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.
[adinserter block=”2″]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.
[adinserter block=”1″]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
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