– Hi all, Brandon Stroud here filling in on a very special edition of the Best and Worst of Impact. I’m going to be on the road on Thursday night and Friday day, so Danielle will be switching with me and covering NXT. Lucky girl.
– Your shares, likes, comments and other Internet Things are appreciated. #SharesHappen
Please click through for the Best and Worst of HARDCORE JUSTICE. Sorry in advance.
Worst: First Of All, It’s Called ‘Hardcore Justice’
This is my third-favorite Impact Wrestling pay-per-view, behind TNA SEXY PATTYCAKE and TNA MEET MADDEN. That’s, uh, the one where they let Mark Madden do commentary.
Seriously though, ‘Hard Justice’ made it sound like a bad cop movie, and ‘Hardcore Justice’ makes it sound like a camgirl. It doesn’t help when your company’s name is TITS AND ASS, so your full show name is TITS AND ASS HARDCORE JUSTICE. They should find a way to call their Knockouts pay-per-view YOUNG CHEERLEADER SWAP N’ SWALLOW.
Best: A Fun Garbage Wrestling Match If You Turn Off Your Brain And Mute The Crowd
Larry from ‘Three’s Company’ should face Mr. Roper in a STAIRWAY TO JANET match.
So, okay, the gimmick of Hardcore Justice (besides making me sing “Hardcore Justice” to the tune of ‘Hardcore Country’) is hardcore matches. Just a bunch of hardcore matches. A night of extreme rules, one might say. In TNA, hardcore matches are generally 10-15 minutes of guys slowly setting up props for other guys to jump through. Early on in the match, a guy suddenly starts bleeding when it doesn’t make sense. If you like that, this match was pretty great.
Objectively, I kinda like what they’re doing with Bram. Abyss is so much like Kane that he’s got Kane’s “neutered, couldn’t hurt a fly” vibe, so establishing this new crazy dude who will show up to hardcore matches in his underpants and go through barbed wire boards is important. How much does Abyss have left in the tank, honestly? Did Abyss ever buy a tank? Bram’s got WWE developmental training, the perfect boring look TNA loves and the ability to fall onto a bunch of sharp shit and smile about it. If that’s marketable anywhere, it’s in the roving Impact Zone. Plus, seriously, f*ck Abyss. Everybody beats Abyss. He went from being the most compelling character on the show (Joseph Park) to being a fatter X-Pac in a Groot mask.
Worst: TNA Hardcore
I’ve probably written about it before, but “Janice” is so dumb. It’s a board with a bunch of nails in it. Getting hit by that should be INSTANT, BLOODY DEATH. If you’re going to have a Stairway To Janice match, this is how it should go down: it should slowly build and build using the idea that the wrestlers are bloodthirsty, but also terrified of what might happen to them if they don’t grab Janice first. Somebody pulls down Janice, boom, five seconds of gore and we’re out. The end.
I’m not advocating somebody taking a nailboard to the forehead, but I’ve seen hardcore wrestling. I’ve seen Tournaments of Death. I follow Big Japan as closely as I can without getting light tube dust in my eyes. If you’re gonna swing a nailboard, swing a nailboard. Don’t half-ass it. Gimmick it to death if you want, but at least put enough effort into it to create a substantial, believable-if-you-blink visual. Nail to skin. That should be the only time someone bleeds in a Stairway to Janice match, and it should be ALL THE BLOOD. It’s a weapon horrifying enough to demand its own gimmick match, right?
Instead, we get a match featuring ladder bumps, MULTIPLE barbed wire boards and a spot where Bram blades because he HIT THE RING STEPS WITH HIS SHOULDER. Just straight across the forehead on a steps bump. If hitting the steps busted you open, John Cena would be a bloodbath after every match. Then they break out thumbtacks, which are basically nails minus 100% of the damage, and do a bunch of moves onto them. By the time that we’ve bled everywhere AND stabbed each other with sharp objects, Janice gets pulled down so that we can … not bleed and NOT stab each other with sharp objects!
Like always, Abyss misses with his swings and gets hit in the stomach. Bram grabs Janice, slowly presses it into the baggiest part of Abyss’s shirt, and Abyss kinda flops over to the side holding his gut like he’s been kneed by Alistair Overeem. If you get hit in the stomach with a gigantic board of nails, your sell isn’t “oof, I’m gonna throw up,” it’s “OH GOD MY INTESTINES ARE FALLING OUT OF MY BODY SOMEONE PLEASE HELP.” It should be terror and exploding bloodpacks and prop horror movie guts everywhere. I don’t care. If you’re booking a HIT ME WITH A BOARD WITH 100 NAILS STICKING OUT OF IT match you’ve already gone bonkers. Go all of the bonkers.
Worst: Everyone On This Show Is A Horrible Person
“Hey Bram, congratulations on winning your match!”
“thanks bro it was tough”
“So hey listen I wanted to let you know that NOBODY OUTSHINES MAGNUS, I’M GUNNING FOR YOU”
“SAY IT TO MY FACE”
“Anyway, take it easy. You coming out for drinks later?”
“Maybe, gotta check and see if Velvet Sky’s had her life threatened today, if not, sure, why not?”
“Hahah what a bitch”
“I know, right? All the women here are such bitches.”
“And the men.”
“Oh definitely the men. The men are definitely bitches. Super bitches.”
“WAIT A MINUTE I’M A MAN, WHO ARE YOU CALLING A BITCH”
“I’M CALLING YOU A BITCH. I CALLS EM LIKE I SEES EM”
“hey what time is it”
“like 9:30, why?”
“shit, hang on, I need to make a phone call.”
[makes phone call]
[Bram patiently waits]
“Hey mom? It’s Magnus. NOBODY OUTSHINES ME, BITCH, I AM THE CHOSEN ONE”
(Or whatever he calls himself.)
Best: Speaking Of People Who Can’t Stop Calling Other People Bitch
Ethan Carter III and Rockstar Spud show up in coordinating outfits with coordinating Johnny Bravo haircuts. EC3 says that he spent his time in prison contemplating who was responsible for the attack on his Aunt and decided the blame lies with Rhino. Now, Rhino had a lot of logical responses he could’ve chosen here. “Uh, Bully Ray?” was one. “Why didn’t you spend your time in prison figuring out what POSSIBLE REASON you had for being in prison?” is another. “Are we gonna stop doing these shitty wrestling arrest stories now that Ferguson’s happening or what” is a third.
Instead, Rhino’s response was written by Bart Simpson’s cursing toy from ‘Lisa The Greek.’ “Shuddup, shuddup, kiss my butt, shuddup, go to hell, go to hell!”
EC3’s response is to slap him in the face and beat his ass. It’s WONDERFUL. When situations like this happen (especially in TNA), the default is “the most famous guy wins.” I kept expecting Rhino to just pop up and gore him, but nope, we got a fully realized, strong adult Ethan Carter III handling his business. Rockstar Spud tries to be a peacekeeper and gets shoved on his ass, giving us a great, dramatic STAY WHERE YOU ARE point from Carter. It’s the same kind of relationship that made Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez so human and identifiable for a while … one guy is clearly the alpha male, but he’s complex enough to like the toadies he keeps around. They’re HIS toadies, after all.
The next six weeks of TNA should just be old ECW guys showing up, saying SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS, BITCH and getting beaten back to whichever Pro Wrestling Syndicate show they crawled out of.
Best: LOL TNA
Best: Smojo vs. Lowli
Samoa Joe vs. Low Ki was the best match on the show, because of course it was. I have a soft spot for the big indie wrestling stars of 2002-2005, and these guys were two of the biggest. They could have a serviceable match in their sleep, and that’s more or less what they did here. Nothing groundbreaking, nothing that would make me call up my friends and say DUDE, WATCH THIS SAMOA JOE VS. LOW KI MATCH, just very good, very time-specific pro wrestling.
It’s interesting to think about how those big 2002-2005 stars should be the top dogs in pro wrestling right now, but are already being usurped by the 2007-2010 crowd. Samoa Joe and Low Ki are slumming it in TNA. AJ Styles is the IWGP Champion, but his run (aside from his killer performances in the G1 Climax) has felt very much like “bring over the American guy and have him pretend to be the nWo.” He’s gonna end up the Global Force Champion and nobody will take him seriously. Bryan Danielson reached the mountaintop, but now he’s hurt and might not ever come back. CM Punk reached the mountaintop, but now he’s butthurt and might not ever come back.
Meanwhile, who are WWE’s next breakout stars? Dean Ambrose. Seth Rollins. Cesaro. Sami Zayn. Guys who had to pick up the slack in ROH when guys like Joe and Low Ki and Danielson and Punk left for greener pastures. It blows my mind to think that Samoa Joe will never get a run in WWE, but that Tyler Black is gonna be WWE Champion. Maybe the big companies really DO know more about wrestling than us, huh?
Worst: I Hope The Samuel Shaw Action Figure Comes With A Freestanding Piece Of Guardrail
Mr. Anderson is backstage and answers a question about Gunner in the only way he can: by remembering some aspect of a catchphrase and repeating it over and over. This is called “mic skills.” WHAT DO I THINK ABOUT GUNNER? I THINK GUNNER KNOWS SAM SHAW IS A CREEPY BASTARD. HE’S A CREEPY BASTARD. SAM SHAW KNOWS HE’S A CREEPY BASTARD! At least he’s stopped saying “asshole” three times per sentence.
The best part is that Sam Shaw is somehow the only person who overhears this conversation, and he takes offense. From, uh, behind what appears to be a ringside guardrail. He hops the guardrail (literally, he hops over it) and starts brawling with Anderson, only to get thrown back INTO the guardrail. This is when we find out that it is a freestanding piece of guardrail, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Why is it there? Why did Shaw have to go over it if it was clear on all sides? Why is it the only thing he got knocked into?
It’s admittedly a throwaway detail, but another example of the kind of thing TNA doesn’t even come CLOSE to thinking about.
Best: Christy Hemme Is Pregnant
The woman who cannot say the word “following” is having a baby, giving me an opportunity to say she’s “foaling.” TNA handles it with grace, mentioning it in passing in an onscreen graphic and prompting Mike Tenay to monotonously tell us to go to FitPregnancy.com for details. CHRISTY HEMME CHILDBIRTH BROWN BAG SPECIAL.
I hope TNA turns it into a storyline and says Austin Aries got her pregnant when he put his dick in her face.
Worst: The Problem With TNA Theme Shows
Hardcore Justice starts off with two guys going through barbed wire and stabbing each other to death with nails. That’s followed up by two guys stiffing the shit out of each other. That’s followed by a slow, weak “I Quit” match which is mostly Mr. Anderson making puke faces in a headlock while the ref’s all OH THE HUMANITY DO YOU GIVE UP.
That’s the problem with TNA theme shows. It’s just too much. There’s a reason why people do one cage match or one hardcore match on a show … otherwise you burn out the crowd with the concept, or you become one of those WWE Active polls where you present the exact same thing three times in a row and think it’s different because you changed the name. Up first is a cage match! That’s followed by the Six Sides of Steel! Later on we’ll be having an XSCAPE Match, and then a STEEL ASYLUM, and then a MONSTER’S BALL MATCH! And yeah, they’re different, but no, they’re f*cking not.
If Mr. Anderson and Sam Shaw are gonna work a slow, old-timey, PG submissions match with Anderson’s slug ass sandbagging everything, maybe don’t put it on the same episode as similar, better stuff? Like, I’m not really buying Shaw being in peril in an armbar when 20 minutes ago Abyss was getting his liver punctured by a hobo weapon.
Worst: Did You Know We Are One Of The Greatest Tag Teams Of All Time? Here’s A Helpful Brochure That Explains Our Position
Good: The Hardys, The Wolves and Team 3D all respect each other and want to be TNA Tag Team Champions, so they’ve agreed to face each other in a series of matches to see who’s the best. It’s simple, effective, will lead to a lot of fun matches and cuts out the omnipresent “I ATTACKED YOU BACKSTAGE AND HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR LOVED ONES” Impact middleman.
Bad: None of this matters. None of it.
I mean, nothing really matters in WWE either, but at least they usually put enough space between their moments to give them significance. Remember when Bully Ray was the Big Bad of the company? Remember when Devon lost his job because he was a key member of a biker gang that was ruining everything for everyone? Remember how much of a personal issue Bully Ray and Jeff Hardy had? No? Because now they’re old WWE chums who love each other and just wanna put on fun wrestling matches for the people. It’s a less obnoxious version of the old Vince Russo “that’s all fake, but this is REAL.”
It’s all built around reputations earned in other companies. Reputations that they will NOT STOP TALKING ABOUT. Remember a few weeks ago when TNA landed in NYC, and the ECW guys spent 20 minutes talking about how important ECW was? Then EC3 showed up, and they went “WE DON’T TALK, WE FIGHT!” And you were like, “shit, have you been FIGHTING for the last 20 minutes?” That’s happening here. These men of total nonstop action cannot stop SAYING they are great. They have a meeting backstage and everyone’s all “we are the greatest tag teams ever.” The Hardys come to the ring and say “we’re one of the best tag teams in history, and we got back together to show that we’re the best tag team in the world.” That brings out Team 3D, who confirm that the Hardys are one of the best teams ever and add that THEY ALSO are one of the best teams ever. The Hardys agree. They bring out the Wolves, and the Wolves explain that they are okay having a match because the Hardys and the Dudleys are the BEST TEAMS EVER. It’s like, f*ck, guys, I get it. And every time they pause at the end of a sentence, Mike Tenay chimes in to explain that WHAT THEY MEAN TAZ IS THAT THEY ARE TWO OF THE BEST TEAMS EVER. WE’RE GONNA FIND OUT WHICH OF THESE TEAMS IS THE BEST TEAM EVER. DID YOU HEAR WHAT THE WOLVES SAID, TAZ? THEY SAID THE HARDYZ AND TEAM 3D ARE TWO OF THE BEST TEAMS EVER.
In my brain, this segment ends with Sam Shaw reenacting the theater scene from Inglourious Basterds on them.
Worst: Mike Tenay
Just to throw this out there, Mike Tenay’s still the worst part of TNA in a walk. Worse than the racism, the kidnapping, the violence against women, the dumb wrestling decisions, all of it. The guy cannot stop brutally explaining everything that is said or done. James Storm could say “I like the color red,” and before he’s done Tenay will already be saying THE COWBOY JAMES STORM SAYING THAT HE LIKES THE COLOR RED. It’s stupid. Anderson and Shaw are trying to have an I Quit Match built almost exclusively around hearing the wrestlers talking to each other and on microphones, and EVERY SINGLE TIME someone’s got a mic to their face being asked to give up, Tenay’s yammering over it about whether or not they’ll say they quit. Shut up, dude, we’re trying to watch the wrestling.
Commentary is just that … commentary. You comment on what happens. It’s not a noise track. You aren’t gonna lose your job if you let us hear the crowd or the sound of what’s happening in the ring.
Best: The Least Satisfying Installment Of MILF Hunter Ever
1. Dixie Carter is great, and I’m happy they gave us a reason why she doesn’t just wheel her fine ass into the Manhattan Center and fire everyone. She’s been humbled, but she’s already starting to plan her revenge. That way they can keep her off TV as long as they’d like and focus on something else without us having to ask “Where’s Dixie?” They can bring her back whenever they want.
Spoiler alert: Dixie’s revenge will involve a faction of wrestlers, including a few you CAN’T BELIEVE HAVE SIDED WITH DIXIE. The inmates are running the asylum, hoo boy!
2. Mike Tenay looks more and more like The Worm from Labyrinth ever day.
Worst: The Kidnapping Of Sanada
As concerning as the whole “white guy kidnaps a minority and stores him in a shack with a bunch of nooses outside” thing is, here’s what bothers me the most: James Storm’s big plan is to make Sanada the new Great Muta. He’s calling him “The Great Sanada” and he’ll be “revealed” next week.
Serious question: Sanada is a young guy from Japan who loves pro wrestling. If you wanted him to dress and act like Muta, couldn’t you just stop him in the hall and say “hey man, you should dress and act like Muta?” He’d probably do it. It’s like asking Edge if he wants to dress up like Hulk Hogan and do the Hogan poses. Why would he need a mean-spirited cowboy to brainwash him? Is the Great Muta’s secret origin that Stan Hansen took him out for drinks and stiffed him on the tab?
Best: The Finish To The Knockouts Match
First things first, calling your division “Knockouts,” putting them in a match where the goal is more or less to knock your opponent out and then calling it “Last Knockout Standing” is really hilariously complicated. To win the match you should have to TKO someone so they’re out on their feet, but not knocked out enough to fall down.
Second things first, I’m giving this match a Best because they went home when they should. That’s a big problem in not only TNA, but in wrestling … if you build to a big moment, that’s your big moment. Don’t feel like you always have to keep escalating. Gail basically Samoan drops Angelina Love off the ropes onto a chair, and it’s SOLID. They give the crowd a minute to let it sink in, then Gail gets up before 10 and wins the match. That’s the way to do it.
Worst: Velvet Sky
The entire match is a 2-on-1 handicap match. Velvet helps Angelina do everything. Then, when it’s time for the finish, Velvet just stands at ringside making upset faces and pawing at Love’s arm while Gail stands up and wins the match. Hey Velvet, shouldn’t you … I don’t know, run in and start stomping Gail so she doesn’t win or something? I don’t think you should be out here at all if you aren’t gonna factor into the finish (or get “taken out” by Gail in some dramatic way to ALLOW the finish), but what’re you doing?
Worst: Let’s Ask The TNA Universe What They Thought About Real Women’s Wrestling
Worst: Who Will XSCAPE?
The main event of the evening is a SIX SIDES OF STEELS match where six people compete to prove they’re worthy to be TNA Heavyweight Champion by being able to run away and stop wrestling better than anyone. For me, the highlight of the match was Austin Aries wearing his cape-shaped cape instead of that round one that looks like he tied a bathmat around his neck.
To give the match a proper review, here’s regular Impact columnist Danielle Matheson’s mom. No, really.
Guest Review: My Mom
As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, Brandon has taken over the Best and Worst for this week, leaving me to take a much-needed break to do things like write the NXT report, or spend some time at my folks. Yesterday, after putting my eight year old brother to bed, my mom consented to watching the last twenty minutes of Impact. I don’t know if she just forgot all of the times I’ve complained about it, or if she just had a genuine curiosity about what I write about each week, but we watched the main event, and it was…well, definitely like watching a main event with your mother.
On Bobby Lashley: “Did something happen to his head? Does he always make that face?”
On Eric Young: “He punches like a baby.” “Fake punch! Fake punch! Fake Punch!” “Oh, that doesn’t even look believable, he’s just holding his legs for him.” “Why is he punching that guy you said is British! We’re practically sister countries. They should stick together.” (Apparently I have my mother’s nose, and also her opinions on Eric Young’s wrestling))
On Magnus and Bobby Roode: “Which is the British guy? You can’t even tell them apart. Why do so many people look the same?”
On James Storm: “Ew, why does his hair look like that?” “Oh my god, look at his chest! Does he have implants? Boys can get chest implants. He did, right?” “I don’t even know how that guy can hold him by his hair, it’s just too greasy. He needs to wash his hair.”
On Austin Aries: “Why does he run like that?” “Does he have some little person in him?”
On Gunner: Nothing. She didn’t even notice him.
The best part, however, was seeing EC3 in the Shop TNA commercial. I pointed him out and said I was sad that she missed him, because he’s pretty much the best thing about the show. This lead to creeping through his Instagram, calling him “A well-built boy,” making a face that mothers shouldn’t make in front of their kids at his lats, and this amazing Twitter conversation she wanted me to continue but I refused because mom, no.
I am super not kidding when I say moms love EC3.
Maybe I should get her to fill in for me on Monday nights.