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: Dixie Carter Promo
Positives: Dat crowd! You could barely hear Dixie for the first five minutes of the show, which is a good thing on a lot of different levels. There was good heat on her, which if you were a channel surfer just tuning in, would make you think TNA has a strong top heel.
Negatives: References to “Mr. Stephanie McMahon” and “Steve” brought this down a lot. So, you’re going to take time to establish a fantasy world in which the owner of a company is an evil ball-cutter, but then you reach outside of the fantasy into the “real world” to make things more serious? Cheap heat.
The way Dixie “avoided talking” about Hulk Hogan made it seem fairly certain that he’ll be back sooner rather than later. There were several other references like this sprinkled throughout the show, especially from Taz.
Segment Score: +0
Segment 2: Austin Aries/A.J. Styles Backstage Promos
Positives: Both of these were very passionate, main event promos. In spite of his total lack of modesty (which is inherently heelish), Aries cut a great promo about why he is a top guy. A.J. was focused on the World Heavyweight Title and beating Bully Ray for the second week in a row, mentioning destroying Dixie Carter as his first order of business once he gets the title. Hurray for mission statements! First you get the Title. Then you get the power. Then you get the Dixie.
Negatives: Aries cut a babyface promo on babyface Jeff Hardy. How the heck is the crowd supposed to react to that?
Segment Score: +1
Segment 3: Austin Aries vs. Jeff Hardy
Positives: The workrate and spots in this match blew anything WWE is willing to present on live TV out of the water. Aries and Hardy are the perfect sizes and speed to wrestle each other, and each works a style that accentuates the other’s positives. It really felt like both men, who’ve been out of the main event mix lately, came to this match with a message for management.
Joe in Ultimate X? That is intriguing. Considering how cluelessly TNA has presented Joe over the last three years, putting him back in the X Division mix is something fresh that can help him reestablish himself as a next-level badass.
Negatives: This was a “pay per view main event quality match” (as Mike Tenay says about every match). The only problem: there was all of fifteen minutes of build for it. Steve Austin literally quit WWE over being promoted that way.
TNA is using Jeff Hardy to shine Austin Aries?! I know the guy is Teflon, but is that really the best use of one of wrestling’s most over stars?
That was a great finish, but you save that. One day, in a big match, Austin Aries will do his finisher off the second rope, and people will think, “Eh. I saw that before in a match on Impact.”
Segment Score: +1
Segment 4: Jesse vs. ODB
Positives: Nobody got hurt.
Negatives: You read that right. Jesse from Big Brother vs. Knockouts Champion ODB. It’s all well and good to portray ODB as unafraid of even the most gassed-up guy, but there’s a reason WWE has a strict “no man on woman wrestling” policy, and it goes beyond P.R.
Lei’D Tapa feels like a character created by someone who once saw one match featuring Awesome Kong and thought they could “improve upon” the idea.
Segment Score: -1
Segment 5: EGO Hall of Fame Ceremony
Positives: The “fake” video package retrospective EGO did for Roode was incredible. It felt like a producer had actually watched the pay per view hype packages for TNA from 2002 – 2007 and was parodying them en masse. Whoever wrote the voiceover also really captured the way Kaz and Daniels talk. In short, it was funny.
Kurt Angle vs. Bobby Roode at Bound For Glory is a great match-up, and it gives TNA a redo on the finish they gave this match two years ago, when Angle went over to the shock and dismay of anybody who’d actually watched Roode’s rise as a singles star.
Negatives: As Nick would say, you’re entering into a serious wrestling nerd conversation here:
This segment felt like it went on forever. In the days when 90% of big time wrestling shows occurred in front of live arena crowds with no camera taping for TV, it made sense for the heels to hijack the show and drone on and on and on. This poured the heat on them so that when the babyface came out to shut them up, the roof would blow off the building because people hated the heel so much for being boring and self-centered. However, this strategy just isn’t effective anymore because the vast majority of Impact’s viewers (read: everybody except the two or three thousand people in the building) have the option of either listening to heels drone on and on and on OR watching, say, a football game, or, say Big Bang Theory. Having the heels talk forever was an effective strategy to build a pop for the babyface back in the day, but now it just leads to people changing the channel.
I correctly predicted in my preview that there would be babyface homophobic jokes in this segment, but I miscalculated who would deliver them. Game recognizes game, Kurt, you drunken, homophobic rogue.
Segment Score: +0
Segment 6: Velvet Sky vs. Brooke [Tessmacher]
Positives: Chris Sabin has a future as a manager, if he ever wants to do it. His bit covering Velvet’s more curvaceous parts so they audience couldn’t gawk at them was hilarious, and it got really good heat.
Considering the principals, this match was a lot less terrible than it could have been. There were a lot of bells and whistles to make it work (Sabin at ringside, Velvet’s taped ribs, etc.), but this match actually managed to tell some kind of story — not a great one or anything, mind you.
Negatives: As the match started, my long-suffering fiance said, “Wait, neither of them can wrestle!” Correct.
It seems wrestling can’t go a week without a terrible distraction finish, and this was one of those. Really? If a manager could get so engrossed in talking strategy that he couldn’t even manage a “Hey, look out behind you!” that would make him the worst manager of anything ever.
Here’s the second week in a row I’ll make this point: Velvet is a heel now, but TNA keeps booking her in babyface spots. The Knockouts division desperately needs another face, even if she’s just a jobber to bump for the heels. You can’t build around one babyface champion and three heels.
So, Tessmacher is in a match at Bound For Glory now? Well, I guess it’s marginally better than Snooki at Wrestlemania. Marginally.
Segment Score: -1
Segment 7: Bad Influence vs. Magnus & Sting
Positives: This was a solid ten-minute wrestling match. Three of the four wrestlers in the ring were really good workers, and the fourth is a legend with star appeal.
Over the last few months during his Main Event Mafia run, Magnus has gotten really good at pouring on the sympathy during the sell and building the hot tag.
TNA resisted the urge to create disharmony between Magnus and Sting. As much as it bucks conventional wisdom (including that often espoused by me), a face-face match at BFG makes the most sense as a way for Sting to help elevate Magnus.
Sting was actually involved in a crisply-executed, well-timed finishing sequence. Score one for the home team.
Negatives: Magnus did a great job selling in this match, but if he’s being built as the next big babyface star, is it really time to sell? TNA is walking a fine line between elevating Magnus and making him seem like the guy who gets his ass kicked all the time.
Segment Score: +1
Segment 8: Knux & Bisch [seriously, that’s what they were calling him] vs. A.J. Styles
Positives: I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate handicap matches… but this one really worked! A.J. cleanly beat two lackeys in a way that looked like it put the fear of God in the heel champ.
The beatdown at the end helped illustrate that Ray is going to put A.J. through hell to get the World Heavyweight Title, but the match before portrayed A.J. as a guy ready, willing, and able to walk through hell. This is the formula that works!
Negatives: I hope Garret Bischoff got a strong talking to when he got through the curtain. He was just awful in this match, and you could see the frustration on A.J.’s face as he picked him up off the mat multiple times. Knux is such a solid (if unspectacular) hand that you actively feel bad for him having to share his time in the ring with “Bisch.”
Segment Score: +1
NET +/- SCORE FOR TNA IMPACT WRESTLING 10/10: +2