Review: Impact Wrestling 06/06/2013
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