I ripped into last week's IMPACT Wrestling, which apart from a stellar main event between Lashley and Drew Galloway, was a piss poor TV show. Could the show recover and start the summer with a bang?
There was a lot going on this week with some major storyline twists and turns, but I'll begin by talking about the lengthy segment that would see Billy Corgan recommend TNA President Dixie Carter take a week off and Mike Bennett win the X Division title from Eddie Edwards. The first portion of the segment is a hard one to review, because so much of it hangs on where the storyline is going over the next few weeks. It was however an improvement on last week's segment, that would lead to Carter slapping Maria Kanellis-Bennett, as I thought both MKB and Bennett where on really strong form from the beginning, bringing an intensity to proceedings that managed to drive the segment. I'm also finding myself beginning to warm towards Billy Corgan's character, as he's slotted into a tweener role that hasn't been seen enough in the authority figure sphere lately, obviously this could change. I'm slightly worried that we're heading towards a power struggle angle, which I wouldn't be too interested in, but overall I thought everyone played their roles well here, even the ever so hammy Carter.
Personally, I feel that parts of this segment could have been split over two weeks at least. As Bennett asked Corgan for an X Division title shot (because apparently Destination X is "just around the corner) with Corgan rambling a bit before giving it him straight away. Bennett and Eddie Edwards had previously squared off in Ring of Honor and North East Wrestling and I think that showed here as the pair went through a series of enjoyable action, and looked comfortable throughout. The narrative of Bennett trying to show that he could wrestle the "X-Division style" was a bit corny, but wasn't overplayed so therefore just about managed to work here, with Edwards using his pace to make a comeback rounding off things well. Bennett nicking a win by holding onto MKB at ringside to gain leverage on a pin was a fine finish that topped a pacy closing sequence well. Marking his first championship since dropping the ROH World Tag belt in December last year, I'm looking forward to seeing what Bennett can bring as the head of the division and looking forward an increased focus on the division heading into the Destination X special.
The show would begin with a belting on-mic showdown between Drew Galloway and Ethan Carter III. The two went at it hammer and tongues as Galloway accused EC3 of costing him the TNA World Heavyweight Championship in last week's main event. Both men brought a great energy here, seeming to bounce off each other, continually driving each other to produce better and better performances. The scripting was top notch as the two babyfaces threw barbs and made the World Heavyweight title look important at the same time. The interruption from Lashley that followed did take a bit of the sting out of things however, with a questionable piece of booking as Lashley gave both men an opportunity to win a title shot at the same time, rather than simply fighting each other. I struggled to understand the logic behind Lashley's decision as he also offered Eli Drake an title shot if he could help him beat Galloway and EC3. I think the choice of match would have felt much more logical had it been made by a separate authority figure, perhaps Carter or Corgan.
The tag clash would follow up straight away and although I'd have liked to have seen the story given a bit more breathing room, this was a more than solid opening contest for the show. I was really into the first portion of the bout, with Lashley and Drake finding a nice groove for their team, playing up their roles as they use many an underhanded tactics to keep in control of EC3. I'm a sucker for the spot where a hot tag is cut off by an opponent pulling the hot tagee off the apron, so got a big kick out of it being used here. The closing few minutes ended up being a bit scrappy, with a lot of different elements trying to be threaded through just a few minutes of action, with Lashley's awkward bump off a TKO from EC3 adding to this. Galloway would pick up the pinfall on Drake (after a One Percenter (Headlock Driver) from EC3) with Dixie Carter later informing Lashley that he'd face both "The Captain" and "The Ass Kicking Machine" on next week's episode.
The Hardy Boyz feud would come to an end in the show-closing Six Sides of Steel bout, that probably needs to be seen to be fully believed. Anyone who's caught any of the feud between Matt and Jeff will know by know that's been utter ridiculous throughout, straddling the line between bizarrely genius and just straight up bizarre and of course, the final chapter would be no different. The match was an all-action affair, with Jeff filling the ring with Tables, Ladders and Chairs before the match, leading to more than a few weapon shots here. If WWE calls their TLC PPV, wrestling's "Demolition Derby" then the final spot here may have been the true embodiment of that term as Jeff scaled a ladder on top of turnbuckle (slightly higher that cage) before leaping off, putting himself through a table, that itself was placed another table, with Matt lying on it, covered in a steel chairs. It looked like Jeff may have slightly miscalculated his jump as he seemed to come down on shoulder or side of his head in process of taking out his brother. Was this match any good? I couldn't tell you. Was this match entertaining? Hell yes.
After a quick jaunt over to AAA in Mexico, Rockstar Spud returned to in ring action with TNA after coming out and forcefully replacing Balam (better known as Lince Dorada in FIP and WWN, and a competitor in the upcoming WWE Cruiserweight Class) in a match with Braxton Sutter. Spud cut an enjoyable promo as he dismissed Balam and complained about all the attention that Sutter had been getting as of late. The resulting match was a little on the short side, as Sutter ended up pinning Spud in under three minutes. It did make Sutter look very good in there, but seeing as TNA are continuing with a Spud/Sutter feud (Spud would attack Sutter after the bout), I feel like a few more minutes here would have benefited the pair going forward.
In the Knockouts Division this week, Jade and Marti Bell collided in well put together grudge match. Jade looked like a real bad ass here, as she continued to grow into her babyface role by dominated Jade throughout the match. There was a palpable sense of her dislike for her former Doll House stable mate and this drove the match as Jade refused to let Bell get hardly any offence in, as well as hitting a brutal looking Electric Chair Facebuster onto the apron from the outside of the ring. Bell's metal baton played a big part in the match, with referee Earl Hebner having to discourage Jade from using it, before Bell would profit from nailing Jade in the head as she attempted a suicide dive, in a nice piece of storytelling. Perhaps the bout could have done with a few more minutes, but this was still an enjoyable slice of action, that saw both women put in strong performances in their respective roles and advance their rivalry nicely.
Lastly, this week's show saw a new storyline created as World Tag Team Champions The Decay would first offer Bram a slot in their group, before attacking the former King of the Mountain Champion when he declined their offer. The segment was carried by Rosemary, who did the majority of the talking, with more than a bit of a sexual undercurrent, in order to convince Bram of why he should join, with some solid reasoning that harked back to his past in the promotion. I thought Bram did a decent job here, as he tries to find his feet after his face turn. Depending on where this goes over the next few weeks, it has the potential to really make Bram as an upper level face talent for the company, although it will even more important to keep The Decay group looking strong.
ATPW Scale Rating - 5.94/10
This was the best episode of IMPACT Wrestling I've seen this year. A complete turn around from last week's episode as I found something to enjoy in each and every segment, and beyond that there was some brilliant work from guys like Drew Galloway, Ethan Carter III and Mike Bennett. The storyline advancement was spot on in most places with even feuds lower down the card getting some much needed attention, which brought a lovely depth to the show. The Hardy Boyz steel cage bout was completely bonkers, but I'd still be happy to call it the best match on the show for it's sheer entertainment value.
I'm hoping to see a higher level of consistency over the rest of the summer from TNA, with more shows like this and less like the week before!