Impact: Hard to Kill 2020 Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights
Impact Wrestling kicked off its 2020 with a huge pay-per-view offering, Hard to Kill, featuring a historic main event in which Tessa Blanchard became the first woman to challenge for the company's world championship as she wrote the final chapter in her year-long rivalry with OVE's Sami Callihan.
Would the third-generation competitor etch her name in the history books as the first woman to hold a major promotion's top prize or would her incredible journey end in disappointment at the hands of wrestling's most despicable villain?
Find out with this recap of an event that also featured the company's X Division, Knockouts and Tag Team Championships up for grabs.
Ken Shamrock vs. Madman Fulton
Ken Shamrock returned to Impact Wrestling PPV to kick off Hard to Kill, the former NWA world heavyweight champion squaring off with OVE's Madman Fulton in the night's opening contest.
Jake and Dave Crist accompanied the massive, monstrous Fulton to the squared circle for the contest.
Shamrock offset Fulton's power advantage by trapping him in a triangle armbar, but the heel broke the hold by reaching the ropes. The 55-year-old grabbed a kneebar but Fulton again escaped.
Fulton tried a submission of his own, but the veteran babyface escaped with an arm drag and unloaded with a flurry of body shots. The heel answered with an armbar of his own in the ropes.
Shamrock dove over the ropes but Fulton caught him mid-flight. Shamrock wiggled free and delivered a release German suplex on the floor. He unloaded on Fulton, decked Jake Crist and sent his opponent into the ring post.
Referee Mike Posey ejected the Crists from ringside just as Fulton dropped the legendary badass and targeted his left arm. Shamrock recovered and countered a chokeslam attempt into a kimura.
Fulton teased a dislocated shoulder, complete with camera angles giving that impression. He tried to fight the match with one arm but eventually fell prey to another armbar from Shamrock, who picked up the win via verbal submission.
Shamrock defeated Fulton
At this point, no one should be expecting a mat classic out of Shamrock. At his age, he is still a physical marvel and total badass, but he is much more reliant on in-ring storytelling than anything. That was on full display here, and the result was a match that was much better than it had any right to be.
Fulton did a fantastic job of selling Shamrock's offense and telling the story of an unstoppable force plagued by injury. He tried to gut it out but fell, as so many have, to the veteran's badassery.
That story helped elevate the quality of the match, making it exponentially better than Shamrock's bout with Moose at Bound for Glory.
There are a bunch of guys from bygone eras who mistakenly come back to the squared circle. Shamrock has embraced his return and throws caution to the wind; and regardless of the pure wrestling quality, his effort can never called into question.
X Division Championship Match: Trey Miguel vs. Ace Austin
X Division champion Ace Austin spent weeks harassing and insulting The Rascal's Trey Miguel and his mother, sleazily commenting on her appearance. His infatuation with his top contender's mom fueled the rivalry and set up an emotional championship clash in the night's second match.
The challenger started hot, taking Austin down twice and pounding away at his face as he sought revenge for weeks of torment at the hands of the titleholder.
Austin seized control of the match, though, targeting the left knee of his opponent. He trapped him in a single-leg crab. Unbeknown to the official, he used his trademark card to deliver a sickening papercut that served as insult to injury.
A double stomp to the back of Austin allowed Miguel to create separation and sparked a babyface comeback that included a reverse suplex and modified dragon sleeper. Austin slipped out, though, and called for The Fold. Miguel countered and delivered a flatliner for a near-fall.
The champion recovered and delivered a big springboard kick for his own two-count. A headscissors off the top rope followed shortly thereafter and Austin scored the win following The Fold.
Austin defeated Miguel
The complete lack of selling the knee injury by Miguel severely hurt this down the stretch. So much effort and time were put into targeting that body part that to drop it made little sense.
With that said, the in-ring chemistry was strong and Austin is one of the most promising young stars in the industry. He is a great heel who can back it up with one of the most innovative and original arsenals in the industry. At only 23 years of age, he screams "money" and should be a star for the company as long as it will have him.
A post-match brawl between the competitors suggests the program between them is far from over.
Impact Wrestling Women's Title Match: Jordynne Grace vs. ODB vs. Taya Valkyrie
The year-plus reign of Knockouts champion Taya Valkyrie faced its greatest threat in the third match of the night as Jordynne Grace and ODB challenged for the title in a Triple Threat match in which the odds were never in Wera Loca's favor.
Fresh off pinning Valkyrie in a tag team match just 24 hours earlier, Grace looked to continue her winning ways early, pairing off with ODB and overpowering the champion with a big shoulder block and scoop powerslam. A tope suicida followed as the challenger rolled.
ODB delivered a fallaway slam on the entrance ramp, momentarily eliminating Grace from the equation. Back inside the squared circle, she quickly fell prey to Valkyrie, who cockily and arrogantly worked her over, all the while mocking the fans' chants of "food truck."
She applied a submission, but Grace returned to the ring and broke it up. Valkyrie cut her off and worked over Grace until the challenger's power advantage allowed her to hoist the champion in the air for ODB to deliver a big bulldog off the top rope.
A big spinebuster from Grace put Valkyrie down but the champion kicked out at two. ODB broke up a bridging German suplex and Grace repaid the favor, breaking up a submission attempt by her fellow challenger.
Grace delivered a big senton from the top rope to ODB but Valkyrie broke up the pin. ODB delivered an ugly TKO to the champion but Grace broke up the pin with a Vader Bomb.
Grace delivered the Grace Driver on ODB but Valkyrie's manager, Johnny Bravo, provided a distraction. From there, the second swept Grace's leg and Wera Loca survived day No. 370 with her championship intact.
Valkyrie defeated Grace and ODB
It was nice to see ODB back on a big Impact Wrestling PPV card, but it could be argued the overall quality of this match would have been even better had it been a straight singles bout between Valkyrie and Grace.
Grace is such a great worker. She's athletic, a hell of a seller and mixes speed and power to great success. She is clearly the future of the Knockouts division.
With that said, it feels like Valkyrie still has some mileage in her title reign. Such a vocal, obnoxious and stuck-up heel, she is the type of villain fans want to see get her comeuppance. At some point, it will happen. At some point, it will be at the hand of Grace.
This was not that point, though, and nor should it have been.
Give fans more time to digest the story and buy into the feud, and the result will be a louder and more memorable moment when Grace finally ends the year-long title reign.
Brian Cage vs. Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam benefited from an early distraction by girlfriend Katie Forbes' own girlfriend and attacked the injured left arm of "The Machine" Brian Cage.
The former world champion absorbed the early onslaught of the veteran and fought his way back into the match, albeit with one arm.
Meanwhile, commentator Don Callis reminded the fans at home of Van Dam's gripe, that an entire generation of wrestlers stole his move set and showed him no appreciation for being the innovator he is.
Van Dam regained control and had Forbes hold a steel chair against the face of Cage, then launched himself across the ring with a Van Terminator that left his opponent seemingly unconscious.
The referee called the match off as Daga hit the ring, trying to talk Van Dam down. He ate a kick to the back and the referee ordered the bell to be rung as we suddenly had an impromptu, unadvertised match in old-school ECW fashion.
Van Dam dominated early but Daga, protege of Mexican legend Konan, fought his way back into the match. RVD capitalized on interference from Forbes and dropped his opponent. The Five-Star Frog Splash followed and Mr. PPV picked up the win.
Van Dam defeated Daga
This was less about any of the in-ring content and more about putting over this incarnation of Van Dam. In that regard, it worked. The introduction of Jennifer, Forbes' girlfriend as Callis put it on commentary, adds another element to RVD's act and makes him that much more hated.
Cage sold like a champ, really putting over Van Dam's aggressive, relentless side. The Machine was a beaten, battered and motionless mess of muscle as referees and officials helped him out of the ring. The manner in which he was written out of the bout, and simultaneously protected from defeat, suggests the rivalry between him and one of his greatest influences, is far from over.
The only negative? Daga losing as quickly and definitively as he did. Sure, he was interfered with by Forbes but not enough to lead to the decidedly one-sided outcome. How this benefited him—unless it is meant to be the start of a more long-term program—is a mystery.
Call Your Shot Trophy on the Line: Eddie Edwards vs. Michael Elgin
Eddie Edwards captured the Call Your Shot trophy by way of his win in a battle royal at Bound for Glory. Sunday, Impact's answer to Money in the Bank was at stake as Edwards defended against newfound rival, "Unbreakable" Michael Elgin.
Elgin looked to punish Edwards by dropping him on the unprotected arena floor but the babyface resisted. He could not fight out of a nasty suplex on that same floor just moments later.
Back inside the squared circle, Elgin sought to overpower Edwards but the resilient former world champion fought back at every turn. The competitors spilled over the top rope and to the arena floor.
Elgin recovered and charged at his opponent, only to endure a nasty overhead suplex. A tope suicida by Edwards sent him crashing into the guardrail.
Edwards followed up with a backpack stunner for a near-fall. A blue thunder bomb moments later resulted in more of the same: a close two-count.
Elgin shook off a rolling German suplex and delivered a running forearm. A big suplex earned him a two-count of his own. Elgin built momentum for himself, brutalizing Edwards and dropping the overmatched babyface. Unbreakable answered a defiant slap by Edwards with a flurry of nasty forearms. A series of clothesline counters and reversals gave way to a lariat by Edwards that turned the heel inside out.
The competitors exchange bone-jarring offense but neither was able to keep the other down. A massive German suplex from the tippy top rope stunned the announce team but Edwards still kicked out at two. A splash mountain bomb by Elgin, a kick out by Edwards.
Elgin applied a cross face but Edwards inched to the bottom rope, forcing the break.
Moments later, Edwards survived a buckle bomb and countered an Elgin Bomb for a sunset flip for the win.
Edwards defeated Elgin
This was just a war between two guys beating the hell out of each other, the allure of the Call Your Shot trophy and the championship implications it carried fueling every kick out and comeback.
The offense was stiff, the competitors punishing each other with an array of strikes that set up higher-impact slams, suplexes and bumps. Elgin looked every bit his nickname but Edwards' resiliency was the story of the bout. He took a tremendous beating but withstood it all in the name of retaining the trophy he busted his ass to win back in October.
The look on Elgin's face after the fall told the story of a competitor absolutely certain he was going to win, only to come to the realization that he had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, despite throwing everything he could at his opponent.
This was the best match of the show to this point and it wasn't even close.
Rhino vs. Moose
Paying homage to the legendary "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Moose sought to kick off 2020 with another huge pay-per-view victory as he battled Rhino in a No Disqualification match.
The competitors wasted little time taking the fight to the arena floor, where The Man Beast delivered a nasty back body drop to Moose on the entrance ramp, creating a nasty thud that could be heard throughout the arena. In desperation mode, Moose dropped the former Impact Wrestling world champion and set up a table.
Rhino drove Moose through it with a powerbomb but could only keep him down for two. The Man Beast introduced trash can lids and a handful of chairs to the bout but Moose grabbed them and used them against his opponent.
Rhino fought back, unloading on the heel's shoulder with a chair, looking to take away his vaunted spear. A superplex onto a pile of chairs drove the air from Moose but only put him down for a count of two. Rhino set up a table in the ring but Moose took control of the bout. A bit of trash talk provided just enough of an opening for The Man Beast to turn Moose inside out with a clothesline.
Rhino put Moose through a table but the heel managed to pull the official in front of him. Rhino scored a near-fall as a second referee hit the ring. Moose ultimately recovered long enough to deliver the spear and score the win over his veteran opponent.
Moose defeated Rhino
This was little more than a good old-fashioned, weapon-filled brawl between one of the brighter stars in Impact and a veteran competitor whose selflessness has come to define him.
Rhino looked like a resurgent competitor trending upward, only to have an alert and cunning Moose manipulate the referee's positioning, pull him in the way of the Gore and live to hit the spear moments later for the win.
This felt like the conclusion of the rivalry and with heel contenders necessary if the main event goes the way most expect it to, Moose could find himself amid bigger and better things after Hard to Kill.
Impact Wrestling Tag Team Title Match: Rich Swann and Willie Mack vs. The North
With Rich Swann hobbled by an ankle injury suffered just 24 hours earlier, Willie Mack was forced to fend for himself in the Impact Tag Team Championship match against titleholders The North.
"All Ego" Ethan Page and "Walking Weapon" Josh Alexander took great pleasure in the scenario that awaited them as they entered the arena.
The champions tagged in and out early, reminding Mack they have that option whereas the challenger did not.
Mack answered with some forceful slams but the heels seized control, systematically working their opponent over while sprinkling in some trash talk along the way. The babyface fought his way back into the match, unloading on the opposition and appearing to have momentum on his side.
The challenger dropped Alexander with an exploder suplex for a near-fall. The North halted Mack's roll and delivered what could best be described as a double Styles Clash. Mack kicked out at two. With Alexander on top his partner's shoulders, Mack delivered a huge destroyer. He wiped Page out at ringside and delivered a Six-Star Frog Splash. Page pulled the referee out of the ring to make the save.
A stunner from Mack to Page served as the last gasp effort by the babyface to win the match as The North took back over and put him away to retain their titles.
The North defeated Mack
This was a fantastic, one-man tour de force by Mack. He was fantastic here, the defiant babyface flipping the bird to the numbers disadvantage as he attempted to do right by partner Rich Swann and win them the tag titles.
Despite some extraordinary near-falls and an amazing destroyer spot, though, it was not meant to be.
Page and Alexander continued to demonstrate why they are the best tag team you may never have heard of. Their chemistry is undeniable. They have a great double-team arsenal and their work here was as much a part of the overall quality as Mack's inspirational performance.
They were the perfect foils for this match and their dominance over the tag team division continues.
Impact Wrestling Championship Match: Tessa Blanchard vs. Sami Callihan
History was made at Hard to Kill as Tessa Blanchard became the first woman to compete for the men's world title in a major wrestling promotion. Her opponent? The vile, disgusting heel who had plagued her career for the entire year prior, Impact Wrestling's ultimate villain, Sami Callihan.
The champion caught his rival with a pump kick and piledriver for two right off the bat. Tessa answered with Magnum for a two-count of her own. A series of dives to the floor gave way to a rana. A somersault senton by Blanchard continued her roll.
Callihan, though, sent the third-generation star into the guardrail, with her legs crashing into it. From there, the champion targeted her limbs, working her over with an Indian Deathlock in hopes of forcing a tap out and ending her Cinderella story.
Every opportunity Blanchard had to fire off some offense Callihan answered by dropping her and adding to her misery. Arrogant beyond reproach, The Death Machine exclaimed it was his ring before stepping over and on his challenger.
Blanchard sent Callihan to the floor and dodged a big elbow drop. She fired off some forearms to the face but the champion slapped her to the mat. Outside the ring, he continued to manhandle his challenger, powerbombing her through a table.
Looking to send a message, and perhaps end the career of Blanchard, Callihan exposed the arena floor. The defiant challenger came face-to-face with her rival but he responded with an eye gouge. Tessa answered with one of her own and delivered another Magnum, this one knocking the champion to the floor.
Her face etched with pain, Blanchard made it to her feet and unloaded on Callihan with a forearm. She dared her opponent to hit her and he did. Then again. The third time, he kicked her knee out from under her. Blanchard, though, caught Callihan with a big Samoan Drop as the crowd erupted.
Tessa delivered another Magnum, received another two-count. Callihan recovered and delivered the Get Outta Here shoulder breaker for another near-fall. The competitors delivered a series of strikes until Blanchard shook off a German suplex and downed the heel with a cutter for the closest two of the bout.
Callihan answered with a powerbomb into a single-leg crab. He transitioned into an STF, looking to put Blanchard out and end her championship aspirations. She just made it to the ropes and frustration set in.
Callihan grabbed the world title but the referee prevented him from using it. He tried for brass knuckles but she blasted him below the belt. A fourth Magnum followed, as did a crossface of Blanchard's own, but Callihan fought out and dropped her with another piledriver for another two-count.
Spit on by the champion, Blanchard unloaded, delivered two straight destroyer piledrivers and finished Callihan off with the hammerlock DDT for the most improbable, historic championship victory ever.
Blanchard defeated Callihan to win the Impact Wrestling Championship
This match and its implications are more meaningful to the role of women in professional wrestling than any buzzword, Evolution pay-per-view or WrestleMania main event.
In a day and age when everyone wants to champion the role of women in sports entertainment, Impact Wrestling recognized the diamond in the rough it had on its hands and made a concentrated effort to build Blanchard into the company's biggest star. Not by having her compete against Taya Valkyrie and the rest of the women's division, but by putting her in the ring with the top male stars under contract.
For months, she built credibility by working with Callihan and OVE, partnering with Tommy Dreamer, Rob Van Dam and Rhino, and even scoring a win over Brian Cage. She was primed, pushed and groomed for the spot because Impact recognized it had the potential to make history, to show the critics that intergender wrestling could be handled correctly and to prove a woman could thrive against any man and in the highest-profile spots on the card.
Sunday's Hard to Kill pay-per-view main event was not just a momentous one for Blanchard, whose legacy in pro wrestling has been written even as her career still feels it is in its infancy. No, Hard to Kill was a victory lap for Impact Wrestling, which identified a young performer as the star of its future and booked her in a spot no other woman in the history of the sport had ever been.
Then it pulled the proverbial trigger.
Now, Blanchard faces a future of both stardom and uncertainty.
She is clearly the face of Impact Wrestling, but who steps up to challenge her for the gold first? Does Callihan get a rematch or does the company opt not to overexpose that match? Could Moose or Rob Van Dam provide the challenge?
Whatever the case turns out to be, there is one thing that absolutely cannot happen: Blanchard cannot lose the title in short order.
If she does, this feels like a cheap win aimed at making headlines without really changing anything. This has to stick. Blanchard has to be the champion around whom shows are built. Otherwise, it was a cheap ploy rather than the industry-altering win it should be.