So TNA continues to present it's pay-per-view themed editions of Impact Wrestling with this month's Hardcore Justice. Whilst, personally I would have prefered to see TNA stick to their original idea of using having only four pay-per-views a year to build stronger storylines heading into the pay-per-view, rather than hot shot these shows every four weeks, the proof, of course, will be in the ratings.
World Heavyweight Championship Steel Cage Match:
Chris Sabin ©
Now, I've said it more than once over the last few weeks, but I have hated Chris Sabin's World Heavyweight Championship reign, and it has very little to do with Chris Sabin himself, who for the most part has been excellent. It all comes down to how he has been booked. The hammer shot to win the title? The bout with Manik, that was great but did nothing for him? Having him overshadowed by the Main Event Mafia? All did nothing to help me feel like TNA were fully behind Sabin as World Heavyweight Champion, and I went into this one expecting to see Sabin drop the title back to Aces and Eight's President Bully Ray.
The match was built up during the show, with a handful of backstage segments. Firsty, Sabin was asked by TNA's mysterious backstage reporter (Jason Hervey) for his thought on the main event. The promo took a while to get going, when you could tell that what Sabin was saying about remembering Team 3D putting someone through a flaming table, resulting the his trademark “alright?”, which usually happens when he doesn't know what to say. Fortunately, when Sabin began talking about the match, he did a sound job, sounded convincing and confident which actually help to build to the match well. We later saw Bully Ray on the phone, talking to someone called “Brooke” about what they would reveal to world next week. Whilst I'm not a fan of the Bully/Brooke storyline, this segment was done very well, with the timing of the reveal of “Brooke” being spot on. Bully Ray also got in a verbal confrontation with Aces and Eights Vice President Mr. Anderson, with Bully not seeming to believe he had the full backing of his second in command. Again this was a good segment, that began to plant the seeds of dissention with Aces and Eights well.
The main content of the Steel Cage was actually pretty strong, taking on a regular big man vs. small man dynamic. With Bully doing a good job beating down Sabin, who did have a few slight spells in charge of the match, Bully is very good in this role, as we've seen opposite Jeff Hardy and Sting over the last year or so, and Sabin worked well enough in this match to make it enjoyable. Whilst, there wasn't a great amount of use of the steel cage in the bout, when it did come into play it was creative, such as Sabin's springboard crossbody. The only real drawback on the main body of the match, was an awkward looking hurracanrana out of the corner from Sabin, which just looked bizarre and took me right out of the match.
Now, for everything that the main body of the bout had done well, the finish was about to throw out of the window. For some reason they did a ref bump angle, with Bully accidentally splashing Brian Hebner against the side of the cage. With Sabin getting the upperhand and attempting to escape the cage through the door, Mr. Anderson made the save for Bully sending the door into Sabin, and keeping him from escaping. Main Event Mafia's Rampage Jackson and newest member Tito Ortiz (more on that later) came down to ringside, with Rampage sending Anderson crashing off the entrance ramp. However, with Rampage celebrating, Ortiz pulled out Aces and Eights signature hammer and brought it crashing down on Rampage. This caused a distraction for Sabin, who ended up taking a vicious Release Powerbomb from Bully, to allow Bully to pick up the pinfall victory and regain the World Heavyweight Championship. There was so much wrong with this ending it was ridiculous. Firstly, why do you need a ref bump in a Steel Cage Match? Mike Tenay even made it clear the bout was no disqualification earlier in the proceedings. Secondly, the focus was firmly on Tito Ortiz, as TNA attempt to use a wrestling angle to build for an MMA bout on someone elses pay-per-view. There's a lot more that I could say, but I would like to end by mourning the end of the worst World Title reign since Jack Swagger's in 2010 run.
Main Event Mafia Search for a New Member
The other major storyline running throughout the show was the Main Event Mafia's search for a replacement for Kurt Angle. For those who have been hiding under a rock, Kurt Angle has entered a rehab facility, after being arrested for another DUI. I'd like to take this moment to wish Mr. Angle all the best, and hope that he is fit and well to return to television soon. Dixie Carter appeared in the ring with the remaining member of the Main Event Mafia to announce what had happened and that Kurt would not be taking part in the Five on Five match between Main Event Mafia and Aces and Eight's next week. I thought it was a classy move by TNA, who could have easily just written Kurt off in angle, as long as they don't turn it into a storyline, like they did with Jeff Hardy's drug addiction then I'll be happy. Aces and Eight's members Devon, Knux, Wes Brisco and Garrett Bischoff, lead by Vice President Mr. Anderson came out, and took advantage of the numbers advantage in a scuffle with the Main Event Mafia. This was a good segment that set up the idea of Aces and Eight's having the number advantage well, giving the Mafia even more reason to find a replacement.
The hunt for the replacement began in a number of backstage segments. Firstly, Sting suggested to the group that they go for Austin Aries. After some disagreement, Sting said he would go and speak to Aries. I thought Aries was a good choice for the Mafia, he brings something that the group doesn't really have in terms of in ring style, whilst his attitude clash with the group would make for some entertaining television. With Aries playing hard ball with Sting, the Icon returned to his group to tell them that Aries was a no go. This whole section for me was entirely pointless, if Aries wasn't going to join the group, then why show all this anyway. It didn't add anything to the show and the time could have been given to another match.
Then my worst fears were confirmed when Rampage Jackson stood up and said he had an idea and it was clear from this point on who would be the new fifth member. So with Jackson accompanied by Samoa Joe to the ring, he called out Tito Ortiz, asking him to be Kurt's replacement. I've made my feelings made before about Tito and TNA continues to make it worse, with his promo accepting the place being absolutely awful. To be fair to Rampage Jackson, he actually did a pretty good job with his, if he can translate that to the ring I have no problem with him being in TNA. Luckily, Bully Ray headed out to save the segment once again, ripping into Jackson and Ortiz in superb fashion.
Now, with the hindsight of what happened later in the night, the stuff with Tito was almost as pointless as the stuff with Austin Aries. I have to be fair to TNA though and say that this obviously wasn't part of the original plan and we most probably would have got a different story if Kurt Angle was healthy. It probably still would have involved Tito Ortiz, but would have had a little more time to breath and the heel turn from Ortiz would have felt more impactful. Hopefully, Angle's absence doesn't effect TNA for too long and they manage to adjust their plans accordingly.
Best of the Rest (In The World)
It was another big night in the Bound For Glory Series with two lots of twenty points on the line. Firstly, to open the show there was a Four Way Ladder Match, with Jeff Hardy, AJ Styles, Austin Aries and Kazarian all battling it out for the twenty points. Now, I have to say going into this match my expectations were pretty high. Four of the best high-flying talents of the last five years battling it out in a Ladder match? Sounds like my cup of tea. Therefore this match really had to deliver for me, in a number of different ways, especially after seeing a number of top notch ladder matches recently at WWE's Money in the Bank, as well as Taryn Terrel vs. Gail Kim on Impact Wrestling.
Luckily, this one did manage to deliver, with a number of entertaining and creative spots. A backstage segment at the start of the show, reignited the rivalry between Hardy and Aries and this was capitalised upon, with the two going after each other in the match. The action was fast and exciting throughout, with not really time to catch your breath as once one wrestler seemed to be gaining an upper hand another would come into challenge them. The highlight of the match for me, saw AJ Styles about to the Styles Clash on Aries, only for Kazarian to plant Styles' face into the mat. The culmination of the bout, saw Kazarian stable mates Christopher Daniels and Bobby Roode come down to ringside, with Roode holding Hardy off the ladder for long enough to allow Daniels to pass Kaz his trademark Appletini, which subsequently ended up in Jeff Hardy's face allowing Kaz to pick up the twenty points. It was a decent finish to the bout, that set up the new faction well, I'm interested to see how they work together and how they will effect the Bound For Glory Series and interact with TNA's other stables.
Bobby Roode was involved in a Bound For Glory Series match of his own, taking on Main Event Mafia's Samoa Joe and Magnus, as well as Aces and Eight's Vice President Mr. Anderson. The tables match didn't really use it's gimmick, at least not as well as the Ladder Match did, with the tables often seemingly getting in the way of what the guys actually wanted to do! With Joe and Magnus working as a tag team during the bout, the dynamic was an interesting one, with Roode and Anderson going it alone. Samoa Joe was the star of the bout for me, with some good work with both Anderson and Roode. They basically used the same spot as the ending of the Ladder Match, with Daniels & Roode interfering and Daniels throwing the Appletini into the eyes of Magnus, allowing Roode to powerbomb him through a table to pick up the victory and twenty points in the Bound For Glory Series. Whilst I understand the idea behind having identical finishes, to set up the new stable, we haven't seen a clean finish in a Bound For Glory Series match in the last two weeks and it's becoming a bit silly, no one would have been hurt in the match if Roode had won clean.
There was also women's action on the show, with Knockout's Champion Mickie James taking on ODB and Gail Kim in a Hardcore Triple Threat bout. It was an enjoyable bout, with the triple threat concept being used well, with a nice dynamic between Mickie James and Gail Kim as they reluctantly worked together, until Mickie went for a school girl roll up for a two count. With ODB eventually making her comeback using a singapore cane and her bra, yeah ODB used her bra as a weapon, Kim and James had to reunite as a duo, with a great spot involving Kim's signature figure four leg lock around the ringpost and James pulling at ODB's arms. The ending of the bout saw ODB hit BAM! On Gail Kim onto a steel chair to pick up the victory, with James just unable to break up the three count. A strong outing for the Knockout's with ODB showing that TNA's move to bring her back into active competition was a wise decision.
What did I learn from Impact Wrestling: Hardcore Justice?
1. TNA hasn't got a World Heavyweight Championship match right in a long time.
2. The Main Event Mafia aren't that great at choosing new members.
3. I think I actually like Taz on commentary.
Bound For Glory Series Standings
1. Magnus - 39 Points (Non-Mover)
2. Bobby Roode - 27 Points (Up Six)
3. Samoa Joe - 26 Points (Down One)
4. Jeff Hardy - 24 Points (Down One)
4. Mr. Anderson - 24 Points (Down One)
6. Christopher Daniels - 23 Points (Down One)
7. AJ Styles - 22 Points (Down One)
7. Kazarian - 22 Points (Up Three)
9. Austin Aries - 21 Points (Down Two)
10. Hernandez - 7 Points (Down Two)
11. Jay Bradley - 0 Points (Non-Mover)
12. Joseph Park - -3 Points (Non-Mover)