The Best And Worst Of Impact Wrestling 7/4/13: Manik Depressive

Pre-show notes:

– Yep, I wrote an Impact report. I switched columns with Danielle Matheson this week and let her write up NXT, so be sure you go and read that. Our shared love of Renee Young is a strong one.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: If you like Impact Wrestling and are not familiar with me derisively name-dropping it in the Best And Worst Of Raw column, please know going in that Impact not a show I enjoy or watch regularly because it fills me with crazy rage and doesn’t have Daniel Bryan or Mark Henry around to bring me back down. Please excuse me if I incorrectly identify story points, move names or the like. I keep up with Impact via Danielle’s report, and even that makes me go FFFFFUUUUUU at my computer screen.

– Don’t be afraid to contribute to the discussion in our comments section, click the “like” button and share the column on your social media things. I am fully prepared for your “YOU’RE SO STUPID HERE’S WHY” comments, even if I get wanky-dismissive of them.

– Follow us on Twitter @withleather, follow me personally @MrBrandonStroud and like us on Facebook.

And … well, good luck, everybody, here’s Brandon Stroud’s one-and-probably-only Best And Worst Of TNA Impact Wrestling report for July 4, 2013.

Worst: Hulk Hogan Arguing With His Son, Or
Worst: Wrestlers Doing Hulk Hogan Impressions By Saying “Brother” Is The Worst Thing Ever

So, the first episode of Impact Wrestling I’ve ever written about begins with one of my least favorite wrestlers of all time having a stern conversation about THIS BUSINESS with one of my least favorite guys in independent wrestling. Because roughly 40% of you have already aggressively hit Page Down and started typing a big paragraph asking me why I’m such an idiot, here are brief explanations of my opinions:

Hulk Hogan sucks – Hulk Hogan is legitimately the most important pro wrestler ever. I get that, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve grown to appreciate some of his work. There’s a really great match against Killer Khan on that Hogan “Unreleased” box set WWE put out a few years back, and he was better in the ring than most people gave him credit for. The John Cena thing, where he’s such a ubiquitous, obnoxious kid-friendly personality that you forget he’s competent at his job. Anyway, I was an NWA/WCW kid, so when Hogan was having his big majestic 1980s run I was watching Flair/Steamboat and wondering why the kids at my school had only ever heard of the big, orange, super fake guy on the other channel. In the 90s, Hogan’s arrival in WCW brought in a bunch of guys I hated (Duggan, Beefcake) and caused the dismissal, in one way or another, of all my favorites (Cactus Jack, Stunning Steve and Vader, who stuck around long enough to get punched a bunch at the beach but never fully recovered from being emasculated by Double H). During wrestling’s late 90s boom, he was the bad parts of a show full of guys I liked. In the 2000s, he became a horrible reality show star and morphed into the fragile, leather-bound skeleton-and-skin monster you see today. He represents everything bad about wrestling — backstage politics, carny lying, phony-looking wrestling, self-serving stories that go nowhere, steroids, nepotism, and on and on — and no amount of “I remember the 80s” makes that okay for me.

Austin Aries sucks – This is the one that’ll make you mad. I just don’t dig the guy’s work, and no amount of explaining it has ever been good enough for fans of independent wrestling, where disliking someone means you aren’t “supporting indy wrestling.” You sorta have to like everybody because they’re TRYING HARD~, and if you don’t, you’re jealous/a hater/whatever. His Barney Rubble stutter-steps before he runs are terrible, he’s the king of the leg-slappers (there is not a single photo of him mid-move where he’s not about to slap the shit out of his own thigh), he’s shorter than my girlfriend and he’s been a colossal asshole to me and several people I know both in and out of character. He’s just a fussy, tiny guy who has succeeded in convincing enough people in the industry to buy what he’s selling that he was the “good indy wrestler” TNA scrambled to when WWE started pushing CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, even though they’d previously had him and decided he was worthless.

Wrestlers saying “brother” to Hulk Hogan to make fun of him are the WORST. Back in the 80s, you weren’t allowed to mention that Hogan was a giant orange purse covered in mustard, or the fact that he was bald, or anything that would draw attention to his terribleness. I guess now you can’t mention his monolithic daughter, his son who won’t stop Fast and Furiousing people to their deaths, his teen bride who looks exactly like his daughter, his now RAMPANT baldness, his boob flaps or his ridiculous tattoos. The only thing that has been cleared for us by Hogan is saying the word “brother,” so every single time somebody feuds with him, they’re all “I’m gonna beat you up … BROTHER!!!” and we’re supposed to go OOOOH NO HE DIDN’T.

So as you can see, this segment involving Austin Aries condescendingly saying “brother” and using INSIDER TERMZ to rile up Hulk Hogan was not my cup of tea. Holy shit, why am I writing the Impact report

And To Clarify

Being short isn’t a bad thing. Many of my favorite wrestlers in the world are short. There’s gotta be a context for your smallness, though, and that context should not be “standing beside Hulk Hogan, the guy who spent nearly 20 years demeaning cruiserweight wrestling and talking about how TNA’s six-sided ring was a playpen.”

Also, I rag on Aries for it for the same reason I rag on Roderick Strong: rage-fueled Napoleon complexes.

Worst: Hulk Hogan At His Son’s Birthday Party?

Wait, sorry.

Worst: MANIK! That’s “Killer” Spelled Backwards!

Good idea: If you’re gonna use a video game character from 7 years ago, you should freshen him up.

Also a good idea: You should probably not call a wrestling character “Suicide,” because of the whole “wrestlers always committing suicide” thing. Also, for less dramatic reasons, because masked wrestlers appeal to kids, and kids should not be running to their parents in toy stores all, “MOMMY MOMMY, I WANT SUICIDE.”

Thirdly a good idea: If you love that dancy-dancy X-Division style, TJ Perkins is a guy who can do that well and work for cheap.

Not a good idea: Unmasking your masked character for no reason other than a hot-shotted angle to sell a free episode of television, then putting the mask BACK on the guy and pretending he’s still a “mystery man.” Also, deciding to change his name after 7 years. Also, changing his name to MANIK. Also also doing so by having Hulk Hogan just DECIDE that his name is now MANIK. So now you’ve got a guy who falls victim to the same shit a bus boy on a Disney Channel show might if Hannah Montana needed to steal his clothes and sneak into a hotel running to Hulk Hogan to tattle on the guy who beat him up getting masked, unmasked, remasked and renamed and given a title shot to reward him for his tattling.

Also, his f**king name is MANIK. His matches are gonna cause a MANIK PANIK, Taz!

Best/Worst: Christy Hemme, Harem Girl

Actual conversation from last night:

Destiny: “Is that the ring announcer? Why is she wearing a swimsuit?”
Brandon: “She’s not, she’s wearing that costume the Chipettes were in when they sang about how much they wanted to f**k bunch of snakes in The Chipmunk Adventure.

Hemme could be ring announcing in a “sexy cop” costume from Halloween Express and nobody would notice.

Worst: Argo Is Pretty Good At Submissions

TNA has had AJ Styles around for a long time, right? So they know that 100% of AJ’s connection to the crowd is him getting in the ring and jumping around and bumping hard and doing crazy shit, right? That 0% of it is his character or ability to talk, because his character is “guy who wrestles and has been here forever,” and his ability to talk is that tuh-tuh-tuh-TODAY JUNIOR kid from Billy Madison. Right?

So why is TNA making AJ Styles a dark, brooding loner who loves mat wrestling and submissions? And why does he look so much like Harry Ellis from Die Hard?

Worst: Chavo Guerrero Giving ANYBODY A Pep-Talk About Championships

“Hernandez, do you have any relatives who are great wrestlers? Have any of them died recently?”
“Hmm, I don’t think so.”
“Shit, give me a second, I need to come up with another idea.”

Best: God Damn, Mickie James

‘sup girl, lemme get them digits

If I’m listing my five favorite modern pro wrestling characters, I’m including Conspiracy Victim Chris Jericho, Willie Nelson guitar-playing Hollywood Rock … and right after them I’m saying “weird crazy lesbian stalker Mickie James.” It’s hard to overstate how much I loved Mickie when she first showed up in WWE. She was a fantastic performer, a compelling character (see: her dressing like Trish to get in Trish’s head, then getting COMPLETELY TURNED AROUND internally by Trish being dressed as her … a plot point AJ and Kaitlyn recently tried to steal without any of the success or gravity), she wore borderline R-rated skirts … she was wonderful.

Current Impact Wrestling Super Heel Mickie isn’t quite the same thing, but she’s close, and I love it. I never love a heel more than when their babyface rivals are so lame, and right now there is no greater heel-to-face coolness gap than Mickie James and Velvet Sky. Damien Sandow and Sheamus maybe, but at least Sheamus can go in the ring … Velvet Sky is the southern states flea market Kelly Kelly. I would watch Impact on the reg if I could be guaranteed constant Heel Mickie James content and a routine trouncing of Velvet. Keep Mickie and Gail Kim the way they are, sign a half-dozen cool indy heel ladies who can go (Jessicka Havok, bring back Christina Von Eerie and actually let her wrestle, sign Jazz if she isn’t doing anything), throw the gorgeous/vegan/working her ass off no matter how bad she is Hot Mess up against them and send Velvet Sky behind a table at WrestleCon.

Also, let Mickie continue to be the only person on television who speaks in a Virginia accent.

Worst: Gut Check Is The Biggest F**king Circle-Jerk Waste Of Time In Wrestling

As you may have heard, TNA recently released or “parted ways with” … hold on, cue up this before you read about it … Joey Ryan, Sam Shaw, Taeler Hendrix and Christian York, aka “everything they’d tried to accomplish with Gut Check besides Jay Bradley.”

I could write 10 pages about why Gut Check is the worst thing in wrestling, but here’s the super short version: TNA can’t commit to anything. That’s their problem. It’s not about “vision” so much as it is just f**king committing to a mission statement and running with it. Every few years the company reboots, or they sign a BIG NEW NAME and release everybody they’d spent a year building, or they change the name, or they change time slots, or they change the ring, or whatever. They can’t decide if they want to be 90s WCW or 2000s WWE. They can’t decide if they want to be kayfabe or a SHOOT, BROTHER. So they do these gritty, handheld backstage segments full of bleeped out curse words, and then Jeff Hardy gets an audible internal monologue. Stuff like that.

With Gut Check, they’re bolstering the “future” of Impact Wrestling, but they can’t stick to a format. At first they’d bring guys on and run them in angles, and now there’s an online contest … and the online contest has had to be restarted because it was broken. They’ve got three of the least important people in pro wrestling judging these wrestlers they brought in as part of a primetime, televised wrestling show and using the vaguest-possible condemnations of them … all the wrestlers can do is yell about how they’ve GOT HEART and want to MAKE AN IMPACT, because what can you say? You can’t shoot on the company that is effectively shooting on you. THEY can say “you lost the match but you were the better wrestler so we want you to be in developmental,” but YOU can’t say “you dumb mother**kers have employed Mr. Anderson for the last three years because he used to be on WWE TV despite him being the f**king worst, why not give a shot to a guy who ISN’T 37 years old and total garbage? Why not release one of those unmarketable, worthless f**king has-beens and use the money you’re wasting to pay 15 good wrestlers who can personify your company and make you seem cool and progressive? Do you want a real wrestling audience, or a bunch of people who wandered in because they remember seeing Festus on Smackdown? Go f**k yourselves.”

What I’m getting at is that shit that should be handled backstage in real life (talent evaluations, job evaluations, contract signings, birthday parties, weddings) should NEVER BE ON YOUR WRESTLING SHOW. NEVER. STOP IT. Stop wasting time making your recruitment process part of the show, devote time to sincerely improving it in real life and actually hire/promote wrestlers based on what they can add to your show, not how hard they can roll their eyes when Bruce Pritchard teases a yes/no answer. If you aren’t going to commit to anything else, commit to “Impact should be better five years from now than it is today.”

Worst: An Hernandez Match, Or
Worst: Remember That Thing I Said About Gut Check, Or
Worst: Remember That Thing I Said About Chavo Guerrero

Speaking of wrestlers who are garbage, here is Chavo Guerrero and his gruff, soon-to-be-turned-on friend Hernandez! Hernandez is so strong that he never learned how to touch a wrestler without really hurting them, so every Hernandez match is the first half of a skateboarding fail video. He’s skating toward the stairs all wobbly and you THINK he’s gonna fall over, but he makes it all the way and then OHHH NOOOO HE’S FALLEN AND HURT HIMSELF, AND HE TOOK OUT THE CAMERA MAN WITH HIM

His finish right now is Monty Brown’s THE POUNCE, but without any of the wind-up or showmanship. He just shoulderblocks a guy, and they have to flip around and land on their head. It is not great, Bob.

Best: TNA Desperately Trying To Differentiate Between Masculine And Feminine (And Failing)

The “Bro-Mans” team of Robbie E and Jessie “Don’t Give The Big O A Gut Check Because He’s Already On Your Payroll” Godderz took on the tag team champions, Cowboy James Storm and Other Cowboy Gunner. The match was fine, but my favorite part was Taz stammering through a weird explanation about how the teams are SO DIFFERENT. The Bro-Mans are metrosexual and manicured, while the Storm/Gunner team look like the kind of guys who work out by going out and hunting, or something!

The funny thing to me is that yeah, the Bro-Mans ARE metrosexual and manicured … and they’re wrestling two muscular, hairless guys with hair down past their shoulders and super trimmed beards. James Storm literally comes to the ring in a novelty cowboy hat. Gunner has Randy Orton tattoos. There is almost no difference between these teams, Taz, no matter how hard you proclaim it, and “metrosexual” gimmicks don’t work on TV because everyone’s wearing HD make-up, hairlessly wrestling in panties and protesting too much about how they AREN’T gay. The Bro-Mans are fine. At least they’re coming to the ring with a lady.

Best: So Are The Bro-Mans The Racially Consistent Bashams?

The Bashams are one of my favorite “what the f**k” gimmicks ever. If you don’t remember them, they were bald, semi-identical brothers under the control of a tall, black lady dominatrix. The idea (as far as I could tell) is that they were in an incestuous S&M relationship, and were ALSO A TAG TEAM RANDOMLY.

The Bro-Mans remind me a lot of the Bashams, because (and I mean this in the best possible way) my first impression of them was “oh, so they’re tag teaming Victoria? All right.” I’m totally fine with that (I am actually totally on board with it), and consider it an improvement because they aren’t blood relatives. Yet, I guess.

Worst: “And Now Your Newest Member Of The Main-Event Mafia … A Guy Who Has Never Been In A Main-Event! GET EXCITED”

Here’s a recap of the Main Event Mafia story so far: TNA’s version of WCW’s Millionaire’s Club banded together to keep TNA’s version of WCW’s New Blood from rising up and taking their spots. Like in WCW, they started off a stable of bad guys, but eventually become good guys because wrestling fans like wrestlers they remember more than wrestlers they’re asked to currently like. Fast forward a few years and TNA’s (latest) version of The nWo has taken control of TNA. TNA’s version of Sting (Sting, not AJ Styles) gets upset that nobody had his back when he was trying to dethrone the evil nWo champion (Bully Ray, playing both Hulk Hogan and Hulk Hogan’s lying son-in-law) and forms a stable full of guys who didn’t have his back (yep), calling them the same thing he called both of his old Millionaire’s Clubs. This time, however, things are different, and they’re less Millionaire’s Club and more Evolution. Does that make sense?

But yeah, the original Main Event Mafia was all the ex-WWE guys in TNA. Now all the ex-WWE guys are in Aces & Eights, so there aren’t enough ex-WWE guys to run an ex-WWE guys vs. ex-WWE guys feud (TNA’s dream feud), so (like always) it’s a couple of ex-WWE guys commanding whichever TNA talent has stuck around the longest. Sting and Kurt Angle teamed up, so of course they added Samoa Joe, and now they’ve got MAGNUS, a Main Event Mafia member with an emphasis on “member.”

In this tired rehashing, Sting is Ric Flair, Kurt Angle is Triple H, Samoa Joe is Batista and Magnus is Randy Orton. Magnus is so Randy Orton, you guys.

Worst: Everybody Looks So Horrible

Danielle referred to them as a “fancy wedding party,” but man, everyone in the Main Event Mafia looks ROUGH. Just because you’re wearing suits doesn’t mean you look good. You have to look good, THEN put on a suit. 1980s Ric Flair rules.

In a suit without his make-up on, Sting looks like the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. Kurt Angle can’t open his mouth or stand still without his entire body shaking all weird, because he is 10% human life and 90% supplement. Samoa Joe has to go for the butterfly collar because his neck is too fat for ties, and Magnus looks like somebody put prop stubble on him before he came to the ring. They’re just horrible, horrible looking people, and I apologize for TNA making me so lookist. Aces & Eights wear vests with their names on them and YOU GUYS look worse.

Best: Park/Hardy Wasn’t Great, But I Appreciate The Character Work

Speaking of looking horrible, here’s Jeff Hardy!

But no, I didn’t think this match was especially good, but I love what they’re doing with the characters. Joseph Park gets a lot of love in this column, and rightfully so — he’s a guy I never gave credit for being a “good wrestler” showing how he can create a dynamic character change and BECOME that guy, to the point that you forget/intentionally ignore the obviousness of the angle and just accept them as different dudes. He’s been convincing as a guy who couldn’t wrestle going to wrestling school and getting good enough to hang with the promotion’s top stars (but not necessarily defeat them), and it shows in all the little things he does, like his abnormal footing on an inverted atomic drop. Good stuff.

And I’ll give credit to Jeff Hardy as well. He’s great when simplified. When he’s an ENIGMATIC ANTICHRIST ARTIST WHO SMOKES or whatever he’s terrible, but as a guy who starts claps at the beginning of wrestling matches because he’s a guy everyone recognizes, likes and follows? That’s a natural talent. You can’t teach a guy to do that as well as Hardy does, and if you don’t believe me, watch any indy wrestling show where the wrestlers are sort-of at the mercy of a crowd starting slow claps. Most of the time it happens out of politeness, or as a message of “DO THINGS NOW” to the wrestlers. Hardy is an easy-to-get-behind good guy and that’s great, even if I’d rather see him being humiliated and booted from promotion after promotion by CM Punk.

Additionally, Joseph Park’s surprised face looks like the bug eyes from Total Recall.

Worst: “Heeeey, We’re Aces & Eights, Bad-Ass Wrestling Biker Gang! Let’s Be Catty About Who Gets To Be Class Treasurer!”

You know what would’ve made the original nWo better? If Hogan, Hall and Nash had a clubhouse in the arena and stood around in a circle drinking beer and sniping at one another about who gets to be the vice president and who gets to be treasurer.

For whatever reason the Aces & Eights — a biker gang made up of wrestlers who are all employed by the same wrestling company and decided to use their biker hobby as an image overhaul en route to conquering said promotion … or something — are OBSESSED with their governmental hierarchy. They are willing to fight amongst themselves for the TOTALLY ARBITRARY TITLE OF BIKER GANG WRESTLING TEAM VICE PRESIDENT. This is so, so stupid, and not just because worthless-ass Mr. Anderson is involved in it. Dude, you are almost 40 years old. You are arguing with Festus about who gets to be like, fourth in command of a bike club and everyone’s greatest memory of you is that time you f**ked up the McMahon Illegitimate Child angle and made it be Hornswoggle. CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR LIFE, KEN.

Also, can somebody talk to Wes Brisco about putting on a shirt, because if you are not a tough Texan you are not allowed to wear a leather vest over nothing.

Worst: More Like Howe Did You Get On This Show, Am I Right

If you disagreed with my assessment of Gut Check earlier, please enjoy this segment where Gut Check judges picked the guy who LOST the Gut Check tryout match over the guy who won it, then brought that loser to the ring to tell him he’s not getting a contract. No matter how you feel about Ryan Howe and his ability to make Taz make Van Hammer jokes, this is a waste of everybody’s time, right?

Jimmy Rave should’ve wandered out in his Rock n’ Rave Infection gimmick as Howe was leaving, patting the kid on the back and said “c’mon son, it’s all right, we’re going home.”

Best: A Good Match On Impact!

I am not a huge fan of matches like this, but I’ll give credit where credit’s due … if you like the X-Division, this was the best X-Division match they’ve had in a LONG time, and a great way to end the show. It involved the top-ish X-Division guys in a story blanketed by the stable vs. stable shenanigans dominating the rest of the TV time, drawing the undercard guys into an important-seeming thing to help sell the Destination X episode coming on in a few weeks.

X-Division matches are hard for me to enjoy, because they have a lot of the content I enjoy in independent wrestling (innovative moves, a quick pace, characters who haven’t been around since 1985), but also a lot of the content I DON’T enjoy in indy wrestling … moves transitioning into extraneous super moves out of nowhere, top rope finishes for every match, those stupid strike exchanges where guys just stand still and hit each other (I will be a fan for life of the first guy who f**king blocks … you are not Kenta Kobashi, American indy wrestler) and so on. But if the energy is there and the motivations are clear, I can get into it. Here, a wrestler I don’t like (Aries), a wrestler I don’t understand (Manik) and TNA’s version of Christian (Chris Sabin) are at the ass-end of a terrible, self-exploding angle about gear theft, but they’re competing for a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship on a later show. Bully Ray’s on the outside trying to make sure nobody wins, so he doesn’t have to defend his belt against a guy who’d be fighting with everything to gain and nothing to lose. Sting’s out there because he watches Impact and knows what Aces & Eights are up to. It’s a little overbooked, but it makes sense.

All I’ve ever asked from TNA is that it make sense.

Worst: Mike Tenay Explains Why The Match Was Good

…aaaaaand 20 seconds into that video, Mike Tenay says “the presence of the Main Event Mafia around the ringside area has taken Aces & Eights out of this match and that’s why this match is so good!

So, what you’re saying is either

1. This match featuring X-Divison competitors killing themselves and each other is good because Sting and Kurt Angle are standing nearby
2. The match is good because Aces & Eights isn’t interfering, which is a point so exciting and unusual that you have to bring it up, suggesting that Aces & Eights often ruin large portions of your programming and are the reason why your wrestling matches aren’t any good.

I love WCW, TNA, but I do not want you to be it. Those are the two most WCW statements of all time. Here’s a quick guide to fixing those two problems:

1. Make your young guys as important as Sting and Kurt Angle, and do not always have them serve as their subordinates
2. WRESTLING IS NOT REAL AND YOU WRITE WHAT THE ACES & EIGHTS DO. There is probably a way to get across “biker gang hates wrestling!” without having them actually make your show bad. This is the benefit of being able to write sports in advance. Have them beat up guys as much as you want, but do not showcase a team specifically created to announce that your company is terrible, then PROVE it.

See you next week, Impact fans.

Just kidding, see you never. You guys should love and appreciate Danielle for watching this every week. Do it, or every week’s Impact column will be one Best for Mickie James and 75 Worsts for RRARGHH STOP SHOOTING YOURSELVES IN THE FOOT YOU STUPID COMPANY