-- The second Impact taping began with Mr. Anderson making his way to the ring to a big cheer. He got into the ring and admitted that he screwed up and asked the crowd to boo him at the top of their lungs. The crowd (which was just beginning to see a few stragglers leave so the kids could get to bed at a reasonable hour) obliged him with a flurry of jeering.
But, then he got a big cheer when he announced that he was cashing in his contractual rematch for the World Title tonight and he would have some help in his corner. Out came Sting again to another huge cheer. Sting said since Hogan played games with him last week as an enforcer, The Network was allowing Sting to do the same tonight. Sting made himself the special enforcer for Show Two’s Main Event and that concluded the opening bit.
-- J.B. then introduced the Final Four in the BFG Series: Bully Ray, Gunner, and Beer Money. It was implied something happened to Crimson to knock him out, but they didn’t officially announce this.
Bully Ray cut a nice promo in the face of some serious boos that pretty much told Beer Money to kiss their team and friendship goodbye now that they both wanted to be champion. He also got a really funny dig in at Gunner when the crowd was chanting “You suck” by telling Gunner that the crowd was wrong about him (even though they were yelling at Ray), he didn’t suck. By the end of it, the crowd had a thunderous “Shut him up!” chant going. During his promo, he also challenged Beer Money to a four corners match later in the evening.
Roode took the mic and told Ray that Beer Money would stick together when one of them wins the title and he was on for four corners tonight. Ray looked upset as Storm told him sorry about his damn luck.
(1) Winter & Angelina Love beat Knockouts champion Mickie James & Velvet Sky in a Knockouts tag match. Some decent action before Winter won with the blood mist again.
-- After that, Austin Aries came out and the place exploded with heat. I was ten rows back and I could barely hear A Double. The only person all night who had the crowd that worked up was Ray. That’s right, Aries had better heat than Hogan or Angle. Yet another reason he needs to be X champ ASAP. The man is a heat magnet. Kendrick came out in a suit and cut a weird promo that Aries told him he didn’t even understand before Kendrick punched him and Aries bolted. Nice final sell for their X Division Title match at the PPV, but Kendrick’s ring music is worse than some WWE Divas's.
-- The four corners match was next and Beer Money got their usual huge pop. Good heat for Ray and Gunner as well after the earlier exchange. At the start of the match, Joe and Morgan fought down to ringside and it had to be broken up.
(2) Gunner beat Bully Ray, James Storm, and Robert Roode in a Four Corners match previewing the BFG Series Final Four. In the ring, it was about ten minutes live, but I don’t know how long they’ll edit it down to. Gunner won the match with a running knee on an unsuspecting Bully Ray after both sides acted as teammates the whole time. It appears TNA wanted him to look as dangerous as possible going into No Surrender. It was a big night for Gunner.
(3) TNA World Hvt. champion Kurt Angle beat Mr. Anderson with Sting as ringside enforcer to retain the TNA World Title. This was the final match and it was very good. Anderson had the crowd in his hand for his intro and they were solidly behind him all match. Anderson hit two Mic Checks on Angle, after the second of which, Gunner came flying in to interfere right before the three count. It was really, really close.
After that, another Immortal beat down took place and Sting and Anderson were left KO'ed in the ring.
-- The final segment was Jeff Hardy’s apology, which I recorded and tweeted. That’s the only video I took because of the unique circumstances of his situation. TNA brought him back in front of a real audience for a reason, which was to gauge how he was received. The ovation for him was huge, as J.B. had teased him all show and the crowd had a “Hardy” chant going before his music even hit. This audience clearly wanted him back if he was past his addiction issues.
Hardy flat-out apologized and humbled himself on National TV. He said everything he needed to say (check out the video for his exact words) to open the door to a return, down to simply asking for another chance. If he’s really sober and clean then this had to happen. If he’s still battling addiction, then shame on TNA for bringing him back. As much as I would like to see Jeff Hardy, wrestler, I’d rather have him be Jeff Hardy, sober private citizen, than ever see him in the ring again.
Overall, this was the kind of atmosphere that will make TNA look so much more ‘big time.’ Sure, they can’t match WWE’s production values, but there was better lighting than Fayetteville with some big klieg lights inside and most of the crowd stuck around for nearly four hours.
If I had to rate a crowd involvement on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being a backyard show with 25 fans and 10 being Money in the Bank, this was about a 7, so the fans were into it. But, compared to the usual minus four that is the Impact Zone, the crowd was about all that TNA could hope for.
One other note: Gunner had a huge night with his win over RVD, his presence in the Final Four, his win over Bully Ray, and his nick-of-the-time save on Angle. While I wasn’t a big fan of the security guy getting a big push six months ago, he and Crimson are great examples of two young guys that finally got a sustained push by a company that notoriously stops/starts with their less-established talent. It dawned on me that TNA had achieved in getting Gunner over when he beat Ray and the whole crowd popped with a ‘What just happened?’ attitude. If the rest of the company had anything close to the character support those two have enjoyed, then TNA would have a lot better (and more consistent product).
Finally, this is just redundant, but Kurt Angle is about as good of a pro wrestler as there ever will be. He wrestled two great matches and looked crisp and technical to the point that almost everyone else didn’t even come close. He always looks great in the ring, but in person he really stands out. While the general mass of past-their-prime stars hurts TNA, Kurt Angle as World Champion is a very appropriate choice, assuming he's healthy and not on the verge of breaking down.
While it would be hard to honestly tell with all of the production work to be done, I would guess that both shows will be a much stronger offering than what has been seen from TNA recently. Now, if that E.Y. vs. Robbie E. match makes it onto Impact, I’ll re-evaluate, but there should be two solid shows leading into No Surrender.
The only major qualm that I had was that TNA did not give the live audience a sense of context to the matches. For example, if J.B. or Christy Hemme had told the live audience that Crimson was out of the BFG Series due to an injury at the hands of Samoa Joe and RVD-Gunner would determine the fourth and final spot in the BFG Finals, the crowd would have been absolutely stoked for the match. Little things like that still need to be improved for a company that doesn’t have a lot of experience in road TV tapings.
Top Five Loudest Pops:
(2) Beer Money
(3) Mr. Anderson
(4) A.J. Styles
(5) Samoa Joe
Top Five Biggest Heat:
(1) Bully Ray
(2) Austin Aries
(3) Kurt Angle
(4) Hulk Hogan
(5) Karen Jarrett
Matt Baxendell is the Torch’s contributing writer covering TNA Wrestling. He’s also a college football writer for NationalFootballAuthority.com and Bucknuts.com. If you want to talk wrestling, hockey or football with Bax, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MattBaxendell
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