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31 Days of Wrestling (12/18/19): A Different Evolution (Tessa Blanchard Becomes #1 Contender to the Impact World Championship)


Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies, and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2019 produced for us.

When one speaks of Impact Wrestling in 2019, there are usually two stories to tell.

The first is of how the company, once the laughingstock of the entire pro wrestling industry, had quietly rebuilt itself to be a reputable promotion. Impact Wrestling, while not totally earthshattering, is more than decent now. It's breathed new life into older talents, talents who've become popular from places like Lucha Underground and various indies, and in turn those people have helped the company rise up from the bottom of the barrel.

The second is of how progressive it's being lately, with Tessa Blanchard breaking boundaries in a company like this.

In all its history, Impact, previously TNA, had generally treated its ladies better in North America. While women in the WWE were being marketed as the primarily eye-candy Divas, TNA's Knockouts were actually duking it out in the ring. One could say that there's a precedent for this year's development in the company.

Before this year, intergender pro wrestling had existed in the relative fringes of the industry. It usually existed in small indies, if it did at all. Sometimes it happened in the major leagues with some asterisks—like Chyna being big enough to go at it with the men and win the WWE Intercontinental Championship, or Jacqueline Moore doing the same for the WWE's cruiserweight division, or women like Beth Phoenix and Kharma competing in the Royal Rumble. We've seen women attack men in WWE's Mixed Match Challenge, but never the other way around. So it was never a thing; the only time it wasn't really played off as a novelty or gimmick was when Lucha Underground did it regularly, to the point that Sexy Star became a Lucha Underground Champion.

Lucha Underground, however, was a TV show not everybody watched. Of course, not everyone watches Impact too, but given their pedigree and legacy Tessa Blanchard going at it with the guys of the company is now arguably the biggest step the industry has taken to normalizing something we've already gotten used to here in the Philippines.

This all began when Blanchard started a feud with now-Impact World Champion Sami Callihan and his group oVe back at Slammiversary season, and that story did everything possible to portray her as an asskicker equal to the men. From here, the way she was portrayed would already be different than what we're used to seeing—no male backups, all her bringing the pain to a bunch of guys. This is when you know they had something else on their hands.

But what takes this to a whole new level is Impact's willingness to put Tessa Blanchard in a world championship spot.


As mentioned, the only other time we got something like this was in Lucha Underground, never a company as established as Impact Wrestling until now.

Blanchard earns the contendership by winning a gauntlet match on the November 19th episode of Impact, going through the monstrous Brian Cage. While there's something to be said about her going last and executing this moment better (see Kofi Kingston's MVP outing in a gauntlet earlier this year), her performance is still great, and the confidence to pull this decision off is impressive. The upcoming title match at Impact's Hard to Kill PPV on January 12 is worth a look for this matchup alone.

What this development tells us is that now that we've had our women's revolution and evolution, now that we've had our women's unabridged action and main events, now that we have The Man, this is definitely the next step the industry should find the courage to take. If there's anything Blanchard and Impact—and the rest of the world—have proven, it's that men aren't always stronger than women, and there is a way to do intergender wrestling that's logical and believable. 

There will be people who'll doubt, but as the saying goes, if you build it, they'll come. It's on big companies now to figure out a way to be creative enough to do this. The door's open, and they just have to step in.


*****

31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2019. Read our previous entries:

1. The Man Stands Tall at WrestleMania (Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey, WrestleMania 35)
2. The Game Changes (Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega, AEW Double or Nothing)
3. Still the Ace (Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kenny Omega, Wrestle Kingdom 13)
4. #KofiMania (Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan, WrestleMania 35)
5. Starting With A Bang (The Premiere of AEW Dynamite)
6. Let's Start A War (The Premiere of NXT On The USA Network)
7. For You And Me! For All Of Us! (Jake De Leon vs. TJP, PWR Homecoming)
8. It Takes a Bird and a Villain (G1 Climax Finals: Kota Ibushi vs. Jay White)
9. The Fall of Bray Wyatt and the Rise of the Fiend
10. Johnny Champion (Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano, NXT TakeOver: New York)
11. Do You Wanna Yeet a Four-Man? (QUATRO vs. Chris Panzer vs. Jeff Cobb, PWR Homecoming)
12. From Purveyor Of Violence To Death Rider (Jon Moxley in NJPW)
13. We Will Rock You! (Crystal vs. Emi Sakura, PWR Path of Gold 2019)
14. Revolutionary (QUATRO vs. IMABAYASHI, PWR Wrevolution X 2019)
15. Manila Has Fallen (Ho Ho Lun vs. Robin Sane, MWF 10: Republika)

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