While You (And By You, I Mean Me) Were Out: Impact Wrestling 12/26/13 – 1/9/14, Part Two

Editor’s Note: Over the next three days, Dave will be reviewing the past month of Impact Wrestling action in anticipation of Thursday night’s Genesis Free-for-View (or whatever it is they call the things that used to be PPVs that they were losing money on). Here’s Part Two: the 1/2/2014 show.

Due to the holidays, work, and all the reasons Andy wrote about yesterday, I’ve been somewhat gleefully shirking my duty in covering TNA. All that ends now, though, as I tell you everything you need to know heading into TNA’s Genesis show this week, one show at a time:

Impact Wrestling 1/2 Edition

What You Need to Know

Kurt Angle and Bobby Roode had confrontation number 4,048 in “The Feud That I Could Watch Forever.” Roode has really found a formula that makes him the perfect opponent for Angle. What remains to be seen is whether Roode can continue this into future feuds, and whether TNA will continue to present him in such a major league manner once he’s past Kurt Angle, the one man TNA takes care of. Their promo exchange and the ensuing pull-apart was a good setup for a big match at Genesis.

Madison Rayne and Gail Kim worked a match of solid length (especially for a Knockouts bout) that told the clear story of Rayne being the plucky, determined contender to grasping bully Kim’s title. Much like last week’s Storm vs. Gunner match, the finish was satisfying in the moment while also setting up their Genesis match as extremely important.

Chris Sabin won back the X Division Title in a match that was a great showcase for a babyface Austin Aries. Throughout the last year, I’ve complained about Aries playing a tweener-face character, but this match showed off the degree to which he can play a strong face.

Following the tried and true booking formula, TNA hyped Storm vs. Gunner and Angle vs. Roode with a tag team match. The big news coming out of this one was that Gunner did not look out of place at all. Either he has elevated his game in the last month, or he was in the ring with a perfect storm (no pun intended) of workers to help him look good. My guess is is partly both.

Sting and ECIII had a solid promo exchange setting up a showdown at Genesis. Over the last month, Sting has emerged as a good opponent for Carter. I was initially highly critical of the way TNA booked ECIII away from any serious wrestler, but Sting would feel like a good signature win for Carter. The nice part is that unlike Sting’s match with Magnus at Bound For Glory, there’s no need for this match to be anything exceptionally strong or memorable in order for the angle to work.

Magnus’ coronation promo was really strong. While the others in the segment may have talked too long (see below), he made the most of his time on the mic and got himself over as a guy who was proud to have the belt and not bothered one bit by the boos of the fans.

AJ Styles reappeared, interrupting Magnus’ coronation and cut a solid promo on Dixie and her new champion (one hundred points for getting the crowd to chant “You’re a farce!” at Magnus). Somehow, after years of taking flak for less-than-main event promos, Styles is suddenly coming across like gangbusters in what is allegedly his final set of appearances in TNA.

The Ugly Truth

Kurt Angle came to the ring and announced “2013 was the worst year of my career.” That’s a shoot, folks.

The finish on the Sabin-Aries match looked like something out 2000 WCW. The distraction-lowblow-small package finish feels so worn out and dated, especially in title matches. More importantly, what on earth is TNA doing with the X Division Title? It feels like they’re trying to get over Sabin’s nefarious heel character by having him lose the belt and win it back through chicanery, but if they do that too often, it will completely destroy the title.

The Samuel ShawNorv Fernum match was obviously more a chapter in an angle than a match, but there were some real problems with it. I always complain about canned heat on SmackDown, but this match was in desperate need of some canned heat. The crowd reaction was absolutely zero, which did nothing to help the re-packaged Shaw get over with the TV audience. On another note, Norv Fernum’s squash matches always go too long. The way he gets an awkward amount of offense against his opponents makes it seem like they’re eventually going to do a Barry Horowitz push with him.

Mike Tenay’s sheepish explanation of the history between James Storm and Bobby Roode showed how much money TNA left on the table with the way they handled the Beer Money breakup. Just sad.

While it’s nice to actually see someone get disqualified for a kick to the nuts right in front of the ref, the Bully RayJoseph Park segment was a colossal waste of time, even for a segment involving Joseph Park. Surely there was a better way to get fans excited about Ken Anderson than having him save a fat, delusional lawyer from getting set on fire.

The portion of Magnus’ “coronation” that preceded the champion himself making to the ring was way, way too long. Spud and ECIII both have decent heat and Dixie is, well, Dixie, but the three of them talking for five minutes before Magnus even appeared seemed like putting the heat on the wrong people. It’s the champion, not the sycophants and lackeys attached to him, that deserves the mic time and the boos.

The Bottom Line

This show was a strong, effective build towards Genesis. There were some wasted segments (see: Samuel Shaw; see: Bully Ray), but for the most part, this show was tightly focused on setting up the 1/9 episode with Magnus vs. Styles and the 1/16 Genesis episode. Nitpicking aside, this was a very good episode of Impact.