Monday, 2 September 2013

TNA Impact Wrestling: Last Chance Thursday Review

My overall feeling when watching Impact Wrestling continues to be one of frustration. The show this week was dominated by the return of Hulk Hogan, who has been missing for a month on television, as well as the conclusion to the Bound For Glory Series. Yes, that's right, the conclusion to the Bound For Glory Series. After messing up with the schedule, they had to end the series early, with most wrestlers still have three or four matches still to go. All that needed to be done was someone sit down at the beginning of the Series and map out where the matches were going to take place, who would win and the stories they wanted to tell within it, it really was that simple! The matches were all good, but I found it hard to concentrate when everything felt so rushed.

Bound For Glory Series Match: 

AJ Styles (22) 


Bobby Roode (34)

With this being Must Win Thursday, the Bound For Glory Series took up the majority of the show, with TNA rushing to clobber together an ending for the Series. This match was built up to with a backstage segment between Bobby Roode and EGO stablemate Christopher Daniels. With Roode delivering a last minute prep talk to Daniels about how both of them needed to win tonight on their own, due to General Manager Hulk Hogan apparently saying that if any of EGO interfered in the match tonight they would be removed from the Series. It was a nice little build up segment, but I couldn't help feeling that EGO hadn't really had a chance to get going before the Series had finish. They need at least a month and a half of building themselves up as a trio, before the end of the Series, and it felt like TNA had something else in mind had they actually cared to check how long they had left.

Then came the moment that got everyone talking. AJ Styles apparent “Pipe Bomb” promo. I guess what's good for one AJ is good for another, huh? It took a while for Styles to hit his stride with the promo looking shakey and seemingly nervous at the beginning, stuttering and falling over his words, but when he got going this was actually a fairly decent promo, which felt like it came from a real place, talking about being held back and being Dixie Carter's go to guy, although it suffered from attempting to keep to storyline at the same time, making it feel like Styles was holding back, as well as an over-thought production. Also, whilst AJ Lee had the Bella Twins attempting to ruin her promo on Raw this week, AJ Styles had the Ohio crowd. They relentlessly ripped into Styles throughout the whole promo, with some pretty disrespectful chants, that the promo didn't warrant, that certainly seemed to effect Styles' rhythm. I think if Styles had done this promo straight after his match last week, he would have gotten a much more positive reaction. It wasn't quite up to the standards of a CM Punk or AJ Lee pipebomb, but for someone who isn't considered a “promo guy”, this was a damn good effort.

The match between Styles and Roode was a good, solid television contest. We saw some more of the “Phenomenal” AJ Styles coming back into his game, obviously the pace that we saw before isn't quite there yet as Styles has been wrestling a much slower style of wrestling recently, but there were a number of nice spots, including a couple of springboards and a Moonsault off of the ramp onto Roode that looked very nice indeed. There was also some reversals and transitions, the pick of the bunch for me being Roode reversing a Springboard Forearm attempt from Styles in a Crossface submission hold almost seamlessly. Roode did spend a good period of the match in control, using a few submission holds to keep hold of Styles, as well as a Brainbuster for a near fall, it's was a shame that neither Taz or Mike Tenay picked up that it could've been a message to Austin Aries who turned down Roode's invitation to join EGO last week, as it was the closest this match got to any psychology.

The ending was heavily focused on submissions, with both men looking to gain the maximum points in the Series, with Roode using a Crossface and Styles using the Calf Killer. This produced the only awkward moment of the match, when Styles seemed unsure about how to lock in his own submission. The finish saw Roode get the bottom rope, to break the Calf Killer, and with Styles attempting to lock in the move again, Roode sent Styles into the turnbuckle, although when he attempted a Fisherman's Suplex, Roode got caught in a Small Package from Styles for the pinfall victory and seven points in the Bound For Glory Series, leaving him on 29 points. It was an exciting ending that played off the submissions well, and allowed for a little more story to build up to next week, as although Styles finished outside the final four of the Series, an announcement made later on by Hulk Hogan will give him renewed hope.

Aces and Eights Conflict and The Return of General Manager Hulk Hogan

The other big storyline running through Impact Wrestling this week was the return of General Manager Hulk Hogan after a month long absence, as well as the continuing issues for the Aces and Eights faction. With the show opening with World Heavyweight Champion and Aces and Eight's President Bully Ray and Brooke Tessmacher heading to the ring, it was clear that while Tessmacher isn't a particularly great actress, she is effective in her role as Bully Ray's “main squeeze” as Taz likes to put it. With Ray in the ring, surrounded by his Aces and Eight's stablemates, Ray spoke about Devon losing the match against the Main Event Mafia last week, before asking Garrett Bischoff, Wes Brisco and Vice President Mr. Anderson what had happened last week. Bischoff and Brisco are truly awful on the mic, and with either yet to show anything in the ring, you have to wonder why these weren't the first two names brought up in TNA's budget cuts. Ray went on to turn on Devon, calling him a sidekick, pointing out Tito Ortiz as the only man he needs. It was a nice swerve, and with Ray giving Ortiz his own Aces and Eights coat, we began to see disension from the ranks of the group with Mr. Anderson standing up for the group due to their being no vote to induct Ortiz. I thought this was pretty strong opening segment, setting up some future angles and bringing some fresh direction for the group, with Ray removing Devon's name patch from Ortiz' new cut being a nice little touch to finish the segment.

The backstage camera's caught up with Hulk Hogan a number of times throughout the show, firstly showing him entering the building, before asking him a number of question which Hogan decided not to answer, and finishing off by having Jeremy Borash waiting outside Hogan's office, revealing that he had no news from Hogan. Personally, I would have rather not seen Hogan until he made his return, because by the time he entered the arena for the final segment, we've already seen him two or three times and haven't actually learned anything. TNA seems to have a habit of doing this for big returns or debuts, like we saw a few months back when Rampage Jackson debuted, and it really does take away from the moment later on in the show. Elsewhere backstage, Mr. Anderson seemed to be building for a revolution, attempting to get Knux, Brisco and Bischoff to side with him. It's all getting a bit NWO Wolfpac at the moment, I'd rather see Anderson just break out on his own, than have two splinter factions. Also, Bully Ray, spoke with Tessmacher and Ortiz, telling Ortiz to make sure Anderson doesn't step out of line.

With Hogan heading to the ring, there should have been a warning that one of the worst promos in wrestling history was about to occur. Hogan rambled and meander through what he was supposed to say and it was clear that he had next to no idea what he was talking about. Within the ramblings, Hogan announced that there would be another Gauntlet match in the Bound For Glory Series next. Basically, this is another cheap way to get the people they want into the final four, rather than actually, you know, booking it from the start! With Hogan still having more to say, he was interrupted by Bully Ray. Before Ray could get started, Hogan revealed that he had the divorce papers from his daughter, Brooke and that Ray was no longer married. Well, they needed a way to explain why Brooke was no longer on TV, I guess. At least it's all over now. Hogan then went on to make two matches, the first one will see Ray defend his title against a member of Aces and Eights at No Surrender in two weeks. If it isn't Mr. Anderson I'd eat my hat, but that also makes a complete mockery of the Bound For Glory Series. The second one, would see Hogan excel himself, as he announced that Bully Ray would defend his title against Sting, this week. What he meant to say was that Bully Ray face Sting next week in a non-title match. It's not often I'm stuck for words, but seriously how can you be that wrong? At least Hogan remembered Ray's opponent and didn't call out The Ultimate Warrior or something, as Sting headed down the ramp to close the show brawling against Ray.

As far as I'm concerned Hogan is TNA's main problem at the moment, not only is he massive drain on their funds, but he doesn't seem to have a clue what is going on in the company. On numerous occasions when he's been handed the microphone, he messed up his lines or says something that isn't correct. The fact that TNA are still closing with segments that feature Hulk Hogan and Sting says a lot about the companies current direction, when they have so much in-ring talent, as showcased in the Bound For Glory Series matches on this very broadcast, that deserves that spot. I also have no desire to see Sting face off against Bully Ray again, and would rather Sting hang up his boots for good. In all honesty, Sting should have retired shortly after Bound For Glory 2009, as that bout with AJ Styles was probably his last memorably good match. Whilst TNA has bucket loads of talent in it's reduced roster, if the booking continues to be as hap-hazard as it has been in recent months the company is going to struggle to grow over the next few years, and I can see a number of talents begin to up sticks and move elsewhere. 

Best of the Rest (In The World)

Elsewhere, Main Event Mafia came to the ring with a lot to say about the last couple of weeks. They were clearly missing one man, and that man was Magnus, who is currently trying to sort out some problems with his US work visa. First to speak was Rampage Jackson, who delivered a pretty good promo dealing with his interactions with Tito Ortiz over the last few weeks, claiming he would get to Ortiz before their Bellator fight on November 2nd. It's just a shame that using a wrestling storyline to build to an MMA fight, is just plain ridiculous, because Jackson is pretty good promo. Samoa Joe was up next, with another strong promo, explaining how no one from the locker room would step up and join them last week, apart from AJ Styles. Joe brings a lot of passion to his promos and pulls you in almost instantly, it's a real shame that TNA didn't have him in the final four of this years Bound For Glory Series, because if anyone deserves a big push in TNA, in my opinion it's Samoa Joe.

Sting finished off the promo, by putting over AJ Styles strong and offering him a spot in the Mafia if he wanted it, and calling him down to the ring, leading into Styles' “Pipebomb” promo after the Main Event Mafia had left the ring. It was fairly enjoyable segment, with both Jackson and Joe coming across extremely well, and Sting at least looking better than Hogan. I'm not quite sure where the Main Event Mafia will go from here, obviously Sting is facing Bully Ray next week on Impact Wrestling, but with Aces and Eights seemingly falling in on themselves, the Mafia might end up being fairly redundant. Hopefully, Magnus will be back after next week for No Surrender, as he seems like the most logical option to win the Bound For Glory Series out of the final four.

In more Bound For Glory Series action, Jeff Hardy faced off against Kazaria. Prior to the match, Hardy cut a backstage promo, detailing last years Bound For Glory Series win, it was poor promo, even by Hardy's standards, topped off by Hardy getting his facts wrong about last year and no one bothering to correct it. Luckily, the match was better than the promo, with most of the match being fought a quick and exciting pace, with a few nice reversals. That was until Hardy attempted a Figure Four Leg Lock on Kaz, and actually managed to make The Miz's execution of the move look pretty good! The psychology was obviously that Hardy wanted the bigger points total, but really should have tried a move he could actually execute. The ending saw Hardy catch Kazarian off the top rope with a Twist of Fate, before heading up top and hitting a Swanton Bomb for the pinfall victory. Hardy is currently in the final four after this victory, but I would be surprised if he keeps his spot after next week's Gauntlet match.

By far the best action of the night, came when Austin Aries and Christopher Daniels faced off in the Bound For Glory Series. After a fantastic duelling promo segment backstage, during an interview with Jeremy Borash, the two have definite chemistry on the microphone and that translated into the ring as well. The match was packed with exciting reversals and fought at a lighting quick pace, typified by a lovely series which saw both men attempt dives to the outside only to be thwarted by the over. The finish saw solid back and forth section, with a number of reversals and near falls, before Aries began laying in the elbows on Daniels. With Aries running the rope he ran into a boot from Daniels followed by an uppercut, Daniels tried running the ropes, but Aries followed him, hitting a superb dropkick, before finishing Daniels off with a Brianbuster and picking up the pinfall victory and seven points in the Series. These two men have produced some of the most entertaining television TNA has had to offer in the last two years, and continue to deliver almost every week, it really is time the company started rewarding these two, especially Daniels.

There was also women's action this week, with ODB facing off against Gail Kim in a Two out of Three Falls match, where the winner would become Number One Contender to Mickie James' Knockout's Championship. It was enjoyable action from these two talented women, with the first fall going Gail Kim, with some good psychology seeing Kim focus on ODB's leg to set up for a Sharpshooter for a submission victory. The leg continued to play apart in the match, with some nice selling from ODB, as Kim went for a Figure Four Leg Lock only to be captured by ODB in a Small Package to level the match up a one fall a piece. The final fall saw some more nice work, with every ODB comeback halted by the leg, until Kim went for a roll up, only to see ODB lock in a Texas Cloverleaf to pick up a Submission victory and the win, it was a nice turnabout and a good finish to a well worked two out of three falls bout. Hopefully they can hold off the Mickie James and ODB title match until Bound For Glory, but with such a thin women's roster it might not be possible.

Talking of TNA's women's division, Velvet Sky returned to television this week. She was caught backstage, and talked about her absence at Hardcore Justice. We didn't really learn anything knew from this, with Sky only saying what she had said on twitter that it was a personal matter. Sky is pretty poor when talking, she sounds awkward and I can't bring myself to like her as a face, because she is just so annoying. The only interesting thing here, was that Sky's relationship with former World Heavyweight Champion Chris Sabin was mentioned on screen for the first time, even if the reference made no sense, as Sky's match was scheduled before Sabin's title loss.  


My final thoughts on this week's Impact Wrestling.

1. AJ Styles' will always be better in ring, than he is on the mic.

2. TNA will always be better without Hulk Hogan involved.

3. The Bound For Glory Series hasn't lived up to it's potential this year. 

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