In hockey, basketball, and other sports I’m sure I’m forgetting, individual players are held accountable for their team’s performance during their time in the game through the plus/minus statistic. This week’s Impact review will attempt to score each segment as a hit (+1; a superior match or well-executed story-building segment), a miss (-1; offensive to the eyes or ears), or a push (+0; a segment that is wholly acceptable, but nothing memorable) in order to find an overall rating to the show.
Segment 1: A.J. Styles/Bully Ray Promo Exchange
Positives: A.J. kicked things off by putting Carter/Hogan nonsense aside and stating that his focus was on winning the title and becoming a great champion. This was precisely the “Best Case Scenario” described in this week’s Impact preview.
Ray found a heelish balance of bragging up how he was going to destroy A.J. while also dropping hints of underlying fear and insecurity.
Negatives: The crowd was a little sleepy until Bully Ray came out and turned up the heat. Their reaction to Styles’ entrance seemed extremely subdued. This was probably the result of them having just sat through the painful Dixie Carter-Hulk Hogan segment that ended the first half of the taping last week.
Segment Score: +1
Segment 2: Kenny King & Chris Sabin vs. Manik & Jeff Hardy
Positives: Nobody got hurt. The babyfaces won clean.
Negatives: This match felt like it broke down instantly. The organization and structure that make tag team wrestling work were completely absent here.
Austin Aries was 1997 Shawn Michaels on commentary, and not in a good way. He came across as a self-congratulatory cool heel when he’s supposed to be a babyface, a “cripplingly pill-addicted HBK” staple if there ever was one.
Considering the four men wrestling, this match was criminally dull. If anything, it felt like the match before intermission at a house show.
Segment Score: -1
Segment 3: Hogan/Sting and Sting/Magnus Backstage
Positives: Magnus’ promo seemed intense and driven. He’s definitely pulling his weight in terms of making himself a star. It remains to be seen whether TNA can hold up their end of the bargain by booking him correctly.
Negatives: “Last week” was plastered on the bottom of the screen, but it still felt really jarring how they cut from Sting wearing a suit and talking to Hogan in a room with cushioned chairs right to Sting wearing his ring gear and talking to Magnus in a room with folding chairs. Subtle stuff like that serves to maintain the illusion that Hogan is still a venerable figure who deserves fans’ respect. “Only jabronis sit in the folding chairs, brother!”
Segment Score: +0
Segment 4: Magnus vs. Christopher Daniels, Kazarian, and Bobby Roode in a Gauntlet Match
Positives: Daniels and Magnus worked an appropriate first match in the gauntlet. There was good action, but Magnus didn’t have to take many actual bumps, which makes sense given he had to work two more guys. The finish also helped get over Magnus’ Michinoku Driver, which is crucial if he is going to be a legit singles stars – he needs the crowd to respect his signature moves.
As with the Daniels match, the finish with Kaz helped get over another one of Magnus’ big moves.
Negatives: To say Magnus vs. Kaz “wasn’t anything special” would be the understatement of the century. Much like the tag match earlier, this felt like something from the middle of the card on a house show.
Kaz clipping Magnus’ leg just as Roode entered the ring was the most blatant possible example of giving the babyface “an out.” There were a laundry list of better, subtler, more heelish ways to accomplish that, but TNA went with the quick and dirty strategy.
Pacing the first match in a gauntlet carefully makes sense. The third match in a gauntlet pouring out like molasses makes no sense. The finish was the right thing to do, but they got there in such a slow, uninteresting way that it really took the heat off of things. If Magnus had just completed a comeback that made him look close to victory and Roode cut him off for the win, that would be fine. Unfortunately, the match never got out of second gear.
Segment Score: +0
Segment 5: Brooke Tessmacher vs. Velvet Sky (Which Never Happens)
Positives: The Knockouts division is in desperate need of some new blood, so injecting a new character is good.
Negatives: I won’t lie and say I was excited to see Tessmacher wrestle, but having ring entrances only for the match to never happen is so WCW that it makes me sick. They could have easily wrestled for one minute only to have Tapa come down and destroy them both.
Here’s an indicator of what bad shape the Knockouts are in: re-debuting heel Lei’D Tapa beat up recently-turned heel Velvet Sky to establish herself. This was necessary because the only babyface in the entire division is champion ODB.
Segment Score: -1
Segment 6: Gunner/Kurt Angle Hype Packages
Positives: The first package put Gunner in a really good light. As awful as Gunner n’ Murphy were, it was smart of TNA to remind people that he’s actually been in the company for quite a while. The clips of Storm talking about him were solid, as Storm is well-established as an honest, wrestling-minded guy.
Negatives: Kurt Angle was announced for the Hall of Fame back at Slammiversary, but given his history of addiction (and even more troubling his history of putting others at risk by driving under the influence), it seemed a little strange for TNA to be deifying him so much. If anything, they should be bracing themselves for the next Kurt Angle disaster.
Segment Score: +0
Segment 7: Samoa Joe vs. Bully Ray
Positives: A.J. Styles coming out to make the save was a good thing. He and Joe have a long-established history as allies, or at least rivals with a great deal of respect between them. This was the most successfully babyface thing anybody in TNA has done over the last two months.
Negatives: Every single match on this card was so sluggishly-paced. This was the spot for Joe to kick things into that special Joe gear where he picks two or three spots that really light up the crowd. That never happened, though, and the result was another snoozefest.
Ref bump? Check. Weapon shot to the head? Check. Disqualification? Check. A better finish for this match would have been the Cup-A-Fart from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (EMBED: http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/here-comes-honey-boo-boo/videos/cup-of-fart.htm). The sad part: I’m only marginally more embarrassed to know about Honey Boo Boo than I am to know about TNA.
Segment Score: -1
Segment 8: Dixie Carter-Hulk Hogan Faceoff
Positives: You know what? I was expecting to hate this more. Unlike the matches on this show, this was short, sweet, and to the point. Dixie played disingenuous heel, and Hogan played up that walking away from wrestling was very difficult for him. This angle is still the pits, but this was by far the least offensive offering to date.
Hulk Hogan is gone, at least for a while! Huzzah!
Negatives: Dixie comes across as a phony, but she’s a phony phony. She’s the high school actress who’s completely self-assured that she’s one day going to win a Tony. She delivers her lines alright, but her body language and mannerisms are so cartoony and fake looking – it’s like she’s playing to the back row of a vaudeville theatre.
Segment Score: +/- 0
NET +/- SCORE FOR TNA IMPACT WRESTLING 10/3: -2