For the first time in several weeks, TNA Impact delivered a well written, intriguing, and coherent story line to bolster their headline angle between Heavyweight champion Sting and challengers Mr. Anderson and Rob Van Dam.
Throughout the first hour of the show, Anderson was finding letters strewn about the Impact Zone, telling of his certain demise and allegedly signed by Sting himself. As Mr. Anderson frantically paced the halls with a lead pipe looking for the champ, he would have comical encounters with the likes of Eric Young and Orlando Jordan, who directed him to duh, the rafters. Alas, it was RVD waiting for Anderson, who received the beating of a lifetime from The Whole F’N Show.
Real Sting, as opposed to Bogus Sting, RVD dressed up as Sting, or Fields of Gold Sting, hit the ring and demanded an apology from RVD for desecrating his good name with these shenanigans. This led to Immortal’s Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan calling for a main event between RVD and Sting, while Hogan later came through with Anderson’s wish to be the referee in that match.
Or was he? The Sting-RVD match was disappointingly short, but ended when Anderson broke up a Sting finisher to deliver a Mic Check to the champ, allowing RVD to hit his Five Star Frog Splash for the win. Not soon after, Anderson grabbed the belt and planted it over RVD’s head, prompting Immortal’s goons Rob Terry and Murphy to come out as the welcoming committee and hoist the villainous ref over their shoulders. Whether the next minute played more toward his volatile, unpredictable side or his combative, moral side, Anderson basically told Immortal to shove it by lead piping both Terry and Murphy before telling Hogan, “you’re next!”
Tonight’s chapter that will eventually lead up to the title match at Lockdown between Sting, Anderson, and RVD made strides to advance the story but also may weaken the eventual showdown due to the lack of a definitive heel. I’m not complaining all that much—the past several weeks of mailed in openers leading to overstuffed matches and empty threats had my feelings toward the product near an all time low—but in a way the lack of Jeff Hardy‘s larger than life heel persona has to be somewhat filled by a guy who the fans adore, which can cause creative problems. That said, this could also be a good thing—RVD’s legitimate gripe of never losing the title combined with Mr. Anderson’s undying quest for a rematch tell me that one of them will take the belt off a place holding Sting at Lockdown…I just don’t know which one yet.
Another part of this story that they are really pushing is the network’s increasing involvement in match scheduling, much to the dismay of Hogan and Bischoff, who themselves are really coming into those overbearing, evil authority figures that ruled the nWo in the 90′s. When Hogan told Eric that “he doesn’t know the front office side of the business like you [Eric],” it really struck me as a turning point for the duo. With Immortal’s wrestlers clearly being the less talented of the bunch, TNA knows it’s going to have lean heavily on the shady booking and shifty personalities of both Hogan and Bischoff if they want any shot at convincing us that they are the top heel faction in the company.
THE OTHER STUFF
One of the earlier matches that caught my eye was the 3-on-3 X Division tag match pitting Generation Me and Robbie E against Brian Kendrick, Chris Saban, and Suicide. When the Motor City music hit, I became overly excited thinking the electric tag team was back in action, but alas, Alex Shelley must still be injured. His replacement, Suicide, really carried most of the match, starting on offense and later jobbing to the other team, particularly the in sync Gen Me boys. Toward the end of what was the longest match of the night, Brian Kendrick came in and lit everyone up with kicks before the Bucks took control. If you’ve been following Generation Me in the past few weeks, you could tell this was all a work to eventually have them fighting, ending in Max delivering a brutal top rope hanging DDT on his brother, Jeremy. Kendrick cleaned up the wreckage and pinned Jeremy for the win.
The six-man tag was also announced as somewhat of a preview to a nine-man X Division “Escape the Cage” match at Lockdown. While nothing on television is official yet, I can only assume the match will feature these six guys, as well as the returning Alex Shelley, Douglas Williams (assuming he doesn’t compete in the 4-way tag match), and Jay Lethal. Even though X Division champion Kazarian will be tied up in the Lethal Lockdown match, this free for all should still be one of the better bouts on the card.
Bully Ray and Chris Daniels also met in what could be the first chapter in a long, heated feud. Having not seen Daniels in action before, I was quite impressed with his move set and ability to take those devastating chest slaps from Ray. The crowd was really into this match from the start, and Daniels’ finisher, Best Moonsault Ever, put the finishing touches on a great exhibition, until a member of Immortal yanked the ref from the ring, breaking the three count. During the distraction, Hulk Hogan snuck up and nailed Daniels in the head with a thick chain, giving Bully Ray the easy win. Bonus points for the writing of this Lumberjack match—I would have bet my car that Daniels would have found a way to win in his first match in over a year.
Luckily, the ensuing Jeff Jarrett segment was short and sweet. He started to encase himself inside the ring while the steel cage was being assembled, taking shots at Angle’s storyline restraining order arrest (as opposed to his very real, three sheets to the wind arrest a couple weeks back). I actually found Jarrett quite amusing this week, dropping lines about him and Karen both agreeing that the kids shouldn’t visit Kurt in jail due to his thuggish ways, and how they are better off around him, the “ultra-male.” While I usually find Jarrett annoying and abusive of his front office clout, I will give him credit in completely running with his characters. The fun and games ceased when Angle ziplined into the now enclosed ring, but Jarrett slithered out of harm’s way just in the nick of time.
The opening match was the first official televised debut of the newly named Mexican America tag team, consisting of Hernandez and newcomer Anarchia. Their match against Tommy Dreamer and Devon was short lived, coming to a halt when Rosita ran interference and allowed Anarchia to use a chair on the outside, leading to a win. As MA continued to beat down their opponents under the gaze of a hanging, oversized Mexican flag, Matt Morgan made the save. While I’m kind of over the Morgan-Hernandez feud, I’d love to see Mexican America thrive as the successful foreigner heels, possibly against Beer Money for tag team gold.
Meanwhile, in the bowels of Universal Studios Madison Rayne demanded Tara performed a hit and run with her motorcycle on Mickie James. I doubt this is a cover to excuse Mickie from the match due to her legitimate arm injury, but I wouldn’t put it past TNA to call an audible, have Tara break away from Madison’s controlling ways and challenge her for the belt at TNA Lockdown 2011.
In the lamest match coincides with the worst angle category (I’m pretty sure that’s how hurricanes are formed), Samoa Joe tapped out Murphy in under a minute while The Pope was on commentary. Joe goes after Pope, Pope bailed, end scene. At least…Murphy got some playing time? Yeah, that’s what I’ll go with.
VERDICT. As I said, the Mr. Anderson story and subsequent Immortal tease was out of sight tonight. Combined with solid performances by Chris Daniels, Mexican America, and most of the X Division guys, I’m calling this show a winner. My one complaint would be match length…the first three matches probably took all of about six minutes to complete. Other than that, this episode did a lot in selling me on Lockdown on April 17th, which up until now looked like mid-season gimmick filler. 8/10.
TNA Impact April 7 Results:
Mexican America def. Tommy Dreamer and Devon, pinfall
Samoa Joe def. Murphy, submission
Sarita and Rosita (Champs) def. The Beautiful People, pinfall
Brian Kendrick, Chris Saban, and Suicide def. Generation Me and Robbie E., pinfall
Bully Ray def. Christopher Daniels, pinfall
Rob Van Dam def. Sting, pinfall, non title match
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