Hello friendly friend-types! It’s nice to see you. Wanna talk about some wrestling? I’m sure you haven’t done that at all in the past week. Let’s change that!
– This week at The Mandible Claw, Brandon and I recapped our respective weekends of wrestling delights. In case you missed our WrestleMania preview show, Brandon got all hopped up on codeine and I shouted about Gunner’s Sad Dad. Like…a lot. #TeamSadDadForever
– If you like action movies, creator-owned comics, and cool temporary tattoos, my dear friend Kyle Starks (creator of Ricky Thunder and those Willow comics that rule) has a Kickstarter campaign for his (already completed!) new book. Give him love and/or money and get love and/for sure a radbutt comic.
– Like, share, comment, tumbl, or whatever you do to get this column out there. The more you share, the more we can all make fun of Mr. Anderson together.
– Follow me on Twitter here, With Leather here, and UPROXX here. I posted this picture from my weekend, and that’s gotta be enough for at least a hey, hello, how do I get in on this kind of magical wonder, right?
This week on Impact: Rockstar Spud gets a new suit, Davey Richards gets a new hairstyle, and Ethan Carter III doesn’t get nearly enough screentime.
Best/Worst/HUUGGGGZZZZZ: What we missed last week
Alright. We’ve got a lot of things to cover, and first and foremost, we all need to take a minute to watch this, and understand the feelings it made me feel:
Did…did I will this into the universe? Is this how The Secret works? If I really try hard enough, can I do it again and get this sweet prince back at least every other week instead of just the One Night Only X-Stravaganza this weekend (which I am hella watching because of course I am)?
I know it’s patronizing, and just a ploy to keep him on the Magnus side of things, but…until later on in this week’s episode, the Magnus side of things has been pretty rad, and his shirt is so pink, and there’s so much hugging guys guys look at that hug guys my brain might be melting down due to friendship.
Also boo on Eric Young for interrupting such a lovely moment. I don’t know how I’m supposed to be on his side when he took Joseph Park away, and now just keeps trying to beat up Abyss, and stop him from being heel friends with Magnus. That just seems mean and unnecessary and no you’re watching them hug again because shut up that’s why.
This match has some fun spots, but really, there are two things you’ll probably experience by watching it: a) being mad that someone seems to have scuffed EC3’s boots, and b) Spud and EC3 vs. Willow is basically them wrestling an animate, velvet-clad Kermit the Frog stuffie and it’s so impossibly dumb that it’s kind of amazing. I mean, you could also say that tables matches in Impact have hit a series of diminishing returns, and the “crotch claw” where Bully Ray fisted Bobby Roode’s balls was awkward and kinda weird, but…you know…I really like those boots.
Velvet Sky and Angelina Love faced Brittany and Madison Rayne, and I need to admit that every time they mention Brittany I am sad that we’re not watching this instead. It’s not a knockouts match you need to see, especially if you’ve seen…basically any Beautiful People match ever.
A bunch of other fairly innocuous stuff happened. Kenny King and MVP don’t like each other, there was an X-Division match that wasn’t horrible, and Mr. Anderson wrestled (yeah…skip that for sure). We got to meet Knux’s Sad Dad, and he’s sad, sure, but has he ever tweeted at members of Kiss to say how much he loves them? Yeah. We all know which Sad Dad reigns supreme on this show.
Magnus retained his title by both manipulating Abyss’s feelings with love and friendship, and an elbow drop that doesn’t look like hot garbage now that TNA is sticking to filming all elbows from a different angle. And I’m not mad at it. The full match is rough, but if you’ve got a few minutes to kill, you should watch this hilariously bad country music video someone filmed on their iPhone. It’s got EC3, so, you know, it’s worth it.
Best/Worst/So Much Is Happening: 10 men enter, one of them is Gunner
This week we’re treated to a patented “Don’t call it a rumble” rumble-style TNA gauntlet battle royal. I might secretly love these even though the format doesn’t really make sense for what it’s called, but I love rumbles and I love the opportunity to tell multiple stories within one match, because when it’s done right, it’s glorious. This one is maybe…not quite that.
Much to the shock of anyone reading, Ethan Carter III (he of brand new shirt fame) is a for real highlight, and I have no shame in admitting that when he was eliminated I furrowed my brow so hard it started to hurt. I went full Miz Girl for most of the show, but this is one of the last times we get to see him this episode, and goshdarnit I want my Magnus-EC3 feud because it makes sense in continuity and also I want it give it to me why can’t I just have it already.
This battle royal also confirms that Oh My God Gunner Why Aren’t You Dead Yet And Can I Help Change That James Storm is my jam, and I am so on board with him just busting people’s faces and never speaking ever. Everyone eventually finds their niche, and I Hate You So Much That I Wish Your Family And Everyone You Love Would Just Die Already is somehow his.
Other than that, it’s tepid at best. Willow shows up to rub his velvet old lady pants all over a bunch of people, bringing out our own precious rainbow-coloured Rockstar Spud, in a wheelchair, making my heart just a wee bit happier than it was before. This joy is tempered by Gunner smashing his head into the turnbuckle multiple times because when Impact prematurely pulls the plug on The Superkick of the Cowboy Who Wants You Dead James Storm storyline, the pieces are in place for a serious PSA on PTSD. And lo, Eric Young has beaten the odds to become the number one contender for Magnus’ title.
Best: Wrestlers on commentary
Magnus wanders out to be a total sh*tbag on commentary, and I love it. One of the things I always point to as a great thing they used to do but don’t anymore is guest wrestler commentary. It’s fun, it breaks up the monotony of the Tenay-Tazz circle-jerk, it further tells the story of what’s happening with the characters in the ring, and it forces you to be engaged with the match instead of just tuning most of it out because commentary in Impact is of no value to anyone. Can we make this a thing going forward? Maybe get Rockstar Spud on commentary? EC3? WILLOW ON COMMERY DOMMERY TALKTALKS?
Magnus is also there so that Eric Young can call him out in person, setting the stage for the title match later tonight. Having him out there already is so much more convenient, no? Ugh Impact just do this more please.
Worst: MVP, not for the first time, definitely not for the last time
MVP acquiesces to Eric Young’s request for a title match that night, which is fine, but then has to swing his dick around, making it known that “Magnus Rules,” or, “Traditional Rules of a Title Match Almost Everywhere” do not count, and he will forfeit the belt should he be counted out or disqualified. Magnus (rightfully) shouts that he can’t do that, but he can because he’s drunk with power and no one can see that he’s a cruel tyrant, bending the rules as he sees fit for people he likes more than anyone else. He also bans Abyss from ringside, which is fair seeing as the dude listed on the roster and the current Television Champion supposedly doesn’t work for Impact, so he can essentially be escorted from the premises whenever they see fit. We don’t get that explanation, mind you, but who needs logic when you have a pocket square, amirite?
Best: Rockstar Spud
I am so glad Rockstar Spud got to be more than petulant guy who couldn’t keep his tongue in his mouth/could only throw three punches in a match and never do anything else. He’s lovely, and I want him to be my travel-sized British friend – a pocket-sized pal. He thoughtfully decorates an office to welcome back the Dame of Dixieland, but…wait…
Dixie’s mad at everything, including Spud, and if you look closely you can actually pinpoint the second my heart breaks.
Best: FLIBBERTY FWAH IT’S TH’WILLOW
After yelling at Spud for being so willing to turn on him and work for MVP the second she left (despite him being only one of three people vocally still loyal to Dixie), she storms off. Spud hears a knock at the door, assumes it’s Dixie coming to apologize, but NO IT’S WILLOW EEEEEAAAHAHAHAHA. Willow vs. Office Plant is the thing you didn’t know you needed in your life, but now don’t know how you ever lived without it. I tried to find a gif of it because it’s so stupid it loops around to incredible, but the only things I could find were some still shots, a couple of aggressive sex confession posts, and a fanfic that involves a Mary Sue cyborg who likes to dance and kiss Willow after inter-gender tag matches.
Jeff Hardy fans are weird as f*ck.
Worst: Knockouts #1 Contender Match
The Knockouts division is a tough one. There was a period of time where the Knockouts were genuinely better and more popular than the male components of the roster. But when that’s taken away, we are unfortunately left to grasp at straws and pretend that what little scraps female wrestlers get are something to be thankful for. How often do you see this in the Divas division as well? “Hey, at least we have TWO storylines! That’s better than nothing!” Better than nothing. That is what we’re left with, and that is what we’re forced to be grateful for. Much like the false sense of empowerment that I’ve written about before, Better Than Nothing is just as problematic.
Currently four Knockouts have a solid storyline (I am including Christy Hemme’s…stuff…in all of this). One is being stalked and assaulted and intimidated by a violent predator, two have reformed a vacuous tag team based on their appearance, and how jealous other people are of their so-called good looks, and one is the champion, feuding with these two, because…jealousy, old rivalries that should have been left behind like, five years ago, just…not great stuff. But hey, we’ve got stuff!
Better Than Nothing becomes this hollow consolation prize that we’re forced to accept, nay defend, because it’s all we get. As bad as it may be, any attention given to female wrestlers on a male-dominated show becomes this thing that we as females feel the need to protect, because we get so little of it. As such, it becomes hard to criticize, lest we lose whatever tiny morsel of representation that we have. You can criticize a storyline written by a team of male staff writers, but people you know to be at least halfway decent in the ring get elevated to a much higher status by virtue of being better than nothing, or, at the very least, better than Velvet Sky. It happens on the independent circuit all the time. Lady wrestlers who are only halfway decent morph into these ring generals because it’s all we have, and they’re better than nothing. We can’t criticize, or talk about them openly or honestly like any male wrestler because any negativity gets heaped onto the seemingly insurmountable barrier of negativity and sexism they already have stacked against them. As I’ve said before, female wrestlers start in the negative, so why would we want to make that worse?
While I can concede that Gail Kim is a technically gifted wrestler, and I am pro-Angelina Love’s DDTs more often than not, a lot of the backlash that I get when I do criticize any actual wrestling is “but it’s better than…” or “at least they got X amount of time to do…” Focusing attention on something that is sub-par isn’t something that should be rewarded, regardless of the gender of the participants. Like anyone, I want good wrestling, and this is not it. This is back to the “do as many pseudo-sexual moves as possible” approach (that slow, uncomfortable grinding bronco buster from ODB? Yikes), and we are given ample time to be reminded that these women are not here to be athletes or storytellers, but rather serve as props, as victims, as bitches, and objects of desire. To be quite frank, I would rather have nothing.
Worst: MVP still doesn’t know how things work
I greatly appreciate that someone has caught onto the fact that Dixie is still President of TNA, and didn’t lose all power or rights to her own company. MVP keeps insisting that he’s going to have Dixie Carter escorted from the building, which he can’t really do. She’s the President. She outranks him by a mile. He might get to book matches, but he still doesn’t technically get to do the hiring and firing and sassing his corporate higher-ups. And he’s still not the good guy, no matter what you all say.
Worst: MVP no seriously why won’t you stop
MVP puts the BroMans into a tag title match despite one half of the tag team not being present. He insists that DJ Z wrestle in his place, despite him only being their DJ and not actually a member of their tag team. Now look, I am a card-carrying member of the Submission Squad fanclub, if not on the board of directors with Brandon, Gma Abernathy, and Gma Gelistico. I love Freebird Rules as much as the next person who loves multi-member friendship-based stables who also compete in tag matches. But this? This is an egregious abuse of power, and one of the most blatant instances of favouritism since the last time MVP rigged something against someone he didn’t like just because he could. He does that a lot. He is not a fair and impartial boss. He is not a good guy.
This also serves to remind us that guys who get kicked in the head for long periods of time shouldn’t make important decisions. I mean, look at Davey Richards’ new hair:
Worst: No, really, Davey, what are you doing
He chose that. He looked someone dead in the eye and said “Yes. That is what I want. Make my head look like that. I have a job on national television and a modicum of fame and I would like as many people to know that this is a decision I have made with much forethought and zero regret.”
Worst: Do you know who I [got this idea from]?
I’m not one of those people who subscribe to the notion that the only thing Impact Wrestling does is crib stories from WWE and turn them into dinner theatre versions of what’s happening in the bigger company. Abyss coming out in a suit is not Corporate Kane, and Eric Young isn’t totally Daniel Bryan (in so, so many ways). One of the things that does nag at me, however, is this Man of the People Bully Ray. Bringing fans to the ring? Standing up to the big bad lady boss and getting slapped for it? ripped from the headlines or not, it stinks.
It’s hard to argue against that fact that people want to love Bully Ray. I want to love Bully Ray. People who embraced him in ECW want to love Bully Ray. He’s just that kind of wrestler. He’s gruff but likeable, good on the mic (when he wants to be), a competent wrestler, and gets to live in that sweet part of our hearts made of nostalgia and broken tables. I don’t want him to just be a guy who shouts stuff, but I also don’t want him to be a domestic violence-promoting, baby murdering, sub-par hack. I should be jumping at this opportunity to cheer for him in a role that’s supposed to be cheered, but unfortunately, I have a working memory and I’m only immediately swayed by declarations of friendship, and wishing Gunner had died in the war.
Dixie has every right to be in the ring, saying what she’s saying, but as right as she is, and as correct as both her and the McMahon-Hearst-Helmsley-Games-Of Kings were, his actions still don’t feel right. I asked this in the last column, and I’ll ask it again: why are we cheering for him? He’s a bad man who does bad things, but he’s going to do bad things to someone you don’t like as much, so whatever?
If we stick to what’s happened, say, in the past couple of years, yes, Dixie has tried to help have him fired, but he was also running rampant with a disease-ridden biker gang, beat up a bunch of those contracted wrestlers he claims to stand for today for no other reason that he could, commandeered a bunch of rooms in her place of business and filled them with cigarette smoke and sex workers, amongst a litany of other unprofessional things. If he blamed her for the dissolution of Aces & Eights, that would be one thing. It would further play into his long-established denial over his Brotherhood of the Traveling Leather Vests being torn asunder by his own hubris, and people have proven that they’re still going to cheer for him no matter his past actions. And what was he going to do to Dixie after he physically intimidated her in the ring because that’s just a thing you get to do to a lady whenever you want? Huh?
The bottom line is that this is weak, I miss the glory of Dixieland, and this show doesn’t have nearly enough Ethan Carter III.