Bully Ray’s opening promo was a little confusing. He did a good job establishing what a big deal it would be for him to end Sting’s main event run, but he never really “heeled out”. Between his seemingly excessive respect for Sting and the “I still love Brooke” strangeness last week, it seems like his act has dropped down a gear heading into Slammiversary. Which is a terrible idea, given Sting’s inability to have a great match at this point in his career.
This essentially means that Slammiversary is built around a match that fans can only hope will be watchable. A great Ray promo was all that was left to make this something the fans truly wanted to see. If Ray had dug down deep and said some despicable things about Sting, at least it would have built up the personal issue of the match, which would put a little more heat on things. Instead, this was week two of Ray missing the mark as a villain after three solid months as a centerpiece heel – not good for the World Heavyweight Champion.
There was a (IN THE YEAR) 2000 level of brawling in this match with Sting & Park against the Dudleys, which I really thought took away from the storytelling. There was a solid three minutes early in the match where none of the four men in the match were actually in the ring. I know they were working around several issues including Sting’s in ring abilities and the way they protect Joseph Park as a moron, but this match felt not just sloppily-worked, but sloppily-put together.
However, the tag match did accomplish its goal: give Sting a win over Devon to make him look like a threat to Ray. What was the deal with the Abyss tease, though? Will the Monster be a factor at Slammiversary? Bully Ray acted like he was going to back up Sting, which knowing wrestling booking, seems as much a heel turn tease as anything.
I really liked Samoa Joe’s short, intense promo on Aces & Eights. Very few men in wrestling can sell being a rear-kicker like Joe. I’m extremely happy that he and Magnus got onto the pay per view card, as they’re both deserving of the spotlight and the payday (ditto D.O.C.).
Joe’s announcement that Jeff Hardy would return to team with them made the situation even more interesting. It was disappointing that Jeff Hardy wasn’t there himself to pop the crowd, but his presence in the match should mean that this contest will be featured late in the second hour of the show, not in the first hour where it would be without him. All in all, this was a solid segment to help fill out the pay per view card and give the non-Bully Ray members of Aces & Eights a match to make the club look like an important faction, not just lackeys for the champion.
The 8-man tag was fairly solid, although eight is always too many bodies to have a tight match that makes sense. I would probably think more highly of this match if it weren’t for the excellent tag matches that have been taking place on WWE RAW the last several weeks. Everybody played their part well, however, with Gunner and Hernandez looking especially strong. Protecting the injured Storm is an interesting role for Gunner, and given the way he worked and the crowd’s reaction to him, it seems like his time off and repackaging has worked.
While I still think it’s a “cluster mess” (to quote “THE FOUNDER” Jeff Jarrett), this match actually increased my confidence that the four corners match at Slammiversary will be well-worked and entertaining. TNA’s Tag Team Titles feel very midcard at this point, but these four teams have a chance to elevate them if they can put together a strong match at the pay per view.
Mickie James’ backhand-compliment-ridden promo on Velvet was a very subtle, but effective and believable continuation of her heel turn from last week. Unfortunately, a lot of the people in the crowd seemed to be missing the point, which took away from the segment. I think Mickie hit all the right notes, though, and in front of a smarter crowd (boy, I’m going to hear it from anybody in Tampa who happens to read this) she’d be getting good heat for being disingenuous.
I don’t like the Knockouts Title not being defended at Slammiversary. If you have four quarterly pay per views, you need to feature all of your champions on each one. With that said, however, I see the logic in giving time for Mickie to cement herself as a heel before she feuds directly with Taryn.
The mixed tag match between Chris Sabin-Taryn Terrell and Gail Kim-Kenny King was a well-done, if by-the-books, setup for the X Division Title match. Sabin looked strong enough against Kenny King to make the title seem in real danger, as this match marked the return of his signature smoothness. Everything in the ring looked crisp and free of the apprehensiveness that Sabin — given his previous injuries — might understandably have in the ring at this point.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Gail’s involvement with Sabin. I thought it was great how she kicked him in the back as he hit the ropes and pulled his hair multiple times. It makes me happy to see the Knockouts presented as so major league, and she is as deserving as any Knockout has ever been to get in some licks against a male competitor.
The A.J. vs. Ken Anderson main event match was solid, although not spectacular. Both guys did a good job getting their current characters across, and while the match wasn’t flashy or thrilling, it was a one-on-one match between two wrestlers who seem important, which this show, so filled with tag team matches, desperately needed.
The finish was, of course, screwy, but at least Angle being so hot that he couldn’t wait to beat up A.J. made sense given the story that’s being told. My inner Kevin Sullivan tells me that A.J. should have won cleanly, then gotten beat up by Angle, but it’s the year 2013, and unfortunately sometimes these things can’t be helped.
The last moment of the show was the right thing to do booking wise (with Sting looking like he had a serious chance against Ray, but the numbers of A&E looking like too much), but Sting looked absolutely blown up throughout, which took away from the segment. Also, trading three or four bombs in the middle of the ring helps build a feud; trading twenty or twenty-four bombs in the middle of the ring makes both of you look like you can’t knock anybody down.
And one last time, altogether now: RAY AND DEVON SHOULD NOT BE DOING THE 3-D! The World Heavyweight Champion should not be portrayed as a tag team wrestler, and his second in command should not be portrayed as his equal partner. It would be fine for Devon to set up a table, which Ray powerbombs someone through, but it should be “heel champion doing the mean moves with the help of his sidekick”, not “heel champion doing the mean moves with his sidekick”. Little difference? Big difference!
Hopefully, they will have learned this by Sunday, when Impact Wrestling presents their quarterly pay per view Slammiversary from the Agganis Arena at Boston University. I say all of this (or at least that officially), because I will be covering the event live and in person. So follow me on Twitter @DaveWritesJunk and watch JMS for updates.