Sports

The Best and Worst of Impact Wrestling 05/09/13: Where Everything’s Made Up And The Points Don’t Matter

Hiiiii! I’m happy to see you all again! A few things before we get going:

-If you missed the Wrestling Is Cruel Summer preview show with Robert Newsome, Kobald, Jervis Cottonbelly, and myself, you can rewatch it here. I also encourage you to watch 1-900-WRESTLING-IS from the Wrestling is Fun Cruel Summer iPPV. You should watch the iPPV itself, but the backstage show hosted by Billy Kumohara and Jervis Cottonbelly is aces. Just top notch fun. The Baltic Siege singing a Backstreet Boys song is the thing you want the most that you never knew you wanted in the first place, and there’s a gratuitous amount of Dan Yost. You have zero reasons not to watch it.

-You can follow me on Twitter here, With Leather here, and UPROXX here. Like this on Facebook, tumbl it, tweet it, or whatever else you kids are doing with the socials media these days. Is Tout still a thing? Lol of course it’s not.

This week on Impact: 20 points are on the line! Angry words are spoken! A seventeen hour gauntlet match! Joseph Park! Exclamation marks!

Retroactive Worst: The first 10 minutes of last week’s show

Last week was the busiest week I’ve had at work in a long time, and our busiest of the year. Dealing with screaming children and screaming parents unfortunately left no room for screaming wrestlers. At this point you can pretty much guess how I felt about a show without Joseph Park, and a show where Hulk Hogan shows up, ignores canonically established stipulations, and puts Sting into a title match despite everything that happened at Slammiversary. Spoiler alert: it was not favourable. Despite all of that, the thing I took issue with the most was the opening of last week’s show.

The segment starts off innocently enough. Bully Ray appears confused as to how they could have let Aces & Eights win, and goes down the dwindling line of club members one by one trying to figure it out. Just when you think solidarity and friendship-based wrestling will prevail, NOPE. Bully Ray takes the easy heat and blames his brother, saying that he’s always been a disappointment. Devon has always been his co-star and sidekick, and…oh. Oh, that is not whaazzzzzzup.

Okay. Here’s where I admit something I never thought I would say: I don’t want to see Aces & Eights break up yet. Whoa, I know, right? Where did this come from?

For all of its stalling and convoluted twists and turns and shouting and more shouting and even more shouting, some really good things have come from Aces & Eights. The January 17th wedding episode, which, sadly, will be remembered more for Brooke Hogan’s tits falling out than it being one of the best episodes of television TNA has ever produced. There was a chance to inject some humour into the bit players: the relationship between DOC and uhh, Knuxxy, as I guess we’re calling him now. The smarmy sh-ttiness of Brischoff. Reuniting Devon and Bully Ray was a mark moment pure and simple, and that’s the only reason what Bully Ray is doing now works on the crowd. All of this could have elevated Aces & Eights to greatness. Bully Ray had moments of honest vulnerability, and as I’ve said before, in those moments he’s the best he’s ever been. Like with anything TNA ever attempts, the potential is through the roof, but whether it’s fear or just downright stupidity, it’s nipped in the bud and relegated to yet another reason people deride TNA.

Shouty delivery aside, it’s because of these glimpses of potential that what Bully Ray is doing right now works. It sucks and I don’t care about Tito Ortiz, but he’s getting a reaction. People love the Dudley Boys, and seeing them together touched that nostalgic part of our heart that makes us want to see the things we love come together and be the things we love again. Insulting him and going against everything we have been led to believe about their relationship makes us throw that away and turn on him, because how dare he play us for the fool for loving and believing in them both for so long.

Bully Ray is a man so consumed by his title and position that he’s become delusional, turning against his club and his own purported flesh and blood for a guy who looks and sounds like an animate potato and a lady who can only keep her finger out of her goddamned mouth long enough to creepily refer to him as “daddy.” Giving Snore-tiz his own cut (Devon’s old one, to add insult to injury) and bypassing the rigorous hammer-wielding, Kurt Angle-assaulting, stripper gauntlet patching-in process AND without consulting the rest of the club first firmly sets the stage for his ousting. He can point the finger of blame at everyone else, yet his refusal to live up to his bad bad reputation and do anything about AJ Styles before he reached the ring to assist MEM, and his blatant inaction during the entirety of the match, is just as much, if not more to blame than Knuxxicles or whoever. It can be believed that he’s using the MMA-fed machismo of Tito Ortiz, and the painted-on overt sexualization of Brooke Tessmacher to compensate for his impotence as a leader, and, given their recent losses, the heel stable overall.

Obviously the most hilarious and ironic aspect of this mutinous fury is the fact that Mr. Anderson is the most vocal against the flippant introduction of Tito to the club, yet he did the least to be able to join. He was offered the position, wooed with women and libations, and took their invitation mostly because he just likes being an asshole, and until MEM, Aces & Eights were realistically the loosest asshole on the show. Now, here’s where we can infer that the trials and tribulations of the club are what kept Anderson around; what started as a lark turned into genuine camaraderie. He learned the Christmas Miracle meaning of brotherhood and friendship in a weird, leather-clad, ride-or-die spirit. But this is just an inference. It could also be said that it’s all a front, and this is a Machiavellian power play to put himself in charge, but again, this is just an inference. We’re given enough scraps to make any of this plausible, but really, the only thing we get are his wonky angry faces and the sad missed opportunity in a later backstage segment to point out that “this is not a democracy, it’s a beerocracy.”

When you look at their entire run as a whole, the execution of most of what has happened has been wretched. When you think about the core storytelling that has happened, though, it’s actually kind of brilliant. In retrospect, on paper, everything works. Missed opportunities to further develop club dynamics aside, this embodies the most frustrating thing about TNA (well….okay, one of the top ones). The intent is there, and there’s potential underneath it all, but it never gets there. It’s the Sisyphus of wrestling shows: they push a person or an idea up and up and up, and just when you start to believe they’re finally going to reach the top and have a successful breakthrough, we have to watch it plummet back down to the very bottom. But yet here we are, week in and week out, waiting for that boulder to go back up the mountain, believing that this time, this time, they’re really gonna make it.

But no. Bully Ray shouts stuff and is just going through the motions again. Hulk Hogan has done the best work of his 300 year career during this story, but has gone from near-Shakespearean levels of pathos to going the familiar Hulk Hogan charicature of himself, just BROTHER-ing and shouting stuff. Even Tazz has had standout moments. On commentary throughout this segment, he’s trying his best to back up Bully Ray’s decision and support his club president, but the sudden shock and sadness in his voice when he points out that it’s Devon’s vest being given to Ortiz? Tazz showing emotional depth and giving me a legitimate pang of sympathy is like trotting out a real life unicorn. And yet….overall it’s still somehow not good enough. We’re still just going through the motions to get to the inevitable.

As much as we’ve trudged through the depths of Wes Brisco wrestling, beer bottle hand jobs, nonsensical plot holes, and as much baby oil as they could possibly rub into DOC’s skin, we’ve seen greatness shine through. We’ve been so close. I, for one, want to reach the top of that mountain (before Jeff Jarrett does, natch), and that desire and belief that we might one day get there is what will always let me down in the end. That’s why this gets a worst. That’s why “perfectly adequate” and “Magnus” just aren’t f-cking good enough. I can accept the inevitability of things going awry and the warm embrace of assured disappointment, or I can keep pushing forward in the very definition of insanity and say no, I’m sorry, it’s not good enough, you can do better. We all know they can do better.

So why doesn’t TNA?

Worst: Uhh…

Maybe we could pan that camera back a little? Like maybe, I dunno, Columbus?

Best: Joseph Park

I love that he is an Impact Wrestler, but still represents proudly Park, Park, and Park. Because of course I do. Joseph Park is a treasure, and my life is better with him in it.

Worst: Bangin’ it an bangin’ it and bangin’ it

Just like last week, there are enough seemingly compelling things to read into that this should be a best. Also, everybody hugs. I love hugs more than Temple Grandin. I am the Ferran Adrià of wrestle hugs. The Bo Jackson of warm embraces. I should be popping like a Christmas cracker over all of this, but….ehhh. It’s so close. So close.

Brooke Tessmacher starts her journey of uselessness this week by strolling to the ring like a Vanna White robot who got her programming scrambled, all flailing presentation gestures and forced smiles.

Bully Ray is quick to assert that the club is stronger than ever. He hugs everyone, pumps them up, and intimates that everyone is the very best of friends (and also maybe they all sleep with Tessmacher? I dunno. That was awkward and weird). He gives Tito Ortiz the most “my mom thinks I’m cool” pep talk a grown up dude could give another grown up dude, because of course everyone is just jealous, and of course all of the ladies want to ride the Ortiz Express to Pleasureville, population just us gals.

I guess this lends credence to my thoughts last week that Bully Ray is just a scared dude in over his head, desperately clinging to a club that is crashing down around his ears. The tougher he acts on the outside, the less confidence he has on the inside. It’s working, to a point, but again, it’s got this awful sheen over everything. There’s no crisp emotional execution, it’s just yelling stuff. The idea is there, and becoming more and more recognizable, but there’s nothing to connect to.

Last week, there was something. It was small, but it was there. Now we’re left with Mr. Anderson’s muddy motivations and a bunch of leather-clad props. Is anyone gonna get sad about Garrett Bischoff? Doubtful. Does Tessmacher in any way have the range to make us feel sympathy towards Brooke Hogan and be an effective, nuanced character? I mean, B-Hogs didn’t, and filling the void of her inability with something as equally (if not moreso) vacant and vapid negates any of the buildup to get B-Machs in there. I mean, I know this whole mess probably wasn’t thought out beyond “they have the same first name and one doesn’t work for us anymore so let’s call Made in Sin and find out where they get their bras,” but right now the TOTALLY NOT FAKE hammer has more importance and emotional depth than this part of the storyline. The sting of infidelity is one of the oldest storytelling tropes there is, and the motivations for anyone involved don’t require a whole lot of explanation to be easily conveyed and understood by an audience. But who wants storytelling when there are hot pants, I guess.

Bully Ray then outlines the card for the evening, letting us know that each remaining member of Aces & Eights will wrestle, including his own main event against Sting. Tito, of course, will be sitting on the sidelines rehearsing his lines for three weeks from now, because I assume he has the retention rate of a goldfish. Out of everyone standing in the ring, Bully Ray can wrestle great matches, but throwing him into an Early Onset Dementia on a Pole Match? Ugh. FCK THIS.

Hey, Brookie dear. I would like to buy a vowel.

Worst, but secret best because I cannot stop laughing:

He looks like a wet cocker spaniel doing a weird Ric Flair-as-leather-fetishist impression. Nothing in the sentence I typed is a thing that should be happening.

Best: Mike Knox

You just keep smilin’, dude. And please call DOC to apologize. He at least deserves that.

Best, I guess: You lost, friend

Are we still pretending that Chris Sabin has never cheated to win a match? If this is the beginning of the realization that Chris Sabin is an opportunistic little sh-t who will use any means necessary to get what he wants but doesn’t understand why that’s a bad thing because people still cheer him…okay. Sure. This should be a best. Him having the retention rate of Tito Ortiz and trying to play the face when he’s clearly just a delusional asshole who got handed a brass ring and only retained the sense of entitlement that came with it is way better than the “you tried, you sucked, so let’s try something different because you are terrible when thrust into a singles championship role” reality of the situation.

Retroactive Worst: Velvet Sky at morning, viewers take warning

This is one of the things that made me sad about missing last week’s column, because I need someone to explain to me what the f-ck is happening. Our intrepid backstage interviewer attempts to find out why Velvet was suddenly pulled from the knockouts match, and why she wasn’t at Hardcore Justice. Assumedly she’s going to be taking over Brooke Hogan’s position of faffing about, dealing with her personal issues and pretending to know sweet dick all about good women’s wrestling instead of actually getting in the ring, which explains part of it. Asking her if her personal issues that kept her away from the free-per-view meant Chris Sabin? Guys. Guys. Chris Sabin was there. He was at Hardcore Justice. Can he only be encouraged/comforted over the phone? Via Skype? Can she only be a doting girlfriend when she’s cities away, logged into a Google Hangout? And why is this, as Velvet claims, “clever”? Am I taking crazy pills?

The worst part, of course, is that this is all pre-taped. That means someone watched this back and said yes. This makes no sense, but is a thing that should be on TV anyways. Step 1 in making TNA better: We can have lots of fun. Step 2: There’s so much you can do and the first thing should be firing that person.

Go ahead and assume that steps 3 through 5 are Aces & Eights dancing up a stairwell with a cutaway scene to Knuxxy playing air violin.

Unintentionally Hilarious Best: Chris Sabin and Velvet Sky

“This is crap!” and “What just happened?” are two things I also find myself saying when either of these two are onscreen.

Brandon Guest Best: Mickie James

If I had to name three things I love off the top of my head, they’d be

1. Cleveland, Ohio
2. heel Mickie James and her Virginia accent
3. wrestlers bragging about worthless awards

The first two are easy to explain; I lived in Cleveland for four years and fell in love with it (I know, weird, right?) and heel Mickie James is one of the best things going whenever she exists. The third one just takes a little history lesson. Every time a wrestler gets an award and lets it go to their head, it’s great. From King Booker suddenly adopting a British accent because he won a novelty wrestling tournament to Jack Swagger’s high school accolades to Owen Hart’s Slammy Awards, there are few things that work better than a dorky heel being super proud of something meaningless.

In this segment, I got all three. Mickie James wore the SHIT out of a pair of jeans and talked up how awesome Cleveland is, mentioning how she’s a shoo-in for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and showing us the MJA AWARD she won, which is clearly a f*cking spelling bee participation trophy with a picture of Mickie James glued to it. Am I NOT supposed to be all the way in love with that? What exactly do you want me to boo here, TNA?

Even Dirt McGirt was good here. I’m not her biggest fan, but a good role for her is “gruff regular person who thinks you should stop acting stupid, then acts stupid to rub it in your face.” Removing Mickie’s top and then yelling BAM as she grabbed her own boobs is certainly a better use of TV time than, say, Gunner, and we get a lot of that funny Diva “oh no, I’m showing less skin than normal but it’s AGAINST MY WILL so it’s HUMILIATING” trope. Remember when Candice Michelle spent a year wrestling in pasties and a postage stamp, but then she’d get her dress ripped off to reveal board shorts and a tank top and be all GASPPPP HOW COULD YOU, etc? Good times.

Worst: Jay Bradley

I’m trying to find the tweet where Jay Bradley asserted that he was going to use the BFG gauntlet match to catch up in the standings despite having already been mathematically eliminated, which was then retweeted by Impact Wrestling’s twitter because I am not joking when I say no one who works for TNA watches this bloody show. But alas, it appears some kind soul informed him of his idiocy, and I’m left to feel silly for not screencapping it when I should have.

Jay Bradley is still a worst, though. Apparently there’s an ORGANISATION who is going to pay him A LOT OF MONEY because HURR DURR WHO DOESN’T LIKE MONEY MY HOT GIRLFRIEND DOES DID I MENTION I HAVE A HOT GIRLFRIEND ALSO BOOMSTICK IMPACT WRESTLING BOOMSTICK CHICAGO BILLY CORGAN THINKS I’M COOL DID I SAY BOOMSTICK ALREADY BECAUSE BOOMSTICK.

Aside from the email where you can book him for appearances and his One Hour Tees shop address, I have just summed up every Jay Bradley tweet/promo ever.

Worst: The Longest Battle Royal Gauntlet of Sadness and Ineffective Punches of All Time, or

Best: I love everything Joseph Park does except get eliminated, or

Better Best: This is Brandon’s favourite thing so here he is to write about it so I don’t have to reenact that King of the Hill scene where I stick my head in the oven, only for my boyfriend to wander in and point out that’s it’s electric

Wait, here’s a fourth thing to add to that Mickie/Cleveland/Slammys Best: I love battle royals. If you’ve ever read a column I’ve written within a month of a battle royal happening, you should know this.

The Bound For Glory thing stopped making sense to me a while ago, because TNA doesn’t have the vision or the attention span to actually book a compelling, multi-person story based on wins, losses and points totals. Adding points totals to wrestling matches that eventually build to these close, realistic sports moments late in the “season” is a GREAT idea, but you have to be smart and care about what happens outside of a two week bubble, and nobody at TNA is or can do those things.

That said, HELL YEAH BATTLE ROYAL. I liked this one a lot, because it made the guys who actually compete in TNA look better than the ex-WWE guys who just wandered in to keep working when they got shit-canned. The final four are AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Bobby Roode and Austin Aries. I like those guys on a sliding scale, but I like them a thousand times better than I like Jeff Hardy, Mister Anderson or Jay Goddamn Bradley. I especially liked how low on the “struggle” this was, and how Daniels just flipped people over and eliminated them like garbage. Because wrestlers don’t have trouble throwing you out of the ring 90% of the time normally, right? Even if you’re conscious of not getting thrown out, a guy holding your leg and leaning you into the corner for five minutes isn’t constructive or logical.

I’m also really enjoying FINAL FORM AJ STYLES, who is all previous incarnations of AJ combined into one, sick of this bullshit and willing to just Pele Kick you and dump you on your ass because he’s been here for a decade, these floors are dirty as hell and HE’S NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE. AJ should be able to summon big attacks like SUPERMAN ELBOW KAI and just obliterate dudes at this point.

Also amazing:

Best: Webster’s dictionary defines effort as…

Despite the fact that this backstage conversation starts out like a shitty wedding speech, and we’re given the horrid mental image of Bully Ray pissing on something, Mr. Anderson is actually the standout in this part of the show. He’s trying to hold this club together as Bully’s fear and inflated ego are tearing it apart at the seams. His modicum of power means nothing next to Bully’s presidential standing. He’s tired and frustrated and, as someone who generally looks like they’ve gotten less sleep than a Warren Ellis main character (or Bad Seeds member Warren Ellis, because have you seen that dude?), it’s easy, it’s simple, and it works.
Again, if he hadn’t joined just for the free beer and STD scares, this would be way more moving, but hey. I’ll take what I can get.

Best: The Chillow

It won’t turn your lazy cat into a ~crazy cat~, but goddamnit I swear if I would have gotten paid yesterday instead of today, I would have 100% spent the main event purchasing one of these bad boys. I want to be cradled in memory foam cooling comfort. I dare you to find one moment of this commercial that isn’t amazing. I am more invested in the saga of Demetrius V. and his weird sweaty sleeping issues than I am in anything that happened in the show’s tag match. I’m pretty sure Teri M. would never take that f-cking long to set up the use of an international object. And that lady has craaaaaazy distracting hot flashes.

Best: Austin Aries gets the rose

Truthfully I don’t watch The Bachelor, but I did watch that season of Average Joe: Hawaii where the girl chose one of the non-average fellows, but then they broke up because she had once dated Fabio. This has nothing to do with anything going on in the ring, but the memory of him stalking down the beach, kicking rocks and sulking in the waves because apparently the chance to get intimate with a legitimately beautiful woman (or love or something) is totally not strong enough to forget the image of Fabio getting hit in the face with a bird or whatever is f-cking glorious.

Worst: Magnus, you idiot

I’m proud of you for having the foresight to Google “cranky old man muppets” so you didn’t look like an utter fool when trying to get referential, but come on. Statler and Waldorf are the best.

Hey, Magnus, you have Medium Wrestling Matches. What are Medium Wrestling Matches? Oh, you know, your matches aren’t rare, and they’re certainly not well done!

BOOM. Nailed it.

Worst: You’re older than you’ve ever been and now you’re even older

At least they addressed the Slammiversary stipulation, and Bully Ray isn’t defending his title. But…you know, as a Person of a Certain Age, I’ve lived to see great things I’ve loved bow and break under the weight of passing time. Bands declining album quality, eventually breaking up, or kowtowing to mainstream pressure and releasing pop albums, the very kind of music they once lived as an alternate to.

It must be awful to have grown up a Little Stinger, only to turn on your television on a Thursday night decades later and see Old Man Sting with his weird blue booties and ugly Impact t-shirt shuffle around the ring. Wrestling gets pretty sad…a lot….but at this point it just seems mean. I know there are people who dream of getting to see or meet Sting because they never got the chance to, but if you love someone, is this really what you want them to go through? It’s said in rock & roll that it’s better to die than fade away. Lord knows we don’t need any more dead wrestlers, so maybe “It’s better to retire early and take a training/administrative/speaking role than it is to still be wrestling shitty main events and acting like you need to be put into a home”?

Mr. Anderson has the TOTALLY NOT FAKE hammer with him, but he strains and pretends that he just can’t quite reach Bully Ray, because he’s sick of his sh-t and HE wants the belt and HE’s gonna take it from him next week and whatever, can we take a second to address Tessmacher?

Worst: Well fiddle-deedee, whatever should I do

Brooke Tessmacher you are a grown ass woman and a f-cking professional wrestler. Even if you don’t think you can wrest the hammer away from Anderson, get in the ring and break up the goddamn pin instead of sticking your finger in your mouth, remembering that you’re supposed to be concerned instead of coy and sexy, and then just putting your hands on your head because you’ve never seen a wrestling match before ever. Jesus Christ. For every step forward the Knockouts take with great matches and legitimate characters, you’ve gotta shove them fifty steps back with your inability to do anything but wear short shorts and press your hands to your head while also carefully adjusting your hair so it doesn’t get too messed up by your “acting.” Come the f-ck on. Be more than a prop with a belt. Curtis Axel is a prop with a belt, but even he tries to remember that he is a wrestler sometimes. Do you wanna be worse than Curtis f-cking Axel? Get your goddamn head in the game, girl.

Best: I found that Average Joe video clip

Ahhh. That’s better.

See you next week!

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