This past Sunday TNA did the unthinkable.  Coming on the heels of two of the worst television shows in the history of the medium, TNA managed to put on a pay-per-view that was not only watchable, but actually quite good.  While it would be a stretch to say that TNA Slammiversary was the pay-per-view of the year, it was a show that had no bad match, several good ones, and managed to deliver with a makeshift main event that easily could have been – and perhaps should have been — a disaster.   The show also had the feel good moment of the year, with the Father’s Day return of Kevin Von Erich to Dallas for the TNA debut of his sons Marshall and Ross.  When Kevin hit the ring to save his boys from a post-match beat down at the hands of Jesse and Ion, the live crowd (who were loud and enthusiastic all night) went ballistic.  On top of all of this, the show drew 3,500 paid, a number that is not only good by 2014 TNA standards, but was actually one of the stronger paid houses in the U.S. over the course of the last few weeks (of course Raw and Smackdown tapings did better, but only one WWE house show during the period drew more).

With all of that said tonight’s Impact actually felt like a show that had some promise.  Sure, the last two weeks of TV were horrific.  Sure, the companies lead heel is out with an injury.  Sure, the promotion announced on Twitter, that the big hook for this week is Dixie Carter confronting Tommy Dreamer coming off of a worked shoot angle Dreamer’s House of Hardcore ran a couple of weeks back.  But just think — Dreamer’s show’s actually draw four figure audiences and have hot crowds, two things TNA desperately needs and majorly benefited from at Slammiversary.  Will the return of Tommy Dreamer to the greater Allentown area succeed like the return of Kevin Von Erich to the greater  Dallas area did?  Of course it won’t, but but we might get Hale Collins as Ross Von Erich, some hilariously awful segments involving a drunken Sandman and a Little Guido match.  I’m pumped!

I usually ignore the video packages when I am covering these shows, but I guess it is important to note that this show starts off with a video package outlining what happened with the title match at Slammiversary.  The package was pretty decent and showed several of the major spots from what was a pretty good match.

The actual show starts with MVP, Kenny King and Bobby Lashley making their way to the ring.  I understand that MVP is probably the most consistent promo in the company and the heel authority figure, but isn’t this a promotion trying to save money and cut talent costs?  Here you have a guy with a serious knee injury who could do most of his segments by pre-tape, but instead they fly him in and for what?  Well he cuts a pretty good promo about how Dixie Carter’s attempts to get him in trouble with the TNA board of directors isn’t going to work and then calls out Eric Young.  EY threatens to come to the ring and beat up MVP, which eventually leads to Kenny King doing his bit where he steps on the bosses toes, and subverts his plans by challenging Eric to an on the spot title match.  That’s right, the company that let their World Champion’s contract expire, and didn’t renew the consistently over Bad Influence, flew in MVP for these tapings so that Kenny King could continue being Kenny King.  Don’t get me wrong, the segment was well executed, the crowd was hot, and it set up a match that on paper had potential, but it’s also a great example of why people view TNA as a graveyard for WWE castoffs.

Kenny King vs. Eric Young: This is a match that looked good on paper, so naturally it lasted three minutes and ended with the babyface champion getting a fluke roll up win over a guy who’s gimmick is that he’s a cocky underachiever who writes checks with his mouth that his ass can’t cash.  I can’t express how stupid this was, as they actually had a hot crowd, that warmed up even more when they teased interference from Lashley and MVP, only to have the American Wolves, Samoa Joe and Austin Aries run down to the ring to even the score.  If they had given these guys seven or eight minutes they could have had a really hot match, and still advanced the storyline they were going for.  Instead this match was half as long as the Titus O’Neil vs. Dolph Ziggler match from last weeks Superstars, and definitely not half as good.

Back from commercial, MVP is slapping the face of the bell ringer.  He, Kenny King and Lashley look like they are about to beat down the poor guy when all of the same babyfaces from the last segment run back out again and have a brief pull-a-part.  This triggers a crazed promo from MVP where he announces that Eric Young is going to have to wrestle Bobby Lashley with everyone else barred from the building.  I don’t think he meant all of the fans would be barred, but I can’t imagine it would take that long for security to escort out the few dozen people in attendance.  If they did that they could either work a poor man’s Funk-Lawler Empty Arena match which might be entertainly awful, or a poor man’s Doug Somers vs. Pat Tanaka match from the dying days AWA “pink room,” which I have less confidence they’d be able to pull off as I can’t imagine Lashley has what it takes to work a Doug Somers-level control segment.  Anyhow from there MVP also announces that the American Wolves will have to defend the TNA tag titles tonight against Samoa Joe and Austin Aries plus a mystery team.  He then calls Earl Hebner to the ring.

At this point you pretty much know as a fan that Earl Hebner is going to be fired, but from a kayfabe perspective it’s hard to fault MVP for this.  Right before the Eric Young and Kenny King match, Eric Young had referred to Earl Hebner as “his good buddy” and gave him a fist bump on the walk way.  MVP kind of botches this segment by saying Earl failed in his job to count EY down for a three, because really Earl should have been fired just based on his blatant and open association with and advocacy for Eric Young.  An angle built around an official torn between corrupting influences doesn’t really work.  MVP should have just pointed out that Earl was clearly on the take from Eric and left it at that.  I was also disappointed by Earl’s promo.  You’d think a guy around the wrestling business as long as him would at least know how to pander to the live crowd, but he badly screws that up, making him look like a guy who has no business being involved in wrestling in the first place.  It’s hard to feel bad for an openly corrupt official who appears clueless executing the most simple tasks. The inclusion of his son Brian, who seemed really disinterested in fighting for his dads job only made it worse.

As a whole the promo work from MVP was spirited, the delivery good, and the content okay, but it went on far too long.

Backstage segment with Ethan Carter III and Dixie Carter.  Dixie says she is excited about Ethan’s success.  This also includes the first reference to Tommy Dreamer who Dixie effectively calls a keyboard warrior.  Then Ethan gets excited because he finds out Aunt Dixie has brought Helga in to give him a massage.  Are TNA doing handjob jokes now?

Brief backstage promo with EY saying that MVP has taken it to far.  He calls a mystery man, asks him if he’s at the hotel, and tells him he needs them here tonight.

Willow/Abyss vs. American Wolves vs. Samoa Joe/Austin Aries: I imagine a lot of people would really like this match.  If you are a fan of the Wolves you will probably enjoy it more than I did.  That’s not to say I thought it was bad, because in my head a triple threat match involving these teams was a lot worse than what we got.  Still there was some comical stuff, including a really awful looking Richards head kick (isn’t his whole appeal supposed to be that he’s “crisp?”) and Abyss being Abyss.  They did a good job establishing the psychology of the Wolves being “forced” to fight their buddies Aries and Joe early which helped this to a degree.  The highlight was Willow doing his AeroStar tribute spot, which is basically him climbing to the top rope and leaping backwards blindly onto his opponents.  The finish also was decent, and the champs getting a clean pin on Willow is something that theoretically helps their credibility after months feuding with the Bro Mans.

Tommy Dreamer showed up backstage right before the commercial that cut a bit of this match.

Backstage segment with MVP talking to Kenny King and Lashley.  MVP is worried about Kurt Angle showing up and hints that they are going to get at Angle’s knee before he can break up their plans.

Tazz and Mike Tenay try and explain the Tommy Dreamer and Dixie Carter beef.  Tazz gave a really brief, but largely accurate, account of the background behind the angle.  The problem here was that they were trying to put over the Twitter war by showing Twitter screen craps that were so small no one could read them.  Oops.

Backstage they show Samoa Joe and Austin Aries being evicted from the building by security.  Samoa Joe trying to work his tough guy gimmick, while back pedaling away makes him look like a joke.  I understand he’s trying to save face, but that really doesn’t work at all.  I’m 6’1, 180 lbs. soaking wet, but used to work the door at local music venues/bars.  I have seen this sort of trash talking before, and it’s the sort of thing you generally see from guys even smaller than me, wearing pink polo’s with popped collars, trying to impress their underage girlfriends after they just got shoved out on their ass.

MVP confronts the American Wolves backstage and announces that the Wolves have to defend their tag titles again tonight, this time against Bram and Magnus.  Eddie Edwards tries the comeback of “you better be careful what you wish for!”  Honestly that’s just sad.  I understand that these guys aren’t known for their promo work,but that’s the level of comeback that results in you getting the shit kicked out of you by the schoolyard bully 10 out of 10 times.

Dixie Carter and Spud are out for an in ring promo.  Dixie trashes Bully Ray who she says is at home playing on his “Twitter machine.”  She then says she will never go through a table.  She calls out Tommy Dreamer, which includes a ridiculous bit with her pretending not to know who Dreamer is.  Dreamer of course gets a massive reaction with the crowd chanting ECW.  This leads to the following comeback from Dixie: “You people did not go to school, and you don’t have the right letters.”  Look I know I just ripped the comeback of Eddie Edwards but that was even worse.  I understand Dixie is not a good promo, but how hard is it take that opportunity to heel on the dead promotion that the fans are chanting for?

Dreamer’s says social media has changed the face of pro wrestling.  Dreamer talks about his relationship with Dixie and how she allowed him to set up Hardcore Justice so he and his friends could have closure – as the crowd continues to chant ECW.  He talks about being embarrassed by the crap called wrestling on TV, effectively burying the show he’s on.   Dreamer then strongly suggested that wrestling helps cure cancer.  I am a big fan of hyperbolic statements in wrestling, but I’m not sure I would have gone that route.  Dreamer puts over the Kevin Von Erich moment at Slammiversary as the right kind of wrestling and gets choked up doing so.  Dreamer and Dixie hug, but Dixie knees Dreamer in the balls.  Spud gets down on his knees and laughs in his face, which was my favorite part of this. Then EC III hits the ring and beats up Dreamer.  Notably Ethan came out looking pretty disheveled, suggesting his time with Helga ended as happily as you would think.

I honestly don’t know what the point of this segment was at all.  I have good reason to believe that they are going forward with some sort of House of Hardcore vs. TNA angle, but even still this felt like a waste of your standard “Tommy Dreamer breaks down crying” promo.  For starters why are they doing this show in Bethlehem, when Allentown is right there?  I checked and Ag Hall was not booked this week.  If you are going to go with yet another ECW vet defends the honor of “real wrestling” angle, and you are going to do it in Pennsylvania, and you aren’t going to do it at the Arena, at least book Ag Hall.  Just imagine Dreamer’s promo there putting over the history of the building, talking about watching The Wild Samoans there when he was a kid, wrestling Raven there almost twenty years ago, cheering on John Kronus as he beats the hell out of fans after one of them groped Francine, etc.  Really feels like a wasted opportunity.  On top of that if you are going to go with the ball shot, Tazz and Tenay really should have put over Dreamer’s history of nut related injuries, as Dixie’s knee strike looked about as violent as Davey Richards kicks.  At lest try to make us believe people.

I also feel like Rockstar Spud was underutilized this week.  After saving Dixie from the table spot at Slammiversary I was really hoping the show would open with him doing an acoustic version of Confederate Railroad’s “Summer In Dixie.”  He was still really awesome in this segment, but they could be doing so much more with that guy.

Backstage Lashley and Kenny King confront Kurt Angle.  They don’t want him there.  Kurt sarcastically thanks them for the warm welcome.  Kenny walks off and then Angle looks at Lashley’s crotch and says “nice pipe.”  Now I know wrestling promotions have done angles before with Kurt involving his sexual proclivities, and large chested African-Americans are definitely his preference based on those storylines, but this felt pretty inappropriate.  I have no problem with porno and wrestling comparisons, or even the two industries borrowing from each other, but when you start lifting dialogue, setting and props from Brazzers scenes it just feels like it’s going too far.

Back from commercial Kurt Angle still has a stupid look on his face and is confronted by MVP who says..well..nothing of importance.  No clue why this segment existed.

American Wolves vs. Bram and Magnus: Two American Wolves matches in one night, great.  Actually this wasn’t bad at all.  The heels took over on Eddie Edwards early and worked him over for a few minutes until he made the hot tag to Davey.  Davey’s comeback included some more super weak looking kicks, the sort that makes me wonder yet again what people see in this guy as everything he does looks incredibly choreographed, and lacks the sort of impact you would expect for a guy aping Chris Benoit so heavily.  Still this was structurely sound, and Davey taking the chair to the face for the DQ looked good.  Bram and Magnus continued to beat up the Wolves, but Abyss and Willow made the save, which I guess means that super exciting feud is just getting started.

Backstage segment with MVP and Brian Hebner.  MVP suggests that Earl’s Social Security checks were blown on women.  Possibly.  My guess is Earl is in the parking lot right now selling the TNA referee’s shirt MVP made him take off in the first segment.  Brian is doing a terrible job looking concerned and faking crying.  It’s especially bad because Dreamer had just cut an in ring promo where he was legitimately getting choked up and the difference between that and this is massive.  The point of all of this is that MVP is trusting Brian to referee the main event match with EY and Lashley, and is of course holding his job over his head, including references to Brian’s kids and how he needs a job to take care of them.

They show Taryn Terrell backstage.

Back from the break Bram and Magnus are attacked by the American Wolves.

Gail Kim is in the ring and she brings out Taryn Terrell.  Gail puts over Terrell, saying that she earned her respect in the ring.  Terrell challenges Kim to a rubber match.  This led to a really bad segment with The Beautiful People running in and attacking Gail and Taryn, who pretty easily turned them back.

I actually felt bad for Terrell here.  Firstly her promo was delivered in such a way that it sounded like she was reading off of a cue card, which resulted in the reaction for her tapering off pretty quickly.  Secondly they booed her taking time off to have a kid.  Now I understand that a lot of these fans likely hate women, but hating children? I guess it’s not that much of a stretch (sadly), but it still made me feel uncomfortable.  I’d guess a lot of the people there are regularly consumers of MILF porn, so you’d think the news of her taking time off to have a kid would have gotten over huge, but I’ll grant that I probably am not the best judge of the tastes and sensibilities of the paying TNA audience.

Backstage Kurt Angle tells MVP to think about doing the right thing.  MVP trashes Angle for not wanting to fight him.  Kenny King steps in again and Angle ends up decking him while Lashley stand there holding his pipe and MVP does nothing.  I don’t get this at all.  Did Lashley and Angle actually have a sexual encounter in the other segment?  If not why did Lashley do nothing when Angle got in his face here?  Are they building to a one legged Angle v. one legged MVP match here?

Back from break Jeremy Borash notes the unprecedented nature of nobody being in the back.  Man Borash’s face really looks like Mean Gene’s arm.  MVP shows up and forces JB and the camera man to leave as well.

Eric Young vs. Bobby Lashley: This match started really hot with a great looking Eric Young dive to the floor and Lashley catching him on a splash in the ring.  Just as it looks like it’s going to end up being a really exciting match they drop in a commercial break.  TNA’s timing of commercials is just awful.  RAW can be really bad some weeks, but this is a consistently annoying facet of Impact.  Back from the break the match stayed pretty hot.  I was really impressed with Young in this.  He looked good selling for Lashley, was credible standing toe-to-toe with him, and is really good at putting a match together.  Young ended up hitting the piledriver on Lashley, but MVP pulled Brian Hebner to the floor before he could count three.  I understand why they did that, but Hebner already looked like a guy who didn’t care about his dad this week, now he looks like a guy who doesn’t care about his wife and children.  Lashley ended up decking Kenny King on accident, but EY whiffed on a big elbow off the top and took an awesome bump for Lashley’s spear leading to Lashley winning.

I thought Young deserved a ton of credit for this match, as he got something pretty good out of Lashley, but I don’t get what the finish at all.  For all the criticism of EY as champion, Lashley is a guy who can’t talk, can’t work, and has no charisma.  Young is a guy who can work, can talk and has charisma.  I could live with the title switch if they had played up the “stacking the deck against him” nature of the main, but instead they went out of their way to portray Brian Hebner as a guy who was going to play it fair, and there was no effective outside interference at all.  Considering how fast Lashley got up after being hit with the piledriver, they didn’t even make a convincing case for that as a sure fire finish if Hebner had not been pulled to the floor.

Even with all of those weaknesses, I still could have lived with the finish if it wasn’t for what happened after.  Remember that phone call Eric Young made earlier in the show?  Well it wasn’t to Angle apparently, it was to Bobby Roode, who showed up after Eric lost, jumped the rail and then got in some mild and uninteresting offense on Kenny King to little reaction as the show went off the air.  So Eric Young’s big help was a guy who has over an hour to get there from the hotel and can’t be bothered to show up on time?  I’ve been to Bethlehem and traffic isn’t that bad.  If the show was booked in Atlanta or Boston maybe, but Bethlehem?  Some friend.

Final Thoughts:

This show had two American Wolves matches, two really long in-ring promo segments featuring ex-WWE stars and retirement age figures with no mic skills to speak of dueling back and fourth, and a talented, homegrown, talent losing the world title to a largely untalented guy, that Vince McMahon dumped for having no upside even after he had been involved in one of the biggest drawing angles in the modern history of pro wrestling.   But it was a perversely entertaining show.  Don’t get me wrong.  It wasn’t good.  But there was a lot more good this week than there has been in recent weeks.   Perhaps more importantly the bad and awkward stuff isn’t the kind that makes you want to change the channel (well that Knockouts segment was pretty terrible), but the kind that makes you want to keep watching so you can point and laugh.  I am not sure booking a writing a wrestling show to conform to the general stylistic aesthetics of Freddie Got Fingered fans, is wise, but it’s better than what they’ve been doing.  On the other hand, the Team Canada v. 2nd rate Nation of Domination feud did not get off to a good start, even if the possibility of Scott D’Amore v. MVP promo wars is somewhat enticing.