2021 was quite a busy year for Impact Wrestling as the company has not only been partnered with two of the most talked about promotions in recent history, but they've also been developing new stars and new content while the outside world continues to deal with the major problems like Covid-19.
The company's first official pay per view of the year, Hard To Kill by all accounts was a rousing success and unlike the previous year's HTK event there wasn't any controversy...okay there was less controversy but still a great show and today I'll be breaking down 10 interesting facts about Hard To Kill 2021.
10. It's The Only Hard To Kill To Not Be In The Bomb Factory
Okay, so if you include the up-and-coming Hard To Kill pay per view on January 8th then Hard To Kill has only happened three times in the history of Impact Wrestling up to this point.
Of those three times the PPV didn't taken place at the Bomb Factory in Dallas Texas, and you guessed it...It's this one.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Impact relocated their weekly programming to take place at Skyward Studios in Nashville Tennessee where the company was able to have wrestlers and workers alike continue to do work without fear of catching the virus.
Since then, Impact has relocated in places like Sam's Town Casino in Las Vegas for their set of tapings and specials but as it stands HTK 2021 remains the only Hard To Kill to not taken place at the Bomb Factory.
9. The Debut Of Matt Striker And D'lo Brown As A Commentary Team
From 2020 until early 2021, the commentary duo of Josh Matthews and Madison Rayne could be heard calling many of the matches both on Impact television, the Impact Plus specials and on pay per view with Madison metaphorically breaking Josh's balls as color commentator while Josh does well...what Josh does on commentary.
However, by the time Hard To Kill 2021 rolled around some changes occurred at the announce booth as Josh Matthews would be relegated to a backstage role as Senior Producer for Impact (although he would appear on screen again a month later thanks to Behind-The-Impact) and Madison well I'll talk about that in just a little bit.
In their places was former WWE and Lucha Underground commentary Matt Striker and former Tag Team and European Champion D'lo Brown, who worked as backstage producers for the company but were now chosen to work together as the new faces or should I say voices of Impact commentary.
According to most responses on social media the team of Striker and Brown are working pretty well with each other with Brown bringing his classic charisma to the team while Striker brings his insight for the business.
8. Brian Hebner Made His Return To Impact
At Hard To Kill, Impact fans were given the opportunity to see a familiar face make a surprise return to the company in the form of Brian Hebner, referee and son of the legendary Earl Hebner.
In early January it was announced that Brian Hebner had parted ways with the NWA after being there since 2018 and thus cleared the way for Brian to return to Impact on pay per view to referee the finals of the Knockouts tournament to crown new tag team champions as well as the six man tag team main event, all of which was Brian's first time refereeing for Impact since he and his father left the company back in November of 2017.
No word on if Brian Hebner has officially signed back with Impact Wrestling or if it's just a paid by appearance type of deal but nevertheless most fans can agree it's nice to see him back.
7. Madison Rayne Announced Her Retirement On The Pre-Show
In recent months, Impact Wrestling has managed to incorporate pre-shows to their programming once again whether it be before their pay per views or more recently their new show on AXS TV Behind-The-Impact (BTI), the company is finding ways to keep the fans (both die hard and new) entertained with new content, however it was on the pre-show for Hard To Kill that had a shocking moment at the very end.
Before the official PPV could begin, color commentator Madison Rayne announced with only minutes to spare before the pre-show ended that she would be retiring from professional wrestling, ending a sixteen year career with most of it being spent as a part of the TNA/Impact roster.
Of course, we all know that this retirement didn't last long as Madison would return to Impact on the August 12th episode when she helped Tenille Dashwood pick up the victory over Taylor Wilde thus beginning the faction known as 'The Influence'.
6. The First KO Tag Title Match On PPV In Nine Years
Speaking of the Knockouts Tag Team Titles, Fire N' Flava's title win at Hard To Kill is the first title match to involve the Knockouts Tag Team titles on pay per view in nine years...yup almost a decade since those belts were on the line on PPV.
Back at Lockdown 2012, the team of Sarita and Rosita (also known as Thea Trindad) challenged the kayfabe newly wedded couple of Eric Young and ODB for the Knockouts Tag Team Championships...Oh yeah I should make it clear to new fans watching Impact who may be reading this that this occurred at a time when EY wasn't the bald headed psychopath dropping people on their heads like he is today but a big bearded comedy wrestler who ended up marrying former KO Champion, ODB only for the wedding to be temporarily halted thanks to Rosita and Sarita trying to tempt EY to be with them instead of ODB.
EY and ODB would continue to be Knockouts Tag Team Champions until authority figure for the Knockouts, Brooke Hogan stripped the couple of the tag titles after Hogan made it clear that EY was a man holding a female championship...keep in mind EY and ODB won the belts on the March 8th 2012 edition of Impact and they were stripped of the titles on the June 20th 2013 episode, meaning it took the company 15 months and 12 days for them to realize that one half of the Knockouts tag champions was male...LOLTNA.
Regardless, EY and ODB's title defense at Lockdown 2012 would be the last time the belts would be at stake until Hard To Kill nine years later.
5. Alex Shelley Was Pulled From The Event
Shifting away from the Knockouts for just a minute we now turn to the more 'controversial' aspects of this event and we start with the story of former tag team and X Division champion, Alex Shelley.
In the lead up to the pay per view, Hard To Kill's main event was set to be Impact World Champion, Rich Swann and Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley versus the Impact World Tag Team Champions, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows and the AEW World Champion, Kenny Omega but the plans changed at the last minute.
In a video posted to his Twitter account, Alex Shelley revealed a few days before the event that he would be unable to make it to the pay per view but at the time didn't mention as to why he couldn't compete at the event although he did mention that he wasn't injured nor did he have the Coronavirus.
It was later revealed that Shelley's other job as a clinician in physical therapy and the fact he needed to get the Covid-19 vaccine prevented him from not only competing at Hard To Kill but from wrestling and traveling to other places.
As a replacement for Shelley, it was announced the day of the PPV that Moose would be the third man to team with Sabin and Swann and this angered the latter as the week prior to Hard To Kill Moose destroyed Rich's friend and pro wrestler, Willie Mack in an I Quit match at Genesis plus Moose has had his focus on Rich and the world title for a while so it's easy to see why Swann was feeling a bit upset at the idea.
Nevertheless, the decision stuck and Moose put a on a five star performance in the tag team match even though his team lost.
4. Ethan Page's Displeasure Over His Fight With The Karate Man
The next 'controversy' on this list is really a confusing mainly due to the stories that have emerged after the showed ended.
In the months led to the event, all signs pointed to the tag team of Ethan Page and Josh Alexander aka 'The North' imploding after losing the tag team titles to The Good Brothers at Turning Point and the implosion would culminate in Ethan Page taking on Josh Alexander at Hard To Kill which would most likely see Alexander defeat Page (thereby writing Ethan off of TV) and leading to a singles push for 'The Walking Weapon'.
But when Hard To Kill finally did arrive Josh Alexander was seen on the pre-show taking on Brian Myers while 'All Ego' Ethan Page was taking on his alter ego known as 'The Karate Man', a character that first appeared on Page's YouTube channel and then began to randomly appear on Impact programming in the weeks leading to the PPV.
Ultimately it was the Karate Man who defeated and 'killed' All Ego in their "match" after ripping out Page's heart in homage to the famous video game franchise, Mortal Kombat...So where's the controversy?
Well as it turns out, Ethan Page would go to social media expressing his displeasure with the final product that was his fight with the Karate Man among other things before taking a hiatus from social media and his YouTube channel in the hopes that the whole thing would die down.
Things get even weirder when you realize that 'The Karate Man' was a gimmick created by Ethan Page for his YouTube Channel and therefore not only had in theory some control over the usage of the character in the weeks leading to the PPV but also filmed the footage between himself and the karate man before it appeared on Impact programming.
While Impact management themselves have not been asked about the situation since the pay per view, it does make you question what exactly happened between both parties that lead to all of this and if the Josh vs. Ethan was initially set to take place on the pay per view?
3. The First Barbed Wire Massacre Match On PPV In 13 Years
The feud between Eddie Edwards and Sami Callihan (which stems from Sami's infamous baseball bat shot to Eddie's face back in early 2018) eventually led to both men taking part in a barbed wire Massacre match at Hard To Kill.
As to be expected in a match like this, the violence was insane as Edwards and Callihan used everything they could find from boards covered in barbed wire, steel chains, kendo sticks, baseball bats and even a Nintendo 64 controller wrapped in barbed wire was introduced as weapon...only in 2021 folks.
Callihan/Edward's match at Hard To Kill is actually the fourth Barbed Wire Massacre match to occur on Impact programming with the last one being seen on Impact's Twitch account in 2018 when oVe took on Santana and Ortiz in a match deemed too violent to be aired on Impact TV.
The match between Eddie and Sami also marked the first time a barbed wire massacre match occurred on pay per view in thirteen years, the last one happened at Against All Odds 2008 when 'The Monster' Abyss took on Judas Mesias in the second barbed wire massacre match.
2. Taya Valkyrie's 'Last Match' With Impact
Former Lucha Underground and Triple A women's champion, Taya Valkyrie had been with Impact Wrestling since late 2017 and in her time with the company she's wrestled some of the top female athletes of this generation from Jordynne Grace to Su Yung to Tessa Blanchard to Rosemary and Taya even became the longest reigning Knockouts Champion in not longest reigning champion in company history for 377 days.
At Hard To Kill, a dream match was set to take place as Taya Valkyrie was scheduled to take on 'The Virtuosa' Deonna Purrazzo for the Knockouts Championship.
While the former champion was unsuccessful in regaining the championship, she did put over the young Purrazzo on her way out as Taya's contract with Impact was expiring and no word on if she would re-sign was made public.
Impact fans and the wrestling world as a whole would get their answer on the January 19th edition of Impact when Taya Valkyrie was being interview in a backstage segment when her former manager, John E. Bravo accused her of setting up the whole plot which led to him getting shot on his wedding day to Rosemary (don't ask it's a long story).
Taya responded by giving out a evil laugh that sounds like it belongs in a Disney animated film and admitted that the whole plan was hatched by her and her only regret was that he didn't die; This led to security escorting Taya out of the building and presumably being sent to prison or as Tommy Dreamer describes it, Taya will be sent to either the Jacksonville State Prison or the Stanford Maximum State Penitentiary (sarcastically referencing that Taya would be going to either AEW or the WWE).
As of late February 2021, Taya would confirm on social media that she has indeed signed with the WWE but of course as we all know she would be released as a "cost cutting measure" by the WWE in late November of 2021.
1. It Marked The First Time A World Champion From Another Promotion Main Evented An Impact PPV
When news broke that the newly crowned All Elite Wrestling World Champion, Kenny Omega would not only be appearing on Impact soon after winning the title but that it confirmed an AEW/Impact Wrestling partnership...the wrestling world stood still for the first time in a long very time.
Fans were even more shocked when it was announced in late 2020 on Impact that Omega and The Good Brothers would be teaming together to take on the Motor City Machine Guns and Rich Swann (now Sabin, Moose and Swann) in a six man tag team match in the main event of Impact's first pay per view of 2021.
Perhaps one of the lesser known but more interesting things about Omega's involvement in the show is that it made the former NJPW star the first world champion from another promotion to main event an Impact Wrestling pay per view, a feat that has never been done before in the near 20 years of the company's existence.
Whether Omega returns to Impact or not, this achievement is certainly something he can be impressed with.
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