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By Daniel Wilkenfeld, PWTorch Contributor
Where We've Been: Last week ended hot, but a bit of overproduction made the ECW Invasion needlessly confusing. It's a bad sign if the champ, Rob Van Dam, is involved in a brawl and I can't quite tell who's side he's on. The fact is I love almost all invasion and/or factional war angles, and this one's been brewing a while, so it should be hard to blow. I have some ideas about how this could play out well—ideally they'll also make some retroactive sense out of the Sting push from June—but I'm not optimistic. Before I get myself too excited though let's see what TNA actually has planned.
The Show: Extreme Invitation
Dixe Carter showed up earlier, and will address why she invited the ECW folk. At least that clarifies who "them" referred to when she said she invited "them". There are too many "them"s floating around.
Later tonight we'll see Angle vs. Hernandez and Jeff Hardy vs. Samoa Joe. That's a cool lineup, particularly as we should also get The Guns vs. Beer Money.
(1)ROB TERRY (c) vs. AJ STYLES (w/KAZARIAN) Global Championship Match
Does that title mean anything anymore? What do you mean it never did? Well, maybe AJ can give it some meaning. Terry no-sells a right to start. AJ catches his quad with a round kick, then celebrates like he won a gold medal. He shuffles a bit, so Terry clubs him on the back. Terry tosses AJ into the corner and drives his shoulder into his abdomen. He Beal Tosses AJ halfway across the ring. Kazarian starts to pull AJ out of the ring, but Terry grabs on and Kaz is halfway into the ring before he lets go. AJ gets some distance and tries to slingshot into Terry, but Terry catches him in a Military Press, then tosses him to the ground. Terry lifts AJ up for a Powerslam, but AJ punches him in the eye and nails another kick. Terry comes back with his spinning jump kick, but Kazarian has the ref distracted. Terry goes over to slug Kaz off the apron, which enables AJ to get a School Boy for what looked like 3 but apparently wasn't. Terry hoists AJ up again, but Kaz trips him from the outside and holds down his leg for three.
WINNER (and new champion): AJ Styles in 4 minutes.
Madison Rayne and Sarita are comparing notes on their wayward tag partners. Sky walks in just as Rayne disses her boobs. Sky tells Sarita to put a helmet on that big ass of hers. Von Erich tries to chime in, but both Velvet and Madison shut her up. Madison is happy because she expects to have her title returned tonight. Sky gloats that she didn't lose her title—isn't that one-third Madison Rayne's anyhow?
Dixie is yelling at some agents, including Al Snow and D-Lo Brown. She says that they had a week to prepare, so they should have kept matters under control. Snow says that they didn't know what was happening—Carter says that they don't need to know.
(2)TAYLOR WILDE & ANGELINA LOVE vs. SARITA & MADISON RAYNE
Before the opening bell, Earl Hebner tells Love that the board of directors has ruled that since there's no proof that Sky or Von Erich interfered last week, the title is going back to Rayne. Rather than give it over, she slugs Rayne. She and Wilde take Sarita out of the ring and nail Rayne with a double team Suplex. Sarita tags in and walks right into a Spear from Love. Wilde tags in, but runs into a sort of STO. She gets up firing, but Sarita takes her over with a Back Suplex that somehow lands Wilde on her front—I'm not sure how that worked. Both teams make tags. Rayne tries to get away from Love, but Love takes her down and then rips her down by the hair. She floors Rayne with a Front Slam, so Sarita comes in to help out. Wilde enters to take out Sarita, and they fight out to the floor. In the ring, Rayne is looking for a DDT, but it's reversed into Lights Out for lights out.
WINNERS: Angelina Love & Taylor Wilde in 3 minutes.
The motorcycle lady comes out again. It'd be cool if it's actually three different people, like in that one animated Batman. It's probably just Tara though. Sky and Von Erich walk out, to once again show that it's not them. Alissa Flash would be neat too—she never really got a fair shake as a wrestler. Sarita and Rayne take advantage of the distraction to jump Wilde and Love. Rayne gets on the bike and calls to Von Erich and Velvet Sky. Von Erich reluctantly goes over as Sky yells at her. Mad props to booking for actually making me sympathize with Lacey Von Erich. Velvet Sky and Angelina Love share a look.
Hernandez vs. Angle is supposedly up next.
Mick Foley arrived with the ECW 4 earlier tonight.
(3)HERNANDEZ vs. KURT ANGLE
This "Kurt has said he'll retire if he loses" is now killing it's third straight match. Does anyone think that stake makes these matches more exciting? There had better be some elaborate plan here, like involving Kurt losing to Jay Lethal. Otherwise it's just stupid. Angle goes behind and takes Hernandez to the mat with a front chancery. Hernandez backs him into a corner, but he comes out firing with European Uppercuts. Hernandez backs him back into the corner with a straight right, then charges. Angle takes him over with a Back Body Drop, but he lands on the apron and comes back in with a Slingshot Shoulder Block. Angle gets up firing, but runs right into Hernandez and bounces to the mat. Hernandez locks in a sort of back breaker/Torture Rack for two. Angle takes Hernandez into the corner with rights. Hernandez pulls himself to the top. Kurt charges, but Super-Mex knocks him back. Kurt charges again, and this time connects with the Belly-to-Belly Suplex off the top rope for two. Hernandez goes for a clothesline as both men get up, but Kurt ducks beneath it and nails a trio of German Suplex. Then he adds one more for good luck. A cover gets two. Kurt goes for an Olympic Slam, but Hernandez slips out and nails a side Dominator for a long two count. If it weren't for the stupid stip I might have thought that was it. Hernandez takes Kurt up for a Border Toss, but Kurt slips out and nails the Olympic Slam for two. Angle goes to the top rope, but whiffs on the Moonsault. Hernandez Pounces him as they get up. The crowd is now booing Hernandez, which seems unfair. Hernandez takes Kurt up for a Delayed Vertical Suplex, but after a couple of seconds Kurt slips out and picks an ankle. He immediately grapevines a leg, and that's it.
WINNER: Kurt Angle in six minutes. That was fun, but could have used the time from the previous pointless match. Has anyone else noticed that on Impact Angle uses a leg grapevine on the first Angle Lock attempt, but on PPVs he tries to win three or four times without it?
As Kurt celebrates, Kevin Nash's music hits. In a nice touch of continuity, he and Angle share a handshake on his way down to the ring. Nash calls out Jarrett.
It's a small thing, but I always like when they have non-match segments lead into each other—it gives the show a better flow. Conveniently, Jarrett's music hits just as we come back from commercial. Nash says that he's had a week to think about what went down, but the more he thought about it the more something didn't feel right. Jeff's amazing, and he's really good at what he does. He almost had Nash convinced that it was Sting who left the log in the punch bowl. Nash has known Sting for 20 years. When Kevin first broke in, Sting let him sleep on a roll-away for free, cause Sting was making loads and he was making nothing. So he thinks that maybe it was Jarrett who left the log. Has he been eating a lot of almonds (that's Nash's line, not mine)? But there's a load of people who look up to Jarrett, and they're the real victims. Jarrett says that he doesn't have any idea what Kevin's talking about, but he's not buying it, and these people aren't buying it. Someone gets a small but audible "yes we are" chant going—awesome. A much louder minority contingent is just booing Jarrett. It was Nash who screwed Bischoff and Hogan when he did the end-around to get Hall and Pac their jobs. Yeah, nothing's jerky like getting your friends jobs. Jarrett says that he knows what Nash is, and so do we. Nash says he knows who he (Nash) is, and he's come to live with it. But he has a question for Jarrett. Those three young little...bloody hell, LEAVE CHILDREN OUT OF IT!!! Anyhow, Nash wants to know what his kids will think of Jarrett once they realize the truth that he's a selfish SOB.
Kurt bumps into Dixie backstage, and they share a hug. He asks what's going on. She says that she knows it looks weird, but he needs to trust her. He does, but she needs to know that those people have a reputation. He'll trust her though, just like he did 4 years ago when he came to TNA.
Joe vs. Hardy is up next.
(4)SAMOA JOE vs. JEFF HARDY
If the rankings meant anything, then this would be a de facto #1 Contender's Match. They don't though, so it's not. Hardy rolls out of the ring to say hi to his fans to start. Bischoff calls into the commentary booth. Joe round kicks Hardy's shin, then unloads with jabs in the corner. He tosses Jeff over the top rope, then follows him out and rams his head into the apron a few times. Hardy gets in some kicks from his back, then drives Joe's head into the stairs, followed by the ring post. Bischoff is really distracting, saying that he'll support whatever Dixie Carter has to say. Hardy rolls Joe in for some mounted punches in the corner, then Snapmares him down into a chin lock. Joe powers to his feet and connects with a Jaw Breaker. Joe twists Hardy to the mat, kicks him in the back, then drops a knee on his face. Hardy gets up firing. Joe reverses a whip attempt into the corner—Hardy floats over him, but Joe nails a Superkick as he lands. Joe connects with a couple elbows to the back of Hardy's head. Joe hits a chop in one corner, whips Hardy to another, then follows him with a running elbow and the Joe version of a Pele for two. Hardy connects with elbows to the midsection as he gets up, but then runs right into a Snap Power Slam for a long two count. The crowd is split maybe 60-40 in favor of Hardy, which is probably exactly what they're going for. Joe connects with some more jabs. The ref tries to get Joe to ease off when Hardy's in the ropes, so Joe flips him off. Hardy connects with a Flashback out of nowhere, then hits a series of running forearms and a delayed dropkick in the corner for two. He hits an Inverted DDT for two. That's new for him I think. Joe connects with a chop as he gets up. He charges Hardy in the corner, but runs right into a back elbow. Hardy comes off the middle rope, but lands in an Inverted Atomic Drop. Joe follows up with a Big Boot and a Senton Drop for two. Joe nails a Power Bomb pin, then segues into an STF when Hardy gets a shoulder up. Joe then shifts into a Crossface. Actually it's more of a cross-forehead, maybe to differentiate it. Hardy slides backwards to get his foot on the bottom rope, and Joe has to break the hold. He poses for a second, and now he's getting boos. He and Hardy trade blows as Jeff gets up. Jeff looks for a Twist of Fate, but it's reversed into an (almost) Kokido Clutch. Before it's locked in Hardy drives Joe's head into the ring post, then nails Whisper in the Wind. JB informs us that there are 30 seconds left. Both men just start swinging, but neither gets the kill-shot in before the end of ten minutes.
WINNER: Time-limit draw. That was a really great ten minute teaser.
Joe asks for more time, and the crowd seems to agree. So does Hardy, who takes off his shirt and jumps Joe. That seems like bad sportsmanship. Refs pull them apart.
Dixie Carter is talking to Jeff Jarrett, assuring him that this is a good thing. She saw the disappointment in people's eyes last weeks, and wants his help placating people. She can't get into too many details now, but he seems willing to take her word for the moment. He says she can trust him. I'm not sure if "trust" is intentionally a theme tonight.
Morgan vs. Anderson is up next.
Mr. Anderson wants to know if there any assholes in the building. There seem to be. In that case, he gives to them, without further ado, the head asshole in charge, Mr. Anderson...Anderson.
(5)MATT MORGAN vs. MR. ANDERSON
So I guess the deal is that TNA buries whomever has the audacity to do better than he's supposed to in fan voting (Morgan randomly spiked a month or so ago). Anderson goes for a quick School Boy to start, then a side roll. Anderson locks in a side head lock. Morgan backs him into the corner, then nails a cheap shot-elbow during the break. He Stomps a Mudhole in Anderson. Anderson stumbles to his feet, and Morgan crushes him with the series of back elbows and a charge. Morgan nails a Side Slam, but the cover only gets one. Anderson fights back from his knees with straight rights. Morgan stops him with a knee lift. Anderson tries to come back with a Cross Body Block, but Morgan catches him and takes him over with a Fall Away Slam. He brings Anderson to his feet, then takes him back down with a Short Arm Clothesline. He does that again. He lifts Anderson up again, but when he goes for a Discus Clothesline Anderson gets beneath the arm and connects with the Mic Check for game.
WINNER: Mr. Anderson in 3 minutes. So Morgan's new gimmick is losing out of nowhere? That could work actually.
After the match Anderson calls for his microphone, but Morgan intercepts it and busts Anderson upside the head. He drops the mic on Anderson, who's bleeding.
(6)BEER MONEY INC. vs. THE MOTOR CITY MACHINE GUNS Street Fight (Match 2 of 5)
Sabin storms the ring and flies over the top into James Storm. Shelley tosses Roode out onto the ramp as Sabin beats Storm around the ring. Storm reverses an attempted whip into the side of the ramp as Roode takes control of Shelley with a knee lift. Storm goes to help Roode with a Beer Money Suplex off the ramp, but Sabin picks Storm's leg. Shelley whips Roode against the ropes, and he and Sabin take turns splashing into him. Sabin gets a huge running start from the top of the ramp to nail a hesitation dropkick. Roode falls to the floor, and Shelley follows him with a double foot-stomp for two. Roode takes back over on Shelley as Storm gets a trash can full of weapons out from under the ring. Roode swings with a chair, but Shelley ducks and he connects with the ring post. Shelley gets a running start from the apron and punts his head in. Storm tries to go into the ring, but Sabin slides in first and Shelley helps him with some Poetry in Motion. Sabin tries for a Suicide Dive to Roode on the outside, but Roode gets a chair up. Ouch. Shelley's on the apron, and Roode takes his legs out with the chair. He wedges the chair in the corner, then tries to whip Shelley into it. Shelley slides beneath it, and when Roode runs over to finish things Shelley Flatliners him into the chair. Storm comes up and connects with a Code Breaker for two. Storm starts working over Shelley in the corner, and Roode takes Sabin into the opposite corner. Storm tries to whip Shelley into Sabin, but Sabin is able to somehow stop Shelley (I'm pretty sure the physics doesn't actually make sense here, but that's okay), then go to the top rope. He nails a Missile Dropkick into a chair into Roode's face for two. Shelley tries to fly out onto Storm, but Storm sidesteps. He swigs some beer, then rolls into the ring and spits it in Sabin's face. Sabin backs into a Spine Buster from Roode for two. Beer Money set up for DWI, but Shelley comes up from behind Storm and whacks him with a kendo stick. Roode locks Shelley in a Sleeper, but Shelley drops to his knees with the stick around the back of Roode's neck, then nails him in the face. Sabin misses with a trash can to Roode, and when Roode tries to fire back he clotheslines ref Brian Hebner by mistake. He rolls out of the ring, and when Sabin tries to follow him with a Baseball Slide he takes out Earl Hebner too. Roode spins Sabin around with a clothesline as Storm takes Shelley back into the ring. Roode and Storm set Shelley up on the top rope for a super Beer Money Suplex, but Sabin runs up behind and tosses Storm from the ring. He then assists with a double-team Power Bomb/Sliced Bread #2 on Roode. The crowd happily counts the three, but that doesn't count. Storm slips in and pastes the back of Shelley's head with a beer bottle, then Superkicks Sabin. He pulls the ref over to make the three count.
WINNERS: Beer Money in 7 minutes. I'm not sure where they're going with this ref-bump gimmick, but it's pretty entertaining.
Devon goes to Ray backstage. He wants to know why when he went out to support their ECW family, he was all alone. Ray asks why he should have their backs. They have nothing left to prove with those guys. Devon says that they're family. Ray replies that they've already done more than the others ever have. Devon needs to think about that.
Christy is in the back with RVD. She mentions his history with ECW, and asks how it felt to be fighting back to back again. Rob says that it feels great, and he's having fun. He's so proud as an artist of what he did in ECW, where he honed his craft. And now he's world champion and with Christy Hemme—what more could he ask for? This is awesome. She asks if he knows what Dixie is going to say, but he's waiting to hear what it is just like everyone else. RVD has been glad to see that the fans remember what they did years ago, since it shows that the same fan base has stuck with him through all these years. So he'll find a monitor to watch, but he's not going to take his mind off the fact that he's got the title, and Abyss wants it.
We recap the return of ECW.
Dixie Carter comes down to the ring. Did she used to have entrance music? Well, she does now. She thanks the crowd for their warm welcome. She's always said that this will be a company about the fans. Her favorite part of her job is getting to meet us personally, getting to say thank you, and getting to hear what we want in TNA. Facebook and Twitter have given her a chance to talk to even more fans—and yes, it really is her talking. And there's one thing she hears from the fans over and over again—that we love hardcore wrestling. So let's all properly welcome five men who brought hardcore to an art form. The ECW 4 + Foley come down to the ring. Dreamer's limping, as apparently he tore his ACL last week. On commentary, Taz says that he's flattered to see the respect she has for ECW. She didn't think it was fair that she'd be the only one to get to hear what the fans thought of them, so she thought they should come out and hear for themselves. She was clearly going for an ECW chant, but instead they chant for Foley. Mick's excited to see her come to the ring for her first real promo. Oddly enough, she sounds a lot more natural than she ever did in backstage vignettes. She responds that this isn't a promo, it's just her being real. That explains that pretty well. She says that she really thinks that what Hogan was to the 80s these guys were for ECW in the 90s. She gets the ECW chant she was after, and says that they deserved it. But it's not really about hardcore. It's about honor, and these guys not doing it for fat paychecks, but to give these fans what they want, and we'll never forget them. She has a history with four of the people up there, and those traits they brought with them were what helped TNA survive and thrive today. Foley says that really it should be them thanking her. The last time he was here he was getting fired, and he's glad that she's given them a chance to make a new last impression, since no one should ever have to leave their job with their head down. He says that while she mentioned that she had history with four of them, the fifth has been one of the greatest ambassadors pro wrestling could have ever hoped for, so he should chime in. Dreamer steps up and says that he's watched TNA since the beginning in the Asylum, in Nashville. I vaguely remember a couple earlier PPVs in Huntsville, AL, but Dreamer shouldn't feel bad—no one watched those anyway. He watched a small company grow. His friends would always tell him to quit his job and come here. But he was scared. He has two little kids, and he wanted job security. But he kept seeing so many similarities to the original ECW. It was a place where unknowns became legends, and where legends went to redefine their careers. Before there was Joe dropping people on their heads, there was Taz, the Human Suplex Machine. What Ric Flair did for Jay Lethal Terry Funk did for him and Mick Foley. Before there were the Beautiful People there were Francine and Beulah McGillicutty (huge pop for her), and when she invited him to Slammiversary he got to feel TNA. He got to see people doing what they did for passion, because they love this business, and for the fans. He has to thank her for bringing back that passion. In 2005 at ECW One Night Stand he had his closure...and then they brought it back. That gets loud boos. He got to witness his friends—people with whom he used to party like rock stars, and whose kids he now knows—get fired, get destroyed and for what? Someone in the crowd shouts something ("nothing" maybe?) and he agrees. And so at 38 he just had to quit his job. And one by one these guys talked to him, culminating in Mick Foley. They put this plan together. There's only one person who could help them. This isn't about an invasion or a takeover. This is about men and women who lost their jobs. He starts to cry, but says that he won't because he's happy. Someone shouts that they love him, and he says that he loves them too. This is about making sure that their legacy is not destroyed. He's begging her for one night to show the world what they were, and then their legacy can live forever. He asks the crowd if they want to see one night, and they do. She says that if they want to do this, that's cool, but she has one stipulation—they have to plan this, and do it how they want. It's got to be real. The crowd chants for Sabu. This isn't TNA—this something TNA is giving to them. Dreamer announces that the Impact Zone is going extreme. He and Dixie hug.
Where We're Going: So we get One Night Stand 3 (yes, I realize WWE did one or two as a standard PPV, but those don't count), and then...? The last segment smacked of sincerity, and they seemed to imply that this would be a stand-alone departure from episodic TV. That makes sense, since there's a limit to what people like Raven can still bring on a weekly basis, but damn it seems like a waste of a killer angle. At least in the short-run though we should be getting some great old-school ECW mic work, which should be well worth the ride.
Star of the Night: Tommy Dreamer. If that final promo hadn't sounded sincere the whole angle would have been DOA. He nailed it.
Overall: I had lots of clever plans for what they could do with ECW. Their plans were better. Instead of an intricate invasion, for now at least they're just doing a feel-good nostalgia romp. Two hours ago I would have said that that was a horrible call, but, to be honest, this feel-good romp actually feels pretty damned good.. I can live with television being happy for a bit, particularly if the inevitable end result is someone getting DDTed through a fiery table wrapped in barbed wire. I obviously can't know if Dreamer was sincere, but if he wasn't he's the best promo artist of all time. I can be very confident that Dixie was, as she said, being real, because she came off much better than she ever has even in edited packages. That was just a really great segment. It might collapse next week, but that's two hot finishes in a row. The show started on a bit of a down note, as Rob Terry followed by a meaningless women's tag match (though one which did feature some great talent) didn't really set the right mood. But things rocketed up starting with Hernandez vs. Angle and never really let down. (If they're going to keep talking about Sting though they had better have a frick'n plan.) I really think I could watch Shelley and Sabin wrestle every week and be perfectly happy, and Joe-Hardy was amazing while it lasted. Of course this show did little to sell the next PPV, since the #1 Contender was conspicuously absent all night, but I won't complain if you don't. For this night, this was a great, if somewhat imperfect, show. I always go by main events, so it rounds up to an A.
Daniel is a graduate instructor at The Ohio State University. He has 35 mid-terms to grade. Offer to help can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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