Live Impressions from TNA Lockdown in St. Louis
The building wasn’t full, and considering it’s biggest tenant is an arena football team you can imagine it’s not exactly Ford Field in terms of capacity. In fact, I got really good seats just four hours before the show. The side facing the camera setup was pretty full, and the floor seats were surprisingly full, considering the price. That said, I am a big fan of the Family Arena. It’s cozy. Not a bad seat in the house.
After some traditional pre-pre-show hype, we get the Voodoo Kin Mafia vs Hemme’s Team o’ the “Weak”…and the sacrificial lambs are…Serotonin? Man, I really want to like these guys. Kazarian is entertaining to me. Hell, so is Raven. But feeding them VKM doesn’t help them any. What happened to the oft-reported parade of former WWE cannon fodder? Where are the Headbangers these days anyway? This match was mercifully short. My buddy who attended with me wasn’t up on the TNA roster and stories, but he remembered the former DXers. And then he hit me with the dreaded question: why in the Hell did those two slugs ever get the push they had in the WWE? When Lance Hoyt, who accompanied VKM, is the best worker out there, that’s just sad.
Live show starts and the crowd, though somewhat small, is hot for some Total Nonstop Action. I’m hot for So Cal Val. I’m a sucker for the redheads, though I still can’t get excited about Hemme for some reason. I suspect it has something to to do with that walk she used to do to the ring in the WWE. She looked like she had a sprung Slinky (TM) for a spine. So Cal Val has a cute little bod, but somebody needs to get her to a Hardee’s (Carl Jr’s in other parts of the US) before she has to change her name to Lo Cal Val. Curves are good, ladies. See Mickie James. I don’t mind Leticia as much as a lot of Internet scribes seem to. But she could have invested in a nice outfit for the PPV. Val had a sexy blue number working, and even the producer that works with Don West and Mike Tenay was dressed in a nice purple top and black skirt, very professional. Leticia wore a white cotton t-shirt like you buy in a pack of three from Hanes or Fruit of the Loom with some sort of scribble on it. In fact, I couldn’t help but think she made it herself. And while I’m thinking of backstage types, I wish Jim Cornette would have made an appearance. St. Louis respects the old guard.
X-Division Xscape Match – This was fun as all get out. I understand the importance of starting the show on a high note, but it’s a shame these guys had to jerk the curtain. Let me explain something about my background here: I am, undeniably, the biggest Macho Man Randy Savage mark alive (I mean, besides Macho Man Randy Savage himself). So you one might think I’d be mad about Black Machismo Jay Lethal. Not so! Jay Lethal was entertaining to me before the Nash as Guru thing started, and his Macho imitation is dead on. I’d love to know what Savage thinks about all this. Lethal was as over as anyone else all night. Black Machismo chants ebbed and flowed through the whole match. I don’t care for Sabin, to be honest, but he and Shelley worked exceptionally well together. Shark Boy and Sonjay did their thing, but this match was really something of a handicap match between Lethal and the heels. After the level of action in this match, the variety of spots and the terrific double-team chemistry of Shelley and Sabin I thought the finish was incredibly anticlimactic. Look, if your Jay Lethal and if you aren’t typically shy about high spots, there’s no reason to waste time trying to climb down the outside of the cage. Sabin just drops off the cage for the win. After what I had just witnessed, I think they ought to get the belt off of Sabin and give Sabin and Shelley a run in the tag division. There was one spot in particular that I marked out for. A dropkick to Lethal’s knee gets him face down in the middle of the ring. Shelley goes off the ropes and amazingly flips into an Inverted Bridged Chin Lock, followed up by Chris Sabin with a dropkick to the mush of Black Machismo. They really creamed Lethal with double-team moves all match. The crowd was really into this match from bell to bell. “This is awesome” chants were well deserved. Lethal, in defeat, still got a big pop for the Macho-Mannerisms. OH YEAH! DIG IT!
Next was Robert Roode versus Petey Williams. I rather like both participants but they had a hard time trying to follow that first bout. At one point Ms. Brooks (who was seeming always just on the verge of a wardrobe malfunction) pulls a hockey stick out from under the ring only to have Eric Young intercept it before Roode could get it. I understand all these guys were part of Team Canada once upon a time. But when you’ve been watching wrestling for 30 years like me certain things kinda jump out at you. Like, for example, why on Earth would there be a hockey stick under the ring? What purpose did it serve in the set up of the Six Sides of Steel? At my age the suspension of disbelief is a harder trick to pull off. My friend and I spent a good couple of minutes laughing at the absurdity of some weapons even being near a ring. Like I said, I like Roode–he’s got a lot of old school 80s flavor about him, so I didn’t mind him going over. But I REALLY wanted to witness the ridiculously awesome Canadian Destroyer live. Maybe next time, eh? Get it? Eh? Team Canada? Aw, nevermind.
Ladies Night in the Six Sides of Steel! I know some folks out there only watch the ladies for their titillating in-ring ability. Other folks take off for the kitchen or bathroom. Me, I actually thought this would be pretty decent, and it was. Miss Jackie was always a solid women’s division worker, and I thought the WWE gave up on Gail too quickly (or whatever happened–I’m just sayin’ if I was picking participants for the Women’s Title Match at Wrestlemania Gail would have been on my radar LONG before no talent Playmates. And I’m not talking about Candace, she’s coming around…but I digress). The ladies throw down from the ramp where Gail bodyslams Jackie. Ouch. I’d imagine that’s a trickier bump to take than it looks. I noted that both women have better punches than Rob Van Dam. Gail gives us the first “Top of the Cage” spot–which is surprising considering that X-Division match and Petey Williams have already been on. She looked like knocked the wind out of herself on impact, but overall it was a solid outing for the TNA women, and I couldn’t help but recall how God awful the Mania Women’s match was. Christy Hemme should try recruiting Jazz from wherever she is, pair her up with Gail, and go kick VKM’s asses.
Senshi vs Austin Starr, whom I refuse to refer to as “The…” anything. The crowd gives several Low-Ki chants. I’m not sure if it’s because St. Louis just didn’t know that’s he’s been Senshi for awhile now, or like me they just don’t care. Muta Lite kicks Starr’s ass all over the place. Starr gets some of his spots in and hits the nice 450 splash, but the inevitable finish comes when he mouths off to Bob Backlund who shoves him into Low-Senshi’s waiting arms for a cradle w/bridge and a rapid three count. This is why I don’t much care for guest referees. No matter who’s involved the finish is always so predictable.
Let me point out again that we’re in the suburbs of St. Louis, and St. Louis was at one time the mecca of American Professional Wrestling after Madison Square Garden. We had Sam Muchnick’s legendary “Wrestling At The Chase” show for years, which was affiliated with the NWA back in the territorial days before Baldy bought everyone out and created the empire the WWE has become. Why am I telling you this? Because St. Louis does not tolerate retarded gimmick matches. Never have, never will. Future promoters and bookers reading this, please right this down somewhere and keep it handy. DO NOT BRING SHIT GIMMICK MATCHES TO ST. LOUIS. It will suck like Paris Hilton on tape. And seriously, when has ANYONE successfully pulled off a blindfold match? There were chants of “We Want WRESTLING!” and “Fire Russo!” during this crapfest. I don’t know if this was Russo’s brainchild or not, but I thought it was funny. A lot of “smarts” in the crowd, I thought. The less said about the actual match the better. Chris Harris and James Storm would have been better served just having a straight up cage match. Even from where I was sitting I could feel the disappointment emanating from the TNA staff at ringside. It’s gotta be hard for the Professor to try and put over a lead balloon like this. Probably not as hard for Don West though. Tenay needs a Tazz or JBL. Or maybe Tenay should BE the Tazz and someone else could do play by play. Just listening to Don West gives me a sore throat.
This next match wasn’t bad, exactly, and if I see it DVD somewhere down the road I’d probably like it more. But the Jerry Lynn/Christopher Daniels match just lacked something from my vantage point. I dig Jerry. I even remember him under the mask as Mr. JL in WCW years ago. I think my problem here lies with Daniels. They took off TV for weeks only for him to grow a little beard and put on some eye makeup? His entrance, his ring work, none of that is significantly different. I admit I’m disappointed that his “gimmick change” hasn’t changed much. And don’t get me wrong, Daniels is very talented. I like what he does. I just keep expecting something a little different. You know what would have been great? This exact same match, only featuring Mr. JL against the Curry Man. Both guys have worked under a hood before. Is there any other masked wrestlers in TNA after Shark Boy? TNA needs more masks.
Ah yes. We’ve come to the point of the show where that problem I have with maintaining my suspension of disbelief rears it’s ugly head again. The Electrified Cage Match between Team…ah screw it, the Damn Dudleys vs LAX. I’ll get he match itself out of the way first: The Dudleys have been fighting the same match for years now. Nothing significantly different here. Hernandez is OK I guess, but I like Homicide quite a bit. K-Dawg and Hector Guerrero get into it at one point which was infinitely more interesting to me. The cage door apparently wasn’t electrified so the first couple of touches didn’t yield any electrical fireworks. But then again…neither did touching any other part of the cage. The electricity was a piped in sound effect of a generator hum, and the two instances where a wrestler touched the electrified areas of the cage resulted in a little strobe of the lights and a different sound effect, something like the noise a Jacob’s Ladder makes–you’ve heard it in old time horror movies like Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein. Horrible. Look, nobody wanted to see Devon get 3rd degree burns on the INSIDE of his body from touching live high voltage, but some pyro and smoke would have been nice. I’ve seen “explosive barbed wire” matches fought by WOMEN in Japan that featured a better gameplan for conveying the danger of being in that kind of ring. They could have let 10 year olds wrestle in their electric cage for all the danger involved in it. By the time the Dudleys won the match, I had long quit caring and mostly just amused my section with an imitation of Eric Cartman. “Weak! Lame!”
Before the main event, we get an appearance by Harley Race! Hell yeah! I honestly think that even at his age he could kick someone ass pretty good. As these kinds of matches go, it was pretty good. I always sorta liked Wargames in WCW, though I always thought they should be more of an elimination match. Still a lot of fun. AJ took a “Holy Shit” spot off the top of the cage, and it took me a little by surprise. I thought SOMEBODY would, but the timing and setup for the spot came off really well. AJ and Kurt were battling on top of the cage while the rest brawled below. Rhino gored Tomko through the door. My attention jumped from man to man, but at some point I think it was Tomko, Steiner, Joe and Rhino out of the cage. When AJ took the plunge I at first thought he was heading to the announce table ala Mick Foley but he was caught by the other guys and they go down in a heap. Nice. Kurt didn’t kill anyone. I was pleased to see Christian and Jarrett take slams into the thumbtacks Abyss spread out. JJ might not have really hit the tacks but it looked pretty close. Captain Charisma got a back full. Ouch! JJ clobbered Abyss for the finish, but didn’t take the fall. He gave it to Sting as a sign of good faith. So Sting is in line for the title shot against Christian. Kurt’s a pissy sore winner for not getting the pin himself, Joe is surprisingly easy going about it all, and Rhino is busy wiping the crimson mask off. I would have liked to see a sequence where everyone tries to pin Abyss and one by one someone else, even from their own teams, pulls them off. It would have served to heighten the tension and set up a couple of matches for the next PPV. But hey, that’s why Russo and Dutch Mantell have the book and I don’t.
Overall, I still think the X-Division match that opened the show was outstanding. But the whole PPV was bookended with nice performances. The early part of the undercard was a blast. The blindfold match was wretched and the crowd totally called them on it. I have more electricity in my remote control than that cage did for the Tag Championship. But my friend and I were well pleased overall and had a lot of fun. I hope TNA comes back to St. Louis regularly because I think their product, given some word of mouth, will really catch on here. Where Vince McMahon is convinced that we want “wrestling entertainment” for 5 hours a week, TNA doesn’t have time to fool around in their only hour of weekly programming. They have to get by with entertaining wrestling. And by and large that’s what we got tonight (well, that and a couple of t-shirts–I bought shirts for Christian and Joe). Maybe St. Louis is an exception to the rule, but if you come here and shut up and wrestle, we’ll support you. If you come here and talk for 40 minutes at the start of the show like the WWE does, we’ll boo you out of town. And for the love of all that’s holy, don’t bring fake electric cage matches or blindfold matches. EVER. Vince, and to a much lesser extent TNA, need to take a cue from the UFC, which is kicking everyone’s ass in PPV buys. People are watching for the fights. Chuck Liddell doesn’t cut twenty minute promos. They do a quick interview and then they fracture someone. Wrestling is entertaining enough. Strong shows like this prove it. Keep up the good work, TNA.
Pop of the Night: Black Machismo Jay Lethal. Embrace your inner Bonesaw McGraw, Jay. This is your ticket to the next level.
Heat of the Night: Blindfold Match. It sucked out loud and everyone knew it.
Spot of the Night: There were a lot of good ones to choose from, though for a night of cage matches there were surprisingly few from the top of the cage. But I’m going to give it to Scott Steiner, for pulling out his Frankensteiner on Rhino. I would have never expected to see that again. And despite being a heel, he got a good pop for it.