*DISCLAIMER - This article contains spoilers for the 604th and 605th episodes of Impact Wrestling, as well as episodes of Xplosion. These will air on the 9th and 16th February on Pop! in the USA and 14th and 21st February on Challenge in the UK*
On 29th January 2016, TNA kicked off their eighth tour of the United Kingdom at the Manchester Arena in Hunts Bank, Manchester with a double TV taping for Impact Wrestling and more! TNA World Heavyweight Champion Matt Hardy demanded Dixie Carter fire Ethan Carter III, The Wolves defended the TNA World Tag Team Championships against The Decay in Monsters Ball, Kurt Angle went one on one with Drew Galloway and Matt Hardy teamed with Tyrus to take on Ethan Carter III and Rockstar Spud...but was it any good?
1 - Singles - Mandrews vs. Will Ospreay
2 - Singles - Bram w/Eric Young vs. Lashley
3 - TNA X Division Championship - Tigre Uno vs. Trevor Lee (C) w/Gregory Shane Helms
4 - Tag Team - Beer Money (Bobby Roode & James Storm) vs. The Decay ("The Monster" Abyss & Crazzy Steve) w/Rosemary
5 - Singles - Jade w/The Dollshouse (Marti Belle & Rebel) vs. Madison Rayne
6 - Singles - Drew Galloway vs. Kurt Angle
7 - Singles - Mandrews vs. "The Miracle" Mike Bennett w/Maria
8 - TNA King of the Moutain Championship - James Storm w/Bobby Roode vs. Eric Young (C) w/Bram
9 - Tag Team - Eli Drake & Jessie Godderz vs. Mahabli Shera & Odarg the Great
10 - TNA World Tag Team Championship Monster's Ball - The Decay ("The Monster" Abyss & Crazzy Steve) vs. The Wolves (C) (Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards)
11 - Tag Team - Gail Kim & Madison Rayne vs. The Dollhouse (Jade & Marti Belle) w/Rebel
12 - Tag Team - Ethan Carter III & Rockstar Spud vs. Matt Hardy & Tyrus
mandrews defeats will ospreay
fast-forward...A sweet Ethan Carter III promo aired on the screen, this is the same promo that would later air on the #603 edition of Impact Wrestling...
matt hardy had stuff to say
lashley defeats bram
mike bennett interrupts kurt angle
trevor lee defeats tigre uno to retain the x division championship
With Trevor Lee's alignment with Gregory Shane Helms and subsequent TNA X Division Championship win still to air in the UK at this point, the Manchester crowd were luke warm for Tigre Uno's championship rematch, if not outright confused and indifferent. Lee and Uno put on a decent contest, but one that barely scratched the surface in terms of what a talent like Lee can do in the ring. With only five minutes allocated, and with the duo still seemingly unable to connect in the ring, this wasn't the best example of X Division action that one could find. The finish did however continue to build on Lee's relationship with Helms as the former WCW World Cruiserweight Champion's interference allowed Lee to hit a Small Package Driver to retain his title.
beer money defeats the decay via disqualification
Grado is back! Okay, so the episode in which he got fired hadn't actually aired yet, but he's back! Basically, Grado jumped the barricade and cut a promo claiming to have proof that he'd been screwed. We didn't get to see the proof as Eli Drake and some security came out and chased Grado to the back, in a weird Benny Hill style moment.
jade defeats madison rayne
drew galloway defeats kurt angleIn the best match of the show so far, Drew Galloway avenged his loss to Kurt Angle earlier in the year. The two went at it hammer and tounges for most of the match, trading big moves and near falls, with Angle hitting a sweet looking Angle Slam on the apron, before delivering another that had a most of the crowd convinced it was over. The long spells of submission based action were reminiscent of Angle's WWE tangles with Chris Benoit, as the two exchanged Ankle Locks and a new hold that seemed to be a Crossface/Scissored Armbar varation, that would eventually gain Galloway a surprising submission victory. For my personal taste, I wished the bout had been afforded a bit more time to settle in at the beginning, seemingly going straight into the big moves and near falls. For example, Galloway hitting a Futureshock DDT as a reversal to a backslide, looked great, but no one bought into it as a false finish because it came about four minutes into the match. Still, this was still a very good bout, that will should do a lot for Galloway as he continues to grow in TNA, with a future World Heavyweight title shot in his future, thanks to the Feast or Fired briefcase.
matt hardy calls out dixie carter
mike bennett defeats mandrews
james storm and eric young go to a no contest over the king of the mountain championship
James Storm and Eric Young are two very competent workers inside the six sided ring and it would be difficult to fault anything they did inside the ring. However, they did both seem to go through the motions in this one as the trod water until the messy DQ/non finish thing that happened. I'm not even sure what did happen here, but it ended up in Bram and Bobby Roode both getting involved and the match seemingly being thrown out. There was however a cool crowd brawl that followed, with James Storm throwing beer over Bram, not too far from where we were sitting.
odarg the great and mahabli shera defeat eli drake and jessie godderz
I popped hard for Odarg the Great, due to silliness of the whole storyline. Basically, if you hadn't worked out, Great is Grado under a mask, he came out to Madonna's Like a Prayer and the crowd (especially our section) lapped it up. The match got a decent amount of time for a comedy bout, with Mahabli Shera working as the face in peril, as the crowd got ready to erupt for a Great hot tag! Pulling out all the signature moves, I couldn't have been happier with how this match went, as Shera & Great picked up a roll-up victory, as Drake had managed to un-mask the new comer. Utterly ridiculous stuff, I can imagine this might not be some people's cup of tea, but those people need to lighten up a bit! Long live Odarg the Great!
ethan carter iii calls out tyrus
Ethan Carter III was back out to cement his babyface turn, by cutting profanity-laden promo on his plans for Matt Hardy. With such wonderful turns of phrase as "two fingers right up the poop shoot", EC3 further enamored himself to the Manchester Arena, supposedly bringing back memories of their last night out on the town. With EC3 apparently adamant on using more sexual references he called out Tyrus to meet his fists (I'll you with that image) after accusing the former Funkasaurus of breast-feeding Matt Hardy's child (Another image for you). Obviously this lead to ambush attack by Hardy, with EC3 managing to escape unharmed, and it was confirmed that Hardy & Tyrus would team up to face EC3 and a partner of his choice later on in the show.
the wolves defeat the decay in monster's ball to retain the world tag team championships
This match was everything I wanted to be, as The Wolves and The Decay ran through a series of great spots and got all kinds of weapons involved in the action. Davey Richards suicide dive that sent Abyss crashing through a barbed wire board stands out particular, alongside Crazzy Steve getting whacked with Janice (with a Steel Chair getting in the way, to stop, you know, death). The finish was a little bit of weird one again, as Eddie Edwards held an interfering Rosemary in place, and Richards threatened to hit her with a cheese grater, before deciding to plant a big ol' Ric Flair-esque smooch on her. It was a bit uncomfortable to watch, but the reveal that Richards' had somehow nicked Rosemary's green mist, was a pretty cool moment. The Wolves hitting their version of Chasing the Dragon onto a steel chair covered in thumb tacks ended the match on a high point, seemingly putting The Wolves vs. The Decay feud to bed.
gail kim and madison rayne defeated the dollhouse
ethan carter iii and rockstar spud defeated matt hardy and tyrus
view from the partner in crime
For each of the TNA tour shows I took a different pal along, just to keep things fresh. For Manchester, I took Surprisingly Competent Media's Jozef Raczka. Here's his thoughts on the show...
I don’t know if I can say if this was a good show or not. I mean, TNA isn’t a brand that I’ve ever really given time to, most of my knowledge coming from a friend who said he caught an episode once in a dive bar in Swansea (he didn’t care for it). Beyond that, my entire knowledge of live events was witnessing the Sheffield night of the NXT tour back in December for which the wrestling talent was significantly more apparent. It’s not that there weren’t any talented people on the card: Eric Young and James Storm put on what I can legally call a match, Galloway managed to hold his own against Kurt Angle and his response to the ‘Thank You Angle’ chants, considering this was posited as his retirement Tour, were genuinely heart-warming and I will never forget being there for the debut of the greatest unknown discovery of his generation – Odarg The Great. But that said, the actual matches were imminently forgettable, even ‘big’ matches like a Monsters Ball (which I’m reliably informed is an Extreme Rules Match for non-TNA fans like myself) had some good spots but nothing really felt special enough. It overall was a bit meh, possibly an influence of most of the crowd being worn down from the endurance of the show lasting roughly four hours. That said I got to see Billy Corgan look embarrassed to be there, be part of the world’s longest ‘Who are ya’ chant at Matt Hardy’s wife and find out that there’s a wrestler called Crazzy Steve. With two z’s. Truly these are things to cherish in a cynical world. That said, Matt Hardy, if you’re reading this, we really did want Jeff.
Similar to what Jozef said, I don't really know what my overall thoughts of the show. It was an incredibly draining night of wrestling, a lot of the younger members of the audience had left by the time the main event was on, as four hours is just too long, and expecting people to stay til gone 11pm is a huge ask of a wrestling company. That being said, there were some good matches to be seen here, with Kurt Angle's match with Drew Galloway and Monster's Ball standing out as the best matches of the night and there certainly wasn't anything that I would label a "bad" match, just some perplexing booking decisions at time and certain bouts not being given enough time to breath. However, if you sit down every Sunday night to watch Impact Wrestling on Challenge TV, then you almost certainly would have loved this show, as there was a shit-tonne of Impact Wrestling! A decent start to the UK tour.
Our next review will cover the London tapings! Including Matt Hardy defending the TNA World Heavyweight Championship against Ethan Carter III inside a Steel Cage, The Dollhouse facing The Beautiful People and Gail Kim in Lethal Lockdown, Matt Hardy teaming with Will Ospreay to face James Storm & Eli Drake and Kurt Angle going one on one with Bobby Roode.