Hey cool kids, what’s up? Are you ready to find out what happened between Spud and EC3 and maybe also other stuff I guess? Rad, me too!
– Before you read this report, be sure to get caught up on the Q&A we did with Ethan Carter III. It was amazing, and the idea that Norv is the illegitimate love child of EC3 and Helga is now my forever headcanon.
– Like, tweet, tumbl, comment (early and often!), and share this post with everyone you know. Don’t think they’ll enjoy TNA? Show ’em a bunch of Spin Cycle videos and then the thousands of words I’ve written about how awesome all of those dudes are.
This week on Impact Wrestling: I’m with Spud! Are you with Spud? Why not, are you a jerk or something?
Worst: Lose the ‘toode, Roode
Having been to Night 2 of these tapings (which I guess we won’t get to for like three months), it makes some things a little hard to sit through. It’s not necessarily the knowing what happens part of it – Impact shows are still wildly predictable – it’s the knowing how much longer we have to sit through storyline build. If there were a more creative driving force behind Bobby Roode wanting his title shot, then whatever. If people are truly great at what they do, they can stand in a ring and talk for fifteen minutes and I’ll still be sad when it’s over (‘sup Spud!). Now, I’m not saying Bobby Roode isn’t good (or goode?) at what he does. Of all the people standing in the ring, I would absolutely point to him and say yeah, that guy has proven he can be fun and engaging and put on great matches.
The problem is he’s not.
Everything motivating him is the same thing we point to in John Cena as being the worst thing about him. It’s that butthurt sense of entitlement that makes him think he is always and forever deserving of title shots. Oh, you have a thing happening with my boy Eric Young yeah well he’s real good BUT I’M BETTER GIVE IT TO ME. Throwing a tantrum and making grabby hands at the title doesn’t prove anything. The idea that one is more deserving than another is highly debatable, however if you’re a face character going up against a heel that technically hasn’t really done anything, you need a better stance than “whatever I want it give it to me.” If you put one thing at the top of your company as the pinnacle of achievement, I’m pretty sure everyone in the company wants it just as much you do, Roode. Maybe you should work on acquiring some perspective?
Worst: Kurt Angle
And why isn’t Kurt Angle doing anything about this? Why is he egging this on instead of being like y’know, fair is fair, you lost your chances, maybe let some other young wrestl-haha I got through so much of that that sentence without breaking. But the point is still valid. I mean, if Abbas Jadidi went up to Kurt and was like “listen bro, you’re good, but I’m better so I’m gonna need to take that gold medal now,” there’s no way Kurt would take him seriously. If Jadidi then went to the IOC and was like “hey guuuuuys, I know I lost, but I think I’m really good and deserve it more than Angle” they wouldn’t be like “oh you know in your heart you’re better? Okay cool cough it up, America Boy.” That’s not how real-world competition works, and it’s not really how wrestling competition works. Look, I’ve watched a lot of USA Guy videos, and I’m pretty sure the American spirit is not about having stuff just handed to you. Or…at least on paper.
I know. I know! But when he lists off all of the people who have been given chances and lost cleanly, including Bobby Roode, then he’s just saying the things that I say and I have to give him a Best.
Also a minor Best for not just throwing the mic down and being like “nope I can’t deal with this get somebody else” when Roode accused them of riding around with Bobby Lashley feeding him grapes in the backseat(???). Unless one of the writers is sneaking pages of their erotic friend fiction into the script again, that’s a little, y’know, weirdly specific?
Best: The Bound For Glory Series, or Worst: What happened to the Bound For Glory Series?
Hey, remember that? That was actually a lot of fun. I’ve always spoken pretty highly of the idea, and not including it this year was actually pretty upsetting. I mean, it was a built-in opportunity for fresh matches between unlikely opponents that were forced to make sense given the context of the competition. It gave house show matches meaning outside of “James Storm puts popcorn down someone’s trunks,” “Everyone makes fun of Rockstar Spud’s penis,” or “Earl Hebner is a weird, horny old man.” Yikes…whoever keeps booking those probably has some deep-seated sexual issues, but still. If Roode wants the title so bad, he should have had to clear through a dozen wrestlers to get another shot.
We only get so many good ideas from TNA, and this one should have stuck. It was a fun thing, and I’m sad it’s not a thing anymore. Oh man, remember when they accidentally gave Crimson too many points and had to have him taken out due to injury so Bobby Roode could win? Goddamn I love the BFG series.
Worst: The Knockouts #1 Contenders Match
Oh, my poor Hot Mess. She tries so hard. This match is…exhausting? And I say that when there’s a Bram match on the card. Or not even exhausting, really. That implies that it could hold your attention enough to make you still put in the effort of paying attention. The Knockouts have so many problems right now, and I want them to be good, and I want Hot Mess to work with people who are going to put as much effort into it as she does. But Madison Rayne looks like she’s wrestling under duress, and I feel like I’ve typed enough words about Angelina Love and Velvet Sky for you to know how I feel. I mean, I know this is building to something, a) because I paid attention to the match, and b) spoilers, but the thing it’s building to still isn’t that great. If you’re going to have these ladies interact with each other, they need to have some commonality. If they’re all so afraid of Havok, why are they still fighting for a chance at the belt, only to run whenever they see her? Are you afraid or not? How is she gonna be any less scary with a bell ringing first?
I feel like with the Knockouts division – if this is it, and we’re not adding or removing anyone from the roster – they need to remember the “Yes, and…” principle of improv. The “Yes, and…” isn’t a statement of acceptance, it’s acknowledging what’s happening within that moment, then taking that opportunity to construct a new scenario rooted in the one before. It can even go beyond that by the simple agreement to match or mirror one’s tone, intent, or physicality in a match. It gets everyone on the same page, drives continuity, and adds sense to situations where there is none. “Yes, and…” helps you support the wrestlers who are with you, and by making an effort to understand their intent you can then have a believable disagreement.
You know, maybe they should all just book a company retreat to The New Movement and give us more than one segment a show to look forward to.
Best: I bet that left a Hot Mess in her pants oh god no don’t say that ew no
Taryn Terrell f-cking ate that like a CHAMP. Spoilers or none, if I don’t get my Hot Mess-Havok free-for-all I’m gonna be the saddest girl since EC3 didn’t get a title shot against Magnus. Gail Kim-Havok is fine, but when Gail isn’t around, I’m not wishing she were on TV. I missed Hot Mess every episode she wasn’t there. That’s not…a great thing for the number one female star in your company. I’ve seen Gail Kim put on some incredible matches, and Kim-Awesome Kong delights my heart in a way that’s usually reserved for Manami Toyota’s murderboots, but I don’t have this overwhelming need to revisit it. If they put on a great match, perfect, I love it, kudos. But it’s not a specific showdown I hope for each week.
I know Hot Mess isn’t the best, but I say each and every time I have to write about her that the effort she puts into a match makes me want to see more of her, and it makes me want to see her put up against opponents she might not necessarily have a chance against. I want her to be given those odds to overcome, even if those odds leave her a broken bloody pile of chewed up body parts in the middle of the ring. You know she’s gonna try her very best to not be turned into a quivering meat pile, even if that’s definitely her fate. That’s the magic of having someone look like they actually want to be there. Kim doesn’t. Rayne doesn’t. And that’s the point of of it all, right? Without any kind of emotional engagement these big-boy panty fights are useless. It would be one thing if everyone were putting on matches like Dean Malenko, but his emotional enthusiasm is not a thing you should be striving for.
Worst: Wait, what?
So this is a thing that’s happening, I guess? You know, after all that build we had for it. I’ve messaged like four different people just to make sure that I, the person who watches and analyzes Impact every single week, didn’t miss something.
Is it because pigeons are one of the handful of bird types who don’t need to be quarantined upon entry to Japan? Like, that’s it, right?
Worst: I still have no idea what is happening
No bloody idea.
Best: YES PLEASE
Totally not super understanding what James Storm is revolting against aside, I am super stoked to watch this. I am somehow super pumped for Bound For Glory in general, and it’s not just so that I can make the BFG joke that I’m hoping Jessicka Havok will stick her finger in Velvet Sky’s belly button to make her disappear completely. I want to see EC3’s match the most, but I feel like these four, if they work a non-TNA match, could be more off the chain than Bobby Roode’s entrance theme. Time to go against the grain, dudes. Open the gates, I’ll watch you run towards your new freedom. Redemption, heal these men!
Lord that theme song is rough.
Best: But no really, this match
Best: Low Ki and Tigre Uno vs. James Storm and Sanada
Yessssssss, this is what I want. This is the kind of match that should preface BFG, and also the kind of match they should always be trying to have. I like how it was paced, and I was for real into James Storm. When Storm and Low Ki tagged in my brain went “ugh no ABORT ABORT Kitty get back in there!” but it turned out really well. The Wrestling of the Asshole Cowboy James Storm should consistently be like this. Just brutal and ruthless. Wrestlers change allegiances so often in TNA, but rarely do they remember to change their style of wrestling along with it. If you’re suddenly a heel, wrestle like a dickbag. Your wrestling is an extension of who your character is supposed to be, and if the matches are the only things people see, the difference between Face You and Heel You shouldn’t be indecipherable (*cough Mr. Anderson cough cough*).
This match had me giggling and clapping like a toddler during an episode of Octonauts (or…me during an episode of Octonauts)(shut up they’re adorable and there are so many puns), but it also makes me even more jazzed for Sanada and Storm against Tajiri and Muta. I want James Storm to keep going with this. I want him to tell Muta and Tajiri that he’s mad they already live in Japan and didn’t have the chance to die in a plane crash in the Pacific on the way there. That he’s glad Hiro Matsuda died so he couldn’t see how far the “Great” Muta had fallen. Just full-blown Terrible Person™ who makes fun of your dead heroes and kicks your face off for funsies. There’s gonna be so much mist and kicking and oh my god the more I think about it the more excited I get.
Pro-tip: You should be trying to make me feel like this about all of the matches, TNA.
Hilarious Worst: I learned it from you, Gunner!
Samuel Shaw is mad at Gunner. He’s so mad it makes him take off his shirt and reveal to Gunner that he got a bunch of tattoos just like him. This retconning of Samuel Shaw’s tattoos only works if you
a) didn’t see him get Gut Checked and completely forgot about all of the time he spent wrestling in board shorts with a tribal Superman tattoo, and
b) if you pretend that one night they were sitting around in Gunner’s basement full of American flags and pictures of him and Sad Dad in front of even more American flags, and Gunner was like “Boy, you know what are great? Unreadable tattoos. You know what they are, but the enemy can’t tell. And that’s how it should be. This is America! You want another beer?” And then they watched, I dunno, Hail to the Chimp or something while Shaw googled nearby tattoo parlours on his phone.
The first assumes we’re stupid and have the memory of goldfish, and the second is delightful and what I’m now going to consider canon.
Best: Barely Legal Bram
See, it’s a play on the name of those ECW pay-per-views because this is a pseudo-hardcore match, but also because Bram’s outfit gives him the effect of wearing sexy knee socks, and makes him look like a naughty babysitter trying to seduce an overworked step-dad.
Worst: This isn’t going where I want it to
I really want this to end with Shaw telling Gunner that he’s done with him, and Bram is his dad now. He could call him “Fun Gunner” (‘cuz he’s Funner!). Their celebrity couple/tag-team name could be “Bramuel.”
Also, how disappointed are you that Bram’s parents don’t do special Throwback Thursday Instagram posts of their son called “Raisin’ Bram?”
And how much more disappointed are you that Magnus and Bram aren’t a pair of secret cat burglars whose tag-team name is “British Steal”?
Worst: Bobby Roode vs. MVP vs. Kenny King
Best: MY HEART
IT IS BURSTING RIGHT NOW
This is it. This so good. These two have been so consistently fantastic for long I am legitimately running out of nice things to type and Sailor Moon heart-eyed gifs to post.
Haha joking I always have nice things to type.
Every week I dread writing about Impact. I love that I have this opportunity, and when I really think about it I don’t hate TNA. I can complain and whine and make jerk-off motions all I want (and I do!), but the weeks Brandon and I switch, I’m sad that I don’t get to write about it. It can get really depressing when you have storylines like Shaw/Hemme or Bully/Tessmacher, but as problematic as almost everything on the show can be, it’s still a super dumb show I love. I’m not being facetious when I talk about the BFG Series Crimson Cafuffle of 2011 at the beginning of the report. I’ve seen some terrible things, but also had a lot of fun at every TNA show I’ve been to. TWO signed 8x10s of Gunner live in my house. I don’t watch it because I hate it and want to tear it down, I watch because I want it to be as good as it’s proven it can be. The Knockouts Division can be a draw, and not just for dudes who want to buy Velvet Sky cum towels and yell that Jessicka Havok is a man. There’s a small period of time where even Mr. Anderson was entertaining. Putting on a great wrestling show isn’t some impossible pipe dream. Sure, there are always people who will be dissatisfied, but “some people like us and some people don’t” shouldn’t be the pinnacle of TNA’s aspirations. Brandon’s the Raw Guy, and I fully accept and don’t actually mind that I’m the Impact Guy. It can be boring or offensive or nonsensical, but it’s my boring, offensive, nonsensical show. I don’t want to be so negative all of the time, but I also believe that removing critical voices from the conversation doesn’t help any wrestling company learn or grow or adapt to changing trends in either the industry or society.
There’s one thing that I’ve been able to count on for the last year, and that’s EC3. When Spud went from drooling sexual zebra to eager sycophant, it was a match made in heaven. Dixie Carter hit her stride as the affluent, sassy matriarch of the show, and Magnus got hella cool, but these two were the anchors. Anything they did remained consistent within the characters they were playing. Even Spud being a tiger or a lion. That pre-dates British Bootcamp. That’s…incredible. That either of them could maintain who they set out to be for this long is virtually unheard of on a show where authority figures flip-flop like Eric Young taking a bump, and even tattoos are retconned. Just think about that for a second. Think of every person on the TNA roster who had an established gimmick, backstory, and multiple in-kayfabe interactions with other people. I mean shit, we’re STILL waiting to get that for Tigre Uno.
Their friendship carried us through some dark times. Even though they’re dirtbags, they made us connect with them. They have fully formed personalities and function within a fully developed universe that remains untouched by everything around them that changes. MVP can usurp Aunt D, Angle can usurp MVP, Bully Ray can undergo a complete overhaul of what he’s been doing for years, but they remain the same. They still react logically in-character to things that have changed to the point of making no sense (again, Bully Ray). As unlikely as their friendship was, and even though EC3 has flat-out said that Spud is only his friend when he’s doing his job and letting EC3 push him into conflict on his behalf, we could still love them together. I own this t-shirt. I believed in their friendship. BFF FOREVER!
But they’re not BFF forever. They can’t be. Spud is still the plucky underdog who took his best chance at being someone important in a company where everyone stood over him (physically and figuratively) and didn’t take him seriously. Spud didn’t believe in himself, he believed in the Carters. Spud was not a whole person. Ethan Carter III is a Carter. A one-percenter. He isn’t friends with the hired help. He doesn’t take Helga out for a ride on the Carter family yacht (Total Nautical Action) unless it’s to give him a massage after he’s sailed out to international waters to eat illegal dolphin steaks or something.
But Spud is learning. He’s growing. He’s learning to show some of the same respect he gave to the Carters to himself. He’s not going to be thrown away like a piece of trash, because he now believes in himself.
Boy howdy does he believe in himself!
This isn’t one of those times where Alicia Fox or whomever shows up to work and gets handed a post-it that says BTW YOU’RE A HEEL TODAY K? This is a fully realized story being played out in front of us. Think of it this way: if every person in TNA had a supercut of all of their actions in the past year, how would it look? Would they make sense like if you were watching a movie, or say, a wrestling show with a sequential narrative? Naw, man. They wouldn’t at all.
Spud and EC3 are so important to me, and to the show, and to the very idea that long-term continuity in wrestling isn’t totally impossible. They’re the biggest Best I can give each and every time (except the one that we don’t talk about). This is why, at the end of the day, I’m totally fine with being the Impact Guy. I can make jokes and accept that it’s bad most of the time, but I can also show people videos of either of them and have them start to tune in each week to find out what is going to happen. My friend Ariana (whose opinion I respect more than anyone else basically ever) went from not watching Impact in many years, to being excited to watch these two each week, and absolutely furious with EC3 for treating Spud that way. And again, that is so, so important. This is what I want TNA to be. This is what I want all of my wrestling shows to be.
Them and James Storm wishing people would just hurry up and die already while Sanada stands beside him wearing really tight t-shirts.
I want all of those things.
Best, I guess: FULL METALLIC MAYHEM
This was…good, I guess. I dunno. It’s really hard to wrap yourself up in something after a segment that’s as good as Spud and EC3. It really is. But…it was good, I think? I enjoyed it, I think? I know I laughed a lot at Davey Richards’ attempts at selling injuries, and bless the heart of the person who slipped him a note that said LADDERS AND TABLES = OW. There were a lot of ridiculous spots, and the grand finale of what we’ve been taking forever to get to actually felt just that: grand. I think I would feel like it would have had a lot more TNA IMPACT had it not been a play at nostalgia based on a build of nostalgia that was kicked off by a massive display of respect and nostalgia.
When we went to the Impact TV tapings last month, there was this wonderful little moment when Jeff Hardy came out. I’m really spoiled, really REALLY spoiled when it comes to seeing wrestlers I love. I mean, I saw Liger wrestle five times in a year and a half. I’ve been in the same room as Manami Toyota. I bonded with Tanahashi over watching Kamen Rider on YouTube. I’ve gone to great lengths and sometimes a wee bit of debt to make these things happen. Those are insane experiences I treasure, and I’m thankful I’ve gotten to have them every day of my wrestling-loving life. I want to go to all of the wrestling shows and see all of the wrestling, but the number of wrestlers I would lose my sugar over is dwindling because my remaining heroes are dead or joshi legends that just stay in Japan. I’m not saying these things to brag, I just need you to understand the context of the sometimes incredibly stupid choices I make. All of that said, when Jeff Hardy came out, I got excited. I’ve watched and loved so many of his matches for so long. Every time I’ve had the chance to see him he was getting arrested or in rehab or not being allowed into Canada, but for all of the boneheaded things he’s done, he’s still that Jeff Hardy. That tug of nostalgia is a valuable thing.
That said, you can’t rely on that for every show. I mean, given the scope of their careers, there’s always going to be someone in the audience who is seeing the Hardys or the Dudleys for the very first time, and I’m happy for every single one of them. Every time Jeff Hardy takes off one of his stupid pantyhose sleeves and gives it to the person who loves him so much they’d willingly go out in public dressed up like him is the kind of thing that makes me a little misty, because you know that is going to be one of the most important moments in that fan’s wrestling life. But for people who watch the show every single week, the reaction isn’t going to be the same. You’re not putting on a weekly televised wrestling show for someone who loved the Dudleys-Hardys table match from the 2000 Royal Rumble and decided to get tickets because Impact was taping nearby. If you’re putting on a good television show, that person with the Jeff Hardy face paint is still going to feel just as special, and the person sitting at home snarking at their keyboard isn’t going to be so goddamn sick and tired their wrestling show be week after week of putting these dudes on a pedestal, pointing upwards and shouting LOOK AT THESE GUYS DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN THEY USED TO DO STUFF WITH LADDERS HERE HAVE TWENTY LADDER MATCHES TO JOG YOUR MEMORY.
Nostalgia is a thing that should be handled sparingly with kid gloves, but your weekly wrestling show should be the thing you care about the most.
I’m still laughing at Davey Richards pretending his back hurt, though.