Wrestling Night in America Reunion: PWTorch columnist Greg Parks is joined by former PWTorch columnist Pat McNeill for a full match-by-match preview of WrestleMania 36
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•Overall – HIT: This show, coming to us from Mexico City, Mexico, set up a few new programs and heated up some existing ones. I can’t believe I’m saying that I like what they are doing with the Desi Hit Squad, specifically Mahabali Shera, who seems is being set up to step out in front of that group for something bigger. Having another viable threat on the roster is a welcome addition. The inclusion of Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide talent on Impact’s Mexico tapings are usually a nice change of pace for the promotion. No oVe presence today was also nice, giving their feud with Tessa Blanchard time to breathe.
•Tessa Blanchard in-ring promo – HIT: The show opens with Tessa Blanchard establishing herself as the champion to the crowd and calling out Sami Callihan, hoping to put him behind her once and for all. Instead of Sami, Taya Valkyrie shows up and accuses Tessa of dodging her and the entire Knockout’s division. Ace Austin then comes out further demeaning Tessa until she has had enough and attacks him. A brawl breaks out and Tessa is overwhelmed until Trey Miguel makes the save. This set up the main event. Good stuff here, Tessa and Taya face to face, both having been pushed hard, come across as the top stars of Impact Wrestling. Adding in Ace Austin into the mix helps elevate his standing. It is an effective segment.
•Willie Mack interview – HIT: Jimmy Jacobs interviewed Willie Mack earlier in the day, going over his recent bout with self-doubt with Jimmy providing positive reinforcement. As it stands, I hope this puts an end to the “self-doubt” storyline if Willie is going off to another feud while his tag team partner, Rich Swann, recovers. If he goes into another feud and they continue pushing that story, it might end up defining and diminishing Willie Mack for the future. That future might include Johnny Swinger as he showed up to offer to tag with Willie, an offer Willie wisely rebuffed… for the time being.
Madison Rayne and Keira Hogan come to collect on Taya – HIT: Good character work from all the ladies involved in this backstage skit, all three coming across, unlikeable, self-absorbed, and irritating. All good traits for a heel. Madison Rayne and Kiera Hogan come to collect on the title shots Taya gave them in exchange for helping her out a while back. Taya invited Rayne and Hogan to fight each other next week to determine who gets first crack at her championship. Later, Jordynne Grace, who has a pinfall victory over Taya from their Bash at the Brewery 2 encounter, puts herself into the match since she too is owed a title shot.
•Moose vs. Taurus vs. Rhino – HIT: Booker 1, “Hey, did you know we got three animal gimmicks in the back?” Booker 2, “Great! Make ‘em fight.” And thus, this match came to be. This is a fun match with good in-ring storytelling. As soon as the match starts, Moose immediately takes a powder, but the crowd was having none of that. I won’t repeat some of the chants they levied at him here. Eventually Taurus and Rhino have enough of Moose and hunt him down, teaming up momentarily. Eventually Rhino Gores Moose, then Taurus headbutts Rhino and steals the pin on Moose.
***WARNING*** Joey Ryan sighting ***WARNING***
•Joey Ryan vs. Máximo – (Unbelievably a) MISS: I had high hopes for this match when I saw Joey Ryan was going up against crowd-favorite exótico, Máximo, especially since before the match, Joey narrowly escaped a second encounter with wrestler’s court (presided by a sombrero wearing, Spanish speaking, Tommy Dreamer). Disappointingly, it’s a rote, paint by numbers, bare bone… (uh huh), scripted, Joey Ryan match. Touched it, penis flip, trunk’s lollipop, sweet tooth music, pin. Joey wins. What a wasted opportunity to do something fun. Afterward, in a backstage interview with RVD (and Katie Forbes), RVD went hard on (yup) the match. Are we heading towards an RVD and Joey Ryan program?
*** END OF WARNING ***
•Michael Elgin and Eddie Edwards promos – HIT: Michael Elgin complains about Eddie Edwards tapping out and the ref not calling it during their match at the Hard to Kill PPV. He claims that the Call Your Shot trophy is rightfully his and that he is coming for Eddie. Later Eddie says he is done with Elgin and that he is ready to call his shot, but Elgin shows up to confront him. A scuffle ensues and they are forced apart. This leads to a best-of-five challenge between the two being booked. They have had some good matches together so it should be fun.
•Jessicka Havok vs. Rosemary – MISS: The match itself was fine, mainly consisting of Jessicka Havok preventing Rosemary for getting at Suzie and Father James Mitchell. Unfortunately, all suspension of disbelief required to buy into the supernatural aspects of the story, was shattered by the commentary team talking about Su Yung’s murder and subsequent resurrection as if it was an everyday occurrence. During the course of the match, they went form taking about Su Yung and Suzie as them being two different individuals, then same individual, then then two, then the same. After Havok beats Rosemary with a tombstone piledriver, Father Mitchell (who was blinded by Rosemary’s mist earlier) notices that Suzie had wandered off. Judging that this was the same building where Su Yung was murdered by Havok, is Suzie about to regain her memories? What will happen if/when she does?
•The Rascalz skit – MISS: Still not a fan of these 70’s show skits. Dez and Wentz good naturedly tease Trey for tagging with Tessa in the main event. Wentz pulls out some weed to smoke and Trey leaves to prepare for the match. Unbeknownst to Wentz, it wasn’t marijuana, instead it was peyote. The two go on a trip and run away in a panic once two clowns (Pagano and Murder Clown) show up.
•Rohit Raju vs. Willie Mack – HIT: In the back, Gama Singh asks where Raj Singh was, and it turns out the Mahabali Shera sent him on a spiritual journey. Gama is unhappy he wasn’t consulted but Shera stood his ground stating that he doesn’t need to seek anyone’s permission. I like this, while I don’t think this is going to lead to a break-up, it is, instead, the first step of establishing Shera as the alpha of the group instead of being a stooge for Gama. After Willie wins with a stunner, he gets jumped by Shera. Swinger comes in to make the save but is also taken out. While I don’t think I’m ready for a babyface Swinger (and I think this eventually ends with Mack vs. Swinger) I like that all these men are involve in a forward moving program.
•Taya Valkyrie & Ace Austin vs. Tessa Blanchard & Trey Miguel – HIT: As Tessa makes her way into the ring, we get the only hint of Sami Callihan and OVE (presumably) as the television feed is momentarily hacked and an image flashes on the screen. What follows is a good, believable, intergender match. Good character work from all the wrestlers involved with Taya being obnoxious and Ace being creepy, and the crowd HATED John E. Bravo. I am surprised that Trey didn’t pin Ace to earn another title shot if they are planning to keep their feud alive. Instead Ace hits Trey with The Fold for the win.
CATCH UP: IMPACT WRESTLING HITS & MISSES 1/14: Tessa Blanchard’s celebration interview, Willie Mack responds to North loss, Joey Ryan vs. Johnny Swinger, RVD celebrates, Shamrock reflects, Hard to Kill PPV fallout