Well, another TNA Impact Wrestling is in the bags, and I'm sure we've all taken some things away from this episode. If you haven't, don't worry; I'm more than willing to do that thinking for you.
In my personal opinion, this episode could be graded as a solid B. There were some low parts but more than enough high parts to make for an entertaining two hours.
This will be the first in what I'm hoping will be many articles where we focus on the things we can take away from each episode of TNA on a weekly basis. Yes, this is an idea that B/R's WWE department has run before, but I figured WWE has taken so many liberties with TNA ideas recently, why not return the favor?
So, if you're ready, let's not waste any more time and move on to the five things we learned this week.
First, the good side: Aces and Eights do their job as a heel stable relatively well. I say that because, and this is due to the way they've been booked, every time they walk near anyone in a wrestling capacity, there is the genuine concern that they are about to put someone on the shelf for a very long time.
Whether it be Sting, Magnus or Eric Young, when Aces and Eights show up, they evoke an honest sense of concern out of the TNA audience that one of their favorites is about to disappear for a bit. And as a heel stable, that's one of only two things they can be asked to do.
That brings us to the bad side. The other thing they can be asked to do, besides generate fear, is to generate hate.
No one hates Aces and Eights because, aside from Devon and Doc, no one knows who they are.
For a wrestler to garner real heat from the audience, he or she has to make a connection, and you can't do that from behind a mask (e.g., the lukewarm reception Sin Cara has received).
The biker gang was involved in three major segments from Thursday's episode and the crowd was barely interested in most of them. The only time the crowd did show emotion was when, as I said, the gang interrupted Hulk Hogan while he was speaking.
Before Bully Ray showed up for the save, everyone in that audience had the legitimate fear that Hogan was about to be taken off air for a while (yes, that is a legitimate fear of many, and I mean many, non-IWC fans).
From Devon's promo with Hulk Hogan this Thursday, he promised that 2013 would be the year Aces and Eights are revealed. I'm thinking that may be later rather than sooner. But if TNA creative know anything, they'll throw the audience a bone sometime in the near future by revealing the identity of another member.
One of the first genuine laugh-out-loud moments of the night came when Kenny King, tagging with Rob Van Dam, came face to face with a real dilemma: Being stuck between protecting his unaware tag partner and a charging man-beast in Matt Morgan, what does he do?
Well, he shrugs, throws up the Martin Lawrence peace sign and leaves without a thought.
This of course leads to Rob Van Dam getting hit with Morgan's signature move, the Carbon Footprint. Van Dam is knocked out, pinned and loses.
We then get treated to King's faux apologetic commentary as he walks up the ramp.
"Hey, you OK? Rob...C'mon!" And with his most sincere face possible, "Hey!...How's your face?!"
For those who have been following King since his time in Ring of Honor, this push has been a long time coming. The guy is incredible in the ring and as charismatic as they come.
Having him battle Van Dam for the X-Division belt is great; having him slowly turn from a face to a heel while doing it is perfect. This will give him more time to actually build a character that can last and connect with fans.
Plus, it gives us the opportunity to have more hilarious moments like he gave us Thursday.
Joey Ryan played with himself on live television.
There, now that that's over with, let's examine the gravity of such a statement.
Today, wrestling is almost entirely viewed through the lens the WWE polishes. And the WWE has taken the stance that there are certain things their wrestlers and storylines will no longer involve, much of which includes the bawdy and explicit material of its Attitude Era.
This attitude, or lack thereof, is something that permeates the consciousness of pro wrestling. Not that everyone follows suit—there's just the feeling that, because WWE is the lead dog, everyone else should take their actions into consideration when deciding what is acceptable.
Therefore, it can be refreshing when TNA and ROH decide that the G rated era is BS. Again, this Thursday, in his tag match with Matt Morgan against Rob Van Dam and Kenny King, Ryan decided to take a break and rub himself in a way that could make you sick (I honestly don't know what you're into and will not judge).
Later, Frankie Kazarian introduced Santa Clause as "the man with the biggest sack I've ever seen!" This inspired what sounded like legitimate choking from Taz on commentary. And I don't care what you believe, when a wrestler's promo causes someone to choke on their own laughter, you know things are going good for them.
But this is nothing new. If anything, Thursday proved that TNA is not scared of pushing buttons.
Their actions and language show me that they don't give a hoot and hell about how many children are in the audience. And as a father of a wrestling-rabid daughter, I'm torn. On one hand, I lament the fact that I can't share TNA Impact with her every Thursday like I can WWE every Monday and Friday. On the other hand, on Thursday nights, I get to put her butt to bed early because Impact is on! As an adult and refugee of the '90s, I appreciate that.
TNA has had plenty of opportunities to look over their product and rethink how far they decide to "push" things. It's great that, even with their backs against the wall financially, they know enough not to abandon what makes them stand out from the WWE: attitude.
I don't mean with the company (Lord knows his position is pretty much set in stone). I mean as the TNA Heavyweight Champion, his days may be numbered.
Everyone already knows the story about Hardy: His contract is running out next March and his championship run may be TNA's attempt to make him happy and keep him under contract. This theory makes sense to me, for a number of reasons.
One, he's extremely popular. Two, based on all the championship perks that have been provide for him (e.g., having his own belt, having a new theme song, having TNA get involved in the release of his album), I'm thinking TNA is firmly on the Jeff Hardy train and does not want to get off.
Still, for the observant, there have been signs lately that show TNA may be getting tired of Hardy's eccentricities. For one, the belt that had its own unveiling on October 18 was soon pushed to the side as Hardy, mysteriously, was forced to carry his new belt along with the traditional TNA Heavyweight Championship to the ring.
This Thursday, another of Jeff Hardy's "perks" seemed to have been abandoned, as Austin Aries openly mocked Hardy's new slow-motion voice-over promos that have caused such irritation as of late. I can almost imagine the creative meeting where Aries' promo was agreed upon:
Creative Guy 1: So Hardy gets ready to go into the ring, we hit the slow-mo and his V.O. starts.
Creative Guy 2: Wait...what? V.O.? You mean voice over? Nah man, that's super-duper corny. Hulk, I know we need him and we can't possibly do the same numbers without him that we do with him, but...c'mon, y'all can't be serious?
Hogan: *sigh*...I'm getting too old for this stuff.
It just seems that little bit by little bit, Hardy's perks and leverage are getting taken away. What can this be attributed to? Is Hardy not pulling in the numbers they had hoped? Is he becoming too demanding? Or maybe with Storm, Roode, Aries, Team Bad Influence and Kenny King, TNA doesn't think it needs Hardy as much anymore?
Give me your thoughts.
Recently, TNA seems to be on the hunt for younger stars.
Whether it's Kenny King, Joey Ryan, Matt Morgan, DOC or Garett Bischoff and Wes Briscoe, TNA has become serious as of late in its attempts to keep a steady stream of young talent moving into the company.
TNA wouldn't be alone. Recently, WWE—with its use of Damien Sandow, Ryback and Brodus Clay—has also expanded its roster by adding fresh faces. But it's TNA that stands to benefit most from this boom in the youth movement.
With TNA being so small, top spots in the company are highly competitive. Therefore, the introduction of a Joey Ryan or a Matt Morgan would be felt more strongly in TNA than it would be in WWE.
Similarly, when the X-Division adds individuals such as Kenny King to breathe fresh life into what is currently a stale and injury-laden league, the company should be applauded for taking such a chance.
Add in the Gut Check winners currently working the ropes in OVW, and there is literally a platoon of new wrestlers ready to take over when AJ, Daniels or Angle start breaking down. And judging from Thursday's Impact, that time may not be too far away.
Angle's match with Devon looked painful. It's pretty well known that Angle has been working with an injury for some time, but it was never more apparent than this week. Although I still consider Angle to be the best pro wrestler in the world today, he looked miserable in the ring with Devon.
AJ Styles has been written out of TNA storylines with his current losing streak and, as I have said before, challenging his character makes sense with as stale as he has grown.
Now is the best time for new talent to be introduced.
That transfer of power was very visible Thursday. In King, we saw a new potential X-Division Champion. We saw Morgan and Ryan as new contenders in the tag team division. Recently, we've seen Christian York work a great match against former Heavyweight Champion Bobby Roode, and the people waiting in line to challenge Devon for his Television Championship are too numerous to name.
If Thursday showed us anything, it's that TNA is moving forward.