Aired - 4th August 2016
With less than two months until the biggest show of the year, Bound For Glory, Ethan Carter III and Mike Bennett battled in the final of the Bound for Glory Play-Offs for a shot at Lashley's World Heavyweight Championship and James Storm got a shot at Eli Drake's King of the Mountain title, but would TNA kick-off August in style?
With an opportunity to main event the biggest show of the year on the line, TRP's Mike Bennett and Ethan Carter III met in the Final of the Bound for Glory Play-Offs in a good main event. This was a match of two halves for me, with the first part seeing Bennett focus on EC3's injured ribs and the second part featuring interference from Bennett's muscle Moose and Eddie Edwards, as well as Maria Kanellis-Bennett. Both parts have their merits, with the first portion of course being my favourite with some great selling from EC3, especially when delivering moves during the shed-load of hope spots he had, but I have to say that I would've preferred that the two had been meshed together a bit better without feeling like two different bouts. Bennett's near falls towards the end of the match would have been stronger if they'd have involved the injured ribs in some way or another.
The BFG Play-Offs have been somewhat marred by the high amount of interference, meaning that whilst the match have been fairly entertaining, that no one in particular has been able to stand out or really make the tournament their own. Bennett had previously beaten a Brother Nero who could barely walk and Drew Galloway [Drew McIntyre] after accidental interference from EC3 and out of the two men in the final he was the man who could've benefited the most from a strong showing in the earlier round. EC3 has had four shots at the belt on TV this year already, whilst The Miracle is yet to fight for TNA's main prize. Yes, Bennett is a heel and part of that is getting cheap victories, but there's a different a cheap victory and a lucky victory. Taken in isolation I don't think the overbooking would have bothered me as much as it did produce a number of strong false finishes, one coming off EC3 ducking a singapore cane shot and hitting a One Percenter [Headlock Driver] and another coming from a cane shot and MIP [Samoa Driver] from Bennett. However, in the context of the tournament, I feel that the bout and the entire tournament in general could have been booked a lot cleverer and done more to help the likes of Bennett, Bram and Eli Drake all of whom had yet to hold TNA's top prize.
In the semi-main, "The Cowboy" James Storm ended Championship Wrestling From Hollywood's Eli Drake's [Shaun Ricker] two month run with the King of the Mountain title in good short bout, that had a number of strong near falls. The action wasn't always the smoothest, but the contest was full of bright ideas like Drake jumping to the top rope to meet Storm for a superplex, that although they could have been performed crisp, were still impressive. There was a good sense of the tension between the two, as they scrapped on the outside before the match, whilst both men bought some fire to their performances throughout. The final stretch called back to their previous encounters on screen with Drake taking a sip of The Cowboy's beer, spitting it indirectly into the referee's eyes, meaning that a school-boy roll-up from Storm was missed by the ref. Moments later Drake nailed a belt shot which made for smashing false finish. It could have gone longer, but Drake and Storm did a good job with the time allocated in what has to be one of the strongest bouts of the King of the Mountain Championships tumultuous history.
Following the match, there was a segment that arguably should have been held off til the next episode, in which World Heavyweight & X Division Champion Lashley would head to the ring to challenge Storm for a future title for titles bout down the line. The Destroyer isn't the best talker, but can usually do a job with the right material, however the material wasn't great here. He spent most of his time critcising WWE for sending football teams title belts, which seemed like an odd thing to talk about, because I don't remember anyone having much of an opinion on that practice in the first place. It placed the attention on an entirely different company rather than building an upcoming Lashley v Storm bout. Luckily, Storm was on blinding form on the microphone, building a story for the contest on his own, talking about not having a World title shot for years, as well as bringing up his first title win over Kurt Angle in 2011, as he went on to accept the challenge.
The Hardy saga continued this week as "Broken" Matt Hardy revealed his desire to win the tag titles to Brother Nero [Jeff Hardy] and their road to the belts, currently in the possession of The Decay [Abyss & Crazzy Steve] began. After the promos full of the eccentricities that have made the Broken character such a fun character to watch, Hardy would introduce CHIKARA's Chuck Taylor and Beyond's JT Dunn as Nero's opponent in what was essentially a handicap contest, with instruction that The Obsolete Mule was banned from hitting anything from the top rope. The match got overshadowed somewhat by Hardy's action at ringside as he assaulted a planted fan, pulling him over the guard and biting his face, leaving his mouth covered in blood. It was weird moment, but it certainly made me sit up and take notice. Hardy would eventually take the pin after spending the entire match on the outside, in what became a very silly, yet thoroughly entertaining contest.
The show had begun with a segment involving the two men who would battle in the main event, as Ethan Carter III and Mike Bennett took part in an interview with Jeremy Borash. This was mainly put together to add the storyline element to the main event, as Bennett and Moose would eventually assault EC3, where Moose would end up hitting his Go to Hell [Sitout chokebomb to an opponent seated on the top turnbuckle] on EC3. The lead to this featured two strong promos from both men, who fit very well together as characters, with EC3 able to mix some comedy in whilst still getting across his dislike for The Miracle and Bennett always managing to get under the crowd's skin with his attitude. The interaction added an extra layer to the main event, whilst also getting across both men's motivation for the bout clear.
Gail Kim continued to build her case for a shot at the Knockout's Championship with a victory over the Champion SHINE's Sienna [Allysin Kay] and SHIMMER's Allie [Cherry Bomb] in a handicap bout. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this encounter, as when Maria Kanellis-Bennett announced it I let out a little groan. There were elements of it that I didn't quite warm to, which were mainly the supposedly comedic efforts from Allie based around her being unable to do simple moves like a body slam, however I can see why someone else might have found them funny. What I did like however was the way the story of the bout played out, with the Sienna and Allie odd-ball team, hinging on Sienna's reactions to Allie's outright annoying behaviour. With Sienna reluctant to do any more than the minimum work, this created an interesting story, with Kim doing a stellar job as the underdog babyface. The finish worked well with Kim managing to dodge The Silencer [Running low-angle shoulder block] from AK47, leading to Allie taking the brunt of the move and Kim continuing on her run to earning a shot at the title she lost in April.
If two handicap matches (Yeah, I'm counting the Hardy Boyz v Taylor & Dunn as a handicap match, because that's what it was) weren't enough for ya, TNA wasn't gonna let you down as Al Snow teamed with duo The Tribunal (WWE's Baron Dax [Marcus Louis] & Basille Baracca [Tom LaRuffa]) to face ICW's Grado and Mahabali Shera. This was a basic contest, that mainly hang on Shera's ability to make a babyface comeback and Dax & Baracca's ability to control the match and cut off the ring. Unfortunately, both weren't done particularly well, with Shera's comeback mainly consisting of scoop slams and no-selling and The Tribunal's heat segment seeing them constantly whip Grado into the side of the ring nearest Shera. A section where Grado and Shera hit some double team moves, including Shera throwing Grado into the Roll n' Slice cannonball, was the highlight of the contest. The finish was a bit of a weird one with Shera blocking a brass knux punch from Snow and hitting his Sky High sitout spinebuster for the victory.
Best of the Rest
- Rosemary continued to tell Bram about her childhood in a delipated barn, she told him her boyfriend touched her up there and because like Nia Jax she's not like most girls, she kicked off and went dead dark and shit. Bram told her to get over it, so World Tag Team Champions The Decay (Abyss & Crazzy Steve) turned up and apparently killed him.
ATPW Scale Rating - 5.56/10
I've noticed that this review can probably come across as a bit negative, but I honestly rather enjoyed this episode of IMPACT Wrestling. The two headline bouts were good matches and also had accompanying segments that either set them up the bout or took the storyline in a different direction. Outside of this was an entertaining development in the Hardy saga, including an appearance from one of my favourite indy performers Chuck Taylor.
The handicap bouts could have been spread out a little, but the only match that I actively disliked was the Grado & Shera v Snow & The Tribunal situation, which failed to capture my attention.
This was the best episode of IMPACT Wrestling since #626 Destination X, as TNA continues to put out a mostly above average to good television product. With the next episode once again featuring two high profile matches, as Matt Hardy & Brother Nero team up to face The Tribunal and James Storm puts his King of the Mountain Championship on the line against Lashley's World Heavyweight and X Division belts, I'd expect that episode to reach similar levels.
Words - James Marston
Banner - Kai Stellar