Oh wow. Hey, guys. Been a while, huh? A little more than a year since we’ve covered Impact Wrestling, actually. The bad news is a lot has happened in the year they spent Destinating America. The good news is barely any of it actually matters, and most of those people aren’t even there anymore. So here we are: new year, new network, new theme song, new ways to say nice things about Rockstar Spud.
This week, we play catch-up on the past year as the tournament to crown a new TNA World Heavyweight Champion comes down to its final four contenders. You can now watch the full episode on Pop TV’s website, so feel free to play along with the Bests and Worsts at home.
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First, let’s play catch-up.
Worst: Playing Catch-Up
Being that it wasn’t Destination NORTH America, TNA got kinda hard to keep up with. As I said, barely any of this actually matters in the long run, but the parts I didn’t make an effort to keep up with are still confusing and frustrating. If you too took a break from Impact Wrestling, you’ll find that while things still feel like the same old show with the same old problems, there are a number of things that are way different. The roster page is dwindling, their Knockouts situation is still mega-concerning, and Dixieland is no more. If you want to also play catch up, you can sort through this handy-dandy “IMPACT in 60” playlist. The shows are broken down into minute-long highlight reels, but I promise they still don’t make very much sense.
Gotta shout out one specific worst while we’re here. Jeff Jarrett came back and won King of the Mountain (because of course he did), and there was this whole thing with Global Force Wrestling. At no point did anyone think him, this is weird and possibly ill-advised. Like if you care about someone and suddenly their selfish, crummy ex shows up, you’re gonna be like nah girl, let’s go get tacos while you remember how to love yourself instead. If the ex shows up and they’re like ‘hey, I also brought my friend who carries a cane for reasons that have never been explained and also Chris Masters,” you shut. it. down.
Best: All The Good Stuff We Missed, And By That I Mean Let’s Talk About EC3
The most important thing you missed was the World Title win of Ethan Carter III. If you thought the column’s return wasn’t going to be me frantically pointing at EC3 yelling GUYS NO HE’S THE BEST ONE LOOK LOOK AT HIM BE THE BEST hahaha why would you even think that:
*frantic pointing continues*
Also he has kittens now:
Worst: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
EC3 defeating Kurt Angle unfortunately signaled a change in Cool Aunt D, who went from delightful heel boss back to the pandering face character that ruins everything. She admitted she had been a monster (what, no), that the company truly belongs to the fans (no stop), and that she wouldn’t make any of those mistakes again. She followed this up by making all of the mistakes.
If you haven’t been keeping up, it’s a bit jarring to see Dixie Carter at odds with her nephew. I mean, the worst thing he did (outside of being mean to Spud) was try to protect her from the guy who liked to threaten to kill babies, stalked her and tried to assault her in her own home, was weirdly aggressive and abusive to a member of her lady roster and also tried to destroy her company so many times. You know, the guy she refused to stop employing and actually put in charge of things after he humiliated her and put her through a table? Oh yeah, EC3, totally the bad guy, right? I appreciate that it would make sense in the way that a character who puts her business first would say and do anything to make money, even if it meant turning on the family member who only ever did good for her, but also she stopped being that character so f*ck all of this.
Best: The Other Reason To Keep Watching
I’m gonna give a Best to Rockstar Spud for well and truly standing on his own by becoming a two-time X Division Champion in 2015. Off-screen, he became the ambassador for Starlight UK, and is still continuing to be a real-life goddamn superhero to this tiny British child. Remember when he first showed up and was kind of terrible and couldn’t keep his tongue in his mouth to the point where it seemed like he might have a condition, but then he got to be himself and became one of the best things on television? He’s held steady, and oh my god I’ve missed him so much.
We’re going to hit a few more points when they become relevant to the show, so let’s do this. Are you ready? I’m not either! But let’s do it anyways!
Worst: Oh God, Wait, There’s So Much More To Explain
Okay. So. This tournament. See, Ethan Carter III’s never been defeated. Not really. But yet he’s not the champion anymore. How? Wha? Shenanigans? In PRO WRESTLING? I know, I was surprised too. But here’s a quick run down. We’ve sort of covered what EC3’s been up to, but not the thing most relevant to the show at hand. There’s no fancy video package to link to, so put on some super intense music and dramatically read the next part out loud. It’ll be the same, promise.
After a stunning (lol) loss in the King of the Mountain match, Matt Hardy demanded a title shot from then-champ EC3. Instead, EC3 put him into a handicap match against the reformed Dirty Heels, Bobby Roode and Austin Aries. Matt Hardy then defeated Bobby Roode to become the #1 contender. Hardy didn’t win his title match, so that should be the end of it, right? Haha no, of course not.
Matt Hardy would get another crack at the title, this time with the stipulation that if he lost, his brother Jeff would become EC3’s personal assistant. Matt Hardy lost that, too (because a pro wrestler’s one weakness is getting an ankle to the taint), and things didn’t go too well for Jeff. At Bound For Glory, Matt Hardy was added to the main event title match between EC3 and Drew Galloway. Hardy pinned Galloway to with the title, meaning that EC3’s still never been pinned for a loss. Afterwards, EC3 filed an injunction to keep Hardy away from Impact Wrestling for a month. This lead to Hardy being ‘forced’ to drop the title, but that’s kinda dumb and I’m pretty sure on a show where an authority figure can just do whatever they want, someone could be like ‘meh, he doesn’t have to defend it, it’s cool.’ But hey, what do I know? I’m only going on *checks watch* the entire history of TNA here.
So now we find ourselves with a vacant title. The best thing about the Bound For Glory series has always been that it gives an excuse for fresh match-ups we wouldn’t normally see. That should have translated here, but…realistically it wasn’t super great. It did give us televised male vs. female matches, a progressive step forward despite Billy Corgan’s history of gross intergender matches over at Resistance Pro Wrestling. The idea was better than the execution, but hey, gold star for the attempt. The series comes down to Matt Hardy vs. Eric Young, and EC3 vs. Bobby Lashley and his funny little headband.
The show opens with a pull-apart brawl between all four men that takes like five minutes to draw the attention of security or referees, so. Yeah. It really does feel like we didn’t miss anything, huh?
I’m gonna lump those two semi-final matches into this one because with all that lead-up, it’s kind of a foregone conclusion that EC3 will face Matt Hardy. That’s not a knock, it just is what it is, and the final that actually makes sense. EC3 wins (though Lashley loses his headband, and Matt Hardy defeats Eric Young. Here’s an unintentionally accurate summary of what you’ve missed with that guy (and my reaction to him literally all of the time):
Worst: The Kurt Angle Farewell Tour
Kurt Angle isn’t going to wrestle anymore, but first he’s going to wrestle a bunch and THEN stop wrestling, maybe, for a little bit, just not in NXT. He’s definitely going to be wrestling Drew Galloway in next week’s main event. Be more confusing, Kurt. After Galloway and Kurt Angle jerk each other off in the ring for a while (not actually) (but oh man, what if they did??), they’re interrupted by Jessie Godderz. To F your I, The Bromans are no longer a thing, but this is:
Best: Jessie Has A Cape Now
No jokes here. I’m just really hype for this cape. Jessie’s got himself a cape and I want to make it mine. Yes, it’s true — I wish I had Jessie’s cape. Where can I find a cape like that?
Best/Worst: Beer Money Grab
Bobby Roode wrestles BRAM!, but then gets attacked by Eric Young. This brings out WWE NXT Superkick Superstar James Storm, because BEER! MONEY! People continue to not care about what’s happening with either Bram or Eric Young because BEER! MONEY!
We’re…a lot of words into this report, but we’re also more than a year out from the last time we covered it. As such, I feel like it’s a great time to point out that, amongst these worsts, I still really do want TNA to be the best it can be. 2015 set us on a path for drastic changes in wrestling as a whole, and 2016 is going to be bananas. Even without all of the stuff I’ve been accidentally spoiled on, guys, wrestling’s gonna be awesome this year. It’s a really exciting time to take chances, be different and try new things, but at this point TNA has played it so safe for the last *checks watch again* the entire history of TNA that it feels like it’s going to get left behind. Bringing back Beer Money is fun because one yells BEER and the other yells MONEY and Bobby Roode and James Storm are great when they can be fun dudes and not crying with horses and being weird and kinda racist over constantly losing title matches, but damn, that’s not gonna Homeward Bound their asses into the current direction wrestling is taking. We’re mere minutes away from a Matt Hardy title match on TV where people can see it. Like…come on. Just do something.
The worst in this segment is both the nostalgia retread and also reliving how f*cking soul-destroying Homeward Bound was for me as a kid.
Supplemental Best: This Is The Only Tweet About Impact Wrestling That Mattered
Worst: Let’s Check In On That Knockouts Division
Women’s wrestling has made great leaps in the past year, but realistically it’s still limping along. Being that TNA did take a strong stance in putting an all-female group into it’s World Heavyweight Title tournament, surely continuing to move that marker forward, right? Surely they’re concentrating on bringing in new talent to compete with strong independent presences like Mia Yim, right? Surely they’re not just focusing on how much they can turn women into literal objects of sexual gratification, right?
At the very least, surely Velvet Sky has found a way to stop rubbing her asshole on everything, right?
Worst, But Upon Further Inspection Maybe Best?: The Hattening
It pains me to give this a worst, as Mike Bennett and Matt Taven have been so goddamn delightful as an Adam Cole-less Kingdom tag team in Ring of Honor. I mean, Matt Taven has a shirt that says “TAVEN CARE OF BUSINESS.” He’s also worked hard and become one of the best kept secrets on the indie scene and might actually be the heart and soul of that team, but guys. Come on. Guys. TAVEN CARE OF BUSINESS.
That said, Mike Bennett is the best when he’s allowed to have a personality and sense of humor, something TNA isn’t exactly known for. The lead up to his debut featured numerous vignettes that would lead you to believe his gimmick is going to be recapping (in great detail) every Hallmark Channel movie that has it’s own Wikipedia page, and now that he’s made his debut I’m really sad it isn’t.
The clip above that wants you to meet him doesn’t actually tell you anything about him, but you really don’t need the rest of it. Pro wrestling needs a miracle. How many times have you heard a wrestler or a company say that they’re gonna ‘save pro wrestling?’ When people ask TNA for fresh stars and new directions this ain’t it. We’ve heard all of this enough times to know what he’s all about without even watching it, but also enough that it gives us a chance to address the real star of the show: THIS HAT:
Personally, I like to think that Bennett’s luggage got lost, and in a real pro wrestling feel-good moment casino patrons banded together to donate items of their own wardrobe so he could make his television debut on time. You know, like an actual Hallmark movie. It’s just a shame those patrons were an 80-year-old mall walker, Greg Norman, and the ghost of Lou Bega. It’s like TNA execs were ribbing the guy, and he had to participate a wrestling version of the unconventional challenge on Project Runway. “Today you have to make entrance gear out of this marathon runner outfit, a Saturday Night Fever Hard Rock Cafe display, and the lost suitcase of a 62-year-old headed to Florida for a golf retreat. Make it work!” That has to be it, right? Man, Maria was actually on Project Runway once. Girl, you couldn’t call in a favor from Chris March? Come on.
Best: All Is Right With The World Again
I only have a few minor issues with all of this, but look: my first Impact back and I get to watch EC3 with a championship on the same show that has both a ridiculous cape and a gloriously ridiculous hat? When you put it that way and only name those three things, the show as a rousing success!
There were a few ‘distraction’ spots in the match against Lashley which would make it seem like EC3 also cheated his way here, but to be honest they were really weak. Tyrus gently batted at Lashley’s ankle like a kitten, allowing EC3 time to counter, but the timing was off so it seemed like he would have done that in the first place. Tyrus tried to distract the referee, causing Bobby Lashley to push him off of the apron. This allows EC3 to get out of the move Lashley was trying to execute, but then sidestep him on his return, but…again, the timing was wonky and the actual result was EC3 looking like he had actually watched a Lashley match and knew what to do. A wrestler prepared for the match, what a concept!
Matt Hardy is playing up an injury, so again, it feels like it somewhat cheapens the heel victory. The match as a tad rushed, but it was a live show, and their time was probably cut way down. All that said, a world where Ethan Carter III doesn’t lose to Matt Hardy is the world I want to live in.
Supplemental Best: I Have Been Laughing At This Tweet For 37 Years
Reby Sky added TV-friendly knockin’ boots music to a video of her consoling her husband while holding their baby.
Goddamn I have missed this show.