The Best And Worst Of Impact Wrestling 3/27/14: I Choo-Choo-Choose You

Hey guys! Are you ready for far too many words about this week’s Impact? I wasn’t, but I wrote ’em anyways!

– Thanks to Matt Wilson and Chris Sims for having me on the War Rocket Ajax WrestleMania preview show. Chris Haley was there too, and he’s a pretty rad guy. It’s a fun listen, and I actually stay on topic without rambling about UltraMantis for half an hour instead of WWE!

– Speaking of podcasts, Beyond Wrestling’s Drew Cordeiro filled in for the really very sick Brandon over at The Mandible Claw. I love Drew, and late night burrito/wrestling talks are my jam, so this one was a lot of fun.

– I won’t be at WrestleMania, but I will be at the significantly less expensive (and my birthday present from Matthew) opening round of the Tag World Grand Prix at Wrestling is Fun. You should come too! Jervis Cottonbelly will be there, as will my Jervis Cottonbelly heartsmiles.

– Follow me on Twitter here, With Leather here, and UPROXX here. Also like, share, and comment! These are all great things that take like two seconds. Maybe. I’ve never timed them, but if I say it confidently you might believe me!

This week on Impact: Ethan Carter III and Rockstar Spud hang out in the woods, and it’s even more delightful than you’re anticipating.

Best: Sad Dad Rewind

This week’s episode opens with a dramatically scored video package of SAD DAD: THE SADDENING OF GUNNER’S DAD. As forgettable as most of the matches in Impact Wrestling tend to be, every once in a while something happens that is both endlessly ridiculous, and infinitely quotable (see the entirety of the Brooke/Bully Ray wedding episode for the best example). Something you keep coming back to because it’s so stupid that it’s grown into something indelibly entertaining in your brain. Like how a mushroom becomes a really…fungi. ((pause for laughter))

I wrote about my newfound fascination with mega-ultra-asshole James Storm in the last report, but I need to take a moment to let you know that it’s a week later, and Sad Dad is still funny as heck to me. Look at the way he crumples after that beer bottle shot to the head in these four different angles Impact has lovingly provided us with. Look at his hat. Look at his stupid sad face. Look at his inability to do anything while James Storm further elaborates on his “Gunner and everyone related to him should be dead” talking point. If we have to replace #TeamDixie, I am overwhelmingly in favour of being #TeamSadDadDemise.

This was also a nice reminder of two things I should have mentioned last week, but didn’t due to mentally storyboarding the pilot episode of TRUCK SOUP:

1) Rear pocket buttons are the enemy, unless you want your butt to look as angry as you feel,

and 2) Where you been at, Sinister Minister?

MVP: Most Valuable Pedant

So here we add another layer to the stinking onion that is MVP’s takeover. He lets us know that he returned to make sure that all wrestlers were on equal footing and would “rise and fall” on their own merits. No shady alliances or backstage politics. You know, like building a team of people who would swear fealty to you instead of Dixie Carter, or aggressively wooing Austin Aries, or trying to woobledy woo THE WILLOW to your cause, or enacting a vendetta against those who were successful under a previous boss instead of wiping the slate clean and having some kind of fair and unbiased tournaments to determine champions and number one contenderships, or showing obvious favouritism towards Samoa Joe, or…you know. Really anything he’s done up until this point.

But that’s the flaw, isn’t it? You can’t be wholly unbiased in his position. Inherently everything he is saying he stands for is not the reality of how any wrestling company works. The best wrestlers aren’t always the champions, and the best champions aren’t always great wrestlers. I mean yeah, we’re talking about an organic separation of talent on a scripted wrestling television program where everything’s made up and the matches don’t matter, but also everything on your show is made up and you can make it make sense whenever you want.

You have chosen…to not do that.

One of the difficult things about being tasked with writing about TNA is trying to make sense of the character exposition that is intended to make sense of whatever is currently happening on the show. The explanation that bridges this episode from the one prior to it, so if you’ve missed some, you’re up to speed, but if you haven’t, helps serve the narrative of what you’ve been watching. A televised wrestling show has the benefit of being able to insert recap footage whenever they want, as opposed to an independent promotion that has to rely on the ability of performers to cut explanatory promos and boil down a feud that could be six-months in the making into one concise bit of speaking time. Both are necessary on a show like Impact, but it is especially frustrating when the explanations we’re given are contradictory at best, and verbal diarrhea mixed with unbelievable tough guy posturing. Like right now.

MVP is supposed to simultaneously be a) a man of the people (fans), b) a man of the people (wrestlers), c) an engaged leader acting in the name of fairness and equal opportunity (a man wrestling a woman? Pfffffffft), d) a real cool guy (did you see his entrance), e) a brilliant businessman (he made investments!), f) the savior of pro wrestling (remember when he signed Bobby Lashley), g) an unbeatable wrestler. Those are a lot of hats to wear at once. You’d think he’d be able to pull it off because his head is so big ((pause for laughter)), but in fact, none of these things really work.

Magnus explains that Abyss is in his employ alone, and is not a contracted employee of TNA. For the sake of this…whatever it is we’re doing here…let’s go ahead and assume that Abyss’s contract expired while he was having his Joseph Park identity crisis, was never re-signed, and they just totally forgot to take him off of the roster page or stop designing new shirts for him. Joseph Park’s contract…we’ll pretend it was rendered null and void by him not actually having any documentation to prove that he was his own person and not Abyss, which is so weird considering that you would at least have to provide some form of government-issued photo identification, or at least the American equivalent of a social insurance number, or something for tax purposes, to be hired in the first place. Assumedly this is why Joe Park drove everywhere, as he wouldn’t be able to make it through airport security, but I digress.

MVP saying that he’s not going to fire Abyss immediately after we establish that in no way is he employed by the company that MVP holds termination rights for is…insane. This is insane to me. If he walked into that ring with the intention of firing Abyss, shouldn’t someone have mentioned that Abyss isn’t employed by their company? And if MVP is under the impression that Abyss is under contract, what stops him from firing anyone at will? What did Abyss do that is outside of the realm of what anyone else in your wrestling company does? James Storm clearly wants Gunner’s entire family dead if they aren’t already, and assaulted someone in the audience, but that’s cool? He gets video packages instead of a sit down with Human Resources and a police officer, but Abyss may have taken something too far?

MVP’s solution to the problem at hand is to offer Abyss a shot at the World Title. If Abyss can only be in the ring with Magnus, then he’ll just book them in a match together. That’s great. You’re so smart and clever, Mr. P. But if Abyss isn’t under contract, that puts you in the same position of AJ Styles being an unemployed champion (in more than looks alone), and do we really need to play that out again? He then puts Samoa Joe into the match, because he is passionately committed to being as fair to everyone as possible. Again, if Abyss doesn’t work for TNA, how does MVP have the authority to book him into a match with his established employer, let alone against a TNA wrestler? How is it fair to Samoa Joe to, as he correctly points out, put him in a handicapped match? Why does MVP think this crazy monster with identity issues who suddenly has a character flaw of only caring about money will forget his established driving need because the top prize in a company who doesn’t pay him is on the line? Why doesn’t MVP simply turn to Abyss and say “you don’t work here get out?” Why…why? Why? Why why why? ((pause to pull hair from head, gnash teeth, start drinking heavily))

At heart, this is supposed to spotlight the ineffectiveness of MVP’s management, but look at all of the nonsensical garbage we have to sort through to get to it. When you’re playing the real-life business angle, at least something has to be grounded in reality. The legality of Aces & Eights’ behaviour was a total clusterf-ck, and here we are, balls deep in the grey area of contracts and business law, and all it would take is the person who is supposed to be explaining it make some goddamn sense.

Best: Magnus

Look, the missing logic of that opening segment may have made me just so mad, but Magnus’s genuine offense at MVP referring to Abyss as the “world’s ugliest valet” makes my heart do somersaults. I am so into this member of the creative team’s secret interjection of their personal Magnus-Abyss non-erotic friendfiction I can’t even tell you. He’s not doing it for the money, Magnus; he’s doing it for yooooooou.

Best: Eric Young – Guy Who At Least Watches This Show When He’s On It

Eric Young now wants to insert himself into the match to “control” Abyss because he’s the one who “brought the monster out.” MVP says Eric young doesn’t deserve this, because after all, this is for the championship. Eric Young then gloriously chews MVP’s asshole out by listing all of his previous accomplishments, his fractured personalities, his entire TNA career in a nutshell, in such a way that it is impossible MVP to argue given everything he’s stated he’s in TNA to do. And he says “out” like I say “out.” At the end of the day, I’ll always get hard for accurate references to TNA’s past, even if it leads to a Samoa Joe match.

Best: Handsome Boy Hunting Trip

Just a reminder that two dudes traipsing around in the woods to hunt down the physical manifestation of the company’s top babyface’s rage is the thing that makes the most sense on this show. Bless you and your sunglasses, EC3. Bless you.

Best, but realistically a Worst: American Wolves vs. My Pet Monster

This was not a good match. Not good at all. But I can’t worst it. Not really. Abyss wrestles like he’s still Joseph Park, which is not a great thing, but also is a thing that makes me happy. I miss Joseph Park every day, and it’s all too easy to imagine that he’s still around when Abyss derps around the ring, all winded in the corner, coming out to flail his limbs and looked surprised a bunch. Big scary monster indeed!

I also enjoy that, while Magnus tapped, he blew it off because that match and the Wolves don’t matter, and why would he stress himself going into a title match next week? That is an arrogant prick response and I am so into Magnus right now what is even happening. Abyss grabbing and holding the title for Magnus is probably to show that he’s starting to think he might want that instead of the arrangement he and Magnus have, but I am in full friendship mode and am going to pretend he’s just carrying it for him because Magnus just had a match and that belt is really heavy and it’s the nice thing to do when you’re bigger and stronger than your friend. Like carrying the heavier bags of groceries, or taking your friend’s luggage when you pick them up from the airport. It’s like Willy Deville once sang: let me dream if I want to.

Worst: Uggghhhhhh nooooo

Whomever it was who decided that any of this was a good idea should be fired pretty much immediately.

Best: Uggghhhhhh yessssss

If you can sit and watch Ethan Carter III stand in a rundown barn and get lost in himself imagining little Jeff Hardy practicing his swantons off of ladders in that very spot and not come around to the realization that he is so much better than anything else on this show, then I’m sorry, but you are the most wrong. The most wrong.

Worst: Do you know who I am because I am hoping that you’ve forgotten for the purpose of my new storyline

This massive gear shift between guy who wants to murder babies and guy who is so beloved by fans (some of whom are suspiciously built and mulleted like indie wrestlers) that they will carry his tables to the ring for him is…confusing. It is a literal Table Movement ((pause for laughter, put a pin in Bowel Movement joke)). Heel turns and face turns happen all the time, but what are his motivations for this? Is he still a guy who’s into domestic abuse and baby murder, we just like him better now?

He says that he turned on Dixie Carter and by extension Bobby Roode to stop Roode from becoming just like her, but it seems to me that having nice hair, a developed presence on the mic, a spunky assistant, a caring family who’s also charming and kinda dreamy (I am absolutely not talking about Serge and his weird gun obsession), and a champion who got amazing just by being around you who you also happen to have an old lady crush on so you get to have him around all the time is a pretty aspirational life goal, n’est ce pas? Plus, you know…she still is the owner, and Bobby Roode wouldn’t have a controlling share (he was offered 10%) and therefore nowhere near the pull that Dixie had (and should still technically have), but…whatever.

Babyface Baby Murderer sounds like a good idea to someone, so we’re doing this. And this suuuuuucks.

Best: That Magnus. He’s so hot right now.

Abyss is all butthurt because he doesn’t like losing, but Magnus reminds him that he employs Abyss, and that he’ll have to lose next week. You think he’s being really mean, but then as he’s leaving he asks if Abyss wants to go back to being their freakshow, because obviously he cares about Abyss being treated fairly because he cares about Abyss hold up where’d I get this conductor’s hat oh wait because I’ve taken over the Magnus/Abyss friendship train.

Best: Total Nonstop Sad Dads

“Yeah, you’re damn right I left to chase my dream of smiling and clapping and getting blowies from Floridian sex workers, sorry about your arcade or whatever, pantsless lady.”

I don’t know why this lady isn’t wearing any pants, but I do know that if this is an elaborate backstory leading to Knux bringing his Sad Dad back to the Impact Zone to hang with Gunner’s Sad Dad in a Sad Dadstravaganza that leads to Impact 365 videos each week of Sad Dadventures, holy jeepers yes please.

Worst: Madison Rayne vs. Angelina Love

Immediately fired forever.

Worster Worst: That Velvet Sky DDT

Immediately fired forever

Absolute Worst: Samuel Shaw vs. Feeling Comfortable Watching Television

It’s all fun and games and jerkoff mannequins until someone physically intimidates a crying woman who’s been stalked and assaulted and harassed without consequence leading up to that moment. Like…what is this mess? Did someone read through Hemme’s Twitter mentions after the Aries incident and think “holy shit they’re right, her skirts are short, that slut DID deserve it!” What is wrong with the person who thought this is a good idea? Why do they get to enact these creepy and socially harmful fantasies? Why…why why why?

Both Brandon and I get a lot of flak for pointing out the disgusting treatment of females on wrestling television, and I think the saddest comment is always “Why are you even trying? It’s just wrestling. It’ll never change.” This is why. Because if you can watch something like that and say yes, there is definitively a place in wrestling for women to be treated like that, then you are a psycho, and people like you need to stop being involved in wrestling, or really anything that involves other human beings. This is proof positive that things should, nay, HAVE to change.

There is no balance, there is no consequence, there is no “this is an example of what is never, ever okay under any circumstances.” I do not watch to be made to feel lesser. I do not watch in hopes that a moment like this will fuel a so-called “feminist bitch rant” because I want to “talk down” to people about a dumb show on television. I watch to be entertained. I watch because I love wrestling, and I love writing about it. But you have to remember that what I watch tells me that I am worthless, and have no value, and it is perfectly acceptable to treat me the same way women are treated on this show. Never an equal, always catty, utterly disposable, someone who needs to be destroyed as soon as they’re even a little genuinely empowered. Someone to be verbally and physically mistreated at whim because whatever, she’s just a bitch anyways. Shaw’s one week suspension isn’t satire based on the very real existence of rape-culture’s effect on how the real world deals with harassment in the workplace. This is bad storytelling. This is an engrained culture of misogyny that defies all logic by still existing in 2014 on your wrestling show that is about fakes fights and reasons to get into them. This isn’t some ultraviolent HBO thinkpiece television show. This “drama” doesn’t elevate the medium, it puts you right down in the muck.

If you like this, or you’re responsible for this, you are a bad person, and you should feel bad.

Worst: :(

Not even Sad Dad’s dozen replays of getting smashed in the head with a beer bottle are enough to make me feel okay after that. Even if it’s good, how can I tell people they should be tuning in each week after that? How is disgusting sexist recidivism a selling point? “So uhh, I discovered that we can travel back in time to 2009 when I went back to the dark ages to get my attitude towards women. Hahaha, they’re the worst, amirite?”

Feasibly, through the magic of the internet, I could have just taken a break and moved on and started writing again once I felt better (which I will do in a moment), but incident after incident of this same kind of repulsive display really gets to you after a while, especially when you watch as much wrestling as I do and it’s so prevalent on every level. This doesn’t just go away once the show is over. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t perpetuate the stereotype that wrestling fans are subhuman socially awkward basement dwellers who are one very teeny tiny evolutionary step above CHUDs. These are the awful things people remember that taint the idea and the reputation of Impact Wrestling.

Wrestling fans are literally taught from their youth to believe what you put in front of them. Within this very show we’re supposed to believe that Bully Ray, Heel of Note, is now a good guy to be cheered. That that guy really went through a table A REAL TABLE OUCHIES. It is the nature of wrestling to ingrain that suspension of disbelief to propagate a story. If you tell people to cheer for a dude who was going to murder someone’s wife, they’ll do it. If you tell people to boo someone who’s just doing their job and making salient points about their business decisions, they’ll do it. If you tell people to believe that, I dunno, Booker T, is one of the greatest champions of any generation and is a wrestling genius, they’ll believe it. If you tell people that women are garbage, they’ll treat women like garbage. This isn’t brain surgery. Just be better. Be better for your brand, for the product you make money from. Be better for the reputation of the people in your employ who don’t deserve stigma TNA heaps on them with segments like that. Most of all, just be better because it’s the f-cking right thing to do.

Best: I took a break and ate some hummus and watched all five Hunt For Willow videos and now everything’s a little better

I’m putting the remaining one here, even though it closed out the show, because he’s a Carter and the world needs him, and these are magical.

Best, for real this time: Son of Sad Dad vs. I Hate Your Sad Dad Go Die

I…really can’t explain why I enjoyed this so much. Maybe it hit that sweet spot between “well, it wasn’t that other awful thing they did, so it’s not so bad” and “hahahaha he hates you and your family and that rules.” Seriously, I had fun watching this even though it wasn’t great? And I just want a weekly Impact 365 video where the action never stops, and that action is James Storm calling Gunner’s relatives during the course of their day to say mean things and then playing his entrance music?

“Uhh, hi, is this Uncle Jim? Nice job mowing the lawn, I wish you would have fallen and cut your leg off [JAMES STORM THEME SONG].”

“Hey Aunt Mable, nice job getting the milk out of the fridge, it should have fallen on you and crushed your internal organs [JAMES STORM THEME SONG].”

“Hey Third-Cousin Twice Removed Sheldon, this is James Storm of television’s Impact Wrestling on Spike TV every Thursday night at 9pm, and I just wanna know why aren’t you dead yet JOHNNY CASH LISSSSSTENINNNNNNNG”