-Review Robert Roode vs. Austin Aries in a battle of rising stars unencumbered by a demented billionaire bent on getting his wife elected Senator at the expense of his product, or wait a week and review SuperCena’s Race for the Briefcase? I’ll take the one whose TV product I can stomach at this point.
-Live from Orlando
-Nice opening spotlighting the X Division with faux O’Fortuna music. It’s amazing how far TNA has come in production value since the Asylum days.
Match 1: Rubix vs. Mason Andrews vs. Lars Only vs. Dakota Darsow (Last Chance X Division Qualifier)
Speaking of the Asylum days, I love the randomly-used indy outsiders, and it’s a concept I miss. I just wish Dakota would have worn a Lone Ranger mask or some gnarly face paint. Wild frenzy to begin, and you’d expect nothing less. Darsow gets a nice fallaway swinging backbreaker on Only, and gets 2. Rubix lands a nice cross body on Darsow for 2. Darsow winds up hitting Rubix with a sick Falcon Arrow for 2, which Only almost forgot to break up. Only botches a tackle into the ropes on Darsow, and looks like he knocked the wind out of him. Andrews dives onto them outside, and then Rubix tops that with a running Fosbury Flop, which gets a monster reaction. Rubix is over, yo. Back in, Andrews gets a side armbar on Rubix, and Only saves after a prolonged period. Only gets a bizarre drop-move that hits all three opponents at once, and things slow down with a front facelock on Andrews. Things pick up as Darsow crotches Only up top, and they and Andrews hit a tower-of-doom spot. Jigsaw launches in with an across-the-ring dropkick, and the crowd starts up for him again. Things slow down again as they try to figure out which spot to do next, and a series of moves are exchanged, the best of which is a headscissor faceplant by Only on Rubix. Andrews quickly drops Only with a high impact TKO to win.
WINNER: Mason Andrews via TKO
-Kid Kash hits the ring to begin the tournament, and jumps Andrews, so…
Match 2: Kid Kash vs. Mason Andrews (X Division Tournament)
Kash lays out Andrews, and tries pinning him with a foot on the chest for 2. Several other rapid pin attempts fail. Andrews comes back with dropkicks and a crucifix for 2. Building a new star? That’d never fly in WWE. Kash kicks at Andrews, who is wearing down after the long opener. This is less an X Division match than an extended heat segment to build sympathy for a new face. Kash plants Andrews with a backbreaker, followed by a double sledge off the ropes for 2. Kash slaps a dazed Andrews around, which I’m going to assume isn’t smart. Kash drops Andrews with a clothesline, flips off the crowd, and drops an elbow for 2. Kash then applies a leg-lace keylock, which Andrews fights out of, only to be flattened again by a charging elbow. Andrews is kicked through the ropes in a dangerous spot, but comes back on the inside by getting the knees up on a Kash dive. Andrews finally builds the comeback with strikes and a leg lariat, corner headscissors, and missle dropkick for 2. Andrews follows that with a sick leaping knee which somehow only gets 2. Pinfall reversal sequence leads to Kash missing a knee and Andrews rolling him up to win.
WINNER: Mason Andrews via roll-up
Rating: ***1/4. Good, old school “heel dominates unfairly, babyface comes back with a flurry, and barely wins” type of match.
-Samoa Joe talks strategy against Kurt Angle tonight, and for the BFG Series at large.
Match 3: Douglas Williams vs. Kenny King (X Division Tournament)
The former ROH Pure Champion vs. the now former ROH Tag Team Champion. Williams works the leg as Tenay refers to King as “The Real Life Magic Mike”. I dunno, strippers don’t have cancelled spot shows and a boss who lives in 1981. Williams works the mat expertly, but King escapes his clutches with elbows, and tries to outmaneuver him with quick pin attempts. Williams suckers King into a handshake and kicks him. After knocking King outside, Williams goes out after, but “Magic Kenny” slips in and lands a twisting pescado. So is King the third best Tough Enough alum ever behind Miz and Morrison? I’d put him ahead of Ryback, wouldn’t you? Old Man Williams surprises me with a spinning back elbow off the middle rope, and then applies a camel clutch, because he likes this website. King gets the twisting sunset flip out of the corner for 2, but Williams is back on the offensive with a European uppercut. King blocks Chaos Theory and comes back with an atomic drop, followed by an enzuigiri. King waylays Williams with a spinning heel kick and gets 2 on that. Williams eats a spinebuster for another 2, and King just can’t finish. That’s never good if you’re a Vegas entertainer. The two wind up on the top rope, and Williams shoves King over to the floor. Williams continues to impress with a diving knee off the top to the floor. I’m even more bummed that I have to review Raw tomorrow. King beats the count back in, and Williams covers for 2. King comes back with a springboard flip neckbreaker for 2. How is that not the finish? After a corner knee, Williams sets King up top, but King gets out of the predicament, takes Williams in a fireman’s carry, and hits a fireman carry into a uranage to win.
WINNER: Kenny King via swinging uranage
Rating: ***. Less of a story than the previous match, but a damn good match with some nice spots.
-Hemme interviews the Appletini-wielding Christopher Daniels, and he runs down AJ Styles while summing up the storyline thus far.
Match 4: Sonjay Dutt vs. Rashad Cameron (X Division Tournament)
Cameron’s got a wicked fro, approaching Meng levels. The CZW alums have a stalemate sequence to begin, and the extended bit ends with Cameron dropkicking Sonjay on a leapfrog attempt. He follows that with a top rope dive onto Dutt outside. They bring up Cameron’s Philadelphia mentality, thus endearing him to me. E-A-G-L-E-S! Just don’t bring up the Phillies right now, that’s a sore point. Dutt nearly kills Cameron with a baseball slide, earning “WELCOME BACK” chants, but wipes out on a moonsault outside. Inside, Cameron drops Dutt with a freefall for 2. Cameron continues to wear Dutt down and applies a bodyscissors. As an aside, I love the whole “new class” feel that the division has. Sometimes it’s good to houseclean a part of your brand. Sonjay comes back by mauling Cameron in the corner, and he lands a slingshot leg lariat to the back of Cameron’s head on the ropes. Very nice. Cameron goes all out with an off-the-ropes barrage, as well as a from-behind headscissors, and a cross-armbreaker. Sonjay comes back with the Sonjay Cutter and the flipping double stomp to advance.
WINNER: Sonjay Dutt via flipping double stomp
Rating: **1/2. Decent spots, but lacked a flow at some points. Still, it had its moments, and Cameron (Sabian from CZW) has the personality to be a good heel.
-The Jesse Sorensen injury is brought up preceding Zema Ion’s match, and includes an update on his rehab. At least he’s walking again, and his doctor’s optimistic about him wrestling again.
-Sorensen makes his way out in a neckbrace to a standing ovation. Yeah, you had to figure they were going to work him into the next match. Typical thank-the-fans speech ensues. Just hope TNA doesn’t turn him heel like WCW did Buff Bagwell. Sorensen wants Ion to win tonight, so he can return and beat him for it.
Match 5: Zema Ion vs. Flip Cassanova (X Division Tournament)
Ion beats Flip down and acts extra arrogant to make the most of the residual heat from Sorensen. Flip flips Ion to the floor, and he follows up with a quick dive to the floor. Hate to say it, but the crowd’s dying a bit with each high spot. Ion avoids a standing moonsault, and adds to it a double knee straddle on the ropes. Flip comes back with a kick barrage, but Zema knocks him outside and baseball slides him over. Ion then hits my new favorite douche move: the springboard head stomp to flatten the opponent’s face. Hey, he’s committed to the act. Cassanova drops him with an enzuigiri, and hits a springboard corkscrew moonsault for 2. Flip misses a shooting star leg drop, and Ion lands a snap-Gory Special drop for the win.
WINNER: Zema Ion via Gory Special drop
Rating: **. Kinda bland, but had enough spots to make it worthwhile. The title match needed a heel, and Zema’s as good as any.
-The three other qualifiers speak on their chances of winning the X Division title, but Roode interrupts and badmouths Aries.
CHEAP PLUG: My five NFL sleeper teams for 2012. http://cynicfootball.blogspot.com/2012/07/justins-five-sleeper-teams-for-2012-nfl.html
Match 6: Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle (Bound For Glory Series)
Extended lock-up leads to Joe hitting a shoulderblock and trying for the Clutch, and then Angle for the ankle lock to no avail. Angle works a front facelock, but Joe bulldozes him into the corner and slugs away at him. Facewashing ensueth. Angle halts Joe’s methodical strike attacks, but Joe responds by backdropping him ass over teakettle to the floor. Then Joe dives through the ropes, just to prove that he still can. Joe avalanches Angle in the corner and gets the high back kick, but Angle responds with a rare missle dropkick. Angle applies a chinlock/choke, and plants Joe with the overhead belly to belly when Joe escapes. That gets 2. Joe blocks Angle’s step-up throw off the top, and Joe comes back with a horrifying leg lariat off the middle rope for 2. Joe chops Angle down with kicks and gets the back splash, also for 2. Snap powerslam follows, and Joe tries the cross-armbreaker, which Angle struggles to counter, and he turns it into the ankle lock. Joe escapes, and Angle gets three Germans to lay both men out. Joe manages to come back by kicking Angle square in the face, but Angle avoids the Muscle Buster, rolling through into the ankle lock. Joe kicks Angle off, and catches Angle with the defensive uranage in the corner when he charges. This time he gets the Muscle Buster for 2. So Joe hooks the choke, but Angle drops out into the ankle lock in mid ring. Joe gets his classic corner while he spins Angle over and pulls him into the Cocquina Clutch. Angle hangs on for as long as humanly possible and he manages to power his way out, hitting the Angle Slam for 2. That looked scary as Joe kind of fell on his head. Joe avoids the ankle lock, another Angle Slam attempt, and Joe reapplies the Clutch. Angle reaches for the ropes, can’t get it, and passes out to give Joe the win.
WINNER: Samoa Joe via Cocquina Clutch (10 pts for implied submission)
Rating: ***3/4. Slower than their classics from 2006-08, but still had many of the classic spots. Still a great wrestling match between two of my favorites.
-Angle regains consciousness and is angry at Hebner for stopping it. I hope for eleventy billion rematches between these two. Yes, I said this in 2006 too.
-Joe takes over the leaderboard, passing James Storm by a point.
Match 7: AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels (Last Man Standing)
Daniels takes to the floor to taunt Styles, and stall for time, in this soap-opera laden feud. Chase ensues, and Daniels spits in Styles’ face. So AJ, as you may have guessed, goes nuts on him. AJ splatters Daniels into the railing, and a back-and-forth slugfest develops. Back inside, Styles unloads kicks and strikes on Daniels, and suplexes him against the corner. Daniels manages to turn the tide, and a chopfest ensues. AJ telegraphs a floatover in the corner, and Daniels blasts him with a snap jab. The Fallen Angel chucks a chair into the ring to up the violence quotient. Styles tries to use the chair as a springboard, misses, and Daniels SLAMS him with a uranage onto the chair, bending the seat. Yeesh. Styles gets battered outside while Daniels taunts some Sugar Ray fans in the front row. At least they look like Sugar Ray fans. Daniels strikes away and AJ is busted wide open. A suplex on the floor leads to the first count as Daniels sets up the ringsteps. Styles makes it to his feet and avoids a chair shot back inside. He then slingshots at Daniels and knocks the chair into his face with a forearm smash. A PO’ed Styles bashes Daniels hard into the ringsteps, and now both men are exuding crimson life essence. Daniels begs off up the ramp and Styles stalks and continues the beating, nearly knocking Daniels off the stage. Both men charge at each other at full speed and hit a double clothesline on the stage. Daniels is now bleeding over the back of his head, which makes for a grisly visual. Daniels backdrops out of a Styles Clash on the stage, and pastes AJ with an uppercut. AJ then goes all “Styles-Like” and backflips off a support beam, hitting the reverse DDT. The count reaches seven as Kazarian runs out and sends Styles careening off the stage. Brian Hebner stops the count due to the distraction, and then begins one on Styles after Daniels has sufficiently gotten up. Styles makes it up at 8, much to the consternation of his foes. Daniels and Kaz grab a table and set it up beside the stage, so there’s some bad intentions coming. Daniels tries for the Angel’s Wings off the stage, but Styles shoots him hard into Kaz, Pele’s Daniels, and then hits the Clash off the stage, through the table. Both men are DEAD. The count climbs to six, then seven, then eight, and AJ uses the rail to get up as Daniels collapses, winning the match.
WINNER: AJ Styles via count stoppage
Rating: ****1/4. Tremendous hate-filled brawl, and a nice contrast to WWE’s cutesy, homogenized product. Fantastic stuff.
-Austin Aries promo, and he guarantees victory while changing the course of the wrestling business.
Match 8: Mason Andrews vs. Kenny King vs. Sonjay Dutt vs. Zema Ion (X Division Title/Ultimate x Match)
Ion mouths off at all three opponents and tries to climb, only to get a triple dropkick after fending off their initial attack. Andrews gets a nice snap-rana on King and dropkicks Ion before missing a corner strike. Zema gets a modified tornado DDT out of it. King sends Andrews into Ion, who’s hung in the tree of woe, and then tries to begin the climb, but Dutt stops him. King dazzles with a cartwheel kick on the apron and then tries the climb, but Dutt dropkicks him off and gets a standing shooting star. Ion blasts Andrews with an elbow, and goes to climb, but Andrews and King yank him to the mat. Andrews stops King from climbing with a middle rope back suplex. Dutt appears to have hurt himself on the shooting star, as he hit his face on the ring ropes, and is being helped away. Hope he’s alright. King misses the corkscrew pescado on Ion, but Andrews comes flying in with a twisting plancha onto both men. Andrews goes to retrieve the belt, but King takes him off with a springboard spear. Dutt makes his way back, as King wedges Ion into the support post. Dutt climbs the apparatus and King and Andrews horizontally crawl the wires. Andrews brings King off with a neckbreaker, and Ion and Dutt are now on top of the truss. They meet in the center of the X and a slugfest develops. Dutt tries to climb down to the title, and Ion pulls his hairspray out, blinding him. Dutt falls to the canvas, and Ion climbs down, retrieving the title.
WINNER: Zema Ion via title retrieval (New TNA X Division Champion)
Rating: ***1/4. Good match, but felt a tad short. They packed some nice spots in, and Ion will have plenty of quality opponents on the babyface side.
-Ion cuts a haters-gonna-hate promo, and dedicates the win to Jesse Sorensen. Good douche move.
Main Event: Robert Roode vs. Austin Aries (TNA World Heavyweight Title)
WINNER: Austin Aries via Brainbuster (New TNA World Heavyweight Champion)
Rating: *****. Maybe I’m embellishing it, but that match was perfect as far as I’m concerned. The build with the chest injury to Aries, Roode doing all he could to exploit it, Aries fighting back, both men fighting for quick pins, Roode cheating when he couldn’t beat Aries outright, and Aries overcoming it all to finally beat the cheating champion. Best match in 2012 so far. Aries celebration makes it, because he acted like being a champion means something.
-Confetti guns shoot off as Aries celebrates.
OVERALL: Wow. Just wow. Roode and Aries may now be the greatest match in TNA history, Styles-Daniels and Joe-Angle delivered as expected, and there was some good entertainment among the X Division tournament matches. Nothing was bad, and there was a whole lot of great.
Thumbs WAY up.
Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose work appears on many websites. He provides wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture columns for CamelClutchBlog.com, as well as several wrestling columns a week for Wrestlechat.net and WrestleCrap.com. Justin can be found here on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh and Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh.
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