Bound For Glory, Impact Wrestling‘s biggest show of the year, aired this Saturday, and it had a lot going on. That “a lot” includes new champions, at least three Jokers, arguably false advertising, more demons than expected, and Daivari. I wouldn’t say this show was good overall, but it had good moments alongside a lot of kind of bad moments that often got in the way of potentially good ones.
A note before we begin: as people who read my Slammiversary review might remember, I’m not a hardcore Impact fan. I’m someone who loves pro wrestling in general and follows Impact more casually than I follow other promotions, so I’m approaching Bound For Glory from that perspective rather than that of someone who’s ride or die for the former TNA. If that’s something you’re interested in reading, let’s dive in with the X Division!
Six-way scramble for the X Division Championship: Rohit Raju (c) def. TJP, Chris Bey, Trey Miguel, Jordynne Grace, and Willie Mack
The X Division scramble is a pretty strong way to start the show. Noted corona-truther TJP having the first entrance of the show is groan-inducing, but the match picks up from there! The whole recent X Divison Championship picture is in the ring, and they’re an entertaining group to watch work together.
Everybody does some high-flying, but there’s a diversity of wrestling styles in action. Miguel and Bey are the most consummate flippy guys, TJP shows his submission prowess, Grace is able to believably out-power her cruiserweight-sized opponents, and Mack can both flip and out-power everybody. Meanwhile, the defending Raju plays what Don Callis calls a “cerebral” game that the viewer reads more as “weaselly.” He consistently capitalizes on the work of others in a way that is smart but also makes you want to see someone else win the match and take his title; he’s an annoying heel in a way that’s kind of refreshing in a promotion full of edgy ones.
Ultimately, Raju’s smart and irritating strategy pays off when he’s able to capitalize on TJP’s splash to Miguel, knock him off the pin, and retain his belt. It’s far from the best or craziest X Division match ever, but it’s a fun warmup for the rest of the show, and it leaves intrigue about where Raju’s title reign could go from here since this match seems to have wrapped up all his ongoing rivalries.
Rhino wins the 20-wrestler Call Your Shot Gauntlet Match
The Call Your Shot Gauntlet Match is extremely Impact in a good way (as opposed to things later in the show that are extremely Impact in a bad way.) The whole setup for the match telegraphs either Rhino or Heath is going to win, and that provides an emotional anchor for the silliness. Everyone involved is fighting for a shot at the Impact title of their choosing, but if Heath or Rhino doesn’t win the match, they both lose their careers – and if one of them wins, Heath gets a contract. Who among us does not have the residual 2016 Smackdown feelings needed to get invested in this?
Rhino is the first to enter the match, providing the opportunity for his eventual win and saving of his friend/career to be the most heroic possible. But rather than making this match about The Endurance of Rhino (something that makes more sense now that it’s been reported that Heath was originally supposed to take home the trophy), Impact takes a more lighthearted route. It’s a buffet of midcard weirdness and shenanigans, and it’s a lot of fun. Daivari and James Storm show up, the XXXL vs. Taya bits are well-done, Tommy Dreamer and Swoggle do a tribute to Road Warrior Animal that’s actually pretty sweet, and everything Brian Myers does is surprisingly great, especially his tricky eliminations of Swoggle and Tenille.
Stuff gets serious when Sami Callihan enters the match and everything boils down to him vs. Rhino. Folks, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but Sami Callihan’s a little bit crazy. You could even say he’s a little bit like the Joker. Rhino beats Callihan with a spear after he basically distracts himself by being too edgy with a chair, and while the ending could have probably been better if it made the ECW vet look a little stronger, he still saves his friend and career with a win for him over one of Impact’s biggest heels, so that’s pretty good! Now that both Heath and Rhino officially work here, hopefully they can get going in the tag division soon.
Moose and EC3 get cinematic in an Undisclosed Location
While the Call Your Shot match made me laugh in the ways it meant to, Moose vs. EC3 made me laugh a lot more in ways it absolutely did not.
The best thing about how much the EC3 vs. Moose angle and match suck might be that it completely fits where both of their personas are at right now. Since April, Moose has been carrying around the old TNA World Heavyweight Championship and calling himself the real world champion. He’s delusional, and his feud with Tommy Dreamer that culminated in a match at Slammiversary was based around them both being delusional and fighting for the legacy of TNA. Then EC3 entered the scene with his post-WWE gimmick that feels like a combination of all of 2020’s many dark and edgy gimmicks and like he could at any point drop a reference to QAnon and/or start selling dubiously-sourced brain supplements. EC3’s quest to get Moose to take the red pill played out on Impact TV in psychological thriller-esque scenes, and the way those were shot combined with the “undisclosed location” billing made it clear they were going to go cinématique with this thing.
The most sincerely nice thing I can say about this match is that it does take the cinematic style in a slightly different direction than previous ones. Where the Boneyard Match was basically just a SyFy original movie fight scene and the most recent Gargano vs. Ciampa was a long, melodramatic wrestling match shot at weird angles, EC3 vs. Moose looks like an attempt to shoot a wrestling match in the style of a climactic fight scene in a movie. The choice of score is hilarious, but I kind of liked that there was a score, especially since the rest of the show was soundtracked by commentary over silence.
There are also some confusing creative choices besides, you know, Moose’s whole deal right now and EC3’s whole deal right now and people continuing to try to pull off this particular genre of match. This is supposed to show Moose going to a darker, more animalistic place than ever before, but he doesn’t seem exceptionally violent. If they had saved the EC3 blade job for this match rather than doing it in both the build and this match, that probably would have communicated that more effectively. And that’s burying the lead of how questionable it might be to do this type of angle for Moose, whose NFL career was impacted by a pretty well-known domestic violence incident about ten years ago.
Overall, the dialogue, the merch-hoodie-wearing cult, the white pants, and everything else about this match mostly comes off as hilarious at this point in 2020, and in the context of what this feud means to the greater landscape of Impact Wrestling, which is nothing. These two have a bloody fight in a warehouse and both have full-on flashbacks about a belt Moose found; the actual real world title is in the main event of this pay-per-view and no one else cares about this! EC3 vs. Moose is two crazy people yelling at each other over the state of the Moose’s mental health, and the stakes are that it’s going to stay very bad or become even worse.
If Moose gets involved in a rivalry with a babyface and/or for a real title as a more dangerous version of himself and EC3 starts psychologically torturing other people (and he better get creative, because Sami Callihan and Eric Young are doing versions of that too), which are both things that will probably happen, this angle will go on to affect characters who people actually care about. But the EC3 vs. Moose angle on its own is a misguided, unintentionally funny installment in pandemic-era American wrestling’s love affair with cinematic matches and dark, edgy gimmicks.
Ken Shamrock (with Sami Callihan) def. Eddie Edwards
If EC3 wasn’t enough edge for you, Sami Callihan is back in the next match! That’s a snarky way to introduce it, but Shamrock vs. Edwards is mostly good. Shamrock dominates Edwards for a while with his MMA-influenced wrestling skills, and it continues to be wild to watch him pull that off in his mid-fifties.
The biggest downside of this match is that it’s so attached to Callihan and the controversial/stupid Callihan vs. Edwards face-breaking from two years ago that you always know the ringside Sami is going to turn the lights off and get involved at some point, and that saps some tension from what’s going on in the ring. That’s eventually what happens, and it is a little satisfying to see Edwards be prepared for this and get the better of Callihan, even though he loses soon after by ankle lock.
Impact World Tag Team Championship match: The North def. Madman Fulton and Ace Austin, The Good Brothers, and half of the Motor City Machine Guns (c)
The tag title four-way is the first of two consecutive matches on this PPV that remove very popular participants right before the action begins, but this is at least the less irritating one. The North attacks MCMG before the bell, taking Alex Shelley out of the match and turning the beginning of it into a question of whether Chris Sabin can survive attacks by the two heel teams. Although Sabin’s struggle is done well and he looks good in his comebacks, it’s still disappointing not to get any true Motor City Machine Guns action.
The North end up winning with a pin over Karl Anderson that’s assisted by a belt attack, and everything points to a strong heel champion run for them, with MCMG, the Good Brothers, the Rascalz, and maybe Rhino and Heath already waiting in the wings as potential challengers. Impact’s tag division has been sincerely good, and while this match is solid apart from one team lacking a member, the recent TV tag matches have been stronger.
Impact Knockouts Championship match: Deonna Purrazzo (c) vs. Kylie Rae – wait, just kidding, it’s Deonna Purrazzo (c) vs. Su Yung, and Su Yung wins to become the new Knockouts Champion
There’s a bunch of dumb stuff on Bound For Glory 2020, but none of it is dumber than how Impact handles the removal of Kylie Rae from the Knockouts title match. Purrazzo vs. Rae seemed destined to be a banger and was the match I think was most likely to get wrestling fans who aren’t super into Impact to take notice of this show. By the time BFG’s semi-main event rolled around, the type of technical match these women seemed sure to have also felt like it would be a welcome change of pace from the rest of the show.
However, Purrazzo vs. Rae never happened, and there was no explanation. Kylie doesn’t show up when her music hit, and Deonna cuts a promo mocking her and delivering an open challenge. The challenge is met by Su Yung (Goodbye, Susie! You were adorable!) and she and Deonna proceed to have a strong match that Yung surprisingly wins.
The Yung vs. Purrazzo stuff works well on its own and it’s a match people could have gotten excited for if it was promoted in advance. But Kylie Rae, one of Impact’s brightest new-ish stars, being in a promo package that airs right before the Knockouts title match and then not being in the Knockouts title match is really irritating. At the time I’m writing this, there haven’t been reports about why she wasn’t on the show, but unless she was injured or something literally during the promo package, this seems like it could have been handled a lot better.
If Impact knew that Kylie was going to be out before Saturday, they could have announced that and promoted a Deonna Purrazzo open challenge or mystery opponent. Even if Kylie failed a temperature check or something on the day of the show, Impact could have announced something on the pre-show and/or on commentary during the event and not run that video package. The way this played out felt deceptive and scammy, especially given that Bound For Glory was a PPV people paid forty bucks for rather than something included in a streaming service.
Impact World Championship match: Rich Swann def. Eric Young (c)
The most straightforwardly, unironically good match on Bound For Glory is the main event, Eric Young vs. Rich Swann for the Impact World Championship.
As with a lot of things about Impact, there are some obstacles to getting into this match. Young is 40 but looks 50, and though he has a storied history in this promotion, the past few years spent lost in the WWE shuffle didn’t make him look like a world champion. Swann’s own WWE-related history produces different concerns. The 2017 domestic violence incident that led to his release from the company didn’t end his marriage or result in any convictions, but it’s still going to affect how a lot of people see him; there’s a natural hesitance for many about really supporting or investing in someone with this type of incident in their past.
If you set aside real life concerns (and the amount people have to do this is a recurring issue for Impact, though one that’s decreased after the Speaking Out-related firings), this main event is a successful crowning of Rich Swann as a top babyface. The opening sequence immediately makes the match exciting and defines a big part of the match’s dynamic. Swann dodges Young with his cruiserweight athleticism, but Young soon catches him into an ankle lock, focusing on the recently-injured part of his opponent’s body that he also had targeted during the build to this match.
Though the ankle-targeting comes back later, this isn’t really a Body Part Match. Swann’s ankle and later neck are both flagged as vulnerable areas, but we see him less working around them and more surviving the onslaught of attacks from his opponent. Swann shows a never say die attitude on defense and incredible athletic ability on offense, and reminds you why he was so popular on the indies. Meanwhile, Young is an effective foil as a villain who earns his “World-Class Maniac” nickname, and whose character complements his wrestling rather than overshadows or compensates for it. Swann is the spot king in this match, but Young pulls off some cool moves too, and he does a great job of using the brutality of his character and sometimes his size to be a more serious threat to Swann without slowing down or hurting the wrestling action.
Swann wins with a Phoenix Splash, and while that’s a normal finish move for him, it feels extra fitting as the end to this very “rising from the ashes” arc. The other good guys come out from the locker room to congratulate him, and that does a lot to make up for the absence of fans to celebrate the moment. It may always be questionable whether it’s a good idea for a promotion to have Swann as a top guy, but he clearly wrestles like one and Impact is booking him in a way that sets him up to succeed in that position.
Bound For Glory ends as a show that could have been a lot better. Almost every good thing on this PPV had something getting in its way, creating in a show that’s difficult to get fully immersed in and just have a good time watching. That being said, the Knockouts tag titles are coming back, Rosemary’s wedding is going to be insane, and there can be better matches and segments on Impact TV than those on BFG, so Impact at least still looks like a promotion worth checking in with in the future.