The Best and Worst of Impact Wrestling 5/29/14: Table for Six

Hi friends, it’s time for the Impact Wrestletalk Rumble! But a few things first:

– Brandon and I went to an inordinate amount of wrestling shows in a ridiculously short period of time. There’s so much to recap that we had to split this week’s Mandible Claw Podcast in two. The first part, where we over ROH/NJPW and Beyond Wrestling is up for your listening pleasure, but be warned: the only thing that will get Shinsuke Nakamura’s theme song out of your head is the impossible to destroy earworm that is Jushin Liger’s theme.

– Comment, share, like, tweet, and tumbl this report. Be a part of the conversation so it’s not just me shouting at my laptop about how nothing makes sense and I miss Joseph Park.

– Follow me on Twitter here, With Leather here, and UPROXX here. I promise it is not just me tweeting that nothing makes sense and I miss Joseph Park.

This week on Impact: Nothing makes sense and I miss Joseph Park.

Worst: I am still super sick with strep

It kinda sucks writing the reports when I’m all hopped up on medication and socialized health care. I mean, I forgot at least thirty things I meant to put into the report last week, so I’m just left with a notepad full of half-formed thoughts such as “Why does Bobby Lashley wrestle in his real life underwear,” “Does Bobby Lashley know this makes him look like a member of the Pit Crew from RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “Why does Bobby Lashley have to go fully into Downward Dog to take his shirt off,” and, most importantly, “Why Bobby Lashley.”

One thing I haven’t forgotten, however, is how to spell his name. The same cannot be said for an actual person who gets paid to work at the same place he does:

And look, I don’t mean to suddenly get pedantic over wrestling nicknames, however, Ethan Carter III = EC3. It’s pretty well established. It even says so on a t-shirt, and we all know t-shirt canon is binding in at least 17 different countries.

Best: Kenny King

Sometimes I rewatch the Hogan-Bog Boss Man cage match because, you know, it’s great, but every time I do I get so dang mad that at the end Hogan steal Slick’s hat and wears it around the ring because he’s a real big jerk. This was 25 years ago and it makes me so freshly angry every single time. During the Bully Ray beatdown, Kenny King loses a shirt, but gains a hat when he steals it from Bully Ray. Just like what happened in 1989, were I in any way on this Bully Ray’s side I would be the most mad. A+ dick move, Kenny King.

Worst: Beach Blanket Bully

Bully Ray has set up this frustrating gallery of tables to illustrate his tables “hit list.” To the surprise of absolutely no one, this segment is a diagonal winner on the 2014 Bully Ray BINGO sheet:

B – References to balls, being a man, or shoving something up someone’s ass
I – Taking off chain, angrily pacing
G – Character alignment incongruous with long-established character traits/alliances
O – Oh my god can you cling to your past glory any harder with this tables nonsense

I thought we were gonna get a full horizontal line with “mention of violence towards a woman,” but the putting something up someone else’s butt thing sealed the deal.

Best: Is this the best Spud Suit yet?

Yes. Yes it is.

Worst: Nobody makes EC3 cry his own tears


Worst: It’s not about money, or fame…

It’s all about wrestling. And the fans. And jet packs. Definitely jet packs.

Worst: Kenny King of Trios

So because we are embroiled in a wishy-washy “let’s forget our differences and divide into two alliances without every really explaining why our characters would be motivated to do so other than I’M MAD and I AM A JUDGEY DICKHOLE” storyline, MVP has “the balls” (and the rest, because damnit he needs to rethink how flattering his gear is) to accept Bully Ray’s demand for a six-man tag.

Last week Davey Richards was carried out on a stretcher, his body somehow stiffer than his wrestling, but he remembered that he is who he is, equipped his Invincibility red brick, and soldiers on through the match. Maybe my favourite thing about this match is how he sells his injury more on the wolf howl than he ever does on offense.

Austin Aries’ favour has gone up and down in this column over the year and a half I’ve been writing it, and that’s fine. That’s fair. Contrary to popular belief I don’t just arbitrarily pick things to hate and then never change my mind ever (see Magnus, I miss you Cool). Austin Aries has been wandering in Impact purgatory, where he doesn’t really have a character, per se, he’s just a placeholder. Gone are the days of drunk Austin Aries standing on Hogan’s desk, or legitimately entertaining matches against Bobby Roode or, bless his heart, Samoa Joe. Anything he’s doing right now could easily be done by anyone on the roster. He was mad, and then he wasn’t, and now he is again, so he’s going to fill a spot on Team Impact for Lockdown or whatever. He doesn’t have a great dynamic with any of these fellows he’s standing toe to toe with, and the weasely smarm that ends up being his most endearing and attractive trait has no place in this angle. As such, we’re left with half-hearted wrestling that brings out the very worst of reasons people dislike Aries. The stutter steps, the excitable-puppy shaking and jumping instead of fluid, meaningful movements. I still enjoy the heck out of his brainbuster, but his infuriating freshly-caught-trout method of selling is a weird (nay, super sh-tty) way to show solidarity with Eric Young.

The mega-worst thing about this match is that I forgot at least four times that Eddie Edwards was in it.

Best: Mr…Anderson?

Yeah. I know. Yeah. It’s amazing how taking two seconds to address something logically will earn a best for someone who is…not. Anderson is mad that Gunner went to see Sam Shaw, and points out to “Dr. Phil….Shatter” that he has a team of doctors and staff members there to address his mental health, and Gunner isn’t actually a licensed professional who can help in any way. Gunner rebuts that he and Anderson have both served in the military, and have seen first-hand the trauma people can bring back with them. Maybe Shaw is the same, and he just needs some help. Anderson, somehow the voice of reason…reason…in all of this correctly points out that Shaw did not serve overseas, he’s a legit psycho and they are far from the same things. None of this explains why they’re teaming together, but a million Thank Yous to Mr. Anderson for taking two seconds to stop acting like a hyper two-year old to point out that conflating PTSD with being a violently disturbed sexual predator are super duper not the same things.

Worst: Ménage à Huh?

Anderson and Gunner teaming up makes…very little sense, as they’re definitely allowed to talk to each other without being forced into convoluted tag team matches that serve no purpose other than to…lord, I don’t even know at this point. I guess it’s to set up…this? The Menageries comes out to…do a thing…which I will explain…maybe…at some point…???

They’re wacky! And crazy! It’s madness! It’s…oh my god, it’s this:

Brandon, more like WROTE ABOUT BRAMdon…

Best: Tigre Uno

Not because of anything he actually does, but because when I ask Danielle if she needs help writing up any of these segments, she always brings up Tigre Uno and refers to him as “The Kitty.” It’s fun in the column, but it’s even better in real life. In my brain he is shoot The Kitty.


That is Bram’s character. AAAAAHHHH. AHHHHHH. Screaming “aah” and walking around in circles. When the match ends — via Impaler DDT no less, which is one rung on the wrestling finisher ladder above The Overdrive — he turns into a gay Spartan? I don’t know. He’s very stressful. Taz and Mike Tenay spend the entire match justifying his existence by saying he “pops off the screen,” which is basically Jim Ross dismissing someone by saying they’re a “great natural athlete.” Hey guys, if you put as much effort into telling Bram not to wander around in circles and scream like the Grunting Granny as you do putting over his television charisma on commentary, you’d probably have a great wrestler.

A supplemental Worst goes to Bram for not calling his finish the “Skinnamarink.”

Worst: So, Uh, Is This Magnus/Bram Issue A Gunner/Sam Shaw Thing Or What

After the match, Magnus is rightfully all, “wtf dude, you beat up The Kitty, why are you acting like such a psychopath about it?” Bram’s response is a really skeevy, breathy YOU AREN’T LIKE YOU USED TO BE, because I guess Bram misses the old European Aces and Eights they were in together and can’t move on. THE OLD YOU WOULD’VE BEATEN UP THE KITTY AND TAKEN HIS MASK, BECAUSE THE OLD YOU WAS PRETTY BORING AND OPERATED UNDER OBVIOUS WRESTLING TROPES. THE OLD YOU GOT HEAT BY TELLING PEOPLE TO SHUT UP, etc.

He does it like, an inch from Magnus’s face, too. That’s the worst part. When you have a conversation with someone, especially when holding a microphone, why are you nose-to-nose? ESPECIALLY if you’re just having a conversation about old times. GRRR REMEMBER HIGH SCHOOL, REMEMBER MR. WHITE, HE WAS A REAL JERK, HE WOULDN’T LET YOU MAKE UP THAT TEST. THE OLD YOU WOULD’VE HIT MR. WHITE WITH A RUBBER HAMMER, AAAHHHHHH *stomps around in a circle*

Best: The above screencap

I didn’t actually have a purpose for it, but I saved it as “all that sass” and now I can’t stop giggling.

Best: The Board of Directors

Being on the Impact Wrestling Board of Directors must be the easiest job in the world. You don’t have normal working hours, you in no way have to pay attention to anything that’s happening in what you’re in charge of, and you apparently have no base of operations so you can pretty much be in any part of the country you want at any time.

To be fair, everything I learned about being on the Board of something I learned from that one episode of Murder She Wrote in Season 4 where that tycoon got murdered, and Jessica had to figure out who did it while also trying to decide the fate of a company by choosing a successor. And I still feel like that may be more accurate than the Board portrayed on Impact TV.

Worst: Eric Young and Bully Ray

You know, the conversation isn’t great, but it’s at least a stepping stone in whatever direction the Dixie/MVP storyline is taking. EC3 is being delightful and always making sure he’s in the shot because he is smart and good at being on TV (even if he’s a million times sweatier than MVP who *just* wrestled a match), and we’re continuing something that was left unfinished last week in a rare, shining moment of continuity.

But then here comes Eric Young and Bully Ray, again threatening to put people through tables.

I am so unbelievably confused as to what being put through a table will solve. If someone goes through a table it doesn’t incapacitate them completely. It doesn’t fire that person. It doesn’t remove them from television. It’s an outmoded construct that Bully Ray clings to that in the end means a whole lot of nothing.

Best: The Assassination of Bully Ray by the Coward MVP

It takes a special kind of awful to make me say yeah, you know what, I am totally on MVP’s side. Bully Ray and Eric Young are that awful, but to his credit, MVP is making some really good points. When he says that he knows someone is a badass because someone else told him, not because that person told him, I’m iffy on the wording, but it’s a salient point if he’s ever made one. Just saying you’re a big mean tough guy doesn’t mean anything. If the core of your persona is to be a bully, what DO you do when the people you’re trying to bully aren’t afraid of you? Everything Bully Ray has constructed, he’s failed at, essentially. Aces & Eights fell apart due to his own hubris. Mr. Anderson is totally fine, still employed, not paralysed, and his children remain not on fire. MVP is in power because of a decision HE made. Eric Young has an even bigger target on his back because of what HE’s doing. The very essence of his character is rendered moot, leaving him nothing but shouted, hollow threats. This is the perfect time for some real soul-searching on Bully Ray’s part, but it’ll probably just result in the same old thing because people will still cheer for Bully no matter how many layers to his character go ignored, how many babies he threatens to shoot murder, and how many of his actions don’t make any sense. There’s so much potential that lies within Bully Ray that makes everything he does so frustrating. But you have to ask, if he’s such a top guy, and your biggest face at the moment, why can he be reduced to a pile of his own flaws with one simple question?

Worst: The Big Reveal

What on earth is the point of building up to a SUPER NO VACANCY MYSTERY PARTNER if you’re just going to introduce them via backstage statement beforehand?

Best: But they match!

Just as I enjoy the cohesion between EC3 and Dixie last week, Brittany switching out her gear to something similar to that of Gail Kim is a little thing that makes a huge psychological impact. Or…TNA Impact, if you will.

Worst: The angle no one ever saw coming ever no really it’s a surprise I swear

So right now I’m not smoking. It’s a terrible habit, I know, but at this point I’ve been doing it for basically ever (because I am an old), and while I don’t smoke as much as you’d think, it’s still a crutch I tend to rely on when writing or painting or at work or social situations or…okay, kind of anything, that’s how addiction works. Because I’ve had such a severe case of strep, I haven’t been able to smoke, which has resulted in my withdrawal symptoms being lumped in with my general feeling of awfulness due to being sick. Now that I’m (fingers crossed) past those, a lot of my struggle is not falling back onto old habits, or putting myself into situations that immediately make me want to smoke. Not drinking coffee (or a Spice of Life/Black Dragon Pearl Coconut Milk Latte from Teavana because that is my jaaaam), filling my breaks or that extra time before and after my shifts with something else, and just avoiding anything that causes that kneejerk reaction to doing something dangerous and harmful that might ultimately kill me.

The reason I tell you this is a) my goodness TNA is a stressor that makes me want to smoke an entire pack to my face as soon as possible when realistically I didn’t even smoke much to begin with, and b) my avoidance of harmful past habits is exactly the opposite of what TNA is doing.

Right now we’re presented with (translation: metaphorically kicked in the face) with a reenactment of a lot the things bad things TNA used to do. I’ve said that it’s like we’re being forced back in time, a darker place generally referred to as “2009,” or, “that f-cking Vince Russo bullsh-t.” Now that the real-life Impact hierarchy has been shuffled and shifted about, you would expect that a lot of the crummy things that someone like, say, Jeff Jarrett brought to the table would be gone, and it can move forward into the future, learning from the mistakes of the past, and staying on trend to become a compelling wrestling show highlighting the best of what the roster has to offer. Hahahahaha, nope.

Remember like a million columns ago when I half-jokingly predicted that Brittany would be shoved into a pseudo-lesbian stalker angle? Of course this is where that was going, because women cannot have relationships with one another that don’t revolve around a) boys, b) looks/jealousy of said looks, and c) male-gaze Baby Blue Movie-lipstick lesbians because being gay is wrong but maybe what if them there two pretty girls kissed a little? Kneejerk reactions into stupid, harmful situations. Outdated concepts that should be left in the past where they are ridiculed and used as examples of why Impact Wrestling was always and will always be the B-show, regardless of the fact that having a smaller audience and a different network reach isn’t actually a bad thing and being a B-show to the largest and grandest spectacle is totally fair and acceptable.

The half-joking also comes with that non-humorous side; the side that knows full well exactly where this is going because it’s been done again and again, and taking a fresh, creative approach is anathema to whomever (“whomever,” like we can’t figure it out) is behind this lapse into the horrors of wrestling past. It’s that crutch they always fall back on because trying to do anything else and taking a different approach is hard and requires genuine effort. We were on track for something different. Again, there was that blissful time when the Worsts weren’t really super bad (except when they occasionally kinda were), but there were real, honest to goodness Bests that didn’t need to be forced or didn’t come by EC3’s sheer existence. It’s so unbelievably frustrating as a consistent viewer who wants Impact to be successful, and wants to be positive about them again. It’s happened before. We were so close. But old habits die hard, and wrestling shows don’t come with a helpful, concerned Surgeon General. In the end it will just shorten Impact’s life expectancy, and whomever is in charge is a damn fool not to think so.

Worst: Social Media

Usually I’d post some hilarious response dredged up from the depths of despair, aka the YouTube comment section, but going through the responses to this, everyone’s reactions are basically the same. I mean, you have your gross comments about lesbians and makeouts and generic gross sexist stuff that comes along with an angle like this, but the majority of them just express boredome with the whole thing because it’s been done before. Whether it’s people harping on the Crazy Mickie/Trish talking point, or lady kisses in ECW, or Winter/Angelina, it’s the same conversation. That’s it’s been done before, it’s predictable, and it’s not entertaining. Think about that for a second: the commenters on a TNA YouTube video are actually making sense.

TNA that should never ever happen ever.

Twitter is still reliably sh-tty:

Best: EC3-Count

Anything that puts that lovely fellow and his beautiful head of hair on my television has to be a good thing, right? ECReferThree might actually be the only bright spot in this main even, though.

Worst: Bully Ray doesn’t even know who he is anymore

The match isn’t about any actual wrestling, but Bully’s frustrations at MVP and friends lurking on the outside. But…this is his bread and butter. He used to do this all the damn time. Before the Bullet Club’s stable of gaijin aggressively took the crown, Bully Ray and his leatherdaddy friends were the kings of outside interference. He rigged matches, deceived people, and in no way did anything above board. So what is it about Eric Young now that makes Bully Ray forget who he is? Why are we supposed to accept “Eric Young is a nice guy” as a reason for anything? He hasn’t proved that he’s a nice guy. He’s a morally judgmental piece of sh-t towards Kenny King, but we all know just how much how Bully Ray loves and supports sex workers. Eric Young has been in the company forever, but Bully Ray never gave a damn when Angle had things handed to him because WWE, or when he himself had anything handed to him because WWE/ECW. Remember that time Aces & Eights smashed EY’s ankle to bits with a ballpeen hammer in front of his distraught wife? Did I miss the part where Bully Ray stopped and told everyone to ease up because hey, yo, he’s a nice guy who never made it out of the midcard so leave him alone? None of this is believable and yet the entire main event scene hinges on it.

Don’t make me be Team MVP, guys. Don’t do it.

Worst: And here comes Samoa Joe

Did…did he have to walk to Orlando? Is that where he’s been, and also why he’s so unreasonably gassed? Good thing he’s made sure to be at his most intimidating upon his return: