TNA Slammiversary 2016
Impact Zone
Soundstage 20, Universal Studios
June 12, 2016

Watch: Fite TV/PPV

TNA returns to PPV this Sunday for the first time since last October’s Bound For Glory (and no I’m not counting One Night Only: Live because that was just a One Night Only show that scheduling issues demanded be aired live) with Slammiversary, their annual event commemorating another year in business (get it, the name is a combination of slam and anniversary).

Fourteen years ago on June 19, 2002 TNA came into being and all this time later through copious ups and downs they’re still around. That has to count for something. PPV hasn’t really been a consistent pillar for TNA in recent years with Japanese PPVs, scheduling changes, and Global Force invasions all providing obstacles to regularly scheduled PPVs and building to them. However this show had no such obstructions. This is the first PPV in two years to have a traditional straight forward build (and even then Slammiversary 2014 was thrown into disarray by an injury to MVP, which by chance led to the rise of Lashley so something good came from that).

The build has been good in terms of setting up matches that at least have some story backing behind them – some more than others and some better than others. But more than anything else it’s just nice to have a real three hour PPV from TNA for the first time in nine months. TNA’s product has broadly speaking suffered from the lack of PPVs that used to inherently provide their television with structure. In the last six weeks or so while the TV hasn’t been excellent or anything it hasn’t had that sense of aimless wandering that Impact has tended to have over the last three years. The current nine match card certainly can’t be faulted for its variety – there really is a little something for everybody. Also Braxton Sutter suggested that he’ll be appearing on the show and if he’s wrestling James Storm or Rockstar Spud are the two most notable wrestlers without a match (with Spud being the more likely of the two).

Mahabali Shera and Grado vs. The Tribunal (Basile Baraka and Baron Dax w/ Al Snow)

Upset at Grado’s comedy chops and Shera’s dancing skills, Al Snow started his crusade against comedy wrestlers in pro wrestling. Underneath that is potential insecurity regarding his own legacy as a less than serious act that is manifesting itself as bitterness toward younger wrestlers that remind him of himself—but that potentially interesting avenue hasn’t really been explored. Snow then recruited reflexively villainous Frenchmen Basile Baraka and Baron Dax (the former Legionnaires in NXT, known then as Sylvester Lefort and Marcus Louis respectively) to do his bidding in his quest to quell the unintelligible Scot and the dance crazed Indian. Let’s be frank, this match is won’t be pretty. Shera isn’t exactly the most graceful of wrestlers and The Tribunal don’t really have a legacy of tag team classics under their belt—so when you’re relying on Grado to carry the match things may not turn out that well. Best case scenario is a relatively short, inoffensive, hopefully amusing match where Shera shocks some folks with that lucha training he’s been doing. While Shera and Grado are fighting for their very right to call themselves pro wrestlers, The Tribunal do have more upside and shouldn’t lose a match like this so soon after debuting. Prediction: The Tribunal

TNA World Tag Team Championships
Decay (Abyss and Crazy Steve w/ Rosemary)
© vs. The BroMans (Robbie E and Jessie Godderz w/ Raquel)

With Davey Richards on the shelf, the emergence of Big Money Matt (which subsequently blossomed into the Broken Matt Hardy we see today) and the departure of Bobby Roode TNA lost three of their best teams in very quick succession. Without The Wolves, The Hardys and Beer Money, TNA had a rather considerable gap in their tag team division which they they saw fit to fill with the reunion of The BroMans. Don’t scoff. The BroMans are a better team than most probably think they are. Robbie E has always been a damn solid hand and Jessie Godderz has started showing signs of real improvement. Decay on the other hand have begun to find their stride as a sinister, pseudo-mystical cult after turning the creepy factor up to eleven. Abyss is better suited in 2016 as a tag team wrestler and beneath all the clown antics and face paint there’s a decent wrestler in Steve. Joe Lanza stuck his neck out with a hot take that The BroMans will be walking away with the gold on this week’s VOW Flagship, unfortunately I have to disagree. With the return of Davey Richards likely coming sooner rather than later it makes sense to keep the titles on Decay to give The Wolves somebody to chase once they return. I’m hopeful of a good, solid match from this one. Prediction: Decay

TNA King of the Mountain Championship
Eli Drake © vs. Bram

Bram as a wrestler does absolutely nothing for me. He’s competent—it’s not like he’s actively bad or anything. However, there’s only so many times that you can watch the same walk & brawl match style and find it interesting. It leaves you crying out for some variety in his matches. Drake on the other hand I see some potential in. Let’s not pretend he’s this great wrestler or anything—he’s not—but I think if you really challenged him and forced him right up to the edge of his comfort zone you might actually get something from him. He’s a good heel – he bumps and feeds well for whoever he’s wrestling and Bram should bounce him around a little here but he’s just lacking that spark, that sense that there’s more than just a run of the mill midcarder who can talk. I don’t exactly expect to see that spark in this match in particular—the Bram formula will likely prevent that—but I hope he’s challenged to show that in the future. Drake literally just won the title, it would be silly for him to lose it so soon. Prediction: Eli Drake

TNA Knockouts Championship
© vs. Sienna

Jade’s first year or so in TNA has been less than stellar. Forced into a Dollhouse role that she always looked less than comfortable with (I suppose most people don’t really have a reference point for pretending to be a doll come to life—there’s not much to cling to there), she had very few opportunities to strut her stuff and really impress. Coming off a Knockouts title win, a face turn and the dissolution of The Dollhouse she now appears to have an opportunity to be something closer to herself. Sienna, working as Maria’s heavy, has shown a strong presence and carried herself really well since debuting. I really hope these two get a real opportunity to go out and impress on this show. TNA has paid lip service to women’s wrestling for a very long time now – with the talented core group of women they have at the moment now is the time to let them go out there and do some really good stuff. Jade and Sienna are more than capable. Sienna winning the belt and transitioning to a feud with Gail Kim makes sense but I’d rather Jade roll on and try to grow into the roll as champion. Prediction: Jade

TNA X-Division Championship
Trevor Lee
© vs. Eddie Edwards vs. DJ Z vs. Andrew Everett

Oh, the X-Division. The four men in this match are really talented. Like seriously talented. There is absolutely no reason at all I should look at this match and not be extremely excited for it. And don’t get me wrong, I am looking forward to it because it features four wrestlers I’m rather fond of. But if the recent past is a reasonable predictor of the future this will be a fun sprint that doesn’t get enough time to rise above and stand out as a great X-Division match. And there’s literally no reason that should be the case. Take any combination of these four (and throw Mark Andrews in there too) and give them time and more often than not they’d deliver a ***1/2+. That’s what the X-Division should be. Great wrestlers having great matches. This should be a lot of fun, this should be one of the better matches on this show. But this won’t likely reach the potential it clearly has on paper entirely because it won’t get the opportunity to. And that’s just silly. With Option C coming up (where the X-Division champion gets an opportunity to cash in the title in exchange for a World title shot) it’s tough to know where they’re going to go. If Galloway is still champion Galloway vs. Lee sounds most compelling. If Lashley win the title Edwards vs. Lashley is probably the best of the bunch. Or the champion could opt not to cash in for the first time and continue to carry the X-Division banner. Lee feels like he still hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he can do as champion so he should retain. Prediction: Trevor Lee

Maria Kanellis-Bennett vs. Gail Kim

TNA has been building toward this one the second Maria debuted. Her and Kim come at things from two very different world views. One is an entertainer who feels getting her own hands dirty and actually wrestling is a last resort. The other is a wrestler who stands for tradition and respect and in many ways represents the legacy of the Knockouts division in general. Kim is standing up for the division she helped build. Unfortunately as the vehicle for that solid core dispute TNA used a tired heel authority figure trope. Nonetheless they are finally facing one on one. Gail Kim once made Taryn Terrell seem like a great wrestler so her talents are considerable. In my head there are two ways this could go. They could work a smart match building around Gail Kim’s leg that Maria injured on Impact with Kim doing much of the heavy lifting. Or they can overbook it, have Allie and Sienna do run ins and try to have story and shortcuts carry the heavy lifting. Personally I’d rather see the former than the latter as Kim is more than good enough to make this match work the way it needs to. Considering she’s not likely to be an active wrestler full time going forward Maria winning would serve little end (unless they have a rematch planned). Prediction: Gail Kim

“The Miracle” Mike Bennett vs. Ethan Carter III

In many ways this match is the match I find most interesting on this show. Bennett has been fine since he debuted in TNA. He’s carried himself well, his promos have been good, and his matches have been entirely acceptable. However he’s yet to have a match that makes you sit up and say “This is a guy TNA should really get behind!” He needs a statement match to make people actually pay attention to him. In some ways EC3 is in the same boat. The Ethan Carter character has undoubtedly been TNA’s biggest success story for the last three years but outside of the Rockstar Spud match EC3 has yet to show that he can be relied upon to deliver the goods in a big way in important matches. He is undeniably the company’s most dynamic character but there’s pressure on him to deliver here just as much as there is on Bennett. The story set up has been rock solid—they are the same person at different stages of their TNA career. Bennett is basically the mirror image of EC3 in 2013. EC3 has since become a more rounded and developed character—Bennett is still in his infancy. Add in the wrinkle that Bennett was the first person to pin EC3’s shoulders to the mat and you get a strong story with a clear reason to root for the babyface and his quest for revenge. If this show is to deliver as a whole I think this match has to exceed many people’s expectation. EC3’s quest for redemption should conclude with him avenging his original loss to Bennett. Prediction: EC3

Full Metal Mayhem
Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy

There is not enough room in this preview to talk about everything that’s gone on in this wacky sibling dispute. Lucky for you I’ve written a rundown of that whole deal (with wonderful gifs and videos) which you can check out here. This whole thing has been silly. And yet this match will likely be lots of fun. They know a Matt and Jeff Hardy match featuring tables, ladders and chairs comes with the built in expectation that they’ll do something crazy and with the way Jeff has been lately they likely will. At the very least this should be a fun stunt show and hopefully they can layer in some substance to help it become something more. Jeff bashes some sense into Matt with ladders, Matt repents for his sins, and the Hardy’s chase the tag titles for a while. Prediction: Jeff Hardy

TNA World Heavyweight Championship
You Can Only Win By Tap Out or Knockout

Drew Galloway © vs. Bobby Lashley

I am very excited for this match. These are two large, credible heavyweights. This match is the timeless case of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. Since Lashley won the World title in 2014 he has steadily been emerging from the cocoon of his potential – and slowly but surely began to own every single thing he did in a way he never did before. He became the badass ass kicker that everybody thought he could be. He began to carry himself like a credible athlete who knew exactly how dangerous he was. He developed a confidence and sense of conviction that he lacked in his WWE years and his first TNA run. Not to mention the fact that he now spears anything that moves! And Galloway has been excellent everywhere he’s gone since he left WWE. The idea of these two wailing on each other for 15-20 minutes is right up my street.

When it comes to who wins TNA are between a rock and a hard place. Lashley vs. EC3 is clearly the direction they’ve been building toward for the last three months and is likely to be the Bound For Glory main event in October (assuming in their general haste they don’t waste it on TV in next couple of months). And Lashley has been booked to be a monster and a destroyer in 2016. On the other hand it feels a little too early to take the title off Galloway (though him dropping the title may explain the glut of title defenses he’s had). At the end of the day EC3 vs. Lashley is better off with the title than without so Lashley should take home the gold. I just hope they don’t do anything cheap here. Lashley’s whole schtick is that he is just a beast. As I said in an Impact review recently Lashley doesn’t need a weapon. Lashley is the weapon. There is no weapon that Lashley could logically wield within the context of a wrestling match that’s more dangerous than he is. And Drew shouldn’t have an out for a potential loss because his character doesn’t need one. His character isn’t the kind to makes excuses so don’t give him an excuse. Just let these two tear it up. Prediction: Bobby Lashley

I included this at the end of my Slammiversary Preview last year and I’m going to do the same with a tweaked version here, especially considering what PPV is to TNA in 2016:

There’s one thing I ask of TNA from this show. Don’t needlessly overbook it.  Just have a good straightforward wrestling show. Reward the people who actually watch this show with something good. Hopefully the crowd are good as the Impact Zone crowd during relatively cold periods aren’t the best crowd for PPV’s (though they’ve been a perfectly good crowds for recent TV’s and they were very good at this same show last year) but hopefully straightforward matches with straightforward finishes on the undercard will keep the crowd engaged long enough to help the matches on this show that actually matter to actually deliver. Hopefully TNA can deliver a fun, straightforward wrestling show. Get people talking about this show and TNA in general with the quality of the wrestlers and the quality of their work. Let them shine.