Impact Wrestling on Destination America
Wednesday, October 7
Soundstage 20
Universal Studios, Orlando, FL

Impact began with Josh Mathews and Pope in a shiny new virtual set as they ran through the fallout from TNA Bound For Glory 2015. Due to collusion, EC3 acquired an injunction against Matt Hardy resulting in Hardy vacating the TNA title. As a result, a 32-person tournament (TNA World Title Series) has been set up to determine the new TNA World champion. There will be eight groups of four wrestling round-robin style with the top two qualifying for the single elimination round of sixteen. All group stage matches will have a 15 minute time limit with the winner getting three points and each person getting one point in the case of draw. It’s basically the format of the soccer World Cup. The tournament will be called the World Title Series.

The groups announced so far are as follows:

Group UK

  • Drew Galloway
  • Grado
  • Rockstar Spud
  • Bram

Group Champions

  • Austin Aries
  • Ethan Carter III
  • Mr Anderson
  • Bobby Lashley

Group Knockouts

  • Gail Kim
  • Awesome Kong
  • Madison Rayne
  • Brooke

Group Wildcard

  • Kenny King
  • Mahabali Shera
  • Crazy Steve
  • Aiden O’Shea

On this show we had the first bunch of matches from the Knockouts, Champions and UK groups. With the writing being on the wall regarding TNA on Destination America for quite some time now this tournament was a really good idea (even if the way they got there with Hardy winning and relinquishing the title being extremely ill-advised). It gives something to follow week-to-week while helping what is ostensibly lame duck TV feel more important, while also being as cost effective as possible. Plus I do love me a good tournament. Hopefully they nail the presentation elements of this tournament, making it feel as sports-like as possible. Also ideally they should announce the next few weeks’ worth of matches in advance to give people something to anticipate akin to a fixture list in regular sports. After many of the matches they replayed the finish, showed the group table and then cut to comments from the victor.

Group UK Match – Bram vs. Drew Galloway

They cut to an inset promo with Galloway and Bram in the middle of the match which was an extremely odd editing choice. They’re trying to add an extra layer of context to the matches which is a good idea but place them before the match, not during it. This was basically every Bram brawl ever; he’s just not a particularly interesting wrestler. Galloway back dropped Bram on the apron and followed with his flying boot to pick up three points.

Group Knockouts Match – Gail Kim vs. Brooke

Because of Group Knockouts, two women will be in the final 16 of the tournament. They acknowledged that Brooke is still owed a rematch. Gail dominated including a nifty sort of reverse monkey flip before Brooke escaped a head scissors and hit a hurricanrana of her own. Both exchanged submission attempts before Gail attempted Eat Defeat but Brooke escaped. Brooke hit the Butterface Maker but missed a flying elbow. Kim locked on the ringpost Figure Four and went for a Figure Four in the ring but Brooke caught Kim with a small package for the win. They tried some really nifty, inventive stuff here. With an actual story behind it and a different environment these two could have a really good match together (not that this wasn’t a solid outing in its own right). **3/4

Group UK Match – Rockstar Spud vs. Grado

They started with a regular match before transitioning to doing famous wrestlers moves including a Pedigree, Ankle Lock, Stinger Splash, Worm, and a People’s Elbow (which drained a lot of Grado’s energy). Spud escaped a Styles Clash attempt and hit a chokeslam before doing the classic arms crossed Undertaker pin but Grado kicked out. Spud even did the Undertaker shocked face after Grado kicked out which was the highlight of all this. Grado escaped an Attitude Adjustment, tuned up the band, said “I’m sorry, I love you” and went for Sweet Chin Music but Spud grabbed the foot, hit a Stunner and an Underdog to pick up three points. This was all extremely silly but it was made entirely worthwhile because of Spud doing the Undertaker shocked face. *

This is Group UK as it stands: - Group UK TNA World Title Series

Group Champions Match – Ethan Carter III vs. Austin Aries

It’s very nice to have Austin Aries back on Impact. Their explanation for him being here after losing to Spud was basically he’s really smart and he found a way. They exchanged holds to start before EC3 made the mistake of trapping Aries in a leglock and got dropkicked for his troubles. EC3 took control before Aries took EC3 out to the floor and hit the Heat Seeking Missile. Aries went up top but EC3 cut him off and hit a TKO for two. EC3 placed Aries up top but Aries pushed him off and hit a 450 Splash for two. They exchanged blows before Tyrus tripped Aries and EC3 hit a sitout powerbomb for a nearfall. Aries locked in the Last Chancery with one minute remaining but EC3 reached the ropes. They exchanged Brainbuster and One Percenter attempts but time ran out as Aries was going for a Brainbuster. EC3 tried to hit the One Percenter after the match anyway but Aries escaped and hit a Brainbuster. Austin Aries returned to Impact and typically had the best match on the show. He and EC3 worked really well together and the crowd were really into this. ***1/4

Group Knockouts Match – Awesome Kong vs. Madison Rayne

Kong went straight for the Awesome Bomb but Rayne escaped and hit a dropkick. Kong took control with some big strikes. Madison locked in a sleeper but Kong rammed her back first into the corner. Kong grabbed a Torture Rack and dumped Rayne on the mat. Kong missed a big splash before Rayne scored some near falls off an Oklahoma Roll, a crossbody and a top rope dropkick. Kong hit a spinning backfist followed by the Impact Buster to score the win. They worked more of a Kong/Kim match here than Kong and Kim did on Sunday and they were better off for it. The monster/underdog dynamic worked and they made the most of the time they had. **3/4

This is Group Knockouts as it stands: - Group Knockouts TNA World Title Series

Group Champions Match – Mr Anderson vs. Bobby Lashley

They showed clips of how Anderson and Lashley became World champion in the past. Anderson tried to outwrestle Lashley and got a belly-to-belly for his troubles. Anderson took control by working over Lashley’s arm. Pope used the phrase ruthless aggression which gave me horrible flashbacks. Lashley made a comeback punctuated by a spinebuster. Anderson hit a couple of Green Bay Plunges followed by a TKO for two. Anderson went for the Mic Check but Lashley escaped. Anderson charged but got caught with a Spear giving Lashley the win. This was fairly clunky as you’d expect given the two involved and the crowd wasn’t nearly as engaged as they were for EC3/Aries but it was solid enough. **1/2

This is Groups Champions as it stands: - TNA World Title Series

Final Thoughts: This was a breath of fresh air. Unlike most weeks of Impact, this show was laser focused in terms of what it was trying to accomplish. While there was only one match truly worth watching (that being EC3/Aries) the presentation really helped give each match a greater sense of importance. The announcers discussing each match and its ramifications all throughout the show accompanied by comments from the wrestlers as well as constant reminders of the group tables added layers of context to matches that usually would have very little. Because of the tournament setting everything felt more important and you have to credit TNA for seamlessly presenting month’s old tapings as current TV. The way they got there wasn’t conducive to ever selling PPV’s and tickets for big shows again, but (while not without wrinkles that need ironing – most notably the inset promos airing during the match) I can totally get behind the next three months of Impact being like this.