Slammiversary 2020 - Hot Take
Even for the always-raucous world of professional wrestling, the last several months have been the rockiest of seas to transverse. With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, even the strongest foundations of all sports organizations have had to make hard decisions on how to trudge forward in the most uncertain era seen in modern times.
The stars of Impact Wrestling have fought their way forward despite the realities of the world, competing against each other in an empty arena environment that has forced their competitors to dig deeper within themselves to maintain the adrenaline that traditionally comes with the electricity of a live audience. While they may be separated physically from the fans who cheer their victories and critique their performances, as the saying goes, all the world's a stage and across the world, all eyes will be glued to Slammiversary on Saturday, July 18th.
In the 18 years that Impact Wrestling has created memories for fans and standout performances for its competitors, there may never be a more important night than this year's Slammiversary, especially given all of the teases and promises of new blood being injected into the Impact bloodstream. As Impact viewers have seen in recent weeks, there have been announcements that a former World Champion will return, as well as potentially other former competitors, seeking to reclaim their former battlegrounds once again as their own.
The landscape of Impact has changed significantly over the last year and Slammiversary may be where all that is expected is flipped upside down yet again as yet another chapter in pro wrestling history is forged in blood, sweat and tears.
The top matches scheduled for Slammiversary:
A NEW WORLD CHAMPION WILL BE CROWNED
With the announcement that the Impact Wrestling World Championship has been declared vacant, everything that the challengers have been training and preparing for has been all for naught. Now, they are forced to pivot and prepare for each other as well as the inevitable truth that their worst opponent that night is the unknown. Trey and Ace Austin are no stranger to each other. Earlier this year, it was the brash, arrogant upstart Austin who was tormenting The Rascal mentally by disrespecting Trey's mother. Just when it seemed that their feud had settled itself, the foes found themselves in the finals of a tournament to crown the top contender for the Impact Championship. When Trey was attacked before the bout by persons unknown, it set the stage for Austin's victory and entrance into the Slammiversary main event. When it was revealed that Austin's new muscle, Madman Fulton, was responsible for the assaults, Trey was allowed entrance into the Championship bout. They will each have to contend with the heart and soul of Impact, Eddie Edwards. The former Impact Champion brings a grizzled, dangerous dimension to the bout, ready to wrestle and brawl all over the venue in order to achieve victory. While Edwards has been chasing the Impact title for months, the best laid plans for everyone involved were thrown out yet again when Impact announced a mystery fourth competitor will enter the fray. Who is it? Are they the promised former World Champion? What is their history with these competitors? How will their in-ring style change the field of battle? It will be impossible to properly survey the ripple effects in advance, but at Slammiversary, four competitors will enter and one World Champion will emerge from the rubble.
Jordynne Grace is a powerhouse and the reigning Knockouts Champion, but not even Grace was prepared for the shocking emergence of professional wrestling's "Virtuosa." Deonna Purrazzo, elated to shatter the handcuffs that blunted her career elsewhere, has been a force of nature since attacking Grace and snapping her arm with Purrazzo's trademark armbar. Since being attacked, Grace has wanted to charge forward and go after Purrazzo, while the challenger has been content to play mental chess, making Grace wait for her chance to get revenge. In doing so, Purrazzo has infuriated Grace, her anger bubbling over during promotional appearances and while she's in the ring. It is obvious that Champion and Challenger alike consider themselves the hunter - Purrazzo wants the gold. Grace wants revenge. With the Knockouts Championship on the line, Slammiversary promises to house one of the most important women's wrestling bouts in Impact history.
OLD SCHOOL RULES
In recent months, Moose has resurrected the TNA World Championship, declaring himself the true World Champion. While some have dismissed his claims, it is obvious that Moose's attempt to declare himself the best in the world by some divine right has only allowed the former NFL star's game to ascend to the next level...and to become more vicious. When Moose recently defeated Crazzy Steve, he continued to beat the eclectic star down. That led to Impact officials, including Tommy Dreamer, coming down to stop the beating. Moose then turned his attention to Dreamer, bloodying the hardcore icon. This led to the "Innovator of Violence" calling out Moose for a TNA Championship match, asking him to step into the battle under "Old School Rules" where anything goes and any forms of combat are encouraged. Can Dreamer shock the world and shatter Moose's momentum, or is the self-proclaimed TNA Champion about to add another victim to his list?
ENEMIES CHALLENGE IMPACT'S MOST UNITED
If there ever was an argument to be made for the greatest team in Impact Wrestling history, The North has to be in the running for that discussion after becoming the longest reigning and defending Impact Tag Team Champions in history. Recently, the Canadian stars ran afoul of Impact Wrestling and UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock, disrespecting the groundbreaking star before assaulting him. Believing that Shamrock had allies within Impact, The North were shocked to see one of Shamrock's fiercest foes, Sami Callihan declare, "Who needs friends when you have enemies?" and appear to join forces to battle back Josh Alexander and Ethan Page. Complaining to Impact management only served to backfire on the Champions, who were told they'd have a chance to defend their own bruised honor when they defend the titles at Slammiversary. This sets the stage for arrogant tag team excellence facing off with two of the most dangerous fighters in the history of Impact. Can The North escape unscathed? Can hatred between Callihan and Shamrock forge Championship gold?
Willie Mack has been one of the true success stories of 2019, rising all the way to the promised land as the X-Division Champion. Representing a division that pushes the envelope of professional wrestling greatness beyond all expectations, Mack has been a shining star who inspires all who have followed his exploits in the ring. If there is a polar opposite to Willie Mack, however, it's his Slammiversary challenge, Chris Bey. Billing himself as the Ultimate Finesser, Bey is as talented as any aerial assault artist, but has also chosen to cut every corner, breaking every rule possible to rise in the ranks as fast as possible with an incredible series of victories. Backed by veteran Johnny Swinger, who has been trying to devise a way around being banned from ringside at the PPV, Bey is sure to be Mack's toughest challenge to date. Will Mack's soulful wrestling brilliance be enough to out-shine Bey's rule-breaking shenanigans?
GAUNTLET FOR THE GOLD
If there is one Impact Wrestling division that has exploded with pure professional wrestling talent over the last year, it is the Knockouts Division. While pioneers like Gail Kim and Awesome Kong led the way to the greatest inside the ring for Impact's female competitors, today's stars will all attempt to make history on their own to battle through a near-impossible field of competition and emerge the victor, a guaranteed Knockouts Championship shot in hand. Whether it be celebrated veterans like Madison Rayne, former Knockouts Champions like Taya, spooky and unpredictable fighters like Rosemary or newcomers like Kylie Rae and Tasha Steelz, there is no way to predict what competitors will face off, who will be the next to enter the fray or how the numbers game will play out. Other Knockouts slated for battle in the Gauntlet include Alisha Edwards, Havok, Kimber Lee, Susie, Kiera Hogan, Neveah and more!
Slammiversary will be where everything comes to a head. The physical and mental preparation will crash head on with all the emotional stress and turmoil that the world itself has carried upon its shoulders. More than ever, Slammiversary will be an emotional event where celebration meets combat - where the strongest will thrive and step forward to fight another day while those who fall in their pursuit of victory will be forced to try and resurrect their careers another day.
Mike Johnson is the lead reporter for PWInsider.com and has been writing about professional wrestling since 1996. He can be found on Twitter @MikePWInsider and MikeJohnsonWrites.com.