Review: Impact Wrestling 18/04/2013

In our second week emanating from Corpus Christi's American Bank Center, Impact Wrestling begins with a wonderfully-realised recap of the last installment, emphasising just how badly Jeff Hardy had been injured during his Full Metal Mayhem match with Bully Ray. Feels a little soon to be running another Hardy injury angle considering he spent the best part of February "injured" and unable to appear on the UK tapings. However, if they're going down this route again, a nice way to sell the severity.

I was sad to see the show begin with Garret Bischoff and Wes Brisco, even with the Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle to offset the balance. Bischoff and Brisco have proven to be drawing duds and the logic of throwing them out there first is a little mystifying. Even the Corpus Christi crowd agreed with me, when they chanted "you can't wrestle" throughout the match. Angle always feels hugely wasted when attempting to put these two over. I understand the urge to think of the next generation, but these aren't going to be the big money stars of the future. As such, it's fairly appropriate that Angle ran roughshod over the pair of them singlehanded. I particularly enjoyed the double German suplex spot towards the end of the match, showing just how out-matched both of them are. Bischoff did eventually get the pinfall however, after some timely Aces & Eights interference. It's slightly worrying that the faction still needs to cheat to win when they have two legal men in a handicap match. They're never going to be taken seriously as a threat with tainted victories such as this.

Mr Anderson cut a post-match promo on the fallen ranks of TNA. Fake-crying about all the injured is exactly up the Asshole's street and as such cuts the most convincing promo from Aces & Eights in weeks. His obvious talents on the mic dwarf all others in the group, making him the logical mouthpiece, at least behind the leader, Bully Ray. As a former World Champion, Anderson's presence in the group continues to baffle. He seems eminently ready to move on to bigger and better things, but tends to get lost in the shuffle. The subtle digs at AJ Styles over his past month of indecision promise an entertaining feud down the line. Assuming the Phenomenal One doesn't outright join the group himself.

TNA continue to do a nice job of rebuilding the X Division, pushing the upcoming Title match with a poignant backstage video. I laughed out loud at Petey Williams saying the Canadian Destroyer was the key to his offense, only to take it back immediately for fear of his opponent's scouting him ahead of time. Speaking of which, the match itself proved to be a star-making turn for Williams, carrying long stretches all by himself. After hitting said finisher exceptionally early in the match, I was slightly worried that the returning superstar would find himself as somewhat of a one-trick-pony, hitting the Destroyer as his showpiece and then bowing out. Thankfully, Petey had a varied arsenal, which he didn't hesitate to show off. Of particular note was his Sharpshooter on Zema Ion in the closing sequence of the match. I commend any talent who whips out that maneuver. Ion himself stepped up to Williams' challenge, with his own wide array of high-flying moves. The only seeming weak link of the match was the X Division Champion himself, Kenny King. Coming out to horrible new entrance music, the Champ found himself eliminated from the action for the majority of the match. It could simply have been strategy on his part, to let Ion and Williams fight it out before taking advantage, but it felt rather undeserved when he skulked in and stole the win.

On the subject of the X Division, a tweet earlier in the night from TNA President Dixie Carter touted the return of former Champion, Chris Sabin, to the ring, after a year long absence. Largely known for being one half of the Motor City Machine Guns, he suffered the unfortunate fate of returning from an injured knee last year, only to injure the other knee. It'll be fascinating to see how the high-flying star adapts his style in the wake of injuring both knees. He clearly won't be taking the same death-defying bumps that the Division is renowned for, so look for a slightly more thoughtful ground-based move set. Either which way, I'm glad to see him back in the coming weeks.

A distinct non-match next as Aces & Eights proceeded to beat down Magnus on the ramp before his Television Title shot. While I applaud the improved tactics of the group in attacking their opponent before the match, I downright loathe that Devon has escaped yet another TV Title defense. He's had the belt for four months now and I can't remember him defending it once. A problem that looks to be solved later in the night, as Samoa Joe rushed out to make the save for Magnus. A nice touch, as the Submission Machine has long been a mentor to the Brit, the pair even holding the TNA Tag Team Championships for a brief spell. Also, Samoa Joe was the person who Devon defeated all those many months ago to capture the Television Title and he's been aching for revenge ever since.

The Knockouts Number One Contender match between Mickie James and Miss Tessmacher was preceded by a brief video highlighting Velvet Sky's injured knee. Putting such an emphasis on an injury is never a good sign and points towards the Knockouts Champion eventually dropping or relinquishing the belt at the next opportunity. Potentially scuppering yet another of Velvet Sky's Knockouts Title reigns. I'm beginning to think the poor girl is cursed. Whenever she finally wins the Title, she ends up dropping off the radar and ceasing to exist.

As for the match itself, it started off rather fun and flirty, only to descend into a bitchy cat fight. It was always going to be a tough-sell having two faces competing against one another, with another face refereeing and the winner going on the challenge against...you guessed it...another face. What the hell happened to all the heels in the Knockouts Division? Gail, Tara, Madison, they're dropping like flies! There was a nasty looking spot when James was backed against the turnbuckle and neither woman could quite decided whether they were going for a powerbomb on Tessmacher or a faceplant on Mickie. It got even more awkward as Tessmacher hit a prolonged Stinkface on Mickie, but as neither woman was playing it decidedly villainous, frankly I just felt sorry for them both. An absolutely wretched affair, full of botches and I couldn't wait for it to end. Mickie and Tessmacher were either having an off night or have zero chemistry with each other. I'd seriously question the next time anyone wants to book that match again.

In what had to be the verbal highlight of Impact, Daniels & Kazarian faced off with fellow Tag Team and former Champions, Roode & Aries. Bad Influence kicked things off with their infectious enthusiasm, strutting to the ring to advertise their new T-shirts and the upcoming Bad Influence movie starring Morgan Freeman as Dixie Carter, coming soon to theaters near you! Daniels has always been the natural speaker of the pair, but I have to admit, Frankie Kazarian has been coming along in leaps and bounds this past year. And if one duo of sweet talkers wasn't enough, Roode & Aries matched them beat for beat, pun for pun. Infact, so many gems were being thrown back and forth between the two, I'm sure I'll need to re-watch the segment simply to take it all in. While insinuating your opponents are gay isn't a new trick in professional wrestling by any means (if anything, it's kinda low brow), but I'll be damned if Austin Aries didn't make it creative. Eventually, Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez made their presence known, but appearing so late in the segment and not being able to match the wit of the other teams, it just went to show how outclassed they truly are, relying on the innovation of others to get themselves over. Ironic that the Champions should be an afterthought in their own division.

Taking one more crack at getting a TV Title defense out of Devon, Samoa Joe finally achieves the impossible and gets the Aces & Eights Sergeant at Arms in the ring! The match starts with an underhanded attack from behind by the Champion, but the sheer power of Joe quick turns the tables, hitting a series of impressively stiff power moves. On the flip side, Devon's offense amounts to little more than rest holds. Unsurprisingly, like every other Aces & Eights match on the card, the rest of the faction swarm the ring, landing a big hit with brass knuckles behind the referee's back, allowing their man to make the cheap cover. I love the idea of factions, but damn do these tactics get old fast. Especially when used so many times within the same show.

Making his long-awaited return to the ring, AJ Styles took on "The Cowboy" James Storm. While I haven't enjoyed the segments leading up to this, with the faces Storm and Hogan, essentially bullying Styles to be on their side, I'll admit I'm hugely intrigued by AJ's new look and demeanor. It's the same basic package as before, but darker and sexier. The beard, the hair, the colourless ring attire. It's like when Luke Skywalker started wearing black in Return of the Jedi. He means business. As reflected in his offense, which feels alot more vicious, calculated and the new submission finisher looks appropriately sadistic. The post-match beatdown of Bad Influence definitely crosses them off the list of potential stable-mates. However, the quickness with which Aces & Eights descended upon the ring to destroy James Storm leaves legitimate questions in the match's wake. I wouldn't worry too much about Styles siding with them though. I believe he's simply out for himself at the moment. He's not interested with siding with ANY faction.

The show closed with Aces & Eights standing tall over the fallen "heroes" and Bully cutting one of his patented tough guy promos, calling out his "Father-in-law" Hulk Hogan. This confrontation seems to be the major selling point for next week's Impact (what, you thought all those hyped Title matches were the important part?). I can't say I'm looking forward to that segment very much. While it makes perfect story sense, my inner wrestling fan keeps wondering how this feud is meant to pay off. Hogan is a legitimate cripple, unable to compete any longer. Hell, Bully is probably afraid to simply touch him, incase he breaks something. The real question is who runs out and makes the save for the General Manager. James Storm doesn't seem to have prospered in the role, so who'll be next to get the Hulkamania stamp of approval?

Match of the Week - Kenny King vs Petey Williams vs Zema Ion

Promo of the Week - Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, Bobby Roode and Austin Aries

Impact of the Week - Kurt Angle double German suplexing Wes Brisco and Garret Bischoff.

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