The show starts with Team 3D and Tommy Dreamer walking into the empty Manhattan Center. Bully says being there is like KISS putting the make up back on. They have been there for “weeks” on television, and they are selling this like it’s a first in ten years for all parties. Bully cuts a promo guaranteeing that Dixie will go through a table and then they play the video package that closed last weeks show, which spoils the end of this weeks show, letting all viewers know that Dixie Carter is going through a table in the last segment. I understand why they did it at the end of last weeks show, but I’m not sure leading your t.v. show with a vignette that gives away the shows finish is a smart idea.
Abyss vs. Bram: This is a Monsters Ball match. Always thought that was a strange name for a gimmick match as they aren’t going to deliver a finish with Abyss killing himself in front of James Mitchell who then goes on to have awkward sex with Gail Kim. In any event with an Abyss gimmick match you pretty much know what you are going to get. There will be some spot involving barbed wire. There will be some spot involving thumbtacks. There will be some spot involving Janice. There will be some ridiculous chants from the crowd. This delivered on all of those staples, but what was pretty amazing was that it really wasn’t bad. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t advocate anyone waste seven or eight minutes watching this. But they were wise to cut to the chase and avoid long exchanges based around terrible Abyss acting and punches, and get right to the big bumps. Bram taking the shirtless thumbtack bump got a huge pop from the “We Want Blood” freaks in the crowd and they did a reasonably good job building to that spot. Magnus ended up running in toward the finish as a distraction which contributed to Abyss losing after getting speared through a barbed wire board and being hit with Janice. Post-match Bram and Magnus walked off with Janice, which is almost certainly going to lead to some cringe inducing television.
Backstage Samoa Joe cuts a promo saying that he exemplifies what the X-Division is about. Low Ki walks in from off camera and spews a bunch of Low Ki nonsense about violence in his big boy voice. Joe tells him he’s going to win the X-Division title tonight and walks off. Low Ki should never be allowed to speak.
Back from the break Ethan Carter III, Rockstar Spud, Rhino, Snisky and Ezekial Jackson are interviewed. Really this was an ECIII promo where he put over each of his partners as pieces of ECW history, and let them each get in a stock line or two. During all of this Spud was in the background nodding along, mugging for the camera, and dressed like a king. This whole angle is TNA’s version of the meta booking that has taken over the WWE main event scene for the last year which works well enough because they have performers like ECIII, Bully and Spud who are all really good at what they do. The problem is that they are building their meta angle around male on female violence (to be fair this is something that would be applauded as progressive if it were framed as “intergender” competition, but I digress) and a promotion that has been dead for years. I’m not saying you can’t do that, but if you are going to it feels like you should at least put in the phone calls to Billy Wiles, Chilly Willy and Lady Alexandria. Surely Pablo Marquez could make a few NYC dates?
MVP, Bobby Lashley and Kenny King make their way to the ring flanked by several women. I’m not sure building an angle around white nerds fears about miscegenation is what I would be doing in 2014, but I will say if you are someone who criticizes TNA for not adhering to traditionally effective, wrestling formulas, you should love “King of the Night,” Chippendale, Kenny King coming to the ring with a bunch of white women in tight dresses in order to get cheap heat. MVP cut a great promo here as he usually does talking about the successes of Lashley as champion, which brought out Bobby Roode. I think Bobby Roode is a really poor choice for the role of angry white man, upset about success of black men, but really there is no good role for Roode. He cut a passionless promo, attempting the old “divide and conquer”/sewing the seeds of discontent tactic so common to establishment figures trying to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize” groups of strong, successful, black men. I was happy when Roode was attacked, and annoyed that Austin Aries and Eric Young ran out for the save. Roode stinks and is totally unsympathetic. I imagine he’s the type of guy HHH fans love. MVP is the face here as far as I’m concerned.
Backstage Sam Shaw and Gunner are walking down the hall with Gunner saying this is Shaw’s first match back. Anderson approaches Gunner and asks to speak to him alone. He says he doesn’t trust Shaw, but Gunner says he should or some such garbage. This storyline was so much better before they brought Anderson into it. He’s got to be one of the absolute worst guys in wrestling.
Backstage Dreamer and Team 3D say they will not reveal who their partner is for later in the show. Boy the people who haven’t read the spoilers are gonna be let down by this surprise.
The Bro Mans vs. Ken Anderson/Gunner/Sam Shaw: When was the last time Gunner has had a match? I’m not saying the guy is great, but he is someone who always works hard, someone who actually had a good feud in TNA this year, someone who does Tomoaki Honma tribute spots which will prompt more TNA/G1 comparisons in next weeks Observer. He’s not really a guy who you want main eventing, but it feels like a waste to saddle him with the utterly worthless Ken Anderson, and the 49th best guy in the North Florida/South Georgia indie scene Samuel Shaw. As a match this was not much, mainly there to build to the finish where Shaw cleaned house for his team, Anderson still tried to confront him, and then got rolled up for the fall while Shaw’s leg was held stopping him from breaking up the pin. But it did feel like a waste of Gunner.
Backstage Dixie is talking to King Mo. She asks how many wins he has. He says so many he can’t count. She asks how many knockouts he has. He says so many he can’t count. Man TNA is playing with a lot of racial stereotypes on this episode, as the presentation of Mo as the brainless manservant fighter, who can’t count, is something I would imagine even the non-perpetually offended might wince at.
Backstage Gunner and Anderson argue about the finish of the last match. Sam Shaw shows up to break it up. Shaw says it’s his fault they lost.
Eight Man Hardcore War: This was textbook TNA. For weeks now they have been building to this match, and you really expect it to be a wild, all over the arena, ECW style brawl. Instead the match ends up having WarGames rules, where wrestlers come to the ring every couple of minutes. In case you were wondering, I don’t remember the rules ever being mentioned or advertised. Normally I would feel compelled to outline who came in first and what happened, but fuck that. Much like the X-Division gauntlet from a few weeks ago, they added a stip to this that took away the best thing it had going for it on paper, and as a result I didn’t give shit about a huge chunk of this. I’m not even saying it was bad,but if you are going to do WarGames rules, put it in a cage and gives us a WarGames style match. Don’t do WarGames style rules solely so you can deliver with the “big surprise” last man of Al Snow. I did like the trend of Ethan Carter III getting color, mainly because I pictured Nigel McGuinness fuming over it, and Al Snow doing the “old man Terry Funk does an Asai Moonsault spot,” felt like an authentically ECW thing to do in an ECW tribute match. But I felt they underutilized Spud as a second and worse yet this didn’t even directly lead to the Dixie table spot. Instead we got Bully cutting a promo on Dixie who was sitting in the crowd, and Dixie freaking out but insisting she wouldn’t go through a table. I’m sure this was decent enough in a vacuum but as a match they have devoted a bunch of t.v. time building to, this didn’t deliver.
Backstage The Beautiful People are complaining about Taryn Terrell.
Backstage a bloody Ethan Carter III says his partners failed him, but says they will still protect Dixie from going through a table.
In the ring we get a terrible segment with The Beautiful People, Taryn Terrell and Gail Kim. At least they had the sense to keep a mic away from Terrell for the bulk of this, but when Gail Kim showed up to announce a four way for the Knockouts Title next week and it led to a really weak looking brawl, I started to think Court Bauer had the right idea about cutting a woman’s division, he just had the wrong fed in mind. The segments involving these ladies are consistently bad even by TNA standards.
Backstage James Storm slaps Sanada in the face and says he needs to win the X-Division title for him. He makes him bow before he leaves. We are getting one step closer to vignettes involving Sanada and a monkey.
They show the Jessica Havok video.
They show a video outlining the big matches for next week. The best part about this was that they basically gave away the finish of the X-Division title match by showing it here. So the new trend for TNA television is to give away key storylines, angles and payoffs in advance.
Backstage they show Bully Ray in a dark room cutting a promo where he basically said Dixie’s time is up. This was one of the usual filler segments they do every week.
Sanada vs. Low Ki vs. Samoa Joe: Before the match James Storm cut a promo calling himself the legend and then made Sanada bow to him before he got in the ring. Still no loofah involvement. The big takeaway from this is that Joe and Ki could probably still have a very good singles match together. Sanada was in this bringing it down as an annoying presence, with weak looking offense and poor timing. On the other hand that at least played into the finish with Sanada as the weak link that Joe was able to isolate and take out with a choke. I guess maybe they are going with the “he’s supposed to suck,” gimmick for Sanada, but I’m always wary of that line of argument after radical Shawn Michaels fanboys pushed that talking point as an excuse for several poor showings on his part years ago. In any event, this set the table for Joe v. Ki and furthered the Sanada/Storm storyline, so it served it’s purpose even if it wasn’t particularly good.
Backstage Dixie is screaming at Mo to take out Bully. Why didn’t she just leave the building? Why is she going to engage him in the final segment? This makes no sense.
Back from break Dixie inexplicably comes to the ring. No reason is given for why she would do this. Then she fires Big Zeke and Snisky. She demands that everyone in the building leave, but of course no one moves and this brings out Team 3D and Dreamer table in hand. They come to the ring and it’s time for…mic work? What the fuck? They do the big build to this angle, and when the “faces” hit the ring they want to talk about it? Dreamer ends up on the mic talking about “extreme pipe bombs,” which was awful and then King Mo throws a terrible working punch that we are supposed to believe knocks him out. This is a guy that has been dumped off balconies through tables, stapled in the balls, et., but King Mo throws a punch that misses by a foot and he’s out like a light. Even better this leads to everyone other than Bully, D-Von and Dixie mysteriously vanishing from the ring. No clue where Rhino, ECIII or Mo went, as they took no substantial punishment. Dixie looks alone, but the heroic Spud is there to save her again. He is saying that “it will never happen” when the entire babyface lockeroom empties and blocks the path to the back. Spud passes out leaving Dixie alone. The babyfaces – that’s right the babyfaces – then surround the ring, forcing a middle aged, defenseless woman into the ring where she is then powerbombed off the top rope through a table by Bully Ray. Dixie took a great bump and it got a huge pop, but the execution for all of this was horrendous. Really a terrible segment as a whole, though I expect it will be widely praised by women haters, the TNA apologista, and those who desperately want these New York TV tapings to be as good as some said they were.
I have nothing witty or insightful to say here – the show just sucked. No it wasn’t completely bad, and some of the segments were actually better than they should have been (namely the Monsters Ball match), but when you build a big angle for months like they did with Bully and Dixie and then you flub everything so terribly in the execution and delivery, it’s impossible for me to say “well look at the bright side, Gunner showed good fire in his match.” If you didn’t watch this in real time, don’t waste your time. At least next weeks show looks better on paper.