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By: Daniel Wilkenfeld, PWTorch Contributor
Where We've Been: Last week's show had some definite up points. For one thing, they finally gave me some limited hope that maybe someone, somewhere has a long term plan for making the Sting so-called heel turn interesting. Personally I would have gone with a plan that made it interesting before giving him the main event spot at the third biggest PPV of the year, but late is better than never. Anyhow, tonight should finally be the big reveal, where we all find out the answer to the question we've all be asking. I mean except for me, since I'll be watching Impact. Someone drop me a line and let me know what's happening on ESPN. Actually, screw it—I'll get to Impact in 10 minutes.
Pre-show Lebron coverage:
Holy crap, I'm 98% sure that the guy who did the intro voice-over is the same guy who does the voice overs for the TNA PPVs.
I want to make fun of the commentators for claiming that LeBron is important to Ohio, but he kind of is.
We get it, he's awesome, get to the frick'n answer.
In the first big news of the show, it turns out Memphis still has a basketball team. I'm as surprised as any of you.
They go to commercial—screw this, I'm switching to Impact, after finally answering the key question—does anyone have worse pacing than TNA?
The Show: Friends to the end?
We hype the Anderson face turn to start, culminating with the chair shot to Hardy last week.
Anderson is walking to the ring with a steel chair at his side. He invites Hardy to join him, and he does. Hardy makes some hand gestures on the way to the ring, but the camera doesn't pick them up. Anderson reminds Hardy that last week he hit him in the back with a folding chair—from behind, while he wasn't looking. He asks Jeff to look him in the eyes and believe that he didn't do it on purpose. And do we know why he knows that Jeff knows that he didn't do it on purpose? Because if he did hit Jeff from behind with a chair, or from the front with a chair, or anywhere else with a chair, he'd tell him. He'd probably be bragging about it. And do we know why? Because he's an asshole. In fact the world would be a better place with more assholes in it. The Impact Zone is one of the best places on Earth because it's just full of assholes. So Anderson has an idea. He and Jeff have a match tonight. He'll be bringing this chair to ringside. If he uses it, Jeff will know that he has a problem with him. If Jeff uses it—well, maybe he'd deserve it—but in any case, he'll know he has a problem with Jeff. Anderson walks off, and Hardy claps.
AJ is realizing that Ric is just like anyone else—when you're on top he loves you, and when you're not he doesn't. He gets it, Ric's disappointed with him; he's disappointed with himself. But now he has to wrestle Kazarian? He'll rip him to shreds, if that's what Flair wants to see.
(1)AJ STYLES vs. KAZARIAN
This only has a ten minute time limit. They usually give advertised matches 20. They trade blows to start. Kaz rakes the eyes, then gains the upper hand in the corner. Earl Hebner pulls him off, and he turns back around into an eye poke from AJ. AJ stomps him down in another corner, but Kazarian reverses a whip into the corner and nails AJ with a Monkey Flip. Kazarian follows up with the Suicide-style Thrust Drop Kick for two. He works the chin lock. Flair moseys down to ring side as AJ powers out. AJ leap frogs into his high drop kick. He tries to yank Kazarian out of the corner, but Kaz lands on his feet. AJ blocks a punch, kicks Kazarian in the leg, then takes him down with a Swinging Neck Breaker. He follows up with a Back Breaker that barely gets two, then locks in the chin lock. They're not exactly making it easy to keep from flipping back to ESPN with these chin locks. Kazarian starts to power out, so AJ clubs him in the back of the head. He looks for the Styles Clash, it's reversed into Kazarian's Pile Driver, which is re-reversed into an attempted Styles Clash, which is blocked. AJ connects with a knee to the back of Kazarian's head for a long two count as the crowd comes alive for him. He hits a Stinger Splash in the corner, but Kazarian stops an attempted Neck Breaker and hits a Slingshot Leg Drop for two. Kazarian sets him up on the top rope for the Flux Capacitor (though Taz and Tenay seem baffled), but AJ knocks him down with headbutts. AJ looks for the Flying Forearm—Kazarian ducks, but AJ hits the Pele instead. Kazarian Back Body Drops AJ to the apron and follows him with a Slingshot DDT to the apron. Ouch. Both men get up swinging, and stay out for a ten count. The crowd is ticked, but AJ and Kazarian don't seem to care—they just keep fighting.
WINNER: Double count-out in six minutes.
Flair comes into the ring to break it up. He says that they're two of the best wrestlers alive, so that they need to stop dicking around. These bunch of punks (he points to the crowd) can't divide them—they've already admitted that they're a bunch of assholes. So he got them a match at Victory Road, and they're going to have to work together. If they don't win, no one will be happy. He tells a woman on the way out that he'll see her in the hotel. At least I assume it was a woman.
Angelina Love is undressing in the back. That woman is way too skinny.
Bloody hell, it's Miami. I don't know why people keep saying that LeBron didn't owe Cleveland anything. Of course he owed Cleveland.
(2)ANGELINA LOVE vs. DAFFNEY
Love gets a wrist lock to start, as the crowd is at least 60-40 behind Daffney. That can't be what TNA wants. Love connects with some knees to the midsection, then a clothesline. She locks in the side headlock, then takes Daffney down with the Spinning Wheel Kick. Daffney reverses a whip, but Love stops herself in the corner and knocks her back down. Daffney gets out with a Jaw Breaker, but Love takes her back down with a couple of Power Slams. She hits a kick to the gut, then a Lights Out for three.
WINNER: Angelina Love in 2 minutes. Love needed the win, but Daffney's taken way too many crazy bumps to be treated as a jobber.
Love takes the mic. I hate that lip ring—it makes it look like she's always in the middle of a herpes outbreak. She addresses Madison Rayne, who she says is at home, since she doesn't have the balls to be here. At Victory Road, she'll become the first ever four-time Knockouts Champion. Madison Rayne is here though, and she hits the top of the ramp. She says shame on Angelina, who's underestimated her. If she's putting her title on the line Sunday, what is Love putting on the line? Will she put those fake fun bags in her chest on the line? Or what about that horrible weave? She's got it—Love should put her career on the line. Is she afraid? She should be. Love says that if she wants her career on the line, she's got it. Rayne starts to walk away, but Love's not finished. She already made a proposal to the championship committee, and she got something in return—if either Velvet Sky or Lacey von Erich get involved, the title will be awarded to Love on the spot.
Later tonight we'll be seeing RVD vs. Samoa Joe. Sweet.
Brother Devon is looking for Brother Ray.
We recap Neal—Ray—Devon. I wonder if they'll ever get back to those playing cards found on Neal.
Devon is in the ring with Ink Inc. He says that for the last few weeks things have gotten a little out of control. So he's gonna ask his brother to come down to the ring so that he can straighten things out right here, right now. Ray stops on the ramp. Devon says that it's fine if he wants to stand there. He wants to ask Ray a question. They trained this guy. Every bit of knowledge they had, they gave him. Ray was the one who interviewed him when he first came. He was always the first person in the gym and the last one out—he's shown nothing but respect from day one. He'd already been through hell before he even got to them. He was in the Navy, doing what he was supposed to do, defending our country. Then, when he was doing his job, his ship got blown up by some terrorists. His best friend was killed, and he had to help put him in the body bag. That's respect. He carried the casket—that's respect. So Devon wants to know what the hell Ray's problem is. Ray says that the first thing is that he's Brother Ray—he's the leader of Team 3D. He doesn't answer questions from Devon—Devon does what he says. Devon starts to interrupt, but Ray tells him to shut up. His problem is that Neal is a disrespectful punk, and Devon's being a disloyal partner. He asks Devon where his loyalty lies. Devon tells him not to go there. Ray presses the point, and Devon says his loyalty is to both—he's never chosen, and he never will. The crowd respects that. Ray says that it's about to get a lot worse, since at Victory Road it'll be a Ray vs. Jesse vs. Devon, when we'll all find out whether 13 years and 23 World Titles come to an end.
When Ray tries he's still got it.
(3)SAMOA JOE vs. ROB VAN DAM Non-Title Match
They lock up, then start firing forearms, then low round kicks. RVD hits the step-over wheel kick, but when he goes to the top rope Joe tries to cut him off with a Muscle Buster. They jockey for position, and Joe ends up shoving RVD off the top rope onto the floor, with his head catching the ramp. The crowd informs RVD that Joe is gonna kill him. Joe rolls RVD into the ring, but when he tries to follow him he's cut off by a Spinning Wheel Kick. RVD looks to fly out onto him, but Joe slides into the ring, then comes back out with a Suicide Dive onto RVD. The crowd goes nuts. The ECW posse of Dreamer, Raven, Rhino and Richards come into the crowd. Joe rolls RVD into the ring for a cover, which gets two. He Snapmares the champ down and slaps his back, but when he tries to follow up with a roundhouse RVD ducks and gets a School Boy for a long two count. RVD dropkicks Joe into the corner, Face Washes him, then flips back and nails a dropkick. RVD nails a Slingshot Guillotine Leg Drop to Joe's head, which is draped over the apron. A cover gets two. Joe fires away with jabs as he gets up, then nails a Snap Power Slam for two. The crowd is happy to chant for RVD too. Joe flips RVD down to the mat by the hair, then works a chin lock that Taz tries to convince me is a crossface—he could be right. RVD powers out and nails a side jumpkick. He hits a clothesline, but then walks right into a Decapitator for a long two count. Van Dam dodges a charge in the corner and kicks Joe in the face. A sidekick off the middle rope gets two. He dropkicks Joe in the face, then connects with Rolling Thunder for two. He goes to the top rope and nails the side kick from there for two. RVD hits a Spinning Heel Kick in the corner, but Joe explodes out with another Decapitator Clothesline. Both men get up. Joe looks prone in the corner, but when RVD goes for the Monkey Flip Joe explodes with a Ura-Nage. I think he was playing possum, but Taz doesn't mention it. He follows up with a pinning Power Bomb. RVD gets a shoulder up after two, so Joe segues into a Boston Crab, followed by a Single Leg. RVD gets to the rope. RVD gets up swinging, but Joe stops him with head butts. Joe takes RVD up, but Van Dam slips out and shoves Joe into the ropes. He gets a roll up on the rebound, but Joe yanks him back into the Kokido Clutch. RVD fights to his feet, then bounces off the ringpost and over Joe. Joe maintains the clutch, but his shoulders are down for three.
WINNER: RVD in 12 minutes. That was just a phenomenal match for free TV. ***3/4
After RVD leaves the ring Joe argues that he wasn't really down. Referee Jamie Tucker disagrees, so Joe slaps him and Muscle Busts him. Taz: That's gonna cost him some money, but I don't think the Samoan Submission Machine cares.
Angle talks about how the added pressure he's placed on himself keeps him sharp. He also mentions his run-ins with Anderson, and suggests that Hardy stay on his toes.
Despite spending 11 minutes watching people yammer about Lebron, I'm now live. That doesn't say good things for the amount of dead time in the first hour.
(4)DOUGLAS WILLIAMS vs. JEREMY BUCK Non-title Ladder Match
Buck shoots off Williams to start, but gets knocked down with a shoulder block. Buck leap frogs Williams, nails a back elbow, then a slingshot Cross Body Block. Williams rolls to the outside to avoid a springboard move, but Buck flips out to the apron and nails a Moonsault onto Williams on the floor. He brings in and sets up a ladder, but that buys Williams time to recover. He punches Jeremy in the head and sets him up in a Tree of Woe. Williams has time, but doesn't climb. Taz tells us that he's afraid of heights. Buck comes off the top rope with a Missile Dropkick, then starts to climb. Williams knocks him down, then moves the ladder against the corner. He whips Buck into it, but gets nothing but steel on an attempted high knee. Buck catupults him into the steel. Williams Back Body Drops him out onto the apron, but when he tries to knock him off with the ladder Buck kicks him back into him. He drops the ladder, and Buck hits a Slingshot Face Plant into the steel. Cool. Buck sets up the ladder, but Williams comes in underneath him and nails the Electric Chair Drop. Buck rolls out to the floor as the crowd goes nuts. An overacting Williams slowly climbs. Buck goes to the top rope, leaps over onto the ladder, then over the top and into a Sunset Flip Power Bomb. HOLE. Y. SHIT. Buck starts to climb. Williams tries to leap off the top rope to knock him off, but Buck catches him with a kick in mid-air. He grabs the X.
WINNER: Jeremy Buck in five minutes. Is it too early to start calling this kid Jeff Hardy 2.0? I mean holy crap, where did that come from?
Williams, frustrated, beats up the ladder.
Alex Shelley, "Children's Role Model", is talking to the camera in some old-timey footage. He has a problem with his partner, who used to be a fun, athletic, good looking guy like him. But then he discovered beer money. At first it seemed okay, but now he's not as fun, not as athletic, and nowhere near as good lucking. So parents, take the first step and talk to your kids about beer money. Education is power—paid for by the Motor City Machine Guns and Beer Money are a Couple of Tools foundation. I do not understand why Alex Shelley hasn't been TNA Champion yet. Maybe I should start a group on Facebook. At the very least I should be able to get him invited to host SNL.
(5)THE MOTOR CITY MACHINE GUNS & HERNANDEZ vs. BEER MONEY INC. & MATT MORGAN
Roode starts things off with a wrist lock on Sabin. Sabin flips out, so Roode just slugs him. Sabin gets his legs up for some distance in the corner, then nails a Hurricanrana off the top rope for one. Shelley tags in and they roll off their double team magic for two. Roode stops Shelley with a knee lift, then powers into his corner for a tag. Shelley slips away from Roode though and shoves him head first into Storm. Sabin tags back in. Storm elevates him over onto the apron, where Morgan kicks him in the head behind the ref's back. Morgan tags in and hits a Short Arm Clothesline, then steps on Sabin's stomach.. He works a Surfboard in the ropes, then tags back in Storm. Storm takes Sabin into the corner, but he fights out. Storm stops him with a knee to the face and then yanks the back of his head down to the mat. Shelley breaks up the cover at two. Roode fakes a tag in and chokes Sabin down. He whips him into the turnbuckle for two. Sabin gets up firing. Roode takes him up for a Back Drop, but Sabin slips out. Roode catches his leg, but he nails a backwards Ensuguri and rolls into the tag to Hernandez. Hernandez comes in, and Storm comes to help his partner. Super Mex squishes them both as Morgan waits on the apron. Hernandez makes a move towards him and Morgan flees. Roode eats the Pounce. Shelley tags in, and flings Hernandez into Roode in the corner, then has him catapult Roode into a Flatliner into the bottom turnbuckle. Shelley looks for Sliced Bread #2, but Roode shoves him off and into the knee of Storm. Hernandez comes in with a Slingshot Double Clothesline on both members of Beer Money, then chases Morgan to the back. In the ring Shelley and Sabin hit stereo kicks in the corner. Shelley goes to the top rope. Storm goes to the apron with a swig of beer, but Sabin knocks him down and follows him out with a Suicide Dive. Shelley hits the Cross Body Block off the top rope on Roode, but Roode rolls through and grabs the tights for three.
WINNERS: Beer Money & Matt Morgan in seven minutes. This was standard stuff, but advanced the Morgan—Hernandez story while giving a decent preview of the tag match Sunday, so it served its purpose.
In the back, Pope obviously doesn't think that Hardy should trust Anderson, but right now he's focused on Victory Road. He not only has to face Kurt Angle, but a Kurt Angle who's very motivated by the fact that his first loss will be his last match.
Nash is in the back, ticked off that Bischoff has him waiting. Can you believe this? This is the same guy who was going with the Dungeon of Doom before Nash and Scott jumped to WCW. Hogan walks in. He says that he's still annoyed by the end-run Nash pulled to get Pac and Hall contracts. Nash asks how its any different from Hogan bringing in Knobbs and Suggs. Good question. Hogan says it's different this time—Hogan brought them in on the level to give them a chance, and it didn't work out. Pac and Hall had used up all their chances, and then Nash did his end-run. Hogan's going to leave Nash to Bischoff.
Jay Lethal is in the ring. He was overwhelmed a couple weeks ago when Hogan made the match between him and Flair at Victory Road. But that great feeling was taken away when he was forced to watch his little brother get beat up by Ric Flair. Do we have any idea how it feels to watch one's childhood idol attack your own flesh and blood? It rips your heart out. So that's what Lethal's going to do to Flair—rip his heart out. The crowd approves. Even though he's coming up on the biggest week of his life, his thoughts are on his mother, who's a little sick right now. He knows she's watching though, and he's got some things to say. First, he loves her very much. That gets a huge pop. Second, he'll make her the proudest mother in the world on Sunday when he beats Ric Flair. Even though she's 1000 miles away, she'll always be right in his heart. Flair comes out and down to the ring. He says that he could give a rat's ass about his mother. Truth be told, his mother is living vicariously through Jay, since she wants him. He tells him to back down. Does he know who he's in the ring with? He's Ric Flair. Forget the styl'n and profil'n, and the fact that he's the best wrestler in the world. His robe is in the Smithsonian—"that's for dead people or people that are real famous." Awesome. Lethal had a great family, and his parents loved him. Flair's parents put him on the road at 15, and he's been limousine ride'n ever since. Lethal doesn't know him. No one knows him. He goes to a psychiatrist and after an hour talking to him they're the ones laying in the damned bed, cause he's that crazy. And you know something else? If a woman has felt the caress of the nature boy she is...stained maybe?...for life. He's got ex-wives wandering around the bedroom asking where he is. That's Ric Flair. Hence, hence hence the saying "all night long". He's got a thousand of them. Lethal is tennis shoe wearing, dressed like a little street punk from New Jersey. Lethal gets right up in his face, so Flair tells him to back up. Lethal's got three days to think about it, and he knows Flair's in his head. Lethal doesn't even belong on the same planet, let alone in the same ring. Any woman he wants, just like that (if you didn't follow that non-sequitor, you're probably new to the world of crazy Ric Flair promos). In three days Lethal will have to wrestle him. He's not an icon, he's a machine. There are hospitals all around the world that want him to donate his body parts to see what makes him tick. Lethal says that he might just help them with that. Flair responds that he can't touch him. He's been cut, in an airplane crash, wrecked in a car, hell he's been hit by lightning—what is Lethal gonna do? In three days Lethal will look his god in the eye and have his ass handed to him—god, god, his god. Three days. Three days. WHOOO!!! Lethal looks agog as Flair walks off.
They had to know that would either be really intense or really silly—thankfully, it worked out, as that was awesome.
Mr. Anderson hits the entrance and calls to session this meeting of assholes anonymous. He is our sponsor, Mr. Anderson...wait for it...wait for it...Anderson.
(6)MR. ANDERSON vs. JEFF HARDY
The shake hands to start, then lock up. The crowd favors Hardy a bit, but there are plenty of fans for both. Hardy works a standing arm bar. Anderson shoots him off, then gets shoulder blocked down. They both jockey for an Arm Drag, but neither gets it. Anderson hoists Hardy up for a Green Bay Plunge, but Hardy slips out. Hardy fires with rights, but Anderson ducks and connects with a Neck Breaker for two. Hardy hits the Jaw Breaker as he gets up, then the Inverted Ensuguri. He looks for the delayed dropkick in the corner, but Anderson dodges and rolls him up for two. Hardy reverses an attempted Irish Whip into a Flashback for two. He clothelines Anderson in the corner. He tries for a Bulldog—Anderson shoves him off, but he comes right back with Whisper in the Wind for two. Hardy goes for the Twist of Fate, but Anderson reverses into the Green Bay Plunge for two. Anderson goes to the top rope, but whiffs on the Swanton Bomb. Hardy rolls out of the way and nails a quick Twist of Fate for three.
WINNER: Jeff Hardy in 3 minutes in change. Did one of them have a date later?
Abyss's music hits, and he comes down to the ring with his nail-laced wooden board. Brian Hebner grabs it from him when he gets in the ring though, and Hardy and Anderson attack. Abyss ducks beneath them and connects with a double clothesline. He Choke Slams Hardy and hits a Big Boot to Anderson. He goes out to grab his weapon. Why did Hebner leave it there? Abyss swings for Anderson, who gets out of the way. The board catches on the top turnbuckle, and rips it off when Abyss tries to pull back. RVD runs out, but Abyss quickly catches him around the throat and shoves him out of the ring. Hardy comes up behind Abyss, but Anderson is behind Hardy with the chair. Suddenly Anderson yells to Hardy to get out of the way and whacks Abyss in the back with the chair. Abyss no-sells, but RVD comes in and grabs the chair, tosses it to Abyss, and nails the Van Daminator. That sends Abyss flying out of the ring. RVD and Anderson share a tense handshake.
Where We're Going: Sunday's PPV looks like it might well be the strongest of the Hogan era, both in terms of wrestling and story-telling. I really look forward to every match on the card—even Ray—Devon--Neal is pretty interesting. I'm not quite sure why they're doing everything in their power to convince us that the Pope can't win Sunday, because he almost certainly really can't win Sunday.
Star of the Night: There are lots of candidates here, but I think the best showing was Jay Lethal for becoming the first ever wrestler to successfully sell a family-involvment angle.
Overall: This show had a couple of low lows and a few high highs, and thankfully the latter were both more longer and more numerous. I don't know who thought it was a good idea to job Daffney and Anderson in a combined five minutes, but that strikes me as shortsighted. I thought Joe vs. RVD was incredible, and while five minute ladder matches are usually annoying this one felt more like a coming out party for Jeremy Buck. The Lethal—Flair interactions are getting so good that I'm almost reluctant to see this feud end (it's a good thing TNA never really ends feuds). There were a couple definite missteps, but overall I would rate this an extremely strong show going into the PPV. A-
Daniel is a graduate instructor at The Ohio State University. Anyone who thinks that LeBron James did the right thing in going to Miami can kiss off...or else write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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