Impact Wrestling holds its Slammiversary pay per view Saturday night, and legitimate anticipation surrounds the event.
Former WWE and IWGP tag team champions Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows confirmed they have signed with Impact, all but guaranteeing their presence at the show, more surprises are being teased, and a new world champion will be crowned. But more than mystery and suspense have helped drive the show’s build. One of the most compelling programs over the past month in wrestling will also have its pay-off match, as Jordynne Grace defends her Knockouts title against Deonna Purrazzo.
Grace won the belt in January from Taya Valkyrie following her nearly 400-day championship reign. Her challenger is now Purrazzo, who was among those cut by WWE in its mass release this past April.
“I’d worked with Deonna a lot on the independent scene before she got signed to WWE, and she was on the list of women I hoped Impact would sign when [WWE] did the mass release,” said Grace. “When I found out she was working with Impact, I was super excited.”
Grace is Trisha Parker, and despite all of her success in wrestling, she is only 24 years old. Purrazzo is two years older at 26, and both share a similar mindset and vision for pro wrestling in the way it should be presented in a realistic, competitive-based manner. And there has been instant chemistry in their title program, which has been a highlight of Impact programming since Purrazzo’s arrival at the end of May.
“You can tell when there’s chemistry or when there is none at all, and she’s one of those people I click with,” said Grace. “It probably has a lot to do with our age and how we have a similar mentality when it comes to wrestling.”
The foundation of the Grace-Purrazzo story entering Slammiversary is two competitors each intent on proving they are the superior wrestler and most deserving of the title.
“The build-up for this match has been the best out of any of them,” said Grace. “I think we deserve to be the main event. Match of the night, that’s the goal. I’m going to wrestle harder than I have in years.”
Impact continues to showcase its women’s division, following a standard significantly enhanced by the work of former champion Taya Valkyrie. Despite starring across the globe, Valkyrie remains one of wrestling’s most underrated talents.
“Our entire feud, we never had a bad match, said Grace. “I learned so much from her. A few months ago, I did a run-in on Taya when I hit her with a kendo stick. I hit her super hard and it shattered. I came to the back and she had someone taking a picture of her back. There was blood and red marks, and I know this is going to sound stupid, but I started crying because I felt terrible. She was like, ‘It’s wrestling, I knew it was going to happen.’
“That’s the moment I realized Taya is one of just the toughest people I’ve ever met. I’ve seen some of the videos of her matches in Mexico, but I’d never really realized how insane she is. She’s a legend and one of the best wrestlers in the world.”
The experience of holding the Knockouts belt has been instrumental in Grace’s progression as a performer, and she is quickly establishing herself among Impact’s signature stars.
“When you’re chasing the title, you know where everything you do is leading,” explained Grace. “But when you have the title, you don’t know what’s going to come next. You never know who is going to step up.”
Grace is also an important voice within the wrestling community. She is a part of the industry-changing SpeakingOut movement shining a necessary light on the industry’s transgressions, and she was asked how wrestling can continue to be a better, healthier industry.
“Wrestling can be a safer place if we keep speaking out,” said Grace. “People need to start speaking out when these kinds of things happen, no matter what the repercussions might be. And I don’t think there should be any repercussions at all.
“I remember specifically when I spoke up about the Sandman [regarding a discussion in 2019 about women main-eventing shows], I immediately got backlash from that. I don’t think that should be the case. People should speak up as soon as something happens, without the fear of anything bad happening to them or their career.”
Grace built her career on the indies, but a seminal moment occurred at All In in 2018 when she dazzled a red-hot crowd with her performance in the “Over The Budget Battle Royal.”
“I was building popularity on the independent scene up to that point, and I really lucked into that spot,” said Grace. “I don’t know how I got it or why it happened, but that completely changed the trajectory of what I was planning to do in my career and where I was headed.
“Very shortly after that, Impact became the first company to offer me a contract. I’d been wrestling for seven years at that point, and I still wasn’t sure if I would ever get a contract. That moment took me completely by surprise.”
Grace wrestles like she has something to prove, and that will be on display at Slammiversary as she shares the ring with an equally hungry performer in Purrazzo.
“My goal is for people to see me as one of the best wrestlers in the world, male or female,” said Grace. “That’s what I want people to think. I want people to come out of my match saying, ‘Jordynne Grace can work with anyone.’”