Impact Wrestling on Pop TV
Tuesday, July 12
Impact Zone
Soundstage 20, Universal Studios
Orlando, FL

Matt Hardy opened the show sailing the dilapidated boat, which he has since named Skarsgård (he must have been to see The Legend of Tarzan this weekend), out into the middle of a lake and dumping what was purported to be the physical remains of Jeff Hardy (all that was visible was Willow’s umbrella and a t-shirt that Vanguard1 delivered). This was the first of a number of visits to the Hardy household throughout the show. The second was a screening of The Final Deletion which Reby arrived to after passing through a secret bookcase door and descending down a fire poll. The third was a Hardy family dinner (which included Matt saying the words “My belly box feels broken, I need food!”) where Matt declared his distaste for mustard (a callback to a Matt Fact that was telegraphed by Vanguard1 earlier in the show) and shouted DELETE a lot. Matt is honestly a delight.

X-Division Number One Contender’s Ladder Match
DJ Z def. Braxton Sutter, Mark Andrews, Rockstar Spud, Andrew Everett and Trevor Lee

DJ Z and Mark Andrews hit some dives. Andrews climbed a ladder but DJ Z took him out with a flying ax handle. Lee climbed two ladders which were pulled apart causing him to do the splits before DJ Z sent him flying with a boot. That was a cool spot. Everybody hit their move before Shane Helms tried to interfere before DJ Z took him out with a hurricanrana. DJ Z took Lee out with a DDT and pushed Everett off a ladder onto a pile of people leaving an opening to climb the ladder and grab the comically sized X. This match functioned well on two levels – it was a really fun little ladder match and it was an obvious and effective showcase of DJ Z. TNA getting behind DJ Z in a real way makes me excited because I’ve insisted for a while now that he’s one of the most under the radar great wrestlers in the world right now. Mike Bennett attacked DJ Z after the match. ***1/4

Eddie Edwards and Bobby Lashley faced off in the ring one final time before their main event – they basically reinforced all the same stuff from last week. Lashley is a beast who will wreck anything in front of him. Edwards is a plucky underdog who won’t back down from any fight. All good, simple stuff. Lashley attacked Edwards until Davey Richards returned to make the save. They made it clear Richards was still a little while away from being back full time but was here to have Edwards’ back. Despite laying on the foreshadowing fairly thick Richards didn’t turn on Edwards in the main event. There’s always next week though. I hope they don’t do it. While the singles divisions would benefit a great deal from Edwards and Richards as individuals the tag division still needs them great deal more The Wolves at the moment.

Bram def. “The Monster” Abyss (w/ Crazy Steve)

Rosemary was conspicuous by her absence at the start. They wrestled for a little while, a perfectly solid midcard match, before Rosemary came out and flirted with Bram. Rosemary then left, distracting Abyss in the process allowing Bram to roll Abyss up for the win. Straightforward advancement of Bram/Rosemary romance saga. **1/2

TNA Knockouts Championship
Sienna © w/ Allie def. Gail Kim, Jade and Marti Bell

Kim and Jade took out Marti and Sienna with stereo dives from opposing corners and followed with stereo baseball dives. Jade and Kim had a fun exchange before Sienna and Jade combined for a modified Doomsday Device. Marti Bell hit Jade with a Pedigree but Kim cut her off with an Eat Defeat. Allie at ringside put Marti’s foot on the ropes distracting Kim long enough to pick up the win after hitting the Silencer. This was considerably better than the three way match at Slammiversary. TNA has a strong core group of women at the moment who can deliver some really good stuff if they’re given the chance. ***

Matt Hardy came to the ring to publicly DELETE Jeff. Matt was booed, which honestly surprised me a little. It does help that he’s working opposite the most popular wrestler in the company I suppose. Also Matt turns up the dis-likability in front of the live crowd. Matt introduced Jeff who came to the ring looking utterly defeated, almost on the verge of tears. Reby shouted “obsolete” at Jeff as he made his way to the ring like Jeff was doing a Walk of Atonement through King’s Landing. Matt, who now owns everything Jeff Hardy related intellectual property wise, chose to terminate Jeff’s contract. He then changed his mind because he knew Jeff would simply adopt a pseudonym and go work in Meekmahan’s Show or Honorable Wrestling or New Wrestling in Japan. Matt instead opted to keep Jeff around as his obsolete money making mule. Somehow I’d imagine Matt will come to regret that decision.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this Hardy vs. Hardy programme is one of the best stories TNA has ever told. And I mean that in all seriousness, not in any ironic sense. I wrote about the origins of Broken Matt Hardy a little while back and thinking about over the last week, I didn’t really go back far enough. All this stems from Jeff’s recklessness in getting injured in a dirt bike accident last year. That was the catalyst for The Hardys vacating the tag team titles and that was the impetus for Matt pursuing the World Heavyweight title. The pursuit of singles gold consumed Matt. He tied all of his value to that belt and he lost himself in the process. So once that belt was taken from him (with some help from his own brother who set him on this path in the first place) Matt was empty. He had nothing. And thus he was broken. Not only did Jeff set Matt on his current path, Jeff then derailed Matt when he finally achieved the goal that he lost his very self to in achieving. From Matt’s perspective Jeff really is the root of all his problems.

But Jeff isn’t really to blame. Yeah, he was reckless and got hurt last year but it’s not like he actively set out to do it. And yes, Jeff was a part of the match that led to Matt losing the title but it was Drew Galloway who took the title from Matt, not Jeff. Matt has spent the last year trying to get out from under Jeff’s shadow and prove his worth as a singles wrestler all the while fans continue to chant for Jeff – even after, from Matt perspective, Jeff has screwed him left, right and center. TNA has steadily told the story of the collapse of a brotherhood and a descent into madness over the space of fourteen months in a fairly spectacularly paced, brilliantly executed, logical manner.

DJ Z def. Mike Bennett

This match stemmed from Bennett’s attack on DJ Z earlier in the show. DJ Z was running wild before Bennett cut him off after reversing DJ Z’s DDT into a cutter. DJ Z made a comeback and hit a hurricanrana out on the floor followed by a big dive. Bennett looked to flee but the rest of the X-Division cut him off sending Bennett back into the ring allowing DJ Z to roll him up for the win. I’m happy that instead of undercutting anything DJ Z gained from his ladder match win earlier in the show, they doubled down on him – allowing him to look the best he ever has in TNA. He has a tonne of upside and deserves the spotlight. Bennett threw a fit and said he’d burn the company to the ground by the end of the night and that he wasn’t going to do it alone. **1/2

I really like Mike Bennett as a character. Because at his core he’s a sham. He’s preaches to anybody that will listen that he’s the miracle pro wrestling needs but at the end of the day he’s a false prophet propped up by his wife, who fills him with confidence and bravado and then has to go protecting his ego from collapsing at every turn. There’s actually a lot of really fun places you can go with a character like that. Bennett just has to get his work up to a more consistently engaging standard.

Drew Galloway and EC3 had their fight. They bantered and brawled for a little while before security and other wrestlers eventually separated them. TNA announced the Bound For Glory Playoffs earlier in the show featuring EC3, Drew Galloway, Mike Bennett, Eli Drake, James Storm, Jeff Hardy, Bram and Matt Hardy battling it out to determine the person who will challenge for the World title at Bound For Glory. Aside from my deep love of all tournaments that’s a smart way to keep the key players away from each other for a little while (EC3 vs. Galloway is the obvious choice as a final) while setting up the person who will headline Bound For Glory with some momentum.

TNA World Heavyweight Championship
Bobby Lashley © vs. Eddie Edwards (w/ Davey Richards) Ended in A No Contest

As it turns out this was the teaser instead of the main course. They had a really enjoyable match including a belly to belly on the ramp by Lashley and a bunch of dives by Edwards until Mike Bennett interfered. Bennett introduced former Ring of Honor star Moose as his newest associated. Moose dropped Davey Richards with a discus lariat and then dropped Eddie Edwards with a powerbomb on the apron. Moose then went nose to nose with Lashley in a match that should sell itself whenever TNA chooses to pull the trigger on in before Bennett hit Lashley with a low blow and then Moose decked Lashley with another discus lariat. I love that they didn’t give away any of Lashley vs. Moose competing on equal footing. Moose looked like a total beast in his debut and his Moose chant got over instantly (like it seems to everywhere he goes). If this were a PPV I’d have more of a problem with them advertising Edwards vs. Lashley and not fully delivering on it but I have less of a problem with them doing it on episodic TV. Especially because they announced the Six Sides of Steel rematch for next week before the show was even over and they needed a good hook for the timeslot change next week. I will have serious problems if they don’t deliver on a full Edwards vs. Lashley match again next week. ***1/4

Final Thoughts:

This was one of the more top to bottom enjoyable Impact’s in quite a while. It wasn’t quite the show I expected, more focused on setting up stories going forward than delivering a great one off show, but you could see the value and the goal of every single segment on the show. The first seven months on Pop have been dramatically more productive than the same period on Destination America last year. Instead of running from crisis to crisis with talent departures every couple of months, the television product has been fairly stable. And as a result they’ve been able to lay a lot of strong groundwork for a lot of important characters. Impact is a more varied and energetic show. And not just because of Matt and Jeff Hardy either, lots of elements of the show are beginning to click. TNA has a lot of the right pieces hovering over the right places. It’s clear that the company has a plan and for the first time in over three years the product feels like it’s gathering momentum. Whether that can get be sustained and capitalised upon in any way remains to be seen but for the first time in a fairly long while TNA feels at least somewhat relevant to the pro wrestling landscape.

REMINDER: Starting next week Impact moves to Thursday’s at 8/7c so adjust your schedules/DVR’s accordingly.