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The Best And Worst Of Impact Wrestling 12/5/13: The Ghost Of Earl Hebner’s Dignity

By / 12.06.13

bleeeeeeerghhh

Worst: Dixie’s a Carter. These openers need her.

Earlier this week I happened to see a bit of the Eddie Guerrero-Kurt Angle match from WrestleMania XX, and I was entirely taken aback when Angle got all serious business, took his singlet straps down, and he had visible abdominal muscles. See, I’ve gotten so used to overstuffed sausage casing-Kurt Angle that sometimes I legitimately forget that he was once in shape and coherent and could walk like a real human being. This week, instead of Dixie coming out to open the show (boo!), Kurt Angle shuffles out to talk about how Austin Aries gave him the fight of his life (doubtful, at best), and to call out Magnus. I should be stopping here, because Magnus epitomizes everything that frustrates me about Impact Wrestling, and writing about another Main Event Mutual Masturbation in-ring segment is one of the last things I want to do, but…no, okay. I can’t do it. I can’t listen to Magnus’s lazy, blasé delivery, and Old Man Angle and his glassy-eyed retconning of his entire career.

I brought my own table!

Best: The Power of the Creatures of the Night

Jeff Hardy lets us all know that if you want to be the next World Heavyweight Champion, you’ll have to go through him and all of his Creatures. I don’t know about you, but I would love to see Bobby Roode and Kurt Angle plow through a lineup of every wrestling fan who has ever worn cut-up pantyhose on their arms with zero irony after 2003. Kurt and Roode, smeared with pink face paint and blood, Roode breathless and slightly remorseful for having spines-bustered all of those ladies who just wanted to see Hardy take his shirt off, Kurt Angle breathless because he should be gracefully retired and living in Florida with a bangin’ pool cage and respectable legacy.

Okay, I guess: Bobby Roode and Jeff Hardy vs. The Infinite Fine-ness

So I didn’t watch this show live, as I don’t often do, but chose to get groceries instead. I knew the line-up for the show, but as I was debating what kind of faux-chicken to buy and mentally composing a paragraph about Ethan Carter III’s abs, I realized that there isn’t a whole lot I look forward to these days. They announce matches, you take two seconds to figure out who is going to win, and then you move on. Thursday night rolls around, you watch the matches play out in an acceptable if not terribly predictable way, and then you forget about them. Is Jeff Hardy-Bobby Roode going to make anyone’s year end Best Ofs lists? Can anyone say there was anything worth remembering other than the Royal Rumble ’94 call back? Well, probably, it like JUST happened, but my point is this: adequacy is boring as f-ck.

When Impact Wrestling is bad, it’s just the pits. But it also makes it very easy to stand up and say no, you shouldn’t be racist/misogynistic/homophobic dirtbags. No, Magnus, that Cloverleaf is not okay, stop doing every single thing that you’re doing, even if you claim Samoa Joe said it was cool. But then the show enters this weird zone of bad-but-acceptable-I-guess, which is slightly better, but much harder to criticize or even explain to people. “At least it’s not [this horrible thing that happened]” isn’t exactly what you should be aiming for. I’ve said time and again that TNA has proven they can put together entertaining and legitimately technically sound matches, but the slide backwards into “Okay, I guess, whatever” isn’t helping anyone. It’s incredibly frustrating, but it’s also the thing that bolsters the worst opinions of the most adamant defenders of Impact. “Come on, it wasn’t that bad!” when actually, yeah, it kinda was, it’s just not as bad as [insert a million sh-tty examples here]. It’s the kind of thing that breeds complacency, and never pushes anything to get better or move forward. It definitely doesn’t move people outside of the little box of acceptance they’ve packaged themselves up into enough to watch objectively and say “This thing I love isn’t very good right now, and even though it’s been worse, I sure do wish it would get better.” I have made this point time and again, and it might not ever sink in, and that’s fine. Everything’s fine.

I am so goddamn sick and tired of fine, guys.

Best: Speaking of…

Remember that casket match between Yokozuna and Undertaker, and how Yokozuna was this big unstoppable monster, but got so scared of the Undertaker? That moment was magical for me. Yokozuna was the first wrestler I ever well and truly loved, and the first wrestler to ever give me that rush of feelings that I treasure every day when wrestling is at its very best.

I love that the preamble is Undie building a f-king casket and wishing Yokozuna the creepiest of holiday wishes. I love Paul Bearer and it makes me sad that he’s not around anymore. I love Yokozuna’s response to it. The look on his face that no one but those at home can see, that perfectly conveys the mix of fear and worry this force of a man should feel when facing someone who is building a casket for you because he is insane and creepy and maybe inhuman. It’s the perfect suspension of disbelief, that this undead ginger weirdo is going to beat up this totally for real Japanese sumo dude who sits on people for both funsies and maximum limit break damage and put him in a custom casket he just made in his creepy ass workshop.

Of course, the match doesn’t end that way, but it gets WAY BETTER and WAY CREEPIER because the spirit of the Undertaker lives within all mankind, and I won’t spoil it for people who haven’t seen it, but to me it’s a perfect little thing that encapsulates why I love Yokozuna, why Undie is one of the best, if not the best wrestling character of all time, and it has bonus Bam Bam Bigelow. I do love me some Bam Bam.

It’s not the best Undertaker or Yokozuna match by a long shot, but it’s those little moments that make it special and enjoyable, and perfectly illustrates why kind of okay should never ever ever be something to aspire to. Even if it seems like the dumbest thing in the world, committing to something like it isn’t goes a long, long way.

Best: Here he comes to save the day…

Oh, EC3. I raise an eyebrow at the idea that your lips would be actually be chapped, but you still separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to smarmy Impact Wrestling heels. You’re mean in a way that makes sense, and it makes me happy all over.

Best: Still undefeated, still the best

There’s a reason thoughts of EC3 compete with my very important vegan grocery shopping tasks. Those little things I just mentioned? He’s got ‘em down pat. Wiping off the microphone after Hebner hands it back to him? So good. Little gestures by someone who knows who they are and never wavers. Rockstar Spud is even great by proxy, because Ethan Carter III and his magic abs are the best thing on Spike TV, and I say that as someone who is entirely obsessed with Human Zoidberg Jon Taffer.

The progression from squashing Norv and Dewey and then Norv and Dewey and the parade of my favourite masked TNA wrestlers to fully abusing his power as the nephew of the owner of the company is kind of perfect. It’s exactly what I want to see, week after week. For people who were dismissive, or didn’t really know how to take him at first, he is systematically getting meaner and more entitled, and it’s pretty hard to look at him without understanding that he’s a despicable person, no matter how charismatic he is.

you dick

I always tend to fall on the heel side of things, despite my Chikara leanings and my favourite people being Mick Foley and Dasher Hatfield, two of the shoot nicest, most genuine dudes in the world. Heels are the best when they’re the smart, cooler-than-you, self-aware dickfaces who do dastardly things, but are still smart and handsome and cool enough that you can’t really help but see their side of things, and then hate them even more for making you see it. In this case, EC3 is sincerely cooler and handsomer and abs-ier than just about everyone else, and it’s understandable that he would be BOUND FOR GLORY on the easiest VICTORY ROAD possible, because he’s a Carter. Why would he do anything differently? Picking on an old man, threatening his family’s livelihood, and then making that man’s own son bear witness to his humiliation? That’s some cold sh-t right there. And I look forward to it every single week.

ilu don knotts

Worst: Earl Hebner

I expect Earl Hebner to sound like Don Knotts every time he takes the mic, and I am upset every time it doesn’t happen.

Screw you for not being Don Knotts, basically.

Best: But no, really

I don’t really get muscley dudes. It’s not a thing that rings any bells for me, seeing as doughy midsections and thick dudes with great hair are my own personal saucy Carol of the Bells. I think when you watch so much wrestling, you eventually become kind of desensitized to the same body types and the same biceps and constant barrage of mostly-naked gents getting sweaty and stuff. It’s just kind of…eh. The reason I bring this up is because I find myself increasingly and entirely fascinated by EC3’s….everything. I don’t even know what half of those muscles are, or how you even get them, but holy cheese how does your body even do that. This isn’t even a paragraph about the attractiveness of EC3, more of a self-admitted problem with trying to reconcile everything that’s happening at once on his body, because there’s so much happening and I don’t understand it but I absolutely appreciate it. Like, to the point where I am fairly sure I should be kept away from him in person because I’d just want to drink protein shakes and poke his fifty different shoulder muscles and ask him about his favourite part of City Slickers while he squat-lifted a Buick.

F-ck it, that should totally happen.

Worst: Speaking of slow builds…

Oh man, you were so close with this Sam Shaw thing. So close.. Now we get to hang out in weird, over-possessive boyfriend territory instead of maybe that guy’s gonna drop a chainsaw on someone-ville.

Like, okay. Remember the film adaptation of Watchmen, and how one of the myriad of frustrating things about it was how Rorschach in prison played out? In the book, Big Figure hides in the bathroom during the prison riot. After Silk Spectre and Nite Owl show up, Rorschach casually excuses himself to go to the bathroom. Spectre and Night Owl talk about it for five panels, and not once are we shown what’s happening in the bathroom. The only payoff we get is the three of them walking away as blood slowly leaks through the bottom of the bathroom door, and you’re left to speculate on the horrible thing Rorschach did to Big Figure to make that amount of blood pool in the hallway. It’s what you don’t see that’s most resonant, rather than in the movie when it was all blood spurting and arms getting chopped off and proactive, in your face gratuitous violence that cheapened basically everything because boy howdy was that movie ever a pile of garbage.

The point being that it’s what is left to the imagination that affects you the most. When you straight up come out and say “I’m going to kill you,” it’s a huge let down, as opposed to “wow that guy sure is creepy and likes to feel up butter knives…that guy either has some super niche restaurant utensil fetish, or he’s a total psycho.” It kills the need to see where anything goes when you just come out and threaten to kill someone because it confirms that is exactly where it is going. And also oh my god why does everyone have to flat out threaten to kill someone on this show.

As an aside, I really, really, wanted at least three promos about fonts. More Samuel Shaw’s Style Guide, less of the k-word, please.


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