TNA Impact BAX’S TNA IMPACT REPORT 3/17: Alt. perspective review - new TNA Title belt, Fall-out From Hardy’s "issues" at Victory Road, Styles injury angle, Overall Grade
Mar 17, 2011 - 11:49:42 PM
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By Matt Baxendell, PWTorch contributor
BAX’S TNA IMPACT REPORT
MARCH 17, 2011
TAPED IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA
AIRED ON SPIKE TV
Where We’ve Been: I could go into great detail on the stories going on in TNA right now but the overwhelming question going into tonight's Impact as they begin to build to Lockdown is ‘How will TNA address the Jeff Hardy situation?’
The show began with Sting’s entrance to a receptive crowd. On his shoulder was a good-looking Gold Belt with silver overlay that can only be the new TNA Championship Belt. In his other hand was Jeff Hardy’s custom purple butterfly belt that has been an albatross for TNA since no one else can hold it without looking ridiculous.
Sting said that he had something to get off of his chest, so before Hogan’s show gets started, he wanted Bischoff & Hogan to come out to the ring or he wouldn’t let Impact get going. With that, Hulk & Eric came out to boos and took their sweet time to get down to the ring.
Sting held up the purple belt and said it was all that was left of Jeff Hardy and told Hogan that he could do whatever he wanted with it. Hulk tossed it out of the ring. Sting asked him how it felt to destroy a man’s career, taking the bright shining light of Hardy and turning him to a black hole. Sting said that Hardy was a grown man and he was responsible for his own actions but Hogan’s influence of searching money, power, and greed hurt him.
Sting said that there’s nothing he can do for Hardy at this point but there’s a lot he can do for the 50 guys in the back who have talent and are hungry, ready to go. That started a ‘TNA’ chant from the Impact Zone.
Hulk mocked Sting for popping in and out of the company recently before asking him if he was blaming Hulk & Eric for Hardy embarrassing Immortal at Victory Road. Hulk said that Hardy couldn’t survive in his shadow and it was Jeff’s own issues that cost him.
Hulk told Sting that everyone else in Immortal was doing great, even Jeff’s own brother, so he doesn’t see this ‘bad influence.’ But, Sting has to be the savior, said Hogan to Bischoff. Hulk told Sting that 50 guys in the back do their own deal and Sting had better take care of himself because Hogan is in charge. Sting said that he could be just like Jeff Hardy, another body to replace for Hogan.
Sting asked who was calling since he always just saw Hulk, Bischoff, and a couple of punks. With that, Bully Ray’s music hit and he came out to the ring to the surprise of, well, everyone. Ray said that he had been buzzing Hulk’s phone off the hook because he’d been waiting for this chance his whole career. Ray put over Hogan as the be all, end all of pro wrestling and asked Sting if it bothered him that he was a co-star or a sidekick.
Ray said that Sting had the fans fooled because he’s actually selfish. It isn’t about the guys in the back, it is about Sting and the only reason he came back was because he couldn’t one up Hogan during his entire career. This drew a reaction from the fans. Ray told Hulk & Eric that it would be an honor to join Immortal and proposed taking out Sting.
Hulk was about to answer the idea when Fortune came out to interrupt the proceedings. A commercial hit as they began down the ramp.[c]
-A.J. Styles was on the mic back from break. A.J. told Ray that Devon had carried the load in Team 3D for the last 15 years and without his brother, Ray simply couldn’t make it on his own. Ray told A.J. that if Dixie hadn’t been wiping his ass for the last eight years, he’d be out in the street. He said that he was a 23-time World Tag Team Champion but without Devon he might be a 23-time World Heavyweight Champion.
Ray told A.J. he was a small man in a ring with giants before turning back to Hulk and asking for a title shot. A.J. responded by slapping Ray in the face and telling him, “Here’s your title shot!” As Hogan was calming Bully Ray down by telling him that A.J. wasn’t worth it, Mr. Anderson’s music hit and out came Anderson with a mic in his hand, forgoing his signature entrance spot with the drop down mic.
Anderson drew a big cheer from the crowd before asking angrily where his rematch was. This prompted Hulk to tell him that he really was an asshole. Anderson agreed, calling himself an asshole multiple times. Hulk told him that he couldn’t beat RVD so he was out of the picture. However, Anderson reminded Hulk that RVD couldn’t beat him either, so it was ‘your call, Terrance!’
Wow, using Hulk’s real name on National TV. That drew a big ‘oooooh’ from Impact Zone. Hulk looked ready to fight Anderson before Bischoff interrupted. He said that the network wanted ratings so they’d make some money off of this hostility, declaring that there would be a four-way main event tonight.
Anderson, RVD, Bully Ray, and A.J. Styles were put into the match and everyone got excited before Anderson screamed that it was his match and they couldn’t do that to him. Hulk got in his face and said that they can and they just did. In old school fashion, Hulk said coldy, “Hit my music.” Taz & Tenay put over the new power structure in TNA as the opening segment ended.
BAX REAX: While that ran 22 minutes into the show, it wasn’t a good start. Sting came out and quickly disposed of Hardy’s custom belt, Immortal buried him by throwing the belt out of the ring, and they immediately left Victory Road in the dust story-wise. However, both sides just acted like everything was fine with leaving the Hardy stuff alone when they had some serious issues that all come back to the simple fact that he should never have been allowed into the ring in the first place last Sunday night. For more on that, check out James Caldwell’s Blog on that very topic.
As for the rest of the segment, Anderson continues to shine on the microphone as an out of control selfish asshole and I absolutely love his character right now. A.J. Styles was re-inserted into the Main Event picture by his inclusion in the four-way match and Fortune stood in the ring as equals with some of the biggest names in the company looking impressive with all of their championship gold.
Plugging Bully Ray into Immortal actually made a lot of sense since I think his heel character has been great since going solo and it is about time that he moves away from Devon and strikes out on his own. But the constant prattle about ‘drawing ratings’ and insider innuendo absolutely continues to drag TNA down. At one point, Bischoff said that he wanted to make TNA money off of all of the conflict going on. Well, that money isn’t going to be made if you keep talking about ratings, backstage gossip, and power struggles. How about a good ol’ fashioned championship feud instead?
-Backstage, Angle’s arrival was caught by the roving cameraman. Kurt brought in a giant present which he said was for the newlyweds. [c]
-Back from break, A.J. Styles walked into RVD’s locker room. A.J. asked RVD if they could watch each other’s back with two untrustworthy guys. RVD laughed, saying that they have such a beautiful history together. (RVD beat A.J. last April for the title, in case you forgot.) He told A.J. that he would go out there and do what he does, which is take care of business and regain the title that he never lost before walking away.
-In the Impact Zone, Alyssa Flash was posing on the stage as the TNA Knockouts Championship graphic was shown. Before any chance of making a big deal out of yet another Knockout returning could take place, Tara & Madison Rayne charged from behind and Madison hit Flash in the back of the head with the Knockouts title and dragged her down to the ring.
1 – KNOCKOUTS CHAMPION MADISON RAYNE vs. ALYSSA FLASH -- Knockouts Title match
Alyssa sold the effects of the belt shot heavily and Madison hit her strange-looking facebuster finishing move right away for the victory.
WINNER: Madison Rayne in 5 seconds
Madison started gouging Alyssa’s face afterward, which drew Mickie James out from backstage. After Madison & Tara cleared the ring, Mickie told her that she was sick of seeing these open challenges every week. Mickie told Madison that if she prided herself on being a fighting champion, so why doesn’t Rayne fight her?
[Q3] Madison’s reply was that she had already beaten Mickie, so she had no reason to fight her unless she could make it worth her while. Mickie asked her what it took to ‘make it worth her while.' Madison said that she wanted to shave her head if she beat her at Lockdown and she wanted an answer now. Mickie sold concern for a few moments before agreeing to the match.
BAX REAX: I don’t remember every seeing a Title vs. Hair match in women’s wrestling. (I’m sure there’s been one somewhere before; if you can help me out let me know on Twitter @MattBaxendell, thanks) so this is actually a unique idea. I also like that TNA wasn’t hiding from the fact that Madison had beaten Mickie before so there had to be an extra stipulation for her to agree to another match.
-Backstage, The Pope was hanging out with a dude who was blind, a fat lady, and a guy in a wheelchair. Except all three obviously were completely normal with the way Pope was acting. The guy in the wheelchair practiced pretending Pope had healed him and began dancing around. Pope seemed excited about what he was doing next as we went to break. [c]
-Right out of commercial, Anderson was nose to nose with Hogan in his office for the second straight week. Anderson asked for an explanation for why he had to wrestle for a title shot that he already owned. Hulk told him that he didn’t beat RVD at Victory Road so he didn’t own anything before telling Anderson that he ran the company now and he could either play along or do things the hard way. At that point, Anderson saw the cameraman and threw him out of the room as the argument continued.
-In the Impact Zone, Pope was in the ring with the three people who did the backstage segment with him before. Pope said we need miracles right now and what is here is three miracles waiting to happen. Pope said that he is ready to making a blind man see, making a lame man walk and trying to help a fat lady shed some weight.
Pope tried to have the blind guy kiss his ring though he couldn’t see. Pope then said that he would put some holy oil in his hands (he spat in them) before rubbing them on the guy’s face and ‘healing’ him. He then kicked the ‘paralyzed’ man in the legs to ‘prove’ that he was a paraplegic. Of course Pope healed him too and he danced around the ring exactly like he did backstage. He then went to the fat woman and tried to do a miracle before telling her that even Jesus couldn’t help her lose weight.
At that point, Samoa Joe had enough and came out down the ramp with Okado. Pope asked him why he and his ‘Green Hornet’ ripoff always had to ruin his stuff. Pope said he wasn’t running before pushing the people in the ring into Joe, climbing out while dragging Okado with him and then...
[Q4] Pope just pulled a knife on Okado. Wow, he’s actually holding a knife to his throat while walking back up the ramp and telling Joe that he’s going to take him to the street. By the time he got to the top of the ramp, he tossed Okado away before showing Joe it was a fake knife. Like that makes it better. [c]
-Back from break, they recapped Pope ‘pulling a knife’ on Okado and the cameras went backstage to show Pope holding Okado hostage by having his hands strung up. Wait, how did Pope get him backstage after showing that his knife was fake? And where are they? Did Pope find Abyss’s secret torture chamber that only he and the camera crew know the location of? Anyways, Pope hit him in the torso multiple times with a telescoping blackjack before backhanding him in the face for videotaping Pope a couple months ago. Pope kicked him in the groin before a loud slamming noise was heard and it was Samoa Joe coming to save Okado. Pope ran off while Joe spoke Japanese with Okado and pulled him down from his chains.
-Rob Van Dam walked into Anderson’s locker room. He told Ken that joining Immortal was the natural path for someone with no morals to get into his way. Anderson protested, asking him whether he was in bed with Hogan after blowing off A.J. earlier. RVD stumbled and told him that everyone would find out who would do such a thing tonight. Awkward exchange, though at least they’re continuing to hype the four-way throughout the show. [c]
-The Beautiful People were shown talking about their street fight tonight before Winter came in to interrupt. Winter asked Velvet if she hadn’t heard the news --- Angelina is teaming with her instead of Velvet Sky tonight. Both Winter & Velvet tried to convince Angelina to pick them to be her partner for the match. She didn’t say a word as she walked out for the match with Winter.
-Back to the Impact Zone and Jeff Jarrett’s music is playing. That’s right, an hour into Impact and there hasn't been a single real wrestling match yet. Anyways, the announcers said that Jarrett apparently wanted to call a truce tonight with Kurt Angle.
Jarrett started things off by calling himself the Ultra-Male. He said he has nothing left to prove, having beaten, embarrassed, and humiliated Angle. For the good of the kids, he decided that he couldn’t do it anymore and wanted to offer a truce to Angle. Double J asked him to come out and beg for forgiveness so they all could move on.
Out came Angle with his giant present in tow. The Jarretts looked excited as Tenay made a Carnac reference. That’s the definition of ‘dated,’ Mr. Tenay. Double J asked if the gift was for him. Angle told him that he was right, he was the better man, the husband & father the he could never be and the gift is a sign of how grateful he was for showing him the way.
Jeff asked Kurt if he was being sincere. Kurt asked him if he looked sincere. Double J opened the gift and got a big smile on his face. It was a guitar that had an American flag on the front. Jarrett hugged him and Kurt stood between the couple and held their hands up high......
Before grabbing the guitar and smashing it over Jeff’s head to a thunderous cheer. Karen tried to low-blow him, but Kurt no-sold it twice, eventually removing a cup from his jeans and tossing it at Karen, who cowered in the corner.
Angle stormed back over to Jarrett, who was bleeding badly. Kurt said that he was ready to get medieval on someone and he was sick and tired of all of this. Jarrett had blood on his eye that looked kind of spooky. Angle told him that he either faced him at Lockdown inside the steel cage or he would come find both of them and make their lives a living hell. As Karen begged him not to say yes, Jarrett nodded quietly. Kurt told them to not even consider going to Hulk to change this match because he would find them. It’s real. It’s damn real.
-Backstage, Gunner, Murphy, Rob Terry were getting a pep talk from Bischoff. He told them that Immortal needed to win championship gold, before referencing Abyss, the TV Champion. As he’s unable to defend his title due to his severe injury, they’ve made the decision to put the title up for grabs. Bischoff said that the three of them would fight for the TV Championship tonight and they needed to put their feelings aside to prove the best man in Immortal. [c]
BAX REAX: Great, we get to watch Rob Terry, Gunner, Murphy wrestle tonight - sounds like an instant classic. Good to know that while Fortune sits idle with honestly earned championships, TNA is presenting Immortal’s B-Team wrestling for a belt that already struggled with credibility before Abyss won it.
-Karen Jarrett was crying backstage on the phone asking for the police to come since her ex-husband was out of control. Jeff said that it shouldn’t have happened and Karen agreed, saying that they had pushed Kurt too far before Jeff said it was the other way around.
BAX REAX: The whole Angle-Jarrett thing didn’t really click for me this week. I could have done without Kurt getting in the face of his ex-wife and reminding the country that thousands of ex-wives have to deal with violent former husbands on a daily basis. They should have had her bail out of the ring during the altercation and have him focus all of his attention on Jeff instead. This vignette would also have been a lot more effective if they were trying to get sympathy for the Jarretts, not sell them as the bad guys.
[Q6] They then ran a quick hype video for the TNA Television Championship featuring Rob Terry talking, Rob Terry flexing, a brief shot of Gunner & Murphy, more Terry talk and culminating with Terry flexing again. TNA sure made it look like Terry is the guy here.
In the Impact Zone, Tenay put over Hogan’s new power to give Immortal the monopoly for the title shot tonight. Gunner & Murphy came out together but argued on the way down to the ring before Rob Terry came out fired up.
2 – ROB TERRY vs. GUNNER vs. MURPHY -- TNA TV Title match
Right off the bat, Gunner jumped Rob Terry from behind and the tag team attacked Terry early. Quickly, they cut away to show the police arriving thanks to Karen’s phone call. Back in the ring, Terry made a comeback and threw Gunner around before he and Murphy traded blows, culminating in Terry’s big spinning kick to take Murphy off of his feet.
As Terry celebrated by posing, Gunner got to his feet. As Taz was admonishing Terry by saying, “no, don’t pose now, Rob!” Gunner came out of the corner and hit him with a spear that folded him up and caused him to roll to ringside. Stunningly, Gunner hit a move somewhat similar to an F5 on Murphy to win the TV Championship.
WINNER: GUNNER in 3:00.
Post-match, Bischoff came out to applaud on the stage while Gunner posed with the TV Belt clenched in his teeth.
BAX REAX: Nothing like a three minute match between three really green guys fighting over a belt seriously lacking credibility. There was no legitimate reason to bring back the TV Title other than to make sure that someone in the Immortal crowd had a championship belt and even then the obvious choice to wrestle in this match was Matt Hardy and have him prove himself as the best Immortal now has to offer. That would have been a lot smarter move across the board. Aside from Jarrett, Matt is the only wrestler currently in Immortal who can carry a belt with any credibility.
-Backstage, A.J. Styles gave his thoughts on RVD not wanting to keep an eye on each other’s backs and told the cameras that he had been taking a back seat for far too long. Tonight, he had three other guys to worry about...
Right about then, Ric Flair walked in and told Styles that he had to worry about more than three guys and to never take his eyes off of him. A.J. leveled Flair with one punch, looked at the camera and said, “That felt good,” before walking off. [c]
-Backstage, Karen was shown being interviewed by the cops. She wanted Angle arrested and walked off with the police as Jarrett said he knew what he needed to do to take care of the situation.
-In the Impact Zone, Hernandez got on the mic and said “Beinvenidos (That means welcome) to Mexican America” to near-silence from the Impact Zone.
3 – HERNANDEZ & ROSITA & SARITA vs. MATT MORGAN & WINTER & ANGELINA LOVE -- Mixed tag match
Morgan started things off by getting choked out in the corner by Hernandez as the women fought around the outside of the ring. Morgan managed to fight back and hit a big discus clothesline in the middle of the ring. As he stood in the corner, Rosita & Sarita climbed onto his shoulders before he threw them both into the middle of the ring. With Hernandez still down, Winter hit a big whirling backbreaker on Rosita for the pin.
WINNERS: Morgan & Winter & Angelina in 1:00.
After the match, the random fan from Victory Road appeared and jumped Morgan from behind. I guess he’s a wrestler not a fan. Anyways, he and Hernandez beat down Morgan for a moment before staring down the women. However, Morgan got up quickly, causing the two men to throw Winter & Angelina at Morgan to cover their retreat from the ring. The new (currently nameless) wrestler stood with Mexican America as we hit the break. [c]
-Back from break, the RVD-Mr. Anderson match from Victory Road was shown in a recap promo that made the match look a lot better than it actually was. The double count-out finish still rankles me, but TNA’s video editing department made things look compelling.
-In the Impact Zone, A.J. Styles was the first man out for the Main Event, wearing his all-white entrance gear. He was followed by Rob Van Dam as the Victory Road match was recapped again, showing RVD take the Mic Check on the ramp. Bully Ray was third as they put over his attempt to curry favor with Immortal before Anderson completed the lineup for the Main Event. Anderson was fired up as all four men stood in the ring to start things off.
4 – ROB VAN DAM vs. A.J. STYLES vs. BULLY RAY vs. MR. ANDERSON -- #1 Contender match
Lots of real good action that came at a fast pace in this one that featured all four men paired off one-on-one in every combination throughout. A few standout moments featured A.J. hitting a nice huracanrana on Bully Ray and RVD looking crisper and more focused on offense than he has in recent months. There was a particularly memorable spot around 5:00 where a flurry of relatively believable near falls by all four wrestlers had the crowd on their feet.
Right afterward, Ray was at ringside and A.J. went for a big splash onto him from inside the ring. However, Ray moved and A.J. collapsed in a heap. Ray picked up a chair and went to hit Styles but the ref grabbed the chair that was held aloft from the inside of the ring and tossed it over his shoulder onto the mat as he and Bully Ray argued.
With the chair down in the ring, Anderson lined a recovering Rob Van Dam up for the Mic Check and hit it. However, Anderson took a big hit too and both men ended up down with their arms across each other. Referee Earl Hebner made a three count as the two men outside the ring continued to fight, before standing back, seemingly perplexed.
WINNER: ??? in 6:00.
[Q8] Afterward, Earl called Jeremy Borash over to the ring to tell him what was going on. However, as he leaned through the ropes, Bully Ray attacked him from ringside, knocking him out of action. Borash was also quickly felled before Ray was attacked by A.J. and they fought their way back up towards the announce desk. Ray fell over on the stage as A.J. approached with a steel chair but as he lined up Ray for the shot, Flair came through the entryway and hit a big low blow (he actually picked A.J. up and bounced him) to make the save.
At this point, Ray grabbed the chair before dropping it mid-swing, as if an idea had just came to him. Instead, he picked up A.J. and hit a Bubba Bomb off the stage through a big table that was set up below. This was a big spot that both men sold heavily by not moving an inch. Referees and agents came running out as Jackson James put up the ‘X’ signal and Taz & Tenay threw to commercial while selling major concern about both men. [c]
-Back from break, paramedics were checking on A.J. while Ray got up and pushed them away. The announcers recapped the ending of the Main Event match and the events that led to A.J. getting powerbombed through the table. Pretty impressive spot with a lot of strong camera angles.
A.J. had a neck brace on and wasn’t moving as they came back live. Ray was screaming that he hoped that A.J. never wrestled again before jawing with Robert Roode, who came out to the Impact Zone with the rest of Fortune to check on his fellow stablemate. A.J. moved his hands as the camera stayed on him, trying to sell his injury as legitimate while hearing Fortune made plans to go to the hospital with A.J. in the background.
Lots of crowd shots here of a silent Impact Zone as they stuck with the paramedics and Fortune helping move him onto a gurney and out the back into a Reaction-esque shot of A.J. being loaded into the ambulance while Fortune reminded each other to call Styles’s wife.
The cameras went away with Kazarian, who told them to leave him alone as he said that his best friend was in an ambulance. As the ambulance pulled away, Kaz was on the phone with A.J.’s wife explaining what had happened to close the show.
BAX REAX: Visually, it was a powerful way to end the show with A.J. Styles being loaded into an ambulance with all of the proper precautions taken as if it were a real life neck injury that he had suffered. Having been in the Impact Zone last April when Daffney was legitimately injured, the morbid silence of the crowd was something that I will never forget and that feeling came across on TV with the Styles injury angle. It was certainly a cliffhanger ending to the show. With A.J.’s health and the big question mark around the #1 contendership, there were two cliffhangers set up that could draw a crowd next Thursday.
But, the rest of Impact was downright bad. The opening segment had its positive bits but in the end they did their best to dodge the Jeff Hardy situation and spent way too much time talking about ratings again. Then, after a marathon opening segment concluded, there wasn't another wrestling match that lasted more than three minutes on the entire show until the Main Event! Frankly, that’s unbelievable. Is this TNA Wrestling or a TNA Talk Show? The ‘Total Nonstop Action’ part has become a farce. Overall in-ring time on this show (by my watch) was a pathetically short 10-12 minutes.
There were also a lot of story-related issues that made me uncomfortable. If Kurt Angle is supposed to be the face in his rivalry with the Jarretts, why is he bullying his ex-wife and reminding everyone watching of the domestic violence issues that divorced women face in this country every day from predatory ex-husbands? It was completely unnecessary because all they had to do was have her bail out of the ring and let Kurt focus on a bloodied Double J to have a very effective segment building to Lockdown. Instead, there's now a police/restraining order angle in progress.
Furthermore, Pope pulling a knife on Okado was simply ridiculous, much like Joe’s giant knife he would hold against someone’s throat a few years ago. While their feud is finally turning serious, I just can’t justify including a hostage taking at knifepoint.
In the end, I can honestly say that I’m starting to lose hope in TNA thanks to the current booking. TNA needs a lot more focused wrestling and a lot less talking. Honestly, there have been multiple matches in the last month on free TV from both TNA & WWE that surpassed the combined length of in-ring time for this entire show! How can TNA try to sell the X Division Championship (no mention of the Ultimate X Match from Victory Road on tonight’s show) or the TV Championship (currently held by a guy who wore a ‘Security’ t-shirt two months ago) as legitimate titles when they’re considered the province of jobbers and little guys?
Aside from the intriguing cliffhangers, there was one real positive about tonight’s show: TNA finally got rid of the stupid purple custom butterfly belt and introduced a new TNA Championship Belt that looks like a real wrestling title belt should. But, let me close with this: When the best part of a wrestling show is the fact that they changed the design of their championship belt, what does it say about the content of the show? Tonight’s show didn’t have much beyond the Main Event, especially considering the anticlimactic and disappointing opening segment that skirted the Hardy disaster at Victory Road. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the ratings take a big dip after this stinker of a show.
SHOW GRADE: D-
Matt Baxendell is one of the Torch’s new contributing writers covering TNA Wrestling. He’s also live on air as one the Young Guns on Sports Radio 790 The Zone in Atlanta. 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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