It’s Hardcore Justice! Last Knockout Standing! An I Quit match between a sex criminal and someone who is somehow even less likable than him. Two guys fighting over a snuff film fetish prop! Six guys in a cage because who doesn’t want to see six guys in a cage!?! And then there is a Low Ki v. Samoa Joe match which might actually be good! Here we go.
Bram v. Abyss – Stairway to Janice: The safe joke here is to say that you know Russo is gone because Janice isn’t on a pole, she’s suspended above the ring. Still the object of the match is for the alcoholic son-in-law of Ric Flair to race a Kane/Mankind hybrid up a ladder in order to retrieve a board filled with nails that is usually spoken about as if it were a hyper-sexualized, sentient, woman. Once you get this “lady” the goal is to use Janice to nail your opponent repeatedly. So I’m not sure “you know Russo is gone” is a joke that rings true. Anyhow, as a match this was better than I expected. Abyss is on my short list for worst wrestler of the modern era, as a brawler with all time bad punches, and a swing dance move finisher, is about as awful as it gets. Still I will say the guy has been in several watchable brawls this year, though as with all of the previous ones this one was carried by his opponent. In fact this felt like one of the more one sided matches I’ve seen this year, in the sense that you had Bram diving head first into the stairs and barbed wire boards at full speed, and effectively chokeslamming himself off of a ladder, all to get over Abyss as a beast, while Abyss’ big contribution was taking a few unprotected garbage can shots and making stupid faces. While I am still mystified as to why TNA needs multiple Gunner’s, I’ve got to say for a guy who couldn’t cut it as a member of The Ascension/was so fucked up that WWE felt they had to cut him, he has miraculously managed to have a feud with Abyss where his ring efforts have made him look better coming out than he did going in. Sharon and Lois would be proud.
Backstage Ethan Carter III, Rockstar Spud and Rhino are talking among themselves when the off camera, TMZesque, troll asked ECIII how his time in jail was. His response was what it was as this was basically a set up for the next segment, but the real take home from this is that the invisible man doing the questioning here gets douchier and douchier every week. I have no clue why TNA would be giving someone a Luke Rudkowski gimmick, and not at least giving him a name to match the act, but most of the things TNA does are ultimately unexplainable.
Back from commercial Magnus confronts Bram backstage and says he’s not going to outshine him. For a second I thought they were teasing a feud here, but instead both guys walked their separate ways with a smile on their faces. So this was the typical pointless TNA backstage segment.
Ethan Carter III, Rockstar Spud and Rhino come to the ring for a promo. ECIII thanks Kurt Angle for his time spent in jail last week. He says he spent his time in jail thinking about who was really to blame for his Aunt Dixie getting put through a table, and came to the conclusion that Rhino was to blame. What was funny here is that ECIII cut a decent promo setting up Rhino for a big retort, and all Rhino did was make a single “oh no you didn’t!” face and then respond by saying some cuss words before getting his ass completely kicked. They tried to make it look like Spud accidentally provided cover for the ECIII assault on Rhino, but in actuality in came across like Rhino got called a punk, and then got his ass beat in a completely straight up fashion by a guy whose gimmick is that he’s a self entitled, overrated, wimp. I know it wasn’t the plan, but this should have been used to write Rhino off t.v., as there is no way any sensible person can treat him seriously after that display.
Backstage the guy with the Rudkowski gimmick asks Joe what is up with his match with Low Ki tonight. Joe cuts a promo as he wanders around backstage talking about how Low Ki may be confident but Joe will keep the X-Division title.
Back from the break the Rudkowski clone is still running around with his camera, and this time he’s got the Hardy’s. He asks them what there is left to prove. Matt puts over the tag division in TNA, and cuts a good promo talking about how the decision to reunite was calculated. Jeff says very little thankfully.
They show a video package with Samoa Joe talking about his role as the spark plug for the X-Division and tonight’s title match with Low Ki.
Samoa Joe v. Low Ki: I was surprised this wasn’t the main event. Then I was briefly happy because I figured it wasn’t placed in that spot because TNA always cannibalizes their main events with poorly timed commercials, and perhaps they figured since this was a match that would benefit from some time and being shown in full it wasn’t going to get the death slot of going last. Then it went about eight minutes. I understand New Japan just put on a wrestling tournament that people went insane over that was filled with matches that went roughly as long as this one, but this was an eight minute match that was put over as a big deal, promoted as a big deal, and worked like a match that was going twenty not eight. What was here was fine. Both guys hit some big impact spots. Low Ki’s bumping and theatrics are still really unique, and some of the little stuff they did like the ring positioning on the big double stomp spot, was really great. But it was impossible not to be disappointed by this. I am probably the world’s biggest critic of long near fall segments in wrestling, but this was a match that really needed Joe to kick out of the Ki Crusher (which they kept teasing but never delivered), or at the very least Ki to kick out of the muscle buster and then get choked out. As it stood the finish felt really anti-climactic, and while the work before it was generally good, I can’t really call this a good match.
Backstage The Hardy’s knock on the door of Team 3D. Tenay asks “what’s this about?” then they pan to a backstage Jeremy Borash interview with Ken Anderson. Anderson calls Sam Shaw a creepy bastard and calls Gunner an idiot. Shaw shows up and criticizes him for talking trash about his friends and a backstage brawl between the two breaks out. They go to commercial after Shaw get whipped into a guardrail that is backstage for some reason.
Sam Shaw v. Ken Anderson – I Quit: This carried over from before the break as Anderson’s music hit and these guys started brawling out from the back and down the entrance ramp. This was heatless and about as bad as it looked to be on paper. A minute or so into this Anderson almost killed himself doing the rolling senton/slam on the the ramp and that was the highlight of the match. They tried to build some interest with Anderson working underneath, but Shaw botched a camel clutch at an inopportune time. Don’t get me wrong. This was not as bad as the time I saw Bo Dallas fuck up running the ropes twice in one night, nor was it as bad as the time I saw Kurgan screw up applying the claw. But it was really bad, and compounded by the fact that Anderson is such an unsympathetic character that you really want to see the sexual predator destroy him in the most violent fashion possible. I get that Shaw only has his job because he’ll work for pennies on the dollar, but he’s not worth the pennies and Anderson isn’t worth a shit. Both guys did a shit job emoting when they were doing the talking spots into the mic, Gunner was at ringside for no real reason, and the Anderson comeback that led to the finish was poorly timed and executed. This might have been the worst I Quit match in the history of wrestling.
Backstage Rudkowski asks Team 3D what their meeting with the Hardys was about. Bully says they were discussing something huge for tag team wrestling, but that there is one more piece to the puzzle they have to address which they will do from the ring after the break.
Back from the break they show clips of Gail Kim and Angelina Love brawling backstage from last week. This leads to a backstage promo from Kurt Angle where he says that Gail Kim came to him and demanded a Last Knockouts Standing Match for tonight. I wonder what Gail Kim had to do to convince Angle to give Angelina the shot he said she didn’t deserve?
They show a pre-tape promo with Bobby Roode sitting next to the cage. He talks about how he was the most dominant champion in company history and how sitting at home for seven weeks almost killed him. Roode says he will win the cage match tonight and become the number one contender to the TNA World Championship. I know I rag on TNA for the amount of time they spend on talking segments, but this needed to be longer to be an effective dramatic promo.
The Hardys come to the ring and they let Jeff get the mic first. Why? For what possible reason would you put Jeff in the ring with a live mic when Matt is right there? Jeff leads a Hardys chant which was as awful as it sounds. He talks about the big idea they have for the tag division and then calls Team 3D to the ring. Bully comes out and says he and D-Von are the guys who put Dixie Carter through a table. He puts over both teams, says both teams want the tag belts and then calls out the champions. The American Wolves come out looking like small children that have been poorly dressed for school picture day. They say they will wrestle both teams any time. Then the segment awkwardly ends with Davey Richards holding the mic looking like he has something else to say. I’m all for cutting off Davey Richards and making him look like the asshole he is, but this was not good editing or production.
Mike Tenay interviews Dixie Carter from her bed. During the entire interview there is somber music playing in the background. Dixie cuts an incredibly sympathetic promo here. She talks about the details of her injuries, talks about her need to refocus on business, talks about how Bully double crossed her and she ended up being victimized when she chose to go to war with him seeking justice for legitimate grievances. She guaranteed that she would be back and that Ethan Carter was just heating up. At the tail end of the interview they made a weak attempt to have her look like a heel, as she tells Tenay to leave in a mildly rude way and then demands Serge come in and fluff her pillow. But as a whole this reinforced every criticism I’ve made about the Bully v. Dixie storyline, as Dixie came across as a humbled old woman who had been savagely beaten by a sociopathic lunatic and was bravely coming to terms with her own mortality. I’m not sure where they even go from here, but I think I’d bring in Gunner as her PTSD counselor, and when it comes time to write Bully off of television shoot an angle where Gunner uses neuro-linguistic programming to convince Sam Shaw to break into Bully’s house and “finish him.”
Back from break they announce that Christy Hemme is pregnant and ask the fans to go somewhere to see photos of it. I once worked somewhere where a “customer” would come in daily, take a stack of childbirth and pregnancy books to the last stall of the bathroom, and jack off on the stall walls. I am not sure if the goal of these photos is to appeal to weirdos like that, but if apartment wrestling and Danny the Jobber YouTube clips creep you out, this has potential to be next level disturbing.
They replayed the Fifty Shades bit with James Storm and Sanada from last week. Really weird to see TNA rehashing ridiculous vignettes and backstage segments, as they usually feature eight or nine too many on every show but they are all original to the episode.
Gail Kim v. Angelina Love – Last Knockout Standing: Angelina is pretty terrible, and the bulk of this died with the crowd,but this was actually a pretty good match. The story of the match was that Velvet kept intervening to save Angelina and help her get the upper hand. Honestly if you are going to have a match with these two, that is probably not the worst way to build it, as Angelina can’t really do anything of note on her own. There really wasn’t a ton of meat to this, but for a match built around big spots and Earl Hebner counting, the big spots all had significant impact to them and Hebner’s counting was consistent. Gail hit a big lariat on the floor early, Angelina took a crazy bump into the rail at one point, they did a really good teased countdown spot off of a sick kick from Angelina to Gail on the floor, and the big fall away slam off the top onto a chair finish looked good. This won’t make any sane persons Match of the Year list or anything like that, but this was easily the best Knockouts segment I’ve seen since I started doing these reports.
Kurt Angle announces that the American Wolves, Team 3D and Hardys match will in fact be a series of matches with each team getting to pick the gimmick it wants. I wonder if this was originally announced in front of the live crowd and then senselessly cut for television. There has to be some explanation for the bizarre fashion in which the initial segment ended right? Right??
MVP, Kenny King and Lashley come out for a promo. MVP cuts a great promo outlining the history of how Lashley ended up with the World Title and all the people that Lashley has put down since he won the title. MVP says they aren’t worried about who wins the upcoming cage match to become number one contender, because they’ve “already lost.” He then tells the live crowd to bow down before The Destroyer. This was really excellent stuff and I’m starting to wonder if MVP was always this good on the mic, or if he just stands out more now because there are so few guys in modern wrestling who are even decent.
Mike Tenay goes over the rules for the Six Sides of Steel Cage Match, which basically come down to “it’s an escape the cage match.” Austin Aries and Eric Young get their ring introductions and then they cut to commercial.
Gunner v. Magnus v. Austin Aries v. Eric Young v. Bobby Roode v. James Storm – Six Sides of Steel, Escape the Cage, Number One Contender Match: I was waiting for the one match or segment on the show that screamed “this is TNA” and sure enough here it is. First we have the waste of strong talent, as you have several guys in this who can really work, including arguably the two best in ring performers in the company so far in 2014 (Aries and Young) being pissed away in a match like this. Then you have a stupid gimmick as this is basically a reverse battle royal, with six guys trying to get out and over the cage, which makes for several clusterfuckish moments early and minimizes the strengths of everyone involved. Of course you have the ill timed commercial during the main event, this one being especially ridiculous as it was a four or five minute long commercial, something that almost seemed designed to get people to change the channel. And finally you have the ridiculous finish, with EY and Bobby Roode racing down opposite sides of the cage and presumably tying by both hitting the floor at the same time. I say presumably because there was no clarification about the finish at all when the show went off the air. As a match it was eaten alive, so it’s hard to have an opinion on it. They did do some big, crowd pleasing spots down the stretch for whatever that’s worth. But taken as a whole it was the sort of match that makes TNA TNA. And that’s not a good thing.
Very weird show in that the matches with talented guys I’d actually want to see were really disappointing, poorly put together, or just stupid, and the matches with middling-to-weak talent, which I expected to suck, were actually not bad. The exception to this was Shaw v. Anderson which was even worse than could have been reasonably expected, but Anderson is incapable of doing anything good against anyone. While I didn’t hate the show, it was plagued by a lot of the problems that have hurt TNA for years, with the most annoying aspect of this show being the fact that Ki and Joe didn’t get the time they needed to put on the match they could have (and should have). If you didn’t see it live there is no reason to watch it – like virtually every episode of Impact.