The Best And Worst of Impact Wrestling 5/6/14: The American Don Wests

Hey friends! It’s that time of the week again. Did you watch Impact? I know I certainly did!

– I’ll be at Smash Wrestling this weekend, because one weekend without going to a wrestling show was apparently unbearable. Chris Hero vs. Watanabe is gonna rule, so if you can, come out and watch them beat the tar out of each other, and maybe say hello and get a high five from yours truly. Or Chris Hero. I’m sure he’d high five you if you asked.

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This week on Impact: I just quit smoking. Guess how much this episode made me regret that? Also, BRAM. AHHHHH.

Worst: Everything? No, no, that’s too defeatist. Basically everything?

Oh my goodness. Where do I even begin? I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I try to approach Impact each week with positivity. I’ve learned not to hope for the best, but I know there are good people there, so I at least try not to expect the worst. Samoa Joe’s return last week coupled with the fact that Spud wouldn’t be here this week didn’t bode well for this episode, but I thought hey, naw, it’s fine. It’s fine! It’s so fine that if I keep saying it, it betrays exactly how not fine it is. Joe is mad, of course, because he’s a Samoan Submission Machine fueled only by rage, and not by plugging him into a wall socket in the garage every night like I had imagined. I can understand Samoa Joe’s anger in this context, and for once it makes sense. Joe vouched for MVP, helped usher in the Validation Era, and was one of the first to really help illustrate how MVP is very much not a good guy. But hey Joe, what have you done for us lately?

MVP and his fwiends have been searching high and low for Joe, and found him in the ring being mad as heck. Kenny King moves himself solidly into the “ugh why did you ever make me like you” column by greeting Joe with a line about tough guys acting like whiney broads, and I must admit that when Samoa Joe immediately covered King’s microphone, part of me allowed itself to hope that Joe had been repackaged into “decent human being who takes the correct umbrage at sexist remarks.” But no, he had to take a moment to say that Kenny King should kiss his ass. Good stuff, right? Such a riveting war of words. MVP, with the unnecessary dig at CM Punk, points out that Samoa Joe had his chance already, but he took his ball and went home. As such, he’s in breach of his contract. Lame references aside, he’s correct, and the streak of heels being the only ones to use logic to get heat continues.

Samoa Joe insists that his job is beating people up, and tonight he’ll take on MVP, King, AND Bobby Lashley AT THE SAME TIME (gasp!) because that will somehow even everything out. MVP’s not going to let him do that, because frankly Samoa Joe should have been sent home for wearing the same shirt two tapings in a row, let alone threatening to murderkill his boss, and that brings out Austin Aries. Because of course it does. Aries Isn’t happy either, and to be fair I had to go back and watch his promo again because I think my brain blocked it out as some kind of involuntary defense mechanism. The long and short of it is Austin Aries thinks MVP doesn’t accept challenges where the odds aren’t stacked in his favour (three on one is somehow not in MVP’s favour???), and as Director of Operations, he should make the match happen regardless of Joe’s contract status. MVP does just what I would do (stop that MVP), and instead puts Joe and Aries in a match together. Not only that, the winner gets to keep their full contract status, but the loser has to go home forever.

If you strip away the posturing and demand of aggressive butt kisses, it sounds good. That’s the real core issue here. The idea and intent behind the segment are sound. It’s crazy (or CRAZZY as my phone would autocorrect it to, thanks Impact), but I can’t fault it for making sense. Joe is upset for the right reason, MVP makes salient points about Joe’s anger being pointless because he abandoned them, then makes a sound, deliciously heelish decision in fitting with his character. Austin Aries…well, as I said last week, Austin Aries could be anyone, he’s just a stop-gap solution to propel the story forward via bland exposition, but it works. The delivery is what kills it. It’s what always kills it. I don’t know if somebody wrote this out verbatim, or if they all sat around and were like “yeah, you riff on stupid broads, and then I’ll talk about my butt and spit a lot, and then you’ll wear a sleeveless t-shirt with dress pants and it’ll be baller as f-ck,” but either way that person or persons needs to have their nose rubbed in this segment so they learn what they did was bad.

That or we take shock collars off of every dog (because they’re cruel and shouldn’t be used ever) and instead put all of them on Austin Aries.

Worst, but Best, but AHHHH: BRAM

Guys, I think Brambleberry Pie over here might be a bad friend. Magnus is trying to explain the origin story of TH’WILLOW to him, but oh, Bram doesn’t care. See, Bram only cares about getting Magnus back to where he used to be, the Magnus HE knows. But what Magnus does he know? He claims that he was proud of Magnus when he won the World Heavyweight Championship, but then he got complacent, and that’s why he doesn’t still have it. Dude. Dude. Bramsicles, darling. What Magnus have you been watching? Remember when he was an actual Gladiator? A ladies man? Main Event Mafia was the pinnacle of Neutered POS Magnus, but it’s Cool Magnus that brings you out of the woodwork?

Alternate theory: Bram is, as they call it in THE CAMPS, a “wrestling hipster,” the singular iteration of TNA he watched regularly being Ring Ka King. Only recently did he watch an episode of Impact (for the first time since the Asylum years, obviously), and was like “whoa hey what is this garbage I’ve gotta save my jerkoff colonist friend from himself!” And then he swam to Florida, ergo the beard and the disproportionate arm musculature.

Alternate alternate theory: Forget theories, let’s just scrap all of this and focus our efforts on a new and exciting season of Ring Ka King.

Worstitee Whee: TH’WILLOW

Man, speaking of neutered pieces of shit…

Best: Davey Richards is a ridiculous human being

Remember how I said that I would try to say one nice thing about Davey Richards each week (or each appearance) in an effort not to be that super indie wrestling-loving jerkface that I 100% am? I didn’t, and with good reason, but I think makes it all up to me in this one segment. Richards goes from being…well, himself, to the most hilarious thing on the entire show. To wit:

1) He thought this “would be the era of the wrestler, not the puppetmaster doing whatever they could to line their pockets,” he said, making this face as he turned to the camera

2) He insists that MVP is just “a sheep in Wolves clothing”, which is so dumb it might loop around to Zoolander levels of amazing. What would have been even more amazing is if he had followed it up with “And you can be too if you head over to! Let the hunt FOR BARGAINS begin!”

3) Cool ‘flops, bro:

Worst: Wrestling chicken

Part of me doesn’t want to give this a worst, because I get it. They’re friends, and they don’t want to wrestle each other, especially when one of them is hurt and they could further aggravate the injury. The match itself, however, is less an exhibit of technical wrestling skills and moreso…okay. Last year during WrestleMania, there were a bunch of really loud and obscene fellows staying on the same floor of our hotel. At one point, one of them, clad only in a singlet, chased the other down the hallway trying to wrestle him or kiss him or maybe both? That’s…kinda what this match felt like.

If you don’t go the comedic route, a la Bad Influence, then this is your opportunity to really shift out of your comfort zone and put on one of those great matches that every wrestler who works for TNA is supposedly being held back from. I feel like Richards has watched enough Dynamite Kid matches to know that when you know your opponent so well, you learn their moves and habits and are forced to innovate ways to counter where you may have been dealt damage before. This was the perfect opportunity to make Eddie Edwards his little vanilla Tiger Mask. They’ve been tagging for a million years, so they know what the other is capable of, and therefore would need to do something different. This could have actually been really fantastic, but instead it looks like two douchebros drunkenly playing gay chicken until the hotel manager comes to tell them to pipe down or he’ll take their tag titles away.

Worst: Madison and Brittany

Madison Rayne is SO MAD at Brittany for not listening to her last week, so this week she makes it explicitly clear that she wants Brittany to do nothing. Oh boy, I hope that doesn’t bite her in the ass!

Best: That Robbie E, he’s so hot right now

I’m not one of those people who pretends that everyone on the roster would be just so fantastic if big bad Impact would stop holding them back, but man, Robbie E. Buddy. You are totally better than this. There’s a moment during the backstage preamble to…whatever it is that happened next…when his fellow BroMen are trying to pinpoint what it is about The Menagerie that bothers him so much, and…it’s hard to explain. It’s this perfect little moment of sincerity that makes you stop and say hey, wow, this guy is really good at what he’s doing. The forced, over-the-top fear of Crazzy Steve and clowns in general is funny, but that one little moment takes you out of enjoying his comedic work on a surface level to realizing that the only thing that’s crazzy is the amount of potential he has.

Still the Worst: Ils sont une pagaille épouvantable, eh?

This week, after Tazz has an objectification meltdown over Rebel the likes we’ve not seen since Kelly Kelly did anything in front of Jerry Lawler, we get the explanation that The Menagerie are here to make money, and send it back home to Knux’s Sad Dad’s Carnival of Broken Poker Machines and Sadness. That’s all well and good, but who signed these contracts? Who is paying them? If we’re going by established canon, did MVP say yeah, two Zs? That’s a guy I want on my roster! Did Dixie, balls deep in a bottle of cabernet say yeah, that guy who terrorized my company with his weirdo bad guy biker friends has a home in the Impact Zone now that he’s got creepy siltwalkers and a lady who can do splits on the rope? What is Rebel being paid to do? Do the stiltwalkers actually get paid, or do they moonlight at Taco Bell? If nobody actually wrestles, why are they getting paid at all? If you don’t have the answers for the questions your explanation elicits, why is that even your explanation in the first place?

I think the Menagerie could all stand to live a little less más, quite frankly.

Here’s Brandon to save the day! And by the day I mean my sanity.


So much talk about feeding families. Here’s what’s going down: MVP has put Samoa “Not CM Punk, We Swear” Joe into a match with Austin “Also Not CM Punk, We Also Swear” Aries into a CONTRACT vs. CONTRACT match, wherein the winner is restored to full contract status and the loser is fired. He goes to referee Brian Hebner and tells him to call the match with no DQs and no countouts because there has to be a winner, and somebody has to get fired. Eric Young and Bully Ray, neither man in charge of Impact, also approach Hebner and tell him to FOLLOW HIS HEART or whatever and call the match how HE sees fit. Hebner more or less tells them to f*ck off because he has a FAM’LY.

Anyway, the match happens, and Eric Young decides that the top babyface thing to do would be to pull the referee out of the ring multiple times to keep ANY finish from happening. Bully Ray, thinking on Eric Young’s level, shows up and punches Hebner out. Young takes the mic and says they punched him because it’s about something bigger … it’s about THUR lives and THUR job and THUR families. Because I guess MY FRIEND’S FAMILY is more important than MY COWORKER’S FAMILY? Will Brian Hebner’s children now starve to death? Why are we arbitrarily picking and choosing who eats?

The end result is the Whitest Wrestlers U Know and SmoJoe ending up in a FIRST BLOOD BEEF with MLK. Beef and milk. I GOT FAMILIES TO FEED.

Two things:

1. This substantiates my belief that every single person on Impact is a terrible human being. They’re just a roster of Gollums, hastily plucking fist out of the stream and chomping at their guts. They have these broad ideas of what justice and fellowship and honor are, but they don’t understand them, so they just vaguely participate in social ritual until the next cycle turns over. It’s why everybody turns on everybody, no tag teams stay together, babyfaces are threatening to shoot murder you and invade your home and the heels are smarmy business types or “men with a grudge.” They’re all the same. Everyone is exactly the same, and everyone is terrible.

2. This is one of the deadest crowds ever. They don’t make a SOUND until 45 seconds into that video, and even their response woos to Bully Ray’s big WE’RE GONNA BLEED TO DEATH AND DIE declarations are half-hearted. Maybe give them a few people they’re happy to see and they won’t be so sick of everything?

Worst: Mr. Anderson

This is the shittiest remake of the Apple Dumpling Gang I’ve ever seen.

Worst: Phil Shatter(ing the stigmas of mental health)

Who is this one? Who is it, Sam?


Worst: Madison Rayne vs. Angelina Love

If only we could have seen this coming!

Best: Bless you, EC3

I love that casual pre-match EC3 entails wearing jeans with his gauntlets, like Wonder Woman was in a rush, and just threw on some slacks to run out and grab some coffee on the way to a JLA meeting. I love that the best parts of this episode are the awkward yet fascinating looks into pre-match fashion choices. I love that he is still, hands down, the best part of this match. He makes Samoa Joe look a million times better than he has any right to look at this point. I like that everything he does makes sense, from a physical standpoint, to his character motivations, to how aware he is of the production of televised wrestling, and how he fully optimizes his onscreen appearances. I like that his failed splash in the corner looked like it would have actually done some damage had it been successful. Sting’s actual splashes haven’t looked that good in about six decades (I might not be good at estimating).

He is so good at things and I don’t understand why more people can’t see it. I know there are some of you who think he stinks, and think I just say these things because he’s handsome (he is!), or because he is a well-known With Leather favourite (he is also that!), but the good news is I don’t think of you nerds at all. Team Mr. The Third always!

Worst: Paying attention makes you miserable

I love wrestling. I love watching it, I love talking about it, hell, I even love writing this column even if TNA fights me at every turn to make that impossible these days. But there comes a point when you watch so much wrestling that your brain sheds the “it’s just wrestling, whatever” mentality, and when things don’t make sense, sometimes you just stop enjoying them. Watching Impact for as long and as intently as I have is pretty much a crash course in making that happen. It is the Rosetta Stone of learning how not to execute things properly. I think that’s why it’s sometimes so difficult to articulate exactly why it’s bad. As I’ve said before, you get so used to how bad it is, unless something is spectacularly awful or racist or sexist or what have you, it gets lumped in with the awful you know, and not the awful that would inspire anger from any of the bigger wrestling shows.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this match is a million times no fun, but the fact that it’s even happening might anger me the most. We’ve got MVP saying he can hire and fire people at will, but yet…he doesn’t do it. We’ve got Kenny King interrupting MVP’s emphatic protests to the First Blood match proposed by Bully Ray to agree to the match, but yet MVP doesn’t just say hey, that shit’s not binding, go home Kenny you are drunk and your shirt is too big. If MVP has all this power, just say no. Just say no! It’s not a big deal! We can move from point A to point Wrestling Match without muddling all of the facts. Don’t establish canon and then break it because then I turn into Tina Belcher shouting NONCANONICAL! at my laptop and wanting to flip over a million tables. If you establish rules, explain clearly why they are being followed, or why they are being broken. And not an explanation like that of The Menagerie, where it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Don’t just be like WHOOPS WELL OKAY LET’S JUST HAVE A BIG BABY FIGHT OVER IT instead. Don’t do that. If you get paid to write a story from start to finish, you can’t just pull a Zatanna and be like WHOOPS PAUL DINI’S GONE SO FORGET ABOUT THAT BAD GUY LET’S SAY SOME STUFF BACKWARDS OH LOOK ZATANNA IN A BIKINI END SCENE. That sucked. Don’t do that. A long-term television narrative dictates that you must pay attention to these things, so just do it. Stick it on a post-it. Write it on a white board. Remember that you are professional writers and get paid to pay attention to the things that come out of your own brain. If I have to apply critical thinking to watch it, try applying some critical thinking when creating it.

Or, you know, keep producing lazy television that nobody wants to watch, and continue to be the butt of every televised wrestling joke. Whatever.