Impact Wrestling on Pop TV
Tuesday, January 19
Sands Bethlehem Event Centre
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Jeff Hardy made his way to the ring and asked Matt Hardy to join him. Jeff thanked Matt for all the help he’s provided him through the years and then pivoted to saying he’s very uncomfortable with Matt’s decision to put his TNA career on the line in the main event. Matt said he felt he let everybody down so he wants to go all in to finally beat EC3. Matt vowed to beat EC3 and this seemed to ease Jeff Hardy’s worries. Tyrus made his way to the ring and talked about how The Hardy’s dreams are going to turn to nightmares. Tyrus was upset that Jeff called Tyrus stupid last week and challenged Jeff to a match. Jeff accepted.

Jeff Hardy vs. Tyrus

Hardy went for the Whisper in the Wind but slipped prompting Tyrus to attack Hardy’s leg. Tyrus grabbed a chair and pushed the referee over to lose by DQ. Tyrus looked to attack Hardy further but Jeff ran him off with a Twist of Fate. This match was more of an angle to set up Jeff being missing for the main event. DUD

The Wolves backstage said they were excited that Beer Money were back and wanted to face them. Crazy Steve wandered in and distracted The Wolves allowing Abyss to attack them from behind. Apparently Steve and Abyss are a team now.

TNA Knockouts Championship
Awesome Kong vs. Gail Kim©

Kong dominated Kim before Kong missed a splash attempt allowing Kim to lock on a submission. Kim looked for a clothesline but Kong dropped her. Kim hit a tornado DDT out of the corner, The Dollhouse tried to interfere but Kim took them out with a crossbody to the floor. The Dollhouse tried to interfere again but The Beautiful People ran them off. Kim hit Kong with Eat Defeat and launched Jade off the top rope onto Kong before scoring the pinfall. Too short and overbooked to be anything meaningful but Kim’s energy made this work for what it was. **

Beer Money (James Storm and Bobby Roode) vs. Jessie Godderz and Eli Drake

Storm and Roode called out Bram and Eric Young but got Drake and Godderz instead. The brawled a little at ringside. Drake and Godderz got the heat on Storm for a second before Roode got the hot tag. Storm and Roode unloaded some double team stuff punctuated by the Beer Money suplex. They followed with the DWI for the win. Beer Money are an extremely polished team and this was basically a squash match to set The Wolves vs. Beer Money match in motion. **

Jeff Hardy, nursing his injured knee, wanted to stay for Matt’s title match but Matt and Reby insisted he go to the hospital to make sure his knee isn’t badly instead, basically guilting him into doing it.

Angle made his way to the ring and put over his match with Drew Galloway last week. Angle said these are the kinds of matches he wants for his farewell tour and then asked “Who’s next?” Bill Goldberg is on the phone over gimmick infringement.

Bobby Lashley made his way the ring and credited Angle with helping him get into wrestling. Lashley said he waited to face Kurt because to be the man he had to beat the man and Kurt is the man. Lashley said losing to Angle last year got to him and he hasn’t been the same since. Lashley wanted the opportunity to set the record straight. Angle said he doesn’t know if he can beat Lashley again and that’s exactly why he was accepting Lashley’s challenge. Lashley said he was going to beat Kurt’s ass and walked away. This was a great angle. Lashley needs to beat Kurt to get his career back on track, and despite his respect for Angle, he’ll have no problem beating the hell out of him. This was probably the best promo of Lashley’s career.

“The Miracle” Mike Bennett vs. Pepper Parks

Parks got in a hope spot or two but this was basically a total squash. Bennett won with a Cradle Shock.

The wonder that is Feast or Fired returns next week with Chris Melendez, Grado, Bram, Eric Young, James Storm, Bobby Roode, Drew Galloway, Eli Drake, Aiden O’ Shea, Robbie E, and Rockstar Spud. It’s unfortunate how much of a non-factor Spud has been in the Pop era so far.

TNA World Heavyweight Championship Last Man Standing – Title vs. TNA Career
Matt Hardy vs. Ethan Carter III©

They brawled around ringside with EC3 getting the better of it before EC3 set up a couple of tables at ringside. Hardy set up a table and ladder in the ring but that opened the door for EC3 to hit a reverse Russian leg sweep. The crowd were doing duelling chants but it sounded as if at most three people were chanting “EC3” but Josh Mathews drew attention to it anyway. EC3 hit a splash off a ladder through a table. Hardy escaped the TKO and followed with a Twist of Fate. Hardy hit a low blow and Matt suddenly had a mean look on his face. Matt berated the referee for not counting faster before hitting a Twist of Fate off the apron through a table. EC3 made his way to his feet at 9 as Hardy grabbed some steel chairs. Hardy placed a chair over EC3 head and hit a Twist of Fate. EC3 made it up again at 9.

Reby gave Matt Hardy a hammer at ringside. EC3 ducked an attempted hammer, hit a low blow and followed with the One Percenter. Tyrus came to ringside and hit EC3 with the Big Ending, turning on him and siding with Matt Hardy. EC3 made it to his feet at eight, wailed on Tyrus but walked into a belt shot from Hardy. This put EC3 down for the count and Matt Hardy is the new World Heavyweight champion. The story appears to be Reby manipulated Matt to go to this extreme.  Matt, a now completely transformed person, gloated about winning and mocked the fans. He pronounced this as the arrival of Big Money Matt. This match had some big bumps but the sense of urgency it started with waned a little as the match went on. The double turn was a little hamfisted in execution. Foreshadowing is fine but it lacked nuance. Hardy hit EC3 with a one man conchairto and Reby spat on him.  **3/4

There were so many things wrong with what happened here, let’s go step by step.

Firstly, TNA is a severely damaged brand. People associate them with these kinds of goofy swerves and over the top finishes. All they elicit is groans; all it does is remind people of the worst of TNA. It makes it look like the same old TNA. That’s all this will do. Title runs that end before they get started. Title changes that are an afterthought. Pointless swerves for the sake of shocking people. Big title matches ending in interference after loads of nonsense. It’s the worst of TNA. The kind of things that drive people away from the brand. This is why things like this should be exactly what TNA should avoid doing if they are in any way serious at all at rehabbing their brand. But it would appear they believe the brand doesn’t require rehabilitation. Had TNA not had a reputation for doing this kind of thing too often in the past it might have worked, but past indiscretions make stuff like this feel less like the big shocking development it should be and more par for the course in TNA.

EC3 lied, cheated and stole his way to two World Title reigns and an undefeated streak that lasted two years. He was spoiled, self-entitled, overbearing, obnoxious and arrogant. So instead of somebody finally bring him back down to earth by defeating him, we’re supposed to feel sorry for him because his undefeated streak and title were taken away from him? That is totally backwards. Not to mention Matt Hardy is the last person who should have ended EC3’s streak. He has little to gain. It was a waste. They could still go around saying EC3 is unpinned and unsubmitted but that would be a really hollow thing for a newly crowned babyface to brag about.

TNA booked a three month tournament to crown a new World champion. For three months of television 32 men battled it out for the right to become World Heavyweight champion. Two weeks ago, EC3 won that tournament. Two weeks later and that tournament has been rendered pointless by the man who won it losing the title pretty much immediately afterwards. The whole tournament was a waste of time. I hate short title runs. I despise them. All they do is undermine the credibility of the title. Matt Hardy and EC3 are now both two time champions, each with a reign that was totally meaningless. There should be no such thing as a meaningless title reign.

Matt Hardy’s journey never landed as a story either. The family man who was striving to prove that he wasn’t just a tag team wrestler, that he was just as good as his brother by achieving something that eluded him over his twenty year career. But that same instinct to provide for and satisfy his family drove him to losing himself in the process in order to finish the job. That’s a fairly solid story. Hardy had the noblest of intentions but choked and resorted to cheap means to get the job done. But the failure of those initial story beats to land (Hardy needed more time to allow the loss two weeks ago to sink in, to sell the effect that loss had on him) coupled with EC3 being the wrong man to execute this turn on resulted in a story that didn’t feel fully formed when the trigger was pulled.

EC3 was always going to turn eventually; it was a matter of time, and he may be a successful babyface but pay off his two year story arc in a meaningful, satisfying way first. Matt Hardy is a very good heel and has done strong work over the last two years but he isn’t the fresh face to lead the brand into the future. Not to mention the fact that we have yet another heel champion which means the same old cowardly, undeserving heel champion going forward with the same old cheap finishes that come with that. This was the same old cheap, shock and awe television that this company should be running away from. In another world an angle like this might have been effective, but TNA have scorched far too much earth in the past for it to work in 2016.

Final Thoughts:

TNA is not selling tickets, they’re not selling PPV’s, and people have been tuning out in droves over the last two years. The product isn’t just cold, it’s freezing. Watching the show each week it’s clear that there’s nothing the crowd believe in. There’s nobody on the show that they have any real connection with. The brand borders on toxic. Recruitment is no longer a question of resources but also of whether people want to associate themselves with a company renowned for chewing up talented wrestlers, doing nothing with them, and spitting them out. Not a single wrestler on the roster is being used to the fullest. Wrestling shows should identify the strengths of their roster and showcase them to their fullest as often as possible. But not a single wrestler on the TNA roster is being used to their fullest.

So nothing is clicking, TNA’s customer base has never been smaller, viewers have abandoned them, wrestlers are always swimming upstream, and the brand is more often than not the butt of jokes – and yet here we are in 2016 with TNA doing the same old thing. TNA have shown a bafflingly remarkable stubbornness to stay this course despite warning sign after warning sign saying it’s not working.

Pretty much every single time I write something like this I end on a hopeful note. Something like “With the UK tour and TNA’s hottest crowds of the year coming up now would be the perfect to turn the ship around and harness those crowds to turn great shows into something special”. But before long that hope begins to wear thin. There are only so many times you can watch a company that, more than is probably reasonable, you root for make the same self-defeating mistakes over and over again. There is only so long you can watch them slowly crawl toward death.