The importance of Tessa Blanchard vs. Sami Callihan

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Impact Wrestling Slammiversary will see Tessa Blanchard square off with Sami Callihan in one of 2019’s most important matches.

While there won’t be a title on the line when Tessa Blanchard takes on Sami Callihan at Impact Wrestling Slammiversary Pay Per View on Sunday, this match is an extremely important one for both Impact and professional wrestling as a whole.

For years, wrestling fans have been clamoring for intergender wrestling to make a comeback in an empowering way, having watched wrestlers like Candice LeRae go toe-to-toe with men. WWE entered Nia Jax into the Royal Rumble in a match-defining moment, but most major promotions have still shown reluctance towards pitting their women against their men. There have been mixed tag matches and tournaments, but no straight-up singles matches.

Impact Wrestling changes that tomorrow at one of their two biggest shows of the year, Slammiversary. Tessa Blanchard will fight Sami Callihan in a match that has so much on the line emotionally for both competitors. Right now, Blanchard feels like the biggest babyface in the company and Callihan, by proxy, the biggest heel.

Most importantly, this isn’t James Ellsworth vs. Becky Lynch or even Tessa Blanchard vs. Glenn Gilbertti; Blanchard and Callihan are portrayed as equals in the ring. That means if Blanchard beats Callihan at Slammiversary, it won’t be the expected, obvious result. No, it’ll be a hard-fought, grueling match in which Blanchard overcomes a formidable opponent and stakes her claim as the No. 1 contender to Brian Cage’s Impact World Championship.

Wrestling has needed a match like this for some time, and for as many things as Impact Wrestling has gotten wrong in 2019, intergender wrestling just might be the most important thing they get right. Every single woman in wrestling is capable of going move-for-move with a man in the ring, but Impact Wrestling has the two perfect wrestlers for that first major foray into intergender wrestling in Tessa and Jordynne Grace, who are more than strong enough to make the “believable bros” eat spoonful of “shut up” soup.

Although the build to Blanchard vs. Callihan has been fraught with the usual sexism from men competing in intergender wrestling matches, at least it serves the purpose of giving Callihan some more heat to balance out Blanchard’s extreme popularity. There’s no question that the Impact Wrestling fan base is fully behind Blanchard, who has earned a reputation as being the best wrestler in the company and one of the top five women’s wrestlers on the planet. In many ways, she is on par with Rosemary as Impact’s biggest star right now.

So it’s only fitting for Blanchard to be in this marquee match with Callihan. And while we can only hope Impact Wrestling and other promotions will one day cease to use blatant misogyny from heels to build intergender wrestling matches, this feud has given us some bad-ass moments.

Just look at the segment below from the go-home show of Impact Wrestling before Slammiversary.

Blanchard was awesome here. She overcame the numerical disadvantage, hit Callihan with a baseball bat (a taste of his own medicine!), and looked like an absolute star in this segment. From the moment she announced her arrival to the end of the segment when she stood over a shocked Callihan, Blanchard emphatically made a statement that she is a main event player.

This Slammiversary matchup is must-see, but there can only be one winner here. Blanchard is the babyface who needs to overcome Callihan, who is one of wrestling’s most odious heels. This, as’s Zach Bartlett describes, needs to be that cathartic win for the fans, since they have supported Blanchard with all of their hearts. This angle has generated so many views for Impact Wrestling on YouTube, which signifies both the popularity of the performers and the desire from the fan base for more intergender wrestling.

Impact have done wisely to jump on this and to do it with a legitimate feud between two high-profile wrestlers in the company. Not only does this match have broader implications for intergender wrestling in Impact and beyond, but it also has broader implications for the next Impact World Championship opponent.

Brian Cage will defend his title against Michael Elgin, and it’s safe to say Cage is the favorite to retain. I note Cage’s presence as the champion, because he once faced Blanchard in a well-received intergender match at WrestleCircus. (Just before the 20-minute mark, Blanchard gets Cage up on her shoulders for a GTS…yeah she was incredible in this match.)  On top of that, Cage also had a memorable intergender spot with Jordynne Grace in the battle royal at All In last year.

So it’s not out of the realm of reason to think that a victorious Blanchard could become the No. 1 contender for the Impact World Championship. And a Cage vs. Blanchard match at a bigger promotion like Impact has a chance to make huge waves. The WrestleCircus match alone has 668,000 views on YouTube, and it’s fair to expect a rivalry between Cage and Blanchard for one of Impact’s two most important titles to generate even more interest.

Their history gives Blanchard some unfinished business, and she only just game up short in a 20-minute classic against Cage last year. Interestingly enough, Impact has already given fans a throwback to a past WrestleCircus match, as Blanchard beat Dave Crist in 2018.

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Of course, the best reason to keep an eye on Tessa Blanchard vs. Sami Callihan at Slammiversary is the fact that it’s going to be an awesome match. Callihan brings it in bitter rivalries, and Blanchard is firmly entrenched as one of the best wrestlers on this planet. She has become so good over the past two years it’s downright scary, and another brilliant performance on Sunday will have her well on the way towards entering the Impact World Championship conversation.

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