“For the wages of sin is death.” – The first half of my confirmation verse, and perhaps the most concise explanation for how I have come to be a weekly reviewer of TNA Impact in 2014.
I don’t like TNA. It’s not personal, it’s just that TNA isn’t any good. In fact in my estimation TNA is the worst wrestling promotion of all time. Sure, there have probably been hundreds of low-rent indies filled with backyarders and half-trained guys who couldn’t work at all, but how many of them have ruined the careers and wasted the time of guys even half as good as Homicide or Samoa Joe? How many have consistently put on television shows so illogical and scatterbrained that if someone misses a week it’s impossible to tell who is a face and who is a heel? How many have blown millions of dollars over the course of more than a decade, only to see perhaps their only home grown star of any significance depart and immediately become a bigger drawing card for random untelevised indie feds than he ever was for them? TNA is uniquely awful and it deserves to be regarded as the absolute worst wrestling promotion in history.
Readers of that last paragraph will likely find themselves asking an obvious question: “If you hate TNA so much, why the hell are you reviewing it?” There is no easy way to answer this question, and almost certainly no good answer to this question.
I would like to fall back on the old “well I watch it every week, so I may as well jot down my thoughts on it” card, but that’s not true. Last year I closely followed several dozen promotions, many of which were only one step above the level of those low rent indies filled with backyarders and half-trained guys that I mentioned above. Despite the fact that TNA is one of only four promotions that I can actually get with my current cable package, I watched fewer episodes of Impact last year than I did the television shows of TCW, SAW, Rampage (which shut down before the year was over), Metro Pro (which shut down before the year was over, but is running at least one show soon), AAA, Anarchy, Championship Wrestling From Hollywood, CMLL, IWRG, and probably several other promotions I”m forgetting. While I have tried to keep up with TNA news through the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and other online outlets, I’ll be the first to say that I’ve only caught glimpses of the product over the course of the last several years.
This is not to say that I never followed TNA. I’m an obsessive guy, and there was a point where I subjected myself to it every week. Hell there have been points when TNA actually had a fair amount of good wrestling. The high point of this was mid-2005-2007, a period that saw a great run from Samoa Joe at a point when he was one of the best in the world, really good women’s and tag divisions, and a roster with enough solid hands to offset the booking, which even then was truly horrific. I remained a semi-regular viewer even after this point, but when the company traded in the entertainingly absurd Don West, for the obnoxiously awful Tazz, I had to call it quits. There are only so many hours in a day to watch wrestling, and why waste it on TNA when I could be watching “No Class” Bobby Bass matches from the Maritimes, or Chris Colt vs. Ricky Santana bouts from late era PNW?
Yes I know this is getting long, and I’m still evading the question. “Why Dylan!? Why have you volunteered to start watching Impact now!? Is it because you got sick of Rich and Joe blowing up your Twitter feed bitching about this site’s desperate need for TNA coverage? Is it because you are a project-driven weirdo, who is always looking for his next wrestling related fix no matter how ridiculous? Is it because you actually really like Eric Young and kind of want an excuse to watch his matches in real time?”
The truth is that it is a little bit of all of those things, combined with a hope that maybe, just maybe, a week-to-week viewing of Impact will reveal some of the hidden gems that have become such a huge component of my fandom in recent years. Looking at the roster, considering my taste, and knowing what TNA is, this seems unlikely. Still I feel compelled to make a leap of faith, and take up the burden of watching and writing about the television show of the worst wrestling promotion that has ever existed. TNA is my cross to bear, now let’s see if I can bear it.
[A quick note on my reviewing style. Though I am an unabashed believer of the importance of formula and structure to wrestling, I am not a formulaic or structured reviewer. I have not used star ratings or other short hand “grading” tools to rank matches in well over a decade. My grammar is poor when I write from the gut, and most of these reviews will be from the gut. I expect that my tastes will become obvious pretty quickly, even to those who are unfamiliar with my long history of rambling about wrestling matches. Still I will try and pretend to be objective when writing about promos and matches involving guys who I think are terrible, mainly in effort to analyze whether or not these segments come close to achieving what they set out to achieve.]
The show opens with Kenny King, Bobby Lashley and MVP backstage.
Then we come to the arena for a Samoa Joe promo. Joe is pissed, and sure enough this brings out MVP with Lashley and Kenny King. I have to say that the promo Joe delivered was kind of hammy and sophomoric, but it was done with a ton of conviction. You honestly believe that he is mad at MVP and the unfair system of power relations he represents, and really wants to make him pay. The problem is that you’ve got Kenny King right there with MVP, initiating the verbal sparring and looking like an emaciated ten year old, wearing the hand me down clothing of his morbidly obese older brother. Now I would have been all for TNA bringing in Geter from Anarchy on a per date basis, to give King a big brother figure to play off of, but they haven’t done that and aren’t going to. So instead Kenny King just looks like a complete asshole standing out there next to a jacked Bobby Lashley and MVP wearing a finely tailored suit. Anyhow, Joe wants to take on all three of them, but then Austin Aries come out, and after some pretty weak mic work MVP makes a match between Samoa Joe and Austin Aries with a Loser Leaves TNA stip. I’m not sure why MVP wants to reward the loser of the match, but I haven’t followed TNA storylines terribly closely, so maybe something that would be evident to regular viewers.
Backstage Bram and Magnus are talking. Magnus is putting over how dangerous Willow is which is laugh out loud funny. Meanwhile Bram is the second guy on the show with a look that actively pisses me off. Why the hell does TNA have so many big guys with beards and long hair? I like Gunner more than most, but does a promotion need multiple versions of Gunner?
Willow vs. Bram: God Willow’s offense is just awful. I’m a fan of both the old OMEGA and the new shows they have been running. Hell The Hardys v. The Briscoes from the 4/26 OMEGA show is probably my current Match of the Year. But this was terrible. Willow had exactly one offensive spot in the entire match that looked like it connected at all, and that was a roundoff into a punch, which is probably the most idiotic “flashy” spot I’ve seen someone do this year. At one point Willow did the “Air Hardy” spot off of the steps and Bram caught him and slowly dropped to his ass while cradling him, like a mother trying to brace her infant child for a minor fall. This also had a terrible finish as Magnus jumped in to stop Bram from using a weapon on Willow, only to run in and do it himself. I guess we were supposed to think Bram and Magnus were on the outs with each other and they’d really pulled the wool over Willow’s eyes with their chicanery. Or this was just profoundly idiotic and made no sense.
Next we have a backstage segment with MVP and the American Wolves. MVP is really upset that the Wolves are sitting around in the back with their feet on the couch. This whole segment seemed designed to get over MVP as an abusive school principal trying to lord over the hip rebel kids, but Davey Richards is just a terrible Judd Nelson. I could almost buy him as Emilo Estevez, and Eddie Edwards could be a potentially great Anthony Michael Hall, but if you are going to run a Breakfast Club angle where someone is clearly designed to be Judd Nelson you’ve got to do better than Davey Richards did on the mic here. MVP ended up making a match between the Wolves as a way of showing who was boss, and his delivery was fine in that role. Edwards was just there.
Back from break Ken Anderson is doing a terrible impression of someone screaming that he likes beer, while wearing a cowboy hat. Is he supposed to be mocking James Storm? WTF?
Davey Richards vs. Eddie Edwards: There probably isn’t a match up in wrestling that runs more counter to my tastes as a fan than Eddie Edwards vs. Davey Richards, but I was still amazed at how stupid this whole segment was. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really thankful that Edwards vs. Richards was short, but everything about this was bad, especially Geter-less Kenny King out there doing by play-by-play over the house mic, screaming at Richards and Edwards to get physical and really beat each other up. On the one hand, I found myself getting legitimately angry at King as I feared that this was building to Eddie and Davey doing their awful “fighting spirit” schtick and ten minutes of phony looking exchanges/nearfall fetishism. But on the other hand, that’s not really “heel heat” so it’s hard to argue that King’s ranting was effective. The match sucked, with Davey Richards doing the worst cross armbreaker takedown in wrestling history at one point, and Edwards eventually winning, but I expected to hate the match. What was amazing was that in a segment with Edwards and Richards, by far the most annoying presence was Kenny King (well excluding Tazz and Tenay who are the two most annoying personalities in modern wrestling). Post-match King berated the Wolves briefly and they gave him a very mild beatdown. That sucked too.
Dixie Carter confronts MVP backstage about his decision making, particularly as it pertains to Aries vs. Joe. They did a bad wine joke at the end of this. Dixie’s delivery is almost as bad as Davey’s.
Madison Rayne and Brittany are having a backstage discussion and Rayne instructs Brittany to “do nothing tonight.” Ok.
Hey it’s the Bro Mans. Robbie is worried sick about the clown with Menagerie. We learn that in the third grade he wanted to have a DJ at his party but got a clown instead! Oh man.
MVP instructs the ref to make a solid decision in the Aries/Joe Loser Leaves Town match.
Joe is cutting a backstage promo, Aries confronts him and says he doesn’t plan to lose tonight, and well. That’s that!. What a powerful segment!
For future reviews I may abandon any real coverage of these backstage segments. I feel like even talking about them at all legitimizes the idea that you can run 45,000 backstage segments in a row that are completely meaningless filler without consequence. I have no problem with companies putting filler on these shows, but I would much rather watch “Be A Star” video packages, or Michael Cole narrate what happened in the previous segment, than these poorly executed, uninteresting, flow-killing, TNA backstage potpourri segments.
Next up is a perfect example of why those segments are such a waste, as The Bro Mans are in the ring and they do a live segment in the ring, that explains Robbie E. is afraid of clowns. You know, just like the did in that pointless backstage segment a few minutes before. Of course, the Menagerie interrupt this segment and it’s time for a face off between these two stables. It’s hard to articulate how bad this was. You’ve got Robbie E. poorly selling his fear of clowns. Knux has exactly one line to deliver on the mic and he stumbles on it badly. Xema Ion and Crazy Steve blare horns at each other. The Freak walks around with Ion pressed above his head and eventually dumps him to the floor onto his “Bros.” I thought about putting more thought into my review of this segment, but if they aren’t going to bother why should I? Garbage.
Backstage Eric Young and Bully Ray confront Brian Hebner and try to convince him to do the right thing for the upcoming match. Man I hate these backstage segments.
Are they really wasting Gunner on this Sam Shaw angle? Say what you want about Gunner, but he is a guy that always works hard, and his matches with James Storm were actually really good. Now he’s playing Go Fish with Sam Shaw in a psych ward. For those that are familiar with my poor attempts at humor, that wasn’t a joke even though it reads like one. That’s actually what the segment was. TNA has taken maybe the most improved talent they have on their roster and have given him the new gimmick of PTSD counselor for a guy who’s gimmick is that he’s a sex criminal. “War Hero hero saves life of rapist” is literally an angle TNA is running. Unbelievable.
Samoa Joe vs. Austin Aries: These are two of the best workers ever employed by this company, so you kind of have hope that this could be pretty good. But this ended up being a brief, mediocre, uninspired match, with another out of this world horrendous angle at the end of it. Basically Aries and Joe worked some light exchanges, until Eric Young and Bully Ray showed up and attacked Brian Hebner so that there couldn’t be a finish. It’s actually even worse than it sounds on paper because Aries and Joe didn’t work this like two guys fighting for their jobs, so the assault on the ref came across as grossly unnecessary, like Mitch Williams cursing out a Little League umpire for using an expansive strike zone. Then poor EY had to cut this promo trying to get over the gravity of the situation which no one was buying at all. This led to MVP and his gang coming out, Bully Ray accusing MVP of having a god complex, and a new announced main event of EY, Aries, Joe and Bully v. ECIII, Lashley, King and MVP in a First Blood Match. Why is it a First Blood Match? I guess that was just the first gimmick Eric Young thought of.
Ken Anderson came to the ring doing a bad impression of James Storm. Can I just fast forward through Ken Anderson segments? In a promotion filled with weak talent and terrible booking, Ken Anderson is the apex of both. He’s a terrible promo who has convinced people that he’s a good one. He’s really bad in the ring. His look sucks, and his comedic timing is non-existent, despite the fact that he is almost always booked in comedic segments. This was intended to be a comedic segment but it wasn’t funny at all. It was both boring and embarrassing, even after James Storm came out and beat down Anderson. This would have been one of the worst segments of the year no matter what, but it was made worse because Storm is so good and he is completely wasted on a sub-Jeep Swinson “talent” like Ken Anderson.
Great it’s time for more of Gunner counseling Sam Shaw! Now Gunner is holding up drawings and Shaw is explaining his feelings about all of them. The last one is an unfinished drawing of what looks to be Gunner. Oh PLEASE let me be wrong, and let them be doing a love interest angle between these two. Shaw stalking Gunner, Gunner having a PTSD related meltdown, et. would be okay, but I don’t have any confidence TNA could do it right. I don’t really have confidence they could do a same-sex love interest angle well either, but the idea of backstage vignettes with Gunner and Shaw based around the TNA writing teams interpretation of passages from Randy Shilts book Conduct Unbecoming, is something so wonderfully absurd I could get behind it.
Madison Rayne vs. Angelina Love: This is for the Knockouts Title. It wasn’t good, but what’s scary is it might have been the best match up until this point. Really nothing to it, and like virtually all of this show the match only existed to set up the angle/finish which was Velvet Sky hair spraying the eyes of Madison Rayne.
MVP tells ECIII not to screw up in the main event.
Hey look Madison is now upset at Brittany for not helping her in her match. I can’t wait for the resolution of this compelling storyline!
Ethan Carter III/Bobby Lashley/Kenny King/MVP v. Eric Young/Bully Ray/Samoa Joe/Austin Aries – First Blood Match: This was okay. I mean by the standards of this show, this was outstanding, but that tells you nothing at all. The best thing about this was Eric Young who’s selling was really good and who’s offense was solid. I also gotta give Kenny King credit for taking a beautiful bump on a back body drop from Bully Ray. Beyond that, this was an inoffensive, but middling match, that just looked like it was about to get interesting when it ended after Bully Ray decked ECIII with a chain busting him open in the process. The cut was high up on the brow, and didn’t look impressive, but TNA already blew off one stipulation match on this show, so it seems wrong to get on them merely for terrible execution of another. The only other notable thing about this match was that it was broken up by a commercial break, which is comical when you consider how little wrestling and how many backstage segments were on this show.
Post-match King, MVP and Lashley attack ECIII, but Dixie Carter intervenes and lets them know that things are personal now and the war is on. I assume this means Rockstar Spud will be back next week, which means at least one of the 87,000 backstage segments might be mildly amusing.
This is not exaggeration or hyperbole — this was one of the worst wrestling shows I’ve ever seen. Watching the show it was almost impossible to find anything I could safely call “good” and not feel like I was grading on an immense curve. None of the matches were good, none of the backstage segments were good, none of the angles were good. A couple of the promos were okay, but the flow of the show was awful, the presentation weak, and the use of the limited amount of good talent they have is piss poor. The only real positive thing I can say about this show is that it makes even something as bad as the last couple of weeks worth of Raw’s seem incredible by comparison. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this was even worse than I was expecting. God help me going forward.