History was made at Hard to Kill as Tessa Blanchard became the first woman to compete for the men's world title in a major wrestling promotion. Her opponent? The vile, disgusting heel who had plagued her career for the entire year prior, Impact Wrestling's ultimate villain, Sami Callihan.
The champion caught his rival with a pump kick and piledriver for two right off the bat. Tessa answered with Magnum for a two-count of her own. A series of dives to the floor gave way to a rana. A somersault senton by Blanchard continued her roll.
Callihan, though, sent the third-generation star into the guardrail, with her legs crashing into it. From there, the champion targeted her limbs, working her over with an Indian Deathlock in hopes of forcing a tap out and ending her Cinderella story.
Every opportunity Blanchard had to fire off some offense Callihan answered by dropping her and adding to her misery. Arrogant beyond reproach, The Death Machine exclaimed it was his ring before stepping over and on his challenger.
Blanchard sent Callihan to the floor and dodged a big elbow drop. She fired off some forearms to the face but the champion slapped her to the mat. Outside the ring, he continued to manhandle his challenger, powerbombing her through a table.
Looking to send a message, and perhaps end the career of Blanchard, Callihan exposed the arena floor. The defiant challenger came face-to-face with her rival but he responded with an eye gouge. Tessa answered with one of her own and delivered another Magnum, this one knocking the champion to the floor.
Her face etched with pain, Blanchard made it to her feet and unloaded on Callihan with a forearm. She dared her opponent to hit her and he did. Then again. The third time, he kicked her knee out from under her. Blanchard, though, caught Callihan with a big Samoan Drop as the crowd erupted.
Tessa delivered another Magnum, received another two-count. Callihan recovered and delivered the Get Outta Here shoulder breaker for another near-fall. The competitors delivered a series of strikes until Blanchard shook off a German suplex and downed the heel with a cutter for the closest two of the bout.
Callihan answered with a powerbomb into a single-leg crab. He transitioned into an STF, looking to put Blanchard out and end her championship aspirations. She just made it to the ropes and frustration set in.
Callihan grabbed the world title but the referee prevented him from using it. He tried for brass knuckles but she blasted him below the belt. A fourth Magnum followed, as did a crossface of Blanchard's own, but Callihan fought out and dropped her with another piledriver for another two-count.
Spit on by the champion, Blanchard unloaded, delivered two straight destroyer piledrivers and finished Callihan off with the hammerlock DDT for the most improbable, historic championship victory ever.
Blanchard defeated Callihan to win the Impact Wrestling Championship
This match and its implications are more meaningful to the role of women in professional wrestling than any buzzword, Evolution pay-per-view or WrestleMania main event.
In a day and age when everyone wants to champion the role of women in sports entertainment, Impact Wrestling recognized the diamond in the rough it had on its hands and made a concentrated effort to build Blanchard into the company's biggest star. Not by having her compete against Taya Valkyrie and the rest of the women's division, but by putting her in the ring with the top male stars under contract.
For months, she built credibility by working with Callihan and OVE, partnering with Tommy Dreamer, Rob Van Dam and Rhino, and even scoring a win over Brian Cage. She was primed, pushed and groomed for the spot because Impact recognized it had the potential to make history, to show the critics that intergender wrestling could be handled correctly and to prove a woman could thrive against any man and in the highest-profile spots on the card.
Sunday's Hard to Kill pay-per-view main event was not just a momentous one for Blanchard, whose legacy in pro wrestling has been written even as her career still feels it is in its infancy. No, Hard to Kill was a victory lap for Impact Wrestling, which identified a young performer as the star of its future and booked her in a spot no other woman in the history of the sport had ever been.
Then it pulled the proverbial trigger.
Now, Blanchard faces a future of both stardom and uncertainty.
She is clearly the face of Impact Wrestling, but who steps up to challenge her for the gold first? Does Callihan get a rematch or does the company opt not to overexpose that match? Could Moose or Rob Van Dam provide the challenge?
Whatever the case turns out to be, there is one thing that absolutely cannot happen: Blanchard cannot lose the title in short order.
If she does, this feels like a cheap win aimed at making headlines without really changing anything. This has to stick. Blanchard has to be the champion around whom shows are built. Otherwise, it was a cheap ploy rather than the industry-altering win it should be.