Hello, and welcome to weekly GFW Impact coverage on With Spandex. And also welcome to me, LaToya Ferguson, your recapper and friend. This week sees a new Global Champion, and spoiler alert: It’s not the new guy who was once in WWE!
Now for some good housekeeping: You can follow me on Twitter here, With Spandex here, and Uproxx here. And don’t forget to watch Impact on Pop at 8 pm on Thursdays so you can read these pieces and share them with the online world.
Previously: The destination was X. Translation? Another poorly-defined authority figure in the form of Jim Cornette, baybaby. Also, Sonjay Dutt proved himself to be the lamest, which continues to be the case during his lack of appearance in this episode of Impact Wrestling. And even though wrestling is totally fake (according to Bobby Lashley’s buddies at American Top Team), Bobby Lashley’s buddies at American Top Team got mad about Bobby Lashley losing to Matt Sydal (who, as far as I know, is not buddies with American Top Team).
EH: Way To Go, Mr. Slap Nuts
I feel like just calling Jeff Jarrett “Slap Nuts” would be disrespectful, given his position in the company. “Mr. Slap Nuts” is a title of respect, you know? Even when the person with that title doesn’t even necessarily deserve said respect.
Despite how dumb it is when you think about it for more than five seconds, this Impact Wrestling/American Top Team/custody of Little Lashley storyline is continuing, and it’s still making sure we all know just how lame and fake professional wrestling is. Especially compared to the big strong men of MMA, who can do whatever they want and go wherever they want while the people in charge at Impact just whine and hope they’ll go back to their state of the art MMA facility. There’s a level of humorous jock stereotypes in this story — Lashley high-fiving every member of the team when he makes his entrance is so ridiculous it’s great — but the problem is this isn’t jocks vs. the underdog. At least, Impact isn’t telling that story, despite it being the one that actually works. Think about it: The post-Lashley/Sydal segment has Jarrett going on about how he pays Lashley the big bucks, as opposed to American Top Team.
“I’m here as a favor to you, dude…Bobby shouldn’t even be here.”
Coach Chrisley Knows Best sure makes Jeff Jarrett look like a chump in the post-Lashley/Sydal match segment, but even worse is how much it reinforces that this story isn’t about Bobby Lashley. This story is about Jeff Jarrett and… a what looks to be a less boozy Jeff Jarrett. They’re the ones who have to be pulled apart, they’re the ones who talk about Lashley like the tool he is. Poor Eli Drake then has to share his end of the night spotlight with this story, because the more things change in this company, the more things stay the same.
And again, American Top Team makes no sense being so bro ragey about Lashley losing when it’s the type of thing they can use to get him to quit wrestling? They should be holding back smirks and maybe even “I told you so”s. There’s an argument to be made that Lashley losing wrestling makes them look bad, but… psst… This show has yet to actually tell that story.
EH: Sorry About Your Damn Luck
Somehow, this segment is the one that brings James Storm back from the dead. Never send a boy to do a man’s job, right, James?
EH: Seriously, Just Hire A Script Supervisor
Or at least hire someone to inform the Impact bookers/writers/throwers at the wall when two plus two ends up equaling negative eight. If no one working on the show even watches it, maybe they should just hire someone to do just that. They can even go in-house and give the job to McKenzie Mitchell, noted viewer of the product.
Last week’s episode of Impact Wrestling promised that one of the 20 entrants in the Gauntlet For The Gold would be someone making their GFW/Impact Wrestling debut. (It also promised all 20 men would be the “biggest” and “baddest” members of the rostert.) That episode then ended with the announcement that Johnny Impact (aka Johnny Mundo and so on and so on) would be coming to GFW and Impact Wrestling next week, seemingly solving said mystery on who would be the debut. Cut to this week’s show, and Impact keeps hitting the “surprise” debut aspect of this… despite the aforementioned announcement and the fact Johnny Impact is featured prominently on an Impact Wrestling poster for Bound For Glory (proudly displayed in Jim Cornette’s office), long before he even makes his official in-ring debut for the company.
Johnny is literally the first person even shown when it comes to the Destination X previouslies for this show. And in classic Impact fashion — meaning, “don’t listen to what we say, just the passion with which we say it” — during the “EARLIER TODAY” Gauntlet For The Gold talent meeting, Cornette points out that this “surprise” participant isn’t there… immediately drawing attention (to the people who do listen) to the fact that a new talent is getting special treatment, all while Cornette continues to rant about how talent (especially the new ones) won’t get any special treatment. This particular segment could’ve been saved if someone said, “Well Johnny Impact announced he’s debuting this week, so there’s no way he’s the surprise entrant.” Then someone else would say, “It’s probably Jack Swagger,” and it would finally make sense why no one’s even a little concerned some rando is showing up in their title match. I’m actually surprised Impact didn’t go with a Johnny Impact-shaped silhouette for this though:
ACE: Tweet Me An Email
Does Jim Cornette understand how TMZ works? The answer might surprise you.
ACE: Ohio Versus A Repeat Embarrassment
There are still plenty of timing issues in this match, but no one gets knocked silly in the first few seconds, and the correct team looks good while the jobber looks and functions like a jobber team. Now all we need to do is sit Jeremy Borash down and ask him to elaborate when on Jake and Dave Crist being “polar opposites,” because the only thing pushing that narrative is him saying it. He also calls them “ying” and “yang,” and maybe it’s time to talk about how Jeremy Borash is actually bad.
ACE: Wow, You’ve Actually Still Got It
First of all, despite Sienna not being on this show, the video package re: her feud with Gail Kim (and Gail Kim’s feud with Taryn Terrell) is a good bit of work to excuse that. There’s an easy story in the cocky champion just trying to erase the veteran’s legacy, but they make sure to address why Sienna wants to do that. Specifically, the fact that she just plan thinks Gail Kim is a bad person, to the point where she can’t even continue speaking without getting in trouble on a TV-PG show.
As we all know, Sienna isn’t actually the best person, so in theory, that should just reek of hypocrisy and your standard heel rhetoric… Until we get to Taryn Terrell’s in-ring promo, where she basically has the same criticisms of Gail Kim and the past experiences with her to make it actually cut more. The thing is, babyface Gail Kim may have an appreciation for the fans and endlessly praises them for being behind her, but she’s also still a character who is very much about “I’m The Best & No One Else In The Division Can Lace My Boots.” When Taryn goes on about how Gail didn’t even thank her for being at her Hall of Fame ceremony or talks about how Gail never even replied to her calls, texts, and emails, it’s easy to believe, because, let’s be honest: Gail is all about Gail.
The thing is, how Taryn and Sienna choose to go about their problems with Gail that put them in the wrong. I mean, the fact that Taryn doesn’t even end every one of her lines in this promo with a condescending “you’re welcome” is impressive, but I like to imagine they’re there anyway. Seriously, Taryn is a combination of searingly perfect and smugly punchable in this promo, and damn I’ve missed Hot Mess.
Also, bless Taryn Terrell for slipping her heels off in preparation for running away from Gail Kim. This isn’t her first day.
ACE: LAX Is For The Children
As I’ve mentioned before, GFW could always stand to show more of them actually doing things right and well. Their video package about them doing house shows again is is basically the opposite of the American Top Team video packages. So… Tune in next week when they do more of the latter.
And oh, what’s that, kid? LAX is your favorite team. That’s cool, that’s cool…
EH: But, I Mean, They Did Say They Have Priors
LAX admit they are sex traffickers, and I don’t even know what to do with this information. My brother doesn’t watch Impact weekly, but this was a moment that had him ask, “Wait, this show is TV-PG?” Yes, parents should definitely guide their children when wrestling shows start talking about sex trafficking, but also… What is happening? This is probably one way to get people to boo them, but that assumes people are going to be able to wrap their heads around this segment. Like, was Low-Ki always about this life when he was a lone warrior or what? I have more questions than I assume anyone involved has answers.
EH: You’re Tacky And I Hate You
Maybe hand out the pre-made talent signs on an episode scheduled for after she’s first announced as debuting. Or even possibly for the episode she is actually on.
But on a less snarky note, it’s always a pleasure to see Taya, and I’m already excited for the inevitable feud between her, an actual valkyrie, and Sienna, an actual… albino peacock?
ACE: Impact Wrestling’s Biggest & Baddest
By the way, I’m choosing to believe Richard Justice filled in for Marufuji (who is shown in the video for this but not in the match).
EH: Sometimes The Obvious Choice Is The Best Choice
Supposedly, the reason Low-Ki left GFW is because he was upset over the way they booked him. It’s a concept you can pretty much trace to this episode, where he doesn’t win the Gauntlet For The Gold (especially despite being at #20 out of 20). Impact made a decent enough in-story excuse as to why Low-Ki wouldn’t just be handed the GFW Global Championship (in all its named redundancies), but there’s not as good a reason as to why he wouldn’t just win the Gauntlet For The Gold. In fact, him not winning basically means Alberto El Patron would have retained at Destination X if not for the suspension, and that would have been a bad choice too.
You can say “Low-Ki gonna Low-Ki,” but in this case, I’d argue it’s pretty understandable why he’d bail. He came back, got the X-Division Championship over again while also helping to get the entire division back on track, both in the ring and out of it. Then he put Sonjay Dutt over (only for Impact to mess that up by making Dutt the biggest loser in his storyline with Trevor Lee) before moving on to LAX and the main event scene. In a storyline where Alberto El Patron just kept on beating LAX to prove that he could beat LAX, the only logical (and different) step would be for Low-Ki to become the champ. He’s consistently been the most over guy in all of his matches, if not the entire company. Unlike the obvious “mystery entrant” situation and how poorly planned everything around it was, this is a moment where the obvious is also the smart thing to do.
Then the actual choice — even though there is plenty of argument for an Eli Drake champion reign, which I will get to — happens and is immediately made secondary to an MMA vs. pro wrestling power struggle. Because Impact Wrestling loves power struggles so much that even other companies get involved in them now.
When the crowd negatively reacts to Low-Ki’s elimination, it’s not because of some great Lashley heel work (even though he does so without a headband, which is the most heel thing he can do outside of wearing multiple headbands). Remember, Low-Ki’s a heel too, and he hangs with, you know, sex traffickers. (I still don’t know how to handle this. SORRY.) It’s the reaction of a crowd that expects Low-Ki to win and wants him to win. This is a show that constantly goes on about guys who came to this company 15 years ago finally getting their due, and Low-Ki winning the championship would have been the ultimate proof of that. Instead, he doesn’t and now he’s gone. The more things change…
EH: Impact’s Hottest Club Is “Reboot”
The entire Laurel Van Mess story, the one that should have ended with a real Laurel/Allie feud — and given Braxton Sutter’s gradual personality change, one that could’ve ended up really interesting — is over. As it turned out, all Laurel needed was the love of a good man who doesn’t even have feelings for her and only wants to be with her (a Canadian woman) to stay in the county (the United States). At no point does Laurel question Grado’s motives about their “relationship,” even though she’s now: 1. Competent enough to do so. 2. Aware that all he cares about is American food. His entire promo is about it. In fact, his promo is about how he’s more in love with types of french fries than he is her or any person, I guess. (EC3’s got his title, Grado’s got food… Strange things are afoot at the Impact Zone.)
Also, given the new regime, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that this return to relative sanity and face turn is also going to drop the rich daddy’s girl aspect of Laurel. Sure, there’s a way to do it as a face, I’m sure, but I’m pretty sure the people in charge now don’t even know or remember that was part of her character. Maria Kanellis is probably rolling around in her grave, seeing what her life’s work (as a TNA character) has been morphed into.
It’s bad storytelling, and it’s bad storytelling when there are plenty of options for good storytelling. The ol’ TNA special.
It’s not the power of love: It’s the power of a reductive story that’s unfortunately got the Impact crowd hooked. They absolutely love it, and it’s one of the few moments in the show where they don’t have to keep using the return of the piped in cheers, and all I can think is, “I expect too much from this show.” These weekly recaps kind of serve as a reminder of that, especially as the disappoint just keeps going and going and going…
EH: Congratulations, You Played Yourself
If the question is, “How much is Tyrus really worth to GFW,” the answers is, “Shera. He is literally worth one Mahabali Shera.” Ouch. Yeah, it makes more sense for Shera to be feuding with Kongo Kong anyway — Shera is supposed to be Grado’s pal — but still. Stings a bit.
ACE: This Should Be The Thing
The single best moment of Cornette on this show of Cornette moments is his one-on-one chat with Eddie Edwards. That’s where he apologizes to Edwards for the terrible number he drew (which was #2 but became #1 after the Eli Drake segment, aka the second best Cornette moment on this show of of Cornette moments) and just having an honest moment of reminiscing with a guy who is currently nowhere near his best. This — an authority figure who builds his talent up, even if they’re less than receptive to or grateful for it — is a lot more interesting than one that goes on about not giving people special treatment or decrying abuse of powers against wrestlers they don’t like… only to simultaneously do absolutely that.
Plus, given how inconsequential Eddie Edwards has been post-Slammiversary, just the tiniest amount of acknowledgment of that makes things better. Him ending up in the final five in the gauntlet is a big deal as well.
ACE: An Entire Hour Of (Mostly) Good Global Nonstop Action
I’ve mentioned that the American Top Team stuff sort of takes away from the conclusion and how I understand Low-Ki’s reasons for being frustrated… But guys, this battle royal is actually pretty damn good for what it is. It’s well-booked, despite the issues with who and who should probably not be in the match.
This match has everything:
- Mario Bokara making it so I actually have to remember his name now, because wow, he’s very good and suplexes everyone to heck. Suplex Heck.
- Standby Wrestler Richard Justice having absolutely no idea what to do in the match and trying so hard to help. (Justice: “Let me help you.” my new favorite wrestler, Mario Bokara: “I don’t want your help!”)
- Braxton Sutter being eliminated because he’s a big jerk who won’t let Garza Jr. take off his pants (which has become the most over spot in all of Impact, for good reason).
- Kingston coming back from the dead.
- EC3’s tan and gear making him look like Alberto El Patron from behind. He possibly should’ve been handed the title on that alone.
- EC3 basically saying “you do you” to Fallah Bahh after cutting an earlier promo mentioning how he does not take the guy seriously at all.
- Kaval versus John Morrison.
- EC3’s TK3 on El Hijo De Fantasma.
- Moose and Eddie Edwards’ always surprisingly good tag team chemistry continuing to be surprisingly good.
- EC3’s “FUUUUUUUUUCCCKKK” over being eliminated. Which is especially interesting, because it’s the reaction of a man who’s so upset with himself. The type of reaction you don’t expect EC3 to have, since usually he’d just mess with the people who wronged him and blame them for it.
- E-LI-DRAKE finally getting the big win.
Remember all the chatter during the “MAKE IMPACT GREAT AGAIN” New Era phase of Impact (I still see those stupid hates on this show and rage) about how Eli Drake voiced his concerns re: Jeff Jarrett and the new old team erasing the hard work of guys like him and the actual good things they’d accomplished while still under Dixie Carter’s management? Then he regularly disappeared from the show, lost his talk show, lost his heavy to Bruce Prichard for unexplained onscreen reasons, eventually ended up with Chris “Even I Sometimes Forget I’m Not Still Masters” Adonis, and… SWOLE MATES.
It’s really good to see him as champion, even if it arguably wasn’t his time, story-wise. Honestly though, if not now, when? It’s not like he’s in an EC3 position, where he’s a former world champion who can afford to move around the card. And in terms of in-ring skill, barring that weird “I’m still not sure what you were trying” top rope thing from Slammiversary, he’s gotten so much better — and will only continue to get better as he works higher up on the card. And better yet, he and Eddie Edwards work as the iron men of the Gauntlet For The Gold, as the first two men in and the last two men out. Put this way, it’s a good choice. Yes, Eli’s corny, but he’s also corny in a way where it works. Like Johnny Impact or even EC3, and with those two, you never have to worry about whether they’re going to be the champ.
I used to go see Eli Drake (well, Shaun Ricker) at NWA Hollywood/Championship Wrestling From Hollywood, so even with all my frustrations with Impact, it’s still very cool to see him succeed like this on a higher level. Yeah.
In conclusion: Try to tell me Eli Drake doesn’t deserve this after a month of Swole Mates promotion.
EH: Send Them Back To Planet Funk Too
If you want to know how the eventual Kongo Kong/Mahabali Shera match will go down, please pay attention to their “two big boys!” hoss segment in this match. These two big boys don’t lay any of their shit in, and now I can see why Tyrus possibly wouldn’t want to put Kongo Kong over. Kongo Kong whiffs a slap at one point, and it’s just like, what are any of us doing? If your big men can’t even do “kind of strong” right, then why even have them? Actually, the India relationship makes Shera’s presence on the roster understandable — and he was decent enough on that tour for about 60% of it — but I don’t see GFW working with Parts Unknown any time soon. Plus, you know, the character he’s supposed to serve was just currently rewritten to make his shelf life even less than it was before.
It’s easy to mock Suicide and Richard Justice for somehow falling under the “biggest” and “baddest” designation for this gauntlet, but you know what? They’re both bigger and badder than Kongo Kong and Mahabali Shera in terms of personalities and actual ability to make anything in the ring look like, well, anything. Justice’s squats looked like they had more impact than Kong and Shera’s offense. Maybe Joseph Park should call his brother and tell him to find the time to mentor these big boys.
EH: Impact Grand Championship? I Haven’t Heard That Name In Weeks
Like last week, EC3 being the Grand Champion isn’t mentioned at all. Not during the Gauntlet For The Gold, nor does he doesn’t carry the championship with him anywhere he goes. And like I said, he’s basically crushed over losing here, as though he doesn’t already have a championship waiting for him in bed. Yes, we all know he wants to be an EC3-time champion, but considering how much of a deal he made about the Grand Championship, this doesn’t add up.
What I’m saying is, this is what EC3 did to the Grand Championship (EC3 is of course Christian Troy):
ACE: KEANU FOREVER, LASHLEY & MOOSE NEVER
It was my fifth Impact recap in which I decided to title each ACE & EH after a Keanu Reeves and/or Charlize Theron flick. (That week was also a low point for Impact’s treatment of Eli Drake — to the point I said he should’ve just stayed in India — so it’s nice to see the before and after. Even if they ruin his moment here.) And Pop TV would like to remind us that it always appreciates Keanu Reeves, no matter what. Whether he’s loving Charlize Theron or literally co-starring on a Pop TV called Swedish Dicks.
If Mr. Slap Nuts doesn’t get Keanu on Impact by the end of the year, I’m quitting these recaps.