Hey there, Hulkamaniacs and Hulkatepids. Another week, another series of Bests and Worsts because I just can’t quit you.
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This week on Impact: There are, unfortunately, no lions.
Worst: No one ever wants to be Luigi
My boyfriend’s sister in law once told us a story about a little kid they invited over to play with their sons. As they sat down to play whatever Wii game the kids enjoy these days, the kid grew obstinate because he was not player one, and he ABSOLUTELY HAS TO BE PLAYER ONE. Whenever I see AJ Styles come to the ring with his P 1 hat that he no doubt got embroidered at a mall kiosk, that’s all I can think of. AJ Styles is here, and he’s gonna throw the biggest hissy you’ve ever seen because he absolutely has to be player one.
I’m still not of the school of thinking that AJ Styles can successfully pull off a great segment on his own. He’s more grumpy teenager than golden child to me, and oh man is he ever mad that Momma Dixie is grounding him. To be fair, the addition of Bully Ray doesn’t make this great either, but there is a very clear difference between what AJ relies on to connect with a crowd, and what Bully Ray does.
When someone is tied up in the corner, and their opponent is standing over them on the turnbuckles punching them in the head, we know to count 1-2-3 with every punch until 9, wind up, then 10 – the finishing blow. When Dolph Ziggler doesn’t do that, and just starts into a flurry of punches around five or six, the audience doesn’t know what to do so they rush 6-10, if they can, and it’s just a garbled mess. Wrestling fans are conditioned to hit their cues, and Bully Ray knows just how to lead them. When he says people in the arena chant “AJ! AJ!” we know they don’t necessarily do it organically (or, some of us do because again, only Eric Young and I watch the show, apparently), but know when they’re supposed to based on the proper cues. AJ Styles’ desperate attempt to get a JOE’S GONNA KILL YOU chant going is….not successful, and truthfully kind of sad. AJ doesn’t know how to read that crowd. Bully does. And it’s so, so frustrating.
Bully Ray is very, very good, and he’s been good for a very, very long time. He knows how to draw the ire of the fans, and he knows how to whip the crowd into a lather. But for all of this, he’s getting boring. Stale. Sure, AJ Styles watered-down man of the people act make me want to see Bully Ray decimate him at Bound for Glory, but that’s the only reason. On his own, I don’t want to see him succeed, and it’s not because he’s using the tools and talent at his disposal to make me dislike him. It’s because the yelling and the gross misogyny and the things he says in the ring are exasperating. It’s lazy, and I’m over it. I’ve written hundreds, if not thousands of words about the merit of Aces & Eights from an extended storytelling point of view, but none of this serves to expand upon or improve any of that in any way. Either he’s the king of a crumbling kingdom, fighting desperately to cling to the only symbol of status he has left, or he’s just an asshole who doesn’t need to be around one way or the other. Say AJ Styles beats him for the title. What then? Where does he go from here? Will Aces & Eights go hand in hand, or will he walk alone in fear? Will he join up with Dixie Carter, a woman willing to do whatever it takes to keep the rebellious pap bomb dropping AJ Styles down? Will Dixie Carter realize that without a contract, AJ technically has no business being in the building and just call the cops (like they probably should have done with Aces & Eights before the stipulation match that only technically applied to the Impact Zone but whatever) and have him removed once his match at BFG is over, win or lose? Will I now go listen to Once More With Feeling because there’s no way I’m going to get that song out of my head? The answer to one of those questions is yes, absolutely, of course I am. The rest….god, I don’t know. I do know that I would probably be looking forward to Bound For Glory a lot more if it were just a bunch of Soap reruns. Or City Slickers, because Billy Crystal was at his second-most likeable (Mike Wazowski being the first), and I will shoot fight anyone who bags on City Slickers. If you don’t think that Jack Palance makes every mythic attribute of Chuck Norris looks like wimpy kid stuff, you need to back up outta this column and adjust the settings on your life, you goon.
Best: Dixie Carter
I really appreciate her explaining why AJ Styles is still competing at BFG despite the expiration of AJ’s contract. It means someone actually put some thought into plugging the gaping plot holes TNA tends to leave in their wake. I bet it was Eric Young.
Worst: AJ Styles
NO MOM, YOU DON’T HAVE TO USE ATLAS SECURITY TO SEND ME TO MY ROOM. I’M ALREADY GOING THERE. /huffs upstairs /slams door /notices his Game Boy is gone /angrily tries to comb out hat hair to vent his frustration
Worst: Manik is definitely not Personality spelled backwards
Look at everyone in the ring. You’ve got:
Jeff Hardy – arguably the biggest star TNA has who isn’t senile or Hulk Hogan, shoehorned into this angle but it doesn’t matter because Jeff Hardy
Chris Sabin – Newly crowned King of the Weenies, recent Heavyweight champion, hates Manik, likes his girlfriend, hates constricting ring gear
Kenny King – Jilted former X-Division champion, hates Austin Aries (and everyone else who stands in the way of him getting his title back), may have crippling Five Hour Energy addiction
Manik – Once looked like he was going to shit himself on national television, supposed nice guy, just happy to be here
The most I can think of when he’s on screen is “I wonder if Manik has those carbon-coated fibres in his gloves that let him use a smart phone when wearing them.” I bet they don’t even work, but he doesn’t want to say anything because he’s too nice, and again, he’s just happy to be there. If he were half as good as Ricky Steamboat I might forgive this supposed family man, but good lord he’s been X-Division champion since July 25th and not the other guys is the most notable thing about him.
Well, that and the revelation that keeping his mask on is the only thing that stands between him and a massive evacuation of his bowels.
Worst: Ultimate X, more like…Ultimate….X….um….nevermind, just read the paragraph
Hey, it’s actually pretty cool that they’re going to have an Ultimate X match at Bound For Glory. I mean, you’ve got four guys with legitimate reasons to compete, and Jeff Hardy really wants to put the XTREME in Ultmate X, and…wait…*counts on fingers* Jeff Hardy….Manik….Austin Aries….Chris Sabin…..um…we’re forgetting someone, aren’t we? Someone who we’ve already determined has a reasonable gripe and a perfectly logical place in this storyline? Someone who has FIVE HOURS worth of energy, even though he’ll probably only need about twenty minutes of it? Is there even a way to accurately portion control Five Hour Energy? Does he have to go back on another “special vacation” to pet horses and fall in love with Viggo Mortensen because he’s a little too reliant on the…you know…*points to nose while making sniffling noise*….the taurine?
Worst: Old man conversations
But of course, Hogan. Bischoff was terrible, and you never had anything to do with what happened in Immortal at all. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6YHwhQt008
I guess this should technically be a Best, because sometimes, something is so bad all you can do is laugh. And laugh. And then maybe cry a little because you remembered Immortal, and it was real awful, and Hulk Hogan and Sting apparently don’t remember, and old man memory loss is sad.
Hulk Hogan is presented with a gift by a PA, assumes it is a coffin (!), fumbles with and then breaks the box because apparently his Hulk hands work like actual Hulk Hands (!!!), and then claims that Dixie is way worse than Bischoff, because Bischoff never gave him anything (???????????).
I’d call my grandfather to help me decipher this Old Man Code, but he’s halfway across the country, his hearing aid doesn’t work so well on the phone, so then he’d have to pass me over to Nanny, and I don’t think she’s ever even heard of Sting. Plus then we’d have to go through the normal conversation of “this person got divorced, this person has diabetes, this person has cancer, this person died.”
The moral of the story is that old people conversations are depressing, and that is basically the ugliest couch ever.
Best: Spot the ghostwriter
“After 35 years, I never thought I’d see someone worse than Bischoff, but you know what, she is!”
Gee, wonder who wrote that line.
Worst: He’ll take them all – he’s hardcore!
Magnus is trolling us at this point, right? There’s no way someone can ramble on for that long, not letting Sting talk (almost your first Best, Magnus, almost), and hurling exposition at us faster than that one baseball player who throws REALLY fast? I’m….not Brandon, guys. I’m sorry. I haven’t watched baseball in years, and if you asked me to name a pitcher my first response would be “sometimes Dasher Hatfield.”
Regardless, can we agree that no one could possibly be so delusional as to think themselves as talented as he does when they’re truly the biggest pile of garbage, right?
***please note we would have also accepted The Wrestling Industry, At Least 71% Of.
Worst, but maybe secretly a Best: A love caught in the fire of revolution
According to Taz, Christopher Daniels reminds him a lot of Doctor Zhivago because of his goggles. Now, I haven’t seen Doctor Zhivago for about as long as Austin Aries has been slapping his leg for effect, but….wouldn’t maybe Doktor Sleepless have been a better reference? Or even Doctor Horrible, because all roads lead to Joss Whedon whether we want them to or not?
One of the best incidental discoveries in my many wrestling outings came when I found out that a horrifically terrible in-ring persona who is basically the antithesis of everything I stand for was actually a super nice dude who was also passionately into musicals because wrestling is super weird. If Tazz is secretly into Russian literature (I will accept both the books and the Maximo Park song), and is using all of his homophobic lady-hatin’ bravado to mask a deep-seated yearning to sit around and talk about Yevgeny Zamyatin, I may need to reconsider my stance on the Human Suplex Garbage Machine.
Or he’s actually awful and we should all sit in a circle and talk about how Russian satirical futuristic dystopia is the bomb and then throw mad shade at Brave New World instead.
Worst: Brutal Magnus, we are not entertained
Alright. Here’s the deal. There is absolutely no way that I can objectively approach a Magnus match. I have finally reached my TNA TURNING POINT, and I don’t much care for Paramore, but he’s THE FUTURE so I’ve gotta find something else to do each week.
There are a number of instances in TNA’s past where you can say you know, the storylines were some real shit, but at least there was good wrestling. This….is not really one of those times. The roster is a shambles, and people get so wrapped up in “the alternative” that they’re willing to say yeah, Magnus is the BEST because he happens to not be R-Truth. But at the end of the day, if Magnus was really as good as half of what people attribute to him, he’d have a steady scheduled match on Raw every week and ten f-cking t-shirts about his not-questionable-at-all friendship with an imaginary child. You can be in TNA and be good, and you can be in WWE and be bad, but the exultation of JUST OKAY as the second f-cking coming just because it’s not this other thing you’re supposed to hate because it’s the other thing is pointless and dumb and what makes people think that TNA fans are idiots who don’t know what good wrestling is. Because guys, Magnus is not great, and saying he is makes you look dumb and like you don’t know what good wrestling is.
I’m sorry. That’s super harsh. Let me put it another way.
Think of your very favourite match. Or the very favourite match of someone you know. Pull that image up in your head of them describing it. Talking about truly great wrestling that you have a connection to is almost transcendent. You go to another place. You’re back in that high school gym or armoury or stadium at WrestleMania. You’re eight years old watching Yokozuna smush the Canada out of Bret Hart. You’re somewhere in Pennsylvania watching a Japanese lady shorter than you are show more heart and spirit and devastating kicks than you’ve ever seen in your life, and it’s so moving you almost break down in tears in the spot. You’re watching Kenta Kobashi, ten feet away from you, engrave a match into your heart with every move. Your eyes sparkle and there’s a tug in your heart because nothing can ever replace that feeling you had watching it, and the happiness you feel at the very core of your being remembering it.
Does anyone, literally anyone in the world, feel that way about a Magnus match on Impact? If people devoted half of the fervor defending Magnus’s shitty elbow drop and shitty cloverleaf and lack of personality (he should team up with Manik – they’re already colour coordinated) to acknowledging that it is not good, seeking out great wrestling (or hell, even decent wrestling that’s entertaining), and then vocally trying to get that great wrestling on their television each week, maybe TNA fans wouldn’t be the butt of every joke that doesn’t end in the words “customs match.” You could stand by that product and say hey, f-ck you, we’ve don’t have the leftovers of the 2006 ROH run of dudes who couldn’t make it in WWE (or aren’t tangentially related to an Anoa’I family member) and a bunch of old guys. We’ve got good wrestling. Wrestling so good it doesn’t matter that sometimes a storyline doesn’t make sense, or the Main Event Mafia existed twice. There are seasoned veterans and guys who have been tearing it up in Japan or on the American indie scene. Maybe then everyone can move out of the mindset that it’s good by sheer proxy of being the alternative when “the good wrestling show that’s on TV on Thursdays” should be good enough. And THAT is the only time “good enough” should ever, ever be f-cking acceptable.
Or we can go with Brandon’s idea of his opponents wrestling a ghost each week, and never hold a product aimed at us whose entire existence relies on us accountable in any way.
Here’s a video of a kitten playing with some toilet paper:
Worst: If Dixie Carter is your mom, Sting is totally your embarrassing dad
Your dad just showed up at your high school dance to bring you home early and it is the worst.
Magnus, where did you learn to behave like this?
I LEARNED IT FROM WATCHING YOU, STING. /runs to the back in tears
Best: Vegan vitamins
Austin Aries brings Hogan vegan vitamins for him to take before he says his prayers and makes his decision, and it’s actually super cute. I may be personally biased, but vegan friends are the best friends.
Best: Off the chain
If you saw this and thought “I bet Danielle was super afraid they were going to use this to break up EGO but is now nearly vibrating with happiness and friendship-based-wrestling feelings,” then you are the most correct. Also, calling him the Prime Minister of Suave and Debonair because he’s Canadian and we don’t have a president is a wonderful, thoughtful touch.
Worst: Lei’D Tapa
We get it. She’s big. I would take a break for a week on pointing out Tazz’s assy ommentary if just once he would say “Lei’D Tapa? She ain’t no small plates!”
Or, as Brandon says, more like Turn’D Channel.
(Vegan friends are still the best friends. I stand by that.)
We are one girdle shy of having all three Golden Gals. And I swear to god if they don’t take over the Knockouts division, there better be actual lions. Or…just Ethan is fine, truthfully. If they’re gonna keep making Gunner a thing, I’m going to need one hell of a distraction.
Worst: Samoa Joe’s Shorts
I am fully and completely weirded out that he’s opted for the monochromatic look. I dunno, man. I feel like I should take away a couple of quarters because sometimes I am not okay with change (LOL SEE WHAT I DID THERE), but if that’s the worst thing I’m going to say about him in the report, I guess we’re making some progress.
Or I already used up my kitten video allotment on Magnus. *cough*
Worst: Can you hear the people sing? Singing the song of angry sloths…
Oh man, what on earth did that just accomplish? AJ Styles ran in, attacked Bully Ray (completely dismissing Samoa Joe while doing so, because face it, he’s just an animated prop in all of this), and then ran away from Atlas security by standing with a bunch of fans because fans are the line of salt that Atlas can’t cross? Good for those fans, because they’ll get to be in spiffy highlight reels for the rest of AJ Styles’ career, but the bottom line is I’m still thinking about Ethan so, thanks for that, TNA. You know me way too well.
Worst: Little blue box
Dixie claims that the watch is from Tiffany’s, but that box was royal blue, and Tiffany blue is probably the most recognizable and iconic blue there is. I know us 99 percenters probably don’t shop at Tiffany’s, but come the f-ck on, lady.
Worst: So, so close
Man, we really had something special last week, huh. You can tell we did because Impact writers felt the need to flush it all away, and stop it dead in its tracks before it even begun.
I don’t hate Hogan as much as everyone else seems to, and blaming him for all of the problems in TNA ignores all of the other reasons there are problems in TNA. Sure, it’s frustrating when everything is about him. AJ Styles, these Hulkamaniacs love you. Hulkamania this and that and the other thing. Important decisions that need to be made by a general manager who does not generally manage the show and clearly does not understand what it means to be in an administrative position.
If Dixie Carter were the ruthless, meanest business lady on either side of the Mason-Dixon line, she wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about Hogan. She would have cut him and his wrestling buddy-toting Hulkamaniacs down to size because it’s her company and her ring, and she can do whatever she wants and be successful on her own terms. Clinging to him like a toddler is, on the surface, pretty funny, but at the end of the day we’re still stuck with the idea that a woman in a position of power is nothing without a man either by her side or at her back.
Ideally she would have coldly cut him off, then had Embarassing Dad Sting approach her in a series of backstage segments in a state of confusion and concern. Then she could have fired him too, because she is a lady heel in charge and she can buy her own diamonds and fire her own Stings. Of course, this leads to Jeff Jarrett coming back to reclaim the company he built because If all roads lead to Whedon, they definitely continue on to the dead end that is Jeff Jarrett.
But no, it’s fine. Let’s have another trigger on a risky storyline go unpulled, and have another woman left on her knees in humiliation because both WWE and TNA share a BINGO care of wrestling tropes, and that’s the free space.
The only comfort we have, really, is knowing that the Hulkster will be just fine on his own: