Sports

The Best And Worst Of Impact Wrestling’s Turning Point 11/21/13: Mr. Anderson Is The Lord’s Way Of Chastising You

Hey, special internet friends. It’s that time again! You know, where I say glowingly nice things about Ethan Carter III and maybe some other stuff about the show? Put your hands on your hips, jump to the right, and let’s get to it! BUT FIRST

-Like, comment, share, tumble, and email this report. Instagram a picture of yourself reading it. Make a vine of your best Dewey Barnes impression. All of these things are highly encouraged.

-Follow me on Twitter here, With Leather here, and UPROXX here. Mobsy is great and provided the gifs, and you should follow her here. EC3 is on Twitter, so it must be a good thing. (I’m not linking because you should already be following him, goons)

This week on Impact: We get to throw around terms like “big fight feel,” “pay-per-view-quality,” and “naked dude in a cowboy hat.” Let’s build this dream together, then stand tall forever!

Best: Look at all that action! It just goes on and on forever!

“Real life” barroom brawls are kinda dumb, and are very rarely executed well with any sort of real life consequences. This is…also kinda dumb, but there’s actual follow through later on (we’ll get to that), and Bobby Roode stopping to shoot pool, asking if he’s stripes, made me giggle more than I care to admit to. So I’ll give it best, even though there’s no GIANT SILENT ASSASSIN Big Show.

(but really how did you not notice Big Show creeping up on you Sheamus jeez)

Best: Asshole Dixie Carter, because of course she is

Dixie Carter dressing down Samoa Joe and lecturing him on watching tapes is the kind of dick move that makes my heart beat a little bit faster. Saying AJ Styles is wrestling in third world countries makes me stop everything, put my hand over my heart in a mixture of surprise and delight. She’s so much better than she has any right to be, and as she gets more comfortable in front of the camera, her heel stock climbs higher and higher. The way she interprets people booing her as people booing AJ Styles is flawless. She’s rude, inconsiderate, smarmy, and entirely out of touch with reality. And it’s f-cking hilarious. Anything good she’s previously done is refined and improved, like using not-so-big words, then patronizingly explaining what they mean to fans. She’s the best she’s ever been, and undoubtedly the best she ever will be, and I am loving my new temporary residence in the heart of Dixieland.

Now give me my goddamn tuxedo match.

Best, but with an asterisk: James Storm

The Manipulative Shouty Superkick of the Cowboy James Storm has become a consummate worst, but I’m going to give a best to using something that has happened, and reacting accordingly. The “real man” designations and concerning alcoholism aside, according to precedent the bar fight should have either been forgotten about, or flimsily addressed like there are no real-world consequences for beating the tar out of a dude in a public place. Instead, Storm points out that he could have very well pressed charges against Bobby Roode, and uses it to upgrade his match from a Bullrope Match (boo) to a Florida Death Match.

I don’t take kindly to those who disrespect the Wheel of Dixie, but that kind of manipulation takes effort and forethought and a memory span longer than that of a goldfish. Dixie shouting “No!” to every suggestion, but realizing that not giving in would have very real negative consequences to the façade she’s built, and in turn acquiescing, is played out perfectly.

I am sad that he insisted on adding chairs and trash cans instead of cummerbunds and bowties, but even sadder that a Florida Death Match doesn’t just entail wrestling in a Pensacola Wal-Mart while trying not to get tetanus.

Worst: Magnus vs. Samoa Joe

Here is a list of things I’d rather be doing than watching or writing about this match:

-Making a smoothie
-Doing the Humpty Dance around my apartment while wearing adorable baby duck jammies
-Getting Brandon to write about it instead, because despite my blackballing of Magnus, this was just so bad and should really be pointed out.

Lucky for you I’ve done all three. Bake ‘em away, Brandon!

Best: These Free-On-TV Pay-Per-Views Are Really Doing It For Me

It’s weird, but I actually want to tune in for these special episodes. Part of it is how much I love and miss the Clash of the Champions, that experience of getting together with a bunch of people who care about the show and watching the big show where stuff actually happens and titles can actually change hands. Even as a kid I knew title changes weren’t happening for free.

The other part is that when I watch Impact normally, I don’t feel like they’re ever DOING anything. It’s just people coming to the ring and yelling at other people and being awful. Here, even when it’s stuff I don’t like, things get accomplished and stories move forward. I’m easy to please, you know? Have the stories go somewhere, and have it make sense. Impact’s still not great on the second half of that request, but I’ll give them credit when I can.

Worst: Magnus VS. Samoa Joe

I’m a Samoa Joe apologist and have been since about 2007. Whenever he started drawing dicks on his face and trying to kill people with machetes. I’m usually brought in to comment objectively on Joe when Danielle cannot, and I feel like I have to tell you that because last night’s Samoa Joe/Magnus match was the saddest thing I’ve seen on wrestling in a while. It was the “Finn died” episode of Glee in wrestling match form. A motivated Joe can still be good, even great, but an unmotivated Joe is the worst thing, and right now he’s straight-up the Willy Loman of wrestling.

Falls count anywhere matches or Florida Garage Fights or whatever they called this can be really bad when it’s just two guys walking down hallways to the next spot. That’s what this was times a hundred. They come back from commercial and Joe and Magnus are just strolling down a hallway with their heads down, making little grunting noises, trying to find the fake-ass trashcans and the propped up tables to knock over. It’s WWF Attitude Era street fight style, and without a guy like Austin going passionate nutso and a guy like Foley shoot ravaging his body to sell the fight, it’s just Bob Holly and Al Snow. DO NOT BE BOB HOLLY OR AL SNOW.

Magnus is nowhere NEAR good enough to carry a match gone wrong, so Joe just kinda schlumped through it — pay close attention to how leisurely he strolls into that missed senton, like a guy going for a walk in a silent film. It also seemed to go on forever, which a street fight usually doesn’t. Plus, I mean hell, they turned the Bobby Roode/James Storm match into a “better street fight,” basically rendering this match a moot point and a stop-gap excuse to get Magnus into the quarterfinals.

So yeah. Not good. Joe needs to take a year-long vacation to Japan, or a day-long trip to Manpower to find a job that isn’t pro wrestling at an amusement park so he can try not to seem like such a stack of shit all the time. Also, why is Magnus still wearing his Main Event Mafia gear? I think EVERYBODY stopped paying attention.

Worst: This is important, so I’m going tell you so in the bold part so you don’t just skim, form your own idea of what I actually said, and then get all butthurt at me

You yourself may not do it (and I love you endlessly for being that person), but judging by the amount of this type of feedback that anything in the Best & Worst family gets, it happens a lot. Sometimes I’ll change a Best to a Worst mid-paragraph, or vice versa, but people will still leave lengthy comments because the bolded part has somehow offended them to their very core. That’s fine. It happens. But if you take anything away from today’s report (besides an appreciation for my restraint in not filling an entire page with throbbing heart gifs over EC3), I want it to be this.

Having an opinion one day does not mean you are somehow obligated to hold onto it forever. Real people grow and change and learn and evolve, just like everything else. Watching real people play parts written by other real people means that at any point in time, one of those people can suddenly change their behaviour or personality (or sometimes name and face), and you are allowed to have an organic response to that.

I know one of the worst, most notorious stereotypes of a wrestling fan is that they get one idea in their mind, and they desperately cling to it, good or bad, without considering any other. Outside of wrestling, we can say we’re a fan of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, but we can also say that seasons six and seven got really, really shitty. It doesn’t change our love for the series, but certain things changed and it just wasn’t as good as those best episodes. I love the Blackwater episode of Game of Thrones more than I love most non-WKRP television shows, but the third season mostly bored me to tears. It’s okay. It happens. But somehow, in wrestling, we are crucified for any slight wavering in opinion, especially if it’s a positive one.

There’s this stubbornness that makes people both incredibly stunted and shockingly defensive when it comes to wrestling. It’s why people are still dismissing the Submission Squad after one match most people haven’t even seen that happened four years ago. (Spoiler alert: you’ve got one of the best brains in wrestling, two of the best wrestlers in the country, and one of the most entertaining personalities out there all in one handy dandy friendship-based stable, but it’s cool. You do you.) It’s why I grin and bear the Miz’s….basically everything….in hopes that maybe he’ll be as great as he was when he was The Mock and being the best smarmy jerk on TV (he won’t, I know, but goddamnit I wish he would). But at some point you have to accept that as time goes on, people can change, and you are allowed to change with them. You are allowed to be disappointed in someone you are a fan of. You are allowed to enjoy something from someone you used to not enjoy in the least. You are also allowed to have an opinion that differs from someone else. You’re a real person, and you are allowed to have real feelings. I know, crazy, huh?

Wrestlers can get better with time. They can move on to new companies, new gimmicks, new names, new masks, new moves. Someone can be the dirt worst on the indies, and then blossom on NXT. Someone can be great before they get signed, and then turn into a mumbly mess once a professional camera is on them. If you’re Corey Graves, you get the special snowflake distinction of always being the worst. Someone can be the best in the world one minute, and then be the rankest piece of garbage the next.

We’re currently going through one of those periods with Bad Influence. Anyone who has read the column for a minute knows that their segments are often the saving grace of a show. They’re heels, but they’re the best type of heels: the cool, funny, clever types who know they’re better than everyone, can back it up, but can also get serious without drawing a dick on their face and murdering someone with a machete. I will reiterate my now continuing problem with Bad Influence, in hopes that maybe 600-odd words in the Worst beforehand will give you a little bit more of an understanding of where I’m coming from.

As I have said previously, either someone has decided to brand Bad Influence with their own idea of humour, or they’ve just entirely given up. There’s no levity. There’s nothing behind their words. They pose and preen and say familiar phrases, but they’re hollow shells of what made them so much fun to watch. Yes, Joseph Park is the light of my life. No, I don’t want to see anyone ever be mean to him ever. Yes, I want to feed him vegan bacon cheeseburgers and hug him and tell him everything is going to be alright. No, I don’t think you should criticize his rather nice Under Armour tracksuit when one of you is wearing an ill-fitting suit the colour of fresh baby sh-t, and you used to have a shirt that made you look like awkward nu-metal Nazi sympathizers.

I don’t think anyone (aside from maybe the deepest of sociopaths) could find last night’s Carrie reenactment funny in the least. I have moved onto my stage-five acceptance that there’s no stopping this Abyss/Joe Park angle, but in doing so can also appreciate that I’m sure there are much better ways to go about it. Bad Influence can be goofy and fun, but are still capable of despicable things. Right now it is only mean-spirited. They have changed, and my reaction has changed accordingly. Making fun of AJ Styles is basically always great, but half-heartedly making fun of overweight audience members? That doesn’t have to do with anything. Holding a fake baby shower for AJ Style’s lovechild? That’s pretty funny. Minute after minute of just being cruel to someone with zero payoff or comeuppance or hint of personality? No. That’s not what they were doing before, and yes, it does change my opinion of their current performance.

The only thing to do, I’m told, is wait and see where all of this goes. But look, I already watch Super Fun Night, and there’s only so much miserable wait-and-seeing that I’ve got in me. But I am the worst right alongside everyone else, and I will wait and watch and hope that things will get better. I am made of begrudging second chances, and goddamnit I’ve got the DVR full of ROH TV episodes to prove it.

Worster worst: Plug it up

I know you’re trying to berate him and goad him into being a great big scary monster, but it only works with his own blood, guys. Otherwise you could just show him a tape of [insert Ric Flair match here], and we’d have this BS squared away in no time.

Best: It doesn’t matter what her name is

Well, no. It kinda does. Don’t do this:

But that is one tiny little blip in the wrestleswoons that followed. Candice LeRae is so great, and now she’s on my TV, and it’s a capital B-Best. Yeah, it’s a squash match, but she would be the perfect foil for Gail Kim, and a welcome addition to the starving Knockouts division. She’s a good wrestler, she’s Canadian (yay!), she’s not a terrible person, and she fulfills the unfortunate but still very real standard of being TV pretty. Her and Kim could have matches that tear down the house, and they could really get back to what the Knockouts are known for. She has enough indie cred that mutant independent wrestling nerds like me will get excited about her, and she’s likeable enough that people who have never seen her outside of this appearance can grow to love her.

Keep her, be nice to her, and maybe hire some of her friends who are also good at wrestles so we can have a whole bunch of kickass ladies on television each week. Put “Successful Women’s Division” on the wheel of Dixie and let that motherf-cker spin.

Worst: Hey, you, YouTube Director of Tubing

Maybe you should put up more than a few seconds of this match so all of the other kids can play along at him.

UGH. FINE. BEST: Gunner

It looks like Christmas came early this year, and Santa gifted Gunner with the power of speech. He uses his newfound ability to express his concern (sigh) for his friend (SIGH), so now I have to give him maybe his first Best ever. It’s still not very good, but who am I to turn away from friendship-based wrestling? I CAN’T. I’M INCAPABLE. THEY’VE CAUGHT ON AND ARE USING IT AGAINST ME.

I will also give a second Best to Gunner (Jesus this is like an out of body experience) for making me think of this every time he’s on screen:

Hee.

Best: Maybe this whole show should be dramatic video packages*

I’ve said it before, but the PPV video packages are really what TNA is best at. Totally ignoring the existence of Chris Harris (which is fine, I think 99% of us do anyways) (that 1% is Chris Harris), it gave me back all of those positive feelings I had when James Storm was at home, being sad in barns and trying to muster up the courage to come back and do battle with his best friend. It was compelling then, and what makes current BE A MAN YOU PUSSY DID I MENTION BEER OH YEAH BEER MAN MANHOOD BEER I DRINK BEER WITH MY DICK THAT I HAVE BECAUSE I AM A MAN James Storm so disappointing. He has it in him to be good, Bobby Roode is the best at bringing that out in him, and Video Package Editor is the best at making everything appear interesting.

*Realistically the show should be episodes of Bar Rescue interspersed with Ethan Carter III montages and happy Joseph Park clips, but credit where credit is due.

UGH. NOT AGAIN. FINE. BEST: Gunner

As Brandon already described, the match is just a Better Match than Magnus Had, but the finish is rooted in friendship-based wrestling, so HERE WE GO ANOTHER BEST. Just as it looks like Bobby Roode is about to finish James Storm off for good, Gunner throws in the towel on Storm’s behalf. Roode may not care about him anymore, but Gunner treasures their weird no shirt-no pants-all friendship dynamic, and doesn’t want to see Storm’s career end, especially on a low-tier pay-per-view event that no one is even paying for. Storm is predictably angry because real men get drunk and lose the use of their spinal cord I guess, and he doesn’t need any help because that would be worse than sobriety or having a vagina or both, but it’s still a best because Gunner CARES.

They’ll now either continue this spat and break up Inebriated Viking, or make up, do the fusion dance, and show up on next week’s show as a naked dude in a cowboy hat.

Best: The action did not stop, and I see what you did there, Samuel

Aside from thinking they had cut Sam Shaw loose long ago, there was zero reason for this to even get a mention, let alone but a best. But thanks to his lack of television appearances, Sam(uel) Shaw doesn’t realize that Impact cameramen have a quota of around the corner shots to film each week. The beginning starts off completely innocuous – a throwaway interview with Shaw and Christy Hemme about his art portfolio of exaggerated Jeff Hardys, but then oh, he’s asking Hemme out on a date. Okay, whatever. She gives him her number, hugs him, and says her goodbyes. But the action isn’t over, because I’ve been led to believe that it’s never over, and we see Shaw tersely rearranging the pen and notepad she used.

Sam Shaw as a Patrick Bateman-type creeper could be different and exciting and really really good, but also go wrong in roughly seven million ways. I’m also not a fan of American Psycho, but the idea piques my interest enough to make me want to see where this goes, even if I have that awful feeling it’s going to end up with Hemme stacked on top of Velvet Sky while Shaw shows off his jarringly ugly tribal Superman sleeve.

Worst, but in the best way: Ethan Carter III, 100% douchebag

The video isn’t available online because the action never stops except for when I really need it to keep going to show off how great EC3 is, and boy howdy are you missing out. Apparently E3 flew Norv and Dewey in to kick back, enjoy the pay-per-view, but also tell them that they suck, and their feud of legend has to end.

Oh. Oh, sadface.

Yeah, like that.

The plus side is that Ethan Carter III is great, and makes even the saddest things a shining ball of shiny sunshine, but I’ve grown to love these goons. Especially this hat:

The dream had to end sometime, and I look forward to future opponents (some more than others because no one on the internet can keep a damn thing to themselves), but guys. Guys. It’s been magical.

Best: I knew you were TROUBLE TROUBLE TROUBLE TROUBLE TROUBLE TROUBLE

Ethan Carter III is the kind of wonderful that makes me want to lie down on my living room floor and not watch anything else that’s happening on TNA ever. He’s like a comforting hug each week, but if hugs could also be assholes.

Ethan Carter III please do not ever draw a dick on your face and carry a blade larger than your palm.

Please.

Also wonderful: Shell yeah!

Heeeheheheheeeee! Again, if you’ve been reading this column for a minute, you know how much I love Shark Boy. Spoiler alert: I really really really love Shark Boy. I’m a Shark Mark 24/7, fyi.

Better best: My songs know what you did to that shark

Even if this was rudely spoiled for me (don’t do that guys, don’t do that), and my reaction wasn’t as immediately excited as I should have been, oh my god EC3 vs. Shark Boy is a real thing that is happening. This means that a) they think Shark Boy is a joke, which sucks but that’s fine, whatever, he’s still on TV, and b) my heart had a complete and total meltdown of epic proportions. Face-fanning, heart-clutching, giggle-ridden goodness. Another worst for whoever thought it was a good idea to not put this match up in it’s not very long entirety, though. Director of YouTube Tubes, you’re kind of the sh-ts today.

(I bet it was Daisy)

But anyways, look. I’m gonna keep saying good things about EC3 regardless of whether or not the videos are up, and if he faces the Mumbai Cats next week I may not make it out of this fandom alive.

TL;DR:

Worst: This is the end, beautiful friends

IN THEORY Mr. Anderson is right about how Aces & Eights should be done by now. IN THEORY three dudes and Tazz does not a functional club make. IN THEORY we’re also missing a video of their arrival back at their Impact Zone clubhouse to find a handful of feral strippers cannibalizing D-Lo.

IN PRACTICE this ending has been rushed, and immediately retconning Mr. Anderson from things that happened in f-cking September is stilted and almost offensively bad. IN PRACTICE Mr. Anderson popping tags and wearing pants he found in AJ’s old locker looks weird, like if Christian put on tiny trunks, or if a dog put on a suit jacket. IN PRACTICE jesus effing Christ this match is so long, and a crummy, unceremonious way to put a big red X through a seemingly (at times, a few times) well crafted, legitimately well thought out long-term sequential narrative.

But what now? Aces & Eights technically still work there. The club has to go, but there’s nothing stopping them from getting matching tracksuits and calling themselves the Shuffleboard Kings & Fours. Tazz doesn’t get fired (he should get fired). Anderson wants so desperately to go back to his wife and eventual twin babies, and he really could have walked away at any point without any of this mattering, but now that he’s Done the Right Thing, will he be a good Oldboy and drive his truck off into the sunset?

Just kidding. That Oldboy remake will probably be terrible.

But you see what I’m getting at here. If this is the ending that we’re given, Impact has now tasked themselves with an even bigger job of picking up the pieces, and putting them back into the show in a way that makes sense. Do I have faith that they will? Ehhhhhhhhhh. Do I hope that we’ll get something even better out of this that may also include wistful glances at each other in the hallway between Bischoff and Brisco? Or will we get an Impact 365 of them being SUPER EXCITED that they get to be friends again?

Can we just have all of these things? Or, maybe, a modicum of effort to make this refractory period not super sh-tty?

(or more Ethan Carter III)

(yeah, do that one)

Best: Mike Tenay

At least you still have that face.

Tune in next week for a very special Yanks Thanks episode of Impact, when Mr. Anderson hosts a funeral for Aces & Eights. Fun!

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