In typical TNA fashion, the company premiered its flagship show over in the United Kingdom and did a lot of things right, while also fumbling the ball several times.
Coming to you from Wembley Arena in London, England, the two stories that highlighted the show were the ongoing battle for the World Title between champion Robert Roode, James Storm, and Bully Ray, as well as Garett Bischoff’s foray into the wrestling world, assisted by the big reveal of his personal trainer. The mystery trainer that had spooked Eric Bischoff a week earlier was probably the worst kept secret in all of pro wrestling.
Yeah, it was Hulk Hogan, which is pretty cool because he’s been off television for a little over three months now, but that’s about where the novelty of it wears off. We picked up the story with elder Bischoff calling out his son and demanding he stop his quest to become a pro wrestler, while at the same time referring to his trainer as a no-show coward. Meanwhile, throughout the entirety of the event, Mike Tenay and Taz kept reminding us that Hulk Hogan would finally return to action tonight at Impact. I guess they were trying to tease us with two separate surprises, but we could put the pieces together and realize TNA doesn’t have the finances nor attention span to drop two different bombs on us in one night. The last time they tried multiple surprises we were treated to Mick Foley as some “network rep,” Chyna as Karen Jarrett’s equalizer, and the bloated guy from America’s Most Wanted who wasn’t James Storm but sent to kill James Storm. All three were off television and never mentioned again within weeks.
I’m not sure where this angle is going, but afterward Hogan cut an amazingly bizarre promo where he dropped lines such as “break through the ice cubes” and made several analogies to the London Hulkamaniacs sniffing out Eric Bischoff like dogs and feeding him to Garett and himself. That back medicine sounds like a barrel of fun to take.
In other news, Robert Roode and Bully Ray continued their weirdly buddy-buddy relationship as Ray was pretty much doing anything the champ asked and Roode was bouncing around Ray’s shoulders in the opening promo and talking about Bully’s “largest calves in the world,” which will never make me not chuckle a little. I just don’t get it; I know Bully Ray’s been Immortal affiliated for quite some time now, but isn’t his character such that he doesn’t play nice with anybody? Ray, we need more Abyss and less Alex Riley from ya.
So those two basically clown around the ring until Sting and James Storm join them and Sting eventually announces that the main event to next week’s Against All Odds will be a four corner’s match between the three men and an absentee Jeff Hardy. Sting also answered Storm’s wish to face both his enemies and gave him singles matches with both, starting with…Bobby Roode.
That’s certainly an odd booking choice unless Storm pulls the major upset, wait no. Yeah, he definitely lost to Roode. Even with the crowd buzzing all night like you’d expect from the across-the-ponders, they really came alive during this one, highlighted by Storm’s top rope hurricanrana on Roode. The champion would later seize control of this match, weakening Storm with a Crippler Crossface and stopping an Eye of the Storm finisher. Cue the TNA brand crash finish when Roode brings the belt into the ring, Storm counters with a Closing Time (think Chris Jericho’s Code Breaker), but Bully Ray sneaks ringside, distracts Storm long enough for Roode to hit a Spear and get the win. For the segment at the hour mark of the show, this was a damn good match, even if it got a little silly at the end. And man, there sure were a lot of Canadian wrestler callback moves featured.
To close the show, we saw a bandaged Storm come out to face Bully Ray in what could be called Ray’s personal demo reel. He controlled most of the match, even when Roode came down to uneven the odds. Sting quickly chased him around with a black cricket bat (wrestling really needs a Casey Jones character, doesn’t it?) as Ray finally slipped up by missing a flying senton bomb. That teased us all of about 40 seconds before Storm’s quick comeback was derailed by a referee bump and Roode tried to attack. Sting halted him, allowing Storm to hit a Last Call Superkick for the win.
The actual performance of this match was good but it was just riddled with the obvious wrestling tropes we’ve all seen before. And call me old fashioned, but shouldn’t your champion main event a marquee show like that when he’s available? I guess they wanted to protect Roode while still sending the crowd home happy. If you’re going to simply book it anyway, why not have Storm lose clean, Ray rush the ring and the combo of Sting and Storm get the upper hand to close the show and rile up the fans? Even if both matches were good, the story didn’t advance at all.
In mid-card action, Austin Aries fought local talent and former TNA summer fling Mark Haskins in an X-Division match. A Double taunted his opponent early and ran roughshod over him, to the point where the crowd was actually cheering for the champion. This led to the hilarious moment of Taz having to question Tenay’s constant sell that Haskins was their hometown hero. The match saw some great spots as per usual, but was turned around when Haskins missed a shooting star press in a really depressing, face-planting fashion. Aries quickly capitalized and hit his Brain Buster finisher but transitioned that into a chinlock bridge submission for the win. Superb booking here as both guys looked awesome.
The opening match actually saw the tag champions Matt Morgan and Crimson, or “The Purpleprint” as I call them, fight Magnus and Samoa Joe in a non-title Buckingham Brawl match. Basically, the champs lost a coin flip so they would have to fight with conventional tag rules while their challengers could be in the ring simultaneously. This led to a lot of Crimson getting his ass handed to him before Joe hit Morgan with a snap mare into Magnus’ flying elbow finisher for the win. You can kind of compare this to the CM Punk-Ziggler dynamic on the other channel–Magnus and Joe have been killing the champs for weeks. Any bets on who’s gonna win at the PPV next week?
Overall, this show was pretty fun to watch, despite the only real consequences being that Gail Kim might be mad at her fan-girl and Garett Bischoff is that much closer to (probably) contending for…who is it?…Robbie E’s TV Title. Yeah, that sounds easy enough. The MVP of the show was clearly the Wembley crowd, selling moves constantly and being overall a boisterous bunch, showing what can be when TNA gets out of their mom’s basement once in a while. Next week: Star Wars themed Impact, whatever that means. Heavy on the Eric Young chicanery, please.
TNA Impact Wrestling Full Results
Magnus and Samoa Joe def. Matt Morgan and Crimson, pinfall (non-title)
Austin Aries def. Mark Haskins, submission (non-title)
Bobby Roode def. James Storm, pinfall (non-title)
Tara def. Gail Kim, pinfall (non-title)
James Storm def. Bully Ray, pinfall
Joe Leininger lives in Jacksonville, FL via the greater Philadelphia area. He dabbles in all things sports, pro wrestling, and television, and more of his work can be found at The Playing Field Blog and DestiGeddon.