    If anyone lost anything here, it was Swann and Mack, who lost fair and square. How they can conceivably come back from this one quickly and claim the rights to a rematch are unknown.

Michael Elgin vs. Naomichi Marufuji

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    Credit: Impact Wrestling

    Over the course of his career in Japan, Michael Elgin defeated the likes of Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada on some of the biggest stages wrestling has to offer. One star he never had the opportunity to square off with? Naomichi Marufuji.

    That changed at Bound for Glory as the internationally recognized competitors battled in a hard-hitting, first-time-ever contest.

    The action was hot from the start, neither man taking the time to feel each other out. Instead, Marufuji attacked, looking to control the pace against his stronger, more punishing opponent. Elgin withstood the early onslaught, delivered a nasty tope suicida and followed with a missile dropkick to seize control of the bout.

    He continued to his onslaught, applying a full nelson. Marufuji fought out, though, and even escaped an overhead German suplex. A superkick to the chin stunned Big Mike but he managed to recover and deliver a desperation rolling German. He powered Marufuji own with a backbreaker and followed with a Falcon Arrow for a near-fall.

    The fight spilled onto the ring apron, where Elgin tried for a half nelson, only to fall prey to a nasty chop. Elgin answered with one of his own. Marufuji tried for a sunset flip bomb to the floor but Elgin resisted. The Japanese competitor responded with a kick to the jaw. Sliced Bread No. 2 on the floor followed as Marufuji built momentum.

    As Elgin returned to the ring, Marufuji delivered a top-rope dropkick to the head. He looked for a double underhook but Elgin powered out. He dropped his opponent with a suplex and further punished him with a dragon suplex. He called for the lariat but Marufuji clutched his arm, almost in defiance. Elgin maintained wrist control and delivered a Rolling Elbow. 

    Marufuji tried a barrage of strikes but Elgin blocked every one. A lariat turned Marufuji inside out and a Splash Mountain Bomb by Elgin earned him another close two.

    The back-and-forth continued, Marufuji unable to string together anything even remotely resembling an offensive. Elgin further punished his opponent but could not put him away. A corner powerbomb, followed by an Elgin Bomb, resulted in yet another near-fall that shook Big Mike’s confidence and led to disbelief on the part of the commentary team.

    Shaking off the uncertainty, Elgin delivered a burning hammer for the pinfall victory.

        

    Result

    Elgin defeated Marufuji

       

    Grade

    A

       

    Analysis

    This was a hard-hitting, Japanese Strong Style match that had little build to it and the reaction from the fans reflected it. As the match went on, though, and the competitors told their story, the fans bought into the action and chanted "fight forever" with every passing near-fall.

    The action was brutal and impactful, punishing and unforgiving. Elgin was a focused badass, sending an international message to Marufuji and anyone else who dares step to him in Impact Wrestling. He continued his path of destruction in the wake of his world title loss to Brian Cage and in doing so, re-established himself as a genuine challenger to whoever leaves Chicago with the top prize in the company.

Five-Way Intergender Ladder Match for the X-Division Championship

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    Credit: Impact Wrestling

    The rivalry between OVE and "The Undeniable" Tessa Blanchard continued in Chicago as the devious, villainous faction's Jake Crist defended his X-Division title against the third-generation competitor, Ace Austin, Daga and a mystery opponent in a Six-Way Intergender Ladder match.

    Acey Romero joined Impact Wrestling 24 hours earlier and was added to the match at the last minute. A house-of-a-wrestler with a freakish athleticism, he added an interesting element to the match.

    Blanchard wasted little time taking the fight to Crist. Austin and Daga paired off in the ring until a space flying tiger drop from the former wiped Crist out on the floor. Back in the ring, Daga stunned Romero and used him to vault over the top and wipe out both Crist and Austin.

    On the floor, Blanchard and Daga played tug-o-war with the ladder when Romero tried for a twisting tope, only to crash and burn into said ladder. Blanchard and Daga dropped Austin with a backstabber/Codebreaker combination. Romero countered a cutter attempt by Daga and sent him soaring across the ring. 

    Commentators Josh Matthews and Don Callis questioned, wisely, whether Romero could actually climb the ladder to win the match. The big man continued his roll, laying out Crist. The champion recovered, though, and made his way up the ladder, only to be on the receiving end of a side suplex from Austin.

    Daga and Austin squared off, the former getting the best of the charismatic heel.

    The action continued at a lightning-quick pace, Blanchard dropping Austin off the apron with a springboard dropkick. The third-generation star set the ladder up but soon found herself crushed under the weight of Romero in a nasty Samoan drop.

    On the floor, Daga sent the ladder in to the face of Austin. From there, the protege of Konan set the ladder up between the ring apron and guardrail. He retrieved a table and set it up at ringside. Before he could utilize the table, Crist delivered a baseball slide dropkick that stunned Daga. He climbed to the top rope but Austin stopped him. Blanchard pounded away at Austin and Crist. Daga joined as chants of “please don’t die broke out. Romero joined them in a wicked Tower of Doom superplex. Austin, smartly, hooked his arm on the top rope and avoided damage.

    Romero set the ladder up and looked up at the championship. Unsatisfied, he introduced a second ladder, looking to reinforce his climb a bit. He started his climb but Crist stopped him. A super cutter rattled the ring and wiped Romero out.

    Blanchard scaled the ladder on one side, Daga on the other. Austin shoved the ladder over, though, sending the babyfaces crashing to the mat below. The pace quickened and Daga delivered a pop-up Death Valley Driver to Austin. A running destroyer took Crist over the top rope and through a ladder in the first death-defying spot of the match. Chants of “holy s***” were interrupted by a flipping senton from a ladder, to Daga on the floor, by Austin.

    Romero set the ladder up and climbed it, only for Blanchard to climb it and send Romero flying through a table and to the floor. Blanchard rapidly set up the ladder, wiped out OVE’s Dave Crist but fell prey to an attack by Madman Fulton.

    The dreadlocked big man introduced a table but Blanchard flew through the air and sent Fulton into the ladder with a rana. Jake Crist returned to the ring but was sent through the table by Blanchard. Just as it appeared as though Blanchard would win, Austin appeared and blasted her with a baton.

    Blanchard crumbled to the mat and Austin retrieved the title for the win.

          

    Result

    Austin defeated Blanchard, Crist, Daga and Romero to win the title

        

    Grade

    A

       

    Analysis

    This was every bit the exhilarating car crash of a match you would have expected from the talent involved, the stories proceeding it and the gimmick itself.

    The spots were outstanding, particularly those involving the massive Romero. The big man made the most of his first opportunity to impress the Impact fan base on a major scale, taking big bumps and proving weight in a match of this type is only limiting if you let it be.

    Daga was a ball of energy while Blanchard was the real star of the match. She was the glue that held everything together, the performer around whom the bout's biggest spots and most important moments were built around. Her feud with OVE reared its head and ultimately cost her the win. Yet, one still feels as though the payoff to that program will lead to bigger, better and possibly even historic things for the third-generation star.

    Austin has seen his television time increase as part of the ongoing rivalry with Eddie Edwards of Alisha Edwards. His winning the title here, when Edwards just won a championship opportunity in the opening match, sets up a high-profile showdown between those two. It is booking that makes sense and is indicative of creative having actual plans for the future.

    Given the hot-shot, nonsensical booking that is sometimes overabundant in today's wrestling landscape, the outcome here was smart, sensical and when all was said and done, the right one.

Ken Shamrock vs. Moose

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    Credit: Impact Wrestling

    The abundantly confident, bordering on arrogant Moose spent weeks calling out the legendary Ken Shamrock, claiming to be bigger, tougher, faster and more legit than the UFC icon and former WWE intercontinental and tag team champion. He would have the opportunity to back up his words in one of the night's marquee bouts, in which he squared off with the ankle-breaking, 55-year-old badass Shamrock.

    It would prove to be the most important match in the former NFL player’s career.

    A slugfest started things before Shamrock escalated the war with a dive to the floor that wiped Moose out and wowed Callis on commentary. The fight continued on the floor and included another dive by Shamrock, who continued to wear out Moose.

    His momentum was stalled by the interference of Frank Trigg, who held the legendary fighter up and allowed Moose to dropkick the ropes and damage his opponent’s groin. With the official checking on Shamrock, Trigg again involved himself, cutting a turnbuckle pad off.

    Shamrock blocked an attempt to send him into the exposed turnbuckle and suplexed the big man to the mat. He applied the ankle lock but Moose sent his opponent into the referee, evading defeat. A low blow by Moose allowed him to create some much-needed separation.

    Shamrock suckered Moose in, though, and reapplied the ankle lock. Moose fought through the pain, refused to tap and benefited from more interference from Trigg. A pumpkick from Moose stunned Shamrock and allowed him to regain feeling in his foot.

    For the third time in the match, Shamrock applied the ankle lock. Moose valiantly continued to fight through the pain, looking for any and all ways to escape the clutches of his opponent. He rolled through and sent Shamrock head- and face-first into the turnbuckles.

    The spear followed and Moose scored the win.

        

    Result

    Moose defeated Shamrock

        

    Grade

    C-

       

    Analysis

    For a match involving a 55-year-old performer returning to the squared circle on PPV for the first time since 2002, this was a stunner. Shamrock pulled out dives and put in the work. He was driven, clearly, and accomplished things lesser determined performers his age would be unable to.

    With that said, the overabundance of Trigg interference, and the reliance on the ankle lock spots, dragged the match quality down. The storytelling was there but when it needed one spot to really elevate its quality, it either failed to produce or ended with Shamrock missing the exposed top turnbuckle, rendering it meaningless to the bout.

    Again, Shamrock put in the work and was damn impressive but this could have stood to be a few minutes shorter, minus an ankle lock or two and with half of the interference from Trigg.

Impact Wrestling World Championship Match: Brian Cage vs. Sami Callihan

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    Credit: Impact Wrestling

    OVE's Sami Callihan has spent months referring to himself as "The Brand," the franchise star of Impact Wrestling. His heinous acts, though, have made him the target of "The Machine" Brian Cage.

    Cage will be seeking more than a successful Impact Wrestling heavyweight title defense against Callihan, who broke a champagne bottle over the head of the champion's wife, Melissa Santos. He doubled down on his actions, dropping Santos with a sickening piledriver while his OVE teammates subdued Cage in the ropes.

    The intensely personal rivalry culminated in the main event of this year's Bound for Glory extravaganza.

    A vengeful Cage attacked his challenger before the bell, dropping him with a big clothesline and biting him in the head. Cage grabbed a wolverine claw he wore during his entrance and dug it in the bloodied forehead of Callihan.

    The Death Machine recovered, though, and delivered a springboard clothesline that sunned the champion. A plancha by Cage wiped the challenger out on the floor. Callihan responded with a dive of his own.

    His lip split, Cage responded with a second dive but quickly was put down on the ramp by his opponent. Callihan blasted him with a chair, then added a second shot, only for Cage to shake it off and powerbomb Callihan into the ring post. He sent the challenger into a ringside table that did not break, then set up a contraption on the floor made of ring steps, chairs and a guardrail bridged across it.

    It was Callihan who utilized it, driving the champion through it with a Cactus Special piledriver as chants of “that was murder” spilled from the stands. Back in the ring, Callihan exploded with a series of corner kicks. Cage caught him and blasted him with a kick. A reverse suplex from the apron to the mat allowed the reeling champion to create separation.

    A running back elbow from Cage and an enzuigiri stunned Callihan. He tried for the F5 but Callihan escaped. Cage delivered a jumping knee and flattened the challenger for two. A well-timed neckbreaker by Callihan cut off his opponent’s resurgence. He followed with a draping piledriver for a near-fall of his own. 

    Cage caught Callihan in midair and planted him with an F5 for two. He reintroduced the guardrail, dragging the bent and broken object into the ring. With it propped in one corner, he set Callihan up on another for a superplex. Callihan bit his way out of it, delivered a low blow and sent Cage into the guardrail with a running powerbomb.

    Callihan retrieved a bag and emptied hundreds of thumbtacks on the mat. He set Cage up for a piledriver and executed the move on the sharp objects. Almost as if he had been reawoken by the move, Cage kicked out at one and exploded to his feet. He powerbombed Callihan on the tacks and finished him off with a Drill Claw.

         

    Result

    Cage defeated Callihan

        

    Grade

    A+

        

    Analysis

    This was a phenomenal main event that delivered everything it needed to.

    This felt like to guys who hated each other leaving it all on the line for the title, sure, but also for the opportunity to maim the other.

    After watching his wife brutally assaulted by Callihan on two separate occasions, Cage sought revenge and achieved it. He was explosive, violent and punishing. He beat the ever-loving hell out of Callihan and endured a hell of an assault in his own right. A man of his size is rarely seen bumping in the manner he did here, not to mention selling, but Cage did and all of it put his challenger over as a legitimate threat to dethrone him.

    That piledriver spot, in which Cage shook off within seconds and stood defiantly across the ring from Callihan, thumbtacks embedded in his skull, was fan-freaking-tastic and the finish was apropos.

    In a day and age where creative teams and bookers overthink every little thing, this delivered exactly what it needed to. Cage avenged his wife, vanquished one of the top heels in the entire business and looks like a dominant and unconquerable badass champion in the match’s wake.

    Which begs the question: who is going to stop The Machine?

    Will it be Callihan in a rematch? Maybe Michael Elgin gets another shot at overpowering and dethroning him. Perhaps Impact Wrestling looks internationally for a new challenger to his throne. Whatever the case may be, the company has in Cage one of the best world champions in the entire sport.

    As long as he knows when to tone it down to avoid the type of injury that nearly ended his reign before it every really began.