The Best And Worst Of Impact Wrestling 1/12/16: Just Fight The Baby Already

Hey, welcome back! Missed last week? You can catch up with everything we thought was great (and not so great) here, and also watch it for yourself here. This week’s episode isn’t available, but you CAN watch A Very Brady Christmas. I’m assured by my American friends that Pop TV is a very confusing channel to get, but if you’ve figured out the subscription cipher you can (and should) watch Impact every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET.

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Last week, we saw James Storm return to the portable Impact Zone to reform Beer Money, Mike Bennett debuted with a superfluous accessory (no, I don’t just mean Maria), and Ethan Carter III won the championship tournament and got back the belt he never should have lost.

This week on Impact Wrestling: A masterclass in character work, a lot of beer, and I think Kurt Angle’s wrestles? That seems like a thing he’d do.

Best: The Champion We Deserve

Ethan Carter III is one of the best heel characters on television, and this is a good example of why.

In just the first few minutes of the opening segment, he demonstrates that EC3 is a layered character who acknowledges his own history and uses both those experiences and the feelings of others to manipulate those around him. He turned on Spud when Spud showed that he had very real friendship feelings for him, because the role he occupied in EC3’s life was transactional at best. Tyrus isn’t a friend of EC3, he’s an employee. He is also, however, an employee with a shot at one of the only things EC3 legitimately cares about, and one of the only things he allows himself to show real feelings for. He addresses Tyrus as a friend because he knows that kind of manipulation works, but then cuts it off when Tyrus reciprocates with his genuine feelings. That’s great stuff. Bonus points if the next thing that happens is Tyrus lamenting to, I dunno, let’s say Tigre Uno that all EC3 needs is someone to teach him how to love.

I’m gonna include Jeff Hardy in this Best, which I never really get to do. He (rightfully) points out that EC3 won his title match without shenanigans, and that makes him the best. He acknowledges that while EC3 may surround himself with people and opportunities that he can take advantage of, and he deeply humiliated Jeff Hardy, he’s the best. Hardy’s cleared to wrestle, so he wants a shot at the best. It acknowledges a multi-faceted character, puts over the title win of a guy a lot of people still haven’t warmed up to, and unlike the other ‘legends’ EC3 has gone up against, puts them on an even playing field. Impact is justifiably criticized for its gratuitous in-ring segments because so much of it is just talking in circles without actually saying anything, but this is what should be happening. This conversation has a purpose, is self-referential, and makes everything that comes after it seem important. I can’t possibly love this more.

Best: Haha Oops Yes I Can

After EC3 talks about how much he’s wanted to go head to head with Jeff Hardy, he denies his request at a title shot. Hardy just came back, he can’t immediately waltz into a World Title match. He’s gotta earn it, no matter who he is. The history of TNA tells us otherwise, but bless his heart for at least trying to make some sense. He demands that Jeff Hardy start out at the bottom and work his way up. That’s totally fair, and as it turns out, totally glorious. He brings out local independent wrestler Shynron, and then he gives him his own theme music. It’s funny, but the real best part of this is that he takes someone I’m very familiar with as a performer and turned them into something completely different, and – dare I say – enjoyable. He Norv-ed someone who doesn’t start out with the inherent likability of Norv Fernum. Listen what I’m saying is this is great, but also they should bring back Norv.

The match itself is perfectly serviceable, even if there are a few messy spots here and there. It’s not a two-second squash, and Hardy makes Shynron look easy to beat, but not the embarrassing bottom of the barrel. You’ve got EC3 on commentary further expanding on the situation and the backstory between him and Hardy, again, making everything that comes after this seem important. Everyone looks good in this. Every person onscreen serves a purpose, but also serves their own character’s interests. *kisses fingers* A solid Best all around.

Worst: The Girls With The Most Cheesecake

There’s no video of the 4-on-2 Beautiful People vs. The Dollhouse street fight, and if you watched the show it’s pretty easy to see why they wouldn’t want to admit that’s a thing they let happen. This match starts after Velvet Sky says that she doesn’t care about why her and Kong don’t like each other, she just really wants to kick her ass. Madison Rayne indignantly points out that they don’t have to jump people from behind, and then suckerpunches Jade. If that’s not enough to make you get into the world’s shortest street fight, then I dunno what is. I mean, you should probably care about the reasons you’re fighting, and also Madison, really? C’mon, girl. The street fight seems like another half-hearted attempt to legitimize these performers without actually putting any of the work in. THEY USED KENDO STICKS! Okay, but why and what for and also they didn’t really do it well so again I ask, why? You can’t give meaning and worth to women by taking away their cognitive reasoning and value to the narrative of your show. Giving props to props doesn’t legitimize anything.

At this point, The Dollhouse just exists as a reason to keep using Doll Parts as a theme, right? I really wish The Dollhouse legitimately had something to do with the actual meaning of the song – an examination of girls who feel inadequate trying to be whatever they think the thing they love really wants. I mean, that’s a pretty apt theme for a lot of women trying to get by in wrestling, y’know? instead it’s ‘they’re fully poseable hotties and one won’t stop pointing at her mouth because that’s where food goes (but also maybe your dick I guess?).’

Worst: The Future Is Dimly Lit

This is all…very confusing.

Presentation aside, does it strike anyone as a slightly questionable decision to take someone who wasn’t tough enough to do arm drag drills or whatever in hopes of being good enough to maybe get a shot at some house shows before you get on WWE’s developmental television show and putting them immediately onto your main roster? Also, what is she getting retribution for? And why does she think that grinding on a ladder in the dark is gonna be the way to go about it? Does Raquel just REALLY HATE LADDERS? Or does she love them SO MUCH that she’s here to get revenge on the Impact roster for destroying so many of them? Are her and Jeff Hardy kindred spirits or mortal enemies?

I … I have a lot of questions, but I also feel like I don’t ever want to know the answers.

Worst: The Beer Money Beer Bash Featuring Beer, As Sponsored By Beer

This does have some cute moments – Storm pouring Roode’s bottle of beer into a cup after he apologized to Storm for smashing a beer bottle over his head is dumb and great, but I feel like drunk white guys apologizing repeatedly and then saying they love each other like bros is exactly the reason Uber replaced the late night streetcar for me as my mode of transportation on Friday nights. Remember how great the opening segment was at making things that come after it seem important? Having a clear cut explanation as to why two men who feuded with each other are friends again is a really good idea, but the execution of this is…really, again, two drunk white guys. And they’re not even drunk for real, so it’s got that local improv troupe play-acting at drunk where we suspend disbelief because this is what we signed up for, but also cringe over our whole bodies as we watch it happen.

Eric Young comes out to yell at them, make a joke about Beer Money toasting each other like they’re getting married, James Storm tells him to suck on his beer bottle, and Bobby Roode calls EY a bitch. There’s a lot to unpack here. Billy Corgan said he wanted to address issues like homosexuality, is this his way of doing it? Is Beer Money descending into crippling alcoholism brought on by denying their sexuality? No, the writing of this segment is just really bad, but man, way to go Billy. Really bringing us into the future here.

Worst: Did We Learn Nothing From Victory Road 2011?

An additional worst for the amount of shenanigans it takes for Eric Young to beat a drunk Bobby Roode for the title. Also, if we’re addressing Bob Ryder on-screen as someone in charge, why is no one turning to hard cam and saying “Uh, Bob? You gonna let these guys wrestle? They’ve clearly been drinking, and I know we do some wacky shit on this show, but this really doesn’t feel safe to me.” If Eric Young has to cheat against an inebriated Roode, that means that he’s nowhere near as good as Roode when he’s at full strength. In this specific instance it plays into Young being a heel, but does it not also invalidate his previous title win back when he was a good guy and everyone on the roster kept saying he was the best wrestler/human being on the roster? As much as they’re a well-established gimmick, doesn’t bringing back Beer Money throw a lot of questions into the mix, especially when you’re comparing these wrestlers in the broader context of your sober roster? Or is it just more fun to shout BEER and then MONEY than it is to think two-dimensionally about your wrestling characters?

Best(ish): EC3 Meets The Miracle

Usually on televised wrestling shows, feuds are kept so segmented that people who work together in extremely close quarters never interact. We hear so many references to the locker room and the boys in the back, but we never really get to see that happen organically. Why wouldn’t EC3 run into Bennett backstage? The Sands really isn’t that big. Why wouldn’t Bobby Lashley lean over in the dressing room and be like “Hey, Abyss, did you see that new kid’s hat? What’s up with that?” EC3’s reaction to Bennett is exactly the kind of reaction he should have. Some guy with a tiny ponytail shows up and says he’s going to change Impact Wresting, but EC3’s the actual most important person in the company, and not just because my mom says so. You can’t attack the way things are in a company without attacking their biggest and best representation of it. Okay. Sure. This makes sense. Let’s do this. Just please wrestle in the hat.

Best: You Can’t Say They Didn’t Warn Us

Finally, some truth in advertising!

Worst: Why Isn’t EC3 Fighting The Baby

Matt Hardy will not die, and he’s gonna keep trying to fight EC3. Hardy claims they’re life-long rivals, which seems like a weird thing to say at this juncture, like someone giving themselves a nickname. Anyways, Hardy wants one more match, and man, is anyone else disappointed that the next logical step in EC3 vs. the Hardy family is him fighting the baby named after a cassette tape? Come onnnnnn, baby fight! It can’t be much worse than Matt Hardy talking more, right?

kurt angle drew galloway

Worst, I Guess?: Galloway vs. Angle

Kurt Angle wins this one after a nasty-looking Angle Slam from the top rope, and….I really wish there was more to say. The build-up for this was “I’m Kurt Angle and I’m really good, but this guy is the future and also very good.” But then Angle goes 1-0 on his ‘farewell tour’ by beating this Very Good Wrestler. So, what’s the point? We know Angle’s not coming back (at least for a while), so why draw out this swan song with a bunch of matches that don’t mean anything? If Kurt Angle is the legend who deserves respect, isn’t wrestling for the sake of wrestling ultimately kind of disrespectful, especially if he’s just going to keep winning because Kurt Angle? There’s no investment in the match happening, so whether it’s really good or not (it was okay!), you’re still going to come away feeling like it was nothing special. The most feeling this match elicited for me was thinking, “Wow, Kurt Angle’s elbows are really weird. So are EC3’s. Is that a powerlifting thing? If I keep lifting heavy weights, are my elbows going to look like that?” and then dramatically feeling around my elbows while Galloway kicked out of a pin attempt. I don’t think that’s good.

We know this Kurt Angle: Farewell? tour is gonna keep on rolling, so there’s still a chance to make it mean something. I really, really hope they make it mean something. And also that my elbows don’t get weird. I want that, too.