For over 20 years Impact Wrestling has provided a service for fans interested in another wrestling product of a different kind. One of the most enduring features of the company was the knockouts department.
From Gail Kim vs. Awesome Kong to Deonna Purrazzo vs. Mickie James, the women of Impact Wrestling have managed to impress year after year. It comes this Saturday, January 8th, at Hard to Kill, when Jordynne Grace, Chelsea Green, Lady Frost, Alisha Edwards, Rosemary and Tasha Steelz face each other in an Ultimate X Match, the first time women have done it. This brutal match, the signature match of the X Division, has helped improve the careers of many. Now these women can show what they can do in a match that could steal the show.
Prior to the Hard to Kill match, Impact Wrestling Executive Vice President Scott D’Amore spoke to Sporting News about the making of Ultimate X, the continued success of the Knockouts division and the future of Impact Wrestling.
Sporting News: There has never been an Ultimate X match in the Knockouts Division. The match itself is known for its brutal nature. How hard was it for this match to bear fruit?
Scott D’Amore: The knockouts were part of Last Knockouts Standing, Ladder and Cage matches. In our 20 year history, it was almost shocking to realize that there has never been a Knockouts Ultimate X match. It’s a pretty spectacular match, known for taking everything so much higher above the ring and elevating it, which brings with it more danger. Last year we had Slammiversary with the return of the Ultimate X to the X Division where it always was. During this time there was gossip about the knockouts wanting to do this.
It came about when Jordynne Grace, who is a firecracker and powerhouse not only in the ring but also with her persistence, came to me. Grace, Chelsea Green, and some of the other ladies cornered me at one point. They wanted to talk about it and decided it was time. The overwhelming vibe was that everyone wanted the opportunity to take part in an Ultimate X match. Our knockouts, like most who grew up with impact wrestling, have seen all of these great X Division matches over the years. The ones with Petey Williams, AJ Styles, Low Ki, and Frankie Kazarian. They wanted the opportunity to do so.
SN: After all that talk, what was decisive?
D’Amore: I tried to make it easy. I told them we should go to the ring and show me what you have. We went to the ring and everyone climbed on the scaffolding and drove properly down the line. We thought we had something right away.
At one point I thought we’d do it at Bound for Glory, but we felt this match would be best if we take a little time and position it for hard to kill. It would be the most incredible way to start the new year.
SN: So that was an easy decision based on the division’s reputation over the years?
D’Amore: Just like that match, the knockouts division came together over women like Gail Kim, Traci Brooks, and Jackie Moore. They were so persistent that they wanted to go out and compete and be taken seriously. We gave them this opportunity and they kicked them out of the park. This is at a time when other companies may have treated women as secondary, with lingerie pillow fights etc. We gave them the opportunity to be themselves so that the women go outside and be highlighted and highlighted as the amazing female athletes who they are. Other companies are rightly doing the same now.
For this match, it was another group of talented women who knew what they wanted. I am confident that they will do an incredible job at Hard to Kill.
MORE: Gail Kim reflects on Awesome Kong’s groundbreaking career ahead of induction into the IMPACT Hall of Fame
SN: As is the case with the internet, there would normally be backlash with games with this risk. The announcement received a lot of praise. How do you feel knowing how hard these women worked to pull this match off?
D’Amore: What we are seeing here is an evolution of the general population’s thought process when it comes to dealing with women and diversity in general. That’s the case in wrestling, and hopefully in life too. This game wasn’t just for the men; It should be a competition for athletes. It should highlight incredible athletes who can do amazing things that the average person cannot. It’s long overdue to showcase the incredibly athletic women we have. I wasn’t shocked. It would have been more shocking if it hadn’t been positive.
How do you not automatically think what Lady Frost can do in the match or what Tasha Steelz will come up with when she stands on these cables high above the ring? How will Jordynne Grace use her super strength and athletic skills to do something unforgettable? The reception was a testament to the knockouts department and how the thought process about women’s wrestling has changed.
It’s 2022 baby let’s go forward and keep making history.
SN: Knockouts have been competing in Monsters Ball matches and Full Metal Mayhem since the late 2000s, and now Mickie James and Deonna Purrazzo are competing in a Texas Death Match on the same map as the Ultimate X Match. What was the key to consistency here?
D’Amore: Opportunity. There have always been great female athletes who can and want to keep up at this level. There were times when there were no opportunities. Impact has a long history of putting women in a position where they can go outside, compete, and impress. Whether it’s a Last Knockouts Standing Match, the Texas Death Match as we have it with our Knockouts Championship Match, Ultimate X, Cage Matches, the Knockouts have earned it time and time again.
We have talked about how this could be great and we are confident that women can do it. Since we are sitting here in 2022, it is now 15 years of proof. No more hypotheses, if it is possible it can be done. We have been proving that for a decade and a half. This is what makes Hard to Kill so special. Ultimate X is the last frontier, the last barrier to be destroyed. No question about it, the women will go nuts and deliver an incredible match. Chris Sabin, the guru when it comes to the X division, is excited and wants to see what new spins and takes the knockouts bring.
SN: Speaking of barriers, the Forbidden Door was smashed + last year. Which wrestlers would you like to see in Impact?
D’Amore: The great thing about the Forbidden Door is that it breaks down all of these barriers, the old days of What happened if ; What if Rick Flair could chase Hulk Hogan, what if Bruno Sammartino faced Harley Race? I would love to see an athlete like AEW women’s champion Britt Baker step through the door, come over here, and compete in Impact. I know she and Deonna have wanted to face each other for a long time. I have great respect for Britt; she has an incredible work. She would be awesome.
One of the last parts of the forbidden door that didn’t kick is that 800 pound gorilla: WWE. Can you imagine a world where Mickie James competes against Charlotte Flair, Jordynne Grace and Becky Lynch? There are so many matchups to do. We see so many of these people we never thought we would see, like Kenny Omega and Jay White, show up unexpectedly. The possibilities are endless. You can sit down and make a list and come up with dream matches with female wrestlers over the years. Only time can tell.
SN: Impact wrestling managed to survive for years in a time when some companies weren’t so lucky. What does the future look like for Impact and the Knockouts division?
D’Amore: The future of Impact is all about growth. There have been some questionable times when you didn’t know what was going to happen. We’ve talked a lot about the fact that there wasn’t going to be a quick fix; You cannot just put a band-aid on the main problems. You need to focus on a long term plan. If you’re a sports fan of a team that got off to a tough start, you need to make changes. Sometimes you have to say goodbye to the talent you admire and give the new generation opportunities.
It’s almost the 20th anniversary of Impact and we’re returning to what we should always be; a place where we athletes who have been overlooked and who have not been given the chance they deserve can take and promote, develop and strengthen to give their best. Think of Deonna Purrazzo a year and a half ago and the work that has built it up today. All she needed was a platform, a group that allowed her to develop and be the athlete she knew could be. Think of Chris Bey, Ace Austin and Trey Miguel, the latter I met as a child.
We go out there, take the outliers and take risks. Knockouts Ultimate X is about giving women’s wrestling a chance to be taken seriously. The X division wasn’t about weight limits; it was about no borders. It’s about taking chances, taking chances. We take good people and enable them to be successful.
MORE: How Pro-Wrestling Saved and Nearly Ruined the Life of IMPACT X Division Champion Josh Alexander
SN: What would you say to the fans who are going to Hard to Kill right now?
D’Amore: If you watch we will reward you with a fantastic night. If you disagree with what is not okay out there, speak to me, but I have complete confidence in our team. Impact wrestling, we’re not just hard to kill, we’re hard to beat.