Hey friendos, it’s Impact time again! This week marks the first show from a four-day taping in Bethlehem, PA, so settle in ‘cuz that means we’ll be here for like a year and a half. Some pre-show notes:
– Like, comment, share, tumbl, and tweet this report. Let’s have a conversation, even if that conversation is “man this show is kinda real bad.”
This week on Impact Wrestling: So many title challenges! And lots of talking about those challenges! It’s…challenging!
Worst: What’s the point of you, Austin Aries?
Unlike a lot of the things I say about Austin Aries, I’m not actually saying that to be mean. I genuinely don’t know. Here’s what I said last week:
A guy cocky enough to refer to himself as the Greatest Man Who Ever Lived should either be the full-on asshole he was when he was stealing people’s movesets, or rolling out of the ring and putting on sunglasses, OR taken down a peg and proven to be a weenie in a velvet circle cape.
Aries comes out to talk about how great he is at everything, and ponder aloud over what title he should he challenge for. Should he take on Gail Kim? No, because he’d get his ass beat and a legitimate intergender match in TNA scares me to my very core. Should he take on The Wolves in a two-on-one handicap math for the tag belts? No Austin, that’s not how that works. Should he challenge for the X-Division title? Why, because you couldn’t get it done for the big one and you know you can easily walk off with it OH NO SAMOA JOE WUH-OH
It’s not really a big wuh-oh, though. Samoa Joe says he’s the best, toughest, most fighting-est champion in the company. Which makes sense when you’ve had two title defenses compared to Bobby Lashley’s all of them, right? In fact, Samoa Joe couldn’t beat the world champion when he challenged him. So what is this based on? If we’re tuning into the show for the first time, and only know Samoa Joe from that bygone age of ROH, we’re gonna believe that. But if we watch the show each week and pay even the slightest amount of attention, the only thing either of these two dudes have proven is that they’re just a couple of losers pissing at each other in the dark.
Best: The #AustinsDecision hashtag
I guess I’m okay with him giving Samoa Joe the rose. It just feels like Davey Richards never really recovered after whiffing it so hard on that group date.
Worst: Samoa Joe accepts
I’m really confused by what Impact is doing lately. To be fair I’m often confused by their decision making, but the context put over every match is especially perplexing. Everything is about honour and respect and how much everyone likes anyone who isn’t black. Uh, I mean, MVP and his friends and other heels (no I don’t). Homicide and Samoa Joe respect each other. Bobby Roode and Eric Young respect each other. All of the tag teams respect the others. Everybody respects everybody else, so the matches feel hollow, and the “respect handshakes” are infuriating. I was at one of these tapings at it was still happening, so we’re in for so much more of it so far into the future.
Ethan Carter and Spud have a logical storyline and a reason to either wrestle or be put into matches against other people in the name of what they’re feuding over. James Storm and his lackeys are part of a revolution, and while that revolution still makes no sense, at least they have something more going for them than YEAH I LIKE YOU DO YOU LIKE ME GREAT LET’S FIGHT ABOUT IT. Gail Kim and Havok get a feud, but before she showed up, Gail was still doling out respect handshakes to Taryn Terell left and right. Nobody but me cares about the BroMen.
The problem with this is that the underlying reasoning is to say hey, look at how great all of these people are. Talent recognizes talent. We have a locker room of all of these dudes who are just so good they can’t even be mad at each other after one of them said they wanted to murder the other’s infant children. And it’s so boring. This match, for the X-Division title between two dominant wrestlers of the past, is so boring.
Austin Aries spouts off about being the greatest X-Division champion of all time, Joe wants to wrestle, and they do. But to what end? Austin Aries was just in the main title picture. Is he getting taken down a peg? Does this make Samoa Joe look strong? I mean, the match itself is Samoa Joe trying his hardest to avoid taking any bumps and just getting slapped a bunch, or just backing into the turnbuckle. He goes to the outside and he still lands feet-first. It’s slow, it’s plodding, and it’s empty. They’ve got no motivation in any sense of the word.
Just pissing at each other in the dark.
Best: Rockstar Spud
So here’s the thing. If you are active on the social medias, you should be following Rockstar Spud. I’m not just saying that because he’s delightful (he is), but he’s one of the only wrestlers I’ve seen find a near perfect balance of kayfabe and real life. In fact, some of the best storytelling we’ve seen from Impact lies in the tweets and re-tweets of Rockstar Spud.
Last week I mentioned that Spud was wavering in his loyalty, and re-tweeting those who showed him any support until Ethan Carter III told him not to. If you’ve paid any attention at all, you’ve probably seen Spud tweeting quotes like this:
Hopeful, right? Then consider this series of heartbreaking re-tweets:
The last one hurt my heart. Not to be outdone, EC3 even got in on the action:
In the past few days, Spud has also taken to telling the story of their friendship, from the moment they decided to be best friends, to that one backstage segment where he fixed Spud’s bowtie and gave him a peptalk and it was so precious it almost killed me, up until the real TNA TURNING POINT of their relationship. But prior to the show he remained steadfast in the idea that it could all work out:
We all know I love Rockstar Spud. We also know that the friendship between Spud and EC3 has been the lifeblood of my fandom to a degree not seen since Joe Park and his thinking stump. I am the saddest person in the world at this but I also understand that this is seriously some next-level type stuff. Guys, Spud is literally telling the story of their entire relationship from its inception via Disney quotes how is he not your favourite wrestler on the planet what the hell is wrong with you
Worst: But no really, it’s really happening :(
Best: The Toilet Store
Remember when the cool thing was to act like EC3 and Spud were awful and I was super dumb for liking them? Man, you goons sure must feel awful right now. You know else feels awful? Me, because my heart is breaking. And it’s awesome.
This is pretty much a master class in turning face. And the best part? Everything makes sense! It makes so much sense I’m gleefully typing when all I want to do is engage in some light, violent sobbing.
Spud has been an emplyee this whole time. A Carter family sycophant. A wormy little assistant who, at first, was inclined to server whomever would take him the furthest. But it was also clear that everything he had done in the past just didn’t work. The bad boy Rockstar act, always sticking his tongue out. There was never really a place he fit into until he started working for the Carters. Over time he developed a real love and kinship for EC3, because let’s face it, how can you not. He’s cool and wears velvet blazers and is full of logic and – aside from the one weirdo retconning segment with Brooke Tessmacher that was so completely out of character it probably shouldn’t even be considered canon – he’s the only one who’s been consistently kind and caring towards a female character. It’s kind of like wanting to be friends with Reggie once you realise that Archie is a poor, waffling, immature weasel. The two of them together made it easy to root for them, even if they were clearly supposed to be the heels. Together they were funny and went on adventures and had adorable backstage segments, and how could you possibly hate them after that?
But now it’s clear. EC3 is still distraught over the humiliation and assault of his aunt, and all of the hired guns who were supposed to protect her failed. He jettisoned Ryklon and Snitsky, and Rhino is back in his crate until the next House of Hardcore show or whatever. Only Spud remains. Spud and crushing reality.
EC3 points out that guys like him just aren’t friends with people like Spud. People who read comic books and watch wrestling. People like us. While we may not be able to relate to being friends with guys with trust funds and off-peach pants, we can all empathize with the little guy being picked on and bullied for doing things we also like to do. If you didn’t have any kind of connection to Spud before, EC3’s practically handcuffed an entire fandom to Spud. And Spud is brilliant. Where EC3 excels at being the entitled douchebag he’s been the whole time, just a more cruel, amped-up version, Spud is transforming. He’s showing it in his tweets. He’s showing it in his face and his body language. The deference to EC3 in the beginning, the abject humilation of the one thing that easily identifies – his suits – being destroyed. It’s dramatic and engaging, and it’s everything that’s missing from everything else that happens on Impact and why, side by side, EC3 and Spud are streets ahead of everyone else.
Worst: Speaking of Archie, I guess…
To an extent, this also makes sense. Eric Young acknowledges that he’s been a lackey before, and he knows what it’s like to be kicked around and not taken seriously. I’m still going to worst it, though, because oh my god get out of my over-dramatic non-erotic friend fiction you stupid jerk. Eric Young is the worst friend you could have. Remember what he did to Joseph Park? Remember how I have to refer to him as “remember Joseph Park” because he’s not around anymore, primarily thanks to the “friendship” of Eric Young? Remember how all he did was try to personally shame MVP, Lashley, and Kenny King by using their pasts and their families against them, and he was the good guy? I mean, he’s not on Spud’s side for a full five minutes and he’s already getting him dropkicked in the face.
It should be a best because Eric Young, despite having kayfabe brain damage, can acknowledge that he still hates the Carter Family, and his beef with EC3 is still in keeping with what happened in the past. But he’s still the worst kind of babyface in that everything he does is dumb and mean and awful, and as much as I want Spud to have confidence and believe in himself and understand how awesome he is, he’s just moving from one shitty guy to the next.
It’s really hard for all of the faces to be cool guy cool friends who respect each other in a way that makes sense when Spud is the only legitimate good one in the bunch.
Worster Worst: If you can remember all of that…
Where the hell is your wife?
Best: Havok. Always Havok.
That’s right, Stiffler. Look upon her and despair. Hee!
Worst: Damnit, Gail
I am super into Havok just brutalizing the Knockouts roster. I am also okay with Gail Kim valiantly defending her title and standing up to the big scary monster who is just plowing through everyone. There’s already enough of a dynamic between these two that Gail doesn’t need to be given an injury to “bravely” fight through, or to be the blame if she loses. I thought we were rid of Hogan?
Worst: The “Wooves” Decide, or Best: My mom loves EC3 and now she’s watching Impact on her own
I’m gonna let her handle this one:
Worst: Brandons With Attitude
Best: SHARK BOY!
Shell yeah this is a best! Ahhhhhhh I just love him so much. I may or may not have marked so loudly that I woke up my cat. Aside from the opening match, and Eric Young making this face, I am all about the show thus far. Like, if you’re gonna give me a dumb jobber squash for sperm-headed Manik (that’s MRA spelled backwards!), at least it’s someone I like in a match that I was almost able to fully enjoy. TJ Perkins might be a real toolbag, but I can’t hate this match. I can hate that I’m still not clear on what Storm and his little Storm Clouds are revolting against, and I can hate that Sanada is covered in a hood and facepaint now that I’m kind of legitimately smitten with him, but I can’t hate this match.
Worst: In case you were missing it, here are two guys reminding you of how great there
At this point is giving them another run at the belts adding to their legacy, or just poisoning the market?
Worst: Anderson vs. MVP
Once again, I’m going to let this unsolicited text from my mother sum up this match:
So remember all of those glowing words I wrote about Spud and EC3 and their ability to build an emotional connection that forces you to invest in the story they’re trying to tell? This is the literal opposite of that. Why the f-ck am I supposed to care about Bobby Roode? Why? Because he likes people? Because he hurt his knee and lost? Waahhhhhh. All he’s done is say that Lashley isn’t good enough. Lashley wasn’t good enough, but he beat Eric Young clean on multiple occasions. So then Roode said hey, that guy is the best wrestler in the world, but you haven’t beat me so you suck. Then Lashley beat him. And now oh, your knee is why you lost? Oh my god you giant whining pissbaby can you be likable for two seconds, or at least try to give us a reason to think you deserve a shot at the title?
As seen above, MVP totally nailed an impression of me during this segment.
Best: HAIL HAVOK
I’M JUST SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW
*deep breaths* Okay. Here’s the thing. As I mentioned before in previous columns, I adore Jessicka Havok. She is one of my real-life very favourite wrestlers in general, let alone females wrestlers. But consider the reaction people are having to her. There are some douchebags out there (f-ck you, Tommy Dreamer), but people love her. My mom, a non-wrestling fan who previously had only watched the end of an episode of Impact (and spent most of her time fawning over EC3 and making fun of Gunner), is completely enamored with Rockstar Spud, and Havok. She’s a beast. She’s confident and strong and beautiful and everything women appreciate in other women. She’s supposed to be a bad guy, but watching someone portrayed like that is also what speaks to girls at a formative age, and encourages them to feel like they can be whatever they want, regardless of their looks or their size or their station. This is the best opportunity to have a legitimate role model, regardless of being a face or heel, on Impact Wrestling. It makes me happy. It makes my lady friends who love wrestling but have struggled for years being bullied or teased or condescended to by male wrestling fans happy. It’s a tiny scrap of something that we can hold onto that means more than we could ever put into words. It’s why NXT is lauded and Velvet Sky is a sad joke. It’s why people still wish that Kharma would be back on Monday Night Raw. It sends a message that a woman can be a dominant force in wrestling and main event a show and be every bit as good or better (in this case better) than her male counterparts. It’s what the future should be, and why we fight so hard and are so critical of people who refuse to let it happen.
Oh my god they’re gonna f-ck it up so hard, aren’t they.