Review: Impact Wrestling 09/05/2013

Since General Manager Hulk Hogan granted Sting a six man tag match against three of Aces & Eights' best, the race has been on to find the Icon his ideal partners. The Olympic Gold Medalist, Kurt Angle, made the first decision easy by volunteering. The second spot seemed destined for the recently returned AJ Styles, but the Phenomenal One is out for one person only - himself.

Addressing the issue right off the bat, we arrived in Tupelo to find Sting and Angle making their way to the ring. Cutting impassioned promos about the evil of Aces & Eights, the pair effectively push both the main event tonight and the centerpiece of Slammiversary. Sting was his usual dependable self, while Angle came across as borderline irrational. In calling out AJ Styles once again and forcing the issue, Angle's rash behaviour made the situation ten times worse, leading to the pair exchanging vicious blows on the walkway. Frankly, I don't blame Styles for not wanting to team with Angle if this is the treatment he'd receive. While this is going on, the three members of Aces & Eights scheduled for the main event (Bully Ray, Devon and Mr Anderson) pull off a perfectly timed sneak attack on Sting, planting a rare 3D on the Icon.

Acting almost as a breather after the frantic opener, the Knockouts tag team match of Velvet Sky & Mickie James vs Gail Kim & Tara was a complete change of pace. Literally. No sooner had the four ladies made their way to the ring and the bell had rung, the match was over. It's impossibly short bouts such as this which lead to outbursts in the media *cough*MickieJames*cough*. The country singer found herself dominated by the heel team for the majority of the match, only to make a hot tag to Champion Velvet, who rushed the ring and had the match wrapped up in a matter of seconds. The only redeeming feature of the segment was Gail's post-match beatdown of partner Tara. Seeing the first lady of the Knockouts division snap and try to end the careers of her competitors is hugely intriguing and almost worth sacrificing the match time for. But not entirely.

Finally getting around to the matter of Aces & Eights' D-Lo Brown submitting to Kurt Angle "last week", the band of outlaws are led to the ring by World Heavyweight Champion, Bully Ray. Continuing his impressive body of work on the mic, Bully strips the Vice President of his colours, leaving little chance of redemption for his former right hand man. Neatly leading into D.O.C. vs Magnus, D-Lo must ensure his brother's victory over the British titan. The match itself was treated as entirely throwaway, the first half not even making it to air in favour of commercials. Both men were a few paces off their game and it made for several sloppy maneuvers. The finish came as a visually-impaired Brown cost his own man the match in a refreshing change to the usual Aces & Eights M.O. Sufficed to say, this didn't go down well with the rest of the club, who promptly held D-Lo down for a beating. Bully swore he simply wanted to cave the man's skull in, but the whole thing took on a creepy prison rape vibe. I really don't want to know what happened after they cut away.

Now, in what I would refer to as the TRUE main event of the evening, we have Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian taking on Austin Aries & Bobby Roode for the number one contendership to the Tag Team Championships. I make this very clear, as announcer Christy Hemme didn't have the slightest clue what she was talking about, announcing one team as the other and forgetting another man entirely. Thank god for Austin Aries' covering by bullying her into doing it correctly or I'd say fire her on the spot. As it transpires, the key feature to the match was James Storm acting as referee. Having been bribed with alcohol by both teams and each cheating to their heart's content during the bout, the Cowboy was forever at a loss as to what to do, wanting neither of them to win. The body of the match was fast paced and fun, with equal focus on wowing us and making us laugh. The opening salvo of flips and reversals by Austin Aries and Frankie Kazarian were of particular note. Only to be topped by their double eye-rake, leading to both men retreating to the opposition's corners and tagging the wrong men in. The conflict quickly devolved into a sequence of power moves, until Aries was left the victor. However, not wanting to count the pinfall due to so many despicable tactics, it's superkicks all around, courtesy of James Storm. While I can understand the hero not wanting to make the count for the villain, simply having him leave to his music, with no clear end to the match was confusing and frustrating. Taking into account the resulting backstage assault later in the night, I would hope Storm is itching to find a tag team partner and inject himself into this reinvigorated division.

In somewhat of an unusual move for them, TNA decided to give the X-Division a little bit more attention than usual this week. Not only were there video packages promoting the returns of both Suicide and Chris Sabin, but Kenny King was allowed to walk to the ring and cut an honest to god promo. I can't for the life of me remember the last time this division's competitors were allowed to speak in front of an audience. To the Champion's credit, his promo was downright entertaining. It turns out that not only can these men perform crazy videogame-like moves, but they can talk as well! The bait and switch with King flipping from respectful to snide was predictable, but hard-hitting. The sheer sincerity with which he greeted his challenger Chris Sabin had to have been genuine, otherwise King is a far better actor than I gave him credit for. After the killer insult that was "Frail Sabin", I can't wait to see these two lock-up next week. Poor Petey Williams is nothing but an afterthought.

During the build-up towards the main event, the commentators hyped that in the coming weeks, four lucky former Gut Check winners will be competing in a tournament to win a spot in this year's Bound for Glory Series. While I like the idea on paper of giving these four developmental talents some much needed TV time, everything I have seen of the winners in question has been worryingly weak. Devoting three entire matches of an Impact Wrestling episode to these no-name wannabes is a surefire way to make viewers change the channel. Even worse, it's a dead-cert that the botch-happy Christian York will be the one to take the spot and torture us with many more matches in the near future. Here's an idea, try cutting the dreadlocks off, maybe losing that extra weight will speed you up and let you hit moves when you're supposed to.

As we reached the main event of the evening, the mysterious third man for Team TNA had yet to be named. This left Sting and Angle walking to the ring, with only the vague hope Hulk Hogan would come through backstage, pulling the proverbial rabbit out of a hat. The majority of the bout was fought as a Handicap match. Not that it mattered, as Sting and Angle effectively held their own for the longest time, without any need of a third man. Unfortunately, the numbers game soon worked against them, allowing Aces & Eights to isolate Angle until the final few minutes. Finally making the hot tag to Sting, the Icon looked worryingly old, tired and haggard. His thinning hairline looking outright comical by the time he was going nose to nose with his Slammiversary opponent. When all looked lost and Team 3D were setting up their trademark table in the corner, the third man was finally revealed. It was none other than the Monster, Abyss! Truly shocking me that they'd bring back the gimmick so soon (Joseph Park RIP), Abyss decimated the heels, sending Anderson crashing through the table and hitting a devastating Black Hole Slam on Devon, making the cover soon after. If TNA can maintain the momentum from this return, they may finally light the fire under the character of Abyss that they've always hoped for.

7 out of 10 

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