The Best And Worst Of Impact Wrestling 12/5/13: The Ghost Of Earl Hebner’s Dignity

Hi, friends! I hope you all head a great week of eating turkey (even if vegan Thanksgivings are way better), and the holidays aren’t stressing you out to much. Thanks for being that person who also reads the pre-show notes, and knows we took a day off. You are beautiful, no matter what they say.

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This week on Impact: Joseph Park almost makes me cry, and Ethan Carter III’s anatomy does the opposite.

Seeing as Yanks Thanks gave us all a week off, I want to touch on some of the things that happened last week. I’d do a quicktime Best and Worst, but Impact gives us enough negativity, so let’s focus up on the positives! Or…at least the positives that come along with some glaring negatives!

Best: Has anyone in this company ever seen a turkey?

It’s easy to get brought down by the almost unnecessary bullying that has become a running theme on this show, but just when you start to wonder if the Bromans’ previous DJ was lost to a tragic self-tanner drowning death because you want to think about anything other than how bad this is, oh, hey, hello, what’s this? Did…did they just go full Arrested Development on us?

You win this round, Bromans.

(Bonus best to Norv and Dewey for still being employed. Keep smilin’, keep shinin’ guys.)

Best: EC3 gives no f-cks about my favourites, and it’s glorious

I love Shark Boy. I love Curry Man. Predictably, I love when their powers combine. It’s a real testament to my feelings for Ethan Carter III that I have zero qualms seeing him destroy those I love the most.

(Bonus worst to Curry Man for making that headlock driver look real sh-tty.)

(Super Double Bonus Worst to Curry Man for making me give him a worst. I still love you, hot and spicy friend, but don’t try to fly too close to the sun again, k?)

In summation, though I am not a Real American (and I can go to the doctor for free whenever I want so I’m actually kind of okay with it), I am thankful for Ethan Carter III. Will I continue to be thankful for him this week?

Spoiler alert: of course I will.

Worst: Dixie’s a Carter. These openers need her.

Earlier this week I happened to see a bit of the Eddie Guerrero-Kurt Angle match from WrestleMania XX, and I was entirely taken aback when Angle got all serious business, took his singlet straps down, and he had visible abdominal muscles. See, I’ve gotten so used to overstuffed sausage casing-Kurt Angle that sometimes I legitimately forget that he was once in shape and coherent and could walk like a real human being. This week, instead of Dixie coming out to open the show (boo!), Kurt Angle shuffles out to talk about how Austin Aries gave him the fight of his life (doubtful, at best), and to call out Magnus. I should be stopping here, because Magnus epitomizes everything that frustrates me about Impact Wrestling, and writing about another Main Event Mutual Masturbation in-ring segment is one of the last things I want to do, but…no, okay. I can’t do it. I can’t listen to Magnus’s lazy, blasé delivery, and Old Man Angle and his glassy-eyed retconning of his entire career.

Best: The Power of the Creatures of the Night

Jeff Hardy lets us all know that if you want to be the next World Heavyweight Champion, you’ll have to go through him and all of his Creatures. I don’t know about you, but I would love to see Bobby Roode and Kurt Angle plow through a lineup of every wrestling fan who has ever worn cut-up pantyhose on their arms with zero irony after 2003. Kurt and Roode, smeared with pink face paint and blood, Roode breathless and slightly remorseful for having spines-bustered all of those ladies who just wanted to see Hardy take his shirt off, Kurt Angle breathless because he should be gracefully retired and living in Florida with a bangin’ pool cage and respectable legacy.

Okay, I guess: Bobby Roode and Jeff Hardy vs. The Infinite Fine-ness

So I didn’t watch this show live, as I don’t often do, but chose to get groceries instead. I knew the line-up for the show, but as I was debating what kind of faux-chicken to buy and mentally composing a paragraph about Ethan Carter III’s abs, I realized that there isn’t a whole lot I look forward to these days. They announce matches, you take two seconds to figure out who is going to win, and then you move on. Thursday night rolls around, you watch the matches play out in an acceptable if not terribly predictable way, and then you forget about them. Is Jeff Hardy-Bobby Roode going to make anyone’s year end Best Ofs lists? Can anyone say there was anything worth remembering other than the Royal Rumble ’94 call back? Well, probably, it like JUST happened, but my point is this: adequacy is boring as f-ck.

When Impact Wrestling is bad, it’s just the pits. But it also makes it very easy to stand up and say no, you shouldn’t be racist/misogynistic/homophobic dirtbags. No, Magnus, that Cloverleaf is not okay, stop doing every single thing that you’re doing, even if you claim Samoa Joe said it was cool. But then the show enters this weird zone of bad-but-acceptable-I-guess, which is slightly better, but much harder to criticize or even explain to people. “At least it’s not [this horrible thing that happened]” isn’t exactly what you should be aiming for. I’ve said time and again that TNA has proven they can put together entertaining and legitimately technically sound matches, but the slide backwards into “Okay, I guess, whatever” isn’t helping anyone. It’s incredibly frustrating, but it’s also the thing that bolsters the worst opinions of the most adamant defenders of Impact. “Come on, it wasn’t that bad!” when actually, yeah, it kinda was, it’s just not as bad as [insert a million sh-tty examples here]. It’s the kind of thing that breeds complacency, and never pushes anything to get better or move forward. It definitely doesn’t move people outside of the little box of acceptance they’ve packaged themselves up into enough to watch objectively and say “This thing I love isn’t very good right now, and even though it’s been worse, I sure do wish it would get better.” I have made this point time and again, and it might not ever sink in, and that’s fine. Everything’s fine.

I am so goddamn sick and tired of fine, guys.

Best: Speaking of…

Remember that casket match between Yokozuna and Undertaker, and how Yokozuna was this big unstoppable monster, but got so scared of the Undertaker? That moment was magical for me. Yokozuna was the first wrestler I ever well and truly loved, and the first wrestler to ever give me that rush of feelings that I treasure every day when wrestling is at its very best.

I love that the preamble is Undie building a f-king casket and wishing Yokozuna the creepiest of holiday wishes. I love Paul Bearer and it makes me sad that he’s not around anymore. I love Yokozuna’s response to it. The look on his face that no one but those at home can see, that perfectly conveys the mix of fear and worry this force of a man should feel when facing someone who is building a casket for you because he is insane and creepy and maybe inhuman. It’s the perfect suspension of disbelief, that this undead ginger weirdo is going to beat up this totally for real Japanese sumo dude who sits on people for both funsies and maximum limit break damage and put him in a custom casket he just made in his creepy ass workshop.

Of course, the match doesn’t end that way, but it gets WAY BETTER and WAY CREEPIER because the spirit of the Undertaker lives within all mankind, and I won’t spoil it for people who haven’t seen it, but to me it’s a perfect little thing that encapsulates why I love Yokozuna, why Undie is one of the best, if not the best wrestling character of all time, and it has bonus Bam Bam Bigelow. I do love me some Bam Bam.

It’s not the best Undertaker or Yokozuna match by a long shot, but it’s those little moments that make it special and enjoyable, and perfectly illustrates why kind of okay should never ever ever be something to aspire to. Even if it seems like the dumbest thing in the world, committing to something like it isn’t goes a long, long way.

Best: Here he comes to save the day…

Oh, EC3. I raise an eyebrow at the idea that your lips would be actually be chapped, but you still separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to smarmy Impact Wrestling heels. You’re mean in a way that makes sense, and it makes me happy all over.

Best: Still undefeated, still the best

There’s a reason thoughts of EC3 compete with my very important vegan grocery shopping tasks. Those little things I just mentioned? He’s got ‘em down pat. Wiping off the microphone after Hebner hands it back to him? So good. Little gestures by someone who knows who they are and never wavers. Rockstar Spud is even great by proxy, because Ethan Carter III and his magic abs are the best thing on Spike TV, and I say that as someone who is entirely obsessed with Human Zoidberg Jon Taffer.

The progression from squashing Norv and Dewey and then Norv and Dewey and the parade of my favourite masked TNA wrestlers to fully abusing his power as the nephew of the owner of the company is kind of perfect. It’s exactly what I want to see, week after week. For people who were dismissive, or didn’t really know how to take him at first, he is systematically getting meaner and more entitled, and it’s pretty hard to look at him without understanding that he’s a despicable person, no matter how charismatic he is.

I always tend to fall on the heel side of things, despite my Chikara leanings and my favourite people being Mick Foley and Dasher Hatfield, two of the shoot nicest, most genuine dudes in the world. Heels are the best when they’re the smart, cooler-than-you, self-aware dickfaces who do dastardly things, but are still smart and handsome and cool enough that you can’t really help but see their side of things, and then hate them even more for making you see it. In this case, EC3 is sincerely cooler and handsomer and abs-ier than just about everyone else, and it’s understandable that he would be BOUND FOR GLORY on the easiest VICTORY ROAD possible, because he’s a Carter. Why would he do anything differently? Picking on an old man, threatening his family’s livelihood, and then making that man’s own son bear witness to his humiliation? That’s some cold sh-t right there. And I look forward to it every single week.

Worst: Earl Hebner

I expect Earl Hebner to sound like Don Knotts every time he takes the mic, and I am upset every time it doesn’t happen.

Screw you for not being Don Knotts, basically.

Best: But no, really

I don’t really get muscley dudes. It’s not a thing that rings any bells for me, seeing as doughy midsections and thick dudes with great hair are my own personal saucy Carol of the Bells. I think when you watch so much wrestling, you eventually become kind of desensitized to the same body types and the same biceps and constant barrage of mostly-naked gents getting sweaty and stuff. It’s just kind of…eh. The reason I bring this up is because I find myself increasingly and entirely fascinated by EC3’s….everything. I don’t even know what half of those muscles are, or how you even get them, but holy cheese how does your body even do that. This isn’t even a paragraph about the attractiveness of EC3, more of a self-admitted problem with trying to reconcile everything that’s happening at once on his body, because there’s so much happening and I don’t understand it but I absolutely appreciate it. Like, to the point where I am fairly sure I should be kept away from him in person because I’d just want to drink protein shakes and poke his fifty different shoulder muscles and ask him about his favourite part of City Slickers while he squat-lifted a Buick.

F-ck it, that should totally happen.

Worst: Speaking of slow builds…

Oh man, you were so close with this Sam Shaw thing. So close.. Now we get to hang out in weird, over-possessive boyfriend territory instead of maybe that guy’s gonna drop a chainsaw on someone-ville.

Like, okay. Remember the film adaptation of Watchmen, and how one of the myriad of frustrating things about it was how Rorschach in prison played out? In the book, Big Figure hides in the bathroom during the prison riot. After Silk Spectre and Nite Owl show up, Rorschach casually excuses himself to go to the bathroom. Spectre and Night Owl talk about it for five panels, and not once are we shown what’s happening in the bathroom. The only payoff we get is the three of them walking away as blood slowly leaks through the bottom of the bathroom door, and you’re left to speculate on the horrible thing Rorschach did to Big Figure to make that amount of blood pool in the hallway. It’s what you don’t see that’s most resonant, rather than in the movie when it was all blood spurting and arms getting chopped off and proactive, in your face gratuitous violence that cheapened basically everything because boy howdy was that movie ever a pile of garbage.

The point being that it’s what is left to the imagination that affects you the most. When you straight up come out and say “I’m going to kill you,” it’s a huge let down, as opposed to “wow that guy sure is creepy and likes to feel up butter knives…that guy either has some super niche restaurant utensil fetish, or he’s a total psycho.” It kills the need to see where anything goes when you just come out and threaten to kill someone because it confirms that is exactly where it is going. And also oh my god why does everyone have to flat out threaten to kill someone on this show.

As an aside, I really, really, wanted at least three promos about fonts. More Samuel Shaw’s Style Guide, less of the k-word, please.

Best: Feast or Fired

Why yes, I did think the Wheel of Dixie was a brilliant idea, and yes, I love every bit of this. But I swear to god, Aunt D, if Norv gets fired instead of Chavo, though…I swear to god…I will…complain on the internet and keep watching the show.

But I won’t be happy about it!

Worst: Please don’t talk about my ovaries, Christopher

Christopher Daniels comes to the ring to talk tabout how some of us seem to have gotten their ovaries in a knot over their treatment of Joseph Park in the past couple of weeks. Let’s pause everything for a second, and have some real talks. First of all, that’s not how female anatomy works. See Tubes, Fallopian if you want to get that weirdly specific about sexual organs that can get tied. Secondly, you deserve every ounce of criticism for your insincere, ill-conceived, half-hearted performances, and it’s not helping when your vasa deferentia get all knotted up over it. If you don’t want to be butthurt that people who like you think you’re doing a real sh-t job, don’t do a real sh-t job. That concept is a much easier one to understand than a tubal ligation, and even that’s pretty straightforward. Even though we might not act like it (see I’ve ever made, every dick joke), we’re all adults, and just because you’re tormenting a fan favourite doesn’t mean you can’t do it in a way that progresses the storyline in a thoughtful, well-executed manner instead of being boring, gutless, hacks about it. It’s disappointing, and I say that as a consummate Impact apologist and Bad Influence fan.

I know that Ethan Carter III is the new sh-t, and he’s kind of making everyone around him look real two-bit, but come on. If you visibly don’t believe that what you’re doing is funny or entertaining, how on earth are any of us supposed to get behind needless cruelty and zero payoffs without a hint of fun, or even genuine pathos? Not gonna happen, friend. You’re better than this. I know it. You know it. Every person who still defends you in the midst of you churning out hot garbage knows this. So why aren’t you showing it?

Is it Daisy? You can tell us if it’s Daisy.

Best, but really kinda worst: Again, so close

Real talks aside, this segment perfectly illustrates how easy it is to tell a story that has an immediate emotional connection, and then well and truly F it in the A. Let’s leave the sexy letters aside for a second, and really break this down.

Joseph Park has been the best person on televised wrestling for a very long time. His journey from “who the heck is that guy in the parking lot?” to “OVW trainee” to “Shiny new Impact Wrestler” has been the only consistent long-term narrative that was steadfast in its ability to get the point across in an intriguing and endearing way. It is the only thing that has earned a wait-and-see approach, and I am being entirely truthful when I say that even Chikara has pretty much messed up that kind of goodwill. As much as I want to fight finding out the truth behind Joseph Park and, you know, his brother Abyss, just fight it kicking and screaming, the video of Bad Influence going to the Park, Park, and Park law offices only to find them abandoned is so very, very good. It’s the kind of television that drowns out everything else that is happening, and forces you to get wrapped up in what it playing out onscreen. It is so well done, in fact, that it makes everything surrounding it look that much worse, and that much more unnecessary. Is there a reason Kazarian is spitting in Joseph Park’s face? Is there a reason he needs to be broken down to the point he thinks he should have never become an Impact Wrestler, and maybe the only person to ever love having that job?

It makes me sad to see Joseph Park so belittled, and sets off a lot of personal emotional triggers from many years of being bullied (which is fine, because again, emotional resonance is a really great thing in creative endeavours), but it makes me even sadder to see that something that carries so much emotional impact is surrounded by a needless, disgusting display. I fully understand that Bad Influence are well liked, and really need to get the kind of heat it takes to make people forget they enjoy them and flat out hate them, but it’s not a case of simply booing a heel. Anyone who goes up against Joseph Park is gonna get booed (or at least they should get booed) anyways. These are the kinds of tactics and performances that don’t make people boo, they make them stop watching. It would be a damn shame to shuffle off one of the best things that’s ever happened in the history of the company, something that no one else has done and is good and true and only yours, like so many aborted storylines before it. Something people can point to and say no, it’s not all worsts, look at this thing you’re missing out on. You sure are foolish for not watching this every Thursday.

It would be an even bigger shame to ruin all of that hard work by letting two people who seem to not even give a sh-t destroy it in one fell swoop of indifference and fat jokes.

Ow, my ovaries.

lol Gunner:

lol, Gunner.

Worst: There’s a reason there are only three minutes of this match on YouTube, or Best: Here’s Brandon!

Worst: The TV-ification Of The Last Man Standing Match

One of my least favorite things about wrestling is how match stipulations change how wrestlers give and take offense. For example, if you’re in a regular match with Randy Orton, an Attitude Adjustment will beat him. If you’re in a Last Man Standing match, though, you have to AA him off the stage onto an exploding truck full of steel chairs. If you’re in an elimination tag, you can, like, hiptoss him and pin him. There’s no consistency, and the stipulations become the determining factor of what happens instead of a cool way to enhance the already existing drama of the match.

So Kurt Angle ends up in a main-event against Magnus. Normally, nothing you do is gonna beat Kurt Angle. You can pull out a saw and saw him right in the middle of the forehead until his brains come out and he’s just gonna reverse it into a f*cking ankle lock. That’s how he rolls. If you put modern TNA Kurt Angle into a Last Man Standing match, he’s got the power of like six John Cenas, right? But if you put that match on TV, where everything has to be shorter and more compact and can’t drag on for 40 minutes of kickouts and off-the-cage highspots, what happens?

You get a situation like this Magnus match. A Last Man Standing match that begins with an extended headlock sequence for some reason and ends with a BOBBY ROODE DEATH VALLEY DRIVER. That’s all it takes for Kurt Angle to stay down. You hit him with a crossbody or something and he’s down for an 8 count. Because OH NO HIS SPINE or whatever. But then as soon as TNA gets on PPV again, nothing in the world’s gonna be able to keep him down for three. It’s weird, and inconsistent, and makes the match stipulation seem like it’s hurting the match instead of helping.

What also doesn’t help is Taz, who is basically just forcing air out of his throat now like you might force a turd when you’re constipated. YEAH Y’KNOW I FACED KURD ANGLE MANY TIMES A REAL ROCKETBUSTA BUT CONSIDER THIS, MAGNUS, HIS BODY IS FINE BUT MAYBE HE GOT HURT, AND THEN KURT’S GOT THESE BAD NECKS BUT NEVER COUNT KURT ANGLE OUT. Imagine if JBL’s hate-yelling on Raw didn’t form complete sentences. Just him going MILEY TWERK A POPPYCOCK COLE, ON MONDAY WE JBL. That’d be Taz.

I am still so sad that you keep wrestling, Kurt Angle. Please just … I don’t know, find a comfortable bed somewhere and take a nap. You can be a warrior and not look like Kuato from Total Recall at the same time.

Real Talks, Part Deux: No really, I don’t hate this show as much as I sound like I do

I’m gonna give credit where credit is due, and take a second to acknowledge that even if it’s kinda crummy, Impact is progressing it’s storylines, and things are actually happening. Stories are being told, people aren’t forgetting things that happened two weeks ago, and…well, okay, Tazz is still pretty wretched. My frustrations with TNA are well documented, but at the end of the day, I want to see good things come out of it. I want to see good wrestling. I want to get caught up in the stories that are being told. Even if it’s not the most compelling or interesting thing happening, I feel like they might actually be headed in the right direction. It’s a bumpy road, and I don’t love everything, and that’s fine, but at least we’re seeing some kind of forward momentum instead of a whole lot of meaningless matches and Hernandez. I cannot stress enough that I don’t actually watch this show out of some masochistic obligation, because that’s what ROH TV is for. I’m full up in that department.

Even if I didn’t Best or Worst something, I’m not fast-forwarding, I’m not thinking about what I have to get done once the show is over, or once the report is finished. It’s not a stressful thing on top of the pile of stressful things I have going on in my life. I want Thursday nights or Friday mornings or whenever to be something to look forward to, and even if I only look forward to one or two things, it’s still something. I’d be a real asshole if I didn’t point that out. Sure, there’s wrestling I’d much rather be watching. I’m dreadfully behind on New Japan. I’ve had an unwatched St. Louis Anarchy DVD sitting in front of my television since I got back from Austin in October. There’s so much good wrestling out there that when Impact isn’t good, it sticks out like a sore thumb. That’s why I treasure EC3, and Norv, and Dewey, and sometimes yeah, even the Bromans. I don’t want it to be that way, but I am now getting the feeling that we can get to the point when that’s no longer the case. Prove me right, Impact.

For the love of all things good in this world, prove me right.