The Best And Worst Of Impact Wrestling 6/12/14: The Three-Count of Monte Cristo

Hey friends! Do you like shows here nothing makes sense, but it’s okay because nothing really matters? That’s a pretty niche interest, but luckily you are gonna love this week. First:

– This weekend is Inspire Pro Wrestling’s Clash at the Bash! Davey Vega vs. Thomas shire in a match I’m pretty sure I willed into existence! Brandon Stroud in a taco-shirt tribute to Dan Barry! Good wrestling, and a beach theme! Everything in this description is magical. Get to it if you can, and if not, watch their shows in full on YouTube and wish you were there.

– Like this report on Facebook, share it on the sharing places, comment, tweet, tumbl, and make sure this gets read by as many people as possible. Even by Gunner. Actually…no. Not by Gunner. Nevermind.

– Follow me on Twitter here, With Leather here, and UPROXX here. Follow Bram at @AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

This week on Impact Wrestling: Nothing before this show has ever happened. We swear. Don’t ever question it. Ever.

Worst: R-E-S-P-M-V-P

So. What do you do when your big pay-per-view match is a match that’s already happened? The first Eric Young vs. MVP matchup may have been a schmoz, a way for MVP to “turn” heel for realsies, and not just be a guy that was obviously awful to everyone except those around him, but this one is the real deal, right? How do you make it fresh and exciting, and turn what can be seen for free on YouTube into a Very Big Deal™?

I…don’t think this is it.

If you look at the story that is seemingly being told at glance, it seems pretty simple. MVP fancies himself wrestling’s modern-day Edmond Dantès: also imprisoned in his early life, MVP has found fortune, and returned to wrestling a wealthy man, ingratiating himself into the lives of those he was looking to seek revenge upon. The revenge part doesn’t have a completely obvious in-show target (MVP just doesn’t have enough history with TNA), but Dixie Carter serves nicely as an overall representation of the greed of corporate wrestling, should you like to infer that everything is always (and will always) come back to WWE. If not, then I guess he was just real mad about those jobber squashes years ago, I guess.

Allegories aside, the revenge aspect and what MVP is trying to prove is still muddy. Then that leaves his only motivation as that one part of David Otunga’s theme I always get stuck in my head: it’s all about him, and it’s all about the power. But then what? What happens should MVP become champion?

Then we have Eric Young. Poor mistreated underdog Eric Young. Young uses this segment to talk a lot about respect, and how he’s earned it, and maybe also about his new television show that proves how committed to wrestling he is no wait sorry it’s about fishing nevermind. Has Young really earned it, though?

A lot of what makes Eric Young’s current character is blurring the line of locker room opinions and on-screen happenings. If you know anyone, or even pay attention to non-kayfabe opinions in TNA, Eric Young is genuinely well liked. Everybody seems to love the guy, on-screen differences or not. The problem is that we’re expected to take that piece of reality and accept it as a canonical fact, when really he’s done very little to prove that he’s likeable, let alone friends with every real man wrestler to ever wrestle and be a real man on the show. Bully Ray and his biker friends beat his ankle to mush with that TOTALLY NOT FAKE hammer, but yet there’s no one in the world Bully Ray respects more. Eric Young has been there ten years, so he’s earned it. But so has Bobby Roode, and everyone hated that guy. James Storm and Abyss have been there for longer – why isn’t Eric Young trying to get the belt on either of them as a show of respect? Outside of TNA, Bobby Lashley has been wrestling for ten years, and both Kenny King and MVP having wrestled for twelve. No one is new to this game (the TNA motto, after all). If respect is earned over time, then everyone is kind of on a level playing field, you know?

Worst: Eric Young

The answer to all of this, of course, is that no one on Impact is actually a good guy. Everyone is selfish and rotten. Eric Young pretends to live on a moral high ground that just does not exist in this universe, and we’re supposed to accept that he’s a good guy because he tells us he is, even though he’s never done anything to actually prove it. MVP’s motivations may not be the purest, but he seems to be the only one who’s making any sense at all.

The problem with these kinds of opening, besides the slack delivery and self-congratulatory “cheap plugs,” is that they don’t effectively tackle the biggest problem of long-term sequential storytelling. Every week the audience joins the story in media res. As such, the expectation is that they have to reiterate enough of what has already happened so as to not completely confuse new viewers, but also not over-explain what lead to this week’s episode for people who have been watching up until this point. It’s a delicate balance of characters not explaining what the other characters already know, expository segments explaining why they did just what they did, and fancy video packages that are usually above reproach because that seems to be one of the only things Impact seems to nail on a consistent basis. But if we walked into this show fresh, not having any idea what lead up to it, would Eric Young be that likeable guy? It’s clear that MVP is in a position of power and abusing it, Kenny King is a brash young upstart MVP may have issues with in the future because he just can’t seem to reign him in, and Bobby Lashley is…there. But without knowing how many people on the roster would invite Eric Young to their house for a barbecue, is there anything that truly stands out? Between his real-man posturing, his faulty logic when it comes to how respect is earned, and the utter lack of conviction in his delivery, I don’t think there is.

Going into what they consider to be a major pay per view, that’s a big problem.

Best: Bobby Lashley

No no, hear me out. It’s not actually for anything he does, it’s for what he doesn’t do. I mean, I’m certainly not going to give him a best for his wrestling, my goodness. No, the best lies in his inaction. By not attempting to speak pretty much ever again, Bobby Lashley comes out of this looking the best. Kenny King looks immature and inexperienced; someone who is certain to be undone by his rash decisions and lack of self-control. MVP, while remaining the person who applies to most logic to everything, is still a total shitheel. Eric Young, see above. Bobby Lashley, as I said, is just there.

Thanks to Eric Young, we’ve established that he’s a respectable wrestler who has served his country and has a family. He’s just in it with MVP to get a fair shake. That’s an untouchable amount of character depth for someone who rates in the negative on a measurable scale of on-screen charisma. It also adds more to MVP’s group dynamic than “black guys.” It allows room for their future implosion, should that be the route Impact chooses to take. It also adds enough nuance to each non-MVP member that either King or Lashley could reasonably be split off from the group when everyone joins together and rises up against MVP for the good of the company or whatever.

If he keeps this up, and never picks up a microphone (please never pick up a microphone), he could come out spotless in all of this.

Best: Willow

Say what you want (and I will) about what is happening with Willow, but TONIGHT OUR PATIENCE IS ON VACATION is one of the most gloriously ludicrous sentences in the history of wrestling.

Worst: You save more if you buy in bulk

Situations this phrase applies to: off-brand cereal, former WWE wrestlers, matching tank tops. If rampant stereotypes are correct, by this time next week the lockeroom is gonna be full of a dozen different colours of tank top, guys you’ve only seen squashed on NXT, and Honey-Nut Scooters.

Anyways, we all know that there is but one acceptable use of matching tank tops, it already happened, and it was fabulous:

Double Worst: When looking through my folders of old Impact pictures, I found this and it damn near broke my heart

Worst: But no seriously, AHHH BRAM AHHH

Magnus isn’t gonna be what anyone else tells him to be, except I guess this guy who just swam across an ocean to…tell him how to be. Bram really gets off on that, huh? He spends all this time systematically destroying Cool Magnus (RIP, forever in our hearts, only to move onto Jeff Hardy. Jeff Hardy has to have an alter ego to be feared, but he’s not really a monster. Magnus and his fwiend are the monsters and they’ve got the matchy-matchy wardrobe to prove it! BRAM CAN YELL. HE’S SO LOUD. LOOK AT HIM YELL HE MUST MEAN BUSINESS. HE DOESN’T NEED A MASK TO YELL AND YELLING DEFINES HIS MASCULINITY OKAY. WILLOW IS JUST JEFF HARDY GUYS DID YOU KNOW IT’S JUST JEFF HARDY IT’S JUST JEFF HARDY AND THOSE CARS AREN’T EVEN REALLY HIS THEY’RE JUST RENTALS. AHHH. AHHHHHHHH.

Guys, I fear Bram might be an asshole.

Worst: Masque of the Red Death (of My Interest)

This immediately goes from “who the f-ck cares about what this knob end who just showed up out of nowhere thinks” to “all will be forgiven if you tell Abyss that he’s not a big scary dude with multiple personalities he’s just a mild-mannered lawyer” (because seriously just come back to me Joseph Park. I miss you every day).

To their credit, this at least gives some amount of logic to this feud. Bram-anyone makes no sense, but Abyss was lied to. Magnus was mean to him and hugged him and then it turned out that those hugs were a sham. His friendship-based-wrestling-friendship was built on a foundation of lies. And I act cool and say I’m over it but I am so not.

Worst: Gunner. Always Gunner.

Huh. Turns out all Ted Bundy needed was a hot cuppa joe.

Best: EC3

Or to be more specific, EC3 and the band-aid that launched a thousand hurt/comfort fanfics.


Worst: This Segment Brought To You By EMBARRASSING FOR EVERYBODY

1. Hey, you know what would’ve made Sin Cara’s shitty moodlighting better? Having his entrance music play at a low volume for the entire match. This is the limitlessness of TNA’s insanity: somebody said “combine Sin Cara and New Jack” and The Odditities Again is what they came up with.

2. Literally none of this is important, as the only things you need to know are Crazy Steve tried to stop a DJ from derisively playing a hype horn at him by standing on the turnbuckle and pointing, and that Crazy Steve ended the match by putting some balloons up Robbie E’s ass.

3. So, uh, Robbie E has an imaginary friend.

The imaginary friend is named Michael and is BALLOONS UP HIS ASS. Can you make letters MORE capital? At one point during Robbie’s “run away from something up my ass and swat at it so it stays behind me” Benny Hill’s corpse homage, he yells out THIS IS EMBARRASSING, and yeah, that’s not Robbie E talking, that’s the man playing him. Robbie E seriously turned up for work on the day of this show and they said “we’re gonna put some balloons up your ass and you’ve gotta be afraid of them,” and he was like SURE, GREAT IDEA.

At some point you’ve got to say “no sir, I would not like the joke to be that I have balloons up my ass.”

4. The best part of the match is how like, 15 people in the crowd are clapping and everyone else is dead silent. Part of that could be Impact’s bright idea to have multiple guys on stilts standing around ringside, because valets and photographers aren’t enough things in your way.

5. The Menagerie story should end with Rebel blowing out a candle and none of them ever being seen again.

Best: Those suits tho…

Immediate kickstarter to purchase that suit from Spud so I can wear it pretty much everywhere: special occasions, family Christmases, to the store on an emergency tofu run. You know we’re almost the same size. I also happen to know someone who has a really good tailor.

Worst: …oh god, it’s EC3.

I…actually have to worst Ethan Carter III. Spud, too. I…can’t really believe this. Or this entire segment, really. I remain on Team Mr. The Third, but that’s where I have to admit that I am guilty of doing the same thing I criticized on the first page: I am blurring the lines between on-screen character and my real-life internet friend who I know hates things like that and in no way would do that unless he was asked to for his job. On-screen EC3, well, that’s kind of the ultimate betrayal for a fan like me, isn’t it?

Predictably, I’m going to get mad, not at EC3 but at whomever put him up to that. Feelings and friendships aside, this segment makes no sense. In particular, this sudden misogyny out of EC3 who has never done anything to indicate that he hates women as much as [insert literally any wrestler here], and has, in fact, always defended his aunt to the best of his ability. His on-screen persona has no need for a sudden shift in gears, let alone one that doesn’t make any sense. it because he does make sense? Is it because he has his own thought-out motivations beyond the strict rule of “everyone has to be an asshole at all times always”? This is, of course, a teeny tiny minor problem of the Gojira-sized issue I have with this segment as a whole.

Worst: These awful things that happened didn’t happen because we say so

The reason we suddenly have someone who has always stuck to their character’s logical motivations suddenly acting like a prick is to make him look like the bad guy. Bully Ray is a good guy, and as I’ve said before, we’re supposed to magically forget all of the awful things he’s done in the past. Never has this been more obvious than when Brooke Tessmacher comes out to LITERALLY REWRITE HISTORY before our very eyes.

You would think it would be easy to prove that Bully Ray is a horrible person. You’ve got…years of video to work with, some of the most damning evidence being on Impact Wrestling’s very own YouTube channel. Not much more than six months ago, we all witnessed the break-up of Brooke and Bully Ray. I remember this because a) I pay attention to what I’m watching, and b) it was one of the things that made me the angriest in maybe my entire time watching TNA. And I don’t mean a little disgruntled, or dismayed. I mean it made me so furious and uncomfortable that it left me with that seething, white-hot anger where all you can do is cry because you’re so furious. For those of you who were busy with your winter holidays, let me re-post a snippet from the following week’s Impact column:

If scenarios wherein a woman fights to earn what she should have started out with in the first place are this precarious, angles that either hint at or flat-out flaunt abuse are significantly more dangerous, and hold no value in wrestling, nay, society, today. First impressions are key, and when the first thing someone is told is that a human being is less than, that impression stays. It would be great to live in an entirely progressive fandom where women aren’t referred to as bitches and c-nts by merely existing within their gender, but again – we start out at zero. Whether a wrestler or a fan, it has been ingrained into the minds of most that we are a lesser. Opinions hold no weight, strength is relative, bitches can’t be trusted. Women are dumb sexual props, or conniving plot devices who should never be believed, especially if they dared to be in a relationship with someone. Sluts and bitches and literal trains of hos. A character who shows any amount of genuine empowerment is still brought down by those ideas and angles that came before them. Once a hoeski, forever a hoeski.

Angles like this are a grim reminder of how what some view as over-sensitivity is a very real culture of fear that polices the daily lives of any woman. Before those of you itching to jump right into the comment section to cry that it’s just entertainment get right in it, consider this: Brooke Tessmacher can be a Knockouts champ. She can be physically strong, and in a political position of power. She can be anything she wants to be. One solid grip on her arm causes all of that to come crashing down in an instant, because in that moment of fear and helplessness, everything is reset, and her value, again, is zero. It’s the subtle fear that lingers in the back of any woman’s mind because it’s what we’ve been taught. Always keep an eye on your drink. Don’t shortcut through alleys at night. Be alert when walking by yourself, day or night. Don’t go to that concert/wrestling show/convention by yourself. Don’t even dream of traveling by yourself. All of these things – what’s presented on screen, what we’re told to keep us safe, and what we’re told to put us down – all of these things are connected.

This was, of course, occurring simultaneously with the Velvet Sky-Chris Sabin domestic abuse/lady in a cage angle, so…you know…not a great time.

The problem, besides ignoring this video or this video (which I know EC3 and Spud have access to because we all do they are right there) as a means to prove that Bully Ray is a bad guy is that we have to prove that Bully Ray is a bad guy. We know he’s a bad guy. He’s a bad bad man who does bad bad things, but instead of putting any effort into maintaining continuity but also creating logical reasons for a bad guy to be not so bad anymore, we’re supposed to let Bully Ray and Brooke hug it out and pretend they just drifted apart, and he didn’t ever say “I could stick your head between my legs and piledrive you on your ugly face,” then insist he only kept her around to use her sexually and oh snap guess what Brooke you sucked at that too.

Everything about this in the greater context is shameful. In the immediate context of “it’s just wrestling people turn face and heel all the time whatever,” it’s…still pretty bad. Remember how, for the longest time, you never knew if Alicia Fox was a face or a heel until she showed up with other faces and/or heels and probably a sailor hat? Wrestling fans are expected to have the memory spans of guppies, which should probably make people a lot angrier more often since these rapid heel/face changes, when you think about it, are pretty insulting. We’re forced into accepting these maniacal shifts in personality with little to no explanation time after time to the point we just shrug and say “haha oh well it’s wrestling amirite.” That’s a cop out. Don’t ever let anyone use that as an excuse. That excuse translates to “I am being treated like a moron who doesn’t have the capacity for memory or rational thought, and I am okay with that.” While I don’t believe that Impact is the worst promotion in the world (it’s…getting there, but it’s really not), it certainly is the best at treating its audience like they’re stupid. That should be offensive to everyone.

Worst: Let’s take a breather and check in on the Knockouts!

Where women are treated like real wrestlers, have their own distinct personalities not based on looks, and are never put into a context that would engender any reactions that would be deemed disrespectful…

Worst: MVP vs. Eric Young

Eric Young had to wrestle his way through Bobby Lashley and Kenny King before getting to the shittest final boss ever in MVP. Lashley won, King lost, and if Eric Young could win this match he’d get to choose the stipulation for their Slammiversary showdown. MVP, knowing that King and Lashley tried (emphasis on tried) to work Young’s back, delivered a chair shot to the patiently waiting Young, who at no point thought to equip Ring Escape when setting his attributes prior to entering this match. MVP is disqualified, because of course he doesn’t care what the stipulation is, he’s a real man’s manly man and he can beat down Eric Young under any stipulation at any time. He just wanted to wear him down. That’s…actually good heel logic, so I’ll give him credit there, but these matches still are just not good. Eric Young can be the nicest guy in the world, but he is not getting championship matches, or even memorable matches, out of this feud.

Now that we know MVP injured himself badly enough that he won’t be able to compete, I guess the stipulation will finally be that dick-measuring contest we’ve been ramping up to. But the real question is will it be a Bring Your Own Ruler match, or is a blue IMPACT WRESTLING-emblazoned measuring tape being printed AS WE SPEAK?

Slammiversary, y’all!