Friday, 16 January 2015

Impact Wrestling 8th January 2015 Review

Impact Wrestling is back! Yes, TNA's flagship TV show returned to our screens on 8th January (Yes, I'm playing catch up already with reviews!), and promised a big show, with Bobby Roode defending the TNA World Heavyweight Championship against ex-champ Bobby Lashley, Kurt Angle returing to action after eight months on the sidelines in Street Fight against MVP and more. But was the debut show on Destination America actually any good?

TNA World Heavyweight Championship Match
Bobby Lashley vs. Bobby Roode (C)

      Correctly so, this match was hyped throughout the show, beginning with the brawling opening segment. Followed up with the highlights video of the original Bobby Lashley vs. Bobby Roode match from No Surrender in September and a backstage segment that teased some tension between Lashley and stablemates MVP and Kenny King, with those two having another segment later on, that was almost completely drowned out by background noise. Through in a recap of the second Lashley vs. Roode match from October and you had a pretty solid amount of build toward the main event, with the recaps especially making it feel like the main event was going to be something worth watching.

     And for the most part that's exactly what this match was. Something worth watching. Did it reach the heights of the previous two matches? Not quite, but that's got more to do with the ending than anything else for me, but we'll get to that in a minute. Lashley continued to repay TNA's faith in him throughout, he looked every bit the star they've attempted to build him into, his facial expressions whilst no selling clotheslines from Roode were spot on and meant that when Roode eventually knocked him it felt more important than it probably should have. On the other hand of the coin, Roode has grown into TNA's biggest home grown star over the last two years, and looked very crisp in the ring throughout, a lovely flying neckbreaker was particular high point.

     The match built nicely towards it's closing stages, with Roode and Lashley throwing there best shots at each other to attempt to get the victory, even stealing each others finishers. The two flowed nicely during this stage, as they did throughout the entire match. However, with MVP, Kenny King and two mystery guys coming out, I began to lose interest. With the referee being pulled out of the ring with Lashley about to tap in the crossface, everything went a bit nuts. Angle ran in, but got battered by the four guys, with the two mystery men being revealed as Low Ki and Samoa Joe (this turning them heel), with Eric Young scaring off the heels, he himself then turn heel nailing Roode with a chair and allowing Lashley to hit a spear to win the TNA World Heavyweight Championship for the second time in his career. Now, I usually go with the idea that if it's mouthfull to say and confusing to read, it's probably not a great finish to a match. Personally, I think allowing Roode and Lashley alone would have sent out much better messages about the new direction of the product.

     Whilst, Low Ki, Samoa Joe and Eric Young all turning heel in the space of two minutes did have a degree of shock value, it felt like TNA were giving away at least three weeks of booking in one segment. Surely, having one guy turn each week would have extended the "Impact" of the turns? With Eric Young booked against Bobby Roode in a Falls Count Anywhere match on this weeks, it's difficult to not think TNA is simply going to repeat the same mistakes it has done in the past, rushing angles and not giving them enough time for anyone to get invested in what is actually going on in the ring! 

Street Fight
Kurt Angle vs. MVP

       Yes, Kurt Angle returned to in-ring action at the tender age of 46 years of age! This, of course, was holy unadvertised, because that would be silly, wouldn't it? Yes, instead of having weeks or even months of build to Angle's return to the ring, it was rushed into the opening segment of the show! Angle's return match would surely sell tickets and boost ratings (maybe even sell PPV's) if advertised and hyped correctly.

     Now the segment itself started nicely, with a well directed video package that saw a number of TNA wrestlers recieving an invite to the show (complete with new music that was featured throughout the show), eventually leading to them brawling outside the Manhattan Center and then into the building. A decent attempt to try and get as many guys and gals on the start of the show and create a different feel to what WWE is doing at the moment. Personally, this brawl went on for a bit too long, but it seemed to get the crowd really pumped for the show, as they remained very loud throughout the broadcast.

      After Angle had put all Championships on the line for the night (again, would it not have been wise to advertise this?), MVP attempted to interupt Angle and after some back and forth Angle made the announcement that he was no longer Director of Wrestling Operations and would resume his in-ring career, booking his final match as a Street Fight against MVP. Again, it all comes down to promoting big matches, even having Angle announce that the match would open the second hour of the hour would have been an improvement on it happening straight away!

     However, for two men wresting in street clothes, MVP and Angle made the best they could out of the strange booking. The wrestling was sound, only Kurt Angle could make German Suplexes look so beautiful whilst wearing a suit at 46 years old and there was some solid psychology with MVP focusing his antention on Angle's knee, referecning the ACL tear that had kept Angle out of action, with a chair shot on the steel steps. The two strung together some nice sequences and when Angle picked up the win with an Angle Slam, I was more than satisfyed with the opening match of the show. I still hold out that this match shouldn't have opened Impact (without prior advertisment anyway), but this was a solid out for Angle and MVP, with the result sparking a chain of events that would impact on the rest of the show.

TNA World Tag Team Championship Match
James Storm & Abyss (C) vs.  The Wolves

       Before this match took place, TNA cleverly hyped their new Impact Unlocked series, by broadcasting a teaser of the footage that one could expect when tuning into the show. This footage was a pre-recorded one on one sit down interview between Mike Tenay and one half of the TNA World Tag Team Champions James Storm. The style of interview presented here felt fresh and most importantly it used Mike Tenay to bring a touch of reality to Storm's larger than life character. Many viewers will have created a connection with Tenay over the year, so seeing him in this situations, not only made for uncomfortable viewing (in a good way) but also allowed Storm's character work to come to the forefront.

    It was straight into the match following the interview, with The Wolves being revealed as Storm and Abyss' challengers. This was an adequate tag team bout, if not a little short. The Wolves impressed throughout, with both Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards taking turns bumping for Storm and Abyss, before both men showed some sound athletism, including both flipping out of a chokeslam attempt from Abyss and delivering a handful of double team moves, such as the Backstabber/Double Stomp combo that earned them a two count. A personal highlight of the match was seeing Abyss catch Edwards during a handspring elbow attempt before delivering Shock Treatment for a great near fall. The finsh wasn't to my taste however, with The Hardys getting involved to attempt to even the field by taking out The Revolution's Manik and Great Sanada who were at ringside, before Jeff Hardy ended up bumping into Edwards, allowing Storm to hit a Last Call Superkick to pick up the win and retain the titles. Whilst the original Hardys vs. Wolves match and the subsequent tag series with Team 3D were all good matches, I'm personally not interest in a rematch between the two.

TNA X Division Championship Match
Low Ki (C) vs. Austin Aries 

      With Low-Ki's challenger for the evening being revealed as former TNA World Heavyweight Champion Austin Aries, it was difficult not to get hyped for this match. Given more time and I'm sure these two would have put on an absolute clinic in X Division style wrestling. There wasn't quite enough time for these two to put things into top gear, but it was still an entertaining seven minutes of action, with the two going back and forth with mainly strike based offence. The closing stages especially showed that this match up had a lot more to give, with a beautiful modified dragon sleeper reversal from Low Ki to escape a brainbuster attempt, before Aries was able to catch Low Ki with a dropkick with Low Ki perched on the top rope, before delivering a brain buster to pick up the victory and become a SIX time X Division Champion! These two deserved at least an extra five minutes.

TNA Knockout's Championship Battle Royal
Velvet Sky vs. Angelina Love vs. Gail Kim vs. Tarynn Terrell (C) vs. Madison Rayne vs. Havok vs. Rebel

KNOCKOUT'S BATTLE ROYAL! Fuck that, AWESOME KONG IS BACK! Yes, after a rather uninspiring battle royal that saw Tarynn Terrel hold onto the TNA Knockout's Championship by last eliminating Gail Kim and Havok, Awesome Kong (last seen on TV as WWE's Kharma) returned to TNA after a five year absence. Kong made her presence known by chokeslamming the referee and staring down with Havok. TNA's knockout's division hasn't been the same since Kong left in 2010, so hopefully with near 300lb'er back on board the Impact Wrestling train, we'll see an upturn in the division fortunes in 2015.

EC3 shaves Jeremy Borash's head!!!

       With cameras supposedly installed "everywhere" in the building, Ethan Carter III and Tyrus attempted to hijack the show, appearing in a number of backstage segments calling out Spud for a little trim. When EC3 made it out the ring, his crowd work was impeccable, he knew exactly what he needed to do to get the reaction he wanted from the fans in attendance. The rest of the segment however, I'm not quite sure about. Spud was carried to the ring by Tyrus, before ring announcer Jeremy Borash attempted to stand up for Spud, with the camera unforgivably missing the big moment of Borash slapping EC3 hard in the face! This eventually led to Borash getting his head shaved by EC3. Erm... Erm... I don't know! Was this great television? Was it another bizarre piece of booking? Did Jeremy Borash just want to shave his head? All this and more will probably never be answered.


       This was an entertaining episode of Impact Wrestling, with the majority of the matches being extremely watchable. 
 Josh Matthews was a fresh addition to the commentary team alongside Taz and seemed to push his partner on, the two made a compelling duo on commentary, perhaps the best change to the broadcast style. I still have a few reservations about TNA rushing storylines, with both the turns of Low Ki, Samoa Joe and Eric Young and the in-ring return of Kurt Angle all not feeling quite as big as they could have, if given the correct time and attention.

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