Monday, 8 February 2016

Live Event Review: TNA Maximum Impact VIII Tour - Manchester (The Wolves vs. The Decay *Monster's Ball*)

*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? 

Match Card 

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 

Anyone who's read my PROGRESS Wrestling reviews knows just how much I love Will Ospreay, so it was pretty cool getting to see his TNA debut against one of his most familiar opponents from the British independent circuit, Mandrews. With only a limited amount of time (there's been a lot made elsewhere about the pair only have four minutes wrestling time *cough* Meltzer *cough*) the pair pulled out their greatest hits in a fast paced, balls to the wall encounter. Reverse Rana's and skateboard madness, with Mandrews picking up the clean victory with a Shooting Star Press, this was just a little taster of what Ospreay and Mandrews are capable of inside that six sided ring. 

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

The first appearance of the current TNA World Heavyweight Champion Matt Hardy, alongside wife Reby, infant son Maxel and bodyguard Tyrus, was an interesting one. The trio got a load of heat from a lively Manchester crowd, who weren't afraid to let the villainous group know how they felt. Whilst the jist of the segment was that Hardy wanted Dixie Carter to fire Ethan Carter III later in the night, the thing I'll take away most from this was the epic "Who are ya?" chant that Reby Sky got. It completely drowned out here entire promo, I hope that this comes across as well when this airs on TV! 

lashley defeats bram 

 Hmmm...this bout was a weird one. It was clearly being used to build Lashley as a force to be reckoned with, for his match with Kurt Angle later in the tour, but if that was the case the finish was certainly overbooked for it's needs. The wrestling content was fine, if not a little basic and Eric Young managed to work the crowd at ringside up nicely, being the most over element of the match. However, the aforementioned finish saw Bram hit his Brighter Side of Suffering finisher, and then Young jump onto the ring apron with King of the Mountain Championship, convincing Bram to lift up Lashley for a belt shot (which would have lead to the DQ) before Lashley ducked, hit a Spear and won the match. Maybe the commentary team will make more sense of this on TV than I could live. 

mike bennett interrupts kurt angle

Another slightly bizarre segment here. Firstly, Kurt Angle's crowd pleasing promo about his times coming to the UK was lovely. You know the like, "Manchester is awesome" "You fans are the best in the world" type thing that makes the crowd go "Yeah, we're in Manchester". Having Mike Bennett and Maria interrupt was where I was expecting business to really pick up and in a way it did and in a way it didn't. Bennett handled himself well on the microphone, cutting a promo about being a child and telling his Mom that one day he'd beat Kurt Angle, that was well paced and with an entertaining cadence. But then Angle said something and twatted Bennett in the face. Drew Galloway then came out and stood on the ramp. The promo really made me want to see Bennett get an opportunity against Angle, as they had weaved a great story for the match already, but with the two not scheduled to face each other on the tour, and Angle supposedly done with TNA afterward, I was a little confused at where the pay-off would come.   

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 

The build towards Beer Money vs. The Wolves continued here, with Beer Money attempting to cash-in their Feast or Fired briefcases for TNA World Tag Team title shots. Of course, The Decay (Abyss and Crazzy Steve with Rosemary) had previously stolen the physical belts, so Manchester actually ended up with a Beer Money vs. Decay match instead. The match had a basic tag team structure for the most part, with the crowd being completely into Beer Money's comeback as they ran through a number of their back catalogue of sweet tag team moves. The finish seemed to have a few people confused around me, as after Storm and Roode had hit the DWI on Steve, Abyss pulled the referee out of the ring, causing the Disqualification, this wasn't helped by no clear announcement of the result. However, with The Wolves coming out to make the save and challenging The Decay to a Monster's Ball match "next week" the crowd quickly forgot and got hyped for what was to come.

grado returns

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

The first piece of Knockout's action of the night, was physical contest between The Dollhouse's Jade (with Marti Bella and Rebel, but without Awesome Kong)  and The Beautiful People's Madison Rayne (who strangely came out alone) For me, this could have gone a little bit longer, as the two looked like they could have put together a good match, if they were given the time. After Jade had picked up the win with a Package Piledriver, Gail Kim was out to make the save for Madison, with Velvet Sky conspicuous in her absence. 

drew galloway defeats kurt angle

In 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

In a continuation of what we'd seen earlier, Matt Hardy was out to get Ethan Carter III fired, in an entertaining in-ring segment. The crowd being so into all the performers, especially Hardy and EC3 helped this greatly and seemed to allow the performers to bring even more energy into their act. Rockstar Spud's TNA return was handled nicely and he arguably pulled out the best spoken performance of the evening, cutting a lovely promo about his past with EC3 and why Dixie Carter shouldn't fire him, before getting taken out by Hardy and Tyrus. With EC3 able to take out Tyrus and Hardy managing to escape, the table was set for their feud to continue throughout the show and the rest of the tour.

mike bennett defeats mandrews

Mike Bennett (with Maria) continued his feud with Drew Galloway, cutting a post-match promo about both his rival and the man we saw him with earlier in the night, Kurt Angle, before calling out Mandrews for a match. This was another bout, that having Mandrews and Mike Bennett elsewhere, felt like it could have been so much better, but did the job it needed to do for TV. Bennett looked impressive in his comfortable victory. However, the finish came across as a little bit messy, as Bennett hit a Rope Hung Cutter, a wrist-lock transitioned into a right hook and then his Divine Intervention Samoa Driver to put Mandrews away in an over-crowded finish. Galloway was out to make the save when Bennett tried to do even more damage.

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

By this point in the night, I was absolutely knackered. It seemed like most of the crowd felt the same way, as this tag bout played out to almost complete silence. The babyfaces won with a roll up from Madison Rayne, but beyond that there was nothing memorable from this short 4 minute encounter. In almost a mirror image of the earlier knockout's match, Velvet Sky came out to make the save after The Dollhouse attacked Gail and Madison post match, making it even more confusing that she wasn't out to support her pals in either their previous two matches. Velvet got a strong reaction from Manchester though, cutting a passionate promo challenging The Dollhouse to a Lethal Lockdown bout in London.

ethan carter iii and rockstar spud defeated matt hardy and tyrus

After a long ass night of tapings, it was time for the main event, the fourth tag team match in a row, no less. The narrative for this one played out rather nicely, with Ethan Carter III coming out on his own and getting battered by Matt Hardy & Tyrus, before Rockstar Spud came out to be his partner (which let's be honest after the segment earlier in the night, wasn't a massive surprise). However, there was a well played moment where after having an opportunity to tag in Spud, EC3 tried to go it alone, adding a decent layer of drama to the bout. A stand out moment from the bout saw EC3 go for a dive off the top rope to the outside, with Tyrus and Hardy failing to protect him properly, leading to EC3 face planting the floor in what looked like a pretty nasty bump. Despite the drama, the finish was a little rushed, but EC3 getting a clean pinfall on Hardy after a One Percenter at least allowed EC3 a legitimate claim to a title rematch down the line and ended the show on a crowd pleasing moment. 

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.


atpw scale rating - 4.52/10

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.

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