Monday, 9 May 2016

TV Review: IMPACT Wrestling #616 (Bennett vs. Lashley vs. Hardy)

On 3rd May 2016, TNA aired the 616th episode of IMPACT Wrestling, taped on 21st April 2016 at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, USA, on POP TV. TNA World Heavyweight Champion Drew Galloway acted as special guest referee for a #1 Contender's Three way bout for his title between "The Miracle" Mike Bennett, "The Destroyer" Lashley and "The Charismatic Enigma" Jeff Hardy, after Lashley had demanded a shot at the gold after interrupting Bennett and Hardy's singles match earlier in the show...but was it any good? Let's take a look!

impact wrestling #616 match card

Match 1 – Men's Singles - “The Miracle” Mike Bennett with Maria Kanellis-Bennett vs. Jeff Hardy

Match 2 – Men's Singles – TNA World Tag Team Champion“The Monster” Abyss with The Decay: TNA World Tag Team Champion Crazzy Steve & Rosemary vs. “The Cowboy” James Storm

Match 3 – TNA King of the Mountain Championship King of the Mountain Men's Ladder – Andrew Everrett with Gregory Shane Helms vs. Jessie Godderz vs. Eddie Edwards vs. TNA King of the Mountain Championship Feast or Fired Briefcase Holder Eli Drake vs. Bram ©

Match 4 – TNA World Heavyweight Championship #1 Contender's Men's Three Way – “The Miracle” Mike Bennett with Maria Kanellis-Bennett vs. “The Destroyer” Lashley vs. “The Charismatic Enigma” Jeff Hardy

Commentary: "The Pope" D'Angelo Dinero & Josh Matthews

Theme Song: "Roustabout" by Billy Corgan

fast-forward...Lashley attacks TNA World Heavyweight Champion Drew Galloway in a gym and the pair end up brawling in an MMA cage before getting separated by a load of TNA guys...Tightly produced recap of Mike Bennett defeating Ethan Carter III from IMPACT Wrestling #614, EC3's first pinfall loss in TNA...

hardy defeats bennett via disqualification due to interference from lashley, carter books hardy vs. bennett vs. lashley in main event

An interesting first in-ring section to the show, that took a number of twists and turns over it's 15 minutes screen time. Mike Bennett continued to impress on the microphone, looking very comfortable as the shows focal point, commanding the screen as he boasted about being the first person to pin Ethan Carter III on IMPACT Wrestling #615. Whilst Bennett's performance was spot on, I couldn't help but feel that certain parts of the promo, such as referring to himself as "God" had been recycled from elsewhere, with Eric Young claiming the very same thing on TNA programming quite recently. The segment would develop with Jeff Hardy interrupting Bennett and taking umbrage to "The Miracle"'s words, so much so that he spent about three weeks slapping hands with fans before getting into the ring. After a bit of back and forth, Bennett agreed to go ask Dixie Carter for a match with Hardy as the show's main event, with Hardy attacking "The Miracle" before he could get out of the ring and having the match begin after the break. A few flaws here, but Bennett's performance made things extremely watchable, his intonation and facial expressions are steadily turning him into one of the promotions brightest stars.

The second big swing of the evening was that the match lasted under two minutes, as "The Destroyer" Lashley injected himself into proceedings by nailing Hardy with a big spear to give "The Charismatic Enigma" the disqualification victory. Lashley gave Bennett a bit of hiding as well just for good measure. Of course, Lashley has had problems with TNA World Heavyweight Champion Drew Galloway, as was seen at the start of the show, so that's what this was all about. Lashley called out Dixie Carter and demanded a title match, only to be placed a three way with the men he had interrupted and have Galloway inserted in as the Special Guest Referee. For me, this was another case of TNA just rushing things a little bit too much, with the first twenty five minutes of the show featuring at least another week's worth of booking in there. Non the less, we had been presented with our main event earlier on, with lots of reasons to stay tuned to see what happened. 

fast-forward...A very weird backstage segment with The Decay where Rosemary spat liquid into Crazzy Steve's mouth and into Abyss' face as part of their “transformation”...

abyss defeats storm 

Just like the show-open, there was a lot going here. The pacing was perhaps slightly out, but the new revelations involved current TNA World Tag Team Champions The Decay was handled much better than they could have been. On paper it's a ridiculous piece of storyline with Crazzy Steve now able to speak because Rosemary spat some stuff in his mouth and Abyss now with a mask and sporting face-paint "scars" because she spat in his face. The performers and especially Rosemary really went for it with a dark promo, that seemingly got a babyface reaction from Universal Studios crowd. After a short interruption and attack from James Storm, who would confirm that his Beer Money partner, Bobby Roode, had departed from TNA, Abyss and Storm would have a short match in one of "The Monster"'s most dominant performance in recent teams. A blast of mist and Black Hole slam would ensure that Abyss would remain undefeated in singles action in 2016. This wouldn't be the last we'd see out of The Decay either...

fast-forward...Jeff Hardy chats about his upcoming main event match...

sienna debuts, sides with kanellis-bennett and attacks jade 

Another case of TNA cramming as much as they possible can into each segment here. We got TNA Knockout's Champion Jade's babyface turn as she refused to lay down for "Head of the Knockout's" Maria Kanellis-Bennett, which got a pretty good reaction out of Universal Studios with the Orlando crowd quick to get behind their champion. This would herald the debut of SHINE star Allysin Kay, now going under the name Sienna. The newcomer looked impressive on her debut, dominating Jade and throwing her around the ring with ease. MKB was quick to point out this wasn't a match and this allowed Sienna to take things to the outside throwing Jade into the steps, including a brutal looking wheelbarrow swing. Giving MKB someone to do her dirty work in the Knockout's division is a solid move, as "The First Lady of Pro-Wrestling" was always going to struggle to be the promotions top female heel without getting too involved physically. Sienna and Jade being no strangers to each other having competed numerous times on the independent circuit over the last four years, including a trip to China, should lead to a great chemistry when they finally tie up for a proper match. 

fast-forward...Jeremy Borash was “supposed” to interview Ethan Carter III, but he doesn't show up, instead Mike Bennett takes his spot...

bram defeats everrett, godderz, edwards and drake to retain tna king of the mountain championship in a king of the mountain ladder match

Before I get into the quality of this contest, I'd like to mention how chucking away a King of the Mountain ladder match with no build, rhyme or reason on television is completely stupid. Before the match appeared on the screen I had no idea there was a King of the Mountain match on the show (and I was watching it five days after the original broadcast!) and even then I couldn't work out what Andrew Everett, Eddie Edwards, Jessie Godderz and Eli Drake had done to earn themselves a shot at the belt that Bram had won just one week earlier. The match itself was decent, with a handful of nice spots, like Bram's missile front drop kick to knock Drake off the ladder, but nothing to get too excited about. Edwards and Everrett would end up brawling to the back in the middle of the match, further relegating the title belt they were supposed to be fighting over, after Everett had spent most of the match looking like a complete chump, getting pinned by Bram and submitting to Godderz within five minutes. To further confuse things Drake has the Feast or Fired briefcase for a shot at TNA King of the Mountain Championship and even tried to cash in after the match, only for Bram to recover and fight off his challenge. 

ec3 has words for bennett, lashley defeats hardy and bennett to become number one contender to tna world heavyweight championship

Before the main event for the evening could get under way, we finally got to hear from Ethan Carter III about his loss to Mike Bennett last week, when EC3 confronted Bennett moments after "The Miracle" had made his way to the ring. "The Ass-Kicking Machine" nailed his promo, which was particularly well-crafted, shying away from a lot of wrestling cliches and feeling fresh and original. EC3 accepted his loss to Bennett, claiming to not want to be like those who he had defeated during his undefeated streak, saying the loss would make him "absolute", before finishing off by recalling Bennett referring to himself as "God" earlier in the show, adding that if that was the case then EC3 would be his "Devil". Captivating stuff here, especially having EC3 saying it directly to Bennett inside the ring, which added a whole different dimension to proceedings. A rematch between the two is now much bigger and I can't wait to see what the pair do again. A quick stare-down with Lashley as EC3 exited kept their feud ticking over also.

A quality main event here, with Bennett, Lashley and Jeff Hardy all working hard to create a match that blended a number of on-going narratives and introduced some new ones. Strong pacing became the driving heart of the contest with "The Destroyer" and "The Miracle" forming an un-easy alliance early on, the built well towards a comeback from Hardy that would culminate in a Whisper in the Wind to the outside onto both opponents from "The Charismatic Enigma". Lashley would go on to Spear, Guest Referee, Drew Galloway after Bennett had managed to dodge, leading to a dramatic moment when Hardy was unable to secure the pin on "The Destroyer" after a Twist of Fate and Swantom Bomb. The idea of Hardy taking his frustration out on Bennett was a nice twist, with Hardy hitting a beautiful Swanton Bomb onto a set of steel steps on the outside of the ring, essentially eliminating Bennett from the match. The finish would see another appearance from The Decay, as they attacked Hardy, finishing with Abyss hitting a chokeslam onto the steps. It was something that I didn't see coming and the more I think about a feud between Hardy and the World Tag Team Champions, the more excited I get about it's potential. I liked that Lashley didn't just pin Hardy after the attack, with "The Destroyer" nailing a brilliant spear on Hardy after running up the steel steps and pushing "The Artist" back first into the ring-post. A strong finish to the show saw Lashley and Galloway have a bit of a scrap, after "The Destroyer" had attempted to get "The Captain" to raise his arm in victory. 

atpw scale rating - 5.54/10

The main event three way was the highlight of a fairly enjoyable two hours of television from TNA this week. Lashley becoming Number One Contender pushes him into an intriguing clash with Drew Galloway that has been coming for the last couple of weeks, being made even more personal due to Lashley's gym attack that opened the show. Mike Bennett kept the in-ring open going, even if I sort of feel that it was slightly unneeded piece of build towards the main event. Sienna's debut was the strongest part of the shows undercard, whilst the King of the Mountain ladder match was just as throwaway as the non-existent build would suggest, but still had it's moments. 

Not a bad episode of IMPACT Wrestling at all, with plenty to look forward to over the next couple of weeks also.

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