Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic – Is TNA making an iMPACT! or not?

Due to my frustration caused by the silly, immature nature and illogical booking of both WWE and TNA television, not to mention the dearth of exciting in-ring action, I recently gave up watching all four of the two big company’s weekly shows, instead relying on the far superior action from high-quality indy federations like Ring of Honor and CHIKARA to satisfy my pro wrestling jones. But I took a look at all three WWE shows the week before WrestleMania, just to see if I was missing anything, and now I’ll take a look at what’s happening in the land of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.

TODAY’S ISSUE: A rare peek at TNA.

I read Samoa Joe finally got his hands on the TNA World Heavyweight Championship at the Lockdown ppv on April 13th in the “six sides of steel” cage, defeating the highly decorated, prolific champion and former Olympic Gold Medallist, Kurt Angle. So, as a fan who used to clamor for a Samoa Joe title reign in TNA, I thought the first iMPACT! following his title victory, on 17 Apr 08, would be an ideal time to take a look at what’s happening in Dixie Carter’s Orlando-based promotion.

The new world champion started off the show with a solid promo that displayed his emotion at finally having won the big one after risking his career to get it done, and his appreciation for the fans who supported him throughout his sometimes frustrating TNA tenure. I’ve never seen Samoa Joe in dress clothes before. He sported the HHH world champ outfit of a suit with no tie and the shirt collar open. I guess that’s a requirement for champs on TV these days.

Shortly after Joe began, Scott Steiner and former world champ Kurt Angle rained on his parade a bit. The segment worked well, in an economic use of valuable television time to develop the next two big title defenses for Joe, while also setting up Petey Williams for his later X Division opportunity.

Speaking of which, the X Division title match between reigning champion Jay “Black Machismo” Lethal and Johnny Devine was going well, and I was enjoying the story they started to tell, but it needed more time and felt like they rushed to the finish. However, I was thrilled to see Petey Williams make such wise use of the MITB-esque title shot Steiner gave him moments earlier, attacking Lethal with the briefcase itself after a grueling title defense, and wisely calling for his championship match to begin only after Lethal was rendered unable to protect himself. One gorgeous Canadian Destroyer later, and the era of Machismo had come to an end. This was not only flawlessly booked, it was the ONLY way a heel should ever cash in such an opportunity. Excellent segment.

Next came the ridiculous garbage of the tag team title triple-threat match, about which I have three complaints. First of all, Eric Young’s Captain Chaos gimmick is absurd, but not campy enough to bring it all the way back around to “fun to watch”. In two words, it sucks. It’s not entertaining, it’s not fun, it’s not clever, and it’s not good comedy. So why do it at all?

Second, Young leaving his partner alone for five minutes against four other opponents, just so he could get into his Blue Blazer gimmick, was NOT a friendly thing to do! I should think Kaz would have been pretty pissed at Showtime for leaving him high and dry. At one point Kaz actually went to the corner to tag his absent partner, and made a nice facial gesture to indicate his surprise at being left alone in the ring. And how long do you think Kaz will partner with “Super Eric” before he develops a faux superhero gimmick of his own? Not long, I’d imagine.

Finally, Super Eric defeating an amazing performer like AJ Styles for his tag team titles with a simple maneuver, a bridging suplex, was outrageous. It was a slap in the face to the phenomenal one, TNA’s only three-time Triple Crown winner, who carried the company from its start over six years ago. And speaking of AJ Styles, wouldn’t “the Phenomenal Prince” be a better nickname than his current “Prince of Phenomenal”?

This second title change on one show seemed like overkill, but then the tag titles didn’t really wind up changing hands after all. Styles and Tomko claimed the old Faces of Foley syndrome applies to Young, meaning that Super Eric was NOT a legal participant in the match, and therefore the titles couldn’t have actually changed hands. Has it been seven years already, Mr. Cornette?

This intelligence-insulting crap is the exact type of thing that keeps me from tuning in to the big two anymore. Later in the show, at the behest (begging) of the former champs, Cornette confronted Young, who in full Super Eric regalia, of course denied any knowledge of Eric Young, and the would-be hero even whipped out the oh-so clever “Commissioner Gordon” line. That’s quality stuff, boys and girls.

What did all this mean? Since Young and Super Eric DO consider themselves two unique individuals, then Super Eric was indeed an illegal participant in the title match, thereby taking the storyline a step lower on the brains scale and costing Young and Kaz the titles in the process.

But rather than hand the belts back to the former champs, Cornette vacated them instead. His logic? They just lost the belts, so they can’t have them back. But if they just lost them, why can’t Young and Kaz keep them? If Kaz and Young can’t keep the belts because they DIDN’T win them legally, then Tomko and Styles SHOULD get to keep them! Does any of this make sense to you? Me neither, but I smell a tag team title tournament brewing. That has a slight chance of being good, I suppose.

The next match, a tag team bout featuring Team 3-D against Christian Cage and Rhyno, with Earl Hebner as referee, made me look into something. It was only about three short years ago that this match could have taken place in a WWE ring with all five participants. Interesting. The Dudleyz seemed to show some fire throughout this show, which I was happy to see. The match ended with back to back take-out-your-own-partner spots, a fine example of Vince Russo’s “more is more” mentality. The odds that two teams would suffer identical mistakes within three seconds of each other are incalculable, especially when you consider all the kayfabe experience among the four wrestlers in question. That would never happen.

This was really dumb booking, and team 3-D wound up coming to blows over the mistake, which cost them the match. Why did security pull them apart? What were they afraid was going to happen if two wrestlers standing in the middle of a wrestling ring fought for a bit? The fans weren’t in danger, they weren’t interrupting a match or anything, so why not let these two “brothers” work out their differences the way all brothers should? Whoever’s tougher is right, and the other needs to apologize! And if Russo thinks feuding the Dudley Boyz is a good idea, then he’s still not living on planet Earth. Newsflash, Vince: not every team you book HAS to break up and feud. It’s totally legal to leave a team or two together; I promise.

Boy, they’re REALLY trying to get over that new “Cross the Line” catchphrase for the show, aren’t they? And why does TNA have yet another blonde, female backstage interviewer? Can’t they make up their minds and stick with one? Speaking of the ladies, what followed the tag match was a waste of two minutes, when Cornette reprimanded the not-Diva “Knockouts” for nothing, and he threatened them with… more nothing, from what I gathered. This was just a transparent excuse to put a bunch of silicone on the screen at one time. Moving on…

After another segment was wasted with even more stupidity regarding the whole Eric Young/Super Eric nonsense, in which Jim Cornette claimed they were making him want to “put a carotid artery straight through his neck”, whatever that might mean, there was a TNA Knockouts Championship match. Roxxi Leveaux took a shot at the mammoth reigning champion, Awesome Kong, in a very good match. They used the “plucky smaller challenger against giant, unstoppable monster champ” psychology to perfection, and I found myself pulling for the Voodoo Queen as the match progressed. Good stuff.

Isn’t it too soon after Mike Alfonso’s tragic death to call Awesome Kong’s finisher the “Awesome Bomb”? That didn’t feel right to me. Also, they showed how Roxxi earned her title shot at the ppv days earlier, by defeating one of the other interchangeable strippers, I mean Knockouts. But how does her “Voodoo Drop”, a glorified atomic drop, knock out an opponent? Sure, all that impact on the spine would be painful, but when she hit it, the stripper sold it like she’d eaten three Stone Cold Stunners. I don’t get it.

And then the tag team widow-maker struck again, as now BG and Kip James are feuding – who cares? A, they’ve feuded before, so it’s not innovative. And B, it’s been SO long since either were relevant in the business, why bother? Just leave them as a mid-card team with a well-developed legend so they can put over other younger, up and coming teams on the road to the titles. But I’m sure Vince “the Tag Team Killer” Russo has been dreaming of this moment from his first day in TNA. I’d love to have lunch with that idiot just once to explain what real wrestling fans are interested in. Hint: it involves solid in-ring action performed by simple, developed characters with a reasonable, logical beef. Anything else, and you’re missing the mark.

During the 6-man tag match that served as the main event, Professor Tenay made a lame attempt at referencing the “competition” when James Storm hit BG James with Carlito’s “Back Stabber” and Tenay’s call was, “he just stabbed him in the back!” Come on, Mike. You’re better than that.

I believe that with his impressive physical gifts, Matt Morgan would be far superior to Mark Henry in the “monster heel” role in WWE. I’d actually like to see Morgan vs. Khali, since Morgan is close in size, but far more athletically capable and agile. Why McMahon would rather have a slow, lumbering slug in that slot when Morgan was once on his payroll is beyond me. At least Morgan doesn’t have to carry the burden of that stupid stuttering gimmick here in TNA.

The end of the match saw some tension between Booker T and his partner Sting. If booked properly, the former King Booker could be a sympathetic tweener, walking the line and striking out at babyfaces in the name of his pride, but not acting like a prototypical, cowardly heel. Unfortunately that would require some subtle storytelling, and the likelihood of a paint-roller writer like Russo being able to utilize the sable fine-detail brush required for a work of art like this is slim, to say the least.

Ultimately, TNA accomplished their goal of making me want to tune in the following week, but there’s a caveat: the only reason they did so is by promising to give up a ppv-quality match on free TV in the Joe/Angle title rematch. If they hadn’t made such a poor long-term business decision, the amount of garbage I had to sift through in this show to get to a few good bits was so overpowering that I would not be giving them another shot this Thursday.

So while some things have changed, iMPACT! has basically remained a burdensome, hit-or-miss variety show with too little good wrestling and way too much unfunny comedy, unoriginal drama, and un-sexy women running around. After the Joe/Angle match, I will likely return to my previous plan of avoiding TNA programming altogether.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – “Along with success comes a reputation for wisdom.” – Euripides

For more on TNA, check out The Marshall Report, This Week In TNA, and TNAnalysis.

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