wrestling / Columns

Johnny Impact: Making a Mockery of the Machine

March 23, 2019 | Posted by Dino Zee
Johnny Impact Impact Wrestling

Let’s get to the most important part first: I was right. Truly, there is nothing a wrestling journalist strives to achieve more in life than earning a proper I told you so! So let the record show that, while I’ve been leery of Johnny Impact’s good guy act since the start, I was the one who told you since Homecoming that he wasn’t playing by the rules, and that it was just a matter of time before the real Johnny came shining through.

Of course, coming in a close second as it relates to importance, is that Johnny Impact finally revealed that he had, indeed, been playing Brian Cage for the fool all along. He had Taya in on it, and even his old friend Killer Kross.

Those of us familiar with Johnny outside of his run in Impact Wrestling were suspicious of this from the start. All of his talk about wanting to be a fighting champion, of wanting to prove himself, it always rang hollow. That’s never been the man we knew, no matter the moniker. Johnny has always, from the very beginning, been out for one thing, and one thing only: himself. To think that he’d finally changed was silly. To think it was because he’d gotten married was even sillier.

And let’s talk about his wife. Let’s talk about Taya, who also has been portraying someone quite different than the person we know her to be in recent months. This fun-loving Wera Loca that throws all of the bright colors on herself and preaches doing things right? That’s not the Queen of Lucha Libre that I remember.

That’s the thing, though, isn’t it? It’s never felt right, because it never was right. And there’s been plenty of evidence the entire time to make it clear. They were their true selves in front us the entire time. We had both Johnny and Taya coming back and immediately demanding World Championship matches (against Austin Aries and Tessa Blanchard) that had certainly not earned through their inactivity. Instead, they demanded the matches based on who they were.

We had Taya celebrate a championship victory that only took place because of Gail Kim. When Tessa was suspended after attacking Gail, it was Taya who openly celebrated the fact that her number one contender wasn’t around, almost as if she was happier to have an easier go of things.

We had Johnny brings his friends to Homecoming, and undoubtedly tell them to get involved if things got to be a little too difficult, which is exactly what they did. He then celebrated his victory over Cage as if he had fought his heart out and done it the right way.

We had Johnny making Cage jump through all types of hoops instead of simply giving the man a fair rematch. Johnny even had the balls to tell Cage that they couldn’t possibly get through a match unless they got rid of Moose and Kross, as if simply having some type of clause stating that if either interfered, they’d be fired, would be impossible to make happen.

The whole time, the duo strung everyone along. They’d play their “poor me” violins, and feign offense if anyone even tried to hint that perhaps Johnny was being a coward. For some reason, Taya’s actions always slid right under the radar, but I can only assume it’s because she was making life rough for Tessa Blanchard, who isn’t exactly a crowd favorite. But with Johnny doing the same thing to a favorite like Cage, it was only a matter of time before more people started asking questions.

Rolando Menendez (whose work I admire greatly) prodded the Champion only a couple of weeks ago, and he managed to draw a bit of that angry Johnny, the one who doesn’t think he has to explain anything to anyone, to come out. You could see it on the faces of both Taya and Johnny – as if the lies they’d been living were really starting to get to them.

Maybe that’s why the very next week, they pulled the trigger. Maybe. Or maybe that was the plan the whole time, and Menendez was simply brought into the fold to help move it all along. I’d hate to see a journalist at the level of Rolando sell out like that, but it also should not be completely discounted as a possibility.

Through it all, the plan has been the same: stay the champion, and keep all of your toughest challenges as far away from you as possible. For Taya, that meant goading management into picking a fight with her top contender. For Johnny, it meant playing innocent and heroic while constantly denying the contender his rightful opportunity.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out – as I’ve done since Bound for Glory – that Impact Management was all too happy to cater to the whims of their Royal Couple. They were all too happy to make Gail Kim a special referee for no reason at all. They were all too happy to have her consistently antagonize Tessa until she earned the suspension. They were all too happy to have Taya try to move on.

At the same time, they were all too happy to let Johnny Impact call the shots. For some reason, the champion was given the right to declare when, how, and against whom he’d defend, instead of simply setting up the immediate rematch in a fair setting after the events of Homecoming. No one even blinked when Johnny apparently suffered a serious neck injury doing a freaking breakdance move, because it’s easier to be compliant than it is to stand up for what’s right.

If we know Impact Management – and make no mistake, no matter how many faces change, the attitude stays the same – we know that they’ll do anything they can to placate a superstar that might end up getting them some outside attention. Whether it’s Matt Hardy biting fans three years ago, or Johnny and Taya locking up the two most prestigious championships and meddling their way to easier roads, nothing has changed here.

Of course, while we – I – am focused on the subterfuge used by our Impact World and Knockouts Champions, lost in all of this are those who have suffered, specifically Brian Cage. Tessa at the very least was given her rematches, and whether or not we agree with the circumstances, she did not leave those matches as the champion. Tessa definitely suffered because of this whole ordeal, but not nearly in the way that Brian Cage has.

Brian Cage had to relinquish his championship to get his match in the first place. This cost him the X Division Championship. It cost him a lot of his momentum as he was cheated out of a victory at Homecoming, and then forced to compete in four-man and tag team matches instead. Cage has been forced to run in circles for a rematch that was never, ever coming.

Worse, Cage has to admit to being outsmarted by a guy who claims Slamtown as his home and thinks turdcutter is the apex of insults. Yeah, Brian Cage fell into a trap set by that guy. That’s gotta hurt.

There is no doubt that while we got to the end of this Johnny façade, Brian Cage has only just begun his trek towards that rematch. He will no doubt look to get his hands on Killer Kross, first. Johnny might even try to get Moose to help him out one more time, provided he’s not preoccupied with The Rascalz. Johnny’s going to show us the man that used The Worldwide Underground to help him completely dominate Lucha Underground’s Temple.

At this moment, Johnny Impact is at his very best. He’s surrounded himself with soldiers willing to do his bidding, he’s managed to keep his top contender at arm’s length, and he’s managed to do it while pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes. Now that we’re seeing clearly again, it might be too late.

Brian Cage is going to have to play this smart. He can’t let his anger drive him. That’s exactly what Johnny wants him to do. If Cage is going to end this as the Impact World Heavyweight Champion, he’s going to have to slow things down, and let Johnny make his own mistake. With the amount of arrogance that lives inside the champ, it’s virtually guaranteed that he will.

And hopefully, in that moment, Cage will be 100% ready to strike, and get his revenge.

But most importantly, I was right. Send treats.