The catch-up on IMPACT Wrestling reviews continues!
This episode featured the Semi-Finals of the Bound for Glory Play-Offs, an X Division title Ladder match and a Monster's Ball clash for the Tag Team titles. With The Decay, Gail Kim and the debuting David Starr in action, this was going to great, right?
The headline encounter featured Ethan Carter III and "Broken" Matt Hardy battling for a spot in the Bound for Glory Play-Off Final. Before the action got underway, there was a promo segment that initially began with Hardy berating Brother Nero, before EC3 would interrupt. The Universal Studios crowd seems to absolutely adore EC3 and he gave another strong performance on the mic, with an entertaining run-down of a number of "Broken" tropes, whilst also helping to add towards the Hardy v Nero feud that has been rumbling along for some time now. It was a nice reminder of the EC3 and Hardy feud from earlier in the year that brought a little extra spice to the match that directly followed it.
EC3 and Hardy put on a good main event, with a story driven by The Ass-Kicking Machine (kayfabe) injuring his ankle off a missile dropkick, including Hardy removing EC3's boot to further go after the injury. Hardy has unquestionably reenvigorated his character over the past six months and that allowed him to wrestle a visually different style to pretty much anyone on TV at the moment, utilising mainly headbutts and biting to keep control of the match. In a business where everything has been done, anything that's remotely divergent from the norm, instantly draws you in and that's exactly what Hardy's got going on right now. For my tastes the finish was a little over-booked with Reby Hardy sliding a hammer to Nero, before Nero slid it across the ring in-between Hardy & EC3, with the ref removing the hammer from Hardy's grasp, EC3 would pick up the win after nailing Hardy with the boot that had been removed earlier. Anything that take such a long winded explanation is too much for me, but it did advance that Hardy-Nero feud, whilst bringing the previously removed boot back into the match was a neat piece of storytelling also.
The second semi-final involved "The Miracle" Mike Bennett and Drew Galloway and despite some nice ideas, ended up becoming even more over-booked than the main event. Moose, EC3 and Maria Kanellis-Bennett would all end up getting involved in a bout that went just over 7 minutes in an example of trying to do too much at the same time. The one thing that came out here looking good was Moose, who looked like a true destructive force, taking out Galloway on his entrance, later for a near fall and then EC3 after being sent into the steel steps himself. EC3 clobbering Galloway by mistake has been done to death in this feud alone and didn't have much impact at all, especially compared to the other times we've seen this happen. Bennett's heel character is building especially with Moose now at his side, but I'm still waiting for him to have a breakout match in the company.
Lashley's X Division title defense against DJ Z was a bit unexpected and in another case of hot shot booking in TNA was made a Ladder match also. Personally, I'd have preferred to see a singles bout before the two, before a arrogant Lashley gave Z the opportunity to choose the match type as we got here. This was arguably the strongest match on the show though, telling a decent power v speed type story, whilst throwing in a number of impressive spots that lifted the excitement. Z took his opportunity towards the top of the card and owned it pulling out a series high spots including a senton off the announce table and a big crossbody of the top of the ladder to the floor! He also ended up taking a ridiculous gorilla press bump off the top of the ladder for the finish. Even if it was Z who really made this bout tick, it's Lashley's dominance that continues!
James Storm guested on an entertaining edition of King of the Mountain Champion Eli Drake's Fact of Life talk show, with a future title bout between the two being scheduled. Both threw around sophomoric insults about shagging mothers and southern redneck incest and such, whilst Drake also teased a potential showdown with Lashley at a latter date. Drake continues to improve on the microphone managing to be incredibly watchable, whilst making you want to see someone kick his teeth in Row Z at the same time and this was no different. The segment concluded with Drake standing over his rival, after coming out on top in a scrap, ending things with Blaunt Force Trauma, before repeatedly shouting his popular catchphrase "Dummy Yeah" into Storm's knocked out ears (as seen above, Dummy (yeah))
Similar to the X Division title Ladder match, the tag team title bout seemed to blindside me and then it was like "Oh we're having a Monster's Ball match, okay. Cool." In another similarity, The Decay's Abyss & Crazzy Steve defending against The Bro-Mans' Jessie Godderz & Robbie E was a compact but brutal match. Straight out of the gates with the big moments, this was a very good spot-fest, that saw barbed wire boards and thumbs tacks get introduced within the first two minutes! With a genuinely believable near fall, after E & Godderz got on a roll and Mr. Pec-tacular got The Adonis Crab locked in on Steve, who spent a long time in the hold and two big bumps from both Bro-Mans en route to The Decay retaining the belts, this was an exhilarating sprint between two teams whose stock have been continuously raising as 2016 goes on.
ROH's Moose had his in-ring debut for TNA opposite CZW's David Starr, also making his debut. This was a straight-forward squash match, in which the former American football player looked like a beast. Whilst it was a positive debut for Moose, it was a shame that the talented Starr wasn't allowed much of an opportunity to show off what he could do for the company. Following the bout, Moose would have a confrontation with World Heavyweight and X Division Champion Lashley, whilst Mike Bennett built up the potential of a match between the two, before quickly denying the live crowd of that possibility. Lashley throwing some bitchy lines towards his younger rival, with Bennett having to hold Moose back from a fight was a different piece of booking that continued to blur the lines between heel and face for everyone but Bennett. Just like the Lashley v EC3 feud and latter the EC3 v Galloway feud, Moose v Lashley seems like something that TNA is going keep teasing, continue to make people want to see the match more and more before it's ready to deliver.
The only women's match on the card saw Gail Kim begin her run towards a Knockout's Championship shot with a victory over Madison Rayne in a match that happened. Every move was performed well enough, but there was no feel of urgency and the purpose of the match was never put over clearly enough by either the performers or the commentary team. Considering Rayne had turned heel on Kim just a week previously, she didn't do act that of a heel, until arguing with referee Earl Hebner in the finish. Things weren't helped by Josh Matthews at the announce desk who continues to be cringe-worthy listen throughout and even more so when his wife, Rayne, is in the ring!
ATPW Scale Rating - 4.88/10
A slight dip in quality from last week's episode here, in which the two Bound for Glory Play-Off Semi-Finals both failed to deliver on their promise. The bouts that became the best of the show came completely unannounced on the show as Lashley v DJ Z in a Ladder match and The Decay v The Bro-Mans in Monster's Ball, both delivered in all their random, spot-based glory. The weak women's bout, a squash match for Moose and the over-booked Bennett v Galloway contest dragged the score below an average five for IMPACT Wrestling #628.
All content - James Marston