With 2013 upon us, Impact! Wrestling's go-home edition for this year had some ups and downs. Mostly, however, it just idled in place not excelling or failing too much.
There was the decent match between Samoa Joe and a faceless member of Aces and Eights; a slight advancement in the Kenny King vs. RVD storyline with the addition of Christian York; a great Divas match between Gail King and Brooke Tessmacher; a surprisingly good tag team match between champs, Chavo and Super Mex, and Bad Influence; as well as a decent, if not comical, main event between Austin Aries and Bobby Roode.
There were some non-wrestling segments as well (a "Bro-Off," really?), some hits and some misses. All in all, this was a safe episode that gets a solid C+.
The Final Resolution pay-per-view seems to have taken the wind out of TNA's sails a bit, to the point a lot of fair weather fans are prematurely jumping ship (again). But not to worry, there were at least five things that we could take away from this week's episode, for good or for ill.
With Sting gone the past couple of months, it has been Kurt Angle who has taken over as the locker room general in charge of taking out Aces and Eights. And although Angle is a fine pick, I argue Samoa Joe should've been given the chance to take over the reins.
This Thursday we were reminded of why Joe is so good. He was given a match with a member of Aces and Eights and worked as good a match as he could with a faceless enemy. He pulled out the victory in a relatively stiff affair with a rear-naked choke.
(As an aside, Joe should really think about changing his sub-move finisher. The rear-naked is such an anti-climatic hold as it puts your opponent to sleep. Conversely, the ankle lock and sharp shooter are pain holds and infuse more drama into the in-ring story by asking the question, "Will he or won't he tap?")
Joe has the motivation: He lost his Television title to Devon due to the biker gang's chicanery. So him calling out a member for Open Fight Night makes sense. However, I'd have preferred Joe be the main guy all the time, calling out the gang; this is especially true with Kurt working on a bad wheel.
The only reason I can find for them not to put Joe up front in this story is his sometimes shaky mic work. It seems to me that every time Joe has been tasked with working a live promo, he comes off rather robotic.
Sure there have been times where his worked or near shoots have come off glorious, but that was because Joe was allowed to be himself and talk off the cuff. But when given talking points, he sounds like he's reading from a script (at least to me).
Because Aces and Eights is such a major storyline, the locker room general would have to do a lot of talking, which is what Sting and Angle are best at.
Do you think Joe's wonky work with the mic is what's holding him back?
Okay, okay...enough already.
Recently, there have been rumblings among TNA wrestlers that WWE creative are stealing their ideas. AJ Styles' supposed affair with authority figure Dixie Carter was mirrored with John Cena's supposed affair with authority figure AJ Lee; and the Shield are just Aces and Eights members who have lost their masks, down to the random attacks on random wrestlers for mysterious reasons.
This is not to say TNA hasn't lifted an idea or two from WWE. This Thursday, Robbie and Jesse competed in a bro-off. If you didn't see it, don't worry, it was pretty much like WWE's dance-off between Vickie Guerrero and Brodus Clay.
You know the scenario: two people compete in some sort of comic battle (dance-off, bro-off, ect.), where the winner is a surprise third entrant who previously had nothing to do with the confrontation. In WWE's version it was William Regal, last Thursday for TNA it was Big Robbie T.
The ironic thing about this segment is that both Jesse and Robbie E are decent workers, and this time could've been better used as a wrestling match. But if the resulting tension that seemed apparent between Robbies E and T lead to the two splitting, then I'm all for the segment.
The tag team division—with the champs Chavo and Super Mex, Bad Intentions, Joey Ryan and Matt Morgan, and Wes Brisco and Garett Bischoff—is relatively strong; they can stand to lose one team. Robbie E is the obvious star of the group, while Big Robbie T is Super Mex without the in-ring skill.
Although Zema Ion was an exciting character, he just never quite got over with the crowd. Even after breaking a man's neck, live on pay-per-view television, he just didn't come off as the type of heel you could have fun booing—and that's saying a lot.
Kenny King and Christian York are different, and I think I know why: They're not characters. Ion is a character, in the same way Robbie E and Abyss are. Now that we are in the Internet age, assigning a wrestler a character is no longer a viable way of getting him or her over. When we know everything about a wrestler, getting us to believe he's a monster hailing from Parts Unknown is hard to do.
King and York are just wrestlers, and they wrestle. That's it.
One's a jerk who'll sell out his friends to get ahead in the industry, and the other is a hardworking, come-from-behind fighter in the middle of his own Cinderella story. Those are their real-life stories, as well as their kayfabe stories.
I think these are the type of stories that are easier to get over in the information age.
Thursday, York had a surprisingly good match with the X-Division champion RVD. Leading up to their encounter, King had some words for the returning rookie that could lead to friction down the road. I, for one, wouldn't balk at a future York vs. King feud.
First off, the AJ Styles impersonation by Frankie Kazarian was so spot on that you have to know AJ was in the back, laughing his ass off.
Bad Influence has been on a roll. They are the best tag team in professional wrestling right now. (And yes, I'm including Hell No, who are more of a gimmick than an organic team.) Bad Influence is incredible in the ring, incredible on the mic and Kaz and Christopher Daniels work so well together you almost forget they are a tag team of convenience rather than design.
Remember, they're only teamed because the horrible Claire Lynch storyline dictated it. Before that, they were part of a group, Fortune, that didn't really require the two specifically to work as a tag team.
Behind the scenes, of course, Kaz and Daniels have been coworkers for a very long time, but that doesn't necessarily account for the chemistry these two have in the ring. When I watch them, I'm reminded of another obnoxious but hilarious tag team, DX.
Degeneration X is a legendary tag team, consisting of two legendary wrestlers, who reigned as the greatest tag team during a legendary era.
Of course I'm not saying Bad Influence can match them, accomplishment for accomplishment. But the groundwork being laid down for the two is something that I think will lead to two very long careers with each other.
The upside for Bad Influence, when compared to DX, is that they're reaching their peak as a team before they begin to break down physically. If there was one thing that tarnished DX's reputation it was when they were over 40 still trying to do the same juvenile shtick they did when they were in their 30s.
Bad Influence are having all of their best moments now, and they still have enough ring life left in them for more moments to come. Let's enjoy them while we can.
This is just a quick thought I had while watching the commercial for the new Impact! Wrestling and Bellator partnership scheduled to begin this January.
Where the UFC and WWE are consistently at odds, TNA and Bellator seem to have realized that a cooperative front may lend the best results. Don't get me wrong, I don't think this will skyrocket either company's ratings any. I'm a firm believer in the theory that MMA fans aren't necessarily pro-wrestling fans, no matter what Brock Lesnar fanboys would have you believe.
Still, there is a market for those fans who fall in between the two sports. Plugging into this market, however, will require a little tweaking to the TNA product.
For one, matches will have to be much more realistic and stiff. Two, wrestlers with legitimate shoot backgrounds like Samoa Joe, Kurt Angle and RVD, will become more valuable.
Again, this isn't anything TNA will be required to do, or should feel required to do. They may decide to keep everything as is and just try to catch whatever errant eyeball happens to land their way due to the cross-marketing. Regardless, the potential for something special as a result of this partnership is major.
I, for one, will be checking in weekly just to see what the two companies decide to do.
Of course they can—they just rarely do.
Heel vs. heel matches are very risky, especially for a main event. Roode vs. Aries this Thursday showed why.
For one, the fans were never certain who to cheer for. Secondly, whoever loses would get buried.
Heels are never booked as strongly as their face counterparts. Even when a heel is allowed to win and retain his or her title for a long time (i.e. the cases of Bobby Roode and the man who would later "borrow" his heel shtick, CM Punk), the tactics for success usually involve something underhanded or sneaky.
So when you lose to a character built up to be innately weak, that can decimate any momentum you have going.
Thus was the case Thursday when neither Roode nor Aries were allowed to get the upper hand for long, leading to an awkward, albeit comical at times, match where each man tried to outcheat the other. In the end, champion Jeff Hardy came down to the ring and laid both men out.
There is only one time when this type of matchup has been proved to work, and that's the Bound for Glory series. This is because during the series all heel and face designations, for the most part, have been removed. The matches and their outcomes are what's important, not the storylines behind them.
There were some good moments during the match Thursday. What helped was that both Roode and Aries are over as heels, so fans eventually just picked who they wanted to win, which was actually pretty cool. There were times Thursday when there were chants for Roode, and others when the crowd was rooting for Aries to break out of a hold.
In the end, everyone ended up enjoying what amounted to a fun and entertaining match during the lull before Genesis. And I'm pretty sure fun and entertaining is what we all want.