The Best and Worst of Impact Wrestling 5/1/14 and 5/8/14: Circus Plumbeus

Hey guys! This week we’re covering two weeks at a time, and believe me when I say oh god, oh god, do not mainline more than one episode of Impact at a time right after doing a refresher of a PPV. Lucky for you I did, but only because I love you (and feel bad for letting real life work and stuff make me miss last week) (but mostly the love part, promise).

– I’ll be at both Ring of Honor/NJPW shows (Toronto and New York), so if you’re attending either tonight or next weekend’s events as well, find me and say hello! Brandon will be there next week (also at Beyond Wrestling the next day). Hellos and high-fives for all!

– Like, tumbl, tweet, email, share, photocopy, recreate this report in an interpretive oil painting, whatever you need to do to spread it around. You know, like peanut butter. Or West Nile.

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This (and last) week on Impact Wrestling: I do not give out a lot of Bests. I’m sorry. We’ll get through this together. Promise.

Quick and dirty Sacrifice results you’ll need to know heading into this episode:

The quick is because they’re presented without extended commentary. The dirty is because ew, really, that’s what happened?

– The Wolves defeated The Bromans/DJ Zema for the World Tag Team Championship

– Ken Anderson defeated Samuel Shaw and put him in a van back to his home planet

– Willow/Kurt Angle defeated Rockstar Spud, EC3, and my hopes and dreams

– Sanada defeated Tigre Uno to retain the X-Division Championship

– Gunner defeated James Storm in an “I Quit” match

– Angelina Love defeated Madison Rayne to win the TNA Knockouts Championship

– Bobby Roode defeated Bully Ray in a Tables Match thanks to interference from Dixie Carter dressed as Woody Allen in Bananas!

– Eric Young defeated Magnus to retain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship because barf

Last week, the aftermath of…some of things things sort of played out. Let’s break it down:

Eric Young has decided that he wants to be a fighting champion, which means he’ll need someone to challenge for the belt. MVP does his due diligence by having wrestlers randomly select from a deck of cards, showing the experience and creativity it takes to book a great wrestling show. We can take two things away from this segment: 1) Gunner vs. Anderson dictates that there will be hella fast-forwarding in our future, and 2) I’m pretty sure MVP’s office is in a stairwell.

Magnus is upset that he’s not been included in this contendership schmoz, and rightfully so. Bobby Roode had to force his way into the fair and unbiased determinations of MVP, proving that they’re anything but. So why not involve Magnus? Oh, right. Cool Magnus needs to be slowly stoned to death like an Old Testament sinner, and the iniquity of MVP’s actions are just a set up for…whatever Abyss is doing, but also this:

Welp, I guess we know who’s been buying Robbie E’s cardigans off of eBay.

See, Bram left Sharon, Lois, and merry ol’ England behind because he’s so disgusted by the success-I mean, behaviour-of Magnus. This isn’t the Magnus he knows. The Magnus he knows from “the camps” loves booze, and women, and fighting. One time Wade Barrett punched them in the face. It was awesome.

Bram thinks Magnus has gone soft, and after a few tense moments of trying to out-British one another while acting out the most homoerotic telenovela scene wrestling’s had in a while, Bram explains that he’s here for Magnus’s own good.

Yes. Because it’s always great to take advice from Florida Man.

In no way do you have to watch this match, but it’s a good illustration of the total dissonance between in-ring action and commentary. James Storm comes out, and after taking a hilarious bump at the :51 mark, hits Anderson from the outside with an enzigiri. This staggers Anderson, allowing Gunner to hit his finish and pick up the victory. Storm smirks and calmly backs away like that was his plan all along, not giving any indication that he’s playing it cool after making a mistake. Tazz and Tenay fumble for a bit, both insisting that it was a mistake, and he really did mean to go after Gunner. So which is it? The story told by Storm, or the story told on commentary? Is it Storm’s fault for doing a poor job of acting, or are Tenay and Tazz old and confused and generally awful (yes), but also wrong as heck? Is James Storm helping Gunner get ahead only to take something bigger away from him because he wants him to suffer all the time always for not just dying when he had the chance?

But wait, there’s more!

Oh, Spud and EC3. I love you in the morning, and in the afternoon, I love you in the evening, and underneath the lumbering shadow of Kurt Angle’s entitlement and unnecessary homophobia.

“NOT CRAZY STEVE! HE’S CRAZY!” is officially my new favourite line delivery in history of anything ever.

Willow proved that umbrella beats broken beer bottle in the worst game of Rock, Paper, Scissors ever. The Wolves and Sanada defeated the BroMen, Davey Richards might be morphing into (not such a) Kid Kash, and Bobby Roode faced his fellow Canadian (from Nashville) Eric Young for the title. Eric Young is a good sportsman and a likeable guy and whoa hey sorry almost fell asleep there for a second.

After weeks of intimidation and threats, Bully Ray threatens the “ugly woman” who put him through a table that just so happens to be the only saving grace of a brutally sluggish PPV match. He’s mad not only because it cost him the match, but physically injured his ribs. So…the big bad tough guy who made his living putting people/being put through tables went through a table in a tables match and now it’s the worst thing in the world ever. Okay. Sure. Are we done yet? Can we move on from making the hero of the people one who just wants to commit acts of violence against women? Again?

So. Then this happened. Angelina Love reads off a letter from the board of directors delivering an ultimatum: dress “appropriately,” or there will be consequences. Love and Velvet Sky respond like two rational, professional adults, and by that I mean look, guys, this is horsesh*t. Even trying to type out a distilled version of this is…it’s not even infuriating. I think it’s well past that point. Impact has not been great, nor (spoiler alert) does it get much better this week. The challenge, as I’ve often said, is to try to remain objective, and at least attempt to be constructive in my criticism in between making puns and thoughtfully drawing unhappy faces on Gunner’s butt. But I don’t even know where to go with this Knockouts situation anymore.

The idea here is that Velvet and Love are reacting how anyone should react to slutshaming: confident defiance because, you know, shaming someone like that is actually a bad thing. This, much like Velvet’s response to Sabin’s verbal abuse, hints at something deeper than an attempt at portraying a strong, independent woman and failing miserably. I don’t think there’s any attempt at all, in fact. There’s a much darker thread that has been run through the female-oriented storylines for the last little while.

Be it Dixie, Christy Hemme, or now, somehow, the Beautiful People, the end game seems to be putting women into a seeming position of power, a sudden burst of self-confidence – a show of strength and self-defence – which only leads to intimidation and humiliation. It’s Velvet being shouted at, embarrassed on camera, standing up for herself, then being dismantled by Alpha Female as Chris Sabin parades around the ring in triumph. It’s literally every single thing about the Hemme-Samuel Shaw storyline.

While the Beautiful People created this elaborate practical joke to call out the audience for being voyeuristic goons who just wanted them to get naked (because a cursory google image search won’t find either of them wrapped in plastic film or diddling themselves with an X-Box controller for Lee South), the end game was to still have their clothes ripped from their bodies, leaving them to run away in shame. It doesn’t matter how naked they get on the internet, or how little clothing they wear in the ring (or anyone wears, it’s wrestling, we know what y’all are working with), the idea is that they are being exposed against their will.

Dixie comes out to gloat about putting Bully Ray through a table, and really show him who’s boss. It seems like we’re back in the sunny meadows of DixieLand, but again, it’s just a set up for Bully Ray to intimidate her, then MVP to come out and ban them both from HIS ring, because HE’S got the power (over the owner of the company okie dokie). One must be above the other, Dixie must remember her place. She’s at the top of the company, but lowest on the food chain.

Realistically, one can infer that it’s just someone who’s not very good at writing female characters, but there’s a difference between poor writing (just pick a thing from the male side of things, it really doesn’t matter which at this point), and the abject hatred that lurks in the shadows of every female onscreen situation. There’s someone (or someones) that not only hasn’t shed that old school mentality of gay panic/pervert gimmicks/ladies getting their tickets out = $$$, but really, truly, point of fact, has a dangerous attitude towards women. Especially those in power. It’s a sinister revenge fantasy being played out over and over, but yet no one is stopping it. No red flags are being raised by this malicious behaviour. No alarm bells going off that this person doesn’t just want to write female situations, he wants to write situations that hurt females. That should both terrify and disgust you.

Wake the hell up, TNA.

Worst: Bully Ray makes a plan

MVP won’t allow Bully Ray to lay a hand on Dixie Carter in the Impact Zone, so he’s moving onto the totally logical backup plan of going into the real world, trespassing on private property, and assaulting Dixie Carter in her own office. But look how cool he is! He listens to the rock music and wears sunglasses in the car! I listen to the rock music and wear sunglasses in the car! This is totally okay because I am focusing on and identifying with the correct message of this video!

Worst: Eric Young needs an opponent

Eric Young, in a riff on a Canadian tuxedo and his very best Cafepress self-promotional hat, needs an opponent. Bobby Roode wants to be that opponent. We need to understand that they’ve done stuff together in the past, but unfortunately none of it was “making people care about this in any way.”

Worst: Did someone say retrograde nonsense?

Well sh-t, I sure do feel empowered now!

Best: It WAS a good bow!

Oh Rockstar Spud, you are delightful and your suit compliments the office decor really nicely. Please, never stop being the sunshine on Impact’s otherwise cloudy day.

Best: ‘Sup

Hey. You. Be on the show more. It needs you.

Best, I think?: EC3 vs. Kurt Angle

I really want to give this a best, I promise I do. It wasn’t even really a bad match. I’m just so…iffy on this whole thing. First EC3 was the target of Willow’s revenge against Dixie and her extended family, not he’s just crazy guy with an umbrella, and Kurt Angle is here because he needs to prove…a thing. What is that thing, exactly?

From EC3’s side of things, he’s the new face of American wrestling, as he probably should be (see above). He represents the new, the young, the American-Made All-American American Dream of what an American Male wrestler should be in today’s America. Kurt Angle is the past – not just wrestling in general, but a pillar of TNA. He’s the epitome of the TNA dream: a WWE legend putting in year after year, going over anything fresh or original that TNA is too scared to stick with.

From Kurt Angle’s point of view, he doesn’t like when things are just handed to people (ha!), he doesn’t like entitlement (hahaha holy sh-t dude you’re killing me), and he’s going to put a stop to it. But…what has EC3 really achieved? What have they given him? The highest honours you can point to as being bestowed on him are feuds with three of the company’s top draws: Sting, who’s gone, Jeff Hardy, who’s gone completely bonkers, and Kurt, a dude just biding his time until he can settle into his inevitable WWE Legend’s Contract. But these are real-world answers, not kayfabe. What can you say he’s been handed in kayfabe? He’s not held a belt. He’s not Director of Booking Stuff and Monitoring Proper Stair Safety. He had a few cheesecake matches (which were grand), but other than that, what are you keeping him from, Hurty Kurty?

Eric Young barely seems to know who he is. MVP has already forgotten about him. Samoa Joe is probably somewhere crying into his old ROH DVD’s while he waits for the call to come back to work. Magnus has his British Gunner friend to contend with. The BroMen are feuding with the Wolves, not really for reasons anymore, just because they have no one else to fight, and they took issue once, so they’re going to stretch it out forever. Nothing in their peripheral seems to link Kurt and EC3 back to any of them in a fully functioning universe wherein the beef Kurt has is a real and valid thing.

I don’t know what the endgame is for this, and I think that’s the most frustrating part. If EC3 really does tear Kurt Angle’s leg off and beat him with it, then he’s a monster, and we can continue on this path of certifiable Bad Dude™ who hurts your favourites and gives no effs but is still charming and funny and probably gives your mom hot flashes. But Willow is still skip-hopping around, so even that is flawed. And if he accomplishes that, what’s next? What do you do with a legend killer when you haven’t built up any legends for him to contend with, only stolen a handful from other people?

It’s time to make a decision. Is he the future, or is he stuck in limbo while you try to find a third guy who looks like Gunner to sign to a multi-year deal? Is Kurt Angle a hero, or a guy just waiting to blow your metaphorical popsicle stand for greener pastures and a real(er) Hall of Fame? I’m confident that no matter what that next step is, Mr. The Third will kill it, because he’s just that good, but it feels like he’s getting lost, and I don’t want to lose yet another one of the very few Bests this show has.

Worst: The Menagerie!

Here we have The Freak (whom I will not name if he hasn’t officially been revealed even though my god who else could it be), Rebel (or Circus Maxine, I guess), and ersatz-Oliver-Grimsly-CRAZZY STEVE, a man SO CRAZY that one Z just isn’t enough!

Welp, Impact has always been carny as f-ck, I guess it’s finally time they went with it.

Worst: Tables of the Shrew

Click for Part 4, Part Five

Here’s what we’ve learned: Doing your job is awful, lady bosses are mean, terrible slave-drivers, and partying with a violent predator is hip and fun and totally cool as long as he’s got BEER and COOL GUY ROCK MUSIC.

Man, just Steelhorse that asshole and save us all some time.

Worst: Magnus vs. Willow


Worst: Give it to me straight, Doc (because lol gay joke something something probably)

Kurt Angle you’ve been wrestling for 16 years. You’re an Olympic athlete. You are also broken down as anything. Don’t even pretend you don’t know what a torn ACL is mother-cker we all watch SportsCentre.

Worst: MVP reveals the #1 Contender

Told you so.