Hey friends, what’s up? How are you? What’s going on? We’ve got a lot of stuff to catch up on, so hopefully you’re real hype to get into this! I know I am…certainly writing this report! A few things first:
– Oh hey did you know Chikara is back? My heart is positively bursting at the seams. Should you want to watch how it all went down at National Pro Wrestling Day, you can watch the stream for free here. I podcasted with Max Smashmaster of the Devastation Corporation, which you can listen to here, and then with Icarus, which you can listen to here. Two very different sides of the returning Chikara story, both well worth a listen.
– Do you love independent wrestling? Want to help some truly wonderful dudes who give back to the community AND put on fantastic wrestling shows? Donate and support St. Louis Anarchy as they raise funds to help upgrade their ring. Safety first, wrestles second!
– If you haven’t made plans to attend either of the St. Louis Anarchy shows at the end of the month, get on it! Young Bucks? Davey Vega? ACH? Gary Jay turning Roderick Strong’s chest into hamburger meat? Yes please. Plus I hear the person who made the graphics is pretty cool *cough cough*
This week on Impact: Ethan Carter III gives me a good reason to not be writing solely about Chikara, and some other stuff probably.
Best/Worst: So here’s what you’ve missed
Due to some pretty gnarly illness stuff, and then traveling for National Pro Wrestling Day, we’ve got some catching up to do, and I’m pretty stoked. See, it’s weird. If you know me, you know how much I love independent wrestling. If you don’t know me, hi! I’m Danielle. I love independent wrestling more than anything. Watching corporate wrestling (to steal a turn of phrase from our favourite friends at Dirty Dirty Sheets) isn’t always the most fun thing for me in the world, and luckily I get to write about what people generally consider to be the bottom of the barrel when it comes to The Wrestling That Is On Television™.
My relationship with TNA is maybe the most frustrating, but still incredibly rewarding…sometimes. For every segment where Samoa Joe threatens to murder people because that’s a real stupid thing he keeps doing, Rockstar Spud gets to wear bowties and call Scotland England’s “B-Team.” For every Mr. Anderson segment (they’re all bad, no need to get specific here), we get Ethan Carter III looking dapper as all get out, secretly being one of the best things in wrestling right now.
The important things you need to take away from the last couple of weeks are pretty simple: The UK tour is usually the drizzling sh-ts, but the venues look stellar. Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards haven’t learned to sound good when speaking on television, Sting is gone, Christy Hemme proves that literally no one watches the show that they’re on, Magnus is really good now??? (more on that later), and MVP is the secret TNA investor.
Guess that Japan money dried up, huh.
Yeah, we’re doing this.
Abyss is a big scary monster. Eric Young, BFF to Joseph Park (#thiscouldbeusbutyouplayinandalsohavenoideawhoiam), is determined to bring out then tame the beast, for friendship and science and because they want to shatter my heart into about a million pieces. Last week, EY challenged Abyss to a Monster’s Ball match as an experiment in “getting crazy”, and also to see how many times I’ll accidentally type Monster Balls in a column.
Before we get to this match, we should talk about a few things. Have a little chit chat. Maybe you should grab a nice cup of tea or something. I’ll wait.
As maybe (probably) the world’s biggest Joseph Park fan, this obviously tears me up inside. I like Abyss well enough, but would I rather just live in a world of tracksuits and thinking stumps and something that makes me happy just seeing it? Of course. But I would be foolish if I didn’t point out that this is one of the strongest long-term sequential narratives that TNA has ever embarked on. That said, the roller coaster of emotions I’ve been on for well over a year is…a tough one to suss out for those who may not be as familiar with it as I am.
Let’s go back and look at where this all started. Joseph Park showed up looking for his brother Chris, you know, Abyss. During his search, he determined Bully Ray to be a party to his brother’s disappearance, and took Abyss’s spot in a match against Bully at Slammiversary 2012. Of course, somewhere in there Abyss showed up to warn Joe Park that he was getting too close, but I guess we’re going to ignore the two being in the same place because wrestling. Two months later, Joseph Park finds himself in another match against Bully Ray, but this time breaks out a Black Hole Slam, his brother’s signature move, upon seeing his own blood. Curious, no?
After being kidnapped by Aces & Eights and treated just awfully (mostly by being forced to be in the presence of Wes Brisco, presumably) Joseph Park set a course for OVW to work and train and become a real Impact Wrestler. This is maybe one of my favourite periods of the Abyss/Joseph Park saga, because everything, be it his conversations with Danny Davis, or his first W as an Impact Wrestler, was marked with a sincerity atypical of TNA. While the pendulum of Aces & Eights swung from garbage to brilliant to garbage again, Joe Park remained a stalwart ray of sunshine. Most wrestlers and storylines seem farfetched or inaccessible, but Joseph Park was just a smart, average dude who wanted to be a wrestler and was basically the most adorable human being while trying to accomplish that.
I mean really, look at this picture:
Last May, Abyss came back from…wherever, we’ll say the greasy hair extension factory, to participate in a six-man tag against Aces & Eights. The next week, Hogan attempted to call out Abyss, but only got a confused Joseph Park in return, still completely unaware of where his brother was.
Now, the similarities between the two ranged from the obvious (they look just like each other and Joseph Park can Black Hole Slam people despite only recently learning how to bump), to the more subtle (Joe Park holding his notebook in the same manner Abyss would hold his copy of The Art of War). It’s easy to wonder what Joe Park’s story was for the fact that he had a flipper to replace the two front teeth that RVD knocked out of his brother’s mouth that one time, but that’s little stuff that’s neither here nor there. Or that when he took off his jacket he had all of the same tattoos. But rather than leave well enough alone, people had to pick and dig prove that Joseph Park was a fraud.
Personally I don’t see why you’d want to trade a guy who’s basically a giant teddy bear unless you make him bleed for the guy who’s virtually impervious to pain, is super gigantic, and has a giant board full of sharp nails with a sassy secretary’s name, but I digress.
Bad Influence, during some of the worst work they’ve done in TNA, managed to deal the first emotional blow to us Park Marks. And I mean, with all honesty, for realsies emotion.
It’s not super easy getting a wrestler “over,” to be obnoxious for a second and use that term (who am I, one of the Young Bucks?), and usually wrestling characters get one or two expository segments and then we just accept that’s who they are. Joseph Park was a slow burn. Someone who wove himself into the fabric of TNA; who grew and changed and developed over time, like a real person in a real situation (if that real situation is boy panty fights and suplexes). Obviously I loved him right off the bat, but watching week in and week out, it became a lot easier to connect to Joseph Park. We rarely, if ever, get moments of vulnerability in our big tough strong shouty guys; Hogan and Bully Ray had brief moments and it was some of the best work of their careers. Joseph Park got that all the time. He never stopped. We can say yeah, I guess it’s reasonable that these two fellows are mad that one has a belt and one doesn’t, or yeah, I guess it’s totally logical that AJ Styles just wants to play on his Catwoman bike in his spare time, but the struggles and reactions of Joseph Park were something different. Organic responses, real human emotion. So when Joseph Park is confronted by the reality that his law offices don’t exist, and haven’t for quite some time, it’s not just “I took your briefcase wanna fight about it,” it feels as real as a television program can get. The construct of his life is being torn down around his ears, and he doesn’t know how to handle it. He’s got a life he loves, and just wants to be left to it.
The sadness slowly turns to desperation, as seen here after yet another Monster’s Ball match, this time against Bad Influence:
Somewhere along the line, Bad Influence disappeared as the catalysts for proving that Abyss and Joseph Park are the same person, and Park’s supposed best friend stepped into the role. Bound and determined to prove to Joe Park who he really is, Eric Young embarked on a series of experiments, which leads us here, Monster Balls typo number three.
The match itself is irrelevant: it’s the same as-ultraviolent-as-we-can-get-on-television spot match these things usually turn into. Eric Young spitting a mouthful of thumbtacks at Abyss is insane and a thing no one should ever do ever, but it looked super cool so I’ll give him a brief Best for that before he ripped my heart out and superplexed it.
There’s one more thing that you, fair readers, especially new readers, need to know about me: I *hate* unmaskings. I am an adamant defender of wrestlers who choose to wrestle under a mask, and I think it’s awful and wrong and one of the most prickish things you can do when you out someone under a mask. It adds nothing to the wrestling show, it’s disrespectful to the person wrestling and the hard work that went into the masked character, and spoiler alert you’re a garbage human if you do it publicly. I get unintentionally nauseous when a masked wrestler’s opponent will go for those mask strings (see: a million instances in Chikara that made me cringe). I don’t like it and I don’t want it, and you need to know this so you a) you never do that ever, and b) understand the visceral reaction I had to Eric Young ripping off Abyss’s mask.
Yes, we know who’s under there. But it’s been two years of building up this suspension of disbelief, and making me connect to a character in such a way as to hope all of it is fake, and that first Abyss who showed up during a Joseph Park math would wander back out and everything would get wrapped up in a nice little package and I’d get to keep Joseph Park forever. That’s good writing. That’s good storytelling. That’s incredible acting. And I need to write all of these things out for you because you need to know that the dumpster fire of TNA occasionally yields some treasures, and this one is my favourite. In two years they’ve done something they’ve never even come close to before, and that’s hit that wrestling sweet spot that makes you step back and say yeah, this is a big dumb unpopular sport that makes me feel bad most of the time, but it’s what I love, and this is the perfect example of why.
Best: Here’s a picture of Trent Baretta with a goat to make us all feel better
get out of my dreams and onto my television again
Worst: Can afford a hostile takeover of TNA…
…apparently cannot afford a flattering headshot
Worst: xBallerxMVPxShotcaller_73x has a few words for us
Now, obviously I love Dixie Carter as of late. Obviously I love her weird little Blokeman family and Rockstar Spud’s suddenly incredible ferocious lion persona and Ethan Carter III’s everything, so I feel I might be having the wrong reaction to MVP’s dramatic reading of a TNA forum board conversation.
He’s so fed up with the way things have been running (really awesome so I don’t see the problem but okay Montel Vontavious) that as a professional wrestler he HAD to step in and do something about it. So you’re telling me that didn’t see anything wrong with the abuse of power displayed by the Main Event Mafia: Orignal Flavour? He watched Victory Road ’09 and went yeah, these wrestles are good wrestles? It’s only now that he chooses to find something flawed, and it’s not the guy who wants to shoot break babies’ necks and quotes Coolio while standing over a large coffin? Or Gunner?
Dixie’s actions may not be the most ethical, but I’m pretty sure that misused talent is not the problem here.
Caveat: Hey, MVP
Use some of that investment money to bring back this goon and I’ll be Team Porter forever.
Worst: Curry Man vs. Bully Ray
Unlike Coolio, you did indeed cross a man who didn’t deserve it. Not cool….io.
Best, but also a frustrating worst: Team Dixie
A lot of you have expressed that you read the Best and Worst, but don’t watch TNA. And that’s fair. They haven’t built up…basically any good will over the years, and a lot of what goes up on the Impact YouTube channel isn’t indicative of the reasons you should be watching the whole show. So when I say hey, Team Dixie rules, and they have the best segments on the show, there’s nothing to link to in order to back up my claims.
Dixie’s been prepping to meet with MVP, and Bobby Roode, Spud, EC3, and Magnus all float in and out of her dressing room with various questions, concerns, and reassurances. I can transcribe verbatim what was said, but it loses something in the chemistry this messed up little family has been cultivating over the past weeks. Even Magnus is good.
Let that sink in for a second.
Even Magnus is good.
Remember when I said that I could get on board with Magnus if he just went full high camp, and became this ridiculously entitled over-the-top heel caricature? Well, he did it, and it’s so f-cking good. When he stands in the ring and claims that Kurt Angle is a lumbering dinosaur of a bygone era? Yeah, those words sound a little familiar, but he’s right and I’m on his side. When he acts over confident, and the cracks we saw previously between him, Ethan Carter III, and Aunt D get split wide open? It’s so f-cking good.
Bonus Best: EC3 your haaaaair
Don’t you dare listen to Brandon it looks stellar and I want to play with it in the most platonic way that I can express.
Worst: Dixie Carter’s sweater
Rarely have I been known to say bad things about Austin Aries, or good things about Zema Ion, but did we really just waste a briefcase cash-in on this? Really? After all those nice things I said about you, TNA?
I was so nice to you.
Bonus Secret Confession Time: I am really good at making that airhorn noise and it is absolutely none of your business as to how I know/got that good at it.
Worst: How’d it get burned? HOW’D IT GET BURNED?
This dude has a creepy jerkoff room with a mannequin in your image with your actual hair and the strongest stance you can take is “you’re a nice guy but let’s keep things professional”?
Christy. Girlfriend. Listen. Listen, Christy. He has a creepy jerkoff room with a mannequin in your image with your actual hair get a restraining order what are you even doing
Best: Dixie Carter
Again, not on YouTube, because god forbid anyone be given a reason to watch this show. Dixie meets with MVP for the first time to talk business, and in the process gets to say things like “See, I can speak your independent wrestling carny language too.”
Madame, you are a treasure.
Bonus Best to Rockstar Spud, King of the Background Theatrics. Would you like to watch him pour two glasses of champagne? You think it’s not a thing you need in your life, but you are the most wrong.
Best: EC3 – the C stands for Holy Jeepers Ethan Carter III
(no it doesn’t)
Despite my newfound appreciation for Magnus getting into the groove and proving his love to me or whatever, my embargo on Magnus’s wrestling still stands. That said, oh hey, sup EC3. What’s that? Dixie brushed you off so you went out and tore Kurt Angle’s limbs off because it made you real mad and everything you do has a purpose grander than your own immediate story?
Hee! Yeah you did!
…and yet, still, Dixie is the problem? Oh MVP, you have some deeply f-cked up priorites, sir.
Brandon’s Guest Worst: The STJoe
I’m sure I’ve written about it before, but the “STJoe” has got to be the worst move in wrestling. I’m talking Broski Boot levels of bad. The worst thing you can do is set up your moveset so that it requires whomever you’re wrestling to not only do all the work, but do all the work out of character. How many times have we seen somebody who NEVER, EVER charges into the corner with a running, jumping move suddenly think it’s a great idea to run and jump at Joe in the corner? How many times? It’s like watching Nitro and being all, “oh look, Rey Mysterio’s gonna try to powerbomb Billy Kidman even though he’s never thrown a powerbomb in his f*cking life.”
The actual Roode/Joe #1 contender match isn’t bad necessarily, but if we’re giving Joe another one of those “he’s a guy who’s been around for a long time and all our ex-WWE options have dried up” pushes, we need more than “he’s mad at another authority figure” to light a fire under him. I believe Joe’s still got it in him to get his shit together and be one of the better wrestlers on Impact — not the world anymore, mind you, but Impact — he’s just so synonymous right now with stunted, aimless TNA water-treading that everything he does seems rehashed and boring, whether it is or not.
Think about it. When was the last time Joe honestly had a story dedicated to him that wasn’t centered around him wanting to “take out” somebody and/or be a complete psychopath? Every year or so he gets shuffled into whatever super team is feuding with whatever super team, and he’s supposed to be important but he’s mostly just the fourth best guy, throwing bad enzuigiris and corner STOs while guys like Sting or Angle win championships. If we’re truly moving in a new direction, we need to put Joe on a purposeful, growth-conducive path to not only success, but personal worth.
A path to success, and also probably a treadmill. I’ve played Fire Pro enough to know Joe’s leaning on that “stamina” button a little too long.
Worst: Montel Vontavious Party Pooper
Okay. So. …okay. All of my feelings on what Dixie has been doing lately aside, and I do mean that, I’m…terribly confused. This is either the most shockingly accurate skewering of Vince McMahon TNA has ever attempted, or we’re actually supposed to get behind someone who has initiated a hostile takeover in the name of wrestlers who, at the end of the day, take spots and opportunities from younger, hungrier, talented wrestlers who don’t get a chance because Kurt Angle decided that he needed another chance to permanently disable himself? You bring two of the arguably biggest draws on most indie shows with you, and all they get to do is make weird videos and take their jackets off instead of booking them into matches?
Give me my independent wrestling mecca or give me the tyranny of Dixie (and maybe an EC3 title reign pretty please), but don’t give me this “for the boys” BS. I will wait and see, but oh boy will it be begrudging.
Best: Happy early Valentine’s Day everybody
H/T to Dave for sending us this magnificence.
Worst: Still :(