Impact Wrestling on Pop TV
Tuesday, March 8
Barclaycard Arena
Birmingham, England

Dixie Carter opened the show with the ring surrounded by wrestlers, producers and agents before she introduced Kurt Angle. Dixie talked about what Angle meant to TNA over the last ten years, getting choked up in the process. Drew Galloway talked about how much wrestling Kurt Angle meant to him because when he was growing up he wanted to be Kurt Angle. Angle thanked Dixie, the wrestlers and the fans. Lashley came out, said how much of an honour it is to face Kurt before closing by saying how Angle isn’t ready to wrestle him. This was a really nice tribute to Angle. Wrestling is always at its best when it feels authentic and sincere, so I’m all for heartfelt tributes to Kurt Angle. And thankfully they didn’t turn it into too much of an angle, just a plug for the main event, because that would’ve felt out of place here.

King of the Mountain Match – King of the Mountain Championship
Eric Young© def. Will Ospreay, Big Damo, Jimmy Havoc, and Bram

First let’s get the rules out of the way:

In order to win you must become eligible and hang the belt. To become eligible you must score a pinfall or submission. Falls count anywhere. If you are pinned you must spend one minute in the penalty box.

Will Ospreay quickly pinned Havoc to become eligible before Eric Young pushed him off a ladder into the turnbuckle. Jimmy Havoc dived off the penalty box onto Bram and Damo. Young hit a Piledriver onto Havoc on the steps and scored the fall to become eligible. Bram pinned Damo after the Brighter Side of Suffering. Partners Bram and Eric Young came to blows until Young pushed Bram off a ladder. Young looked to climb but Ospreay knocked him off the ladder with a flying forearm. However Young took Ospreay out with a jumping neckbreaker off the ladder which gave him the opportunity to hang the title and retain the belt. King of the Mountain matches aren’t really suited for TV sprints, they work better as longform matches, but they did their best with this. They kept the pace up and it was basically just a string of fun spots. Will Ospreay’s contribution to TNA will forever be two big bumps off a ladder in a random title match. Fun match. ***

Mike Bennett was in the ring with Maria talking about his miracle before demanding a World title shot. Drew Galloway interrupted and called Bennett a bitch. They brawled a little before Bennett bailed. This was a perfectly fine way to keep this feud ticking over.

Angle met with The Wolves backstage. Angle put them over before saying that he’s passing the Ankle Lock on to Davey Richards like Ken Shamrock passed it on to him. That was a really neat touch to anoint Richards as Angle’s spiritual successor in TNA, while also endorsing The Wolves. It’s about as good an alternative to an actual Angle/Richards match possible.

TNA Knockouts Championship
Gail Kim© def. Jade

Jade controlled the early exchanges before Kim turned the tide with a ringpost Figure Four. Jade attempted a number of submission attempts including a Muta Lock but couldn’t make Kim submit. Kim went for Eat Defeat but Jade reversed into a lovely bridging German for two. Kim hit a crossbody off the top but Jade rolled through, however Kim rolled through again to score the pin and retain the title. This was a really solid match but they felt like they were just really getting going when it ended. I’d love to see what these two could do in a fifteen minute main event spot. ***

TNA announced Jeff Hardy vs. Eric Young in Jeff’s return match and EC3 vs. Matt Hardy for the World title for next week. Both those are good matches on paper but the way TNA presented them speaks to one of TNA’s biggest problems. There is a certain constituency that insists a lack of promotion is TNA’s biggest problem and that is true, just not in the sense they mean it. TNA’s biggest problem isn’t that they don’t advertise enough, it’s that they don’t make anything on their programme mean anything. Jeff Hardy is returning next week to get revenge on Eric Young for putting him on the shelf for five weeks with pretty much zero fanfare. No promo from Jeff about why he wants revenge, no video packages for three weeks hyping Jeff’s return as a big event, nothing. It was mentioned by Josh Mathews nonchalantly after Young retained his title earlier in the show.

The same goes for the World title rematch. No promos from EC3 about how much that title meant to him or how Matt Hardy knows he can’t beat him straight up. They just quickly announce the match and expect people to care. And that’s not how it works. You have to make people care. Give people time to anticipate every scenario, spend time discussing the motivations of the wrestlers and the stakes at play, and actually promote the match. You have to work hard to make everything that happens on the show feel meaningful otherwise the matches will come and go without anybody caring.

TNA World Tag Team Championships
Beer Money def. The Wolves©

After an early feeling out exchange The Wolves hit double suicide dives. Beer Money took control and worked over Edwards. Edwards hit a double huracanrana before making the tag to Richards. Richards applied the Ankle Lock to Roode while also having an Indian Deathlock on Storm at the same time. Richards scored a nearfall on Storm after a series of kicks. Beer Money hit a frankensteiner/frog splash combo for another nearfall. Beer Money hit the Beer Money suplex before Richards had a dive reversed into a lungblower. Richards came up holding his leg, so it appears that’s where he got injured. The other three quickly adjusted as Storm hit the Last Call followed by a spinebuster followed by a catapult DDT but Edwards kicked out. Beer Money put Edwards away with the DWI soon after to become new World tag team champions. Credit goes to everybody here because they didn’t miss a beat after Richards got hurt. It’s never lucky when somebody gets badly injured but they were lucky that the injury happened closer to the end of the match than the start. This was a really good match. I’m looking forward to them building on it once Richards is healthy. ***1/2

Grado was in the ring asking his friend Kenny Smith in the video truck to play a video that proved he was screwed during Feast or Fired. Eli Drake and Jessie Godderz interrupted and jumped Grado. Mahabali Shera made the save allowing Grado to steal the Feast or Fired briefcase and escape. I don’t know how Grado could be your make or break point for Impact. He’s usually nothing other than a brief diversion for a bit of comic relief.

Bobby Lashley def. Kurt Angle

Throughout the show they aired some of Angle’s best moments in TNA as well as a really nice video tribute to him. Lashley rushed in and got a German suplex for his troubles. Lashley, looking embarrassed, charged again only to be suplexed again. Lashley walked into a belly to belly soon after as Angle dominated the opening exchanges. Lashley turned the tide after throwing Angle into the turnbuckle. Angle tried to come back with some rolling Germans but Lashley cut him off with a running powerslam. Angle avoided the Spear and hit an Angle Slam but Lashley kicked out. Angle was bleeding from the mouth as he rattled off more suplexes.

Angle locked in the Ankle Lock but Lashley revered into an armbar. Angle reversed back into the Ankle Lock. Lashley escaped, hit a spinebuster and followed with a Spear but Angle kicked out. Lashley hit another Spear but Angle kicked out again. Lashley missed a third Spear and Angle latched on an Ankle Lock. The visual of Angle, bleeding from the mouth, desperately trying to make Lashley submit was awesome. Lashley escaped, Angle missed a charge and struck the post, and Lashley followed with a Spear to score the win. While I preferred last year’s Angle/Lashley matches this was another creditable notch in Angle’s rock solid Farewell Tour. ***1/2

After the match Lashley hugged Angle only to Spear him twice as well as Spear Drew Galloway and Eddie Edwards, who tried to make the save. Lashley speared Angle again before EC3 came out and ran Lashley off. Lashley’s career best work was as a heel in the summer of 2014 and he was aimless as a babyface so this is a welcomed change, not to mention the turn was well executed and Lashley looked like an absolute beast. The only negative is that recent high profile heel turns for Spud and Matt Hardy may have lessened this one’s impact. TNA should take their time building to EC3 vs. Lashley. The bare minimum it should be saved until Slammiversary in June.

This was top to bottom easily the best edition of Impact Wrestling on Pop to date. Its shows like this that TNA need to deliver every single week if they are to escape their current funk. It’s interesting; if Angle does come back he has natural matches with Mike Bennett, Davey Richards, Drew Galloway and Bobby Lashley waiting for him.  

Final Thoughts

September 24th, 2006. AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels had just regained the NWA tag team titles after tearing down the house against LAX. Samoa Joe had just defeated Jeff Jarrett in a non-title main event. And TNA had a major announcement to make. An announcement that would change the face of the company forever. An announcement that was real…damn real. Kurt Angle was coming to TNA. TNA had signed big names like Sting in the past and TNA had signed great wrestlers like Samoa Joe or Christian but Kurt Angle was a very potent combination of both those qualities. He’d been a featured act in WWE for six years and, in spite of concerns over his health, he was still one of the elite performers in the world.

When Angle arrived in TNA a month later, going face to face with Samoa Joe in a wild, intense pull apart brawl, he set the precedent for what he would do in the decade to come. He gave all of himself to TNA. Unlike many “big stars” that came through TNA and decided to coast on past glories, Angle strived to deliver every single time he stepped in a TNA ring. He set a standard of excellence surpassed only by AJ Styles in TNA history. There was no PPV he couldn’t save. No opponent he couldn’t carry. No match he wouldn’t try to make work. That dedication to quality, no matter what was going on around him, was admirable.

Angle holds a special place in my heart because he was my door into TNA. The very first Impact I watched in full was the show in which he made his in ring debut against Abyss. My interest in wrestling was waning but when I heard Angle had shown up somewhere other than WWE I figured I’d give it a go. I’d seen bits and pieces of TNA before that but nothing substantial. Watching that show exposed me to the likes of AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Chris Sabin, Samoa Joe, and Abyss while bringing me back to wrestlers I always enjoyed like Christian and Rhino. That then sent me down a rabbit hole of Alex Shelley, Petey Williams, James Storm, Chris Harris, Bobby Roode, Raven, Jeff Jarrett, Amazing Red, and Monty Brown matches, as well as everybody mentioned already of course.  It also reinvigorated my love of pro wrestling in general and without that I may have missed a decade of some of my favourite moments and memories. I may have never attended a WrestleMania, or travelled to see WrestleKingdom in the Tokyo Dome. Without that I may not still be a wrestling fan today. And for that I will be forever grateful to both Angle and TNA.

I’ve spent much of the last week re-watching many of Kurt Angle’s best TNA matches. The sheer quantity of quality matches over the last nearly ten years in staggering. Over and over again Angle delivered in the ring for TNA. Be it a fun TV sprint vs. Amazing Red or an instant classic against AJ Styles. Whether an intense clash with Samoa Joe or a technical game of chess against Nigel McGuinness. The end of a blood feud with Mr Anderson or a remarkable upset vs. Jay Lethal. A delightful stunt brawl against Abyss or a deep-seated personal grudge match against Jeff Jarrett. Angle would always deliver no matter who the opponent or what the setting. Literally dozens and dozens of matches in TNA speak to his talent, versatility, and drive. Kurt Angle may not be a TNA Original but he sure is a TNA legend. And I want to thank him for everything he’s done for TNA over the last ten years. I can’t fathom what the company would have been like without him.

If you’d like to check out some of Angle’s best TNA matches or just talk about Angle with other folks make sure to check out the Voices of Wrestling forums: http://www.voicesofwrestling.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=51&p=20642#p20642 I put together a list of my favourite Kurt TNA matches so check that out.