The Best And Worst Of Impact Wrestling 7/24/14: E-C-SCHLUB! E-C-SCHLUB!

Hi friends! I’m back from vacation, and ready to jump right into TNA Impact: Escape to New York. A few things:

– I wrote about my adventures in New England, overcoming personal fears, and attending the Chikara show in Boston last weekend. Check it out!

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This week on Impact: A wrestling legend, some hardcore legends, and probably more than one legend in their own minds.

Best: The Manhattan Center

Because I was away last week, Brandon got to take care of the report, but also get to certain observations first. I’m going to repeat one, though, because goddamn The Manhattan Center is pretty. I’ve watch a bajillion shows filmed there, and have only seen a few in person, but as far as wrestling venues go, it’s kind of the dream. If you weren’t alive/able to go to the Omni, or Korakuen Hall is an expensive, near impossible dream, The Manhattan Center is a much more accessible venue, even if you’re not fond of it’s history or the wrestling it currently houses. I am not particularly fond of ROH (as some of you may have gathered), but there’s an intangible quality when you first walk in, then see the empty ring. It builds a thrilling sort of anticipation, even if you’re pretty quickly let down once the wrestling starts.

Worst: My kneejerk reaction

Before this match got underway, I had already typed worst. That’s not a good sign. Everything’s gone so south lately that my expectations start at the bottom, with very little hope they’ll be exceeded. But I kind of enjoyed this? I shouldn’t, but I did. It was slow and plodding at times, and Kurt Angle is still A Terrible Person™, but it was also super goofy. Making MVP ride the guardrail like a pony? It didn’t look like it did any damage, but at the same time he made him ride the guardrail like a pony. The chair shots and fighting through the crowd are just pandering to the Hardcore Retirement Tour-theme of these tapings, but hey man, better MVP thrown into some comfy chairs than…well…we’ll get to that later. MVP doesn’t actually have to execute wrestling moves to be an effective part of this match, and Bobby Roode isn’t doing his constipated good-guy face all over the place, so yeah. Fun times. Weird, right?

Worst: The epitome of “not for me”

So…Matt Hardy, huh? I can honestly say I’ve been dreading this one for quite a while. I try so very hard to avoid spoilers, but when you know people who are at the shows, working or otherwise, and people are tweeting HURRR DURR HERE’S THIS THING THAT HAPPENED UHH SPOILER BTW, it becomes nearly impossible. Also, they taped so far in advance. Now, that’s fine if you’re in a rinky dink town somewhere, or the Impact Zone, or a place not a lot of people care about, but this is New York. It’s not gonna stay a secret. Brandon offered to do this week’s report again because he enjoyed last week’s show so much, and now that I’m remembering what happens, I almost wish I had said yes.

I don’t have nice things to say about Matt Hardy. I don’t like watching him wrestle. I don’t like when he claims legacies for himself that belong to at least five other people in a match. I am not even gonna go near what’s happened between him and Reby Sky. My two fondest memories of Matt Hardy are these:

MATT FACT 1) Once Brandon and I watched Matt Hardy eat pizza in the basement of the Manhattan Center.
MATT FACT 2) When he was a part of ROH stable SCUM, he would occasionally wrestle in other indie promotions. Sometimes promoters would place him behind other wrestlers on the flyer blocking out the S on his SCUM shirt and I am a terrible person who laughs every time I think about it.

I wish all of this time we spent talking in the ring had been replaced by either actual wrestling, or Matt xtremely innovating himself a new pair of jeans.

Best: The Wolves Get Fancy

They look like two groomsmen at the end of the wedding reception whose suits just got way too hot to wear on the dancefloor. Chances Davey Richards’ tie will end up around his head while he follows DJ Z around shouting for him to play Highway to Hell by the end of this taping: 100%

Best: DJ Z tho

Hey, we couldn’t sign Fergal Devitt, so here’s this guy you might remember from that one match against Devitt where he dressed up like Hitman, or from all of those times he’s worked for us in the past! WAVE OF THE FUTURE!

Low Ki is the kind of wrestler who’s really, really good to people who have a) never been shown good wrestling, and b) have never been shown a Low Ki match before. If you’re super new to who he is and what he does, sure, this match is pretty fun. Low-ki is kinda like Michael Elgin – if you’ve seen one match, you’re not going to be surprised in the next one. You can spot that Krush Kombo from a mile away. DJ Z, on the other hand, has really learned to play a punching bag well, and enhances opponents in the ring as opposed to being obnoxious and maybe also injuring them real bad. I’ll absolutely admit that I enjoyed this match because of him.

Also I like his glasses and they match my hair. Gold star for you this week, DJ Z!

Worst: Goddamn this commentary

Taz informs us that Low-ki wrestles a “fullspeed, full throttle style, like the style of Kurt Angle,” you know, “100% throttle all the time.” That is..a lot of throttle, Taz. It’s worrisome when you make drunk JBL seem like a coherent, intelligent commentator. Mike Tenay screams a lot of words at us in a clear, convicted voice, but none of them actually mean anything. Taz is a bumbling, homophobic, misogynistic old man who has maybe never actually watched Kurt Angle wrestle in TNA. Listen, the future is heralded in our ears!

Worst: Country Mouse Gunner

Gunner is capital S shocked to have seen a girl on the street wearing really high heels and a “big crazy hairdo.” Was…was it Christy Hemme? Is that why he and Samuel Shaw get along? This would have been perfect had they immediately cut to Mr. Anderson tearfully ripping up two matinee tickets for Kinky Boots that he had bought as a show of good faith in his tag team partner.

Double Worst: Missed opportunities

Since TNA loves swerves so much, now would have been the perfect time for Bram and Gunner to turn on their partners, team up, and then clear through the roster using a combination of unnecessary yelling and Bearded Twin Magic. I wanna see Gunner standing ringside shouting “BRAM JAM! BRAM JAM! BRAM JAM!” I want a match where Magnus puts a big X on Gunner’s arm in magic marker so he can tell the difference despite them very clearly being two different people. Maybe Bram could start dressing like a sexy lady baseball player. Maybe this suddenly got a little weird. But c’mon, you know you want at least five of these six things.

Worst: Option C


Worst: But no really, Option C

Loving this non-stop action that Kurt Angle has brought with him on his return to TNA! Now, let’s ignore for a moment the conversation about WWE stealing Option C and an angry POC stable (or having the hubris to see them and say hey, we could do that better) because borrowing and co-opting ideas is as old as wrestling itself. This is…this is brutal, man. You’ve got a glassy-eyed Kurt Angle grinning in the back like a gleeful toddler whose action figures just came to life, Austin Aries, who’s enraged resting state looks like a sleepy kitten, and MVP who…well, he’s honestly not that bad. He again makes salient points, but he’s the bad guy, so BOO. BOOOO “BIG WORDS” AND MOSTLY-COHERENT STATEMENTS. Bobby Lashley says one sentence, so remains the stand out performer.

Worster Worst: He wants the (option) D

Austin Aries claimed that he was going to change the equation, because I guess he skipped math class (and “Don’t Eat Cheeseburgers Where Fans Can See You” class) at Vegan Academy. The equation in this multiple choice question nobody asked was that the X-Division title holder can now cash the belt in for a World Title shot at any time, and not just once a year at Destination X. Sooo….what is the point of the X-Division?

The weight limit rule introduced to the NO LIMITZ division was never officially revoked, but it’s been broken, so it’s safe to assume that’s another thing we’re just supposed to forget about. The X-Division Championship is the oldest belt in TNA history, which is a thing that young up-and-comer Low Ki can attest to, having been in TNA during it’s inception twelve years ago. A division that’s supposed to highlight cruiserweight high-flying styles, one of the few things TNA gets right on a fairly regular basis, is now…what, a pit stop? Who’s to stop anyone in the company from barreling through and taking what they want? Now, I was one of those people who disliked Brian Kendrick but really enjoyed Abyss as X-Division champion, but only as a one off. Who wants to see an X-Division full of Gunners or Brams or Mr. Andersons or, goodness gracious, Matt Hardy? It seems like it would elevate the belt, but it kills the essence of the division, the celebratory spirit of a group of guys who get to be different.

Note: Please forget this paragraph should X-Division Champ EC3 ever become a thing.

Best: ILU Hot Mess

While it’s origins may have been silly, Gail Kim and Hot Mess had some a couple of throw-down drag-out matches that I loved. Silly me thought it would be the turning of the tide for the Knockouts, but Terrell got pregnant, and the division got more Russo stink on it than a ________ on a pole match. Terrell’s not the best wrestler in the world, and her running is hilarrrriiiiiousss, but the best part of those matches ws the effort; two wrestlers completely throwing themselves into what they’re doing, instead of, you know, whatever it is Velvet Sky thinks she’s doing in a ring. Nobody’s jealous over a boy, or stuck in a pseudo-queer stalker storyline. They’re just wrestling, and it’s great, and I wish every match were like this. Imagine if someone got her to stop doing that thing with her face, and got her to put that effort in under a teacher like Sara Del Rey? Oh man, she’d be unstoppable.

Worst: The Beautiful People

Oh, f*ck you.

Because this probably would have just been me finding a way to shoehorn MUTA MUTA MUTA MUTA PUT IT IN THE AIR MUTA MUTA MUTA MUTA MIST IS EVERYWHERE into a loving paragraph about a Japanese legend, here’s Brandon!

Best: The Great Muta

The Great Muta is the reason I’m a jerk about wrestling. Two reasons:

1. He was the first bad guy I ever thought was cool. I grew up watching the NWA, where most of the bad guys were rich buttholes or “monsters,” and neither of them were very persuasive. As a poor kid in Virginia you don’t really see yourself ever limousine-riding or jet-flying, but you know people like that and they’re horrible. Monsters are monsters. You don’t need to know more about them … they’re scary and they do mean stuff. Muta was f*cking cool as shit.

The NWA wasn’t afraid to get all JAPANESE PANIC about him and say he’s from “the land of the Rising Sun” or whatever, but here was this athletic, backflipping ninja in an ornamental helmet and facepaint who could kill you with karate but also with MYSTERIOUS POISONED GLANDS. The guy would jam his fingers into his throat and as a kid that means oh my God, this man does not have human biology, he is excreting poison from his throat glands and it will BURN OR BLIND YOU. That was AMAZING.

2. Because he was so cool, I had to know more about Japanese pro wrestling. That got me into tape trading. When I was nine. So by the time I entered high school and the nWo started making the cooler people in my class think they should talk to me about wrestling, I was already into head-dropping 90s All Japan and Michi Pro. I learned and absorbed too much too fast. If it hadn’t been for Muta, I might’ve waited until the Internet was around like regular people. Who knows if I would’ve ever gotten into it the way I did if Muta hadn’t shown up when I was still in elementary school?

So yeah, seeing Muta anywhere doing anything makes me happy. I react to Muta like many people react to Hogan. Who cares if he’s mobile or able to put on a good match … if he’s able to do the dragonscrew (big boot) and throw a shining wizard (leg drop) and spray some mist (cupping his hand to his ear), I’m good.

Best: Plan B. James Storm ALWAYS Has A Plan B!

The Satan/Satan’s Young Boy pairing of James Storm and Sanada doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense to me, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy seeing Sanada grow a pair (of integrity glands) and wreck people. A Seth Rollins chair to Muta’s back was all well and good, but that moonsault was a glorious f*ck you.

I like James Storm as the Sean O’Haire “I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know” gimmick done right. The drunk version, I guess.

Worst: The Inaugural Where Are They Now Street Fight

Ohh, I want to like this. I am trying so very hard to like this. I know we make fun of Taz and Tenay for saying YOU KNOW WHO THIS IS or HEY I KNOW WHO THAT [person in loose-fitting clothing with their face partially-fully obscured] IS! but it happens SO MANY TIMES during this here, your main event of the evening. Tommy Dreamer’s Not Quite Man In The Box (we’ll call it Fellow In The Crate) music and Keep Calm parody shirt add subtle hints of sadness and desperation to the strong fragrance of old man nostalgia.

We talk often about how TNA sets the bar so low so often, that anything with even a hint of merit suddenly becomes the greatest thing ever, and that sentiment is this match personified. I still stand tall in my belief that EC3 and Spud are great, and the Dudleys get some fun spots in, but that’s it. It’s not fresh or intriguing, or even fun enough to be a throwback classic. It’s Bully Ray not letting go of a grudge where he’s in the wrong. It’s retconning Devon’s history by him simply being here. And also someone’s cool dad. It’s the same thing you see on old Hardcore Justice DVDs, or reunion shows with Extreme in their name. The same parade of guys you liked once during a very specific time period going WHAZZZUP and doing signature moves around younger wrestlers who are only there as filler.

In soap operas (and now wrestling writing) you’re supposed to have five conversations about one thing, but I think we’ve well exceeded that. And you know what? I am really tired of having this conversation. Bully Wants to put Dixie through a table, and has been trying for months, but to what end? She’s been neutered when it comes to power over the company and the roster, he’s a terrible person who has done horrible things with no comeuppance so revenge shouldn’t be a thing we’re seriously discussing, and thanks to his past history of physical a verbal abuse towards women, all of it is steeped in violent and dangerous misogyny. But what, Tommy Dreamer gets to yell and pose in the Manhattan Center one more time, so it’s cool?

Come on, guys.

Worster Worst: Ezekial something and…Gene Snitsky?

The only possible explanations:

1) nobody told the agents that Bully Ray and Brooke Tessmacher’s baby was a fake, and they planned to go hard on booking one very specific piece of wrestling nostalgia.

2) Bram, Gunner, Mike Knox, and Snitsky are all set to star in a TNA original production of The Parent Trap 2: Double Twin Trouble.

Wait. Wait. That’s why Bram is from “the camps.” It’s where he met his American twin Gunner! Oh man, so instead of thwarting a second marriage, they have to stop Dixie Carter from selling shares to a secretly evil investor played by MVP. They find this out because MVP is the one threatening Knuxxy’s family’s carnival. All four of them band together, but soon learn that it will take more than toilet-papering his office in the stairwell to thwart MVP’s plans. Oh my god oh my god why isn’t this a real thing.

Spoiler alert: Parent Trap 3 featuring Bobby Lashley and Ezekial Jackson trying to bring their dad Ahmed Johnson out of retirement never made it past the script stage due to severe budget concerns. Oh, and also because it turned out to be super racist.