In a landmark televised program put on by TNA, Thursday marked the first episode of the new look, new format, “wrestling matters” Impact Wrestling. Like it or not, not only was the set drastically different, but the booking was overhauled, seeing Knockouts matches bookend the program with every match in between featuring X Division competitors.
Beside the new, streamlined name of the program, it looked as if The Blue Man Group from across the lot got their hands on the Impact Zone and in the production truck, because everything was some shade of blue. Frankly, it put me in a time warp back to 1998 and made me feel like I was watching La Parka and Glacier fight it out on an episode of WCW Thunder. In a show of commitment to the TNA rebranding, the title card was also completely changed, reeling through close to all the wrestlers on the roster, essentially telling us that yes, more wrestling is about to happen.
The biggest angle of the night came at the beginning when Eric Bischoff announced the complete squash of the X Division, prompting guys like Generation Me, Brian Kendrick, and Amazing Red to call out the bigwigs and continue their push into the spotlight. Immortal answered in kind by setting up disadvantageous matches and eventually brawling with the X Division. Fortune, minus AJ Styles, rushed the ring for the save. I normally don’t care for these cheesy brawl openings, but the high flyers were involved this time, so you were able to see Gen Me and Red use guys like Gunner and Abyss as landing pads for their aerial assaults.
The match of the night was easily Kazarian dropping the X Division belt to Abyss. Kaz, now outfitted with the post-Sacrifice pants look, totally controlled the match, with Abyss doing his best ogre impersonation. I initially thought this match wouldn’t work, but it was lengthy, without commercial interruption, and aside from a ridiculous Kaz hurricanrana, set the table for what should have been wall-to-wall wrestling.
In an ending that completely caught me off guard, Abyss was favoring his knee after a failed splash, causing Kaz to take his eye off the monster long enough for Abyss to catch him with a bone crushing Black Hole Slam and the win. Kaz would later be announced as kayfabe injured, but after what I saw, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kaz takes the month off.
It was definitely time for Kaz to drop the belt, but to Abyss? I’ll get to the complete dismantling of Fortune later, but I can only hope that Abyss is keeping it warm for one of those other guys in that division. It made sense for Abyss to hold the TV title, and lord know he leaves it out there each and every night, but this could set a dangerous precedent for defining exactly what the X Division is if Abyss holds it for more than a couple of weeks. I’m predicting someone like Kendrick gets his shot at the title, with the other guys from the locker room, heel and face, running interference and taking back the belt.
While the first episode of Impact Wrestling was very enjoyable, I found it mindboggling that a show that’s really driving home the point of wrestling being main attraction books the last two segments as in ring promos. The first came when Ric Flair called out Robert Roode to talk about respect or some nonsense. In case you missed it, Flair’s arm surgery was written as Roode putting that nasty armbar on him at Lockdown and shelving him indefinitely.
I like Roode’s look as a potential main event guy for the company, and lately his mic work has been decent, but tonight he crashed and burned going on about it “just being business, Ric.” It wasn’t just business…he betrayed you and the rest of Fortune. Therefore, the booking called for you guys to murder his ass. Roode and Flair exchanged blows before Immortal came out and destroyed Roode.
The very brief closing segment saw Sting address the crowd and congratulate Rob Van Dam on their match last Sunday at Sacrifice. As a teaser for the entire episode, low cut shots of someone dressed as early 90′s yelling Daytona Sting paced through the backstage, and after Sting’s music hit again and the lights went out, it’s revealed as Mr. Anderson impersonating Sting, who gets dropped with ease. Instead of the tease throughout the episode, couldn’t this have been booked as a preliminary, feeling out type of match that gave the fans at home and in the arena a taste of what they could expect at Slammiversary? Give both guys five or six minutes, and at the end, BAM, show Anderson for the first time in the Sting gear and let them wrestle. That’s the kind of show I’m watching, right? Wrestling?
The other plans to rid TNA completely of the X Division included sending Amazing Red against Samoa Joe and have Generation Me fight the laughable team of Matt Hardy and Eric Bischoff. The Red match lasted all of a minute as Joe quickly overpowered the little guy and ended it with a brutal Muscle Buster finisher. Afterwards, Joe stuck around and continued attacking Red in what smells like another terrible heel turn until Crimson came out for the save.
Mike Tenay couldn’t have said it better when he described the night as featuring a “very rare Eric Bischoff in ring match.” On paper this looked like a throwaway disaster, but it turned out to be a well paced match where all the characters were used effectively and the match finish was clean. Matt Hardy dominated both Buck brothers early, but he really needs to nix that stupid, no leverage headlock he’s been using. If someone stood directly to my side and put my neck in between their forearms, I might piss myself laughing so hard. Throughout the bout, Bischoff was clearly avoiding the tag in, but eventually came in after Hardy incapacitated Max with the Icepick. Hardy held up Max for a couple of soft Bischoff karate blows, leading to Bischoff cleaning pinning Max for the win. Oy, that’s not gonna look good on the Buck brothers resume.
The two intermission promos saw Kurt Angle address the victory over the Jarretts and AJ Styles (with neckbrace) call out Tommy Dreamer. Nothing really to see here, other than it was announced that Jarrett and Angle would be fighting “one last time” at Slammiversary, with the winner getting the No. 1 Contender spot for the TNA World title. Also, because they apparently have been watching the Lawler-Cole segments on Raw, Jarrett asked Angle to put up or shut up and wager Angle’s 1996 Olympic Gold Medal, which he accepted. To add insult to Angle apparently not knowing how bargaining works, Karen Jarrett arrived through Kurt’s stage lift and announced that she’ll be in Jeff’s corner at Slammiversary.
What the H?!? What’s wrong with you, TNA? You had this match at Sacrifice where Chyna dismantled Karen and broke her ankle, leaving Angle free to fight Jarrett by himself. Either kill the deadweight and get Karen off TV, or let the Jarretts weasel out another win and continue humiliating Kurt. What was the point of bringing in Chyna if nothing has changed? This booking is dreadful and at this point I could care less about their blow off match at the PPV.
In the stinker of the night, AJ Styles and Tommy Dreamer had one of the more rambling, cheaply written confrontations I’ve seen in a while. Tommy Dreamer read straight from the playbook of “Cheap Heat and How to Get Fans Po’d at You!” and called them all “pieces of crap” and “crappy, unthankful fans” about a million times. A brawl eventually led to a Dreamer and Bully Ray beat down of Styles and the incoming Christopher Daniels. By golly, it was chains, low blows, and piledrivers everywhere you looked!
With Styles banged up and the announcements of James Storm having a concussion and Kazarian a hurt back (I think Christopher Daniels was assigned a random injury, too) TNA wasted no time in burying Fortune, which is one of their more marketable brands. I’m not sure where they are going with this Disabled List angle, but as much as I thought the X Division title was expendable for Kaz, the Tag Team belts are now a must keep for Beer Money in order to keep the face faction relevant.
I hinted at a potential program between Gunner and Eric Young for the TV title and TNA came through for me. Gunner finally caught up to and assaulted Young, who was in the middle of a fake photo shoot with Miss Tessmacher. Despite the controversial character Young plays, I still think the guy is gold in the ring and working with a muscle head heel like Gunner should make for a great series of matches for the midcard.
In Knockouts action, Velvet Sky pulled the upset in the handicap match against Winter and her slave puppet, Angelina Love. Velvet absolutely killed it, utilizing her trademark Beautiful People trash talk on offense and really selling the tandem beating when necessary. As Angelina hovered over a laid out Velvet, Velvet rolled her up for the surprise win but was quickly attacked by a returning heel version of ODB. ODB is a pretty fun character to watch, so hopefully TNA inked her for a substantial contract this time.
The not so good portion came when Tara, Mickie James, and Miss Tessmacher defeated the team of Sarita, Rosita, and Madison Rayne. This match was kind of a train wreck—neither Madison nor Mickie landed much in the way of any offense and when the ball was given to Tessmacher she looked completely uncoordinated in the ring. Tara carried the end of the match, delivering a couple of high impact slams on tiny Rosita for the win.
VERDICT. While Mick Foley may claim that wrestling matters now, we still only saw five matches, two of which were Knockouts and one that didn’t break the minute mark. Universal Studios wasn’t built in a day, so it’s probably going to take a couple of months for the promise of a new, energized product to grab us by the thoughts and tell us how different they are from the boys up north. This is what I’m hoping happens. However, we could easily see the demise of civilization and see someone like Eric Bischoff and his “karate robe” win a belt in the near future. Paul E. Dangerously, save us all. 6/10
Impact Wrestling 05-19-11 Results
TARA, MICKIE JAMES, and MISS TESSMACHER def. ROSITA, SARITA, and MADISON RAYNE, pinfall
ABYSS def. KAZARIAN for the X Division title, pinfall
SAMOA JOE def. AMAZING RED, pinfall
ERIC BISCHOFF and MATT HARDY def. GENERATION ME, pinfall
VELVET SKY def. WINTER and ANGELINA LOVE in a handicap match, pinfall
CagesideSeats.com has a fascinating look at the inner workings of TNA Wrestling. This well documented report exposes TNA Wrestling as anything but the family friendly company that you would expect being run by a 46 year old mother of two.
Camel Clutch Blog contributor Brett Clendaniel alerted me of a very interesting article that has popped up online about TNA Wrestling and its working conditions. Ironically Tom just recently wrote a piece about TNA’s questionable working conditions here for Camel Clutch Blog. S. Bruce over at Cage Side Seats goes further, documenting a nine year history of working conditions that would make Kathie Lee Gifford proud.
I don’t want to re-write the entire article, but I do want to touch on a few major points of the piece. The piece documents numerous discrepancies between TNA’s policy in paying for their wrestler’s medical expenses and not. The article also documents the incredible differences in pay between men and women in the company and the hypocrisy of the company when it comes to working conditions. It is a heck of a piece and well worth going out of your way to read.
A few of the highlights that Mr. Bruce uncovers is for one, the settlement in the Konnan lawsuit. Former TNA star Konnan sued TNA Wrestling a few years back for racial discrimination and refusing to pay his medical bills. According to this article TNA actually settled with Konnan for a rumored $1 million (hope he paid back some of those donations) because of initial findings that the company did not want to get out.
Another big topic of the piece is the safety of the pro wrestlers in TNA Wrestling. According to the piece, Alex Shelley and Brian Kendrick were encouraged to perform a more high risk style, even though the company refuses to pay for most wrestlers’ medical bills. The company paid for Ron Killings’ surgery for an injury he received through a TNA booking and then demanded their money back, while the company reportedly paid for Scott Steiner’s surgery on the house. Dixie Carter allowed Eric Bischoff to pressure Rob Terry into taking an unprotected chair shot to the head, even though there is plenty of medical evidence pointing to chair shots to the head causing concussions. Angelina Love who is one of the biggest stars of the company says she worked a few days after receiving a concussion on a TNA show because she couldn’t afford time off. OSCHA, I think we have a problem.
The subject of pay is also brought up and whether the girls who wrestle in TNA are the victims of discrimination. The article points out that while the girls are consistently the highest ratings draw in the company, they are also some of the least paid girls on the roster. According to the piece, Awesome Kong was being paid $400 a match while Survivor star Johnny Fairplay made $300,000 for 40 minutes of work and Sting was being paid $10,000 per appearance. As unfair as that may sound, I don’t think the girls would have a case because I can almost bet Mickie James is making a nice nickel and Christy Hemme reportedly signed a $150,000 year contract a few years back. Sorry ladies.
One of the most humorous anecdotes and I am still laughing at this one goes back to the Voodoo Kin Mafia’s DX challenge a few years ago. To refresh your memories because if you are like me you barely remember what happened on TNA Impact last week, Brian Armstrong and Kip James issued a $1 million challenge to Triple H and Shawn Michaels to come to TNA and “fight them.” The kicker is that Dixie Carter allegedly set $1 million aside and was surprised that Degeneration X never showed up. Ah, to be a fly on the wall in Hogan and Bischoff’s office after a Dixie Carter booking meeting.
There is also a real interesting story regarding Ric Flair’s shenanigans a few weeks ago when he missed the bus on the European tour. According to the story, Flair told a friend that the company pressured Kurt Angle to stay on the tour after Kurt found out that his pregnant girlfriend went into labor and both she and the unborn baby were in serious danger. While Angle made it home in time, the company allegedly held him up from leaving which forced Kurt to arrive home much later than expected.
Hey, it’s a horrible story but it was just last week that Kurt Angle announced on Twitter that he is re-signing with TNA Wrestling and that he loves Dixie Carter. If it doesn’t bother Kurt I guess it shouldn’t bother anyone, but the Nature Boy wasn’t very happy to say the least.
The article goes on and on and chronicles other issues like reported drug use within the company, harassment, drug testing, the road schedule, and a lot more. It is certainly a scathing piece and one of the most comprehensive looks at the inner workings of TNA Wrestling over the last nine years.
I will conclude by saying this. While I think a lot of what is reported in the story is terrible, nobody is holding a gun to anyone’s head to work there (although Vince Russo must have pictures on someone). At the end of the day everyone in TNA Wrestling knows what they are getting into when they step into the TNA rings and if they want to work under those conditions, I really don’t sympathize too much with them. I can’t imagine anyone in TNA Wrestling being surprised the next time they get injured and receive a medical bill or shocked that Sting makes more than them.
There are other options out there. What did Gail Kim, Ron Killings, and Awesome Kong do? They left the company. Only Kim had a deal in place when she left, as the other two just had enough. I guess the thought of losing $400 a week wasn’t too terrifying for Kong. Point being, that there are other options out there for pro wrestlers besides TNA. Even if the WWE isn’t an option, there are international and independent options. And believe it or not, there are other options other than being a pro wrestler. It may not be fair, but again you know what you are getting into when you join TNA.
The medical bills issue has been a point of contention for some time in TNA. The WWE does pay the medical bills of injured WWE superstars. However, I never understood why none of the professional wrestlers from either company went ahead and pursued insurance through AFTRA. Heck, you have the WWE now calling themselves entertainment television and TNA wrestlers are performing on television every week. There are people that make a living doing television extra work sitting in the background that get AFTRA insurance so why can’t a professional wrestler who puts in hours of television time per week?
The author of the piece sent TNA Wrestling a few emails for comments. He got a very quick response from Terry Taylor but nothing more. I think it would be to TNA Wrestling’s benefit to either a) respond to the story or b) acknowledge it and improve their working conditions. Keep in mind that this is not your average independent pro wrestling company here. This is a company funded by Panda Energy, a multi-million or even billion dollar energy company. Heck, they found $1 million to pay two WWE wrestlers that don’t even wrestle there!
If you don’t believe any of this and while the writer backs up all of his claims with citations, just check out what Hulk Hogan wrote last week after Edge retired. Keep in mind that Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff probably work closer with Dixie Carter than anyone else in the company. When he signed with the company, Dixie Carter referred to him as a partner.
WWE superstar Edge retired last week because he was told that if he wrestled again, he could be paralyzed. Like Edge or not, that is pretty serious stuff and it was enough for Edge to hang them up. This is how “Dixie’s assistant” Hulk Hogan responded to the news on Twitter.
if any of the guys like me,Flair,Hardy,Andre,AA,Blanchard,orndoff,Henning would have listened to doctors we would have quit15yrsago – @hulkhogan4real
I don’t know Edges working environment because they are a media company not a wrestling company. HH wrestlers work hurt! – @hulkhogan4real
What about Foley! I bet EDGE still wants to keep wrestling,he’s one of the boys big time!!! – @hulkhogan4real
Think there is any pressure in TNA to work hurt? “Wrestlers work hurt!” This coming from the guy who now has to walk around with rods in his back while Edge is planning on climbing Mount Everest.
Will any of these issues change? I think it will take more than a $1 million lawsuit by Konnan or an article online to do it. It is going to take a serious and I mean serious lawsuit from a current or former TNA star, an expose’ by a major news organization, public pressure on Panda Energy, a tragedy, or an outright revolt by the roster. Unless any of the above happens, as fans and viewers there isn’t much you can do. If you disagree with it, don’t watch and make your statement through your lack of business. If you do watch, enjoy it and remember that these guys and girls aren’t forced to be there.
I would also like readers to keep in mind that I am only commenting on what is in Cageside Seats’ article. I’d recommend heading over to their site and leaving a comment if you have any issue with specifics from their article. In other words, don’t kill the messenger.
After the Jeff Hardy debacle at Victory Road Sunday, I was really expecting TNA to put on an excellent show in the face of adversity and criticism. In case you weren’t one of the handful of people who watched the potentially great PPV, Hardy was nearly incapacitated to the point that he had to be held up on each arm right before coming out for his Heavyweight title match against Sting in the main event. He stumbled to the ring, almost tripped twice, got into altercations with fans, saw more in-ring action with his t-shirt than Sting, and was eventually pinned in a mere 90 seconds without landing an offensive move.
Once again, that was the main event at their pay-per-view, a show that ended a good 20 minutes before the three hour mark and saw the other high profile match, Rob Van Dam and Mr. Anderson, end in a double count out. Many people speculated about Hardy’s drug use, conditioning, and overall commitment to the sport, but whatever it was it led to Hardy being sent home for all three Impact tapings this week. Ouch.
So what could TNA do to make up for such a blunder? I mean, not too many people see the PPV’s anyway; Impact, however, remains the top rated show on SPIKE, so an explosive show with coherency and PPV-worthy matches should cure what ails them. It’s just too bad this show was a load of crap served on the plate Hardy uses to bump lines off of day in and day out.
STING OPENING. This was one of the silliest, most contrived openings I’ve seen in a while. Hey, did ya check out wrestling to take a break from March Madness or that tumbler of green colored Miller Lite? Switch back to UCLA-Michigan State now, because it’s about to get lame. Sting is the first out, showing off a new Heavyweight title and limply carrying the old Immortal title (that’s three different TNA belts since September, people). The champ demands that Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan join him ringside and they oblige.
The only redeeming part of this segment was the frank discussion about Jeff Hardy letting down Immortal on Sunday. Even though Bischoff spun it to sound like Hardy just had his worst, unluckiest match of all time, it was clearly an analogy for Hardy’s shortcomings behind the curtain, and all three guys justifiably teed off on the former champ. Hogan even showed his sense of humor, telling Sting, “put that in your Stinger pipe and smoke it!”
After the Hardy roast, for no apparent reason Bully Ray came out and demanded a title shot from Sting. This prompted AJ Styles and the rest of Fortune, followed by Mr. Anderson and his best Jim Carey impression, with all parties once again demanding a title shot. Like tossing a bunch of random ingredients into a crock pot, tonight’s main event came together swell—Styles, Ray, Rob Van Dam, and Anderson in a 4-way for the No. 1 Contender spot.
MADISON RAYNE vs. ALYSSA FLASH. I think they said the girl’s name was “Alyssa Flash” but you wouldn’t know otherwise because Madison came out to ambush her as she was coming down the ramp, threw a couple of punches and landed the Rain Drop, winning in a cool 20 seconds. As expected, Mickie James came out to the ring and demanded a title shot at Lockdown. Madison counters with a brilliant point about her being something like 76-0 against Mickie at TNA, so why would she deserve the match? Rayne explicitly stated that she wants Mickie’s head—more precisely, her hair. So, if Mickie loses, she’ll have her head shaved by Madison at Lockdown. As much as I love Madison, that’s just gross. Cool match TNA, now Alyssa, go back to selling Abyss masks at the merch table.
THE POPE HEALER. In a more blatant attempt to become more heel, The Pope holds a healing ceremony and it features a blind man, a cripple, and a comically obese woman, replete with fat suit. Although this made me chuckle a couple of times, it was still gratingly corny and surprisingly ended when Samoa Joe crashed the party with Okada. Pope gained the upper hand, kidnapped Okada and tortured him backstage until Joe found them and made the save. Man, those guys are always meddling in each other’s business. They should probably settle this in a steel cage, huh, Russo?
JARRETTS IN RING. Jeff and Karen arrive and say they want to extend the olive branch to Kurt Angle after these past few turbulent months. In an event so shocking that you have to change your pants, Angle comes out with present in tow, revealing it to be a guitar. Said guitar is then smashed over Jeff’s head and he is bleeding everywhere! Clean up on aisle snore. Later, Karen would freak out and demand that Kurt be arrested.
GUNNER vs. MURPHY vs. ROB TERRY. Bischoff set up this match as a triple threat to fill the vacant TV title, last held by a very MIA Abyss. How bad has this episode been so far? This is the first men’s match and we are 75 minutes into the program. Sheesh. This match was also extremely short, ending with Gunner’s sweet overhead slam on Murphy to win the belt. I’ll give ‘em credit here…this match was so out of left field that it worked, possibly vaulting Gunner as a legitimate lunatic heel (he bent down and grasped the belt with his mouth like a dog).
HERNANDEZ, SARITA, and ROSITA vs. MATT MORGAN, ANGELINA LOVE, and WINTER. Grrr, street fight! Jeans! Mexicans! This match had it all! Dying to hear Hernandez cut a sociology-driven promo in the ring? In stock. In desperate need of another two-minute, house fire of a match? Got ya covered. Yearning to find out what four-foot-nothin’ Rosita would look like wrestling against the seven footer, Matt Morgan? Sorry, get a rain check. Winter ended up pinning Rosita, but the team’s celebration was cut short when a plant jumped the ring to assist Hernandez in what I hope Russo dubs The Mexi-vasion.
AJ STYLES vs. ROB VAN DAM vs. BULLY RAY vs. MR. ANDERSON. Star power was bountiful in this first pin four-way main event, but it just started off sloppy. Styles even tried the classic move steal by attempting the monkey flip, but to no avail. At one point, each guy hits another with a signature move and goes for the pin attempt. This was one of the better executed moments of the night, but it’s still horribly predictable as nothing more than space filler. Eventually, referee Earl Hebner saw both Anderson and RVD lying down, just kind of next to each other and decided to count a pin for no one in particular. My brother and I put on more coherent endings to matches in our living room as kids.
Because he wants people to know he’s a dick, Bully Ray smashes both Hebner and ring announcer Jeremy Borash over the head before turning his attention to Styles, who he eventually beats down thanks to an assist from Ric Flair. Flair then coerced Ray to hit Styles with a Bubba Bomb, dropping from the stage onto a table down below.
Then this stuff happened: Styles is being treated by EMTs while Ray celebrates and wants more of a lifeless AJ…the producers show almost TWENTY replays of the bomb, even while selling that someone potentially broke their neck…there is still no definitive number one contender, while I mumble something about throwing Eric Young’s name into the fold (hire me, Dixie)…while AJ is being lifted into the ambulance, Kaz gets into his car and on his phone, clearly distressed. That last part was so random and out of place, it almost makes me think that Kaz is some sort of Immortal mole, something I’d have to see to believe. While I would vehemently hate the idea, I wouldn’t put it past creative to pull a swerve like that.
VERDICT. Annnnd, that was the show. I think we saw a grand total of 12 minutes of wrestling, which couldn’t hold a candle to that last 15 minutes of awkward post-Ray clean-up. This was TNA’s chance to right the ship after an abysmal PPV, but we were treated to nothing better than the cutting room scraps. Perhaps it was already waiving the weekly white flag in the face of NCAA basketball, or perhaps this was just a sign of things to come. Whatever it was, I can guarantee you that WWE’s The Miz wouldn’t come close to calling it “awesome.” 2/10
Wow, TNA. After a couple of mailed in showings, you guys really bounced back nice with a soothing blend of unpredictability and a hint of ridiculousness. You not only gave us the back and forth matches that loyal TNA fans deserve, but also a shocker (to me, at least) ending.
KURT ANGLE IN RING OPENING. A bit of a rough start as Angle comes out, only to be interrupted by all 40 guys in Immortal, who rush the ring in typical Foot Clan fashion. Fortunately, Crimson comes out to somewhat even the score with a 2×4, scaring Immortal away. Immortal’s disruptive ways are getting stale fast, but what really surprised me was Ric Flair’s on point rant. He turned bright red, his veins popped, and he was on the verge of belligerent before calling Crimson “dumbass” about four times. That’s about the right level of crazy I like my Flair. Too bad for Ric he may have worn out his welcome in TNA—for more on that, read Eric’s thoughts on his recent antics.
SARITA, TARA, and MADISON RAYNE vs. MICKIE JAMES, VELVET SKY, and ANGELINA LOVE. This match is elimination style rules, and thank you for that. This is one of the best gimmicks in wrestling, so why have the big boys in wrestling run away from it? I was reading up on last year’s Survivor Series and the WWE only scheduled one Survivor Series-style match, it being a mid-card to boot. Anyway, we were treated to a pretty lengthy match this time, which surprisingly saw both Madison and Mickie eliminated early. There were some rough patches, for sure, but Angelina eventually scored the win after overcoming Sarita and a hapless Tara. Afterwards, Velvet is seen backstage holding her head, and all signs point to a jealous Winter as the assailant.
PROMOS. Kurt Angle is shown in his locker room, talking to someone about having his back later tonight. This should be good, considering the recent payrolls slashes the Carters have made and the opportunity to bring in cheap talent like ROH’s El Generico. After the break, Matt Hardy came on and cut a dreadful promo, threatening Mr. Anderson and talking about their match later tonight. What a haphazard investment-at this point, give the mic to Gunner or Murphy over this clown.
AMAZING RED vs. MAX BUCK vs. CHRIS SABIN. This match could have been so much more exciting, but it’s still ran circles around anything Jeff Jarrett or Abyss have done in months. This is the first of three matches to determine a No. 1 Contender for Kazarian’s X Division belt, who ended up being fairly amusing on the broadcast with Tenay and Taz. The producers threw us something new to chew on, as each wrestler coming to the ring cut a mini-promo that was shown picture-in-picture during their entrances. Nothing said was prophetic, but I really appreciate the curve ball.
In the end, Max Buck took the win, thanks in large part to interference run by his partner, Jeremy Buck. It was good to see the slightly older Red put over the other guys, but his arsenal seemed stunted and buried. Also, this no doubt means that we know Alex Shelley will win one of the other two qualifying matches, with Robbie E or Jay Lethal taking the other spot. Unless the writers have plans to have Jeremy winning, leading to a potential X Division schism between Generation Me. I’m in favor of the latter.
JEFF JARRETT and KAREN BACKSTAGE. Nice little package to add on to Jarrett’s heel persona. Everything from him inquiring about his wife receiving half of Angle Foods to Jarrett getting fresh with Karen and demanding a shoulder rub provided us more reason to dislike Double J. Nothing like good old spousal abuse to get the blood running.
JEFF HARDY and MR. ANDERSON IN RING. Hardy comes out looking full blown ‘emo’ and delivers an angry rant that never quite settled. My guess is somewhere around that taping is when the realization sunk in that he is probably going to jail. While I don’t blame him, he was by no means entertaining nor did he legitimize the title match he is about to receive next week. Luckily, Mr. Anderson and his superb mic skills killed all the negativity Hardy brought to the table. Anderson is slowly getting better in the ring and his peripherals are among the best I see in wrestling today, so don’t be surprised if when his TNA contract is up, the boys up north blow up his phone.
VELVET SKY and WINTER IN RING. Velvet comes to ring, clearly upset and calls out Winter, who comes out and destroys the Beautiful People member. Not much to see here, but Angelina comes out to separate to two, while the crowd laughably chants “she’s a screamer!” I like Winter’s character—she often goes into banshee mode and does it ten times better than Madison Rayne. Bonus points for extended Knockouts action, which could lead to two Knockouts matches at February’s Against All Odds.
POPE IN RING. The Pope comes out and more or less says that he doesn’t like Samoa Joe. Hmm, nice development in the riveting Pope/Joe feud, TNA. This was definitely prime time to grab a beer, but at least Pope wasn’t subjecting us to his sophomoric humor.
IMMORTAL BACKSTAGE. What, more Immortal? It should be said at this point that Flair arranged a match featuring Angle and Crimson against every healthy member of the evil faction. So, as cohesive teams are wont to do, they huddle up to rally spirits, only Eric Young is there to join in. More crazy Eric Young moments like these, please, but at this point I am just feeling bad for the guy. What could he have possibly done to incur the wrath of a mentally challenged character as punishment? If it was punishment, that’s too bad; it’s working well on a comedic level (supplemental reading: Perry Saturn falling in love with a mop and why you shouldn’t piss off your boss).
DIXIE CARTER ON THE PHONE. For something that they promoted during the run down this was a huge disappointment. Carter joined us via phone for no more than 30 seconds and told us all what we could have safely assumed: by God, she’s going to take back control of this company, and those knuckleheads Bischoff and Hogan will pay. Next time, guys, don’t even bother.
MATT HARDY vs. MR. ANDERSON. This was predictably awful and awfully predictable. Not only can Hardy no longer convince us on the mic but he is mind-numbingly slow in the ring. Whereas Anderson brought Jeff Hardy up earlier, Matt Hardy tore down Anderson and brought him to his bloated level. Anderson would end up winning after a slow developing cradle, and of course Jeff Hardy came down to attack the champion. Rob Van Dam would even the score, but this was a throwaway.
KURT ANGLE and CRIMSON vs. IMMORTAL. Main event time and there is about eight minutes left so you know this is going to be one of those crash and burn matches. Seriously, what else would you expect from a 6-on-2 match? Crimson looked great and showed promise as a legit star for the company, but the match halted when James Storm “accidentally” super kicked the ref in the face. Bedlam broke loose soon enough it was nine or ten guys beating up Angle and Crimson. Cue Matt Morgan, who was also quickly detained. All of a sudden, the lights vanish and a police siren is heard….Scott Steiner appears with lead pipe in hand and chases the whole gang from ringside, clearly with some vendetta against any number of the members of Immortal.
VERDICT. While I enjoy the brand name of Scott Steiner, I wasn’t familiar with any of work after his late 90′s departure from WCW. I know he had a somewhat successful tenure in TNA before, so what did everyone think of the surprise ending? Without seeing his recent work, I still yearn for someone a bit younger, but maybe that promise will be fulfilled with Crimson. The writing tonight was on par with what TNA should strive to be—a smaller company that utilizes the element of surprise and splices it with in-ring results that aren’t the status quo. It wasn’t perfect, as evidenced by Mike Tenay and Taz, for whatever reason, patronizing us by reporting and reviewing the very thing we saw not ten minutes ago.
BONUS POINT: That group of girls in the front row that have seemingly become Impact Zone “regulars.” Good looking girls…who love TNA…and show up for every taping? How bizarre. Tonight gets a 7/10.
This week’s TNA iMPACTt! set the stage for two monster storylines right off the bat-the fallout from Mr. Anderson’s surprise victory over Jeff Hardy for the TNA World Heavyweight title and the conclusion of Jeff Jarrett’s underwhelming MMA angle.
OPENING SEGMENT. The broadcast opens with a bright-eyed Jeff Jarrett stepping out of a limo with his wife, Karen Jarrett, in tow. At this point I will take anything other than those lame and disjointed MMA exhibitions that someone in TNA corporate thinks is cool. Cut to the Impact Zone and we are treated with a well-deserved Mr. Anderson promo, his first since winning the TNA title on Sunday.
There were some high parts of the segment, including Anderson ranting about his stint in WWE and how he was asked to tone down his quirkiness at times. One particularly weak moment worth mentioning was when Anderson said the name Bischoff and he had to wait a couple of seconds for the seemingly tired crowd to begin jeering. Matt Morgan came out to claim a good chunk of Anderson’s victory, which made little to no sense. At TNA Genesis on Sunday, Morgan and Anderson wailed on each other for a good 15-20 minutes, and the only damage Morgan did to Hardy during the title match was clothesline him. Weak angle, TNA.
At some point, Eric Bischoff came out and announced a rematch between Hardy and Anderson for the belt on February 3rd at Impact!. Later, Jeff Hardy came on the big screen to talk his noise, but was quite rudely interrupted by Rob Van Dam planting a flying forearm across his dome. Cue Anderson, Matt Hardy, and the rest of Immortal to brawl backstage and you have an opening segment that’s way too long. At these Impact! tapings right after PPV’s, wouldn’t it serve TNA to start the night with a match right off the bat and have the announcers do a mini-recap of the PPV during the match? Mike Tenay and Taz already banter enough as it is about pigeons and whatnot; can’t they at least let us know who won that surprise match between Matt Hardy and RVD, or what the result of that clash between Bully Ray and Brother Devon was?
BEER MONEY Vs. MOTOR CITY MACHINE GUNS. Finally, wrestling, and a title match to boot. A rematch from Genesis, Motor City showed why they are still the best tag team in TNA, but not before cutting a quick Q-n-A right before the match started. In it, Alex Shelley dropped a reference to getting kicked in the mouth by his teammate, essentially costing them the belts. Sure enough, after a well scripted match between the two, Shelley accidentally returned the favor on partner Chris Sabin and delivered a superkick to Sabin’s face, leading to a Beer Money victory.
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POPE SEGMENT. The Pope comes out next to gather some cheap heat from Samoa Joe, who has been “spying” on Pope and claiming donated money has been going to strip clubs and gambling. The Pope rambles on about this and that before directing fans to the “Dixie-tron” (nice) and telling us he caught Joe and his wife making love, and up pops two rhinos mating. His second joke isn’t even worth mentioning, because it all but killed the humor of the first gag. Overall, this was still eons more thought out than Kazarian’s deplorable bit on Jay Lethal’s family two weeks back.
RVD and KEN ANDERSON BACKSTAGE. Throughout the evening, Rob Van Dam and Mr. Anderson had been pacing through the backstage in preparation for their tag team match against the Hardys later that night. They ended up finding Beer Money in their locker room and pulled off a somewhat comical bit where the door slammed shut and all we could hear was RVD and Anderson beating the crap out of the tag team. Good stuff.
JEFF JARRETT – KURT ANGLE SHOWDOWN. Didn’t Jarrett promise a ceremony at Genesis? As per most of the stuff Jarrett has been involved with lately, this was a waste of time. Jarrett and his Goon Squad come out to introduce his wife Karen, but when the music drops Kurt appears and demolishes all SIX guys on Team Jarrett. Before Angle can reach his target, Karen Jarrett comes out to tell us how big of a jerk Kurt is and that we will hear “her side of the story”…next week. This lame teaser and Karen’s horrible acting skills only compound my frustration over this angle. I could really care less what she has to say next week, but I’ll be damned if she didn’t look amazing in that dress.
ANGELINA LOVE and WINTER Vs. MADISON RAYNE and TARA. In other words, two-thirds of the Knockouts fighting for two of the three belts available. In what could be a volatile situation, Love’s other partner Velvet Sky, expressed her concern over Love’s relationship with Winter, which more or less came off as jealousy. You didn’t take much from this match other than that the writers continued to develop Winter’s insane personality, capped off by a sweet sleeper hold applied to Tara after Mickie James chased off Madison. By the way, this was the second match of the evening, a whopping hour and twelve minutes into the two hour show.
ABYSS with RIC FLAIR Vs. MATT MORGAN. You know right away any match with Abyss is going to be slow, so WHY IN THE HELL would you put him up against the only guy bigger than him? Snore. Morgan wins after a Carbon Footprint, but in typical TNA fashion Immortal storms the ring to beat up Morgan. Also, why do the announcers keep referring to Rob Terry as the Immortal enforcer? Isn’t that what Abyss is for?
HARDY BROTHERS and CRIMSON PROMOS. This is worth noting-before the Abyss match, Matt and Jeff cut a promo behind a chain link fence and dropped this one-liner: “our bloodline…is immortal!” Wow, fellas, you write that yourselves? After the Abyss match, the Monster is attacked by a figure who calls himself Crimson, but we recognize him as the wrestler who portrayed Amazing Red’s younger brother a couple weeks back. He tells Abyss that “They” are coming. My bold prediction: a faction of only red-headed wrestlers called “The Ginger Dead Men.” C’mon, TNA, do it.
ROB VAN DAM and KEN ANDERSON Vs. MATT and JEFF HARDY. On paper this would seem like a solid match, but before the match even starts Anderson is busted open and Matt Hardy just…is. He looks terrible and these two no longer have the cohesion that we were used to in the late 90′s. For a main event, this was disappointing. The short bout was interrupted by yet more Immortal guys coming to the ring to attack RVD and Anderson. What the hell, are these guys breeding or something?
VERDICT. 5/10. Four matches in two hours! Step it up, TNA. Television, especially Thursdays, has been getting real good lately and episodes like these are how you lose viewers.