Brandon volunteered to write up the only match he saw from Impact last night. Samoa Joe and AJ Styles is the perfect example of where that BFF Hive Mind ends, because, as you all know, I do not have the same fondness or nostalgic glow for Samoa Joe as the rest of the internet. But hey, I’ll save the rest of those thoughts for next week, because here he is!
Best: Joe vs. AJ, at least until the time limit draw
I thought I’d handle this one so Danielle wouldn’t run the risk of infuriating you with her fat jokes.
I have a soft spot for Samoa Joe. Wait, let me rephrase that … like Samoa Joe, I have a soft spot.
(This is harder than I was expecting.)
But no, I actually really dug the Samoa Joe vs. Post-Apocalyptic AJ Styles Bound For Glory series match from last night’s show, assuming you ignore the count-out finish and that weird just-before-the-countout stuff where they just kinda collapsed in the middle of the ring and waited for it. I don’t write about it often (unless I’m wanking over a Daniel Bryan match), but 2002-2006 Ring Of Honor is a really special thing to me. It’s what pushed me from “passing interest in independent wrestling via the back sections of Bill Apter magazines” to “guy who loves the indies.” It was a bunch of wrestlers I loved having matches I loved, and while Danielson was always my favorite, Samoa Joe was once undeniably one of the most enjoyable, dynamic wrestlers in the country. He was everything I say I want in a wrestler … a tough fat guy who moves like a freight train (not like Freight Train) and just beats the shit out of you, especially if you are a tiny flipping guy, and he does it with style and brutality. Mark Henry, if Mark Henry could throw elbows suicida. I have so many wonderful memories of Joe … the epic match with Kobashi in New York City, the time in Dayton when he kicked Davey Richards so hard in the back of the head it turned Davey into a shoot psychopathic rage monster, the Survival Of The Fittest match with Dragon in Cleveland where Dragon lost his gear and had to wrestle in Claudio’s trunks. I could list them for 10 pages. He was awesome.
And while we’re talking “10 years ago,” I remember AJ Styles being one of those cool, can’t-miss guys who was going to be a big deal. I loved him when he teamed with Air Paris in WCW (the WCW Cruiserweight tag division is a thing that should’ve existed longer and thrived). I was one of those nerds who bought all the early TNA shows to see guys like Styles and Low Ki on my television. The intersection of Joe and AJ was exciting and promising, and basically everything they did until that glory era of TNA PPVs in 2005 made me happy.
Now it’s 10-to-8 years later and … promises weren’t kept. Joe got sad and sorta gave up. AJ floundered as the “TNA Guy” in every “TNA Guys Are Less Important Than These New WWE Guys We Got” stories, one after another. Sometimes they’d come back together (with or without Christopher Daniels), but they’d eventually settle, and AJ would be the guy with the goofy accent and Joe’d be the fat guy with the dick drawn on his face. Here, AJ and Joe to get wrestle a too-short match filled with a lot of the stuff that made me love them so much back in the day … AJ’s crazy bumping, Joe’s intensity, fun move transitions, and, most importantly, a focus on the wrestling. That’s all TNA has ever needed to do to get me on board again: focus on wrestling, preferably without SAYING you’re focusing on the wrestling. No “WRESTLING MATTERS HERE” shit followed by Dixie signing Rampage or bringing in Toby Keith or whatever. Just guys who are good at wrestling wrestling.
I lost myself for a second and forgot how mad Impact always makes me. Then the time limit happened. Mike Tenay’s voice started registering in my ear again. I was gone, and then I was gone. Maybe one day, TNA. Maybe one day.
Worst: Creatures with iPhones
That girl is filming most of the match. She is opposite hard camera and clearly filming most of the match. Come on. Rulebreaking aside, girl, this is going to be on television. You can watch the full episode on Spike TV’s website. You can watch this match on YouTube. You can DVR it. It is happening right in front of you and you have multiple ways to relive it forever and ever what are you even doing.
Best: The Bound For Glory Series
Bobby Roode-Jeff Hardy is a perfect example of why I will always be behind the idea of the Bound for Glory series. As I said before, it gives a chance for those who tend to fade into the background because they’re not involved in any storylines a reason to wrestle, and wrestle with purpose. The fact that submissions get you more points than pinfall victories plays to the strengths of people like Samoa Joe and Austin Aries (whose finisher can easily be turned into a submission). Samoa Joe can bust out more than the same three submissions and trigger those remembrances of what made you a fan of his in the first place, without just relying on that to happen regardless. I mean really, he was one lackadaisical match away from just wearing a shirt that says “I wrestled KENTA, ‘member???”
Wrestlers like Bobby Roode or Christopher Daniels are encouraged work outside of their standard movesets and bring in different submission elements that make the matches more challenging, and more exciting to watch. Impact main events usually leave me flopping around on the couch going “But I don’t wanna!” because it’s two of a handful of people basically replaying the same match they’ve had previously last week, or on the most recent pay-per-view, or what have you. Good, creative matches focused on wrestling instead of TOTALLY NOT FAKE hardware are what I want to see, and I know I’m not alone in this. Bobby Roode is streets ahead of where he was when he won the Bound for Glory series, and this will only serve to propel him forward in the best way possible. Jeff Hardy still gets to yell nonsensical things and set up his Twist of Fate and take his shirt off and all of the things Jeff Hardy is getting paid to do. I am no longer Jeff Hardy’s demographic, but I understand his role, and if he gets to not hurt people and sell merchandise and let Bobby Roode beat the tar out of him even for a little while, I’m fine with it.
And best of all, if it doesn’t lead me to want to skip the main event each and every time, we’re all the better for it.
Worst: Guy Who Yells Stuff Professionally™ should take his own advice
Lately I’ve seen a lot of people referring to Bully Ray as the best on the mic in THIS BUSINESS. Instead of blindly dismissing that assertion, I feel like I should fully explain why I disagree. Bully Ray’s character work prior to the revelation of his being behind Aces & Eights was stellar. Just top notch stuff. But he’s fallen off, and I can’t cling to things that used to be good. If I did, I would just skip the Impact report each week and tell you to watch the Hogan-Dudley wedding episode instead. His backstage segments are good, and effective, but as soon as he gets in the ring he falls back on all of his old habits from before the Brooke storyline. There is a reason he is referred to as Guy Who Yells Stuff. Because that’s it. DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM and shouting DAD at Hulk Hogan and it’s just the same thing with no nuance or depth like his backstage segments or previous in-ring promos. Look at someone like Jake the Snake. Or Nick Bockwinkel. Or Ole Anderson. They didn’t need to shout to make a point. They could be calculating and intimidating without ever raising their voice. Even someone like Mark Henry knows to speak softly with the mic in your hand, and yell when it’s not. This is entirely a difference of opinion, but this column is one of opinions, and whether I have different standards, whether I hold Bully Ray accountable for not being as good as he’s proven he can be, or whether or not I’m just really into Nick Bockwinkel, that is mine and I stand by it.
Worst: The Main Event Mafia graphic
I worry that what you heard was “Give me a lot of bad tattoo flash.” What I said was “Give me all of the bad tattoo flash you have.”
Worst: And your second Main Event Mafia member is….
Kurt Angle. Because of course he is. An original Main Event Member, sure, but also one of the guys who didn’t come out to fight alongside Sting. A guy who has done exactly what drove Sting to rehashing this awful stable. And I swear to god if this is all just a vehicle for Jeff Jarrett to return I will flip every single table in the GTA.
Best: The ACES & GARBAGE sign guy
I know he’s got a “Main Event Diarrhea” sign prepped for when this all goes south, and I eagerly look forward to that screencap. Move over Rick! There’s a new sheriff in town, and he’s not afraid to write the word “poop” on a piece of cardboard.