Bell To Bell
2/22 iMPACT Wrestling Review
by Jimmy Dylan
Getting back to writing has been therapeutic for me and good for those that like to read this column. Over the last week I’ve been thinking how good it could be when it pertains to covering iMPACT Wrestling and TNA pay-per-views. In their eleventh year, the company is finally taking the show on the road and this could definitely turn out well. Ticket sales for the first show in Chicago are doing well and the company has announced a second date with more surely to come. With that being said, I know a lot of people have been complaining about the month straight spent in the UK, but in all honesty…was it any different than every week in the Impact Zone? The answer is yes and no. No in the sense that we were seeing the same venue and same crowds between the two cities. However, this last month has featured two arenas jam-packed with paying fans, which alone sets them above and beyond the Impact Zone. Paying fans also pretty much equal real fans, unlike several people in Orlando that often only showed up because it was free and probably viewed as an Orlando Studios attraction. I didn’t think the venue was good for WCW in the past, and the same has always gone for TNA. At the same time I understand their business moves and truly hope they’ve found some lucrative target areas through touring and can turn them into big TV towns. I’m very happy to see them take the show on the road and wish them all the best in taking the company to the next level.
As I said, it’s been an interesting month in the UK. Some things have been good….others not so much. Anybody who knows me knows I despise spoilers with a passion. You will never see any column or blog of mine containing spoilers. So my writing will be written as it is…natural reactions off of seeing the shows as if they were Live. I was unable to watch iMPACT last night, so I’m writing this week’s entry as I watch online segment by segment.
Nothing out of this month has been stranger or more interesting than last night’s opening segment with Hulk Hogan. After conducting a mini-tournament of sorts on last week’s episode that was designed for the general manager to determine who would be Jeff Hardy’s next challenger, Hulk opened the show last night by announcing that Bully Ray…someone that didn’t compete at all last week due to a supposed quad injury…would be the one getting the shot against Hardy. Bully came to the ring acting the most surprised of everyone, and I guess rightfully so. Having heard the injury was legit, I found this to be odd but I guess it would be healed or “healed enough” by the time we get to Lockdown. At the same time, my thoughts at this point are also on everyone who competed last week to show Hogan who the man should be. With the exception of Angle and Samoa Joe maybe, who were kind of DQ’d from consideration thanks to Aces & 8s. Just as fast as Bully asks Hulk if he’s aware of the quad injury, Bully accepts the match and kisses up talking about Brooke, wanting to impress Hogan, and wanting to be World champ. At this point I’m definitely intrigued to see what kind of ripple effect Hogan’s seemingly biased and hasty decision has on the rest of the night. Bully Ray’s idea for the main event was the strangest thing yet with Hogan wrestling (yes, you read that right) to team with Sting and Ray to take on Aces. Not sure how to take that yet, and hoping it’s a tease.
From a fan point of view I don’t want to see similar things on opposing wrestling shows any more than the next person, so it’s kind of hard to write about the Bobby Roode/Austin Aries angle with respect to the business. All I can say is, it is what it is.
Roode/Aries/Daniels/Kaz vs. Chavo/Hernandez/Storm/Park
Good match with a traditional story being told. I have told many of my friends that Chris Park has become a modern day Mick Foley, and not just for some of the bumps he’s taken over the years, but for the invention of a completely different character. I have enjoyed watching the development of Joseph Park from the beginning, and a large part of the story in this match was about continuing to bring this aloof character along. The other clear story being between the team of Bad Intentions and the World Tag Team Champions and their massive egos clashing like a highway pile-up. The confrontation was bound to happen and the moment came when Daniels and Kaz attempted to take over the match and dish out more punishment to Park, who had already been taking a beating. Naturally, the tag champs shouldn’t stand for that and ultimately left Daniels & Kazarian high and dry when they attempted to tag back out. Things had broken down and the night didn’t end well for Bad Intentions as they were systematically laid out by their opponents…ending with a second rope splash on Kaz from Park, allowing Chavo to make the cover for the win. Love Taz’s tongue & cheek line during this match about wrestlers not politicking.
Robbie E vs. Rockstar Spud
After last week’s in-ring confrontation between these two, a 1-on-1 contest was signed for this week and the problems definitely continued for little Robbie E. The real story here is the problems in the camp of E and “Bigger Rob” and their impending split. TNA as chosen the Boot Camp winner to get the rub off of this story and it’ll be interesting to see where Spud goes from here. As I said, the meat and potatoes of this match surrounds to two Robbies. Last week Big T “allowed” Robbie E to get punched in the mouth after hazing the newcomer. This week, the big man from Wales refused to let go of the clipboard containing “The List” when Robbie E tried to use it to his advantage…allowing Spud to catch E in a quick roll up for the win. Post-match saw things really elevate as Robbie E scolded his bodyguard for his actions…leading to a hard slap to the face by the former TV Champion. Big Robbie T pulled his shirt off with fire in his eyes, sending Robbie E scrambling through the ropes and off up the ramp-way. We’ve seen this type of break up before, folks. The writing is on the wall and it’s only a matter of time before Rob Terry is back to himself and bouncing Robbie E around at will.
Tara (C) vs. Velvet Sky vs. Miss Tessmacher vs. Gail Kim (Knockouts Championship)
After a few weeks of crazy encounters between these four, Brooke Hogan not only signed this Fatal 4-Way Elimination bout with the title on the line, but she came to ringside to watch it personally. Her first order of business was to eject Tara’s boyfriend, Jesse, from ringside to ensure fairness in the contest. Interesting first leg of the match as all four Knockouts went at it with fast-paced action. Turning point came after Velvet dropped Tara with the In Yo Face. Gail Kim then took Sky out and stole her glory…eliminating Tara and guaranteeing a new champion to be crowned at the conclusion of the match. The hits just kept rolling as the remaining three orchestrated a tower of doom out of the corner that got me on the edge of my seat. A sense of urgency came over the match from here on out as each Knockout realized what ultimate victory truly meant for them. After two failed attempts to capitalize on the tower, Velvet managed to reverse a school girl by Ms. Tessmacher and put her on her shoulders for the count…leaving it to herself and Gail Kim to battle it out for the gold. Everything was fast-paced as a quick exchange between two great former champs ultimately came down to Velvet Sky hitting her In Yo Face finisher on the Knockout pioneer to win the match and the Championship.
After the year AJ Styles had last year and closing it out with a debilitating loss to Christopher Daniels, Mike Tenay informs us that TNA cameras are being sent to Gainsville, GA. to catch up with the “Phenomenal One” after two months of exile. I’ll admit it’s going to be interesting to see if they find AJ and what he says, if anything, to advance this program. One thing I don’t like, for whatever reason it’s being done, is the fact that AJ is even “home” after the loss in December. Legit injury is the only thing that could change my mind on this and I’ll tell you why. After James Storm lost to Bobby Roode in Tennessee, he took it personally and went home for a while. Now we’re seeing the same type of deal with AJ after a big loss. Used too closely together in my opinion.
Samoa Joe vs. Garret Bischoff
Who didn’t feel bad for Garret when they heard about and/or saw this one? (again, I don’t read spoilers) Just doesn’t seem fair on paper or in the ring, and that’s what we saw at first as Bischoff tried to play cat and mouse with the “Samoan Submission Machine”. It was only a matter of time before Joe was able to thwart the barrage and get his hands on young Bischoff. The crowd knew what time it was and let Joe hear it as he began to unload on one of the latest Aces & 8s turncoats. Speaking of the rogue faction, Wes Brisco made a quick entrance when he saw Joe going for the Muscle Buster and saved his partner from sure destruction. The attack on Samoa Joe also cost Garret to be disqualified, but the double team assault was on. It was short-lived of course by Kurt Angle, who has the real beef with the youngsters. The Gold Medalist tells Brisco he’s glad he helped him get a contract because they’re going 1-on-1 inside the cage at Lockdown. Angle sends his message, and Brisco only looks tough once Garret starts hyping him up. The Aces, like all other major groups, are going to have to pick up some significant wins if they want to be viewed as “legit”. #Lockdown
Rob Van Dam (C) vs. Kenny King (X Division Title)
Although this issue between RVD and King reminds me a little of the “Respect” angle between RVD and Sabu from the original ECW days, Kenny’s in-ring skills remind me a lot of Shelton Benjamin and he continued to show that this week on iMPACT as he challenged for the X Division Championship. Solid back and forth match that continued to show that Kenny King has arrived and is in the hunt, and may one day hold at least the X Division title. Following King’s Shotgun Knees late in the match, he failed to execute his Royal Flush finisher to perfection…allowing the champ to escape the pin attempt and recover. Rolling Thunder left the promising challenger vulnerable to the 5 Star Frog Splash and RVD easily retained his title. Something tells me Kenny King will not go away quietly.
The Jeff Hardy promo towards the end of the night definitely makes it look like the title match against Bully Ray is on for Lockdown. Hardy talked about the match with Bully and said it will be the greatest cage match ever. I don’t know, but I’m sure there’s a few critics out there that will argue with that statement as of press time, but I guess we’ll have to wait to see what happens on one of TNA’s grandest stages. Funny that Jeff says next week, “We The Creatures”, will return to iMPACT. We the creatures…we the people…Jeff…Jack…nevermind.
Sting/Bully Ray/ Hogan vs. Devon/D.O.C./Anderson
As I said in the beginning, the idea and signing of this main event was very strange, and I guess an obvious attempt to secure viewers and ratings. Can’t say it wasn’t smart to tease a Hulk Hogan return to the ring. It got me interested, even though I smelled the rat and the match revealed that the fix was definitely in. When Hogan didn’t come out after his music played the first time, I thought they were going old school again and just making the crowd wait for it. Hogan has a following over there like Bret Hart, and it was very smart to play to the crowd in this manner. I wonder if that intrigue carried over to television viewers? Maybe if it was Live. So no Hogan and we have a Handicap Match where Aces & 8s manage to cut the ring in half with the injured Bully Ray in the ring and Sting watching on the outside. I was looking for this so we could gauge the legitimacy of Bully’s quad injury. We’ve seen this injury with the likes of Triple H twice and several NFL and NBA athletes and know its seriousness. If Ray’s is legit, it’s either not that serious or he’s really one of the toughest guys in the biz. Still a good match in my view with a nice build to Sting’s hot tag, only to have everything cut off by Aces & 8s revealing what everyone expected of course…that they were behind the disappearance of Hulk Hogan. Good to see they had Brooke hostage also as she should be expected to be alone with Bully in the ring. This draws Ray away from the match, allowing the numbers game to fall into the Aces’ advantage even more and allowing them to pick up a big win to conclude the UK tour.
Fans have been wondering what is the direction of Aces & 8s and wanting to get some wins if they were going to continue to be served up as big time villains. We saw it this week on WWE with two big wins for The Shield and one of the main things I saw fans saying is that TNA could learn a lesson from that. Of course this show has been in the books for quite some time now, so maybe it was WWE that decided to put some Ws on their big heel group. Surprised to see no one involved in last week’s “tourney” speak out against Hogan’s sudden decision on Lockdown. Hopefully this develops in the weeks to come as the guys in those matches should feel like pawns in whatever game Hogan is playing. Why have the matches if you were just going to favor your new son-in-law in the end anyway? What’s next moving forward towards iMPACT Live on the road and one of TNA’s premier pay-per-view events? Stay tuned right here to Bell To Bell! Thanks for reading!!!