Aired - 11th August 2016
For the first time in four week's TNA aired IMPACT Wrestling live, as Brother Nero and Matt Hardy teamed up to face The Tribunal and Lashley put his World Heavyweight and X-Division Championships up against "The Cowboy" James Storm's King of the Mountain title, but would that produce a great hour and a quarter of television?
Matt Hardy and Brother Nero [Jeff Hardy] have been all over TNA's product for some time now and their storyline progressed as they teamed up to face The Tribunal (Baron Dax [Marcus Louis] and Basille Baraka [Tom LaRuffa]). Before the bout, there was a tremendously entertaining segment that began with Hardy calling out Nero, as well as planting a seed that he'd had a premonition that Tag Team Champions The Decay (Abyss, Crazzy Steve & Rosemary [Courtney Rush]). As with pretty much anything involving The Hardy Boyz in 2016, it was incredibly watchable and immensly quotable with Nero perhaps outshining Hardy's madness with lines like "Let's talk about last week, why did you bite a part of a man's face off?" and "If I'm a mule, you two [The Tribunal] are miniature donkies". The only let down was that we had to hear the Tribunal talk, with their act boiling down to telling they crowd that they smell and being French.
The match took on a similar style to that of Hardy & Nero's bout with Chuck Taylor and JT Dunn on #629, with Obsolete Mule doing most of the work, whilst Broken stayed on the outside, for the most part. The most interesting stuff though came on the outside, as Hardy appeared to hypnotise a fan to rip up his pro-Jeff Hardy sign and join him in screaming "Delete! Delete!". It was different, but not out of place from the rest of this bonkers feud. The first story development would see Hardy bite the fingers of The Tribunal's manager, Al Snow, before throwing Dax into the steel steps. We hadn't seen Hardy do anything to aid Nero the previous week, so it was cool to see this change, especially as Nero went on to pick up the win with a Twist of Fate on Baraka. The sinister conclusion as Nero seemed to snap, hitting Dax, Baraka and Snow with numerous Twist of Fates, before hitting a slingshot crossbody to Snow that would put him through a table. I became clear that Nero had joined his brother on the Broken side, as he through himself off the top rope through another table, in a what the fuck did I just watch moment. It's the logical direction for the story to take and with both brothers now Broken it opens up even more storyline possibilities.
Lashley's dominance continued as he ended "The Cowboy" James Storm's King of the Mountain title reign after just a week, in a bout that also had The Destroyer's World Heavyweight and X Division titles on the line! This was a good show-closer, that had a captive audience from the opening bell. The first spot of the match was a brilliant call back to Storm's 2011 World title win, as he nailed Lashley with a Last Call superkick, but unlike the victory over Kurt Angle, the referee, Brian Hebner, was too busy getting ring announcer, Jeremy Borash out of the ring, resulting in only a two count for Storm. The crowd were so into the moment and those that could remember back to 2011 were at the very least given a nostalgic buzz. It was a shame that it took two or three minutes before commentators Josh Matthews and "The Pope" D'Angelo Dinero made the connection between the two events, as an on-the-ball commentator would have upped the drama and made the moment even better.
Both men played their roles well, with Lashley beating the shit into Storm shortly after the start, controlling the bout whilst The Cowboy was a hot and fiery babyface getting a number of hope spots before hitting a lung blower and Eye of the Storm [Spinning crucifix cross] for a near fall. After this though, I feel like the last portion of the bout should have been booked a little tighter than it was, however if this is Storm's final match in TNA (which seems to be the case, as of writing) then having Lashley kick out of two further Last Call's is perhaps a little more understandable, as it gives The Dominator a further rub and makes him look even stronger than before. The finish, however, didn't do a whole lot for me, as Lashley no-selling a codebreaker and hitting a spear, made it even harder to suspend my disbelief, because this didn't make much sense at all. There were ways of putting over Lashley strong in the finish that would have been more effective. However, the match did benefit from not having the interference that has hampered a couple of TNA main events recently.
Lashley and James Storm had been out earlier on as well, in an opening segment that involved Ethan Carter III, "The Miracle" Mike Bennett, Moose and Eddie Edwards. For me, this segment was trying to do way too much at the same time and actually ended up achieving very little across the ten minutes. EC3's initial promo was uncharacteristically lacking direction, treading over ground about searching for perfection and being on a quest to be the best, whilst Lashley came out said he was the best and then Storm interrupted Lashley and chatted about poop whilst his microphone appeared to break. The segment would conclude with Lashley and Storm brawling up the entrance way, whilst EC3 would be jumped from behind by Bennett and Moose, with Edwards making the save, with a tag match being scheduled for later on.
The debut had been teased for week's and Aron Rex [Damien Sandow] finally made his debut in TNA as he came to the ring to cut a promo. I've got a lot of time for Rex on the microphone, but this speech did next to nothing for me. It was the kind of promo that we've seen numerous times from ex-WWE talents after they've been fired and headed out to TNA. I'm sure that dumb smarks were jerking off to it, because it was semi-shoot talking about how WWE never gave him the right opportunities and how he'd get those opportunities in TNA etc. The fact that the character started the promo by saying he wasn't going to talk about what he went on to talk about was very frustrating. The crowd weirdly chanted "You deserve it", which didn't help the situation. Josh Matthew's saying that it was "shoot" on commentary was just stupid. I'd have preferred Rex to have gone straight into a storyline and to have been debuted in a way that had actual significance or shock value, as this was way too pedestrian and didn't give me any reason to find out what Rex would be up to next.
The aforementioned Moose & Mike Bennett vs. Eddie Edwards & Ethan Carter III tag contest was a decent opening contest, that featured some cool spots, but could have done with a bit more time. The section which I'd have liked to have seen extended slightly was Bennett & Moose's heater, as Edwards could have done with having a longer time as the face in peril. It would've made more of the franky fantastic hot tag sequence that saw EC3 cleaning house, before both he and Edwards nailed suicide dives in stereo. The heroic duo played the moment perfectly, building towards the dives and making the moment feel special. Edwards would also later pull out a Frankensteiner on Bennett, for another highlight. The finish cleverly built up the fledgling Bennett and Moose unit, as after The Miracle had sent EC3 into the steel steps, Moose would nail Go to Hell (Sitout chokebomb to an opponent seated on a turnbuckle) on Edwards, with Bennett getting the pin. It showed what the two could do when on the same page, but also teased that they might not be on that page for all that long.
In the only women's action, Gail Kim's quest for a Knockout's Championship shot as she clashed with Marti Bell, in a bout that Maria Kanellis-Bennett had made a No DQ match. Kim and Bell showed potential with an early scrap, but the match quickly descended into an interference-laden affair as the MKB & Kim feud slapped the viewer hard in the face. The First Lady of Wrestling and her apprentice Allie [Cherry Bomb] were out at ringside almost instantly, whilst MKB would send Allie into the ring with Bell's knightstick after a few minutes also. Kim would even get the win after sending Allie and the knightstick into Bell. Despite a nasty looking blockbuster from Kim at one point, I'm pretty certain that if allowed to wrestle for more than two minutes that Kim and Bell would have been able to create some compelling action and used the No DQ gimmick to create some cool spots, with MKB already making the match No DQ then the idea of her putting Kim through hell to earn an opportunity would still have been present, whilst Bell would hardly have been hurt from losing clean to someone who will be inducted into TNA's Hall of Fame in October!
Best of the Rest
- Drew Galloway [Drew McIntyre] challenged Ethan Carter III to put his World Heavyweight Championship shot at Bound For Glory on the line against him, in a passion in-ring promo, that heigtened the rivalry between the pair as Galloway called EC3 a "snake in the grass".
ATPW Scale Rating - 5.22/10
This episode wasn't quite as good as the previous week's, but was still a step in the good direction, remaining the right side of average. That's thanks mostly to the show's top two matches, with Hardy & Nero v The Tribunal proving to be the best thing on the show, mainly because I'm in love with "Broken" Matt and the revelation of a "Broken" Nero should prove glorious, whilst Lashley v Storm also featured some good quality action. The only part from the undercard that I felt managed to come close to this level was the Edwards & EC3 v Moose & Bennett tag bout. If Galloway's promo had been a bit longer it would've bump up the score, as well.
It's a shame that the rest of the undercard didn't manage to match these standards, with the opening segment lacking clear direction, Rex's debut being the same old shit and the No DQ bout between Kim and Bell being a bit of a mess.
The next episode has got a four team Ladder match to decide the #1 Contenders to The Decay's Tag Team titles, so that's gonna be great, yah?
Words - James Marston
Banner - Kai Stellar