Review: Impact Wrestling 16/05/2013

Following last week's surprise return of the long lost Abyss, the Aces & Eights suffered their first real defeat and were out for the Monster's blood. But when their target couldn't be found, they had to settle for the next best thing - Abyss' brother - Joseph Park!

Opening this week's show with a standard Hulk Hogan promo, Impact Wrestling got off to a slow start and struggled to pick up the pace. At first, the Hulkster's focus was squarely on the indecision of AJ Styles. He ran down the Phenomenal One's recent actions in a snarky tone and quicky denounced them with a particularly brutal "who cares". Frankly, with the way the supposed faces are treating AJ, it's no wonder he doesn't want to work with any of them. Both Hogan and Angle have taken such a confrontational attitude, they'd struggle to win their number one fans over.

Attention soon turned to the return of Abyss and just how happy Hogan was to see the Monster once again. Trying to coax him out from the back, his music played, but the General Manager was greeted by none other than Abyss' brother, Joseph Park. The fact these guys are legitimately treating Abyss and Park as separate entities is laughable and just as we think we're back to the gimmick that's worth a damn, TNA sticks us with the tame lawyer with impulse control issues. I could've happily seen the back of Park at this point and welcomed Abyss with open arms. But that'll have to wait for another day, as the promo is quickly interrupted by Devon and D'Lo Brown from Aces & Eights looking for a measure of revenge. Both Park and Devon want to lay into one another, but due to a timely comment from D'Lo, we find ourselves with a main event of Park vs D'Lo instead, with the promise of another match at a later date. I don't understand why Park has to jump through hoops to get what he wants when he has the face General Manager on his side. Surely Hogan could've just made the match both men wanted.

Our first match (of many) came in the form of 'The It Factor' Bobby Roode facing off against Tag Team Champion Chavo Guerrero. It began with a substantial amount of offense on Roode's part, but everything he threw at the Mexican superstar found itself reversed in kind. The leader of the Selfish Generation finally made  some traction once the action spilled outside of the ring, taking advantage of the harsh surroundings. Unfortunately, the match never really clicked or came alive, as the pair seemed oddly mismatched. Roode worked a much slower methodical pace, while Guerrero would spring to life and bounce around the ring with as many high-flying moves as he could muster. The finish came after 'The Cowboy' James Storm entered the ring and spat beer in the face of his former tag team partner, giving Roode the win, but only via disqualification. An unsatisfying ending to an unsatisfying match.

The Olympic Gold Medalist, Kurt Angle, continued the Styles-bashing for the evening with a brief in-ring promo. Speaking about how his former friend's indifference and penchant for walking away from confrontations has seriously pissed him off, Angle has arranged a one on one contest between the pair at Slammiversary. This is another one of those unfortunate situations whereby the top face of the company wants to start a fight with someone, but they don't really have a good reason. Styles hasn't actually done anything wrong up until now and even then, most of his actions can be construed as self-defense. I can't exactly blame AJ for wanting to kick Angle in the head. The man was badmouthing him on national television and picking a fight, who wouldn't want to put him in his place. With the late addition of Ken Anderson to the segment, the prospect of Styles being "patched-in" to Aces & Eights was teased for next week, making for a wonderful cliffhanger. I don't for a second believe AJ will end up in the Job Squad that is A&E, but I have to admit it's a brilliant way to build tension between he and his true opponent, Kurt Angle.

Several former Gut Check winners reared their heads this week, returning after numerous months training down in Ohio Valley Wrestling.The lucky winner of Christian York vs Jay Bradley would advance in a four man tournament to determine who gets a spot in this year's Bound for Glory Series. Both men were pushed hard in the first hour of Impact with several video packages hyping their appearance and reminding us just who the hell they are. York has clearly had the better start with the company, boasting matches with Jeff Hardy and Rob Van Dam, whereas Bradley was forced to rely upon the usual platitudes and cliches of an aspiring wrestler, looking pig ugly whilst doing it. Given their respective momentum of late, I truly expected York to take the spotlight, but Bradley's superior size and devastating array of power moves left the golden boy wanting. The match was nothing to write home about, ending abruptly, with Bradley landing a Boomstick clothesline out of nowhere.

The Knockouts Division suffered some strange editing this week, with ring introductions taking place before five minutes worth of adverts and several more featuring a backstage segment. Thank god the show was taped last week, because there's no way in hell even pretty girls like these can entertain a crowd by doing absolutely nothing for ten minutes at a time. Once Gail Kim and Velvet Sky were allowed to continue, the focus of the match became the Champion's recently injured knee. Sky hit all her signature moves early on, allowing Gail the rest of the match to work on the Beautiful Person's ailing leg. Huge credit goes to Gail for the inventive submission maneuvers she implemented against Sky. Of particular note was a Texas Cloverleaf, which is rare at the best of times, let alone in the Knockouts Division. Equal applause must go to Sky, who sold the worsening injury like a pro. When she tried to run the ropes and collapsed in pain, she crumpled to the floor like she'd just lost the knee entirely. The Champion held on by the skin of her teeth with a last minute surprise roll-up giving her the pinfall. I'll be extremely interested to see where Velvet's injury angle is meant to lead, sure to have been hastened by Gail's usual post-match beating.

The X Division Championship was once again on the line as Kenny King defended his Title against the combined might of Petey Williams and Chris Sabin. In doing so, he often took a backseat to his challengers, allowing them to duke it out in the ring, while he skulked around outside, waiting for an opportunity to strike. Williams once again justified his return to TNA with a stunning performance. His moves having lost none of their pace and are as crisp as the day he began. He's clearly been relegated to being the third wheel of the X Division matches, but with displays such as these, he'll quickly deserve a spotlight of his own. Similarly, Chris Sabin kept up his side of things, offering an insanely quick offense, giving no hint as to his formerly torn ACLs. The only downside was the finish, which saw Kenny King sneak another victory from the jaws of defeat. These triple threat matches, while always entertaining, are falling into a set pattern and becoming a little too predictable for my taste. The format has it's own in-built limitations and the competitors will have to work harder to innovate in the future.

Continuing James Storm's one man mission to be the buzzkill of the entire card, 'The Cowboy' made another appearance at the close of Daniels vs Hernandez. Having an obvious bee in his bonnet about heels being allowed to interfere and cheat, whilst he finds himself reprimanded, Storm distracted 'The Fallen Angel' just as he was about to hit his finishing maneuver, allowing Hernandez to sneak the pinfall. No offense to Storm, as I'm sure he has a point, but this whiny behaviour was extremely unbecoming and left me craving honest to god clean finishes. The match was immediately followed by a promo setting up a four way Tag Team Championship match at Slammiversary. The real intrigue being who Storm will team with to take on Chavo/Hernandez, Daniels/Kazarian and Aries/Roode. Which faces are floundering on the card and are in need of something to do on pay-per-view? I'm stumped. This is probably really obvious and it's going to bug me all the way up until June 2nd.

In our wrestling main event of the evening, we had Dumb vs Dumber, as Aces & Eights' whipping boy D'Lo Brown took on the forever sweating buckets Joseph Park. To D'Lo's credit, he dominated a fair portion of the match, demonstrating a rare agility in the otherwise stocky backstage agent. However, he made a key mistake when he busted Park open in the corner of the ring. Thus the usual process of Park losing his mind kicked in, as the Lawyer jabbed and clotheslined his opponent into oblivion before finally hitting "his brother's" Black Hole Slam for the win. Surprisingly, there was absolutely no interference from the Aces & Eights tonight. They all stayed backstage and refused to come to the aid of their prospective member. D'Lo's losing streak would be funny, if it wasn't so sad.

Last but not least, we had the contract signing for the World Heavyweight Championship match at Slammiversary between Bully Ray and Sting. The supposed press conference was initially hosted by Jeremy Borash, but his presence was deemed unnecessary by the World Champ, who ran him out of the ring like a rat out a door. Little mannerisms such as this, really go a long way towards Bully earning his name. He goes on to boast about having beaten Jeff Hardy in his own specialty match and promises to do much the same to Sting come Slammiversary. One after the other, both Sting and Hogan come out from the back to confront their nemesis. Hogan was there mostly to worry about his make-up laden best friend, however, Sting cut a truly inventive promo offering up suggestions to his opponent as to where they should injure him. The tactic was more than a little terrifying and freaked the hell out of the Bully. This naturally led to the suggestion of the Slammiversary match being changed to a No Holds Barred contest, a Sting staple due to his ever-decreasing move set. But in return, the Bully wanted a stipulation of his own. Should Sting lose, he'd never be able to compete for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship ever again. In a fantastic twist of the proverbial knife, Bully reiterated this was nothing to do with retiring the Icon, this is simply a way to make him suffer. To have him wrestling to the end of his days, knowing he'll never hold the top prize in professional wrestling once more. Pretty ingenious if you ask me. And a fantastic way to exclude Sting from any future main event matches. Because, let's face it, he's ridiculously old at this point and should've been shuffled off long ago. The episode ends with Sting and Bully exchanging blows, each landing their fair share, with no true victor coming out on top. A fitting, if indecisive, close to the show.

This week's Impact Wrestling was packed to the rafters with content and yet never showcased a damn thing. There were six matches in total, each suffering from a short runtime and competitors going through the motions, showing us the same old shtick we had last week and the week before that. Wrestling will always feature a degree of repetition, but I felt as though it was particularly acute in this instance, with most stars running on autopilot. Also, the show failed to adequately follow up on the promise of Abyss from last week's cliffhanger, making proceedings feel hollow at best, time wasted at worst. The high points were the X Division match for pure athleticism and the closing exchange between Sting and Bully Ray for a clear display of passion and intensity. Not a bad episode necessarily, but not a good one either.

6 out of 10

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