I actually really enjoyed this week's Impact Wrestling as we got the second part of Hardcore Justice. The wrestling was strong throughout most of the card, with some nice developments in storyline as we head to Bound For Glory. Yes, there was an over use of recaps, and Tito Ortiz and Rampage Jackson continued to attempt to sell their MMA bout by having a wrestling storyline, but the main body of what was presented was pretty good.
Ten Man Tag Team Loser Leaves TNA Match:
Main Event Mafia & ???
Aces and Eights
(Mr. Anderson, Devon, Knux, Wes Brisco and Garrett Bischoff)
The build up for this one saw a backstage segment from each team, as they discussed strategy for the match. This has become a regular feature of Impact Wrestling over the last few months and it works fairly well in building up to the main event match. With Aces and Eights members Mr. Anderson, Devon, Knux, Wes Brisco and Garrett Bischoff looking fairly confident in their promo, due to them believing they would be going into the match with a man advantage, the bulk of the promo was done by Mr. Anderson, who did a good job of getting the cocky attitude of his team earlier, they were clearly being set up for a fall later on. On the other side of the fence, the Main Event Mafia discussed their missing man in the bout, after having failed to recruit either Austin Aries or Tito Ortiz last week. There was a moment in this promo that really stood out for me, and that is when Magnus stood up to Sting and told him it didn't matter if they were a man down, because they were the Main Event Mafia. It's the first time we've really seen Magnus stand out as part of the group for me, and hopefully this trend will continue.
After the build up, there was a nice big match feel as the two faction headed to the ring. It looked like we might be about to see a handicap match between the two. This was not the case however, when AJ Styles music hit and he walked half way down the ramp, head bowed and hooded. Suddenly Styles' old music hit and he threw his hood back and out of nowhere the old “Phenomenal” AJ Styles was back. Now, at first I was a little disappointed to see the “Lone Wolf” AJ Styles end so abruptly, as although some people weren't a fan of the new character, I actually quite enjoyed it. However, with Kurt Angle taken away so abruptly, this was really the best move they could have made, and hopefully the fact that the show was taped and people knew the old AJ Styles was back on Impact Wrestling the rating will have gone up as well.
With Styles joing the Main Event Mafia in a mass brawl with Aces and Eights, everything else after this moment felt a little flat. It was by no means a bad match, but after the high point of Styles' character change, it was difficult for the in ring action to follow it. With the match settling down after the brawl, Main Event Mafia took control with Samoe Joe and Styles handing it to Brisco and Bischoff, it was an obvious decision seeing as Brisco and Bischoff are obviously the weekest member of either team, and have never really been built up properly by TNA. Now I'm not a particular fan of either man, but if TNA are going to have them around, they should at least have built them up with a few clean singles match victories. On the other side of the fence, Magnus was the one to take most of Aces and Eight's offence, which once again makes sense due to Magnus being the youngest man on his team, and allowed him to get the crowd behind well.
After the best use of Sting in month's as part of hot tag, the match began to break, and we returned to the mass brawl that we had seen earlier with bodies everywhere. Rampage Jackson also looked fairly good in his pro wrestling debut, granted all we really saw was a few clothesline and a body slam, but no one was expecting him to wrestle the whole match! The ending of the bout built up well with Sting looking to have match one with a Scorpion Deathlock on Knux, only for Devon to make the save. With Sting making a tag to AJ Styles, we got a glimpse Styles' trademark offence with springboards and strikes, but a lot of the time Styles looked awkward in the ring in exchanges with Devon and Mr. Anderson. With one last breakdown segment, Styles was able to hit Devon with a Styles Clash and pick up the pinfall victory for Main Event Mafia, retiring Devon in TNA. The ending was a little sloppy was saved by Bully Ray's reaction on the entrance ramp and Taz on commentary. Giving the Main Event Mafia the win makes sense here as it even the numbers between them and Aces and Eights, whilst also allowing Devon to move into D'Lo Brown's role backstage. I would suspect that this could very well be Devon's last match for TNA, and it's probably the right time for him to step away, his latest run with TNA hasn't been his best, but there is no denying he's had a great career spanning twenty one years and many of wrestling premier promotions.
World Heavyweight Champion Bully Ray's
Impact Wrestling kicked off this week with World Heavyweight Champion Bully Ray on the phone, talking to his mystery woman, who we know is called Brooke about how they could reveal everything about them this week. Now, this idea was harmed by the announcement earlier in the week that Brooke Hogan had been released by TNA (Thank you, God), so we kind of knew that it wasn't going to be her. With Bully Ray hanging out with Tito Ortiz backstage they bumped into Vice President of the Aces and Eights, Mr. Anderson with some tension between Ray and Anderson being teased due to Ray not keeping Anderson in the loop. It was a nice seed planted for the inevitable turn of Anderson on Bully, and the two men played the moment pretty well, with Ortiz standing there like a plank.
With Ray and Ortiz heading to the ring later in the show, it was time for another great promo from Ray detailing his detailing the amount of times he'd shocked the fans, as well as burying Chris Sabin, adding another nail in the coffin of Sabin's awful World Heavyweight Championship reign. Ray handed the microphone to Ortiz and the segment quickly went down hill. With Ortiz talking about how he is going to beat Rampage Jackson in their Bellator fight in November, I still can't get my head around building an MMA fight using a wrestling storyline, people aren't stupid and it could very well end up turning MMA fans away from the fight. At this moment in time November seems a long for Impact Wrestling, when hopefully we'll see Ortiz and Jackson exit the company.
Luckily, Ray was quickly back on the mic to reveal another surprise this evening. Bully called out “Brooke” and of course Brooke Hogan's music played, and after sometime “Brooke” was to be revealed as...Brooke Tessmacher. I have to say I was shocked, I should have really seen it coming with the whole “Brooke” deal, especially with Hogan getting released, but I didn't. We haven't seen Tessmacher in four months, with her away filming for a reality TV series or something, and I'd even forgot she even worked for TNA anymore, with the flurry of releases we've seen recently I simply imagined she'd gone also. With Bully snogging the face off Tessmacher, which I think he enjoyed a lot more than her, with Ortiz once again looking on like a pervy plank, Ray finished the segment by declaring himself unstoppable with Ortiz and Tessmacher by his side, I foresee this playing a major part in the demise of Aces and Eights as we head towards Bound For Glory.
So Aces and Eight's lost one member in Devon, but gained two in Miss Tessmacher and Tito Ortiz in an interesting two weeks for the faction. It's good to see Tessmacher return for the Women's division in TNA and it will interesting to see if see becomes a factor in the title picture, but with the division looking heel heavy at the moment with ODB the only face they have, with Taryn Terrell and Velvet Sky out, it's difficult to see where a heel Tessmacher could fit in the division. As for Ortiz, I've made my feelings clear about him numerous times, he isn't likely to step in the ring anytime soon, his promos have been awful and he's taking the spot of an actual wrestler.
Best of the Rest (In The World)
Also this week on Impact Wrestling, we got the third of the special “Hardcore” themed Bound For Glory Series match, as Joseph Park, Hernandez, Jay Bradley and Christopher Daniels met in a Street Fight. Now the main story heading into this one was could Christopher Daniels pick up victory number three for his new faction, now named the Extraordinary Gentleman's Organisation, or EGO, as well as it being left open to whether Austin Aries would be joining the faction, with Aries saying he would deliver his answer later in the show, in a charismatic backstage interview. With three out of the four competitors currently proping up the Bound For Glory Series, I wasn't really expecting much from this one, with Hernandez and Jay Bradley especially looking like they were only there to make up the numbers.
What we got was actually a very entertaining bout that told a good story throughout. With an good dynamic between the four we saw Hernandez and Park teaming up to take down Daniels and Bradley with some nice double team offence, including Hernandez setting up Daniels and Bradley for a double avalanche in the corner. The match quickly broke down, with EGO attacking Joseph Park and then taking out Park's manager Eric Young when Young tried to help out. There was then some nice wrestling from Daniels and Hernandez, with Hernandez hitting Air Mexico out of nowhere for a big pop. With Daniels taking out Hernandez with an STO, Austin Aries made his presence felt making it look like he was joining EGO before hitting Daniels with a Brainbuster, to take Daniels out of the match and cement his face turn. There was then a good finishing section between Bradley and Park, with Bradley doing a good job of working over Park before hitting him with Brass Knuckles. Of course, Park saw blood, went crazy and picked up the pinfall victory after a Blackhole Slam. It was a nice twist on the Park character, and I'm actually starting to enjoy his role in TNA again, in no small part due to the wonderful Eric Young.
This wasn't the only EGO action of the night, as after they were interupted by World Tag Team Champions James Storm and Gunner, we got an inpromtu tag team battle with Bobby Roode and Kazarian representing EGO, with both teams competing in jeans. The majority of the match was pretty basic tag team action with Roode and Kazarian working over Gunner, before the World Tag Team Champion made an impressive comeback and looked really good, before tagging in James Storm. Storm certainly looks better than he did a few months ago and his time off has hopefully helped him recuperate any injuries that he had. With Storm on a roll we headed for the finish, with Kazarian attempting to hit Storm with the title belt, only to get a Last Call Superkick from Storm, however with the referee Earl Hebner distracted, Roode hit a low blow and rolled up Storm for the pinfall victory for EGO. I enjoyed the finish of the match, it was clever and presented the new faction well, even if the World Tag Team Champions lost.
There was also Women's action on the show, with ODB facing off against Gail Kim, in a good women's contest. ODB continues to prove that moving her into the role of a referee was ridiculous, as her talent lies when competing in that ring! Kim and ODB have a lot of chemistry in the ring, and they've wrestled multiple times for TNA, and with both spending time in control of the match we got to see a lot of what both can do, when given the time to perform. The ending saw ODB on roll, and about to hit BAM, only for Kim to slip down and use a Crucifix roll up to get the pinfall victory. There was a slight botch in the finish, in an otherwise sound match, which was a shame. This was essentially to give Gail Kim a victory over ODB, after ODB got the win in the triple threat last week. Whilst TNA's remaining women are incredibly talented, with ODB, Gail Kim and Knockout's Champion Mickie James typifying that, they really need to sign up some new talent to give the division some depth.
There was also X Division action with X Division Champion Manik taking on Sonjay Dutt. Yes, the X Division is back to regular matches rather than three ways, TNA really didn't give the three way concept much of a chance, but this is probably the right decision to make. The match was a great way to showcase the X Division with both Manik and Dutt using a number of highflying and creative moves throughout. However, it was harmer by a number of things, firstly Manik and Dutt both locking in the same submission hold, similar to AJ Lee's Black Widow, which looks so good it shouldn't just be used randomly, as well as the lack of any face/heel dynamic meaning the crowd didn't really know what to do. The finish saw Manik hold onto Dutt's hurracanrana attempt, and setting up for a Detonation Kick, before picking up the pinfall victory with a Elevated Double Chickenwing dropped into a Double Knee Gutbuster (that needs a name!). I liked the finish it was quick and exciting, a real good advertisment for the X Division, but it should have finished with the Detonation Kick.
What did I learn from Impact Wrestling this week?
1. AJ Styles' run as the Lone Wolf is done, and it was the best move TNA could have done under the circumstances.
2. The seeds for the demise of Aces and Eights could very well have been sown in this episode.
3. I'm going to go ahead and say it, I like Taz on commentary!