Hello, and welcome to weekly GFW Impact coverage on With Spandex. And also welcome to me, LaToya Ferguson, your recapper and friend. This week’s show has me laughing at a breast joke and a Jim Cornette joke. Hell has officially frozen over in the Impact Zone, while it’s been a 100+ degrees here in Los Angeles this weekend. I hope you had a happy Labor Day with minimal power outages.
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: AAA’s TripleMania happened after this episode of Impact taped but before this episode of Impact aired (and aired as planned). It’s important to me that you know that. Also, Eli Drake won the GFW Global Champion — clean — and that was made secondary to whatever roid rage (that Bellator drug testing, baby) Lashley’s MMA buddies at American Top Team were experiencing at the time.
A Global Soapbox
Before I get started, I want to get something off my chest about GFW and the current state of Impact Wrestling — as a company, as a concept, etc. Remember, when I got on board to do coverage for Impact Wrestling, I got on board to do coverage for TNA, warts and all. Not GFW — TNA. In a lot of ways, even with the rebrand to GFW, it’s still “TNA,” especially when it comes to acknowledging its history … and often repeating the same mistakes the company has made in its history. But in a lot of ways, it’s not.
The very concept of Global Force Wrestling makes sense to me, and I find it admirable in a way. But all I can think about is that black guy in the crowd during the main event of Slammiversary. He was all in on Lashley, not because of a cheer the heels or a cheer the brothers mentality — he was heavily, vocally rooting for TNA over GFW. He was rooting for the home team, not the (babyface) representative of a team that wasn’t even well-defined and never even had a true platform outside of TNA.
For a longtime fan or follower of the company and show, the thing about Impact Wrestling now, is that no one really signed up for GFW. We were watching a TNA show that all of a sudden was a GFW show. And it’s not even just a matter of name changing and branding; because if it were, it would’ve just gone from TNA to IMPACT WRESTLING, an idea that had been mentioned hundred of times before but never fully came to fruition.
And now, after years of arguments and discussions re: TNA not pushing or supporting its homegrown talent, what we have is a promotion (GFW) that’s very concept/existence relies on outside talent. It’s not “the Impact Wrestling roster (w/ special guests”) — it’s “GFW, starring Impact Wrestling, AAA, The Crash, Pro Wrestling NOAH, and whoever else chooses to join the Global Force.” The LOLTNA mistakes are still very much there, but GFW has a long way to go before it ever feels even a fraction as cohesive — just as a company with a single roster, not even talking about creatively — as TNA ever did.
Garza Jr.* — arguably one of the most over new talents — doesn’t feel like a guy on the Impact roster, he feels like a charismatic guy from another promotion. Marufuji — when he’s around — doesn’t feel like a member of the Impact roster, he feels like a very talented loaner from another promotion. Every time the commentary has to add “from [insert wrestling promotion here],” it’s like they’re announcing that we’re about to view a special attraction match instead of an actual Impact Wrestling match that matters to the greater story they’re telling on a weekly basis. At least not yet. (The fact that Marufuji didn’t also enter into a feud with EC3 after EC3 ruined the solid Moose/Marufuji Grand Championship match is a shining example of this. Marufuji was basically just a Global Force body.)
Don’t worry: None of this completely explains why I’m so hard on Impact in these ACES and EHS. That is all based on the poor storytelling that somehow gets a pass simply for being an alternative to WWE.
*re: Garza Jr. — this was written before viewing the episode, but until we see how the story progresses, the argument stands.
ACE: Daredevil: The Album
Zack Ryder is — unsurprisingly — wrong, and I just want to note my solidarity with Laurel Van Ness and A-list actress Jennifer Garner. “Bring Me To Life” is a goddamn classic, just like the entirety of Evanescence’s Fallen album and … a good portion of the Daredevil soundtrack. And with this, I just learned there was also an EP of the Daredevil soundtrack. Bless the aughts. Time to get hyped for some Impact Wrestling, y’all:
EH: A Script Supervisor Would Do You Good
To be fair, the Eli Drake/Chris Adonis “EARLIER TODAY” is an ACE for the tiny morsel it is. The problem is, it leads directly into Impact not thinking about the little things that — while they might sound like nitpicking — actually continue to make them little league. Eli quips about “the gravy train” and how it’s “pulling into the station.” That’s his type of thing, and his finisher is even called The Gravy Train, so that’s fine. He’s that kind of corny guy.
The problem is that Impact honestly allows the segment immediately after that one to have Dan Lambert (aka sober Jeff Jarrett aka Coach Chrisley Knows Best) tell Jeff Jarrett that “the gravy train has left the station.” (I’ll get into how little Lashley’s treated like an actual person later in this recap.)
Okay, “gravy train” is not so common of an expression that it would easily come into two consecutive segments like that. But let’s say that it is; a professional sports entertainment company would then do another take, with the note not to use “gravy train.” In fact, knowing that “gravy train” — god, I feel like a crazy person right now — is Eli Drake’s thing, even if The New Adventures of Old Christian and the rest of American Top Team filmed their “EARLIER TODAY” segment before Eli and Chris did, he still shouldn’t have been able to say it at all.
If you think this is nitpicking a simple mistake anyone could let slip, just wait until we get the part of the show where no one working on this show knows how calendars work.
EH: Did They Expect TripleMania To Take Place Some Other Date, Or … ?
This episode of Impact aired on August 31, 2017. AAA’s TripleMania happened on August 26, 2017. You know what would be bad? For Impact to have a set of tapings and only promote the upcoming TripleMania on the show that happens right after TripleMania.
The problem with pre-recording a show — especially when you don’t have a script supervisor or one person who watches the product on your payroll — is that you have to make sure you know when said show is dropping, to plan accordingly. The simplest, slightly less consequential version of this is podcasts. The still simple — again, if you have a script supervisor or only one person on your payroll who watches the product — version of this is a television show. The exception to this is preemptions and rescheduling. That is it. So as Jim Cornette and commentary goes on about GFW wrestlers going to AAA for TripleMania, you have to wonder if anyone there knows how a calendar works.
Also it’s not as though mentioning TripleMania in the past tense would lead to spoilers, especially since the mentioned happen in pre-tape segments in Jim Cornette’s office or post-production like Jeremy Borash and Josh Mathews’ commentary. (Imagine if Johnny Mundo had lost his AAA title though. Impact would edit absolutely nothing.)
By the way, JB and Josh are doing commentary in post again, considering this is where their announce table is now:
And in classic LOLTNA fashion, all of this hyping of the clusterfuck known as TripleMania comes in the aftermath of THE ONLY THING ANYONE’S TALKING ABOUT FROM IT. (Sorry, Dr. Wagner Jr.)
ACE: Okay, I Laughed
Okay, I’m a child and I laughed at Eli Drake’s milk-based promo. Then I felt oddly proud of him when I’d been reminded he’d used it before. This tacky son of a gun carries himself like a champ, and it’s important to keep things positive to avoid thinking of Impact Wrestling’s track record.
Also, I’ll even give Chris Adonis and his Wal-Mart suit props for once: He nails laying it on thick like an old school late night sidekick. Though he doesn’t go full Tony Atlas.
ACE: Allie And Taryn Terrell: America’s True Top Team
Allie is an absolute ACE on a weekly basis, so it’ll be great to see what happens when the GFW brass decides to just end the gimmick in a comedy segment with, I dunno, Richard Justice.
You know immediately that this segment is going to end with Ms. Taryn beating the crap out of Allie, but poor, innocent Allie wouldn’t expect such a thing. After all, she’s completely respectful in asking why Taryn would attack Gail Kim. Of course, Allie would have the answer to said question if she watched last week’s show, but only one Impact employee is allowed to watch the product at any given time. I don’t make the rules, I just watch this show and note these things.
Fastforward to her recounting the story to Jerk Boyfriend B.S., who keeps assuming she did something — other than being her perfect Allie self — to instigate Taryn Terrell’s beatdown. This is a nice continuation of Jerk Boyfriend B.S. on its own, but enter Garza Jr., stepping up as the beautiful babyface hero we’ve all dreamed for him to become, and Jerk Boyfriend B.S. gets super territorial. He and Kongo Kong have a lot in common, only where Kongo sticks his fist out and calls it offense, the B.S. man calls Garza Jr. “Rico Suave” as he sends the man away for daring to ask Allie how she’s doing.
Wait a minute. Does Garza Jr. knowing what happened to Allie mean he also watches the product? I have to make note of this too.
EH: ohio Versus Impact’s Wrestling
Congratulations, boys. You beat fat Rufio and the master of Suplex Heck. That wasn’t sarcasm — after last week’s Gauntlet For The Gold, I appreciate the tandem of Fallah Bah and Mario Bokara. But you can’t tell me perpetually confused Fallah Bah doesn’t talk Mario’s ear off about how he’s the Pan now.
The EH of it all comes from the fact that, after watching this match, I think I get oVe’s problem. Like I’ve said before, I typically have no problem enjoying a Crist brothers match before — also, I’m still waiting for you to tell us how Jake and Dave are “polar opposites,” JB — but there have been pacing problems in these Impact matches. The thing is, you ever notice how “pacing problems” happen quite often in Impact matches? About at the same frequency as the X-Division “lightning quick offense” doesn’t seem all that fast?
Styles of wrestling are brought up often — whether it’s the WWE style, the indy style, lucha libre, etc. — but one style that isn’t discussed all that much is the TNA/Impact style of wrestling, especially these days. It’s a slower style, and while that can hurt the X-Division matches (especially when commentary goes on about the quickness, when the quickness isn’t even as quick as the X-Division was in its prime), it’s rarely talked about when it comes to matches outside of that.
Lashley and Alberto were putting on good matches during their feud, but I think if you were to compare their matches to WWE, you’d notice that something was missing. It wasn’t storytelling or psychology but something as simple as speed. Everything’s slower in Impact, in a lazy Sunday type of way, which is something you would’ve never expected 10 years ago in the company, back when it could pride itself in the speed and athleticism of its talent without it sounding like something it’s just saying to say.
oVe aren’t used to the style yet, and they haven’t exactly been given the best competition to do so. Their first two matches were against guys who aren’t even on the roster, and this match is against guys who are still pretty new as well. Back in the day, the X-Division style (specifically) was simply the indy style of wrestling (at the time), slightly sped up and brought to a more mainstream audience, which is a major reason why it was so fresh and innovative. “Slightly sped up” is no longer the name of the game anywhere in Impact, and for a team like oVe, there’s a lot of adjusting to do.
Plus, we literally know nothing about their characters. At all. Slowing things down doesn’t automatically tell a story, Impact. And another thing: Apparently the Impact YouTube uploaded this clip the day before the episode aired. Literally no one at GFW knows how a calendar works.
ACE: “205” “Live”
Standby Wrestler Richard Justice, you’re doing great, sweetie.
EH: The Weekly Part Where I Sound Like I Hate Other Women
Before Karen Jarrett is involved, the segment is Sienna basically confirming she had nothing to do with Taryn Terrell’s return — and also showing she can’t stand the woman at all — so of course Karen Jarrett makes sure to show up and immediately blame Sienna for Taryn Terrell’s return. Please, take every problem people have with Stephanie McMahon, throw in publicly-stated antiquated ideas about the business, and no actual in-ring experience (or professional wrestling credentials in any form to speak off) to even throw back at anyone, and you’ve got Karen Jarrett. Even Dixie Carter was a more competent onscreen character, y’all.
The best thing about Jim Cornette’s Impact character is that he sits in an office, at a desk. If Karen Jarrett has to be part of this, why can’t she sit in an office, at a desk? Why am I asking if Impact will ever have a cohesive depiction of its authority figures?
EH: The Latin Arithmetic Exchange
Let’s do some wrestling math right quick. Alberto El Patron was one man when LAX was “just” five people. He had Dos Caras and El Hijo De Dos Caras, but talent and function-wise, they both added up to about half a Konnan. Keep in mind, Konnan is the least physically useful member of LAX. So when they would come out on top of LAX, it truly meant, Alberto would come out on top of LAX. Before he was suspended, Alberto would beat up LAX on a weekly basis, to prove that he could beat up LAX on either a pay-per-view or a former pay-per-view.
Then, LAX added a sixth member in Low-Ki, and despite the moment of triumph — to be fair, five-person LAX and six-person LAX each had their own respective moment of triumph — against Alberto, the numbers refused to lie. One Alberto El Patron could take all those perros down, because of the math.
The reason this is important is because of this week’s Low-Ki match against James Storm is … Well, it makes Low-Ki look like a loser since joining LAX, really. It doesn’t so much get down the gang, pack mentality of the damn numbers game as it shows that solo Low-Ki was so much better at handling his business than joiner Low-Ki. Even worse, it kind of comes across like X-Division Low-Ki was only successful as a big fish in a small pond — someone who can’t quite hang with the big boys, even when he has his crew to give him a lot of help.
EH: Brian Hebner Is The Worst Referee Ever
All professional wrestling referees have moments of seeming like complete goofs or even weaker than a gust of wind. But I think it’s safe to say that the best referees don’t make those tropes define them.
Brian Hebner is the incompetent referee trope brought to life, and knowing Impact (especially with the current regime), there will probably be a storyline made out of that sooner rather than later. The only saving grace is that we’ll probably never have to deal with Brian Hebner go the pervy referee way, because his father has that one on lock in this company.
Remember when he was the referee for Lashley vs. Alberto El Patron at Slammiversary? King Mo didn’t know what to do with his hands, but he did know to get a chair, and that was a match that had quite a few shenanigans outside the ring … none of which Brian Hebner ever tried to stop, even when blatant cheating was happening right in front of his face. Being in the right position is key for a referee, and somehow, Brian always seems to be in a position to look right at cheating then either the camera angles have to change so it’s not obvious to the viewers at home or (mostly) no one even thinks to address it on or offscreen.
I’m happy American Top Team choked him out and made him look like his dad in the process.
ACE: This … Makes Sense?
The actual reason behind Low-Ki versus James Storm is pretty great: James is a down since day one ish, poster boy of Impact Wrestling. And given how upset LAX are with GFW and Jim Cornette for that title shot turned Gauntlet For The Gold situation, it would make a perfect statement against the company. If only they didn’t look like completely inept in their attempt to make said statement.
Also, the actual match — outside of the shenanigans — is very good. Imagine what it could be with a competent referee to send the outside interference away and Low-Ki being treated like a legitimate talent! Low-Ki intentionally going after Storm because he’d just recovered from a concussion is vicious, and it’s the type of reminder that this Low-Ki isn’t the proud, respectful warrior he once was. He’s out for blood, even if he never actually has anything in his holsters. It’s still kind of disappointing Storms’ return came without pomp and circumstance, but at the same time, that’s kind of the most James Storm return ever.
EH: But Suicide Needed To Be There?
Despite being the most James Storm return ever to come back with no b.s., it’s actually kind of insulting — to both the audience and Storm — that his official return was that shouting match with American Top Team without the follow-up of him being in the Gauntlet For The Gold. You might argue, “Maybe he wasn’t medically cleared yet,” but that would be ignoring the whole, “These episodes were taped at the same time” aspect of it all.
EH: Exaggerated Collar Tug
Oh wow. The wrench is Grado’s plan is exactly the thing I’ve been saying from moment one: Laurel Van Ness is Canadian. Tune in next week, when Grado and Joseph Park don’t just get married themselves, because ew, right?
Seriously, the punchline to this whole story (well, this part of the story) is something a ring announcer, the Impact roster page, or noted Impact watcher McKenzie Mitchell could have easily told Grado.
Obvious isn’t inherently bad: Take note from the previous Joseph Park story, where Scott Steiner going on about “fatasses” never lost anything, as expected as it was. But from the moment Grado zeroed on in on Laurel Van Ness as his mark, this story has been both reductive and a major way for GFW to take an interesting character it apparently couldn’t figure out how to continue writing and use it as a prop for a comedy wrestler who wasn’t showing up even semi-regularly until this storyline.
EH: Bobby’s Choice
This is just … so lame. I can obviously appreciate lame. Besides the continuity issues, this is the type of thing I can’t believe they thought seemed good for television/sports entertainment viewing.
To me, a person who just wants any given story to make an inkling of sense, the entire GFW/Impact Wrestling vs. American Top Team thing boils down to one question: “Why is Impact giving American Top Team this platform?” It’s not like Lashley’s boys are even nWo-ing their way into things and hijacking the show. GFW is providing American Top Team with their resources, and in return, GFW authority figures get to look like ineffective punks for not even attempting to ban these guys from the Impact Zone. Scott D’Amore got pushed by these guys last week, and this week, he basically apologizes to American Top Team upon their arrival.
Unless this story ends with Lashley choosing MMA and never coming back to Impact, there is no point to this. If he chooses to do both — which, come on, is what’s happening — nothing has changed. And if he just chooses wrestling, then why did we have to deal with these MMA guys? There’s really not that much emotional tension in whether a wrestler should continue to be a wrestler or not, at least not when there’s no physical/mental/personal incentive to stop. The incentive as presented is honestly, it’ll make Lashley’s buddies happy if he dedicated more time to MMA and making them money.
I can’t believe I’m even saying this, Lashley deserves better. Like I said last episode, this isn’t so much his story as it is Lashley being a tool in this story. The story is literally Jeff Jarrett and Bizarro Jeff Jarrett fighting over who gets to use Lashley the most. The man did not lose the right to be called the third best wrestler/athlete for this.
ACE: Okay, I Laughed (Again)
“Oh, you didn’t know?” It was unexpected and funny, okay. Now if it leads to the return of the 3 Live Kru, I’m gonna be pissed. (And lol at referee Rudy Charles whining about an “unsafe work environment” in that opening video package for the 3 Live Kru link. It feels so good to laugh.)
EH: Got It All In One Take!
Hey! The Grand Championship is back, and Jim Cornette uses the TripleMania time travel conundrum to explain why EC3 won’t be at TripleMania — it’s because he’ll be defending his Grand Championship against Fantasma Jr. (he means El Hijo De Fantasma, by the way). Next week, one supposes. And yes, to make this even more confusing, El Hijo De Fantasma did wrestle at TripleMania, in a title match against Johnny Impact and Texano Jr. Yup, Jim’s excuse for why EC3 isn’t on the TripleMania card fails to hold up on two fronts.
I also have no idea why they wouldn’t do another take where Jim Cornette doesn’t call El Hijo De Fantasma “Fantasma Jr.” Just because he’s Fantasma’s son doesn’t mean he’s junior, especially when Fantasma Jr. is a different wrestler.
ACE: This Is An Impact Main Event Tag Match
Johnny Impact giving Earl a “good to see you” hug right before the match starts is one of those surprisingly sweet, clearly not scripted by the folks at GFW moments… that would’ve gotten even better if Eli Drake and Chris Adonis called out referee bias before the match and demanded he recuse himself. They don’t, and it doesn’t take away from the sweetness of the unacknowledged moment, but you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, boys.
Like the ACE says, this is an Impact main event tag match. These are pretty much the norm right now, and at least it’s not Alberto El Patron vs. LAX, you know? It’s good for what it is. Kind of like the Caleb Konley/Petey Williams match and the Pop TV movie after Impact, Lethal Weapon 3.
EH: A Championship Opportunity
Matt Sydal literally spent weeks before his program with Lashley cutting promos about how he wants to be more than an X-Division star and has even never seen himself as just that. Yes, he demanded an X-Division title match, leading him into his feud with Lashley (Lashley wouldn’t stop recycling his “Eddie Edwards, the problem with you X-Division guys … ” promos), BUT he also won that feud. As we know, that win officially made him the third best wrestler/athlete. Yes, in any other situation, “third best” wouldn’t lead to a title match, but hey, that was the stipulation. And the stipulation never defined what title the winner would have to go for.
Basically, of course Matt Sydal is challenging Eli Drake. This is almost as much of a surprise as Johnny Impact being in the Gauntlet For The Gold.
Raise your hand if you’re even a little shocked they found a way to include American Top Team in this brief video hyping up Eli Drake vs. Matt Sydal.
Don’t forget to share this recap, as it’s textual evidence of … so many things.