Well, it's happening...the year of 2021 is coming to an end and most of us are looking forward to what the new year has to offer, that said it is worth reflecting on the craziness of 2021 from a wrestling standpoint but more specifically the craziness that was Impact Wrestling's 2021.
From moments to matches to decisions made behind the scenes, 2021 went from being a dry spell in the beginning and some of the summer to becoming one of the best years for the promotion which is really saying something when you look back at the previous years since the D'Amore/Callis/Anthem era began.
Today, I will be going over what I believe are the Top 10 Best Things About Impact Wrestling in 2021.
Issues With The Impact Plus App
The "Paid" Tony Khan Ads
Alex Shelley Unable To Wrestle at Hard To Kill
The Jordynne Grace/Rachel Ellering Teased Break Up Promo
The Passing of Daffney Unger and Jimmy Rave
Too Much Tommy Dreamer
D'lo Brown and Matt Striker On Commentary
Monthly Material On The Impact Plus App (like Hardcore and Knockouts Month etc.)
Behind The Impact (BTI)
The Rise of Impact Insiders
PPV Buyrates Increase
The Debut Of The Digital Media Championship
Having Sponsorships Again
Comedic Nostalgia aka Wrestle House 2 and Throwback Throwdown 2
10. Knockouts Knockdown
The current Knockouts division is as talented as they are expanding in size and while names like Neaveh, Taya Valkyrie and Kiera Hogan may have left to other promotions, the Knockouts have become one of the best things about the company for years so it only makes sense to give them an event to demonstrate that point even more.
Enter Knockouts Knockdown, the all exclusive Knockouts event that was brought back to life after much demand and it had everything one could imagine a show like this having: A tournament with major stakes, new wrestlers debuting inside an Impact ring, incredible and history making matches which included great performances from names like Tasha Steelz, Deonna Purrazzo, Decay, Rachel Ellering, Masha Slamovich and eventual winner of the Knockouts tournament, Mercedes Martinez.
Combined this with the fact that the show and Monster's Ball that took place was dedicated to the late great Daffney Unger, a video package promoting Mental Health awareness with 'Tag Me In United', Masha being offered a contract with to join the Knockouts Division and ending with the confirmation that Jessie McKay and Cassie Lee aka The IInspiration will be debuting at Bound For Glory and you have a tremendous event.
Further proving that Impact Wrestling is one of the leading company's when it comes to women's wrestling in the United States.
9. Impact Becomes More Available To Watch
After moving to their new channel of AXS TV back in 2019, Impact continues to show why it's one of the best wrestling companies in the world...well, that's if your cable provider carries AXS TV or if you have a Twitch account or a subscription to the Impact Plus App.
Basically, what I'm trying to get at is that while Impact may be on TV, the fact is AXS isn't as available to most TV watchers in the U.S. like VICE, TNT and the USA Network plus the numerous complaints and issues with the Impact Plus App certainly don't help the problems, but thankfully things are changing.
In the last number of months, reports of Impact making deals to get their product on Samsung TV Plus, Pluto TV, Roku, UTV and even partnering with the Global Sports Network Extreme which has allowed the company to show off their product in areas like Iraq, Russia and places like Armenia, Ukraine, Moldova and countless other places in the Middle East.
This, combined with the news that Impact will be live streaming their weekly show on YouTube the night it's airing along with uploading content like old pay per views and exclusive content to subscribers of the newly created 'IMPACT Insiders' makes it a lot easier for fans both new and die hard to watch the show.
8. Impact Wrestling Sells Merch (And Quickly)
2021 has certainly seen a lot of good things happen for Impact Wrestling but perhaps one of the more overlooked aspects would have to be Impact's merch sells.
From Micro Brawlers to Trading Cards to DVD's to T-shirts to autographed material to even VHS inspired copies of Slammiversary 2021, Impact Wrestling has seen the most merchandise it's ever produced and sold in a very long time.
In fact, to give you an idea of how much good business Impact was around this time, their tickets for the Slammiversary pay per view sold out in 23 minutes...Something WWE used to due back at the height of the Attitude Era.
With news that Impact Wrestling is working on getting an action figure deal in the foreseeable future among some other impressive stuff and it appears Impact's streak of making and selling merch will continue into the next year and beyond.
7. Wrestlers Crossing The Forbidden Door
It's obviously nothing new to see wrestler's crossover to different promotions or legends from the past making an unexpected appearance from time-to-time but when it comes wrestling returns and cameo appearances in 2021, Impact Wrestling had that and then some this year.
Within the last 52 weeks of the calendar year, Impact Wrestling has seen familiar faces from its past as well as legends from older promotions showing up in form of Matt Hardy, Jerry Lynn, Frankie Kazarian, Francine, Christopher Daniels, Christian Cage, Chris Harris, Missy Hyatt and even the goddamn WCW Demon had multiple appearances in Impact this year.
Not only that, but other talents like Private Party and Kenny Omega have appeared courtesy of the forbidden door between Impact and AEW, while others like Laredo Kid and Black Taurus and NJPW's FinJuice, Kojima, Sukuzi and The Bullet Club's Hikuleo, Jay White and El Phantasmo have been making their presence felt through most of Impact's programming
Add in the appearances of commentators such as Tony Schaivone, Mauro Ranallo and Jim Ross with legendary female wrestlers like Melina, Thunder Rosa and Mickie James and you have months on top of months of unpredictable and 'Must-See Wrestling' even if the ratings didn't always project that but that that's a discussion for another day.
6. Having The Fans Back
When the Covid-19 pandemic came to the United States in early 2020, many wondered how fans would be able to enjoy wrestling without any crowds in attendance? And while some companies used fellow wrestlers or development talent to fill up their seating areas and WWE used the Thunderdome, Impact instead used piped in crowd noises and using tight camera angles to avoid showing the empty seats.
Now, Impact fans weren't too keen on this idea at first but overtime many got used to it as the promos and in-ring action were so good that you almost forgot the fact that there were no crowds.
That all changed in July when it was announced via Impact Wrestling's website and social media accounts that this year's Slammiversary event will see the return of wrestling fans at the show much to the excitement of die hard and new fans alike.
From Slammiversary onward, the crowds continue to grow even as the company moved from Skyward Studios In Nashville Tennessee to Sam's Town in Las Vegas with fans chanting "This Is Awesome" "Impact Wrestling" and all the other things fans love to chant when their enjoying the product.
Simply put it, having the crowds back have made the shows and pay per views feel special again due in large part to the excitement and crowd interaction by the fans.
5. The Kenny Omega Era
Upon making his first appearance in late 2020, some if not all of the wrestling world wondered what Kenny Omega would be doing in Impact Wrestling as part of the whole forbidden door thing, well by 2021 we all got our answer.
In early 2021, Omega accompanied by his manager and then Impact executive Don Callis teamed with the Impact World Tag Team Champions of Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows to take on the team of Impact World Champion, Rich Swann, Chris Sabin and "Moose who was put in as a last minute replacement for Alex Shelley in a six-man tag team main event match at the Hard To Kill pay per view.
After winning that match Omega, Callis and The Good Brothers would go on to create chaos for both AEW and Impact through backstage attacks, promos and a tag team matches both on TV and pay per view. In April, Omega took part in one of the most high profiled matches he had up to that point in the year when he and Swann put their respective AEW and Unified Impact World titles on the line at Impact's Rebellion pay per view in the first major unification cross promotion bout in years which saw Omega coming out on top.
Omega's self-aggrandizement over his years of success coupled by Don Callis inflating his ego on a weekly basis, and the support he had in the form of Gallows and Anderson made Kenny one of the most despised heels to not be signed onto the roster. This made all of his Impact matches with guys like Sami Callihan and Moose all the more intriguing to see if the any of Impact's most popular stars could be able to defeat him and sure enough one did...except there some strings attached.
On the very first episode of AEW Rampage, Omega defended the Impact World Championship against 'The Instant Classic' and former TNA Wrestling star Christian Cage which led to the former Captain Charisma winning his first championship since 2013; The decision angered a number Impact fans for weeks over the idea that a former TNA wrestler who was under contract with AEW won the Impact world championship and not anyone on the current Impact roster.
Since losing the Impact World title on Rampage, Don Callis being let go from the promotion and the Forbidden Door being closed for the time being, Kenny Omega hasn't appeared on Impact programming since, but his time in Impact drew more fans to watching the current product which has slowly but surely converted a few AEW fans to watching Impact.
4. The Meteoric Success Of Deonna Purrazzo
If you were to make a list of Impact wrestlers who were the MVP's of 2021, it's safe to say that Deonna Purrazzo would not only be on that list but probably even top it and rightfully so.
The year started off strong for Deonna as she was able to defeat former Knockouts Champion, Taya Valkyrie to retain her title at the Hard To Kill pay per view before the future Franky Monet was sent packing to NXT.
Deonna would go on to hold the Knockouts Championship for much of 2021, defeating almost every single competitor that was put in front of her to remain the "Iron Lady of the Knockouts"; Along the way, Purrazzo would also:
- End the Impact wrestling career of Jazz
- Team up with a debuting Matthew Rehwoldt to become the Inaugural Homecoming King and Queen
- And ranking number three in PWI's Top 150 Female Wrestlers, making her the first Knockout since Gail Kim in 2016 to make it high on the list.
While her accolades in Impact alone would've got her a spot on this list, The Virtuosa decided to follow in Matt Cardona's footsteps by appearing in other promotions and making headlines along the way.
The first of these headline grabbing moments occurred in May when Deonna challenged the newly crowded AAA Reina de Reinas champion, Faby Apache to a title unification bout and that year's Triplemania event which she won thereby making her the second female in Impact history to have held the Knockouts and Reina de Reinas at the same time.
It was then announced in July that Deonna would be defending her Knockouts Championship in the first ever all female exclusive NWA event called NWA Empowerrr and less than 24 hours after that she would attack Mickie James following her match with Kylie Rae, which helped to further Mickie and Deonna's feud which saw Deonna losing the belt to James at that year's Bound For Glory event ending her second reign at 343 days.
Her appearance at Ring of Honor's Final Battle PPV where she challenged ROH's women's champion, Rok-C to a winner takes all title bout in 2022 was just the icing of the cake.
In the words of the woman herself: "I am the F###ing Greatest!"
3. New Faces Appear or Sign With Impact
As if having the fans back in attendance, the merch sells, expanding their international reach and wrestlers from other promotions showing up on Impact wasn't enough, the former TNA Wrestling also found so time to give some new faces the opportunity to shine while also signing a few of them.
Since the start of the year, former WWE superstars like Rachael Ellering, Chelsea Green, Matt Cardona, W. Morrissey, Matthew Rehwoldt, Mercedes Martinez, Bradi Lauren, Jonah and Juice Robinson have all succeeded in some form or fashion in Impact Wrestling despite not officially being signed to the company or being on a paid per appearance type of deal.
Elsewhere you have former WWE talent like Steve Maclin, Jessie McKay and Cassie Lee getting signed to Impact contracts or confirming their arrivals in the promotion; Much like many of their paid per appearance contemporaries, these wrestlers have been with Impact for less than a year and they feel more over now than they ever did in WWE.
Now before you start claiming that Impact is signing up "WWE Rejects" onto their roster, the company also has been giving so light to some of the best and underrated indie and free agent talent in pro wrestling today.
- John Skyler
- Lady Frost
- Masha Slamovich
- Zicky Dice
- Matthew Palmer
- KC Navarro
- Savannah Evans
- Manny Lemons
- Blake Christian
- Sam Beale
- Tony Gunn
Are just a few of the lesser-known wrestlers who've appeared on Impact this year and in the case of people like Masha, Frost, Evans and Dice they've been officially signed to the roster.
As the product itself continues to grow both in front of and behind the camera, so does its roster and you can't ask for more then that.
2. The Divisions Feel Fresh
Since the Callis/D'Amore era began in 2018, the company has been making the effort to try and better itself during its 'Five Year Plan' for the future with one of the best things that have gotten better this year in 2021 for Impact Wrestling is the divisions themselves.
In early months of 2021, the divisions started to lose some steam due to the small size of the roster, wrestlers straight up leaving or scrambling to make feud and matches interesting after doing them so many times. Thankfully as we reach the end of 2021, all of the divisions within Impact Wrestling feel all the more exciting.
The Knockouts Division is has gotten a lot bigger and interesting upon signing up some new wrestlers as well as the inclusion and the return of Digital Media Championship and Knockouts Tag Team Titles.
The tag title scene has witnessed teams like FinJuice, The Bullet Club, Swann and Mack, Violent By Design, Heath and Rhino and Decay take center stage while the Good Brothers (for better or worse) have had a firm lock on the tag titles for most of the year.
The world title picture has seen a list of wrestlers like Swann, Omega, Callihan, Cardona, Morrissey, Cage, Eddie Edwards, Chris Sabin, Josh Alexander and Moose all fight for the chance to become the face of Impact Wrestling
And the X Division has seen established names like Rohit, Bey, TJP, Ace, Josh Alexander and Trey Miguel have all found ways to shine inside the ring and in backstage segments and interviews, making the current X Division feel like the X Division from the early to mid 2000's which is perhaps the best compliment anyone could give.
It goes without saying that some of the things I've mentioned on this list could easily take the number one spot, however for the final entry I had to give to one of the most unexpected things to occur in Impact Wrestling and that's their partnerships with other promotions.
The partnerships with AAA and AEW were already established before 2021, but it was in this year when those partnerships really began to pay off with the aforementioned Forbidden Door stuff to the Unification Title bout at Triplemania to Laredo Kid and Black Taurus shining on Impact.
But perhaps the biggest WTF moment in pro wrestling this year had to be the announcement that New Japan Pro Wrestling and Impact Wrestling were working together again.
As I've briefly talked about in my article on the "Top 10 Impact Wrestling Moments in 2021 not to mention on this list that partnership between NJPW and Impact have been beneficial for both sides with many New Japan competitors given the chance to appear for a set of tapings for Impact to FinJuice winning the Impact Tag Titles and appearing with them on NJPW programming to even the commentary team in NJPW referring to Impact as its 'sister promotion'.
The working agreement between NWA and Impact this year not only saw Kylie Rae become a part of the NWA roster and led to Deonna's involvement with NWA Empowerrr but it also put to rest any negative feels the two sides had with each other what with the whole Corgan Debacle.
The benefit that Impact and all the other companies have had with these partnerships (aside from female AEW and Impact stars not competing against each other) and the fact that Impact actually has these partnerships at all (whether they lasted long or not) is why I think Impact's partnerships with other promotions is the best about Impact Wrestling in 2021.
So what do you think were the best things about Impact Wrestling 2021? Leave your thoughts down below, have a Happy Holidays and New Years and I will see you in 2022 when Impact Wrestling turns 20 years old.
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