Let's be honest, the first seven episodes of iMPACT have hardly been a tour de force of wrestling. There's been some good matches here and there, but on the whole things haven't been great, especially when looking at Jeff Jarrett's NWA World Heavyweight title reigns' coverage on the show. So with even more enhancement matches this week and Jarrett in action in the main event...this was going to great, yeah?
What an utter treat on 23rd July 2004's iMPACT as Jeff Jarrett defeated Shark Boy [The Stroke] in the NWA World Heavyweight Champion's debut on the show. This was actual a much more entertaining bout than I was expecting with Boy getting in a surprising amount of offence in against the top heel in the company, pulling out a couple of missile dropkicks. Boy also works as a perfect whipping boy for Jarrett earlier on, willingly bumping around the iMPACT Zone, as they brawl in the audience. A nasty slam on the steps and a couple of chairs shots, whilst the commentators are putting it over as Jarrett sending a message to potential challengers Monty Brown and Jeff Hardy, made for a entertaining brawl. It was a shame however that the referee had actually called for the bell before all this, because of course, everything Jarrett was doing should have resulted in disqualification. The show would conclude with Hardy making the save for Boy, only for Brown to deliver a Pounce and stare down with Jarrett as the episode went off the air.
In tag team action, "The Monster" Abyss and "The Baby Bear" Alex Shelley would overcome Team Mexico's Abismo Negro and Mr. Aguila [Double Stomp to back of the head, Shelley to Aguila] in a fun match with a shoddy ending. The finish was a real shambles, as Abyss would get pissed off with Shelley for pinning Aguila, because "The Monster" had been about to pin Negro, clearly forgetting that only the legal man should be able to get the pin and that the legal man was Shelley. Either Abyss was supposed to look stupid or the booker decided that this rule that the audience was stupid and wouldn't recognise. It was a real shame that the match would end this way, as after a bit of a shit start, things began to turn the corner with Shelley pulling out a sweet head-scissor takedown on Aguila using Negro's shoulders, Negro hitting a dropkick to knock Shelley off the top and too the outside and Aguila would handspring off the rope and straight into a Shock Treatment backbreaker from Abyss.
Team Canada's Bobby Roode, Eric Young, Johnny Devine & Petey Williams conquered a make-shift X Division team including Chris Sabin, Mikey Batts, Sonjay Dutt and The Amazing Red in a pleasing but brief eight man tag bout. As seems to be the way with these multi-man X Division style bouts, there were a couple of guys that shone brighter than others. For me that was Bobby Roode in Team Canada and Chris Sabin on the babyface side. Both men looked extremely crisp on the offence pulling out some nifty moves, including a butterfly suplex from Roode, whilst Sabin hit brilliant three person version of his enziguiri/DDT combo, before nailing stereo tope conhilo's with Red. The finish would nicely build throughout the match, with everyone but Batts on the outside, before he'd be corner by Roode and Williams for a spectacular, yet heely finish. These guys deserved more time to fully showcase what the four could do together, as what they did in five minutes was easily the best match on the show.
X Division Champion AJ Styles collected a quick win over Jerrelle Clark with a lovely double underhook transition into the Styles Clash, he'd have a stare down with Kazarian and Michael Shane after the match. Raven dominated (Kid) Romeo, slamming him into barricade with three Russian leg sweeps and finishing him off with a Raven Effect DDT, before having a brief pull-apart brawl with Sabu. Another squash match for "The Alpha Male" Monty Brown this week as well, as he destroyed Antonio Banks (Montel Vontavious Porter) in minutes with the Pounce!
Singles Match: X Division Champion "The Phenomenal" AJ Styles def. Jerrelle Clark
Tag Team Match: "The Monster" Abyss & "The Baby Bear" Alex Shelley (with Goldylocks) def. Team Mexico - Abismo Negro & Mr. Aguila
Singles Match: "The Alpha Male" def. Antonio Banks
Eight Man Tag Team Match: Team Canada - Bobby Roode, Eric Young, Johnny Devine & Petey Williams (with Scott D'Amore) def. Chris Sabin, Mikey Batts, Sonjay Dutt & The Amazing Red
Singles Match: Raven def. Romeo
Singles Match: Raven def. Romeo
Singles Match: NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Jarrett (with The Elite Guard - Collyer, Hernandez & Onyx) def. Shark Boy
ATPW Scale Rating - 4.67/10
Whilst the amount of squash matches is worrying, this was the strongest episode of iMPACT since the original, thanks to three solid matches. Nothing particularly spectacular, with the eight man tag being the strongest bout of the show, but unlike previous episodes there hasn't been anything to majorly drag things down. The booking of the main event scene has begun to improve and this has definitely been a big problem for the company thus far. With Jeff Hardy being positioned as a challenger for Jeff Jarrett and whilst Monty Brown is hardly a favourite of ours, he's at least been built up very well by the company for a similar role.
As we move closer towards the end of the weekly PPV's, I've a feeling we'll see the quality of these shows begin to increase. At least that's what I'm hoping!
Written content by James Marston. Additional content by David Marston.