Note: I wrote this before I watched Monday's RAW, where Michael Cole once again took up the role of Worst Person on Television.
So I heard Joey Ryan was going to be on Impact last Thursday night.
I like Joey Ryan and think he’s got a great character. He’s solid in the ring and just generally one of those guys that interests me all around as a wrestler. I follow the guy on Twitter and Facebook and check out his matches when he posts them.
So I was curious to see what he was going to be doing on Impact.
Right around the same time, the lawsuits of Shannon Spruill (Daffney) and some other wrestlers against TNA came to light. That is a whole other post, but the suits suggest that TNA treats their talent like shit. I normally look at this sort of thing with a great deal of suspicion, but I was friends with Shannon back in high school and I have a pretty high opinion of her character. Granted, she has been in the wrestling business for over a decade now and who knows how that might change a person, but I like to think she’s still a pretty reasonable person with a good head on her shoulders. I’m more inclined to believe her side of things than I am a wrestling company with a history of questionable decisions and a stack of lawsuits.
So that put me off a bit, as well. I’m not going to try and be all high-and-mighty and say I’ll NEVER watch again. This is, after all, the entertainment business. Being treated poorly seems like part-and-parcel. To paraphrase Q-Tip, entertainment industry people are shady. It’s just a fact. If I were going to boycott every company with lousy practices I wouldn’t be reading, watching, or listening to anything. But that did leave a temporary sour taste in my mouth.
For some perspective, I’m not really watching WWE right now either. There is too much stupid talking, I don’t give a shit about half of the roster because I have no faith that they’ll be around for any amount of time if they’re good or that they will be utilized properly. It seems like every time I start to really like somebody they either get fired or dropped to curtain-jerking status. And WWE’s midcard matches are laughable. It’s one thing to have professionals who have been in the business for many years getting by on clever variations of kick-punch-suplex; it’s another entirely to expect a new crop of fresh faces to do the same. I don’t know how WWE management expects any of these young guys to get over when they are all doing the exact same matches, just with different signature moves. And a lot of those signature moves have been seen before.
Michael Cole’s wretched job of announcing is also a big factor in my lack of interest in WWE. He is the worst fucking commentator I have ever heard in my life, and that includes Mark Madden, Jonathan Coachman, Mike Adamle, and Ed Ferrara. Granted, Cole has gotten better, but that’s like saying this time the Herpes outbreak wasn’t too bad. To think that Jerry Lawler is the best announcer on WWE’s flagship show is awful when several years ago I wanted to pay Lawler’s throat doctor to slice his vocal cords.
So I still record the WWE shows because it would be unthinkable not to and because maybe, just maybe, someday it’ll suddenly get better and I don’t want to miss it. A good example of that is CM Punk’s promo last Summer. That was worth hours of mediocre non-wrestling to see. So I record RAW and Smackdown on the DVR and watch them while I do other things. When I hear CM Punk or Daniel Bryan’s entrance music I stop and pay attention. I don’t care about Big Show’s 4,973rd heel turn. I don’t care about Dancin’ Broadus Clay. I don’t care about A-Train’s return because I have no faith that they’re going to do anything good with him. I don’t care about any new guy that debuts for the same reason. I certainly don’t care about the embarrassingly mishandled women’s division.
The point is, don’t think I went into this Impact viewing as a WWE fan. The only wrestling I truly love right now is Empire/PCW. Well, and DCW.
So I set my DVR and committed myself to sitting down and just watching Impact. No internet, no phone, no sketch pad. I thought about doing a live review on the laptop, but that would have provided too much temptation to surf around. So it was just me, a bag of veggie hot fries, a root beer, and Impact.
The first thing I noticed was that wherever they are recording now is bigger and doesn’t look like a total joke. The sets are much cleaner and more impressive, everybody comes out of the same entrance now, and the ramp to the ring is longer. The overall presentation was far more professional than what I had seen previously. The only thing I had a problem with production-wise was that they had these blue jets of flame during the match-up screens and they would pop up in front of the wrestlers’ images. Guys, the wrestlers are the show. Don’t put anything in front of your wrestlers. It’s just stupid.
The show started with a match involving the TNA or Impact or whatever World Champion, Robert Roode. When last I saw Roode he was a bland midcarder trying very hard to make everybody believe he was a Main Eventer. I didn’t buy it then, but since that time he’s gotten a haircut and an infusion of gravitas. Roode walked out to the ring to what I think was some kind of bland music (I couldn’t hear hardly anybody’s music, but I had the volume kind of low because everybody was asleep upstairs – nobody wants to be awakened by the music of [Jeff Hardy’s shitty band] at 3 AM), but that belt looked like it belonged around his waist. The guy was just carrying himself differently. It was enough for me to feel positive.
And then Hulk Hogan came out and told Robert Roode that his opponent was Sting.
Fucking shit. Seriously? Hogan is still “in charge” and Sting is still wrestling?
But then Roode and Sting had a very good match. Not awesome, but convincing. It got me interested and there was plenty of action. There were lumberjacks around the ring, which gave me a pretty good idea about how different TNA had gotten.
I immediately recognized Austin Aries. I knew he had been back, but I just hadn’t trusted TNA to do anything with him. Turns out he’s the X-Division Champion (which I think should be TNA’s most hyped title) and has been for a while.
Also at ringside were Eric Young (in some stupid new gimmick), that Jersey Shore idiot, Rob Van Dam, Chris Sabin (a friend of mine always mispronounced this as “Chris Sybian” and had no idea what he was saying), Frankie Kazarian, Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, and some other dudes. The bad guys beat up Sting when he ended up outside the ring and the good guys sort of pussyfooted around Roode. You know how these things go.
Side Note: I have a theory about Jeff Hardy. You may or may not know that Matt Hardy is an absolute fucking disaster right now. I say that without judgment; it’s just a fact. Posting videos of yourself on YouTube where you are cutting promos on people who don’t give a shit about you while you are clearly higher than ten Rick Jameses is not rational. Posting suicide notes on Twitter to get attention is not rational. Clearly Matt Hardy has gone fucking bonkers and I think it’s because he spent so many years being the straight one and doesn’t know how to handle his shit.
Jeff Hardy, on the other hand, has spent the greater portion of two decades using Lord knows how many different types of drugs and then cleaning up just long enough to keep some kind of job. He’s a junkie, but he can handle his shit to a certain extent.
Obviously I don’t know either of these guys and am just speculating, but I’ve certainly known enough junkies in my life to recognize certain things.
So Sting won by making Roode tap out to the Scorpion Deathlock and I was all like, “Holy shit. That old man just won the title in the opening match. I guess he’ll be losing it before the end of the night,” but then Mike Tenay (who is one of my favorite wrestling announcers of all time) said it was a non-title match.
I certainly don’t mind the champ losing a match. I don’t even mind him losing it clean. But for as much as Sting had a perfectly good, competitive match I am just not interested in seeing him wrestle for titles anymore. If he wants to do special attraction stuff like Undertaker (or against Undertaker!) that would be awesome. But it shouldn’t have anything to do with any titles. Sting doesn’t need a title and titles need active, exciting wrestlers that capture the imagination of the audience. The champ should be the pinnacle of what the company is and an example of what the company has to offer. Sting as champ or even chasing the title says, “We have an old guy that you’ve been watching for the last thirty-odd years. And that’s the best we have.”
However, this was a very exciting opening segment that made me want to tune in for the rest of the show. And that is something that WWE seems almost incapable of accomplishing these days. I usually tune out halfway through whatever promo they put up as their opener. I think opening or closing a wrestling show with anything other than a match is extremely stupid, with a few exceptions. A contract signing is never one of those exceptions and, quite frankly, shouldn’t even be on TV. They’re stupid always.
The end result of the opener was that the Icon Sting (who now has Heath Ledger Joker facepaint for some reason) has a shot at Robert Roode’s Heavyweight Title at Slammiversary. Maybe not the decision I would have made, but it was done well enough that it felt big time and logical.
Okay, I may not get the order of the segments right from here on out and I might even forget one. If I do, you can bet it wasn’t good or bad. Just forgettable.
They came back from a break to Madison Raine in her dressing room talking about the fact that Brooke Hogan coming in to manage the TNA Women’s Division. This is absolutely fucking stupid, but I couldn’t get too mad because Raine was actually pretty funny during the segment and has gotten even hotter since the last time I saw her. I’ll address the Brooke Hogan nonsense later.
Next was a promo segment with Bully Ray. I think that name is dumb, but I’m going to use it because I firmly believe in using a wrestler’s current name. It’s the one they’re using to get over at the moment and you’re not doing them any favors by continuing to refer to them by an old name like, say, Brian Danielson.
So Bully Ray looks fucking amazing. The guy is in the best shape I’ve ever seen him in and this makes me want to see him wrestle. It looks like his gimmick is pretty much the same as it was last time (and as it’s pretty much always been) where he is a dick. He’s really good at being a dick and in this instance he was being a dick to “Joseph Park”, who is clearly Abyss without a mask. This segment went on way too fucking long, but both guys did a good job. If it had only gone on for five minutes I would have called it a great and effective use of time. But I think it went twice that and I hated both of these guys by the time it was over. “Joseph Park” is supposed to be Chris Park’s (Abyss) brother and he is an attorney who is upset about something Bully did to Abyss. I can tell you the exact point where this segment got fucking stupid:
Apparently Bully beat the shit out of Joseph recently. But when Joseph finally nutted up and grabbed Bully to deliver some much-deserved smacketh down, Bully told Joseph if he hit him he would sue. This was utterly retarded and devoid of logic, but the big problem is that it was unnecessary. We could have seen Bully acting like a chickenshit without the threat of lawsuit. There are dozens of different ways that could have been handled without the heel threatening to get litigious with the lawyer that he had just beaten up without reprisal.
But things ended with a match set up for Slammiversary (TNA has a problem with giving things stupid names). And you know what? TNA is selling their PPV far better than WWE. I feel like Slammiversary is a big deal with a lot of stuff on the line and I only know two of the matches. I can’t put a finger on it, but what they were doing worked.
Another big deal throughout the night was a match against Devon (a much more reasonable name than “Bully Ray”) for the TNA TV title. TNA was “letting the fans” pick the challenger from four wrestlers – Jeff Hardy, Rob Van Dam, Robbie E (the Jersey Shore douche), and Ken Anderson. There was the occasional backstage segment with the four guys standing around with Jeremy Borasch (my favorite backstage interviewer), waiting to see who got picked.
Hardy is Hardy. He’s good when he isn’t too fucked up. He had his stupid face paint on, and he also had eyes painted on his eyelids. I wanted to feel like that was stupid, too; but it was actually kind of cool and creepy. Don’t tell anybody I said that, though.
RVD is awesome. I don’t think anybody can deny the name he has made for himself over the years. He may have had a rough patch in WWE for a while and absolutely fucked up there at the end, but he should definitely be a Hall Of Famer someday.
Robbie E (I think that’s his name) looks ridiculous – like a poor man’s Zack Ryder. And I thought Zack Ryder was a poor man’s Zack Ryder. I didn’t like him when he had his fat little valet and I don’t like him now. For the time being. His new valet is Robbie T, who I think is Big Rob Terry, who I also never liked and think this gimmick change is an indicator that I was right about his worth. The fact that a guy I consider to be a rookie has had three (or more) gimmick changes since he started is not good. For him or for TNA.
And then there’s Mr. Anderson. I loved this guy when he was in WWE. Most of what I’ve seen of him in TNA has been terrible.
But none of that matters because the next match was Chris Sabin versus X Division Champion Austin Aries and it was awesome. Not Match of the Year awesome or anything, but better than ninety percent of the matches WWE shows us. I miss the days when TNA was mostly about guys like these two. There were tons of counters and some really good teases of finishers. Aries won with a rollup and Sabin looked pretty darn pissed about it. Great match and the sort of thing that makes me want to see more TNA.
Now it’s time for Joey Ryan, but in the most boring way possible. TNA is trying to do their own version of Tough Enough, but with editors that are unable to determine what is worth showing on television. Al Snow, Bruce Pritchard, and Taz sat around talking about Joey Ryan and whether or not he should get a TNA contract and it absolutely bored the piss out of me. I like all three of these guys and have a great deal of respect for them, but this segment was terrible. I don’t know if it was real and came off as fake or fake and came off as boring, but these guys just said a bunch of bland, generalized stuff about Ryan. And it went on forever. I’m not trying to say Tough Enough was legit because I’m sure it wasn’t but at least it was entertaining. I wish WWE would continue it. I’m talking about the version with Trish and Stone Cold that was its own show, not the one that was a segment on RAW.
Next up was another segment and Impact was really in danger of losing me here because it was Dixie Carter talking. Not the Designing Women Dixie Carter. If you don’t know, Dixie Carter is the lady that sort of owns TNA. I’m not clear on how much of it is storyline now and how much is legit, but she for real used to run things. Her father owns Panda Energy, which is the company that bailed TNA out years ago. Dixie Carter truly loves wrestling. I’ve met her and she is a very sweet lady. But she is not a person you want talking on your television. Especially when the talking she is doing is in order to introduce a vacuum of talent like Brooke Hogan.
I don’t know anything about Brooke Hogan the person. Maybe she’s lovely. But Brooke Hogan the entertainer is an awful, bland stack of orange tofu that has no business holding a microphone for any reason. She didn’t have three words out of her mouth before I had to fight to keep from fast-forwarding. I had promised myself that I would watch every single segment on Impact and rate it.
This segment was crap. Ms. Carter introduced Hogan’s spawn as the new manager of the Women’s Division and the Hogan Spawn said she was going to make things super great or something. Whatever. I think this was even the top of the hour. As much as I would have preferred it if somebody had come out and attacked the Hogan Spawn, that would have been dumb, too.
After some ads, we return backstage to the four possible opponents for Devon. You know RVD isn’t going to “win” because he doesn’t even have his hands taped up. Slacker. Unsurprisingly, Jeff Hardy won the vote and he prances his silly, day-glo ass out to the ring. He must not be too high, because he’s able to navigate ringside even though he has his eyes closed to show off his creepy eyelid eyes.
Devon is looking just as fit as his “brother”, but the bedazzled jeans he’s wearing are not the best or most flattering look. I think he’d be better off in just a singlet.
These two have had hundreds of matches and it shows. The match is clean and fun to watch until Robbie E and Robbie T run out and interfere. It’s almost worth it, though, because we got to see Devon and Jeff do that Hardys double-team move where Jeff launches off the back of the guy on all fours in front of the opponent in the corner. Poetry In Motion? Is that right? I knew all that stuff when I was still playing the wrestling games.
Okay, so I cheated for the next segment. I fast-forwarded through a stupid video of Cowboy James Storm leading his daughter around on horseback, talking about what a cowboy he is. I get it, James. It’s in your ring name. You’re a cowboy. Shut up and piledrive somebody. The shame of it is I really like James Storm and would have liked to see him actually doing something.
Now it’s time for more Joey Ryan! But again, in the most boring way possible.
Pritchard, Snow, and Taz are in the ring ready to deliver a decision about whether or not Joey Ryan gets a contract. I just assumed he was. But then the three judges rehash their debate about Ryan’s worthiness and it seems even more fake live than it did pre-recorded. Finally Joey Ryan comes out – smirking, confident, and secure in the manliness of his mustache – to cut a possible contract-saving promo. He says some words and Pritchard delivers a “No”. Ryan says he can’t believe Pritchard is that dumb, but know Snow and Taz will see the light. Snow says “Yes” and Ryan says he knows Taz will say yes because Joey Ryan is money and you don’t leave money on the table because somebody else is going to come along and pick it up. Taz does a very artificial freak out – channeling Stone Cold Steve Austin on Tough Enough, which is very weird because to me Taz will always be the voice of Tough Enough – and says if that was Ryan’s contract-saving promo he should be ashamed because it was crap. Taz says “No”. Ryan gets all up in Taz’s grill and tells him how wrong he is and that he’s not afraid of him and then leaves in somewhat of a huff.
All of this was a huge letdown for me.
To be clear, I do not know exactly how staged any of this was. I don’t know if it was planned from the start for Ryan to not get the contract. I don’t know if this was a legit tryout and he just didn’t cut it. I don’t know if he knew before the segment that he wasn’t getting a contract. I don’t know if he already has a contract and this is just part of a storyline. I can’t imagine TNA would waste TV time on a guy that they had nothing invested in, but at the same time I can’t imagine TNA would think it’s a good idea to put Brooke Hogan on TV. So who knows. I certainly hope Joey Ryan will be back again.
And now it’s time for the Main Event. Christopher Daniels versus AJ Styles – two of TNA’s old guard and also two of the very best the company has ever had to offer. I was very excited for this match. Apparently Daniels and Kazarian are buddies and have some sort of stupid storyline going with AJ, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Styles versus Daniels is always a great match. Somebody, somewhere should have released at least two DVDs worth of their matches because there is serious money to be made there. This one was no different. It was better than any WWE television match of the past three years and probably most of their pay-per-view matches. And I say that not objectively but as a die-hard fan of both men. I just love watching these guys go.
The match was action-packed and satisfying and AJ – somewhat surprisingly – won after successfully hitting his wacky flip-over DDT out of the corner.
And then Kazarian came down and he and Daniels beat the shit out of AJ. Then Kurt Angle came down and tried to even the odds, but got his ass kicked and tied to the ropes.
This bit was awful. Kazarian brought down some zip ties and couldn’t figure out how to use them and they kept just falling off of Angle’s wrists. A note to all wrestling promotions:
DO NOT USE ANYTHING OTHER THAN HANDCUFFS FOR SEGMENTS OF THIS NATURE. NOTHING ELSE EVER WORKS. EVER.
Once AJ was subdued and Angle just gave up and pretended he was tied to the ropes, we got a dose of the stupid story.
Apparently Daniels and Kazarian have been implying that AJ has an inappropriate relationship with Dixie Carter. And apparently he is because they have video footage of secret rendezvous and a recorded phone call that might suggest some sexy time was happening. It’s all a bit suspect, but also a bit lascivious. And also a lot stupid. I don’t give shit where AJ Styles is putting his penis. I just want to see him fight people.
Be aware that I do not know the full extent of this story. Maybe AJ has been getting favorable treatment he shouldn’t have. I don’t know and the vignettes didn’t make it clear.
This episode of Impact had four very good matches, some awful segments, some fine segments, Madison Rayne, and the Gut Check, which I haven’t totally made up my mind about. It’s pretty bad, but has potential.
All in all, I enjoyed this more than any WWE product I have tried to watch since the beginning of the year. It wasn’t great, but I actually watched the whole thing and enjoyed a good bit of it. More importantly, it made me willing to try more. I’ll tune in again next week, and as mediocre as televised wrestling is right now, I don’t think I could pay Impact Wrestling a higher compliment.
Well – yeah I can. They made me want to write over 4,000 words about their show. And not all in a bad way.