By Ryan K Boman, Editor in Chief
In what will go down as a huge weekend in Impact Wrestling history, Bound for Glory 2018 has come and gone. With it comes not only the crowning of a new champion, but an exclamation point on what has to be one of the greatest comebacks in sports entertainment history.
In order to fully appreciate the magnitude of BFG 2018, it’s probably best to take a trip back. Way back… Back to Bound for Glory 2017.
A year ago, when Impact Wrestling hosted its signature event in Ottawa, the weather was as cold as the company’s outlook. They were coming off a failed merger with Global Force Wrestling, and were falling victim to the same stereotypes they had during their TNA run: At every re-start, they would stall, and for years, had been considered by wrestling fans as the little-company-who-couldn’t.
At this time, I was getting to know several performers and personalities within the company, as they began reaching out to the media for some much-needed publicity. With the organization on its last lifeline, new names were getting a chance to fill Impact’s bare cubbard. They had very little star power, and the established names that were there appeared to be looking for greener pastures.
Eleven-and-a-half months later, what looked like a last gasp has turned into a ‘waiting to exhale moment’, as the re-building process has come full circle.
As someone who has watched -and documented – it all, Bound for Glory 2018 was a sight to behold. In the time I have been covering the company, they’ve literally gone from a near-death experience, to full of life in the Biggest City in the World. And I admit: For me, personally, it was special.
The event kicked off with Impact referee, TGP writer, and my friend, Kris Levin, standing solemnly in the middle of the ring. To have one of our own in that spotlight was special enough, but to know how he got there made it even better.
Kris made his PPV debut in Ottawa at Bound for Glory 2017. It was his first, big go-round with Impact, and he’s been there ever since. Intrigued by how young he appeared to be, I asked media director, Ross Forman, if I could talk to him.
I wrote the story, and found out that Kris was actually in his mid-20’s and a ten-year veteran. He had been pressed into duty at the 2017 show, and admitted he was nervous as hell at the time. He soon joined our website as an occasional contributor, and we became fast friends.
And, there he was on Sunday Night, standing in the middle of the ring, as the biggest show of the year kicked off. I was really proud of him. Just like Impact… he sure has come a long way.
But, it’s not just Kris. The show was special for many reasons. I felt like I had a real connection to a big portion of it. Because, for the most part, I’ve had a front row seat to the re-building process and talked to the stars that made it happen.
For example, Jake Crist looked amazing out there, throwing kicks and soaring with the luchadors. Without a doubt, oVe has been at the center of the company’s 2018 renaissance, and Jake is an important part of that machine.
But as I watched, my thoughts were on how funny he is. I mean, the guy, himself. When I interviewed Jake, his demeanor and the way he talked was so entertaining. He can literally say anything and make you chuckle. It’s hard not to root for a guy so personable, even if he barely speaks when he’s onscreen.
There were so many other stories that seemed to be playing out on Sunday night. All Ego Ethan Page made the jump to pay-per-view, teaming with a guy who I once saw wrestle in his very first pro match years ago, Matt Sydal.
At Bound for Glory, top prospect Brian Cage suffered his first pinfall loss to the maniacal Sami Callihan. They stand poised to write the next chapter of their careers against each other, and to help carry the banner in 2019.
In 2018, I’ve had a chance experience the pure joy of the undeniable Fallah Bahh, and the emergence of the lovely and talented Alicia Atout. I’ve covered the insanity of Eddie Edwards and the evolution of Sonjay Dutt.
I’ve written volumes on the artistry of Knockouts Champion, Tessa Blanchard, who debuted with Impact in the Spring and appears to be a franchise player. Although, Taya Valkyrie certainly gave her all she could handle at BFG, coming up just short of the gold.
Taya’s husband would not be denied, however. Johnny Impact capped off a weird weekend by defeating Austin Aries for the World Heavyweight title, and fulfilling a destiny that was forged when he he took on the company’s name.
After making a huge splash by signing in mid-2017, the prized free agent was also – ironically – the challenger in last year’s main event. That match proved to be a bit spotty, with Eli Drake holding on for a close victory. It was supposed to be the orginal, crowning moment for Johnny. Unfortunatley, he would have to wait until this year for his turn at Glory.
And then, there’s Allie.
Perhaps my favorite person in all of Impact, Laura Dennis’ character went from longshot contender to the unofficial leader of the Knockouts division. In the process, her status in the wrestling world has also gone up several notches, and her transformation has sort of mirrored that of the company she works for.
Initially pigeonholed by the silly gimmick of playing a wrestling novice, Allie was limited in what she was allowed to do. In the beginning, she was essentially programmed to “play dumb” in the ring, which was understandably frustrating for the veteran grappler.
Since the new regime took over and made her a focal point, however, she’s returned to the tools what made her a star on the indy circuit. Along with success has also come maturity and confidence.
The greatest wrestling story I have ever written – wasn’t about wrestling at all. It was a very important interview where Allie opened up about her struggles with depression. To this day, it’s the most-read article in our website’s history. And, in my mind, the most compelling.
So, to see this brave young lady take a huge step in her career really warms my heart. She has found her niche now, and she’s taking full advantage of it. She continues to expand the Demon Bunny franchise with her good friend, Rosemary, who also made her return at BFG. Their bond and commitment has only made them both stronger – in and out of the ring.
A similiar attitude permeates the entire company. Whether they were hanging out with their fans at VIP events, or escorting little Steven Spice to the ring, the one, great common denoniminator in all the Impact stories, is heart.
The heart to create a better product for their fans… the heart to never say die.
So, when people asked over the past few months why I paid so much attention to ‘that little company’? It’s because I got the chance to see something that many others didn’t: The character behind these characters.
It’s been a great narrative since the re-birth of Impact last year. I’ve been lucky enough to experience most of it, in one amazing ride. And if Sunday night is any indication, we are bound for another glorious year of stories in 2019.