Hello friends! Are you quite recovered from that picture of Shark Boy last week? I know I have definitely not made it my background for everything. Before we find out what delights await us this week, a few things first:
– Did you read the inaugural British Boot Camp 2: Commonwealth Harder recap? Quick spoiler: it has some kickass ladies, Rockstar Spud, and is so much fun I’m actually taken back a bit.
– Like, share, tumbl, tweet, email, and comment on this report. We love comments like I love vegan Chinese food – it’s the best and I miss it when it’s not around.
This week on Impact Wrestling: Kurt Angle is the actual worst, and I have proof.
Worst: Is it too early in the column to post a dismissive wanking gif?
Best, without irony: The Bromans vs. The Hardys
Okay, so this Best is really more of a mixed bag. I feel like this match is indicative of both how far each of these wrestlers has come in the past few years. To wit: where the hell did Jessie get that dropkick? How secretly good have the Bromans gotten at actual wrestling while everybody was mostly paying attention to their comedic antics? But I mean, I think that’s an acurate summation of Impact as a whole. All of these young guys killing it, being funny and pumping out good matches and having actual personalities while we’re supposed to care about Bully Ray’s Nice Guy Retirement Tour 2014, and clap and cheer for Tommy Dreamer’s stupid twitter pants. If everyone had fully functioning personalities operating within the same established universe, like EC3 or, well, Spin Cycle I guess, how much more would you be inclined to actually watch Impact, instead of read these reports or just watch all of the Rockstar Spud videos on YouTube (a thing you should still do)? And I mean legitimately giving them time and making them stars.
Even up until he left (with a championship lol), people were still complaining that AJ Styles wasn’t being given a proper push. TNA just “didn’t know how to use him.” That motherf-cker was goddamn champion, had multiple main-event storylines, and was a franchise player synonymous with the TNA/Impact brand. And yet he was still a sub-par player in the grand scheme of things, and his ass was still staler than day-old donuts. And yeah, you can say hey, Danielle, Bullet Club, but we all know we’d toss AJ Styles into the Pacific if it meant having Fergal Devitt back. Impact has never really had someone like that. They had Okada for a brief time, and they wasted him. They have all of these cool young dudes looking to scratch out a name for themselves, some who sadly probably won’t get to be new NXT darlings, but in the fandom that extends past Impact, is there really anyone people will get excited about? Do you think that John G. Wrestling who only watches Raw each week is like oh shit, I wonder what that Sanada dude is up to? Naw, man. It’s like when Pat Quinn was coaching the Leafs – we all knew he was great with the old guys, but a serious detriment when it came to developing young players. Mind you the Leafs management system was never really built to encourage young talent. Remember when they traded away Tukka Rask and kept Justin Pogge? Remember how well Rask did at the World Juniors, and that 53-shot shutout? Where is Pogge right now? Definitely not winning the G1 Climax for a second time, I tell you what.
The point is that we’ve got all of this happening kind of under the radar, but yet here we are, watching Matt Hardy compete in a ring on television on 2014. And it would be fine if he weren’t, you know…terrible? The thing about Jeff Hardy is that him jumping off of Matt’s back to do something pretty and flippy and kind of nuts is that it’s their entire partnership in a nutshell. Jeff Hardy, at the end of the day, is still Jeff Hardy. Remember what happened at Victory Road against Sting? Watching his matches leading up to those, especially during his feud with Mr. Anderson, it felt like a lot of the time his opponents were doing everything they could to avoid taking a bump and were just serving up bad matches. In retrospect we know they probably scared shitless at getting in the ring with someone so irresponsibly and dangerously out of it. But look at Jeff now. When I said I got that familiar twinge of excitement when he came out at the tapings and I got to see him wrestle for the first time, that says a lot. Had he come out at a show in say, 2011, I don’t think that would have been the same. With-It Old Man Jeff Hardy is still a million times better and more fun to watch than any of the other veterans because he just shows up, does his Jeff Hardy stuff, and that’s it. No fuss, no muss. Just swantons and suicide dives and finger guns, and you know he’s not high as f-ck and going to kill someone. I genuinely enjoyed watching this match to the point I kinda forgot that I was supposed to be the overly-critical asshole you people seem to enjoy. Taking someone out of that headspace and forcing them to just watch a match and enjoy it is so imperative to Impact improving, and when it happens, it’s the biggest compliment I can give them.
Matt Hardy is made of farts.
Worst: Jeff Hardy’s Intro/Catchphrase
Shouting MOUNT UP will make me want to do one of two things: A) Watch Young Guns and Young Guns 2 because I love them despite their weird but to-be-expected undertones of misogyny and orientalism, and B) listen to this on repeat for an hour:
I don’t have time to be on a mission to try to find Mr. Warren G Jeff Hardy I have things to do
You know who gets sexual gratification from cutting people’s flesh?
Serial killers, Bram.
ssshhhhhh shhhhhh it’s quiet time now
Worst: Team 3D’s music
Hey, while we’re talking about theme songs, how awful is Team 3D’s? It’s like Serg or whoever asked an intern which Dudley Boyz theme was the best one so he could give it the ‘ol Tommy Dreamer Dude in the Cube remix, and the intern shouted ALL OF THEM
Worst: Kurt Angle, sweetie, darling sweetie
Sweetie, darling, sweetie, no. What are you even doing. Kurt interrupts a fight between two hardcore dudes who want to fight each other in a hardcore manner because lord loves a workin’ man and Impact loves a hardcore fight in order to…make a hardcore match for later. Just ring the bell, Kurt. Seriously.
(this why you don’t trust whitey)
Worst: Brittany and Sam Shaw are still a thing
Brittany approaches sad Sam Shaw to pout and say that she hopes they’ll do what they talked about.
Lord I hope she means butt stuff because we do not need further advancement of this storyline.
Best: Low Ki’s voice
Sometimes I forget that he sounds like Christian Bale’s Batman and it is a delightful surprise every time
Gunner says he preaches “never leave a man behind,” and that he wants to “go out and prove we’re friends.” I should totally be all about that, but my goodness, this is the worst possible version of friendship-based wrestling. If Magnus was a paper champion, this is a paper friendship. Also, Gunner will never, ever be as great as this picture of Sad Dad covered in dogs:
I love you so much, Sad Dad. You don’t even know.
Worst: It wasn’t butt stuff
One of my favourite parts of attending the Impact taping that I did was explaining the entire Samuel Shaw-Brittany storyline to a lovely, rowdy drunk lady beside me. The look of abject horror on her face as I ran through both the Christy Hemme stalking angle and whatever the Brittany-Madison Rayne angle was, and then the whole PTSD = sexual predator aspect, was, in short, a thing I will treasure always. I know I’m constantly saying that half of what’s bad about Impact would be avoided if they just said it out loud to someone who doesn’t watch TNA, but really, just say all of it out loud to someone who doesn’t watch TNA because it is a joy. A horrible, terrible, no good joy.
Worst: Uhhh, so maybe it was butt stuff after all
All of this seems oddly familiar…
Ethan Carter III has acquired a “real” tag team partner, and issues a challenge to recently re-instated Rockstar Spud. To be perfectly candid I am still really sad that they’re not BFF Forever and have to fight and that Tyrus is wearing big chains and a backwards hat and not a bowtie like a legit hossed up Spud, but he’s so stupid good at everything it makes me hate him in the very best way possible.
(by that I mean I love him)
(when you love bad boys, you love bad boys 4 lyfe)
Best: Holy smokes a One Night Only I’ll actually pay to watch?
Veda Scott vs. Gail Kim? Pretending we’ve got BetaMax back?? Guyssssssssss I’ve been waiting for this since it was taped months ago I want it I want it now goddamnit
We can’t have nice things, can we.
Best: Havok, or Worst: Havok’s program
I get it. If I wanted to put someone over as a monster, and give her a real push, of course I would put her up against the number one Knockout. The problem is that the number one Knockout is kinda making things boring and also can’t put her over lean and has to lose with an injury? I love Havok with my whole heart, but I’m writing this paragraph while wincing in real life because I just want so much more for her. Ultimately I want more for women in wrestling in general, but this specific instance could be so good and it’s falling so much flatter than it has any right to.
Worst: Speaking of things I can’t care about
I had this huge mental paragraph about how the idea of “respect” is endemic of wrestling culture, and the idea that the worst version of this is letting veteran wrestlers just show up and wrestle shitty genre matches because nostalgia and influence and whatnot, but I can’t even muster that. This isn’t the Mr. Touchdown vs. X-Pac squash it should be, it’s a hardcore version of EC3 destroying the idols of TNA. it should be great in theory, but in practice it’s mind-numbing. This version has less velvet blazers and intrigue and more flagellation and Uncool Magnus.
Real talks: ECW is dead and gone and should be left in the past instead of paraded out for cheap pops. FMW was a huge influence on ECW, and in turn ECW still influences American promotions to this day. Wrestling has trends just like anything else. Someone who grew up on NWA matches, who idolzes Magnum TA or Dusty Rhodes could look at an influx of cartoonish WWF wrestlers and say no, that’s not what wrestling is supposed to be. But the territories died (well, were murdered) by progress and mainstream popularity. The Attitude Era, the Monday Night Wars, ECW – they all rose and fell. The PG Era kicked in, but so did indies trying to emulate the golden age of ROH. Now you look around and everyone wants to wrestle PWG-style matches. But there’s an ebb and flow to all of these trends, except ECW. It should be a testament the enduring legacy of Paul Heyman’s wee bloody baby promotion, but the problem is that the very best things about ECW do not exist in this modern-day context. One of them is actually dead. While PWG exists in a very specific context, that specific context either isn’t understood, or just doesn’t translate to outside promotions. It’s the same thing with ECW. Tommy Dreamer can show up in a pair of sweatpants and hit someone with a kendo stick and be hailed as a returning hero, but in any way does that compare to how Dreamer fans felt when Raven returned and they took the belts of off the Dudleys? Does it give you, ECW fan reading this paragraph, the same feeling as watching Tazz get eliminated from the threeway with Mike Awesome and Masato Tanaka, and the prospect of a brand new champion (and the then-emotion of no more Tazz in ECW)? It doesn’t. It simply. Does. Not.
TNA ignored the “adapt or perish” memo, got to the plateau of these gentleman’s careers, and instead of being like naw man, we’re gonna move in a different direction, they decided to set up camp. And how did that work out for them? We can speculate all we want about the future of TNA, but the cold hard fact is that if they go under, ECW alumni will be the hill they die on in a very literal sense. And I’m sorry, but in 2014 that just isn’t worth it.
Worst: Eric Young
Oh my god I know Spud needs to believe in himself but is Eric Young just physically incapable of meddling in other people’s affairs? There’s already a dangerous precedent set here. If he hurts Spud like he hurt Joseph Park I swear to god I will type so many sad and angry words on the internet at him.
Also, real nice job of calling Tyrus EC3’s boyfriend that is super chill and totally not casually homophobic of you A++ job, jerkoff.
Best: EC3 and Spud
Even if they’re fighting they’re still super rad and I love them both forever. They’re so important to my fragile garbage baby wrestling ecosystem DON’T RUIN THIS ERIC YOUNG I WILL DESTROY YOUR WORLD I SWEAR TO GOD
Worst: Kurt Angle
Literally go f-ck yourself.
Worst: Is it poor taste to also end the column with a dismissive wanking gif?