Hi wrestlefriends! It’s time for another week of swerves nobody saw coming except everyone kind of did! But first:
– Brandon and I will be at the Ring of Honor/NJPW show in New York tomorrow (May 17th), and Beyond Wrestling in Providence on Sunday. If you will be too, find us and say hello! That is if I haven’t died of wrestleswoons from being in the same place as Okada twice in one week (omg).
– Speaking of Brandon, we did another Slammentary for Clash of the Champions XXVIII. It was a super great show, except, you know, Hogan.
– Comment, like, tweet, tumbl, and share this report. Unless you think wrestling is for gay babies or whatever. You can probably refrain from joining in the conversation.
– Follow me on Twitter here, With Leather here, and UPROXX here. The second two for all of your sports and pop culture needs, the first for pictures of me fawning over puro dudes and and being way too excited to see my best friend. And some puns, probably.
This week on Impact: Maybe one of the worst matches in their history, and also Gunner! Sounds fun, right? Let’s find out!
Worst: Are we doing this yeah okay we’re doing this
Full disclosure: I fell asleep during this opening segment three times, in part due to working ten hours on one hour of sleep like an insane person, and in part to it being so godawful boring. It happened again today after a good night’s sleep, so I’m thinking it might not just be me and my boned sleep schedule.
Eric Young’s title run is given some kind of justification, as MVP explains Step 1 of his 10-Point Plan to do whatever it is he thinks he’s going to do. The problem is that while we’re told, okay, Eric Young is champion because he’s weak, and MVP can easily defeat him to become World Champion, feeding into the mythos of a title belt having more meaning than anything else in the world, but he still won it in a tournament. MVP even admits that he didn’t think Eric Young would win it. So that aspect of it becomes moot.
Okay, so now we’ve forced Eric Young further into this underdog situation, so it’s going to mean even more when he and Fortune or whatever band of TNA roster members get together to fight the Big Bad and his group of roster signees because POWER FACTION VS. FORGET THEIR DIFFERENCES FACTION is the Impact’s writing room panic button. It’s just…the same thing that always happens. It’s not fresh or exciting or engaging. Wrestling is like classical theatre in that it’s a series of ideas and stories produced differently as time goes by. They’re played out with different actors, different sets, but the tropes and motivations are familiar. The power struggles, the tragedies, Der Ring des Nibelungen with a title belt, spandex, and lingering distorted views of racial stereotypes. There’s even a guy who wants to f-ck his mom. I get that, and that’s what elevates wrestling to something beautiful, and more than just some athletic tussles and aggressive cuddling. But producing these stories is an art, and reproducing them requires a deftness and ability to make something you’ve seen before intriguing. Inspiring the audience to want to sit through something they know is coming is not what’s happening here. Dropping some ripped-from-the-headlines talking points doesn’t either, but we’ll get to that later.
What we need to know is that Eric Young is a Super No Vacancy Underdog Man Of The People Babyface, and MVP is The Worst Bond Villain Ever.
Best: BIPPLE DO BEE
I still enjoy the absurdities of The Willow’s promos. Inviting Bram and Magnus to wrestle him in his own dimension becomes infinitely disappointing, however, when you realize they don’t actually get sucked into a cartoon dimension of stripy umbrellas, velvet clouds, and Miyazaki kodama.
Worst: AllBram Buds
I feel like I’ve been Worsting everything lately, and I kind of have been. To be fair, these have been some exceptionally bad shows, but if you know me, or have been reading this here wrestling column from the beginning, you know how much I dislike constant negativity. Odd that I say that after watching TNA pretty faithfully for as long as I have been, but I digress. There’s a constant struggle to want to like things as a concept, and give them a Best for that, but the limp execution of good ideas has to be a worst. It has to be.
MVP has just signed Bram Flakes to a multi-year, “ironclad” contract. MVP has had issues with Magnus since his arrival, and now he’s signed a big dude who hates shirts, but hates Magnus’s personal growth even more to mess with his head. Bram says he’s his friend, but he’s not doing friendly type things. He encourages Magnus to cheat. He wants Magnus to stop being a Ric Flair (a very, very tangential comparison, rest assured) and start being a British background member of Aces & Eights, fighting and hanging with some women of ill-repute, never to be seen again once it’s convenient. But what Bram is really doing is forcing him into a babyface role with a comically small prybar.
The concept is good. It lets Magnus have a spotlight feud that will assumedly eventually make sense in the long term as a connection to MVP. It adds to the idea that MVP has brought in all of these guys to be on his side when the dividing line is drawn. This should be a best. But it’s the execution that gets a worst. These things haven’t come to fruition yet, so we’re left with an emotionally neutered Magnus whose wrestling has been problematic foreverrrr, Gunner 2: Beardo Boogaloo over here who’s not shaking any trees with his in-ring efforts, and OH RIGHT WILLOW’S HERE TOO.
Worst: The Velveteen Waaaaah Bit
Willow has had issues with Magnus, but he’s also had issues with Spud and EC3 and anyone who has been #TeamDixie. But now those motivations have been removed and he’s just mad that Bram beat his velvet pants threadbare. I guess this keeps him the whackadoodle rage monster he is, because if you don’t anger him at repeated intervals he just turns back into Jeff Hardy and tries to paint trees on your arms instead of flippity floo swantoning you to death. But he doesn’t even get to do that. He’s less of a rage monster, and more of a…Pissy Pirate? Can that be a thing? Next week can he come out with an eyepatch and a stripy hook hand and a mild irritation towards everything? Y’ARRR, THIS SALAD BAR BE BEREFT OF SLICED RADISHES /swantons through the sneezeguard
Worst: Knockouts? More like…something clever that conveys that this sucks
Gail Kim forgets how being in a heel tag team works despite very recently being in a heel tag-team, and doesn’t anticipate either Velvet Sky attacking her from behind while Angelina Love has the mic, nor does she remember that celebrating will bring a shot from behind from Angelina and her title belt. She’s been shot into facedom so quickly it practically gave her whiplash, and she’s obviously suffering. For as long as Gail Kim has been a heel, you would expect that she understands how they operate, because it’s how she operates. But that takes thought and effort and an understanding of the idea of continuity, but we’re resetting everything up in here, so Gail is just helpless against Velvet Sky (seriously, think about the laughable imbalance of offense in this match), and clueless when it comes to heel tactics.
Also, protip: If you’re going to cut over to Velvet Sky distracting the ref with SEXXXY MOVEZ, be sure to leave the camera on her long enough so it doesn’t just look like she’s squatting to crank out a turd. (And I don’t just mean this match! Hohohooo.)
Best: Ethan Carter III because of course he is
Because goddamnit of course he is. Everyone knows my feelings on Mr. The Third by now (and infer some feelings that aren’t there, so that’s a cool thing too), but this promo is good. It’s damn good. It’s the kind of thing that made my not-as-big-a-fan boyfriend think this is the best thing he’s ever done, and now wants him to take the belt off of MVP at bound For Glory after MVP wins it at Slammiversary. Personally I see myself struggling to endure MVP as champion (or on television) for that long, but it makes sense, and I won’t say no to an EC3 championship.
Worst: The Ass Menagerie
So last week I pointed out that if Impact were an episode of Criminal Minds, the writer behind the Knockouts storylines would be arrested as crazy predator ensub due to overwhelming evidence, but y’all wanna get mad over Worsting the debut match of the Menagerie, so cool. Okay. Let’s take a hard look at them this week.
The thing about The Menagerie (besides the infuriating constant mispronunciation of their stable name) is that it should be a stand out. It’s a fun idea that isn’t based solely upon violence towards women, or wanting to murderkill everyone because tough guy toughness. You’ve got stilt-walkers, a weirdo strongman, and a clown with too many Zs. Mike Knox gets a sparkly vest and a new puppy’s excitement, and he seems to enjoy being around his split-doing, fire-twirling, pants-hating lady friend. There’s enough of a creepy carnival undercurrent that should keep it from being a total joke.
But none of it works. As tweetbro/DropToehold Editor Kurtis pointed out, “this reminds me of something else I like and this isn’t it.” That about sums it up, doesn’t it? I mean that about sums up Impact as whole, realistically, but the sentiment is apt. I like creepy carnival throwback type stuff. I like wrestling. I can’t twirl fire because I’m me, and that me only last night hurt myself trying to take a package out of the mailbox, so it’s just a bad idea all around. I want to like The Menagerie. I tried very hard to like The Menagerie. In theory, I like The Menagerie. In practice, oh boy, it is not great.
The interaction between Crazzy Steve and The Freak has the potential to be cute and fun. The Freak (again, without naming his super-secret-not-obvious-at-all-even-though-he-once-had-a-feud-over-that-name identity) has an underrated knack for comedic timing. Crazzy Steve is…I dunno about that guy. He reminds me of an Oliver Grimsley-meets-Buxx Belmar sort, but it’s not really enough of one or the other to really stand out, and he hasn’t done much other than “I have balloons and now I don’t HAHA THAT’S CRAZZY,” but could maybe be something interesting if given the time. Rebel has, shockingly, been given enough of a backstory that it makes sense for her to be there. Knuxxy is…also there. And that’s fine. It’s all so terribly fine.
The underlying issue is that they don’t really make sense in the TNA Universe. Right now we’re building to some sort of “all the heels are faces now so we can fight off big bad MVP because he lied to us so let’s forget we hate each other and band together as one to defeat a common enemy” tilt, but they’re just…there. It’s such an odd time to debut all of them. They haven’t had enough interaction with people outside of the giant shipping crate they all live in to be involved in a roster-wide shift in attitude. Their debut match stunk, and this one? What is even happening? Seriously. Go back and watch it. What is even happening.
The lighting continuing through the match is fine, but I’ve never been anti-Sin Cara’s strip club ambient lighting either, so that could just be me. The music playing throughout the “match” doesn’t lend a creepy carnival vibe, it’s distracting and chaotic, but not in the way the entire thing tries to portray them as distracting and chaotic. It’s just noise. The apron comedy spots, the balloon splash, Rebel doing whatever she’s doing…it’s all so forced. It’s like Bully Ray and his need to prove that he’s a cool dad or whatever last week. There is no room for an organic reaction to what’s happening. We’re not left to draw our own conclusions and form our own opinions because this match and its accompanying commentary are screaming down our throats. WHOA LOOK HOW WACKY THIS IS. WHOA THIS MUSIC IS CRAZY. WOW THIS IS TOTAL CHAOS LOOK AT THAT LADY DOING STUFF OH MY GOD NOW THE REFS PANTS ARE DOWN HAHA HAVE YOU EVER SEEN SOMETHING SO WACKY IT’S WACKY GUYS IT’S SO WACKY. And poor Kazarian. Oof.
We can infer that Impact doesn’t have any respect for the intelligence of its audience simply based upon the kind of show it puts on every week, but you don’t even treat toddlers like this. I never took my brother to the zoo and shouted LOOK AT THE ZEBRA LELAND DO YOU SEE THE ZEBRA WOW IT’S A ZEBRA DID I ALSO MENTION IT’S A ZEBRA LOOK AT THAT ZEBRA because I know that even at three years old, guess what? He can see the f-cking zebra.