So after getting bogged down in various other things, I missed a number of episodes of IMPACT Wrestling las, so I thought instead of skipping those review's I'd go back and try to catch up as we head toward Bound For Glory.
This episode saw a rematch from last week's Destination X (#626) special, with Eddie Edwards and Lashley once again putting their respective titles on the line, this time inside a Steel cage. Also on the show the Bound For Glory Play-Off tournament began with the likes of Bram, Brother Nero and Ethan Carter III all vying for a World Heavyweight Championship shot on TNA's biggest night of the year. Would it be a recipe for a tasty wrestling show though?
A huge main event this week, as Lashley would simultaneously retain his World Heavyweight Championship and take Eddie Edwards' X Division belt in good TV cage match. As much as the match was almost all about Lashley becoming even more of an all-encompassing champion and making him look like an utter beast, it was a surprisingly entertaining watch. Lashley's got a rather different kind of charisma to most wrestlers that are labelled "charismatic" but when in control of the bout, taking his time to play with the Impact Zone crowd, it was difficult to take my eyes of him. This contrasted well with the in your face opening of Edwards hitting a stunning tope conhilo through the cage door. Both men's selling throughout and especially towards the end made it look like they'd both been in a real war with each, which, of course, not only makes the bout more interesting to watch on TV, but also puts each of their offence over, which is especially important for Edwards. Some of the near falls felt a bit gratuitous, like Lashley kicking out of Edwards' Boston Knee Party that caused the World title to crash in The Destroyers' face was a silly thing to kick-out of and hurts Edwards' more than it will help Lashley.
The finish was well done, as Lashley hit two spears in quick succession to get the pin, which in many ways does the opposite of the early near falls mentioned. Having Lashley not go for the pin after the first spear, suggests that he believes that Edwards could potentially kick out and therefore needs another. This boosts Edwards without having to have him actually kick out of Lashley's finish, whilst also making the now dual champion look a more cerebral competitor. What I didn't like was the brawl that would follow the match, with Drew Galloway, Ethan Carter III, Matt Hardy, Mike Bennett and Moose all filling the cage and scrapping in various formations (Note that Edwards was on the floor throughout all these shenanigans). Nothing wrong with what was done in-ring in particular, but the moment having the World Heavyweight Champion also become X-Division Champion should have been given time to to breath and allow the audience to truly grasp what had happened. It should have felt more special than it did.
The Bound for Glory Play-Offs began on this episode, with the biggest Quarter Final bout seeing Ethan Carter III advance after beating King of the Mountain Champion Eli Drake in a clunky encounter. Before the match could get underway however, both men would get some time on the microphone, with Drew Galloway also getting involved. The main bulk of this would be the continuation of the Galloway v EC3 feud that has been bubbling under for a while now, with both producing strong promos, that got over their sudden dislike for each other in a believable manner. Both men got cattier with each other as the promo went along, with Galloway in particular doing a lot of verbal flexing, mixing fact and fiction as he reminded EC3 that his job was because of (kayfabe) Aunt Dixie, whilst it was TNA that had come to Galloway. It was teased that the two would square of in the final of the BFG Play-Offs, before Drake would make his entrance popping the bubble in his own unique way.
Drake and EC3 had only faced off once before in singles action and whilst the match had a couple of cool ideas, the two didn't seem to gel particularly well and a number of their exchanges seemed to suffer from a pacing problem. The guys tried to do the best with their seven minutes, pulling out some big near falls, but for me the structure was a too much too soon situation. Drake's character work continues to impress me and the frustration that he showed at not being able to put EC3 away was played nicely and it's clear he's been impressing those within the company as well, as Galloway only picked up a flash roll-up victory. If the match had been a little smoother and with an extra five or six minutes, then it could have acted as a real springboard for Drake in the company, however I feel in this form it only gave him a little nudge.
The strongest match from the opening round of the BFG P-O was a big physical brawl that saw Drew Galloway advance over Bram. Brawling when done properly is one of my favourite styles, so seeing Galloway and Bram throw big blows at each other and scrapping around ringside with purpose was right up my ally. Two babyfaces and countrymen being happy to go at each other like this, lifts the tournament instantly, also doing wonders for the belt currently around Lashley's waist. In the middle of the melee, the pair put together a handful of intelligent sequences where they'd manage to wriggle out of each others finishers and get a near fall of their own. Galloway's Northern Lights Suplex out of Bram's Brighter Side of Suffering DDT was a notably well worked moment. Similar to the way EC3 v Drake was booked, but in my opinion executed much more successfully here, Galloway would win with a top rope variation of the Futureshock DDT, which not only looked great but also meant that Bram was elevated for the way The Captain put him away. The first time I've been properly impressed with Bram in the ring, Galloway brought out the best in him.
On paper, a two minute victory over Jeff Hardy or Brother Nero would be a huge win for Mike Bennett, however, of course, it didn't quite go down that way. Jeff's feud with brother Matt took the driving seat here, giving the match a unique narrative, that I feel you'll either love or hate, or maybe both at the same time. Basically, Matt had egged Jeff on to attempt the same dirt bike jump that broke his leg back in May 2015 and Jeff pretty quickly came flying off his bike, in a spectacular stunt. Of course, this would play into the bout, with Hardy not been able to do any of his offence, including crumpling to the mat trying to do an Irish whip. Jeff's selling was good enough to make the out there story just about work. Bennett made full use of the opportunity, looking like a twat as he ground down Hardy before hitting a Cutter for the win. The win will do a lot for Bennett in his current heel role, he has something to boast about, that will be a pretty hollow boast and hopefully get the fans backs up. The win would earn Bennett a match with Drew Galloway in the Semi-Final.
Before Lashley and Eddie Edwards would get in the Steel Cage for the main event, they were also involved in the opening segment, with Mike Bennett, Moose and Dixie Carter all participating also. The segment was to set-up a number of stiplation for later in the show, as Carter would ban Moose from ringside for Bennett's BFG P-O's. match with Jeff Hardy and decreed that if either Bennett or Moose interfered in the main event then Bennett would be fired. A nice bit of logic here, as without it it would've have been really weird for Bennett and Moose to interfere last week and not this week. The tease for a Lashley v Moose bout was continued, with the World Heavyweight Champion challenging Moose to a fight, only for Edwards to come flying down the ramp to take out Moose from behind. It didn't make a whole lot of sense for Lashley to be calling out Moose with a title match later in the night, but at least the brawl that would lead to the stipulations being added was an entertaining watch.
Completing our look at the 21st July card, we have Matt Hardy picking up a cheap victory over James Storm to advance to the Semi-Final of the BFG P-O's. I found a lot to like in this one, as Hardy's character continues to get even more bizarre, throwing headbutts early in the match and going to bite Storm at various points. He's completely re-invented his in-ring work to match up with his character development, which is more difficult than it sounds. Both going for their finishers early was a nice touch and those exchanges fuelled the rest of the bout as it got wilder as time went on, including Storm riding the Boozer Cruiser into Hardy's groin with the latter propped up on the steel steps and Storm leaping over the guardrail with the pair brawling in the crowd. Entertaining stuff here, Reby Hardy nailing The Cowboy in the ankle with a hammer when it seemed like Storm was about to seal the victory was a satisfying ending, that aided both men going forward. Hardy would be scheduled for a Semi-Final bout with his old rival, Ethan Carter III.
ATPW Scale Rating - 5.03/10
A decent episode here, with the main event presented a satisfying contest, alongside an intriguing piece of storyline advancement, even if the concluding brawl let down the action that the match had presented. The Bound for Glory Play-Off were a mix bag, as Bram and Drew Galloway presented a real satisfying brawl of a bout, however the highest profile match a clash between Ethan Carter III and King of the Mountain Champion Eli Drake didn't quite manage to connect. Still a mostly entertaining episode, that pushed forward some interesting narratives, as they begin to build towards 2nd October's supercard.
All content - James Marston