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

TNA opened the show with a moments silence for the victims of the senseless mass shooting that took place in Orlando this weekend.

TNA X-Division Championship
Eddie Edwards def. Trevor Lee
©, DJ Z, and Andrew Everett

While I’d have preferred to see it get a little more time (it is rather rare that I wouldn’t prefer to see the X-Division get more time) this was one of the most enjoyable X-Division matches in quite a long while. More than a lot of recent matches of its ilk it felt like it had a little more substance. They made the most of the time they had but they let their sequences and dives (including a spectacular Andrew Everett springboard tornillo to the floor) breathe. Any singles combination of these four and Mark Andrews that gets 10+ minutes would deliver every single time and Impact has often desperately needed the energy and diversity those matches would bring. I’d place those five above the vast majority of wrestlers currently in WWE’s Cruiserweight tournament and TNA has to make the most of them while they have them. I kind of contradicted myself in the Slammiversary preview. I said were Lashley to win the World title Eddie Edwards was likely to win the X-Division title and in spite of predicting Lashley to win the World title I still plumped for Lee to retain. Well Edwards won the title after reversing Lee’s Small Package Driver into a Small Package of his own for the win. Edwards works really well either as a challenger for Lashley or as a strong X-champion in his own right so I have no problem with the title change. I’d have liked to see Lee get more out of his reign though. Matches like this should be the norm, not the exception. ***3/4

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

I mentioned Shera’s extensive training in the preview and while he did break out a springboard double ax handle it didn’t save this from being quite a dull match. Baraka and Dax feel like a straight out of wrestling school tag team. Everything is extremely basic kick punch stuff with no inventiveness and nothing that helps them stand out. Shera and Grado are a more dynamic team than they are. *1/4

TNA Knockouts Championship
Sienna def. Jade
© and Gail Kim

Maria broke her hand and had to pull out of the show so Kim was inserted into the KO title match instead. And while that might seem like a good thing on paper, these three never really found any rhythm or flow and what resulted was a fitfully good, occasionally clunky match that would have probably been better off as the original singles match. They tried to do some more complicated stuff and while it for the most part came off it never really fit into a broader narrative. Marti Bell returned at the end to cost Jade the match, bitter over the demise of The Dollhouse. That likely sets up new champion Sienna vs. Gail Kim and Marti vs. Jade as the two women’s programmes going forward. Kim, Jade, Allie, Sienna and Madison Rayne could form the basis of a strong division revival if they get the chance. **1/4

James Storm def. Braxton Sutter

The first test of Sutter in a real singles match didn’t produce much in the way of promise. It didn’t help that the audience didn’t really know who he was and he was lumped into a face vs. face match against somebody who was always going to be more popular than him but this just felt like an underwhelming TV match. Sutter losing makes me feel like my initial instincts that his likable hardworking guy come good deal will slowly fade as his dream doesn’t quite pan out the way he hoped it would. In the long run Storm is a good guy for him to work with (and if it’s a James Storm tag team, one is destined to turn on the other) but this match being thrown out here cold was doomed to fail. Storm won with the Last Call. **

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

Unbelievably a dull walk and brawl match was dull. The highlight of this was Drake falling off the ropes as he was posing during his entrance. He’s lucky his kind of character can play that off because if he was say a Lashley-esque character that would destroy his appearance. As expected there was little technically wrong about this, it just wasn’t very interesting. At this point in the show—after four straight matches that failed to spark anything interesting—this show wasn’t looking particularly good. It felt too much like a bland episode of Impact. **

Ethan Carter III def. “The Miracle” Mike Bennett

I was talking about this match’s need to exceed expectations and in the end it kind of didn’t—it pretty much met expectations exactly. This was a good match that occasionally teased taking things up a notch but never really did. Bennett continues to be good but not quite great and EC3 still lacks some high end matches that a headliner needs to have in order to be trusted to carry the whole company. They did a really weird nearfall on the One Percenter in the middle of the match as part of EC3’s comeback that spoiled some of the later nearfalls. Instead of building the match around that big moment it fell kind of flat. Having dealt with Bennett EC3 is obviously on a collision course with Lashley, they’ve been building toward that for three  months already now. With the grudge attached these two probably would have been better off with some sort of gimmick here but they saved all of that stuff for Hardy/Hardy so it likely would have been too much on this show if both matches had plunder. ***1/4

Full Metal Mayhem
Jeff Hardy def. Matt Hardy

For all the silliness and accents and pageantry that came with the feud, when it came down to it Matt and Jeff went out there and had a damn enjoyable plunder match. This wasn’t these two’s first furniture foray, they know how to plan and pace these kinds of matches to deliver something memorable. The highlight of which was Matt powerbombing Jeff through a keyboard propped up on a guardrail, calling back to the wonderful moment in their infamous contract signing where Matt was dramatically playing the piano as Jeff arrived. This match wasn’t so bad it was good. It wasn’t good in an ironic way. It was just a well executed Full Metal Mayhem between two old pros. They didn’t take any hugely unnecessary risks either which is nice from a Jeff Hardy match like this for once. I still think all of this ends in Jeff driving the madness out of his brother, Matt repenting for his descent into insanity and they join together to chase Decay for the tag titles. And considering TNA’s current tag team division that would probably be for the best. This was a great match though. ****

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

Placed in the “buffer match” role this could have easily ended up a low energy match that came and went without much consequence but it ended up being one of the better undercard matches on the show. There were a lot of moving parts with Raquel and Rosemary, ref bumps and devastating mist but most of what they did landed and even included some really convincing near falls. All four of these wrestlers are better than most would give them credit for, particularly in a tag team environment. In the same way the Hardy/Hardy match benefited from being the only match on this show with weapons (bar one spot in the main event) this match benefited from being the only match that featured overbooked shenanigans. ***

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

Bobby Lashley def. Drew Galloway ©

This was great. I was a little worried as the match progressed that they’d have a hard time getting the crowd invested in the stipulation because they didn’t really do anything in the build up to get over either submissions (only very late did they drive home that Galloway had defeated Kurt Angle by submission and had submission chops) or exactly specify what was meant by a “Knockout.” Thankfully, they overcame any vagueness with the quality of their work and the quality of the personalities. They structured and paced the match brilliantly with the peak coming in final five minutes, steadily going to greater lengths to defeat each other without the match being bogged down with ten counts. Lashley was an absolute monster oozing presence and Drew showed tremendous fire in fighting back at Lashley no matter what Lashley threw at him.

The finish—Lashley choking Galloway out with a head and arm choke (which he teased going for earlier in the match but Drew desperately escaped)—played into the stipulation giving the MMA trained Lashley an innate advantage. Most of all this match simply felt like it actually mattered. This felt like an important World title match and way too often that isn’t the case with TNA. ****

Final Thoughts:

Other than underwhelming stretch of matches in the middle of the card, this was an extremely enjoyable PPV. This show had five ***+ matches, you can’t really ask for more from TNA.  This show made it clear as day who the core group of people that TNA should build around are. All the X-Division guys are great. EC3, Galloway and Lashley are TNA’s most valuable assets in terms of characters who are actually connecting and wrestlers who can actually deliver. I’m reluctant to say TNA has momentum but at the very least the company seems to have direction. Lashley vs. EC3 is the direction with a Lashley vs. Galloway rematch and Lashley vs. Eddie Edwards (assuming Option C is in play this year, it has yet to be mentioned on TV yet) to tide things over until then (I’d even revive the Pope/Lashley feud for a proper blow off). Lashley vs. EC3 is a strong BFG main (that I’m begging they don’t give away on TV) in that there’s a good case for both guys winning and they’ve done a good job building toward it under the radar. I hope there’s energy and substance behind the next couple of months of TVs because the company is in a great position to build a sense of relevance in the 2016 wrestling landscape.

Also, TNA needs to start rebranding to something closer to what they are. Rebrand the whole show and how it looks and plays and feels and how it’s marketed as something fresh and different and new. TNA in 2016 isn’t the same as the TNA of even 2013, it’s for all intents and purposes a totally different company. The outward facing television product aspect of the company is totally different, it’s a new era of new characters, new stories, and fresh faces.

But I don’t think that has been stressed at all in any real way. At least from a high-level branding perspective. I think it could be made much more overt.

The outer shell of TNA is the same as it’s always been while the inner core of the company has changed dramatically and that’s creating something of a disconnect between what people expect the company to be, what the company historically has been, and what the company actually is in 2016. It’s a new generation. The tradition of TNA, the company’s history and legacy shouldn’t be lost. Links to the past still exist in the likes of JB, Abyss, James Storm and Gail Kim as well as stuff like King of the Mountain and the way in which the X-Division has always been integral to the very DNA of the company. Those links should still be treasured but the company and the way the public perceives it needs to evolve to match what the company actually is.

There’s a lot more room to take the likes of EC3, Bennett, Galloway, Trevor Lee, Mark Andrews, DJ Z, Andrew Everett, Spud, The Wolves, Decay, Jade, Maria, The BroMans and brand them as the new generation of the company.