Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic

It’s been a long and arduous 5-year journey for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. The Jarretts’ brainchild has evolved from innovative weekly pay-per-view format, to poor one-hour time slot on Fox Sports Net, to Internet-only, to Saturday late night on Spike TV, to primetime Thursdays, and now to the quintessential archetype of modern professional wrestling television: a two-hour primetime show, the first of which aired on Thursday, 4 October 2007. With double the time each week, TNA had the opportunity to slow things down, spread out their storylines, give under-card talent the chance to develop their characters, and to present longer matches. Did they make the most of their first shot? Let’s find out.

TODAY’S ISSUE: TNA iMPACT! goes to two hours.

The evening began with Black Reign dragging his strange new gimmick to the ring, complete with pet rat, mysterious black box and the “Darkness Falls” weapon. I’ll say this much for Dustin – he’s established a bit of a creepy feeling with the new character. The former Goldust faced off against Rhino to usher in the 2-hour era for TNA. Although this started out as a decent little match before Vince Russo got his hands on it, it wasn’t what I would have selected to open the show. A fast-paced X Division match, or perhaps even the Gauntlet that took place later in the show would have been a more stimulating start to this landmark show.

I couldn’t help but notice how heavy and slow Dustin seemed, but between Rhino’s intensity and the ever-faithful iMPACT! Zone crowd being into the match and vocal, things were fine. When they cut away to Raven mid-match, it foreshadowed his involvement yet to come, but also reminded me of just how much Russo loves to overbook a segment. But if I thought a quick clip of Raven was an omen of the chaos to come, I had no idea what Russo had planned for the rest of this show.

Raven ran in and tried to help his new partner in James Mitchell’s anti-Abyss army, but failed and cost him the match. Of course this led to a beat-down on Rhino, which caused Abyss to come save the day and then get smeared, which caused Sting to come save the day, which led to an appearance by Kurt Angle via satellite, at a football stadium in California. Whoa, that was just WAY too much happening at once. When you need a break after the opening segment, things are a little too jam-packed. There’s no need, Vinny Ru. You’ve got two whole hours on your hands. Take it easy, Sport.

Kurt Angle revealed that he was watching a high school football game in which Sting’s son was playing. Uh-oh. There was nothing Sting could do to protect his boy from Angle while he was all the way in Florida.

Black Machismo and Sonjay Dutt gave a short promo which was simply a set-up for an attack by Team 3-D. Now, I like the storyline focus of a tag team running roughshod over the roster until their demand for a title match is grnated, but this made the X Division Champion look BAD. Mr. Russo, there are enough folks on the roster who DON’T have world title defenses in a few days, at the biggest ppv of the year. Let Team 3-D maul one of them instead. This was a terrible idea.

Once Team 3-D dragged Dutt and Lethal to the ring, Machismo sort of extricated himself from the punishment while Dutt and would-be hero Shark Boy were smashed to bits. That made sense, until Lethal ate the final devastating 3-D through a table before Brother Ray grabbed a microphone and stated his case, demanding the match against Team Pacman later tonight be for the gold. Point taken, but there were at least a dozen other guys in the back who could have been fed to the former Dudleyz without hurting their standing or weakening a championship that’s supposed to be a selling point for your biggest show of the year, in just over a week. Another fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Russo.

Angle taunted Sting some more, and the icon displayed some great intensity, while the champ gave us some terrific smarmy heel work. Next up was perhaps the most useless segment of the night, as Robert Roode gave a sit down interview to one of the backstage ladies. Blah, blah, blah. The entire segment was the backdrop for an argument between Roode and his “Chief Executive Offender”, Traci Brooks. You see, Roode’s tired of Brooks not paying dividends, so he dared her to quit Robert Roode Incorporated. However, she can’t afford to quit because her mother’s sick (cheap sympathy heat). Ever ready to overbook even an interview segment, Russo trotted out one of the other backstage ladies, and the current one called security while the returning one complained about being replaced. Is this going to result in a blow-off match between Leticia and Crystal? God, I hope not

What’s this, a wrestling match? Goodie! Jackie Moore faced Gail Kim in what was starting to shape up as a decent little encounter until VKM came out, and then Christy Hemme joined the fun, with boyfriend Lance Hoyt and his new partner Jimmy Rave in tow. Gail wrestled well, and looked sharp, defeating Jackie with her (ugh!) “Happy Ending” straight-jacked suplex finisher. They couldn’t come up with a name that isn’t a reference to a very special moment between masseuse and client? That’s not what I expect from you, TNA; it sounds more like a McMahon-named maneuver. Then there was the inevitable chick schmozz as Roxy, Jackie and Hemme all pounded on Gail, who made the anti-climactic escape as the other three begin fighting each other. Alrighty, then.

Sting showed a real violent and aggressive streak, slapping around a television technician and screaming at Jim Cornette. If they’re trying to give him back an edge, it seems to be working.

Next up was the absolute worst tag team title match I’ve ever seen. Brother Ray brought a football to the ring, with the intention of upsetting Pacman’s groove – ooh, MIND GAMES! Jones has no facials whatsoever. When he’s supposed to look intense, he looks bored, and when he’s supposed to look angry, he seems to needs a nap. They’re playing football in the ring? What a waste! Ray tried hard to taunt Pac Man by holding the football and then making Jones come at him like a running back, but Jones just nonchalantly jumped over him, and yawned. Well, it seemed like he might have yawned, anyway. Is this really all they could come up with to fill the first hour? I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall at that creative meeting.

One half of the tag team champs can’t touch or be touched by his opponents. Man, that makes for some exciting wrestling. Did I say “what a waste” yet? I did? Well, I’ll say it once again. What a waste! This was barely a match at all. Jones tagged in, dicked around, and tagged out. He literally didn’t make the slightest contact. Finally, VKM came down and lured Pacman to the back. It’s a good thing, too, because Pacman holding that chair and NOT doing a thing with it was really getting old. The Truth got stomped by 3-D, prompting the Steiners to make a “dramatic” return to TNA, which we all knew would happen since they’re booked against each other in a match at Bound For Glory. Well, there was yet another overbooked segment. This show is giving me a headache. Angle’s golden though. He told a woman at the game that #25 (Sting’s boy) is his own son. Evil bastard!

At this point, I’m starting to believe that as much as I hoped to see it happen, TNA going to 2-hours was not a good idea, because rather than slow things down and tell stories, this first effort has been more Russorific than anything he’s ever done. Try the decaf, Vince!

But then everything changed. Raven cut a very good promo, bringing things back up to “watchable”. He challenged Rhino and Abyss for a match, since they’re the only two men deranged and sick enough to hang with him. Abyss accepted on the spot, wanting it to be a Monster’s Ball match, and told Raven to invites his new buddy Black Reign to join in the fun. And there’s another match for the big ppv next week.

Next up was the “Gauntlet” match, a Royal Rumble-styled contest with one-minute intervals until all men have entered. Over-the-top rules apply until there are two men remaining inside the ring, at which point a standard match ensues. And away we go.

Cowboy James Storm and Kaz started out in this all-around good match. Storm and Kaz gave us a hot opening minute, before Roode came in as the third competitor. The second minute was all Roode versus Kaz, and then a personal favorite of mine, Petey Williams joined the fray. He twice teased the Canadian Destroyer, but it was countered or blocked both times. Damn, I love that move.

The Team Canada reunion continued as Showtime Eric Young joined the action, followed by Jimmy Rave. Somebody needs to go now; there are too many bodies in there. Williams was kicking ass for a short time, when Chris Sabin entered the match. Traci Brooks came down for a closer look, appearing all forlorn. Poor kid. Next up was Alex Shelley, and you could almost hear Captain America yell, “Machine Guns, unite!” Williams took a third try at the Destroyer, but failed to hit it and was eliminated. Dammit!

The Machine Guns eliminated Rave and went to work on Roode. Lance Hoyt was the next in, sans Hemme. Hoyt got to play “big man in battle royal” for a while, and eliminated Sabin. The final man to enter the ring was the Wildcat Chris Harris. Harris drilled Shelley, killed Roode, and nearly eliminated Storm before being slowed down by Hoyt. Kaz headed to the outside without being eliminated, and Traci checked on him. Aww. Of course, the overbearing Roode chastised her. Poor kid! Roode pummeled Kaz on the outside they went to commercial.

Chris Harris was eliminated during break. Shelley was eliminated by Hoyt, who was then eliminated by Young and Roode. The Team Canada reunification actually appeared to be a reality for a moment. So of course, Roode attacked Young. What a jerk! Well, he is a heel after all. Kaz slid outside to kiss Traci’s hand, and she responded like a 14-year old girl. Kaz then eliminated Roode, and Storm eliminated Kaz.

And then there were two – Cowboy James Storm and Showtime Eric Young, and the standard match format now began. The match didn’t last long. While caught in a sleeper hold, Storm used the Austin/Hart/Piper reversal of walking the turnbuckles to pin Storm. I’m not sure I understand why Young was booked to win this match, except that the fans love him. They popped big-time for Showtime, but I can’t help thinking this victory could have been a momentum boost for a bigger player, slightly higher on the card. C’est la vie

In footage from earlier in the day, it was revealed that Tomko is heading over to Tokyo to defend his IWGP tag team championship, and AJ wanted to go with him. Styles was even wearing a Tomko shirt, and Christian was not happy. The Instant Classic forced AJ to stay behind. Sorry, Tomko. Next up was a NICE Ultimate X video, and Angle threatened Sting’s boy one more time. Then another terrific video, this one featuring Joe versus Cage. If there’s one thing TNA does well, it’s these video packages.

And it’s time for the main event, an 8-man match featuring Cage, Styles, Daniels and Senshi versus LAX, Samoa Joe, and Rikishi Junior Fatu. AJ looked like his old self here, flying around the ring with mustard. I’m really hopeful he’ll break away from Cage soon and turn face. This was a hot match. After a lot of action, it came down to Cage and Joe. Joe locked on the Coquina Clutch, but the Fallen Angel saved the day For Christian. LAX then hit a sweet elevated cutter on Daniels and – AIR HERNANDEZ! Damn, the big man can fly. Fatu brought back the Rikishi Driver! I’ve always loved that move. Finally, Samoa Joe hit the Muscle Buster on Senshi for the win. Joe looked strong, nicely setting up his showdown with Cage at Bound For Glory, and ending a very good television main event.

And here comes the real ending of the show. After the football game, Kurt Angle stalked Sting Jr. and dragged him out of his car as Sting looked on, helpless, from 3,000 miles away. Angle explained that he’d done all of this because he wants to face the old Sting, the Sting from ten years ago who meant every word he said and had a fire in his belly. Plus, Angle’s still angry that Sting “slapped” Karen last month. Angle said he would let Sting’s imagination run wild regarding what happened to his son, as he shoved the camera away and the feed was lost.

All these Angle/Sting head games certainly helped add intensity to their feud, and hopefully they deliver in the ring in Atlanta. The gauntlet was entertaining, and the main event was solid. But the rest of the show wasn’t what I’d hoped for. The two-hour format should have allowed for slower, less frenetic pacing. Instead, it seems Russo sucked back about six Red Bulls before booking each segment, and if they don’t figure out how to simmer things down over the next few weeks, two hours of iMPACT! is going to be tough to swallow every Thursday night. I hope they work the kinks out once the biggest show of the year is over, and start taking the time to produce things at a smoother pace. Somebody give Vince Russo a sedative, already.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.” – W.C. Fields

Before you go, check out our roundtable for WWE’s No Mercy, compare our picks to PK’s live coverage, and look below to see how we fared.

IP Staff Roundtable Results for No Mercy

Note: Regardless of all the matches along the way, I awarded one point to anyone who predicted in the roundtable that Orton would win the gold, since that’s how it ultimately went down.

Iain Burnside
WWE No Mercy (7 Oct 07): 5-1
Total: 99-54

Andrew Wheeler
WWE No Mercy (7 Oct 07): 5-1
Total: 46-22

Vinny Truncellito
WWE No Mercy (7 Oct 07): 5-1
Total: 145-96

Raffi Shamir
WWE No Mercy (7 Oct 07): 5-1
Total: 21-17

Mark Allen
WWE No Mercy (7 Oct 07): 5-1
Total: 42-20

Matthew Michaels
WWE No Mercy (7 Oct 07): 4-2
Total: 74-76

Paul Marshall
WWE No Mercy (7 Oct 07): 4-2
Total: 4-2

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