Sunday, 14 February 2016

Live Event Review: TNA Maximum Impact VIII Tour - London (Hardy vs. EC3 *Steel Cage*)


*DISCLAIMER - This article contains spoilers for the 606th and 607th episodes of Impact Wrestling. These will air on the 23rd February and 1st March on Pop! in the USA and 28th February and 6th March on Challenge in the UK. There's also spoilers for the upcoming One Night Only: Joker's Wild PPV and episodes of Xplosion* 

On 30th January 2016, TNA continued their eighth tour of the United Kingdom at the SSE Arena in  London with a double TV taping for Impact Wrestling and more! Matt Hardy defended the TNA World Heavyweight Championship against Ethan Carter III inside a Steel Cage, The Dollhouse took on Gail Kim, Maria and Velvet Sky in the first ever Knockout's Lethal Lockdown, Matt Hardy teamed with Will Ospreay to face James Storm & Eli Drake and Kurt Angle went one on one with Bobby Roode...but was it any good?


full card


1 - Steel Cage - Beer Money (Bobby Roode & James Storm) vs. Bram & Eric Young
2 - TNA X Division Championship Steel Cage - Trevor Lee (C) w/Gregory Shane Helms vs. Tigre Uno
3 - Lethal Lockdown - Gail Kim, Velvet Sky & Maria vs. The Dollhouse (Jade, Marti Belle & Rebel)
4 - Steel Cage - Eli Drake vs. Odarg the Great
5 - Steel Cage World Heavyweight title - Matt Hardy (C) w/Tyrus vs. Ethan Carter III
6 - TNA World Tag Team Championship - The Wolves (Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards) vs. Mandrews & Will Ospreay
7 - No Disqualification - Abyss w/ The Decay (Crazzy Steve & Rosemary) vs. Jimmy Havoc
8 - Singles - Mike Bennett w/Maria vs. Drew Galloway
9 - TNA King of the Moutain Championship - Eric Young w/Bram vs. Big Damo
10 - Singles - Bobby Roode vs. Kurt Angle
11 - Tag Team - Tyrus & Jade vs. Lashley & Gail Kim
12 - Tag Team - Eli Drake & James Storm vs. Will Ospreay & Matt Hardy


beer money defeated bram and eric young in a steel cage 


The show kicked off with the grudge match between Bram & Eric Young and Beer Money the first of five consecutive bouts contested inside the six sides of steel. A solid start to the show, featuring some quality brawling and working within a simple narrative. The crowd was hot from the start, with James Storm ending up "locked" outside the cage, as Bram and Young worked over Bobby Roode on the inside. It was a shame that the cage door was shown to be anything but locked after an Irish whip into the cage. However, the crowd went nuts for Storm climbing over the top of the cage to attack the heels and stayed invested in the action for the rest of the clash. Whilst Beer Money were pretty dominant when both inside the cage, the heels got a decent near falls of an Elbow drop variation of the Death Sentence, before Roode & Storm claimed victory with the DWI. 

ethan carter iii and rockstar spud bury the hatchet


 Ethan Carter III seemed to be settling nicely into his new babyface roll, cutting a promo about his upcoming steel cage match with Matt Hardy over the World Heavyweight Championship, whilst sitting on the steel steps outside the cage. With a quirky energy, EC3 made references to Elton John and more, before moving on to call out old pal and enemy, Rockstar Spud. Spud's promo was just as strong as EC3's as the former X Division Champion agreed to let bygones be bygones, before they shook hands. After a quick reply from Matt Hardy (who bought out Tyrus & Reby Sky) the stage was set for their title bout later in the show, with the SSE Arena more than ready to see the two go at it. 


trevor lee defeats tigre uno in a steel cage to retain the x division championship


I can't go any further without mentioning Tigre Uno's incredible dive off the top of the steel cage, I'm not sure what it will look like on TV, but it looked spectacular inside the arena and got one of the biggest pops of the weekend! However for me, the rest of the match was way, way too short. As the third bout of the feud, to only give the match just over six minutes seemed like a big waste of an opportunity, especially considered the duos previous matches have been around the same length. Neither man is particularly over with the fans yet, and needed a long competitive match to show exactly what they can do. There's a lot of potential in Trevor Lee (who retained his title with a Small Package Driver) and TNA seems to be struggling to find the best way to present that at the moment.


the dollhouse defeated gail kim, maria and velvet sky in lethal lockdown


A real moment for the Knockout's here as they were performed in their first ever Lethal Lockdown match! It was a shame that there were only three girls on each team, but it's likely that plans for the match had to be changed due to Awesome Kong being sent home from the tour. The bout was simply booked, with the heels always having the numbers advantage, following a lovely series of action between Gail Kim and Jade to start, with the faces getting some nice shine whenever they entered. Maria being the surprise partner was interesting development, as it broke the regular partner of the match, allowing for an different dynamic where Gail and Velvet had to really fight from underneath. The finishing sequence got the crowd back into the match, after they had seemingly dropped off following some weak looking weapon shots from the heels. Gail hitting Eat Defeat on Marti Belle, only for Jade to break up the pinfall and hit a wicked Package Piledriver on a steel chair for the win, was timed perfectly and allowed the heel group to look strong, whilst Gail and Velvet will hardly be hurt by losing what was essentially a handicap bout. Some of the best booking of the tour, in my opinion. 


lashley confronts kurt angle 


With Kurt Angle pulling out a similarly crowd-pleasing prom to the one he used in Manchester, we got some storyline progression in the feud between he and Lashley. With the former WWE United States Champion interrupting the Olympic Gold Medalist, this was the continuation of Lashley's slow-burn heel turn as he ripped into Angle for losing to Drew Galloway in Manchester the night before. A quality bit of build to their match, which had been given a little bit of extra spice than the other two matches planned for Kurt Angle's Farewell Tour. However, I'm not sure this was best suited for the London show, as Angle was going to face Bobby Roode, and not Lashley, later on in the show. At least, the Angle v Lashley bout was given a bit more of a substantial build I suppose.


odarg the great defeats eli drake in a steel cage


You don't often see a comedy cage match, but that's what we had here. The London crowd didn't seem as into the silliness that is Odarg the Great as Manchester had been, but there was still enough to keep them interested here. Whether you'll like this match or not has a lot to do with how much you want to see a blokes arse exposed for quite sometime. Yup, Eli Drake had his trunks pulled down, after Mahabali Shera had prevented Jessie Godderz getting involved on the outside. The old ladies in front of us seemed to enjoy this moment more than anything else on the show. There was one truly impressive spot in amongst the comedy, as Great took an electric chair drop off the middle rope, after trying to climb over the top of the cage. Great once again won the bout thanks to losing his mask, as Drake managed to remove it, leaving Great to fall to floor and win the match by escape. The loss 
leaves Drake without a win on TV since he defeated Crimson in the World Title Series back in November 2015.


matt hardy defeats ethan carter iii in a steel cage to retain the tna world heavyweight championship


The feud between Matt Hardy (with Tyrus) and Ethan Carter III came to a peak as they faced each other in a dramatic steel cage match over Hardy's World Heavyweight Championship. The SSE Arena was hooked from start to finish, getting behind EC3 and pouring scorn on Hardy and his manager, Tyrus. Whilst the wrestling sections of the bout were a little off the pace, as Hardy seemed to struggle to keep up with EC3, as soon as the match got more violent and the stories of the match began to be pulled together it became a stellar contest. EC3 looked every inch of the top babyface that TNA needs him to be, as he kicked out of a number of Hardy's big moves, including a Twist of Fate with a steel chair wrapped around his neck, and continued to put on a great performance as he fought adversity managing to nuetralise the threat of Tyrus once the big man had entered the cage. With the drama escalating with Reby Sky charging down the ramp with the hammer (presumably the very same one she used to help Hardy win the title last month), only for Rockstar Spud to make the save to a big pop. But with EC3 making his way for the door, he got the cage door slammed right into his face...by SPUD! SWERVE CITY! The crowd was in shock and dumped heat on Spud as Hardy walked out of the cage to retain his title! A great moment to close an entertaining World Heavyweight title bout, with everyone playing their parts well. The SSE Arena definitely helped to play their part, as the crowd kept things lively throughout.

fast-forward...Dixie Carter and Billy Corgan were out to say hi to everyone, which was nice...


the wolves defeat mandrews & will ospreay to retain the TNA World Tag Team Championships


I'm not quite sure what Mandrews and Will Ospreay had been given a World Tag Team title shot for, considering Mandrews hasn't won a match on TV since an October episode of Xplosio  (over Crazzy Steve) and Will Ospreay yet to debut on screen (and had lost his only other TNA bout the night before). However, I'm not gonna complain too much between Ospreay & Mandrews vs. The Wolves is a pretty cool match on paper and one that could main event any show across the United Kingdom (and potentially overseas as well). The two teams put together an enjoyable tag team match, with Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards working a tweener role and dominating the Brits in the early going. With lots of fast paced action, it was a real shame that Mandrews ended up with an injury after attempting to hit a springboard rana and landing awkwardly. I'm not sure whether it's amazing or stupid that Mandrews continued on, hitting a Northern Light's Suplex and a Standing Shooting Star Press, even after the referee had held up the X symbol. It took until after the match had finished for anyone to check on the Welshman, which is an utter disgrace for a company of this size. Ospreay more than held his own having to cover for his partner, putting on some nice sequences with Richards and Edwards, before eventually succumbing to Force of Nature double team. 


abyss defeats jimmy havoc in a no disqualification match 


Originally announced as Monster's Ball match by Jeremy Borash, when it was time for the match introduction it had became a No DQ match, supposedly because the Monster's Ball match was a big selling point of the Manchester show the day before. IPW:UK regular Jimmy Havoc made his TNA debut, against the man most would have booked him against if given the chance, Abyss (accompanied by The Decay). A rematch from SWE Great Expectation in Stevenage last July, this was a fun throwaway bout, full of weapons and big highspots, but lacking in any meaning and feeling a bit short for what it needed to be. Havoc took most of the big bumps in the match, crashing through a table at ringside and taking a Black Hole Slam onto a barbed wire board for the finish, as the former NWA World Heavyweight Champion dominated controlled the pace with ease. This was probably the best the two could do with the time they were given, the fact they had zero build for the match and that most of the crowd seemed unfamiliar with Havoc.

fast-forward...Jeremy Borash bought out Josh Matthews who said a few words and then headed to the back, really earning his money...


mike bennett defeats drew galloway


After defeating Mandrews, Robbie E and Pepper Parks since his TNA debut in January, this was almost certainly the biggest win of Mike Bennett's career. Made even more special by the fact that Galloway had defeated Kurt Angle the night before (two or three weeks ago on TV). The two wrestled a reasonable contest, working well for their first match with each other. The partnership of Bennett and Maria was spotlighted again as The First Lady of Wrestling helped her husband to stay in the match, putting his foot on the ropes when The Voice of the People had locked on his new Chickenwing Over the Shoulder Crossface submission hold. There's more to come in this rivalry that is steadily heating up, with both guys having potential to put on a great match in the future, if they get the mix just right.


eric young defeats big damo to retain the tna king of the mountain championship


After Eric Young had issued a challenge to any Brit in the back to come and face him for the King of the Mountain strap, out came SWA regular Big Damo to make his TNA debut. It would seem like Damo wasn't quite as over as the other two British Indy guys on the card, with the crowd reluctant to get behind him, over the villainous, but familiar Eric Young. Having said that, the crowd did warm to him by the end of clash, as once he managed to string a few big moves together, many began to realise that he wasn't your generic big man. Unfortunately, the match didn't produce anything that made me think that Young wouldn't be returning his title, and I was proved right when he hit a truly spectacular piledriver and a near 300lb Irishman. 


kurt angle defeats bobby roode


For me, this was the best match of the night, as Kurt Angle faced Bobby Roode for the ninth and final time. The two have a clear chemistry in the ring and exchanged holds with ease in the first half of the match. I enjoyed the pacing of things here, especially in the earlier portion of the bout as they kept things slow and allowing Roode to slip into a tweener role as he attempted to put Angle away for the 2nd time in two days. In a similar sequence to the one Angle used with Drew Galloway the night before, there was some strong submission based wrestling with the duo trading Ankle Locks and Crossfaces, with Roode especially doing a good job of selling his injured ankle towards the end of the match. Both men got convincing near falls off the Angle Slam and Roode Bomb respectively, although I can't help but feeling that if the match with Galloway the night before hadn't been so finisher reliant then these would have been much easier to buy into. With Angle recording his 4th victory in a row over Roode, the match felt like it finished way to early, as there was potential to grow into a very special match, in front of a London crowd who were still hyped at this point. The duo have had better encounters with each other on Impact Wrestling in 2013 and 2014, as well as the 2013 edition of Bound For Glory.

The after match festivities were a lot of fun, as James Storm headed down to the ring to celebrate with Angle and commiserate Storm, as Beer Money held a bit of a beer bash for the TNA Hall of Famer. Obviously, with Angle not drinking, there was a wonderful moment when Storm pulled a 4 litre bottle of milk from his bag and the crowd chanted "Chug, Chug, Chug" Utter silliness ensued as Angle spilled more milk down him than he got in mouth! Angle then made sure that we had another quality match scheduled for the next set of tapings in Birmingham, as he called out The Wolves and set them up for a match with Beer Money with the TNA World Tag Team Championships on the line! Fun, fun, fun. 

fast-forward...Jeremy Borash announced that we'd be finishing up with two Joker's Wild matches, I despise the concept, so was a little worried when the glorified raffle bucket turned up at ringside...


tyrus and jade defeat lashley and gail kim


This was the worst match of the tour so far, in my opinion. It attempted to go down the comedy route, but missed the mark entirely for me, coming across as sexist, with the women presented as objects to look at, rather than legitimate competitors in the match. A moment where Gail Kim and Jade had each other locked in a gator-style roll on the mat and both Tyrus and Lashley came into the ring and stood watching was an uncomfortable thing to watch in 2016. It was made even worse by how TNA claims that they're Knockout's Division is the best in the world and yet they promote ricockulous content like Lashley putting Jade over his knee and spanking her mid-match. Gail and Jade being better wrestlers than Lashley and Tyrus makes the booking of this match even more mind-boggling. Tyrus and Jade won after a painful near nine minutes of action.


matt hardy and will ospreay defeat eli drake and james storm


If you predicted this match main eventing the show then you are lying. Surprisingly, this clash actually turned out pretty good, with some unique dynamics between the two sets of partners, that developed as the match went on. Will Ospreay spent most of the match having to fight on his, with Matt Hardy finding new ways to keep off the apron, ranging from the funny to the outright bizarre. It was clear that Hardy was having a lot of fun with this gimmick. On the other team, James Storm and Eli Drake obviously weren't the best of partners, having their own disagreements that culminated in Drake taking Storm's beer from him, which obviously didn't go down well. I got a good chuckle out of Matt Hardy stealing the pin cover, after Storm had turned on Drake and levelled him with a Superkick and Ospreay pulled out a Spiral Tap. It was a shame that, at least, 40% of the crowd had left by this point, as there was very little interaction for what was technically the main event. 

Obviously after Matt Hardy had stolen the victory, it was time to "send the fan's home happy". With the World Heavyweight Champion beginning to cut a promo on his victory, he was interrupted by Ethan Carter III! What was left of the crowd went nuts for Carter's subsequent beatdown of Hardy as he pulled out a number of fan favourite moves. Hardy went into ridiculous selling mode, flailing around the ring, thanks to 2 Stunners, a Twist of Fate, a People's Elbow and closing the show with a 1 Percenter. Lovely stuff.


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 London, I took student of Nottingham University and my younger brother, David Marston. Here's his thoughts on the show...



The highlight of TNA coming to London was the main event program between Matt Hardy and EC3. Whilst Hardy’s in ring work is far from stellar at this point, he has very quickly perfected a heel character who is genuinely unlikable and this was rewarded by the reactions he got from the crowd throughout the night. EC3 meanwhile is the best thing to have come out of TNA for the last five years, and whilst the crowd was clearly still getting used to Carter playing the babyface role he appears to have adapted his style in a manner which still stays true to his character. 

The use of the three UK talents TNA brought in for the tour, whilst frustrating at points, was still successful. Big Damo O’Connor took advantage of the opportunity he got given when challenging Eric Young for the King of the Mountain title, the crowd were firmly behind the heavyweight from Belfast and he appeared to offer something that could not be seen elsewhere on the TNA roster. 

Jimmy Havoc was also well used in somewhat of a dream match in a no disqualification match against ‘The Monster’ Abyss. Whilst perhaps not as brutal a match that would be expected of these two, they got a good amount of time to tell their story in what was a solid three star match.

Will Ospreay was unlucky to have his tag team title shot against The Wolves get cut somewhat short due to a nasty injury suffered by his partner Mandrews halfway through the match. But he did play his role perfectly when teaming with Matt Hardy later in the night, Ospreay makes for a very sympathetic babyface and this was on show here. The crowd would have been much more behind these UK talents if a video package or any kind of introduction was given to them as they would be unknowns to much of the crowd, but hopefully we’ll see more of all three wrestlers in the six sided ring in the future.


Overall, TNA put on a solid set of TV tapings that showcased both the TNA Roster and British talent. However, the fact that these tapings took place several weeks after the last Impact to be shown on Challenge did mean that some segments were either confusing or simply could not have the desired effect. These tapings showed legitimate promise for the future direction of the company and hopefully this can be sustained as TNA continues to rebuild its brand


finally...
atpw scale rating - 5.08/10


An improvement on the taping the previous night in Manchester, bouts like Kurt Angle vs. Bobby Roode and Matt Hardy's World Heavyweight title defence against Ethan Carter III inside a Steel Cage made this an enjoyable watch. Both matches went down different routes with the World Title bout being heavily influenced by storyline, whilst Roode and Angle had much more of an exhibition style to it. Whilst the show and the company let itself down with the mixed tag team match, most of the other bouts ranged somewhere between average and good. With two strong non-wrestling segments, like the one used to build hype for the World title cage match and EC3 coming out to close the show, this was a decent show overall. There was potential for more in certain matches and a few tweaks here and there could have given the show a much higher rating than what we've given.

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