In around one month’s time, IMPACT Wrestling will be headed to Dallas, Texas for the inaugural pay-per-view of their 2022 season, Hard To Kill, going down on Saturday, 8 January (the same evening as All Elite Wrestling’s first Battle Of The Belts special, for what it’s worth).
As it currently stands, the card for the event is currently looking rather enticing, with Moose due to defend the World Championship against both Eddie Edwards and W. Morrissey, while Mickie James and Deonna Purrazzo will do battle once more over the former’s Knockouts World Championship in a Bound For Glory rematch. Whoever wins out of James and Purrazzo will already have their next challenger confirmed, as IMPACT are due to promote the first knockouts incarnation of the Ultimate X match.
Though this is the first Ultimate X match to feature IMPACT’s female talent, the Anthem-helmed promotion has been increasingly progressive over the past few years. Perhaps their biggest claim to fame in this category came when Tessa Blanchard dethroned Sami Callihan of the IMPACT World Championship at the 2020 Hard To Kill pay-per-view, becoming the first female to hold the predominantly male-contested World Championship of a major North American wrestling promotion.
The knockouts have, however, already competed in numerous “first time ever” stipulation bouts, ranging from Last Knockout Standing matches to all-female Lethal Lockdown matches. Most recently, Jordynne Grace, Alisha Edwards, Kimber Lee, and Savannah Evans contested the inaugural all-knockouts Monster’s Ball, doing so in memory of the late Daffney, who had wrestled Taylor Wilde during an intergender Monster’s Ball in June 2009, teaming with Raven and Abyss, respectively.
With Scott D’Amore, IMPACT’s Executive Vice President, scheduled to announce the participants in this match on the forthcoming broadcast of IMPACT’s weekly television show, the feeling in the air is rife with excitement. Chelsea Green, Rachael Ellering, and Alisha Edwards have already staked their claim to be featured, while IMPACT newcomers Lady Frost and Masha Slamovich must also be high in contention for the bout.
Here, though, we’ll focus on wildcard entries. Ex-WWE Superstars, returning names, debuting names, et al. Contractual obligations, such as WWE’s extended ninety-day non-compete clause for released main roster talents will be taken into consideration, hence why Tegan Nox and Mia Yim aren’t included. A certain former Knockouts World Champion released from NXT only had a thirty-day clause to sit out, though, and could feasibly return to the fold here…
There’s no point beating around the bush, Taya Valkyrie is a must-have for IMPACT Wrestling in the new year.
IMPACT was Taya’s home for just over three years, having debuted for the company on their 7 September 2017 broadcast, aptly assaulting Rosemary (it being apt given how those two would be joined at the hip throughout Taya’s IMPACT tenure). A former Knockouts World Champion and 2019 Knockout of the Year, Taya also holds the longest reign for the aforementioned championship, holding it for 377-days, doing so while producing consistently excellent matches against the entire knockouts division.
When her WWE signing was formally confirmed in February 2021, it felt earned. Her output of work, both in IMPACT and the numerous other promotions she’d featured in prominently, was evidence of this. WWE wasn’t signing her simply so AEW couldn’t, but rather because they recognised her contributions to the sport, or, at least, that’s how it felt.
Though the now-former Franky Monet didn’t last particularly long in NXT, it remains a crucial part of her CV, irrelevant of how she may feel about WWE’s mass releases, including her own on 4 November.
Already, “La Wera Loca” has returned to Mexico’s Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide, doing so at their TripleMania Regia Internet-pay-per-view this past weekend. Intriguingly, she’s eyeing up Deonna Purrazzo, the current holder of the AAA Reina de Reinas Championship and a stalwart of IMPACT’s knockouts division. “The Virtuosa”, in a similar vein to how Taya became a focal fixture in IMPACT, slowly rose through IMPACT, and will now be viewed as a legend when she’s finished, if not already.
That match, though it’s likely to go down in AAA first, would be reason enough for Taya to make a return to the IMPACT Zone. Their clash at Hard To Kill in January, Taya’s last before signing with WWE, reached nowhere near its expected potential. A second go is not only required, it’s to be expected from IMPACT Wrestling at some point during 2022.
The interesting thing about Marina Shafir is that it’s hard to dictate just how good a wrestler she is.
With just 92 matches to her name (according to her Cagematch.net profile), Shafir was a WWE Performance Center trainee with a legitimate background in mixed martial arts. She was enjoyable in NXT, but truthfully, she, like Jessamyn Duke, was a secondary act to Shayna Baszler as NXT Women’s Champion. Again, this was fine, with three-quarters of The Four Horsewomen dominating NXT for a period of time, but “The Queen of Spades” was the focal point all through this time.
Shafir very rarely wrestled on television, doing so just eight times across her 87 WWE encounters. When she did, she wrestled exclusively tag team matches and a single Battle Royal. Neither she nor Jessamyn Duke achieved much of note throughout this period, and thus, Shafir’s release on 25 June came without a surprise, though she has since wrestled five bouts, her most notable being vs. Masha Slamovich for Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 7.
Bloodsport events, for the uninitiated, feature strictly legitimate fighters, with matches predominantly concluding in submission or knockout. This made Marina a perfect fit for the shows, but this, in turn, would make her a sublime fit for the knockouts division, too.
The knockouts division is missing that legitimate fighter, in the same vein as Leyla Hirsch in All Elite Wrestling. Though Hirsch isn’t exactly a huge figure within AEW’s women’s division, her tenacity whilst performing is unlike anyone else currently there. When she wrestles, you expect a real fight, with her utilising a tight armbar as her regular finish. This would be the exact same should Marina Shafir make her to IMPACT. Though this style doesn’t work particularly well with Ultimate X matches, it would certainly add a different dynamic to it.
The term “dream participants” doesn’t always have to indicate towards debuting and/or returning names, as Taylor Wilde exemplifies.
The Canadian, according to herself, is still affiliated with IMPACT Wrestling, despite her removal from the website’s official roster page. This comes after a return to the IMPACT fold at the Rebellion pay-per-view in April, during which she seemed destined to challenge Deonna Purrazzo for the Knockouts World Championship heading into July’s Slammiversary. This, ultimately, didn’t happen, and Wilde has been used sparingly ever since, owing to her personal life.
In a chat with Inside The Ropes’ Liam Alexander-Stewart, Taylor discussed the reaction to her return to not only IMPACT, but professional wrestling as a whole:
“Well, it’s been life changing really, because I feel like the first half of my career I didn’t really get to do what I wanted to do because women’s wrestling was at a different place and I was you know 20 25 and I just didn’t know myself as a person as well and you know that pans out to how you are as a wrestler if you don’t know yourself How can you know yourself as a wrestler? And a lot of the fans. You know, they’re older now, my first chapter of fans so to have the support of all the new wave fans as well as been incredible I didn’t know I was going to be so well received. I truly did. It was a big risk.”
Wilde’s style is perfect for an Ultimate X match. She’s hardly a fully-fledged high-flyer, however, the former Knockouts World Champion has this energetic style to her that, when paired with the right opponent in the right environment, is truly amazing to watch. Her participation in an intergender Monster’s Ball at the 2009 Slammiversary pay-per-view saw her execute a diving splash through a table, a spot that remains a memorable scene from that match.
She last wrestled in IMPACT on their Victory Road special in September, defeating Tenille Dashwood in a nine-minute affair. She’s wrestled just once since, defeating Taylor Rising for the Superkick’D promotion back in October. IMPACT hasn’t directly commented on Taylor’s status, but it’s crucial that Wilde herself has confirmed she’s still an active IMPACT performer. There’s more to come from her in the Anthem-helmed promotion, and again, the Ultimate X match would be the prime opportunity to bring Taylor Wilde back into the fold.
IMPACT is yet to properly utilise Masha Slamovich, with “The Russian Dynamite” being offered a contract by Gail Kim following October’s Knockouts Knockdown special on IMPACT Plus, with Fightful Select later confirming that her deal had in fact been finalised.
Coming from Russia, a country that isn’t exactly known for its abundance of wrestling output, Masha has openly discussed her thoughts with regards to stereotypes within wrestling, as detailed in a chat with Inside The Ropes’ Lead Writer, Gary Cassidy:
“I do think that sometimes that is an issue, especially, like you said, being Russian and then everyone immediately just going towards the “you’re a communist, you like vodka”. I think that it just depends for the wrestler or the person specifically if they do want to make their character very heavily, you know, like nationally proud or whatever, however you want to put that. But then also there’s people like myself who, when I first started, being Russian was kind of a crutch because I didn’t really know who I was. But now, I am me. I’m still Russian, but it’s not my entire character. There’s a whole person here who just happens to be Russian. It is not the main focus of the story anymore.”
Why, exactly, IMPACT is yet to utilise her remains to be seen, though this also applies to their most recent signing, Mike Bailey. Slamovich has wrestled extensively since Knockouts Knockdown, too, so presumably, it’s only a matter of time before she’s formally welcomed into the IMPACT fold. As has been stated repeatedly through this feature, the inaugural knockouts Ultimate X match would be an ideal starting point for her.
Masha’s brutality is unlike anything else in IMPACT, regardless of gender. This was paramount during her debut vs. Deonna Purrazzo. Every suplex executed was immense, as was her Akira Hokuto-inspired Northern Lights Driver. She wrestles the sort of style that could be extremely beneficial to IMPACT’s flow of output throughout 2022. Otherwise, she’s just sitting on IMPACT’s payroll for the sake of it.
When Nevaeh confirmed her departure from IMPACT Wrestling this past April, it seemed weird. She’d only just come into the fold the prior April, debuting at IMPACT’s first show behind closed doors, and had enjoyed a reasonably successful run alongside Havok (her Killer Death Machines partner on the independent circuit) before they ultimately split.
Nevaeh would depart following a loss to Havok on the 15 April Before The IMPACT broadcast, confirming via Twitter post-match that she was indeed finished with IMPACT after the loss.
Now, obviously, there are numerous potential reasons behind this, but it still seemed weird that she only spent twelve months in the promotion.
She’s had four matches since departing, which indicates the story is more towards it being her own personal choice rather than IMPACT giving her the boot, but perhaps she’s ready to come back, even moreso if Havok (or Rosemary, Havok’s new partner in Decay) were to feature in the match, too.
Traditionally wrestling in multi-person matches all through her IMPACT tenure meant that we never got to properly see what Nevaeh could do on the IMPACT stage. Her singles run had lasted all but a few weeks before she wrapped up her IMPACT career. She’s a sublime singles star, though, as evidenced both in her recent SHIMMER Championship victory and her untelevised AEW Dark encounter vs. Hikaru Shida.
Again, this all depends on if Nevaeh wants to return; Ultimate X could do with her hard-hitting nature, though.