This Week In TNA: Was Live Impact Dead On Arrival?

The extremely belated second edition of this column looks at TNA’s first live Impact, with thoughts on whether doing a worked shoot fight between Joe and Angle is the right direction for their feud.

With their home turf the center of the wrestling world last week, TNA had its chance to shine on Thursday night with the first live Impact. Now that the post-Wrestlemania and Flair retirement hangovers are starting to lift, let’s see how the de facto number two promotion in the US of A did with their big show last week.

Taboo Tuesday Thursday– Despite being pretty well sick of the Roode/Booker feud, I liked the opening of the show. I wish TNA (and wrestling companies in general, really) would do more of these in media res openings. It helps make things feel exciting and unpredictable. It’s pretty reminiscent of the first Thursday Impact, when they opened immediately with Joe kicking Christoper Daniels in the head. Not only was one of the coolest openers ever, it’s the kind of thing they would be well served do to really stand out from WWE’s micromanaged efficiency.

That brawl led to the interactive fan voting for their match later in to the night. It’s one of those things where they’re supposed to be giving the fans a choice, but then immediately had the babyface do an interview and tell them what to vote for. The fact that it was a first blood match, which are almost never good, combined with my boredom with the feud to kill my interest. At the very least, doing this match kept anyone from being pinned while still getting across the idea that they hated each other, so it served its purpose, but I’ll be honest; I was too busy playing God of War: Chains of Olympus to pay too much attention.

Devine Intervention Since I’ve yet to really dig in to ROH’s backlist, I haven’t seen much of Alex Shelley as a singles wrestler, but he really impressed me jerking the curtain against Johnny Devine. I really dug his offense here, and was pretty disappointed to see him job to Johnny Devine, who I’ve just never warmed up to. He does have a pretty impressive finisher now, though, so at least he’s got that going for him. The X-Scape match seems to be set up entirely around the Dutt/Lethal/Val love triangle, so it almost seems superflous to throw other people in there, but I guess they’re still building to Sanjay’s turn on Lethal, and whatever other shenanigans Russo and friends have planned for that storyline. To be fair, I have been enjoying the vignettes building it so far, although Lethal’s impression still amusing me probably has a lot to do with that. Well, that and So Cal Val getting screen time. I do love me some red heads.

Old Dirty Jobber Moving on to a less libidinous take on a female members of the roster, the other fan voting showed that ODB’s still more over than the other Knockouts (I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that the vote wasn’t worked). I’m more of a Gail Kim fan, but I can see why the fanbase could get behind her. She’s really something different in American Women’s wrestling; she’s almost Stone Cold like in how much of a contrast she is to the rest of the female wrestlers in TNA and WWE, and not just because of her rampaging alcoholism. She’s got such a strong personality that she outshines most of the rest of the roster.

While I expected Kong to go over, it was kind of a downer that she did, even if they did at least give ODB some near falls in there. It would have been nice to see a title change on their first live show, and it wouldn’t really be hot shotting the belt, since they’ve had a feud going on for the past couple months. That said, I’m still interested in the three way feud between these two and Kim; it’s pretty much the Knockout equivalent to the Styles/Daniels/Joe trinity of awesome, if not on that level, from a few years back. After all that, it should comes as no surprise that the Knockouts are among the few things on the show I give a crap about these days.

Maybe Christian Should Have Recruited Robocop Back to the wrestlers without ovaries, there was Sting’s big comeback. I have as much residual markdom as anyone who watched him in his pre-Crow days, and have always found him to be at the very least a solid worker (even today), but I can’t get worked up about him coming back. If they finally pull the trigger on Joe winning the belt, they have a title match there that could be good, but really, his biggest value would be in that run in WWE he seems dead set on never having. It’s really sad to me that he wasn’t involved in the Flair retirement angle in any way, for instance.

Whining over fanboy wish fullfillment denied aside, they handled his comeback fine, despite glossing over that whole “He and Christian used to really hate each other and now they’re teaming up” thing. I’m not usually a stickler for continuity or anything, but that would seem to neccessitate some sort of reconciliation. I mean, they at least went through the motions of Christian apologizing to with Rhyno.

That said, the cliffhanger of James Storm attacking Sting with his beer bottle at the end of the show was a good one, and sets up an interesting match for next week’s show, even if it led to yet another beatdown on the faces to close the show. I don’t know if they’re adding Storm to Tomko’s team, but that would at least increase the numbers to traditional War Games standards, and add a further mystery partner to the mix (I’d guess Abyss, just so his entire team is made up of people he’s been a dick to). Either way, they did a good job of using that fun main event as a springboard to further matches instead of just undermining one of their big matches at Lockdown by giving it away free, sans cage.

Joe vs. Angle: It’s a Shoot (fight)! I’m finding the build up to Joe vs. Angle interesting, and not just because any time they trot out montages of wrestlers training for matches it feels like a big deal (although that’s part of it). It’s the MMA elements they’re trying to inject to it that I find interesting. From Angle wearing taped feet during his sparring sessions, to Joe training with an honest to god MMA fighter, to Frank Trigg coming in on commentary, they’re not just trying to capture the “big fight feel” UFC trades in; they’re trying to make it look like an MMA match. It’s even happening inside a cage in a non-traditionally shaped ring!

On the one hand, it’s a sound direction for the feud. It’s a fresh direction for what feels like their millionth PPV match. It also gives anyone who was annoyed by the Karen Angle fueled soap operatics of their last match (which was pretty much everyone) what they want; a one on one match between the two over the belt. That it fits both guys abilities and characters is also a big plus and hey, if it helps Kurt scratch this insane MMA itch he has without actually doing a real shoot fight, that’s gravy.

That said, I’m not sure I want this to be the direction that they use for every main event. I have to admit that I’m not a huge MMA fan; I’m pretty much a casual follower of it at best. While I can understand why wrestling promotions are trying to find ways to incorporate elements of UFC in to their product, since it’s caught the zeitgeist and all. But I don’t watch wrestling for scripted shoot fights; I watch it for athleticism you don’t see in atheltic competition (well, that, and because I have a sense of humor that finds a lot of the aburd crap that WWE and TNA shell out hilarious and not embarassing; at least most of the time). I’m not the kind of person who gives a crap if something looks fake or unrealistic in a wrestling match. So I hope this is something just isolated to Joe and Kurt, who can pull this sort of thing off, and not the direction of the main events, so that guys who do things that would never work in a million years in a real fight (which is pretty much everyone else) can still do their thing.

Of course, my apprehension over this is probably just a knee jerk thing. The fact that their next big main event gimmick match is a convoluted ladder match should dispell any fears I have of TNA getting “too real”. And, in the end, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing, if it helped do away with the overbooked main events and storylines whose main goal is to trick the paying customers who don’t have degrees in Russonian logic after watching his WCW run for possibly masochistic reasons. I’m just not sure I want TNA to become as dead serious about making their main events seem like real fights as ROH seems to, even if they have the roster to be ROH from five years ago.

The Big Finish Now, before I get in to talking too much about the sacred cow of indie promotions (and talking out of my ass about it to boot), I’ll wrap things up here by summing up my thoughts on the first live Impact. It was better than usual. It felt better than average, at least, although I cop to the fact that it may have just been my mood or some other intangible that led to my good will, more than the show itself. This wasn’t the kind of show that signaled a big change of direction or was a huge improvement over their usual shows. It was a solid two hours of wrestling, though, and that’s better than TNA usually does. Hopefully they can build on that instead of backsliding to their usual level of mediocrity at best. This week’s episode should give us an indication if they can do that without the magic of live television (and the ability to get Robbie McAllister in trouble with his employers) to energize them.


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