Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin – collectively known as the Motor City Machine Guns – battled it out on Thursday night’s episode of Impact Wrestling to determine who would get to challenge Josh Alexander for the World Championship at the upcoming Emergence special event. If that title match ends up being as good as the contender’s match, then it’s safe to say that Emergence will be must-see. Because the Guns put on one of the best matches of the year – a no-nonsense, straight-forward wrestling match that had the crowd going ballistic (and we promise that’s the last gun-related pun for the rest of the recap).

The show kicked off with a good introductory video that ran through the history of the Motor City Machine Guns and their success as a team and as individuals. They then showed footage of Sabin and Shelley arriving to the venue separately.


Match 1: VXT (Deonna Purrazzo & Chelsea Green) vs. Mia Yim & Jordynne Grace

Purrazzo and Green came out wearing complementary ring gear to solidify them as a bona-fide team.

VXT had some difficulties against Grace and Yim (would their team name be “Grim”?) early on, but some effective old-school cheating allowed them to take over. They isolated Grace for a while, but the Knockouts Champion used her strength game to get loose, dropping them both with a Double Suplex and then muscling her way to her corner to tag in Yim.

Yim softened up VXT enough that she and Grace could hit them with stereo dives to the floor. The two teams battled it out, leading to a parade of finishing move attempts. VXT were able to dump Grace hard to the floor, so she wasn’t in her corner when Yim went for the tag. Outnumbered and alone in the ring, Yim fell victim to a Double Ferris Wheel Suplex and that was enough for the pin.

This was a good win by VXT. It may be too soon, but they seem like a logical team to challenge for the Knockouts Tag Team Championship. Grace defends her title against Yim at Emergence, so I was expecting some words or fists to be exchanged after their lack of cohesion tonight cost them the match. But as there’s still a few weeks to go, maybe that’s still to come.

Winners: VXT

In the back, Matt Taven and Honor No More were upset that none of them have received a title shot since coming to Impact. They said the Good Brothers were ducking them, and that Impact was allowing it by putting HNM up against other members of the Bullet Club, but not the champs. They also warned Heath not to attack them anymore lest he will pay dearly for his actions. Some dissension in the ranks were also teased, when Eddie Edwards said PCO wasn’t doing enough to stop Heath from waging his one-man war.


Match 2: Deaner (w/ Joe Doering) vs. “Speedball” Mike Bailey (c) – for the X-Division Championship

An early poke to the eyes gave Deaner the edge, but Bailey’s speediness allowed him to avoid any further damage. Until things moved to the floor, where Deaner trapped Bailey in the ring skirt and then Doering hit him with a huge Body Block that levelled Bailey. Deaner took over for a bit, but Bailey used some boots and a sweet-looking Twisting Shooting Star Press to come back.

They went back and forth, hitting big moves on each other, with the highlight being Bailey hitting a Springboard Moonsault. After a few boots to the head, Deaner hit the mat, leaving him prone for an Shooting Star Knee Drop to the back that put Deaner down for the 1-2-3.

This was a good match. Deaner doesn’t always get a chance to get the in-ring spotlight, as he is often the fall guy for VBD. But he can really go out there and put on a match in any style. Bailey continues to impress as the X-Division Champion, reminiscent of the champions from that division’s earliest hey-days.

Winner, and still X-Division Champion: “Speedball” Mike Bailey

The Ric Flair Moment of the Week (sponsored by the Starrcast event, Ric Flair’s Final Match, on July 31st) was from the weekly TV show from September 15th, 2011. Despite an attempt by Hulk Hogan to help Flair cheat to win, the Nature Boy lost to Sting. This is the second week in a row that the Flair Moment involved him losing. Strange way to promote his final send-off, no?

Impact Executive Gail Kim caught up with VXT in their dressing room, where they were celebrating their earlier win. They said that Purrazzo’s pin over Mia Yim should earn her a title shot. Gail agreed, but said it wouldn’t be for Grace’s title. Rather, the two of them will challenge Rosemary and Taya for the Knockouts Tag Team Championship at Emergence. Called it.

In the back, Eric Young questioned if Deaner and Joe Doering truly reviled “the Sickness.” Deaner insisted that he did, and Young said that he would have to take efforts to prove it to him.


Match 3: Madison Rayne (w/ Gisele Shaw) vs. Masha Slamovich

Masha tore off Rayne’s protective face-mask, and then tore Madison apart, beating her in about a minute with the Snow Plow. After the match, Shaw went into the ring to check on Madison. Masha entered the ring and gave Shaw her own death warrant notice.

Masha continues to juggernaut her way up the ranks. It’s getting to the time where she should be giving the Knockouts Champion a death warrant notice soon. Possibly they are waiting until after Emergence. But they shouldn’t delay it further. The crowd is really into Masha, so they should strike while the iron is hot.

Winner: Masha Slamovich. Flawless victory.

Digital Media Champion Brian Myers was holding court in the back for a number of randoms. Bhupinder Gujjar walked up to him and called out Myers, saying he was scared to defend the title against him. Myers deflected, and came up with a story that Honor No More’s Vincent had been bad-mouthing Gujjar. Myers said that Gujjar should take on Vincent and then skedaddled to let Vincent know that Gujjar had “accepted” the challenge.

A hype video for Killer Kelly aired. She will be appearing in person next week.


Match 4: Matt Taven & Mike Bennett (w/ Maria Kanellis ) vs. Ace Austin & Chris Bey

Austin and Taven had a great exchange to start off, making me now want to see those two have a singles match at some point. Then Bennett and Bey had one of their own, and ditto. Austin turned up the aggression, and even some cheating attempts from Maria couldn’t slow him down.

But when the fight spilled to the outside, some dirty OGK tactics had Austin in trouble. After he powered his way free, Bey came in and business picked up. All four men fought in the ring, until Taven sent Austin hard to the floor. OGK went for a double-team move on Bey, but he moved out of the way of an Aurora Borealis attempt and Taven crashed hard. Seeing her team in trouble, Maria jumped on the apron. When the ref went to deal with that, Taven hit Bey with a low blow. But before he could get the pin, Heath appeared out of nowhere, slid into the ring, and hit Taven with the Wake-Up Call, unseen by the ref who was still dealing with Maria. A shocked and confused Bennett was left alone, and he got hit with The Fold by Austin and pinned.

This was really good, and though the ending was a bit overbooked, it was executed really well. These four really have some chemistry, and a series of matches between them wouldn’t be unwelcome. Austin has really become a standout in Impact in the past couple of years.

Winners: Ace Austin & Chris Bey

Gia Miller interviewed Steve Maclin, who denied being worried about being targeted by Sami Callihan. Maclin said he doesn’t play games like Sami, because he was bred for war. The lights flickered and Sami appeared behind Maclin and attacked him. They fought in the back until Moose came in and helped Maclin beat up Sami. They were going to crush his head against the concrete wall with a steel garbage can, but Sami hit the hacker button on his phone, turning off the lights, and he escaped in the darkness.

In the back, Rosemary tried to convince Jessicka to put on her old Havok mask, but Jessicka wouldn’t. Taya tried to explain to a frustrated Rosemary that Jessicka was the good-spirited persona that had emerged from Havok and there was nothing that could be done about it. Rosemary was angry, but Taya and Jessicka seemed to be okay with it, bonding over fashion.

World Champion Josh Alexander was in the back with Impact Executive Vice-President Scott D’Amore. Josh said he would be excited to face either one of the Motor City Machine Guns, and then had a list of other contenders in mind, naming Rich Swann among others. Swann walked up to them and said that since he never got a rematch after losing the World Championship, he wanted a shot. He said that he had gotten his mojo back and had confidence in his ability to win back the title. D’Amore said that Swann could prove his mojo by facing KUSHIDA in his debut match next week. Swann was happy to take on the challenge.


Match 5: Alex Shelley vs. Chris Sabin – winner earns a World Championship match at Emergence

During the introductions, the commentators noted that this was the first time Shelley had competed in a number one contender’s match. Shelley came out to the MCMG theme, but Sabin used different music for his introduction. They bro-hugged at the bell in a show of mutual respect.

They had some sweet technical exchanges in the early moments, exchanging near-falls. As the match progressed, the physicality increased and some harder shots and moves were used. Sabin used some submissions that hurt Shelley’s neck, so that’s where he concentrated his offense for a while.

But Shelley knew that Sabin’s knees were his weakness, so he would use that to his tactical advantage when he could. Eventually a low Dropkick to Sabin’s knee put Shelley in control. He used Leg Screws, Kneebars, and other knee-based attacks that had Sabin in trouble.

Sabin fired up and found his next gear, and soon he was back in control, flattening Shelley with a mix of power moves and aerial attacks, including a textbook Tornado DDT. But Shelley went back to the weakened leg, and the pendulum swung back in his favour.

A really scary moment saw Sabin land on his head on a Sheik Suplex – it’s not clear if he over-rotated or whether he was trying to float over and under-rotated – but he was upside down at the top of the move and fell straight down on his face.  But he appeared to be undamaged, as he was able to kick out of the pinfall attempt. Never want to see that again, though.


Shelley clamped on a Motor City Stretch, but Sabin got his foot on the ropes to break the hold. They exchanged some more vicious shots, including a Running Enziguri by Sabin. They exchanged Superkicks, and then Sabin turned Shelley inside out with a Clothesline from Hell, Michigan.

Shelley escaped a Cradle Shock attempt and hit a Sliced Bread – but only for two! Shelley then hit a Shell-Shock – but this time Sabin kicked out! Finally, Shelley locked on the Motor City for a second time, and this time Sabin wasn’t able to withstand the pain and immediately tapped out.

This was tremendous. Just a stellar wrestling match that started off strong and continued to get better right up until the final bell. No obvious choreographed dance moves, no silly comedy, no cheating, nothing done to make the refs look stupid, and they barely left the ring during the match. Such a refreshing change from the norm. Go out of your way to see this one.

Winner, and new number one contender for the World Championship: Alex Shelley

After the match, Deaner and Joe Doering rushed down the ramp, hit the ring, and attacked the Guns. Josh Alexander – who, at various times, was shown watching the match on a backstage monitor – made his way to the ring, presumably to help the Guns. But instead of him getting there, KUSHIDA ran in instead. He took out both Deaner and Doering, and checked on the Guns’ condition. KUSHIDA and the Guns stood triumphant in the ring to end the show.



Impact Wrestling - July 21st, 2022

Old Forester's Paristown Hall - Louisville, KY

If you watch only one wrestling match this week, make it the Shelley vs. Sabin match. If you watch two wrestling matches this week… watch that one twice.

The build towards Emergence was the theme of the night. And, like last week, the matches all delivered. Hopefully the streak can continue next week, too.