Hello, and welcome to weekly Impact Wrestling coverage on With Spandex. And also welcome to me, LaToya Ferguson, your recapper and friend. Who loves ya, baby? Me, the person who gets down to the nitty and the especially gritty of Impact Wrestling every week just for you.
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 Wrestling on Pop at 8 p.m. on Thursdays so you can read these pieces and share them with the online world. That shouldn’t be too difficult, should it?
Previously: Impact Wrestling took on Lucha Underground. Also, Allie had a sugar high … two whole days before Rex Manning Day. Actually, it probably lasted through Rex Manning Day. Seriously, that bag of Sour Patch Kids felt more like a bag of Airheads: Because it was out of control.
ACE: The Most Ambitious Crossover Event In History
Matt Striker: “I think it’s great what Impact and Lucha are doing. Because we live in a world today where they’re constantly trying to divide us. … But the one thing that unites everyone — if we can find that common ground, we all come together. And in this case, it’s pro wrestling.”
Like last week’s “All Access Pass,” we get quite the taste of the WrestleCon look back before we get to the official segment, to the point where I assumed they were just showing the whole segment again to fill for time. (Sure, it’s all to fill for time, but at least there’s more to offer when it’s time for the actual segment.)
In case you were wondering, I invoked Infinity War meme-dom because of the declaration here that Impact Wrestling versus Lucha Underground was “the biggest crossover event of the year” (of course proclaimed superhero nerd Josh Mathews did this intentionally). Also, I just assume anyone who reads these recaps is “wondering” about at least five things I write about, because I don’t believe anyone who reads these recaps actually watches these shows. Have I said thank you for supporting me recently?
Also, thank you The Mack for teasing the possibility of another title match between you, Killshot, and LAX. It better happen.
Austin Aries: “My thoughts on Alberto deciding he would be unable to make it here tonight. … He sat in a press conference — and he sat there with a straight face — and said that this is his company. … I’ve been in this business 17 years. You’ve been in this business even longer. Here’s the difference between you and me, Alberto. Lots of guys talk about it. Lots of guys say they’re gonna do it. Very few guys actually follow through. … Whether people like me or they don’t like me, the reputation of Austin Aries is ‘he says it like it is.’ ‘He’s no bullsh*t.’ ‘He ain’t gonna blow smoke up your *ss.’ And I’ve called you out every step, of you being the exact opposite. And tonight you proved it.”
I’d like to think I’ve written enough about Alberto El Patron at this point. And Austin Aries also says it all — in a kayfabe enough manner too — that I don’t need to add much more.
Really, the worst thing that happens on this week’s show (as a result of the Alberto El Patron mess) is just a really bad dub from Josh Mathews (during Rosemary versus Taya) that obviously had to happen in post-post-production: “We will forever remember Impact Wrestling versus Lucha Underground, because it changed on the main event of Redemption, on the 22nd.” The dead air probably would’ve sounded better, for once.
They show clips from the WrestleCon press conference, but since that match isn’t going to happen, they’re just that — clips. Specifically clips that show off hothead Alberto El Patron as much as they can. And that makes sense.
And hey, we also learn here that Tommy Dreamer is working behind the scenes at Impact Wrestling! That’s pretty cool, right?
EH: The Moment It Stopped Being “Pretty Cool”
I’m skipping around to address this, because as I like to remind no one in particular: These are my recaps, and I can write about whatever I want, whenever I want.
So, like I said, we learn this week that Tommy Dreamer’s a backstage guy at Impact Wrestling. There’s also a minor thread of Impact and House of Hardcore having a working relationship. (Lemme give a quick irreverent ACE to the fact that it’s been weeks since Josh Mathews rambled on about how “truly global” Impact is. They’re still stuck with the “GWN” thing though.) That’s the “pretty cool” part. Less cool, however, is Tommy Dreamer appearing in the Impact Wrestling episode proper — in the Impact Zone — as Moose and Eddie Edwards’ savior. He even gets the mysterious “who turned out the lights?” surprise appearance.
Why? Why does he get that? Why is he the one saving Eddie Edwards and Moose? This is also in the same episode where Scott Steiner — having wrestled at the Impact Wrestling versus Lucha Underground show — returns as Eli Drake’s chosen tag championship match partner. That’s two past-their-prime wrestlers in a “TNA” pay-per-view/1000th reboot called Redemption. Translation: *TNA-ing intensifies*
The Impact Zone is excited because Tommy Dreamer is a person they know, not because anything he says about “revolution” and being “extreme” means anything to the Eddie Edwards/oVe feud. And because he’s this wrestler people know, he’s now the star (again, he saved the young wrestlers who couldn’t hang) of Eddie Edwards’ personal story? Why? It’s not like Edwards went to him — or anyone, actually — and asked for helped. That would’ve provided some agency from him in this story and even a bit of him swallowing his pride. Neither he nor his buddy can take care of Sami Callihan and his cronies, and there’s apparently no active roster member who would care to help even the odds.
Remember: Brian Cage just recently saved Lashley (may he rest in Raw) from oVe, and he definitely had no reason to help that jerk. But I guess we’ve still got to chant “ECW” or whatever in the year 2018, so here we go.
ACE: The Big Bad Booty Gravy Daddies
Eli Drake starts off this promo by essentially teaching a real class on crowd control. Dummies want so say “WHAT?” so he just says “HUH?” until they stop. They want to cheer him, so he tells them he didn’t ask for that (and also: “that don’t make you cool”). They really want to cheer him, so he just tells them to stop, the dummies.
He also calls out wrestling fans who buy belts online — a concept Dave Crist also happens to be very against, as he told Josh Mathews his plans to fight fans for said belts during the WrestleCon Twitch stream — to make a quick comparison to “The Belt Collector” Austin Aries … but Aries is on the back burner for now until he cashes in his Feast or Fired briefcase for the tag team championships. (Only at Redemption, on April 22.)
This entire promo is just a good bit of verbal sparring to start the show, as LAX comes out before Drake can make his proper reveal, leading to a promo-off between Eli Drake, Konnan, and — drum roll, please — Scott Steiner. Also, I’ll never not enjoy the very white Impact Zone bounce to LAX’s theme or pop to Konnan calling out for the “Latino nation.And you know I appreciate Konnan having a wrestling memory when he reminds Drake he doesn’t trust him: Never forget the chips and guacamole peace offering. (He wanted to “play some bones!”) In fact, who could trust Eli Drake?
Konnan: “Who’s your tag partner, ho?”
Impact Zone: *chants “HO”*
Eli Drake: “Quiet down, you puppets.”
Cue the Scott Steiner re-introduction to the Impact Zone, as he reminds us of his accomplishments — which include being “the most dominant world champion in the nWo.” I believe he even Too Sweets his buddy Eli Drake when he makes his entrance, but the camera’s too zoomed in to really see. (That’s poor production, but props to the show for going to commercial with the Steiner reveal, so folks stay tuned to hear what he has to say on mic. He’s sadly nowhere to be found on commentary during the six-man tag match though … ) I believe Steiner says it best:
“You white trash don’t believe me? You millennials watching on TV right now don’t believe me? Go on your cell phone. YouTube. I’m world-famous, b*tch!”
And why did I just rant about Tommy Dreamer but allow Scott Steiner to get a little slack? First of all, unlike the Eddie Edwards story, this is written in the form that Eli Drake actively sought Big Poppa Pump out. Also, this return to the Impact Zone actually happens first on the show … and Konnan himself even calls out the possibility of Steiner just being a has-been who’s looking for a paycheck. (Dreamer showing up later in this show should require the same kind of scrutiny.)
Again, Dreamer just shoe horns in talk of “extreme” when addressing characters who literally have a cult of followers back in Ohio and actively want to hurt their opponents and enemies; based on their existence since kidnapping Lashley, “extreme” is a shallow concept that barely scratches the surface of what Ohio Versus EVERYTHING are actually about.
Steiner’s introduction by Drake is also under the recognition that Steiner was one-half of one of the greatest tag teams of all time, which is actually terrific strategy for a non-tag team wrestler going into a tag team championship match. It also features Drake realizing Steiner and Konnan have known each other a long time, something Drake is willing to use to his advantage. Konnan even realizes this and praises both men for their ability with mind games and trash talk … and throws it right back at them.
EH???: “Henry VIII From Wolf Hall”
Eli Drake: “You know what, Old Man Konnan?”
Konnan: “What, Brody from Homeland?”
I legitimately don’t understand how Konnan’s comment was an insult, even though the Impact Zone reacted like it was a major one. I don’t see Damian Lewis when I see Eli Drake, do you? And if you did, would that be bad? And wouldn’t “Bobby Axelrod from Billions” work better? “Charlie Crews from Life” wouldn’t work at all, but I’d pop … before again being very confused. The Big Bad Booty Gravy Daddies are probably gonna cause a Zoot Suit Riot next week, and I’m just going to be absolutely baffled. I’ll probably also throw back a bottle of beer.
ACE/EH: Sympathy For The Devil
This match itself is really good, and of the two DQs on this show, this is the one that makes the most sense in terms of the story it’s telling. Sami Callihan gets some offense in this match, but it’s few and far between. And Moose is on a mission, as evidenced by the way he spits in his hand (a Callihan classic) before going to chop a retreating Callihan, as well as: the couple of Moose-ups (which are like Hulk-ups), even more spit, and the most beautiful Go To Hell I’ve ever seen.
The thing that really sucks about this match is the Impact Zone regulars who can’t even try to play along and root for Moose against Sami. In kayfabe, Sami Callihan is a despicable man who’s trying to — and succeeding in — destroying Eddie Edwards and everything he loves. These people witnessed Callihan hit Edwards with the baseball bat … and as a result, they probably feel remorse for him because they fully saw his immediate “oh sh*t” reaction when he did it. So they want to keep supporting him because they know he’s (at the time of the tapings, especially) never going to hear the end of this.
The problem is, Sami Callihan does everything he can to get these same people to hate him, while Moose does all he can to play the hero. There are even just little moments where Moose reacts accordingly to crowd reactions in his favor — as little as they may be — accordingly, like when he apron powerbombs Callihan for the second time. Both men play their roles perfectly, yet the best they can hope for here is an evenly split crowd chanting both their names.
I’m just saying: It’s really stupid when Sami Callihan blatantly low blows Moose, and all you hear is people chanting “SAMI” into the immediate commercial break despite that fact.
EH to adjACE*: Nama-stupid
As I’ve written many times before, Matt Sydal has to be the dumbest character in all of Impact Wrestling. My thoughts on this originally started as a joke, but storyline after storyline, it’s become official canon. Think about it for a moment, if you will. Josh Mathews has progressively started to hide the fact he’s a fraud less and less.
See above, in the preparation he goes through with Sydal when the match is “UP NEXT.” He keeps opening his eyes and trying to figure out what he’s supposed to do, because it’s all a sham. Just a couple of weeks ago, he was all in on his “breathing” and his enlightenment, even in front of folks like Sonjay. Just losing a prop title officially showed his true colors in this new gimmick. (I mean, his commentary already did too, but I’m on simply the physical actions part right now.)
What makes Sydal so stupid is how he has to see how Mathews is anything but enlightened, but he still buys in. What is centered about Mathews’ rants against Austin Aries and Petey Williams? Shouldn’t some of this behavior have triggered Sydal’s third (or even first or second) eye to see something was wrong?
However, it’s here in this Josh Mathews versus Petey Williams “match” where Sydal’s existence works, because it just acknowledges and accepts that Sydal is a hypocritical douchebag in the first place. He’s just as bad — and possibly even worse — than Josh Mathews here, and that’s finally acceptable. It was just getting to this part was less acceptable.
It pretty much would have made more sense if Sydal had just become an “enlightened” tool without the aid of Mathews, because it’s not like Mathews’ existence as a manager has stopped Sydal from speaking. It really, really hasn’t. But if it’s just Sydal himself, it’s then apparent from moment one that Sydal is a fake just hiding behind his “Namaste” and his “peace,” as opposed to an idiot who was conned and apparently now brainwashed. Speaking of the latter, assuming that’s what will eventually explain Sydal’s entire relationship with Mathews, what exactly would snap him out of it? Mathews being himself obviously hasn’t done that, so I assume it will happen if or when Mathews makes good on adding to his enlightened stable.
Regarding the actual match, the booking of the whole thing is best encapsulated by this quote from a random member of the crowd: “REF, DO SOMETHING!” There’s no reason Matt Sydal shouldn’t be banned from ringside almost immediately, and all this eventually leads to is the second DQ of the night … in the second match of the night.
As for Mathews’ wrestling ability, he’s been demoted from surprisingly competent (as he was in the build-up to Slammiversary) to hitting like a little kid and shrieking as he runs away from Petey Williams. And the thing about the Petey of it all is that Sonjay Dutt spends a good portion of his commentary about the guy talking up how they’re such good friends. Reasonably, Dutt should step in to try and even up the damn numbers game. But then there’s no one in the commentary booth. Because the commentators are for some reason also active participants in the show. Broken record, me, etc.
*“adjACE” = adjacent to an ACE. Absurd plays on words sometimes just come to me, okay? And yes, I was mildly amused at shrieking Josh Mathews. Get off my case.
ACE: I Love The ‘80s
I can’t figure out if I want to make the Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (have you ever realized just how much of that iconic movie is either a flashback or a dream sequence?) reference or the “San Junipero” reference (in which Melissa Santos is the Kelly to McKenzie Mitchell’s Yorkie). So instead I’ve just made both! McKenzie Mitchell’s weekly looks are the gift that keep on giving.
ACE: Trip McNeely!
Johnny Impact — or “Johnny Gorgeous,” as Sonjay Dutt insists on calling him — continues to be that perfect jock who thinks comedy is one of those things he’s perfect at. Holy crap, it is not. He literally starts making from of the “school freaks” for wearing make-up. No, he doesn’t call them that, but in true Luke Ward fashion —
— he’s definitely thinking it. Then he says this:
“Guys, again. Interrupting an interview. Showing up uninvited. McKenzie — meet the emo Kramer of the Impact Zone.”
You guys. Why isn’t KM around to laugh at every single one of Johnny Impact’s “jokes?” That’s honestly all that’s missing. Because in addition to being Luke Ward, Johnny Impact is also Mike Dexter. God, role model, a**hole. He’s all of the above, and this thing with Jimmy Jacobs truly highlights that. I love it. We should all love it.
Oh, and Kongo Kong is here too. Whatever. Unless his whole thing is that he’s a weaponized version of the poop monster version of Chet from Weird Science. Because that I can work with.
ACE/EH: Camp Hope
Somehow, this match is even worse than expected … and that’s even just ignoring Mathews’ commentary about fatness and Fox News. The crowd unsurprisingly only comes alive when Fallah Bahh is active in the match, even though this entire thing (of one whole week) pushed Tyrus as the leader.
I don’t want this to seem like I’m against the concept of an anti-fat shaming wrestling storyline: I’m not. But this is rushed, with weak talent on both sides taking the lead. Cult of Lee feels out of place, and that’s because there’s no actual line being made to the fact that they’re upset with the way Trevor Lee almost lost to Fallah Bahh weeks ago. But with that being the case, oVe should also be a part of this. It’s really not all that put together, and it can decide between being a fun little story or being a message story.
The two best things about this match (aka the reason for an ACE/EH split, somehow) are:
- Sonjay Dutt being truly anti-bullying, saying “the f-word” is banned in his household. (He means “fat,” but if you want to ban other f-words, go right ahead, Sonjay.) His demanding Josh Mathews not say the word and just be a decent person really helps this segment … though his own bullying of Mathews (whether he deserved it or not) makes things murky.
- Fallah Bahh getting the win by finally hitting his finisher. I told you all. Time for him to main event now, I guess. (Actually, no. I thought this would happen in a bigger deal match. So … back to zero, I guess.)
This entire match is Tony Perkis’ worst nightmare, really. It’s at least the second worst use of the buddy system.
EH: Structural Integrity
When it comes to wrestling, this is kind of a two-match show, even though the way the episode’s structured early on doesn’t quite make it feel like that. We start off with video packages, leading into a promo segment, and the first good match ends in chicanery. The “match” after that is all chicanery. And even balderdash! Then the “match” after that is an after school special where no one is likable. Okay, I lied: Fallah Bahh is very likable, perpetual confusion aside.
So the main event has to deliver. And it does … but at the same time, Impact Wrestling does that thing again where it calls something the main event, only to hype up a segment immediately after it. You know, the true main event. The good news is that there is no commercial break during the Demon’s Dance match. And it gets a good amount of time too. But the problem is, it’s not the main event, when it should be.
Plus, if the point is to keep people watching to see the rest of the WrestleCon segment they already saw a huge chunk of at the beginning of the match, it makes more sense to put it before the Demon’s Dance match. Otherwise, people are much more inclined to change the channel once it — which essentially counts as an extended video package — kicks in.
ACE: The End?
Here we go. No more indecipherable video packages and Jeremy Borash-produced segments. (Miss you, JB.) Just a little Demon’s Dance, starting right off with the bop known as Taya Valkyrie’s entrance theme. (Seriously, it’s a jam. So is Rosemary’s, but the GWN flashback gave me happy memories of the original Decay theme, so you know how it goes.)
The Demon’s Dance match is a solidly plotted match from beginning to end, which is something you don’t exactly think about when it comes to hardcore/no DQ matches. You have the early goings on of the match, where both women just try to finish it off as quickly as possible with attempts at their finishers on the entry ramp. It’s here we realize Rosemary has figured out how to avoid that Road to Valhalla on the top of the ramp (after taking it so many times). It’s also here where Taya should’ve done everything she could to put Rosemary away, because once they get back to the ring, Rosemary’s only concerned with hurting her.
Yes, Taya does some serious damage to Rosemary in the ring, but it’s all for the purpose of immediately finishing Rosemary off and pinning her. Rosemary, on the other hand, just wants to take Taya out after their encounter on the outside, and only goes to finish it after the piledriver through the table. By the way, kudos to Taya for the way she sells that move: Because she literally sells it like she died. Not like it knocked her out, like it killed her.
Seriously, that finishing piledriver is terrifying, but you can see on replay how Rosemary really took the brunt of the entire move in order to protect Taya:
Commentary appears to be under the impression that this is the end of the feud, but, like: It’s not, right? In theory, it should be. Rosemary overcomes, after finally figuring out how to counter the Road to Valhalla and losing the ability to reproduce, um … hivelings. (How is there no GIF of THAT spot?) This should be it. But at the same time, is this the episode of Impact Wrestling where you want to end this feud? The one where I end up making Cherry Poppin’ Daddies references? This can’t be it — but thanks to commentary, that’s the impression that I get. (Yes, I know that’s The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Don’t you ever dare assume I don’t know the difference.)
And now, it is your turn. Please don’t forget to share this recap and also comment. Do it for more very specific references to the ‘80s, ‘90s, and — if you play your cards right — the early ‘00s. Nothing before or after that, because I only do the cool decades.