TNA wrestler Jeff Hardy made his return to OMEGA Championship Wrestling this past weekend. He did so under the guise of former gimmick, Willow the Wisp. In this brief appearance, he saved his brother Matt Hardy and close friend Shane Helms from a post-match beatdown by ECW Alum, C.W. Anderson. Find highlights of the event attached below!
TNA wrestler Jeff Hardy made his return to OMEGA Championship Wrestling this past weekend. He did so under the guise of former gimmick, Willow the Wisp. In this brief appearance, he saved his brother Matt Hardy and close friend Shane Helms from a post-match beatdown by ECW Alum, C.W. Anderson. Find highlights of the event attached below!
Despite reports of Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan re-signing with TNA (after a low-ball offer from WWE), both sides have confirmed that no new deal has been struck, rendering him a free agent.
Last week, TNA had begun running advertisements for Sunday's Bound for Glory pay-per-view, prominently featuring Hogan. However, the company has since pulled any such ads and is moving forward under the impression the Hulkster will not be making an appearance.
Clem's Take: While it's unfortunate to lose such a high profile "talent" days before their biggest pay-per-view of the year (if only from a marketing aspect), recent history indicates Hogan's absence will make no difference to the final buyrate. With TV and PPV revenue falling, I'd actively campaign AGAINST spending so much money on a complete non-factor. If he can't pop a rating by showing up on Impact, people aren't likely to want to pay for the privilege. TNA have dodged a bullet, this week at least.
Less than a year after leaving the Impact Zone, rumour has it that TNA are considering taking Impact Wrestling off the road once again, returning to a single location for all future tapings.
Several venues have been mooted. Most notably, returns to either Orlando's Universal Studios or the Nashville Fairgrounds. The one new locale mentioned was Las Vegas, but this has been widely discredited due to the elevated costs of operating and the company's obvious disappointment at the attendance figures drawn earlier this year.
It is claimed they plan to put this new cost-cutting measure into effect by early 2014 at the latest. Most likely to coincide with the impending UK tour, which allows them to tape an entire month's worth of programming inside of a single week.
Clem's Take: There's no good way to spin this move. Professional wrestling has traditionally been a touring industry and in six short months, TNA have proved themselves unable to sustain such a schedule. Based on their recent circumstances (mass releases, late pay, poor attendance), they have little choice but to concede. Rather than look at the negative aspects though, I look forward to the return of a stabilised company, one which doesn't have rumours of near bankruptcy surrounding it on a daily basis. I know the vast majority of fans would loathe a return to the Impact Zone, but that fact of the matter is it provided the company with a firm foundation for eight years and could easily do so again. It could be looked upon as a cowardly move, but I prefer to look at it as a tactical retreat. They may lose the battle, but they'll still be in the war.
The Wrestling Observer is reporting that TNA's annual Slammiversary pay-per-view brought in 13,500 buys, a number 7% down from the previous year.
The show was headlined by 'The Icon' Sting challenging Bully Ray for the World Heavyweight Championship. Sting was ultimately defeated through outside interference and lost the opportunity to wrestle for the title in the future.
Clem's Take: It appears as if the plan to reduce the number of pay-per-views and raise their importance hasn't quite taken hold (yet). All three "major" shows so far (Genesis, Lockdown and Slammiversary) have yielded much the same results as their 2012 predecessors, if not less. It'd be interesting to see if the One Night Only specials are pulling in similar numbers to the monthly pay-per-views they replaced. I suspect the company will be paying very close attention to how October's Bound for Glory performs and plan their 2014 strategy accordingly. If they are showing no discernible gain by the end of the year, I wouldn't be surprised to see them return to the original monthly structure. With the recent usage of Destination X and Hardcore Justice as special editions of Impact Wrestling, that eventuality may be closer than we know.
After a troubled few weeks for TNA Wrestling, President Dixie Carter has released a statement via ImpactWrestling.com addressing any concerns for the company's well-being.
In the 11+ years that I have been with TNA, I am still amazed by the passion of pro wrestling fans. That passion – both positive and negative – is remarkable and something that all of us at TNA values.
With that said, I asked for questions from you like I have done many times in the past, but I didn’t provide a timeframe by which I would answer you. I know I have frustrated you all, and I apologize. Beginning next week, each Thursday, I will answer legitimate questions from you on a weekly basis. I will not, however, address outrageous or hurtful questions/posts.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to provide perspective from inside TNA – where we stand and where, with support from our current and future fans around the globe, we are going. What is being shared with you now is what was shared with the IMPACT roster before our phenomenal Destination X show from Louisville, KY last week.
This has been a big year for TNA. We took IMPACT LIVE on the road, exactly where it needs to be – where you’ve asked us to be – in your backyard. We also changed our Pay-Per-View schedule, shifting from 12 to four live Pay-Per-View events each year, in order to increase the value of these events for you. To grow TNA, these are moves that needed to be made. And, part of changes like this, includes structural changes within TNA to align with this new business model.
Many of your comments and questions reference our recent roster changes. The relationship that fans have with wrestlers is unique and one of the many great aspects of the wrestling business. And, for this reason, releasing talent is never easy – not for you and not for us. But, bringing in fresh faces and the best wrestling talent in the world is what you expect, and what TNA will always strive to deliver. Recently, we have brought back some talent favorites (Sonjay Dutt, Petey Williams and Homicide), and you will continue to see this and new talent that we are excited to introduce you to in the coming months.
TNA has always been, and will continue to be, a place where you can interact with the superstars, whether in person at a live show or via social channels, like Twitter and Facebook. We are constantly exploring new and interesting ways to take this interaction to another level, and you will see this unfold in the coming months. I appreciate each of you taking the time to share your thoughts, opinions and ideas. Your input and feedback helps us create a better product. I hope you will join us when IMPACT LIVE comes to your area.
Clem's Take: She makes a lot of valid points, ones that deserve paying attention to. Having seen Dixie's Twitter stream since she asked fans for questions, I've been downright disgusted at the bile some people have thrown in her direction. She's spending her own hard earned money to give us a show and this is the gratitude we have for her? Show some respect. If not for the business woman, the person. Even with all it's flaws, TNA is the closest we have to a viable alternative to WWE, who would otherwise hold a monopoly on Professional Wrestling. I, for one, am grateful for the choice she gives us every week.
Tonight at TNA's Destination X, the company will be debuting a new look X Division Title belt.
President Dixie Carter revealed on Twitter "Huge showcase for #XDivision tonight on #ImpactLIVE. We'll unveil a new X Title Belt! Follow me for a 1st look before the show @SpikeTV 8 ET"
The former design was surrendered to General Manager Hulk Hogan at the close of last week's Impact Wrestling, with outgoing champion Chris Sabin cashing in his title for a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship.
The new design will debut as X Division stars, past and present, battle it out in a tournament to crown the new champion.
Clem's Take: I don't really see the point in creating a new title belt at this time. The current X Division Championship is a wonderful design and has the legacy of the past decade behind it. If any belt needed a new design, it's the Television Championship. Not knowing if that division is still active, I guess TNA's attention has turned to the next best thing.
UPDATE: The new X Division Championship belt
Over the course of the past several days, TNA Wrestling have continued their company restructuring and released several notable talents.
Tara, a five-time Knockouts Champion and one-time Knockouts Tag Team Champion, was released from her contract yesterday on 16th July 2013. After a brief hiatus from TNA programming for the past several months, Tara reappeared two weeks ago managing Jessie Godderz and Robbie E. Her final singles match was a losing effort against ODB on a recent episode of Xplosion.
Drew Hankinson aka D.O.C., a long-time member of the Aces & Eights faction, revealed yesterday that TNA had allowed his contract to expire on 12th July 2013, with no intention of renewal. Hankinson was one of the first members of the heel faction to be revealed and had anchored the group for over a year. On a recent episode of Impact Wrestling, there appeared to be dissension among the group, as Hankinson refused to eliminate himself from a Battle Royal to determine which member of Aces & Eights took a spot in the Bound for Glory Series.
Bruce Prichard, the Head of Programming and Talent Relations, was among those asked to restructure their deal in the wake of company changes, however, rather than accept the new deal, Prichard declined and is believed to be on his way out. Prichard had also long been a member of the Gut Check Challenge judging panel, often offering the most unpopular decision of the three.
Clem's Take - These roster cuts are beginning to look like a massacre. TNA have basically eliminated their entire undercard with these wholesale changes and compromised several angles/divisions in the process.
Tara, while I'm sure Jessie can manage coming down to the ring on his own from now on, was a vital piece of the Knockout puzzle for the longest time. The recent 'State of the Knockouts' segment on Impact revealed the severely depleted roster, made up entirely of Mickie, Velvet, Taryn and Gail. Only four women wrestling and they choose to release a touchstone of the division? However, I do expect to see her back sooner or later. It wasn't that long ago that Tara was released the last time, only to reappear as Madison Rayne's mysterious biker bodyguard.
Hankinson is another cut that genuinely takes me by surprise. Not because he's that big a part of TNA programming, but simply because of his affiliation with Aces & Eights. The faction are in a heated feud with the resurrected Main Event Mafia and this is the worst possible time to be seen losing a member. At the very least, they should've played up his arguments with Mr Anderson for several weeks, before finally ejecting him from the group. Frankly, if TNA are looking at members of Aces & Eights to release, Wes Brisco, Garret Bischoff and Mike Knox would've appeared on my radar well before Hankinson.
Prichard is probably the biggest surprise in the bunch, even if he is the least well-known as an on-air personality. Being such an important member of TNA upper management, losing that cog in the machine could cost the company in the short term while they scramble to replace him. However, this wasn't so much a case of him being pushed, as him jumping. The new deal wasn't to his liking and he's going elsewhere as a result. Being his choice, that puts him ahead of every other talent released in the past few weeks!
The 'DNA of TNA' is no longer.
TNA Wrestling have announced via Twitter that they have granted Matt Morgan a release from his contract.
Morgan was last seen on the June 13th episode of Impact Wrestling in a losing effort against Magnus, Rob Terry and Kenny King.
It's reported that Morgan has been requesting his release for some time, after being used infrequently in the past several years. His last major push saw him lose to Sting in an Impact Wrestling main event for a shot at Bully Ray's World Heavyweight Championship.
Clem's Take - I can't really blame the guy. TNA have always loved Morgan, but never entirely known what to do with him. His strongest period was the series of pay-per-view main events against a heel Jeff Hardy, but despite the faith of the company, Morgan failed to build up any significant momentum and the Title ultimately remained with the Anti-Christ. However, my personal favourite angle was when he became Tag Team Champion and began systematically wiping out every replacement partner the company sent in his direction. Recently, his being gifted Hulk Hogan's cloak hinted at something bigger in the pipeline, but he was quickly placed in a makeshift tag team with Joey Ryan and promptly forgotten. It's a shame they never found a niche for him, but I won't be missing him either.
It's been reported that TNA plan to retire their Television Championship, much like the Knockouts Tag Team Championships were last week.
With the added focus on Aces & Eights, the Main Event Mafia and the X-Division, there has been little airtime for the once weekly-defended title.
Starting out as the Legends Championship back in October 2008, the title then became the Global Championship exactly one year later, before finally settling upon the Television Championship in July 2010.
The current Television Champion is Abyss, who won the title from Aces & Eights' Devon at Slammiversary XI on June 2. Much like the honor itself, the character of Abyss has been seen infrequently for the past several years. Neither the Champion, nor the belt, have graced Impact Wrestling with their presence since the victory in question.
Clem's Take - This genuinely disappoints me. The Television Title could've been an invaluable stepping stone to the main event scene (much like WWE's Intercontinental) and I've been a strong supporter of the concept since it's debut.
Unfortunately, TNA do not feel the same way, frequently ignoring the Championship for months at a time, before throwing a random defense on pay-per-view with no build-up. I fear it's constant rebranding permanently damaged the title's credibility and it's struggled to recover throughout the entirety of it's existence. What little promise the concept did show, was quickly squandered by also-ran Champions such as Robbie E and Devon.
With a new belt design and a respectable Champion, this title could've easily been the envy of the wrestling world. For instance, a neglected talent such as James Storm, who had his own problems with booking this past year, could've spent the best part of 2013 making the division a staple of TNA programming. They attempted something similar with Samoa Joe, but the Submission Machine's disappointing lack of momentum and Devon's surprise rehiring led to the title disappearing into the depths of the Aces & Eights angle.
There does appear to be a glimmer of hope for the Championship in the future, with every news item noting that TNA are open to pulling the title out of mothballs, should they ever need it. I just hope they're serious about using it when they finally do and not regarding it simply as an overgrown prop for lesser talents.
In the past few days, TNA Wrestling have released several notable talents from their contracts and allowed others to lapse, with no intention of renewal.
Names include Joey Ryan, Crimson, Christian York, Madison Rayne and Taeler Hendrix.
This comes amid worrying rumours that TNA have fallen several weeks behind on payroll and their working relationship with OVW is troubled at best.
Clem's Take: A bout of releases in quick succession definitely lends itself toward confirming the money troubles. With a handful of top tier talent drawing gigantic paychecks for relatively little activity, I can't help but think TNA are coming at this problem from the wrong end of the roster. Rather than cut up and comers who weren't costing much anyway, eliminate their main problem - Hulk Hogan. Rumoured to rake in as much as $75,000 for every appearance, he's being paid a small fortune to bumble through promo after promo. He hasn't popped the ratings one bit and after three years, TNA have reaped all the benefits they're ever going to get. Cut Hogan from one show and you could pay Joey Ryan for an entire year. I know which option I'd prefer.
The roster page on Impact Wrestling's website appears to indicate the Knockouts Tag Team Championships have finally been retired.
The titles had been long inactive, having been won by the inter-gender tag team of Eric Young and ODB on February 28th, 2012 and defended sporadically.
Several weeks ago, on an episode of Impact Wrestling, the Knockouts General Manager Brooke Hogan vacated the titles, due to Young's being a man. It seems as though this will be the last we hear of them.
Clem's Take: I'm hardly surprised by the move and could've seen it happen sooner. The Knockouts division simply doesn't have enough depth to sustain a tag team division. Hell, they barely have enough depth to sustain a singles division anymore. For whatever reason, TNA have let the division fall into disarray and besides feuds for the title, don't bother to fly in more than four women at a time.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June 27, 2013) – John Gaburick has been named Executive Vice President of Television Production for TNA Entertainment effective immediately. Gaburick is an accomplished production executive who joins TNA from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) where he served as Vice President of Television Production. The announcement was made today by President Dixie Carter, to whom he will report. In his new role, Gaburick will oversee management and production of TNA Entertainment television including LIVE IMPACT Wrestling, marketing and advertising production, special projects and digital assets.
“As TNA evolves, John’s award-winning creative vision and production expertise coupled with his sports and entertainment industry business savvy make him the perfect person to push us in new directions,” said Carter. “He is a gifted and innovative storyteller, and we are thrilled to have him on board.”
“I’ve always admired Dixie Carter and TNA as a uniquely dynamic and growing organization,” said Gaburick. “This opportunity marks an exciting new challenge for me, and I am honored to join the team.”
Prior to joining TNA Entertainment, Gaburick spent the past 13 years in production at WWE. While there, he was awarded the PROMAX/BDA Brandbuilder of the Year Award and guided all image and brand-building media campaigns, as well as network documentary programming. Additionally, he spent 10 years as Operations Manager for National Business Archives in Jessup, Maryland. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Towson University in Towson, Maryland and is a proud member of The Towson University Athletic Hall of Fame. He will be relocating to Nashville with his wife and two young children.
On July 5th, TNA Wrestling premiere their third One Night Only pay-per-view special - Hardcore Justice 2.
For those eager to know what awaits them, here is a spoiler-free match listing for the highly-anticipated show.
Hardcore Knockouts Match
Jackie Moore vs ODB
LAX vs The New Church
Tag Team Ladder Match
Generation Me vs Bad Influence
Hardcore Gauntlet Match
Little Guido, Crimson, Shark Boy, Devon Storm, Sam Shaw, 2 Cold Scorpio, Funaki, Johnny Swinger and Gunner.
James Storm, Bob "Hardcore" Holly and Magnus vs D.O.C, Mike Knox and Wes Brisco
Monster's Ball Match
Joseph Park vs Judas Mesias with Father James Mitchell
Tag Team Tables Match
Team 3D vs Jeff Hardy and Brother Runt (Spike Dudley)
written by Rob Poulloin
On the previous episode of Impact Wrestling (20/06), Knockouts official Brooke Hogan addressed the current state of the division, she praised and hyped the division but somehow failed to notice that by the end of the segment there were only four wrestlers in the ring.
The Knockouts suffer similar to the Tag Team and X Division and is often considered an after thought to the main event scene and with all focus on the BFG series it is unlikely much else will get a look in this summer. The segment was placed to highlight the division especially on the back of the well received match at Slammiversary between Gail Kim and Taryn Terrell and hype what will be on offer this summer, but beyond the aforementioned being booked in a Ladder Match to continue their feud and Velvet Sky getting her rematch for the title against Mickie James the division looks light on the ground missing a number of names such as Brooke Tessmacher, Tara; who announced that she would be off Impact for a few months and the pregnant Madison Rayne.
|Champion Mickie James |
has a lack of competion
image by Impact Wrestling
The segment started off with six wrestlers in the ring, but these included KO tag team champion and current referee ODB and her husband Eric Young who haven't defended the belts in over a year, thankfully they vacated the belts with EY admitting he wasn't a woman and hopefully these belts won't be seen for the foreseeable future until the division has the number of competitors to make it worth while having them around.
With the lack of wrestlers around it surprised me that TNA didn't make an effort to put Gut Check contestant Taeler Hendrix in the ring, especially as she had a match a few weeks ago and will provide a much needed opponent once we have seen the rematches announced and no doubt tag team match pitting the heels against the faces.
Besides announcing two future matches this segment didn't really add much to the show and could have easily taken place backstage and have been shorter. Without Mickie James entertaining new heel role this segment would have fallen flat on its face, Brooke Hogan stumbled through her lines whilst Terrell blended into the background with her win over Gail Kim was over looked completely. If TNA want the Knockouts to excite through the summer then more effort and bodies are going to be needed than this showing.
This year's Bound for Glory Series started with a bang this past week on Impact Wrestling, but with months of singles competition still to go, a victor is far from decided. What looks like an early lead, could easily put a target on a contender's back. With that in mind, we at Canned Heat thought we'd take a look through the entrants and their chances of victory in the illustrious series.
'The It Factor' Bobby Roode
As the 2011 winner, Roode's chances should be higher than most, but in the bizarre world of booking, that probably puts his chances at absolute zero. Why spend five months building up a guy you already afforded the privilege two years ago. The Bound for Glory Series should be used to build up a new World Title contender, not recycle an old one. On the flip side, that's a damn shame. Bobby Roode successfully anchored Impact Wrestling for almost a year straight and has earnt his stripes in my eyes. He should be challenging for the Title or be the Champion himself.
I know I just said the Bound for Glory Series should be used to build up new contenders, but let's be serious. Fresh out of the Gut Check challenge, Bradley is an afterthought. He should be extremely proud of himself that he'd be chosen for the Series in the first place, but doesn't stand a chance in hell of actually winning it. Maybe next year, when more of the audience can pick him out of a lineup.
'Super Mex' Hernandez
After a lengthy spell in the Tag Team division (seriously, only James Storm has had as many different partners), this will be Hernandez' big chance to show he has what it takes to make it as a singles wrestler. He's had ample opportunity over the years in TNA, with them frequently attempting to push him as the next big thing. Unfortunately, these pushes have petered away and often ended in his release or at the very least a hiatus. He won't win the BFG Series, but he'll make for a terrifying obstacle for those that will.
Traditionally, the Monster would've made for an imposing force in the Series, but after a year spent working the laywer gimmick, he's basically starting his career from scratch. Entering each match playing the rookie, his chances of success are few. As witnessed in his first match with Mr Anderson, his brute strength gets him so far, but lack of experience or outside interference often get the better of him. Also, with his primary gimmick of Abyss being the current Television Champion, it seems unlikely that they'd gift the same man with the World Championship.
While he's been with TNA since 2008, Magnus' first five years with the company have been less than spectacular. Struggling to break out of the Tag Team division, he's rotated through a variety of partners, whether it be Douglas Williams, Desmond Wolfe or Samoa Joe. But since returning as a face during January's UK tour, he has shown a newfound maturity and connection with the crowd. During a recent Impact Wrestling episode, there were even "We want Magnus" chants, showing a groundswell of support for the young Brit. Frequently talked up in the press by TNA stalwarts, Dixie Carter and 'The Icon' Sting, Magnus appears to have impressed all the right people and is on the fast track towards his first World Title. Should he be the one to go forward and challenge Bully Ray at Bound for Glory, the company would have to make a concerted effort to establish Magnus as a main event star. These next five months will be absolutely essential and after taking an early lead this past Thursday, his chances are looking bright.
'The Charismatic Enigma' Jeff Hardy
Standing tall as both the 2012 winner of the Series and Impact Wrestling's most popular personality by far, it'd make perfect sense for the Anti-Christ of Professional Wrestling to make it a double-header, adding yet another year's victory to his long list of achievements. I, personally, would loathe to see another Hardy win in 2013, as I strongly believed he didn't deserve to win last year either. Not only did his going to Bound for Glory necessitate an awkward last minute heel turn for the then-face Champion, Austin Aries, but a Jeff Hardy World Title reign is about as exciting as watching his facepaint dry. While he may enthrall in the ring, he struggles on the mic and any feud suffers as a result. Asking him to carry the company on his back makes for the most listless product possible. He'd certainly put arses in seats come the pay-per-view, but I'd wince at the months of television to come afterward. Look for a strong showing in the Series, only to be pipped at the post in the final stages.
Frankie Kazarian & Christopher Daniels
I'm a huge fan of both Daniels and Kazarian in their makeshift tag team 'Bad Influence'. They bring a contagious enthusiasm to absolutely every segment they're in, whether it be the grand stage of Impact Wrestling or something as simple as an interview for Wrestletalk TV. They have a natural repartee between themselves and an uncanny ability to mock others. They're rarely rewarded with Championships or even wins, but I'll be damned if you can find a more entertaining duo every Thursday night. They don't stand a chance in hell of actually winning the Bound for Glory Series, but their presence will put smiles on all our faces. They'll be the jobbers of the competition, but do it with such style, you won't notice. If TNA need a quality heel for the final stages, they'd do well with either member. Never have I used to the term 'enhancement talent' as a compliment.
With Aces & Eights having been granted one spot in the Bound for Glory Series, the group quickly decided (but not unanimously) that Mr Anderson was their man. At first, Anderson struck me as an odd addition to the makeup of Aces & Eights. Being a former World Champion in his own right, I'd hoped TNA would find a better use for him. But slowly over the past six months, the Asshole has gelled with this wannabe biker gang to an unnerving degree. Usurping the role of Vice President from the departing D'Lo Brown, Anderson is second only to current World Champion, Bully Ray. Having two loyal members of Aces & Eights fighting for the Title would make for a strange main event to the biggest show of the year. The only way Anderson's involvement in such a match would make sense is if he were a proverbial snake in the grass. He's always struck me as more self-serving and opportunistic than the majority of their group and it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest to see him throw his fellow cuts under the bus in favour of the World Heavyweight Championship. Even then, it'd be a nightmare of a match to promote.
If this were 2008 and we were in the midst of Joe's heyday, I wouldn't think twice about pegging the Samoan Submission Machine as the next winner of the Bound for Glory Series. But five rudderless years later and Joe finds himself adrift on a bloated roster, with more World Title contenders than you can shake a stick at. Where once he was the very epitome of the term 'monster heel', too much mismanagement has seen his star fall from grace. So much so, that during the inaugural Series, Joe was renowned for having lost the majority of his matches, embarking on a humiliating losing streak. The treatment of Joe during 2011 was downright embarrassing. Thankfully, his 2012 showing was alot more dominant and saw him at the very least break even. If they wanted to, TNA could build a wonderful program around the giant Samoan and see Bully Ray literally quaking in his boots as the monster grows ever closer to Bound for Glory. But I don't see them going that route. There's an inescapable feeling that Joe's best days are long behind him and the company would have to do major rehabilitation to his character to make me see him any differently.
'The Phenomenal' AJ Styles
Still reeling from being shut out of the World Title picture for an entire year, the Phenomenal One has turned to the dark side. Now sporting a beard, shaggy hair and leather, Styles is damn near unrecognisable compared to his former self. It's a startling reinvention of TNA's posterboy and it's come at just the right point in his career. Rather than fall back on his classic persona and watch as his in-ring ability dwindles with age, Styles has proactively slowed himself down and adopted a vicious demeanor. His new attitude has been the crux of several months worth of Impact so far, with no signs of abating. It'd be a tough sell sending him up against the already villainous Bully Ray, who's practically trademarked the term heel. While Styles is very specifically out for himself, it's hard to believe he'll be the hero to put a sword through the beast that is Aces & Eights. Without needlessly returning to his original clean-cut self, I don't see him providing the feel-good moment that vanquishing Aces & Eights should inspire. Regardless, I do hope to see an eventual World Title reign from this opportunistic version of Styles, whether it be at Bound for Glory or afterward.
'The Greatest Man That Ever Lived' Austin Aries
Austin Aries was, without a doubt, the smash hit of 2012. Where other wrestlers try to illicit a mere reaction from the crowd, Aries has them eating from the palm of his hand. After an astounding X Division Title reign and a series of impressive matches against main event talent, Aries had worked his way up to the World Heavyweight Championship itself. His victory at Destination X against Bobby Roode was pure wrestling magic and one of the moments we all hope to witness. While his resulting reign was tempered by multiple unfortunate switches between face and heel, his talent endures. Even when facing Impact's biggest star in Jeff Hardy at last year's Bound for Glory, the crowd were solidly behind A-Double and the disgust at his loss was palpable. He's encountered trouble recently for having been rude to announcer Christy Hemme after an incorrent entrance, but the past few weeks have spotlighted him in such a way that you'd never know. If he were to challenge Bully Ray, which is a very real possibility, all I'd ask is that TNA respect Aries' tweener sensibilities. During his last reign, he was hamstrung by having to play either the hero or the villain, when infact he is neither, but somewhere inbetween. The crowd want to cheer him BECAUSE he's a cocky know-it-all. He's a genuine star in the making and it'd be an absolute honor to watch him headline yet another Bound for Glory.
As for my personal pick, this has to be the most difficult year to peg a clear winner. The 2013 Series is full of former winners and prized main event players, all with extremely plausible chances of victory. It's almost easier to pick who WON'T win, as you can spot a jobber a mile away. For example, Bradley, Hernandez, Park and Kazarian are a definite no. Leaving two thirds of the competition just as likely to succeed. I'd absolutely love to see Styles, Aries, Roode or Daniels challenge for the Title, but in their current roles, they're a fundamental mismatch with the likes of Bully Ray. Anderson is already the Champion's running mate and Hardy won the Series last year, leaving him nothing to prove.
Ultimately, the former Tag Team Champions of Samoa Joe and Magnus are my top two picks for this year's series. Their work together has clearly impressed the TNA brass and it's paying off with two hearty pushes to the top of the card. Which of them gets the final nod I assume will be decided by the manner in which Sting's new Main Event Mafia plays out. Rumours suggest Joe being a potential member, making him a perfect fit to fulfill the Icon's personal vendetta against the World Champion. Alternatively, there's no better story in Professional Wrestling than a young man in his first pay-per-view main event, triumphing against the odds and raising the World Title high for all to see. For that, Magnus is a shoe-in.
Formed in late 2008, the original Main Event Mafia consisted of Kurt Angle, Sting, Booker T, Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner. All multiple-time World Heavyweight Champions, who went on to capture and hold hostage every TNA title known to man. What led to their formation was the perceived disrespect from the youngster wrestlers on the roster, who would later band together as the 'TNA Frontline'. The Mafia ran together for a solid two years and saw multiple additions to their ranks, including the likes of Samoa Joe, Taz and Traci Brooks. However, the group eventually fell apart after losing all their Championships and several members leaving the company. Despite being a Heel faction for the entirety of their existence, 'The Icon' Sting is currently seeking to reform the Main Event Mafia as heroes to defeat current villains, Aces & Eights, once and for all. Taking this into account, we thought we'd take a look at the likely candidates for Sting's new army!
The only known current member and presumed leader of the new group. 'The Icon' was the leader of the original group for a short spell, but was quickly ousted by Kurt Angle, even while holding the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Sad as it is to admit, Sting is getting up there in years and can no longer perform to the standard we once knew. He was recently defeated by Aces & Eights leader Bully Ray at Slammiversary and as a result of a stipulation of the match, he can no longer challenge for the World Title. Here's hoping this allows Sting to fall back into a figurehead role, acting as the mouthpiece of the group, but no longer fighting their battles.
Kurt Angle - Definitely
As a former member and leader of the original group, the Olympic Gold Medalist would be an obvious choice for recruitment. He's recently been embroiled in a feud with disenchanted poster-boy AJ Styles, but after two bouts in short succession, this conflict may have reached it's end. For the past few weeks, Angle has been far more concerned with the debut of MMA star Rampage Jackson. But as hot as this feud may be, Jackson is still far from ring-ready and will be away from Impact Wrestling for a number of months to train in developmental territory, OVW. This leaves a huge gap in Angle's schedule and barring another feud rearing it's head, he has nothing better to do than put a stake through the heart of the monster that is Aces & Eights.
Samoa Joe - Prospect
Another former member and ideally situated for recruitment. Having already been caught up in the war against Aces & Eights, Samoa Joe still has a burning hatred for the group and would love to see them fail. He's also not currently involved in any notable feud and could be drafted in a heartbeat. God only knows his career could use the attention. Since his World Heavyweight Championship heyday, the Samoan Submission Machine has been pretty much left idle. He's had runs with the Television and Tag Team Championships, but no real program of substance. A high profile angle such as this would be the perfect way to get his floundering career back on track.
Jeff Hardy - Definitely
My first surprise pick! He would never have fit in with the original group (god only knows we don't need another Hardy heel turn), but with the Main Event Mafia returning as a Face faction, I feel it's a dead cert that everyone's favourite Charismatic Enigma will side with the Stinger. Not only is he a loyal fan favourite, but he's been butting heads with Aces & Eights since the Lockdown pay-per-view in March, where he lost his World Heavyweight Championship to their leader, Bully Ray. Even when it came to the return bout in a Hardy-speciality Ladder match, the Bully used underhanded tactics to keep his dirty paws on the title. If anyone wants to see Aces & Eights fall more than Sting, it's got to be Hardy.
James Storm & Gunner - Maybe
Let me get this out of the way to begin with - Gunner would be a terrible fit for the Main Event Mafia. He's never been a World Champion, he was a terrible Television Champion and he's been a pretty piss poor Tag Team Champion. But what he does have is James Storm's coattails. Gunner has zero credibility on his own, but pair him with a fan-favourite, multi-time Champion like Storm and he's got a golden ticket. Frankly, Storm's own career has been in a bit of a funk lately, never being able to live up to his feud from last year with former partner Bobby Roode. But through drafting these two, you secure the Tag Team Championships, both within TNA and within the Main Event Mafia itself. Also, the Tag Team Division appears to be on the brink of falling apart. Roode, Aries, Daniels, Kazarian and Hernandez have all qualified for the Bound for Glory Series and will be focusing on singles competition for the foreseeable future. This leaves the Tag Team Champions with no challengers, making it an opportune time to involve them with the Aces & Eights feud.
These six men strike me as the most likely choices for the resurrected Main Event Mafia. Five former World Champions is a nice solid foundation for the group. Of course, there are other candidates that could easily fit in with their objectives. AJ Styles would be a brilliant addition, but he's far more concerned with himself these days and any involvement with a group would contradict his attitude. Similarly, Abyss would serve multiple purposes, what with being the current Television Champion and Monster in his own right, but Joseph Park seems to be the one getting the attention right now. Matt Morgan would make for a fantastic wildcard to the group, but having no significant title reigns on his resume, I'd hate to dilute the concept any more than by including Gunner. If Sting was really smart, he'd recruit current X Division Champion Chris Sabin, who is due a World Title shot at the upcoming Destination X. If the Mafia play their cards right, they could bring the Championship home in one foul swoop.
Opening the second hour of this week's Impact Wrestling was another BFG Series qualifying match, Austin Aries vs Eric Young. Naturally, Young's chances of beating 'The Greatest Man That Ever Lived' were slim to none, but all credit to him, he knows how to entertain a crowd. Both he and 'wife' ODB are infinitely entertaining. I particularly enjoyed the spot where after Aries had spun around on Young's back, ODB entered the ring and allowed Young to spin around on hers. They're a quality double act and it's a shame Young has to spend so long away from TNA shooting his nature show. Exemplified by the video package bringing to attention the pair are still the Knockout Tag Team Champions and have failed to defend their titles in over six months! Austin Aries was his usual cocky self, dominating proceedings and even getting a healthy crowd response. I did worry slightly however, as Aries looked even more pissed off than usual. This is a star who easily grows disenchanted with the wrestling business and I fear he's still reeling from the Christy Hemme incident last month. I trust TNA appreciate what a world class athlete they have in Aries and he's treated well in the coming months. Sufficed to say, entrance into the BFG Series bodes well, as he nailed Eric Young with a devastating Brainbuster and moved into the tournament with ease.
Next up was the Aces & Eights' Battle Royal. Set up by Hogan at the top of the show, designed to divide the group, it almost did just that. Mr Anderson, being the new VP of the group, was clearly their pick for winner and entry into the BFG Series. Most members had no problem with this, being eliminated from the match in a variety of silly ways. He finger-banged Brisco (that just sounds wrong), spun Bischoff around in an exaggerated manner, had Knox backing away in fear and "convinced" Devon to get the tables. I'm not usually a fan of Aces & Eights, but this segment was pretty funny. The only fly in the ointment was when Anderson attempted to "magically" throw Doc over the top rope and the big man merely looked at him in disgust. After a few more tries, Anderson grew weary of Doc's defiance and the former Luke Gallows exploded on the Asshole. That had to have been the defining segment of Doc's career and the biggest face pop he'll ever likely receive. He looked good rebelling against his brothers, perhaps planting the seeds for something more down the line. Unfortunately, Anderson dumped his ass out of the ring and achieved the desired result regardless.
To close the show, we had another amazing installment of AJ Styles vs Kurt Angle. What's left to be said about these two top tier talents and their combined magnificence. A few months ago, Angle even admitted Styles was the reason he came to TNA in the first place (Samoa Joe must be hanging his head in shame and walking away like Charlie Brown right now). We've seen this match a thousand times now and yet somehow they still find ways to make it different and entertaining. Hell, they only just worked Slammiversary together, giving yet another possible Match of the Year candidate. Where a TV main event would usually get the short end of the stick, seeing far less innovation than their PPV counterpart, I don't think either man is capable of giving it less than their all. AJ's new tweener character being nicely reinforced with several terrifying moves to Angle, namely his new Calf-killer submission and a nasty looking snap DDT into the corner. Eventually, AJ won the match by taking advantage of a distraction from Aces & Eights to roll Angle up from behind, but at this point it didn't matter who won, we'd already been thoroughly entertained and there will always be another encounter for the loser to gain his heat back.
However, rather than ending on Styles' celebration, the Phenomenal One was quick to hightail it out of there, leaving Angle to take the brunt of Aces & Eights' fury alone. But the Olympic Gold Medalist wasn't alone for long, as TNA's latest acquisition, Rampage Jackson, ran down to the ring and chased off the Sons of Anarchy wannabes with his chain (which you'll never actually see connect with anyone, despite swinging it here, there and everywhere ala Abyss' Janice). This nicely played into the pair's confrontation from last week and hyped their eventual match together. Not that it's going to be any time soon, mind you. Rampage still has months of work to be done down in developmental at OVW before he can even think about getting in the ring with the best worker of our time. In hindsight, it's a little strange to devote two weeks of shows to building to a match that won't happen for the foreseeable future, but I suppose if the opposition can book their main events a year in advance, anything is possible in this business. Fingers crossed the MMA star will be ready for something by Bound for Glory in October.
8 out of 10
A show that started off poorly, but slowly rebuilt our trust over the course of an hour and amazed us with it's second.
Last week's Impact Wrestling ended on the cliffhanger of Brooke Hogan stopping her father from hitting her estranged husband with a hammer, the signature weapon of Bully's own Aces & Eights. For the tens of fans who actually wanted to know what happened next, you'll be going home disappointed. Whatever interest they stirred up, they threw away in a matter of minutes as Hulk Hogan announced he'd sent his daughter home. Apparently, a twenty five year old grown woman can still be grounded!
As you can probably tell, this week's episode didn't get off to the best of starts. Hulk Hogan hit the ring to deliver yet another of his rambling incoherent promos to pop the audience. I know he's the biggest name on the roster, but until he can get his facts straight as to what he's talking about, they should probably keep his segments short and sweet. I dare anyone to comprehend his explanation of the Bound for Glory Series. If we're to take him at his word, it's twelve people definitely going to be at Bound for Glory. That'd be one crowded World Title match!
Thankfully, Jeff Hardy soon appeared to put the aging Hulkster out of his misery. Yes, it was so dire a beginning, I was thankful to see the Charisma Enigma arrive, I was that desperate. Bobby Roode was the eventual highlight of the cold open, reminding everyone that he was the first winner of the Bound for Glory Series and went on to become the longest reigning World Heavyweight Champion in TNA history. Even when faced with the combined might of Aces & Eights, Roode managed to sneak a clothesline from behind on Hardy and leave the arena victorious. I'm skeptical about next week's phone vote to decide who gets to call who out first, as regardless of the result, they'll call each other out anyone. Save those dollars on your phone bill, folks.
Next up was the first match of the evening - Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian vs James Storm & Gunner. The winner of this Tag Team bout would see both partners entered into the Bound for Glory Series. Given that one team are the Tag Team Champions and will likely have other priorities between now and then, I had a high suspicion Bad Influence would get the nod this time around. As per usual, Daniels & Kaz were on fire, both on the microphone and in the ring. Their pre-match promo making fun of James Storm's entire career revolving around the Tag Team Division was pure gold. I loved the line about him having more partners than Taylor Swift! The two teams had a nice chemistry in the ring and I'd be happy to see them paired back up later in the year, once Bound for Glory is done and dusted. Storm and Gunner were the clear victors, up until Daniels managed to sneak an illegal blow with the title belt, allowing Kaz to make the cover and win them both entry into this year's BFG Series.
In a rare re-appearance of a once undefeated talent, we were greeted with Crimson vs Joseph Park. Still reeling from his defeat at the hands of James Storm at last year's Slammiversary, Crimson cut an impassioned promo, reminding everyone just how long a streak he'd amassed before it was cruelly cut short. I was never a fan of Crimson in his first run with the company, but I'll admit I'm hugely surprised they haven't made more of the man. After damn near winning the first BFG Series single-handed in 2011, TNA simply didn't know what to do with him. They couldn't trust him to headline their biggest show of the year and his undefeated streak was thrown away with such casual disregard, it just goes to show how little it meant in the first place. This week's show would've been an ideal opportunity for him to re-establish himself as a monster in the eyes of the fans. Unfortunately, fate had other plans, seeing him take his second straight loss against the "rookie" Joseph Park with a schoolboy roll-up. Park is clearly their pet project for the moment, rendering Crimson's return little more than a punchline. Losing to the Cowboy was one thing, but it'll be hard to come back from losing to Joseph Park, a joke in himself.
In what has to be a trend, the women of TNA once again knocked it out of the proverbial park with the in-ring confrontation between Velvet Sky and Mickie James. This angle has been simmering in the background for about a month now, with the new Champion James refusing the former Champion Sky, her rematch for the Title. Mickie, being a long-time fan favourite, had been walking a tightrope in recent weeks, refraining from her usual heroics and bordering on heel tactics, but never outright turning. But this week saw a permanent change in ol' Hardcore Country, as she mercilessly beat down Velvet in the center of the ring. I haven't seen a Heel Mickie James since her debut with WWE as Trish Stratus' stalker, in her most notable angle to date. Therefore I'm pleased to see her return to such fertile ground, something she's struggled with in recent years. That's not to ignore Velvet however, who looked absolutely stunning this week. Never have I seen anyone look so good while convulsing in pain. I'm hugely looking forward to the TNA Original's revenge, now that clear battle lines have been drawn in the sand.
Snuck onto the card, almost under the radar, there was a fantastic four way bout in the form of Magnus vs Rob Terry vs Kenny King vs Matt Morgan. With the random combination of men, one couldn't help but think this was thrown together at the last minute to justify another BFG Series entrant. But all four men rose about the throwaway nature of the contest and gave it their all. Most notably, Kenny King, who's cowardly heel tactics were hilarious throughout. These usually involved manipulating Matt Morgan into doing all the dirty work, then sneaking a tag when the big man wasn't looking. Magnus being tagged into the match felt like a big deal, which is sure to go a long way backstage for the Brit. Once Terry and Morgan had basically eliminated themselves, Magnus dominated King with a series of impressive power moves and took the pinfall with surety.
Having teased his reaction to losing at Slammiversary on Twitter, Sting finally appeared at the top of the first hour. Picking up on the fact that no member of the TNA roster ran out to help him when his career was on the line, this sparked a new attitude in Sting. Echoing AJ Styles sentiments about not being able to trust anyone around him, the Icon admires Aces & Eights' teamwork and the notion of having each other's backs. Therefore, the Icon will be looking to assemble a group of his own, a family if you will. Or even...a Mafia. Sting continues to be a master on the mic, selling the idea of a Main Event Mafia reunion with ease. If he wasn't so determined to be an in-ring performer, I'd say make him a manager for talents less able to speak for themselves *cough*RampageJackson*cough*. As for the new Main Event Mafia, I'm genuinely stumped as to who it could be. Kurt Angle would be a good idea, having fronted the former incarnation, and he'll need something to do while he's waiting for Rampage to get his act together. Samoa Joe would be another former member to look at. Beyond that, they're pretty lacking in Main Event for the Mafia. What with Scott Steiner having sued the company, Booker T happily employed across the road and Kevin Nash content to live off his Legends contract (unless Magic Mike was his cash cow...).
This week's NXT put the rest of WWE to shame. Where Raw can bore you to death for three hours at a time and never feature any real action, NXT somehow condensed four entertaining matches into fourty five minutes. No fat, no filler, all business.
Kicking things off was a rematch from several weeks ago, Antonio Cesaro vs Sami Zayn. For casual viewers, this was simply a main roster superstar looking for some payback against a rookie who scored a fluke victory. However, for anyone with knowledge of the independent scene, this match was a real treat, featuring two Ring of Honor alums plying their trade like only they know how. Forget this being a developmental show, Cesaro and Zayn were so polished throughout the course of this match, Vince McMahon could've booked it on Raw or Smackdown without a moment's hesitation. These two are future World Champions and their feud officially has me hooked. Cesaro, clearly frustrated with his initial defeat, came after Zayn like a bull in a china shop. The sheer ferocity of Cesaro's offense didn't give Zayn much room to maneuver, but the former El Generico picked his spots well. Most notably, his over the top rope dive and an insane Destroyer. Unfortunately, this wasn't enough to put the Swiss-natural down, landing a nasty uppercut on a mid-air Zayn and taking advantage of his opponent's impaired senses to hit the Neutralizer. I can't stress how impressed I was by this match and I foresee big things for both parties.
Next up, there was tag team action with Scott Dawson & Garrett Dylan vs Baron Corbin & Travis Tyler. Before either team hit the ring, manager Slyvester Lefort cut a brief promo, declaring Dawson & Dylan to be the next NXT Tag Team Champions. I'm not entirely sure how Lefort's pompous French gimmick lines up with the trailer park trash of Dawson & Dylan, but the team themselves made a convincing argument for a title shot, as they systematically destroyed poor Travis Tyler. Dawson & Dylan made impressive use of their corner, rarely straying to the other side of the ring. On commentary, William Regal was making comparisons with the Four Horsemen and it's hard to disagree. This was a clear squash match, with the opposing team landing barely an iota of offense. Tyler took the majority of the beating and rightfully so, as his look and move set were utterly atrocious. Corbin wasn't much better, getting the hot tag late in proceedings and fumbling an action as simple as an Irish whip. Eventually, Dawson & Dylan hit a double team combo of a spinebuster into a double axe-handle, at which point a pinfall was a mere formality. I was highly impressed by the winners, but sorely disappointed by the one-sided nature of the contest. I'll be interested to see how the team fares against actual competition.
In the first round of a tournament to decide the new NXT Women's Champion, we had Bayley vs Alicia Fox. This was my first exposure to Bayley and I was immediately taken aback at just how wide-eyed and innocent the girl came across. Those facets are difficult to convey, but she managed them with aplomb. Her character is simply happy to be there, regardless of what happens in the course of the match. Exemplified by her handshake with former Divas Champion Fox, which resulted in the most awkward forced hug in the history of stalking. Bayley had Fox pinned in the corner and wasn't about to let go. Strangely, none of this was the actual wrestling match! Alicia took control relatively early and rarely let up. There was a momentary comeback, when Alicia offended Bayley's fangirl sensibilities, rousing the crazy woman inside. But this was quickly shot down with a worryingly sloppy scissor kick from Fox, which gave the former Champion the pinfall and advancement in the tournament. I've never been a fan of Fox and this match did nothing to change my mind. She's always struck me as one of Vince's ill-prepared glamour models, but even they would out-do Fox with some of the moves performed here. Frankly, I'm far more interested in seeing new talent progress in this Championship tournament, not down-on-their-luck divas. Fingers crossed Paige makes short work of her in the Semi-Finals.
Last but not least was our NXT Title match, Big E Langston vs Bo Dallas. Largely played as a David vs Goliath battle, I'm beyond amused that this David is actually bigger than his Goliath. Bo Dallas stands at an intimidating 6'1, towering over poor Big E at 5'11, yet Big E is the one treated like the monster. The match was dominated from start to finish by the self-proclaimed 'Master of the Five Count', hitting a number of impressive power moves on the ailing Dallas. When the challenger would finally make a comeback, it was a nigh-impossible feat to topple the planted Champion. On the surface, this title defense was mere exercise for Langston, playing out almost identically to his past victories. The only difference this time being Dallas' loosening of a turnbuckle, which the hyperactive man-child used to great effect, ramming the Champion into the corner multiple times, before hitting a powerslam for the fluke victory. Despite solid booking, the finish was performed rather poorly on Dallas' part. He fumbled with the turnbuckle for an extremely long time and still couldn't get it entirely off, necessitating the repetition of Langston's blow to the head. Going forward, Dallas will make for a massively different NXT Champion compared to the likes of Seth Rollins and Big E Langston. Where the former Champions had the benefit of natural talent raising them to the top of the roster, Dallas is an immediate underdog, holding the title merely through the luck of the draw. How long he can hold onto the Championship remains to be seen.
8 out of 10
Welcome to Canned Heat Wrestling's inaugural review of Ring of Honor! Coming to us from Toronto, Ontario, this week's episode (assuming you're watching online for free like me!) started off with a fast paced, high impact, triple threat, tag team contest - QT Marshall & RD Evans vs ACH & Tadarius Thomas vs C&C Wrestle Factory. The winners of the match going on to challenge reDRagon for the Tag Team Championships at upcoming iPPV, Best in the World.
Before the bout began, there was a funny spot with ACH & Thomas agreeing to the Code of Honor handshake with the Wrestle Factory, yet almost completely ignoring QT & RD. This resulted in some bad blood from the word go, with the snubbed team lashing out. The match itself can be best described as a whirlwind. Frequent tags were made, members floating in and out within seconds of each other. No one man truly stood out during the bout, as each competitor strived to one up his predecessor. For any uninitiated viewer, they'd be highly impressed by the blur of action on display, but never entirely grasp who was performing at any given moment. Frankly, with the number of lettered names, it's a wonder Kevin Kelly could keep up on commentary, with every other line a mouthful. ROH would do well to get over each man individually before throwing them all in a heap together. The finish came after a beautiful top rope frogsplash from C&C Wrestle Factory, who will go on to face the Champions.
Following up on the events of the recent 'Border Wars', the commentators emphasised the dangers of concussions, the returning Paul London having sustained one during his match with American Wolf, Davey Richards. I know concussions have always been a major issue in the wrestling industry, but for some reason they've become a hot topic of late. Whether it be Dolph Ziggler and Fandango being sidelined with real ones or Triple H being forced into retirement with a fake one, concussions are everywhere at the moment. With the high-impact action of ROH, it's no surprise a concussion sustained in their ring was brought about in spectacular fashion. Cutting to footage from the iPPV, we saw London take a brutal combination of hits. Firstly, a Tombstone Piledriver on the outside of the ring and secondly, a top rope stomp to his torso. The moves were so devastating, London looked legitimately unconscious and the crowd broke out in "You Killed Paul" chants, which were hugely insensitive...and more than a little funny.
Pushing the 'Best in the World' main event of Jay Briscoe defending his World Title against brother Mark Briscoe, the pair had a wonderful series of backstage promos. First up was challenger Mark, who took the guise of a beaten down and bullied little brother, never understanding why his elders would knock him around and treat him like dirt. Following immediately after, we had World Champion Jay defending his actions over the years, justifying them with the end goal of keeping his baby brother on the straight and narrow. This family is dripping with dysfunction and there's no better time for the brothers to butt heads than for the World Heavyweight Championship. Both brothers presented events similarly, but with wildly different points of view. We'll never entirely know which side is the truth, but they both believe them to be. Such conviction is a rare thing indeed.
Next came an in-ring promo featuring Match-maker Nigel McGuinness, 'Unbreakable' Michael Elgin and the concussed Paul London. Addressing fears that London should step away from the wrestling business due to his latest injury, McGuinness was quick to defend the high-flying superstar. Knowing when to retire is something Nigel knows alot about and now is not that time. Having McGuinness address the parallels between the two was a wonderful touch. However, before London could respond, he was interrupted by the bitter pair of QT Marshall and RD Evans, complaining about their recent loss and the state of the Tag Team division. After Evans pushes London by the head, he's summarily dispatched by a pissed off Elgin. Marshall bolts from the ring and attempts to flee up the ramp, only to find a rabid Tommaso Ciampa waiting for him. Ciampa tears into the coward and runs him head first into the barrier over and over again, most likely giving him a concussion of his own! The real highlight however was Ciampa coming face to face with Elgin, two giants of ROH staring each other down. This made for a muddled segment, never entirely settling on a subject matter. Were they pushing London's eventual return to the ring, Marshall & Evans' status in the Tag Team division or Ciampa wanting a piece of Elgin?
Finally, in the main event of the evening, we had BJ Whitmer vs Mike Bennett vs Jay Lethal, with the winner going on to challenge for the ROH Television Championship at 'Best in the World'. May I just say, it's always a treat to see Maria accompanying Mike Bennett down to the ring. If your jaw wasn't already hitting the floor from the wrestling, it sure as hell is for Maria. Unfortunately, her stunning beauty didn't do a lick of good for her man, as Bennett was quickly set upon by Whitmer and Lethal in a series of debilitating double teams. The momentum of the match switched between all three contenders with regularity, with one man typically sitting out proceedings due to fatigue or injury. Speaking of which, Jay Lethal's bandaged knee soon came to the attention of his opponents, who showed no mercy and promptly focused their offense there. But even that couldn't keep the young man down, going on to stage multiple comebacks and even landing a big elbow from the top rope. The finish came as Mike Bennett retreated to ringside to catch his breath, giving Jay Lethal the opportunity to hit the Lethal Injection on BJ Whitmer for the three count and become the number one contender to the Television Title. The show ends on Maria imagining a slight from BJ Whitmer, sparking a brawl with her man, Mike Bennett. The match was perfectly acceptable all in all, but rather average in the grand scheme of things and never came alive like a good triple threat can. The focus was repeatedly on Maria at ringside on commentary, pulling Bennett's strings from afar. Not to mention Truth Martini skulking around the ramp. The action in the ring was almost secondary.
7 out of 10
Opening the show this week was the TNA World Heavyweight Champion, Bully Ray. He cut a fantastic heel promo celebrating his win against Sting at Slammiversary and claimed TNA had "no more heroes left" for him to face. The crown jewel of this segment being Bully demanding to be put into the Hall of Fame. Which is such a gutsy display of arrogance, I have to applaud him. Unfortunately, he's soon interrupted by a rambling Hulk Hogan, who had a number of big points to announce, yet he fumbled almost every one. His explanation of the main event ladder match was damn near incoherent. Worse still, his over-reliance on cheap pops for fans in the audience was grating to those of us at home.
Our first match of the evening was Chavo Guerrero vs Hernandez for a spot in the Bound for Glory Series starting in two weeks time. Being former Tag Team Champions, there was a pre-existing friendship at work throughout the match. As such, at times Hernandez was pulling his punches, going easy on his partner. However, the same could not be said of Chavo, who was bordering on a heel turn with his tactics. His cockiness as he entered the match was apparent and every hit he landed on Hernandez was full force. The bout became somewhat of a David and Goliath battle, with Chavo attempting to use his speed as a cruiserweight to outwit the giant, but any time Hernandez finally got ahold of the smaller man, the results were devastating. Eventually, Hernandez used his brute strength to roll up Chavo and force a pinfall, which the Guerrero was none too happy about. I was saddened to see him finally relent and shake Hernandez's hand at the end though, as their Tag Team has grown stale and a heel turn could easily see one of their careers revitalised.
Aces & Eights' Sergeant at Arms, Devon, had an eventual night, as he spent the best part of two hours attempting to track down the new Television Champion, Abyss. Determined to win back the Title he lost at Slammiversary, Devon's first port of call was the Champion's "brother" Joseph Park. As per usual, Park was easily overpowered and found himself bloodied by the cowardly bikers, who fled to the back. We periodically got updates as to Devon's search for Abyss, but it rarely intrigued, usually just being he and Mike Knox staring at a door, convinced their target was inside. By the time Abyss finally did jump them, it was putting them (and us) out of our collective misery. With Park switching between identities so frequently and often on the same show, you'd hope the purpose of the angle would've become a little clearer, but it's failing to resolve itself. At least have the Monster and his brother face off against a threat worthy of their attention, something Devon simply is not.
For the second Bound for Glory Series qualifying match of the night, we had Robbie E vs Samoa Joe. I really enjoyed Robbie's pre-match promo, touting his "success" in last year's Series. I downright sniggered at his boasting of having won FIVE WHOLE POINTS! Robbie continues to be a solid comedy midcard act, something that's increasingly hard to pull off convincingly in this day and age, but the Jersey wannabe pulls it off with aplomb. However, as soon as you heard Samoa Joe's music hit the arena, his chances of a repeat performance in this year's Series dropped to absolute zero. The Samoan Submission Machine made quick work of him, locking in his patented rear-naked choke hold for a quick tap-out. Joe is a quality addition to this year's BFG Series, which so far only listing Jay Bradley and Hernandez, is lacking in any big names. Here's hoping a few more heavy-hitters find their way into the back nine.
Quentin "Rampage" Jackson made his TNA debut this week on Impact and we're still waiting to see what all the fuss was about. The MMA giant was guided through a bare-bones promo by Jeremy Borash, but failed to grasp the art of speaking to the crowd, at least in this outing. He started out exceedingly quiet and talked over the audience, giving the segment an awkward feel. But what did work was Kurt Angle's involvement. Upon Jackson mentioning needing to beat the best to be the best, Angle's music hit and the Olympic Gold Medalist made an impressive claim to being that man. The two stared off for a couple of minutes, switching between respect and intimidation. A mix I'm not sure Jackson entirely grasped, instead switching between blank face and flaring his nostrils. We know for a fact that this new acquisition has chops in the ring, but maybe he'd be better suited to having a manager ala Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar. Even with months of training to come in OVW, I'm confident that Jackson is in capable hands with Kurt Angle. Who better to guide a rookie through a half decent match than the greatest in-ring talent of the last twenty years.
Look for a measure of revenge against their Slammiversary opponents, we're greeted with Austin Aries, Bobby Roode & Kenny King vs James Storm, Gunner & Chris Sabin. The faces being newly minted Champions, this was always going to be their victory lap, showing it was they that truly deserved the gold. The MVP of the match was Chris Sabin, who was anywhere and everywhere all at once. For a man that just came back from two ACL tears, he sure is fast. At one point, taking out all three of his opponents with a well placed dive over the top rope to the floor. Sabin is well and truly making a solid case for his guaranteed World Championship match in the future. Sold all the more by his winning combination of a devastating spinning DDT followed by his signature Hail Sabin cradle driver.
Switching gears to the Knockouts Division, there was a more than healthy appreciation of what Gail Kim and Taryn Terrell achieved at Slammiversary with their Last Knockout Standing match and rightfully so. Taryn herself appeared only briefly on this show, being congratulated by Brooke Hogan and awkwardly prodding her boss for details of her love life. Way to take a compliment Taryn! Instead, the in-ring portion of the night went to Mickie James vs Taeler Hendrix. A brief backstage segment set up the match, with Velvet attempting to get her rematch for the Knockouts Title, only to be rebuffed in favour of a contender Mickie claimed had been forgotten during Velvet's reign. Sufficed to say, even with the heel tactics, Mickie had a point about Taeler, who has been missing in action for the best part of a year, off plying her craft in the developmental territory of OVW. Taking full advantage of the opportunity, Taeler was keen to lock up with the Champion. Unfortunately, her attempts at taking control were universally shot down by James, who despite obnoxiously applauding Taeler's efforts, clearly preferred dominating the rookie. Even with momentum on her side, the Champion resorted to cheap heel tactics to get the win, faking a knee injury before surprising the challenger with a stiff uppercut and kick to the head. Mickie's journey towards being an out and out villain continues, becoming more obvious with every passing match. Just what Velvet Sky will have to do to get the Champion's attention makes for an intriguing element going forward.
Finally came the main event of the evening, TNA World Heavyweight Champion Bully Ray vs Jeff Hardy in a ladder match. However, not for the Title, but instead the first to claim and use a hammer dangling above the ring. It's a fairly odd stipulation in itself, made all the stranger by Hulk Hogan's mangling of the explanation earlier in the night. Even after having watched the match, I'm not entirely sure who was meant to have won and how. Simply retrieving the hammer didn't seem to have any effect on who won and both men attempted to land blows on the other with the foreign object to little avail. The bout itself was their usual bag of tricks, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the sheer ferocity that Hardy began the began the match, leaping over the top rope to meet his unprepared nemesis and followed it up by damn near flying around the ring. Bully and Hardy have an undeniable chemistry in the ring, having beaten each other with various ladders and other implements over the years. The mark of a good match between the two appears to be an excruciatingly painful shot to Bully Ray's balls, this time coming after he fell into the corner of the ring and Hardy dropkicked the fallen ladder into his opponent's crotch. Unfortunately, TNA's bad habit of non-finishes reared it's ugly head once again and saw both men flee the arena, much to the crowd's annoyance. This was to set up a backstage segment whereby Hulk Hogan was about to hit the ailing Bully Ray with a hammer of his own, but was stopped by his daughter Brooke, who's feelings for the Aces & Eights leader continue to be in question. Sacrificing an otherwise good match for a terrible backstage soap opera which no one could see is simply unacceptable and I'm saddened they'd go that route for what is potentially the blow-off to Bully and Hardy's feud. Nine times out of ten a main event should have an ending, we were unlucky to have to watch that one time.
6 out of 10