TNA’s Latest Resurrection, and Other Ponderings From Impact Wrestling

TNA Impact Wrestling, Pop TVBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

TNA has become a punchline. Sad, but true. The organization was once poised to be the one true American alternative to WWE. And now? They’re on their second network in two years, fighting to stay alive despite stars leaving in droves, and far more bad publicity than good. TNA, in the eyes of many, is damaged beyond repair.

But to their credit, they have survived. Despite all the blemishes on their record, there’s something to be said for that. And despite all the “fresh starts” TNA has had over the years, this week they got yet another chance.

Ideally, this show should have been formatted to cater to both TNA die-hards and those seeing the product for the first time. As it’s been quite awhile since I watched even a portion of Impact (I didn’t get Destination America), I essentially came in as the latter. TNA’s job this week was to impress me. So did they?

In all honesty, not really. But there were some definite bright spots on the show this week.

I’m going to do something I don’t normally do with my Raw reviews, which is go over the show in mostly chronological order. It lends itself to the tournament format…

Dixie Carter, TNA Impact, Pop TVPonderings From TNA’s POP TV Debut:

Dixie Carter opens the broadcast. Championship series participants make appearances. I would not have opened the show with Dixie. In a lot of ways, her management is what’s been wrong with TNA for so many years. Seeing the show open up with her in the ring, kissing the network’s ass, as the audience waves a bunch of obviously planted POP TV gimmicks was hokey beyond belief. Also, she can’t act.

All four guys really should have gotten a chance to speak. Neither EC3 or Matt Hardy cut great promos, but at least they were able to introduce themselves to the audience. EC3 definitely came off as the star of the show, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And Matt was introduced as the hero. As for the others, we got the sense that Eric Young was a bad guy and Bobby Lashley was a good guy. That’s about it. It’s a start, I suppose. But not necessarily an ideal one.

Josh Matthews and “Pope” D’Angelo Dinero are on commentary. I’ve listened to Josh Matthews call a lot of matches over the years. And here’s my question: Why is he lowering his register at times? His regular voice is fine. When your lead announcer sounds like he’s putting on a fake voice, that’s generally not a good sign.

Ethan Carter III, TNA ImpactEthan Carter III def. Bobby Lashley to advance to the finals of the championship series. So…why is Lashley wearing a head band? He’s built like a brick wall and has a truck-load of natural athleticism. That’s all you need. The headband is just distracting.

Carter was the obvious winner here, simply because you couldn’t not have your lead heel in the main event. As athletic and explosive as Lashley can be, what’s always held him back is that he’s never had much of a character. He’s fun to watch, but he lacks a certain depth. Nice to see EC3 cheat to win with the help of Tyrus.

Kurt Angle announces Drew Galloway as the first opponent for his “farewell tour.” Match to take place next week on Impact. Jessie Godderz and Eli Drake chime in. This is a good choice. It’s certainly a far cry from Galloway’s days in 3MB. From a tactical standpoint, I’m very pleased to see TNA giving us a reason to tune in next week. Unlike Raw, they’re not relying purely on their audiences viewing habits.

I don’t know much about Jessie Godderz or Eli Drake. Drake wasn’t a bad promo, but his line about Godderz being “a hit with the 13-year-old girls” was kinda creepy. I’m not sure how long Godderz has been doing the whole social media darling persona, but in this segment he came off like a poor man’s Tyler Breeze.

Jeff Hardy, TNAJeff Hardy appears in backstage segment with Jeremy Borash. Borash and Matthews need to switch roles. I don’t think I’ve ever even heard Borash call a match. But by this point in the show I knew I’d rather hear him than Josh.

It will be quite some time before we see Jeff Hardy wrestle again, which is a damn shame. Not just for him, but for TNA. He’s a star they could really use right now. Instead, he’s there in a supporting role for Matt, which doesn’t work. As good as Matt is, that’s the equivalent of having Batman in Robin’s corner.

Matt Hardy def. Eric Young to advance to the finals of the championship series. I didn’t get much out of this one. Again, the winner was pretty obvious. I like the idea of Eric Young playing an unhinged heel. But he still comes off goofy to me. Maybe I just need to see more of him…

James Storm returns to TNA to help Bobby Roode fend off Eric Young and the returning Bram. This was a big surprise, as James Storm has spent some time in NXT recently. I can only assume WWE wasn’t interested in signing him. Why else would we see him back in TNA? To be honest, it’s a little sad…

James Storm, NXTStill, as a TNA Original, James Storm will always be appreciated with this company. And evidently Beer Money is back together, which could be interesting. Seeing them go against The Wolves might make for a fun match.

Awesome Kong seemingly joins The Dollhouse after their loss to Gail Kim and The Beautiful People. I’m not familiar with Marti Bell, or the other two Dollhouse members. But I do remember that The Beautiful People was a heel group. And a pretty damn good one at that. So I’m guessing they’re back together for a nostalgia kick? Either way, it seems odd that they ended up teaming with Gail Kim.

Awesome Kong is a hell of an attraction, and an asset to whatever promotion she’s in. I’m not sure if, at this stage in her career, she’s got a lot of miles left on her. But in this role she might be able to give a nice rub to Marti Bell, or another new player in the Knockouts division, which is in need of some fresh blood.

“Miracle” Mike Bennett and Maria debut with TNA. No matter what you want to say about TNA, this is a good move for Bennett and Maria. They were with Ring of Honor for years, and it was time for a change in scenery. Husband and wife can now bring their act to a new promotion, and get in the mix with some new faces. It appears they even have an opponent ready for them in Matt Hardy. TNA really needs some new blood to liven things up, and if they’re lucky, Bennett is only the first of several new acquisitions.

Ethan Carter III, TNA ChampionEthan Carter III def. Matt Hardy to become the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion. A solid match between these two, and without a doubt, the right man won. EC3 is without a doubt, this company’s brightest star. What’s more, he’s a star they created themselves. This is the guy they need to hitch their wagon to, and he’s the guy they need to use to make other new stars.

You can argue that much of this show was the same ol’ TNA we’ve seen for years now. But TNA is on a new network, with a young, talented, compelling performer leading the charge. They’re not nearly as good as they used to be. But they’ve certainly been in worse shape. And while that might not sound like the most optimistic take in the world, it’s definitely a realistic one.

Images 1, 2, and 3 courtesy of impactwrestling.com. Image 4 from bleacherreport.com. Image 5 from thewrestlereview.wordpress.com.

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Cena and Ziggler Steal the Show, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

On the whole, Raw was more watchable this week. In the absence of The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, and Paul Heyman, we got a video package hyping the main event of Hell in a Cell. I’m not sure if that’s what you want, considering this match is headlining the damn pay per view. There’s not nearly as much buzz about this match as there was about their Summerslam encounter. And this is supposed to be the blow-off!

But while there were plenty of negatives, the show did have one obvious bright spot.

WWE Raw, October 12, 2015, John Cena, Dolph ZigglerPonderings From Raw:

John Cena faces Dolph Ziggler in his weekly US Open Challenge. So, um…I guess that was a legit marriage proposal that happened during the opening moments of this match. I’ll always give Cena credit for rolling with whatever the crowd gives him.

With Cena about to take some time off, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he picked Ziggler to drop the title to. Dolph has been as big a victim as any of the WWE “start and stop push.” But he keeps putting on matches like the one we saw with Cena tonight, and he refuses to be forgotten about. Does it even need to be said that this was the match of the night?

Was really interested to see Ziggler pay homage to Shawn Michaels with the stomps in the corner leading up to the superkick. If you look at how Ziggler has updated his gear as of late, with the long tights and the white boots combined with his overall look, he almost looks like he’s trying to morph himself into the HBK of the early ’90s.

WWE Raw, Roman Reigns, October 12, 2015Roman Reigns cuts a promo before beating Braun Strowman via count-out. Roman Reigns really needs to be a heel. Much like his “cousin” The Rock, he’s got a swagger and a personality that’s dying to get out. That “Y’all can’t hear me or somethin’?” line he gave in response to the “What?” chants was good. But he was playing nice because he’s supposed to be a babyface. This guy has had enough experience on the mic now that if you just let him say what’s on his mind, the fans would probably get behind him eventually.

But instead, he’s being forced into a babyface role. I cringed when I saw him next to John Cena in that Susan G. Komen segment last week. If you’re trying to build a guy up as your next top star, the one person you don’t want to put him next to is Cena.

I can appreciate what they’re doing with Braun Strowman. He’s cast very well as a seemingly invincible giant. If only The Big Show had been lucky enough to be cast in such a role. But as was the case with Rusev, and a lot of other once invincible talents, it becomes a question of what you do with the guy once they’ve been humanized. Once the giant has been slayed, what do you do with him?

WWE Raw, October 12, 2015, Rusev, Summer RaeWWE plays off online revelation that Rusev and Lana are engaged, has Summer Rae turn on Rusev after a match. So Summer Rae does the logical thing and ends it with Rusev. But this match left Rusev looking like a heel. But the crowd might still be inclined to cheer for Lana. Where does that leave us…?

Sheamus & Wade Barrett def. Neville & Cesaro. Wasn’t tough to predict a winning team for this one. Cesaro, a recent victim of yet another start and stop push, teaming with Neville, the guy who lost in 30 seconds last week.

How is Neville’s huge loss last week not the entire basis of what they’re doing with he, Sheamus, and Barrett? These guys made Neville lose a match in less than a minute. They humiliated him. I’m not that big a Neville fan, but I”d sure as hell root for him to get his win back if they played it up.

In the main event, Kane def. Seth Rollins in a Lumberjack Match. This program with Rollins and Kane has fallen flat. It’s such a shame, as with the right story it could have been compelling. But this whole multiple personality thing with Kane killed it. Now they’ve reached the point where they have to actually give us the match to try and entice us to buy another match between the two at Hell in a Cell. As always, that strategy is lame.

WWE Raw, October 12, 2015, The New DayThe New Day def. Randy Orton & Dean Ambrose. This match had the right finish. The New Day should stay dominant. They got to brag about beating up Cena, Ziggler, and the Dudleys, and now they’ve beaten Orton and Ambrose.

If Big E., Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods are going to remain heels, then what I’d like to see from them is more of a mean streak. It seems like they’re slowly moving in that direction, but I want more. I love that they’re entertaining, but we also want these guys to be villains. Especially if they’re going to be placed in such important spots on the show.

Nikki Bella def. Naomi, as the crowd (and Brie Bella) chanted for Sasha Banks. I get what they were going for with this one. The Bellas drive a wedge between Team BAD by playing up Sasha’s much-heralded match with Bayley at the latest NXT Takeover. In that respect, it worked.

But after such an awesome match between two women in the development system, what does it say that this match, on what’s supposed to be the promotion’s flagship show, was such a snoozefest? You’ve got arguably the best female wrestler in the world standing on the outside, and then you give us that match. Ugh.

Brie Bella pins Charlotte in a tag team match. I don’t even want to acknowledge this. Again, the only word I’m left with is: “Ugh.”

James Storm, NXTPonderings From Around the Wrestling World:

James Storm appears at NXT taping. Storm is a nice get for WWE, and ultimately a win-win for everybody. He’s been around for over 15 years now. So like Samoa Joe or Rhyno, Storm can work with newer wrestlers and help them up their game. Plus, no whether they ever call him up or not, time under the WWE umbrella makes will make Storm a more attractive prospect for other promotions when he leaves.

Matt Hardy vacates TNA Heavyweight Championship. Promotion holding tournament to crown undisputed champion. This was an eye-roller, following the feel-good moment TNA ended Bound For Glory with. My understanding is TNA is going to compile part of this tournament together with matches taped in July. That’s fine, I suppose. At this point it’s all about getting fresh content up, as they have no new Impact episodes taped. As for who wins, my money’s on Ethan Carter III. In many ways, he’s the crown jewel of TNA. What exactly that spot is worth these days is up for debate.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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