Well hello, lovelies. I apologize for the delay in getting this column up. I had some work and travel issues (it was the blerst of drives!), so I had a fair amount to deal with before I could get to watching my new favourite episode of TNA ever. Before you find out why, let’s get a few things out of the way:
– If you’re not following myself, With Leather, or UPROXX on twitter, I encourage you to click the links for each. You can like the article on Facebook, you can tumbl about it, and you can apparently share it on Reddit. I went on Reddit once to read an AMA with Tim Donst, and that has been the extent of my experience, but I’m told it’s a good thing, so y’know … if you could.
– You should also read that AMA with Tim Donst. It’s pretty great. He talks about the time he tried to kill Hallowicked with a drill in a furniture store, otherwise known as one of my most treasured of Tim Donst videos.
– Like Brandon, I will be attending National Pro Wrestling Day to lose my mind over ACH in person, indulge in some Wrestling Bro high fives, and maybe try to hug Jervis Cottonbelly, because he is the best. If you can make it out, you definitely should. We’re good people in person, and again, ACH!!
Alright guys, let’s get to it. This week on TNA, it’s the wedding of the century, and nothing else matters except all of the other stuff I wrote about. Move over, Will & Kate! A Hogan’s getting married!
Best: HOLY F’N CRAP SPIKE DUDLEY
Guys. Guys. YOU GUYS. When I wrote last week that I would be the happiest girl in the world if Spike Dudley showed up, IT WAS TRUE BECAUSE I AM LITERALLY THE HAPPIEST GIRL IN THE WORLD. I have also taken the liberty of checking with all of the other girls in the world to confirm, and yeah, I’m right, no need to do your own research.
For someone who has some pretty serious opinions about this period of time in wrestling, it might shock you to know that some of my absolute favourite things came from ECW. My favourite match, my favourite feud, my favourite commentary team, my favourite wrestler was there for a cup of coffee, one of my favourite tag teams…ECW was incredibly influential in my formative wrestling experiences. Within all of those things I’ve listed, there are few things I love more in wrestling than Spike Dudley. He even inspired my favourite Halloween costume.
Now, when TNA and Bully Ray hinted at some “extreme” wrestlers showing up, I figured we would get Tommy Dreamer, because of course we would, and maybe Jerry Lynn. Worst case scenario we would get Balls Mahoney, and the gif of me running headlong into a wall would finally come out. But this…guys. Seriously. I am the happiest.
Best: No seriously, Spike Dudley
The glasses! The joke about the tye-dyed tuxedo! How genuinely happy everyone looked to be there! It’s all a best! We’ve gone through a lot of ‘acting’ in the past few months, but did you see how genuinely happy and excited all three men in the room were? When was the last time we got to see something like that? When was the last time we got to see Bully Ray smile like that? A true, genuine smile? I can guarantee you that this will be the biggest Best that I ever give, and I don’t think there’s anything they could do to deserve a bigger one. I know they’re going to star-wipe over to the bride-to-be any second now and this feeling will probably be diminished, but thank you, TNA, for giving me the happiest, most meaningful feelings I’ve ever had watching this show.
Best: Scumbag Miss Tessmacher
Right on cue we cut over to Brooke Hogan and her bridesmaids in mid-preparation for the upcoming nuptials. This should probably be a worst, and maybe I’m still sitting, basking in the warm Dudley glow from Dudleyville, but from Tessmacher casually, yet cattily, asks if Brooke’s dad is going to be there, to the horrified looks on faces of Mickie James and Christy Hemme, this was great. “Say yes to being a bridesmaid, bring up near-traumatic daddy issues on day of wedding” is almost as good as reliving some of the best moments in Kellerman’s history for Tessmacher. Even the whispered “Sorry!” is good enough to negate any amount of aforementioned “acting” from Brooke.
Worst: Pretty sure we’ve been over this before, Impact Crowd
Both Jeff Hardy and AJ Styles are 35 years old, have wrestled regularly for a good number of years on television, and with the exception of AJ disappearing to find his smile and Jeff disappearing to find enough of his sobriety to pass any drug tests he’ll have to go through, they really never lost “it.” So what’s up with this sudden need to chant “YOU’VE STILL GOT IT”? Yeesh. Tune in next week when they chant the same thing at a 34 year old Austin Aries, and Brandon has to fill in on the report because I have thrown my laptop from the balcony in a fit of confusion and anger.
Best: ILU WTTCotW
Seriously. Just worship them…..now.
Best: Are you okay, Christopher Daniels?
Because you just spilled a lot of tea. During the (mostly one-sided) verbal exchange with Jeff Hardy, Daniels takes a dig at Hardy and his fans by saying that they’re “not creatures of the night, but creatures of habit.” It’s amazing how one little sentence completely sums up almost the entire Jeff Hardy fandom, isn’t it? It was such a small part of this segment, but it’s not often that we get that kind of brutal honesty as a throwaway insult from a primarily comedy-based heel team. Almost the entirety of TNA’s roster and business model is based on this notion: Oh, you used to like this guy? Well hey, come like him here in TNA! He might be a little older, a little slower, and a lot more full of drugs, but if you loved him once you can do it again! I’m happy to see that Jeff Hardy appears to be making strides in his overall health, but admittedly he has been going through the motions. We’ve gotten a few good matches, but nothing overly memorable. There’s nothing much left that makes him innovative or exciting or different. He’s just…Jeff Hardy, plain and simple. Heels can be jerks and say mean things, but the best heels will make you think to the point of throwing your arm-band loving, face-painting, nostalgic fans into a headlong existential crisis.
Worst: James Storm
I know Hogan is pretty busy practicing his disappointed faces and measuring his biceps, but you can’t just magically decide, then and there, that you’re going to launch into a tag team match. You aren’t even wearing pants, let alone a three-piece plaid Teddy Long special. No. Stop it. Bad cowboy. Bad.
Wait, what? No no, bear with me! Speaking of throwaway lines, Tazz suggests that Jeff Hardy should paint the truck of James Storm. TEAM PAINT YOUR WAGON IS NOW CANON. Every other tag team name can go home now, thanks. I mean, this isn’t as good as when the WWE
blatantly and liberally used a tag name that Brandon had thought of came up with a really great name for Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow, but whatever, it’s TNA. This is the closest we’ll get.
I enjoyed this match! The creation of it is sketchy at best, but in a show that doesn’t have a whole lot of wrestling, I’m glad we got this one in here. Kazarian sells the Twist of Fate like death, and it looked awesome. Christopher Daniels hit the Angels’ Wings on Hardy on top of the championship belt, then posed over his corpse in true Douchebag Eve Torres fashion. It was great, and I’m looking forward to seeing some good matches out of everyone involved. Even Jeff.
Worst: America’s Next Top Wrestler – Crimson Guard Edition
I know that people (including myself, at times) like to get down on Hulk Hogan for consistently ruining the momentum of a show, but is there anything that stops a good show in its tracks like these awful Gut Check debates? These are just terrible. I’ll give a mini-Best to Al Snow’s velvet blazer, because velvet blazers are always best, but does anyone really want to listen to their mock debate between Tomax and Xamot? And why are they all wearing jackets? Is it really cold? Are they on their way to lunch? And Bruce, what on earth is that on your jacket?
Worst, but secret Best: lol Bruce Pritchard
Oh. Oh my. Are we totally switching gears from ANTM jokes? Do I have to throw out all of the GI Joekes I’ve been trying to think up all week in order to make this segment a little more palatable? Are they in a sub-sub-basement of Kleinfeld’s that caters to leather jackets for bridge & tunnel Father’s of the Brides that doesn’t make it onto the show? And most importantly, Bruce, are you saying “yes” to this jacket?
Best: TNA is trying to kill me with feelings
Just when I think I can’t be any more overwhelmed with happy wrestling feelings, this segment gives me Tommy Dreamer fussing with Spike’s cummerbund, more shoot happy Bully Ray, and JOSEPH PARK. Good old Joe Park thanks Bully Ray, because if it weren’t for him he wouldn’t be on the roster, gives him a box of Cuban cigars from “a friend at the airport,” and then inquires as to a pre-nup in the most adorable Joe Park way. If you guessed that I watched this three times, then deleted the paragraph I had written because it was just JOSEPH PARK AND SPIKE DUDLEY OMG OMG OMG over and over again, GET OUT OF MY HOUSE I AM CALLING THE POLICE MY BOYFRIEND KNOWS KARATE.
Best, Worst, whatever: Gut Check Decision
Xamot got eliminated, and Tomax gets his spot on the show because he has a personality and also enjoys highway frottage or something. Whatever. That’s great. Congrats. Don’t they know we have a wedding to get to?
Best: Kenny King
Again, this is mostly just a best for his sheer presence. I mean, you’re either really really good, or your division is really really terrible if you consistently get a best for being “not those other guys.” Don’t get me wrong, I think King is pretty great and I am aching at the chance to see him wrestle someone who has more mobility than a Jaxx action figure, but the idea of writing about another Christian York match makes me flop around the couch, whining and whinging and oh my god, stop making me do this TNA. Please. If you can give me Spike Dudley, I don’t see any reason why you can’t stop drafting X-Division guys out of the sewers, and start drafting them out of the ranks of the best of the indies. WWE just signed El Generico, everyone’s favourite independent Mexicanadian. If they can get Sara Del Rey, Claudio Castignoli, and Chris Hero…come on. Step up your game. If there’s one thing you decide to follow WWE’s lead on, it shouldn’t be the importance of what is trending (because it’s legit not important), it should linking all of Beer Money’s leftover six-pack rings and dredging the best of the independent best up to turn them into delicious, entertaining, X-Division slurry.
Worst: Oh, Stinger
I know you’ve been doing this for a long time, but at some point you’re going to have to remember that no matter how much face paint you wear, we all can tell that you seriously do not give any effs about this entire thing.
Worst: Todd Kennely
You should not have said yes to that jacket.
Best: Hulk Hogan
I love that he’s so upset, he will only communicate via THIS FACE. I mean, he’s not Moammar Gadhafi angry, but this is still serious business.
Best: This is how reunions should happen
I know that not a lot of wrestlers made it out of ECW with their finances (or even lives) fully intact, and much to the surprise of everyone Sandman probably had it the most together when it came to post-wrestling plans, but I have to say, there’s something about continued ECW reunions that make me really sad. Guys still trying to wrestle death matches, desperately clinging to the ECW name in order to make ends meet. Whether I like a wrestler or not, it’s a mean business that will chew you up and spit you out if you give it the chance, and in a lot of cases, when wrestling is all you want to do, you don’t tend to plan for what happens when wrestling isn’t the best option.
In a perfect world, this is how we would see these guys. Not touring in the middle of nowhere still trying to do what they did half a lifetime ago, but safe and sound, getting paid to joke around and be happy. Look at them, all not covered in blood and making jokes about Paul Heyman. It’s great, and I truly wish it could be this way for everyone. Make fun if you will, but I watch wrestling to be happy, and why shouldn’t I want that for the people who have given me, all of us, so much of themselves for so little?
Best: The show so far
I’m doing something a little different this week, and changing up my process for writing this column. Usually I watch the show all the way through, maybe make a note here or there, and then rewatch everything bit by bit so I can write about it. Because of a few things out of my control, I didn’t get to watch it the first time around, and due to time constraints I’m actually writing it as I watch. I’ve been told that everything goes downhill in the second hour, and I’m willing to wait and see for myself, but before I do I just want to take a moment to reiterate how happy this episode is making me. Sometimes it’s hard to enjoy watching something knowing that you’re going to need to dissect it bit by bit. TNA has a brutal track record of making me feel just the worst, and it’s frustrating when they go down a negative path because it effects how I feel for the whole show. As bad as things have been in the past, and this goes for any wrestling show or promotion I watch, I always try to come into it hoping for the best.
We all get smarky, no matter how much wrestling we watch, because that’s a learned behavior that is probably the hardest to avoid when being a fan of this sport. We start out loving the dumb stuff unconditionally, and then the more we learn, the more we watch, the more we get our hearts broken, the more jaded we become. When you’ve been misdirected and lied to and swerved in every direction, it’s hard to take things as they are without expecting the other shoe to drop. When something happens in real life, we have to wonder, were they really fired? Were they really injured? Was it because of whatever backstage politics we just heard about? It’s what we’ve come to expect, and taking things at face value is never really an option. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes it’s because a company is about to embark on a squicky oedipal storyline because wrestling. We never know what to expect because so many lines have been crossed. Story arcs become puzzles that need to be figured out, and sometimes they’re predictable enough that you know it doesn’t matter where he’s been, Jeff Jarrett is going to show up and ruin everything.
This episode has been great so far, and I want to take the time to fully appreciate it before it gets the chance to really get me down. But who knows? I could end up loving everything after this. You’ve probably seen it by now, but I haven’t. I have no idea what is waiting for me when I press play again. But this has touched so many nostalgic, emotional points for me, and already included the WTTCotW, Joseph Park, and the fashion house of Aries & Roode. I know I’ve tossed in a few worsts, but please know that these feelings are what keep me attached to wrestling. I put up with a lot of bad, because the good…well, it’s the best.
Best: It ain’t Passions, but it’ll do
Yeah, I must be in a good mood, because I’m about to best the heck out of a segment that is nothing but Sting and Hulk Hogan talking. I know. I KNOW. But this really does further play into my opinion that the saga of Hulk Hogan is the most interesting storyline on television right now.
After the heartfelt (more acting! Yay!) pleas from Bully Ray, Sting acquiesces to attempt to convince Hogan to be present for his daughter’s wedding. He does it in the middle of the ring, because wrestling, but not before attempting to get the crowd hyped up as much as possible. And I don’t hate it. I’m pumped! I’m excited! Let’s do some convincing and then marry some people! Hulk’s General Manager pyro goes off, each of us wonders why we don’t have pyro go off everytime we walk into work, and then the real drama begins.
I loved this for a few reasons. The first, obviously, is that during the course of this conversation, Hulk pulls out his phone (yes!), waves it around wildly (even better!) and then talks about “the social media that I know nothing about” (best!). Combining Phone!Hulk and Older Dude Who Doesn’t Understand Technology!Hulk is a stroke of brilliance, and I really hope this leads to a segment wherein young whippersnapper Kenny King teaches the Hulkster how to use the twitters and upload his daughter’s wedding photos to Facebook.
Pathosmania is running wild as Hulk responds to Sting’s assertions that this is silly, as Bully has proved reliable and steadfast in the past, for Sting, Hogan, and Brooke. Well, except for that time he pointed to a buttprint to prove that he wasn’t involved with Hogan’s daughter. But whatever. Hulk reveals that “the social media” has been telling him not to trust Bully Ray. It’s interesting – it’s almost as if, in this case, social media transcends a mere tally of hashtags and followers, and almost becomes the Iago to Hogan’s Othello. Obvious race and sexual implications aside, someone whispering and insinuating until they’re no longer an antagonist, but rather mirroring the protagonist’s deepest fears they weren’t even aware they had? When a physical adversary becomes the most dangerous and effective because they have transformed into your innermost thoughts? “And what’s he then, that says I play the villain, when this advice is free I give, and honest…?” Yeah…kinda sounds like the Internet to me.
Hogan further reveals that when he’s around Bully Ray, he gets a feeling, a vibe, something is off. Something that doesn’t sit right with Hogan and he refuses to accept it at face value. Now, I can see where he’s coming from. In the past he’s exulted Bully as one of his most trusted and true companions in this business. Bully Ray’s unexplained need for secrecy led to betrayal by a valued friend and his only daughter in an industry where trust can’t and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But rather than confront his feelings and attempt to make peace with his daughter and her love interest, he meditates on the betrayal, lying to himself that this is how it has always been, that he’s never trusted Bully. He ends all of this exposition by reminding Sting that “I always do the right thing.” His internal struggle is just as real as the conflicts existing in and outside of the ring, and I was deeply engrossed in this entire segment.
Best: Referee Hot Pants
I know I didn’t get to write about this past PPV because of my work schedule, but I can assure you that you would have gotten a very extensive paragraph about the Knockouts match. Spoiler: It would have been a worst, because my god, Velvet Sky really is terrible. Velvet Sky got the pin, but as Gail points out to Taryn “hotpants” Terrell, the fall shouldn’t have counted as her foot was under the rope. Gail Kim gets her rematch, pins Velvet Sky, but lo, Sky’s foot is under the rope and Terrell refuses to count it. As she points out to Gail, she did it once, why would she do it again? Velvet Sky gets her contendership, and Terrell gets a purpose other than short shorts.
Best: Gail Kim
See above under King, Kenny.
Best or Worst, who can tell: Dixie Carter emotes to Brooke Hogan
And here comes Dixie Carter, answering the question no one asked: Is it possible to have deader eyes less acting skills than Brooke Hogan? They’re both like Coraline’s Other Mother and Other father – their mouths are moving, they’re saying things, but they have dead, button eyes and are creepy as f-ck.
Best: Team MECHA SHIVA
So, I totally had a bunch of stuff prepped to describe how Aries and Roode became TEAM MECHA SHIVA at Genesis, however members of the 3MB did it on Raw, so Brandon got to claim it for his own (http://withleather.uproxx.com/2013/01/the-best-and-worst-of-wwe-raw-11413/4). No big. Just know that it happened, Team MECHA SHIVA makes me way happy, and Austin Aries probably knows way more Sanskrit than Heath Slater.
Aries and Roode go back and forth, in what should have been dueling Rodney Dangerfield impressions, claiming that no one respects them for the great wrestlers that they are. Then, as Christopher Daniels did earlier, Aries lets another nugget of truth drop: it seems that TNA has taken a step ten years in the past. Jeff Hardy, RVD, Devon, Chavo – all current title holders. I would also add in Christian York and Kid Kash existing as well, but hey, whatever, they don’t have all day. I may not agree with everything he says, because my recent enthrallment with Bobby Roode is still just that – recent, but goddamnit, just put the belts on these guys already because…
Worst: Chavo and Hernandez interrupt MECHA SHIVA
Normally this would just be “Shut up, Chavo,” and I would move on, but Aries and Roode decide to insinuate that the current tag champs are the caterers, because lol Mexicans.
Sigh. Whatever. Keep the belts, Chavandez. Aries, Roode….I am disappointed. You’re better than that. Now stop being weird and racist because we’ve got a wedding to get to, AND I AM SO EXCITED.
Best: Hulk Hogan…again….?
This is so good, and I get the feeling that this wasn’t really a stretch for Hogan. The THIS BUSINESS count was excessive, but man…look at Hogan giving me all of these feelings. So good.
Worst: GEEZ, IT’S SO DUSTY IN HERE
ALL THIS DUST IN MY EYES, THIS IS NUTS. IT’S SO HARD TO WRITE IN SUCH A DUSTY ENVIRONMENT. I CAN BARELY EVEN SEE BULLY RAY AND SPIKE HUGGING AND OVERWHELMING ME WITH HAPPY WRESTLING FEELS. UGH. WORST.
Best: Hogan does the right thing
Worst: No Father of the Bride pyro?
Best: The lady checking her watch partially redeems the Impact audience
Because as excited as I was for this, wedding ceremonies always bore me to tears, and I end up doing the exact same thing. They’re always too long, too tedious, and chances are I spent too much time getting ready and not enough time having breakfast, so I just want to get out of there so I can eat and drink as much free wine as possible at the reception.
Best: Did I mention Spike Dudley?
Best: The Wedding
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this was not exactly anyone’s favourite part. But you know what? I was into it. Brooke Hogan is still god awful, but look at Bully try to get all emotional. It’s great! At this point it’s not a wrestling wedding, it’s a soap wedding, and soap weddings are the absolute best. It’s so dumb, but it all works beautifully. I can’t believe I’m actually into this, but here we are. I mean, it makes no sense that everyone is dressed up backstage, but no one is actually in attendance other than the audience, and Brooke, never talk ever, but I’ll give it a pass.
This is how it ends, right? This is it? They get married, they have the world’s grossest wedding kiss, and then ride off into the Orlando sunset in James Storm’s freshly painted whip? Yes?
Oh. Of course not. As a rule, I generally don’t want to hear Brooke speak either, but when you tell a bride whose wedding you just interrupted that it isn’t any of her business, you’re just being stupid. God. Tazz. Ugh. I know I gave you a best before, but you are the literal worst.
But okay, whatever: Tazz
I’m not super surprised, or really affected in any way by the revelation that Tazz is a member of Aces & Eights. I mean, it makes sense. Al Snow mysteriously couldn’t make it, and D-Lo had to show up to be the deciding factor in his stead during Gut Check decision time for Wes Brisco, hinting at an Aces & Eights involvement. I like the idea that Tazz has been aiding Aces & Eights by stacking the roster with new Gut Check recruits who also happen to be members of Aces & Eights. He can barely walk down a ramp, let alone wrestle, so it’s a nice conspiratorial link in the chain leading to whomever is in charge (PLEASE NOT JEFF JARRETT PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE).
Worst, but I giggled: Aces & Eights
Of course Aces & Eights came out and attacked everyone. I really hope no one was surprised by this. It was pretty bad, but it still made me laugh for a few reasons:
1) Thank goodness the Hulkster has connections at Rent-A-Center, because there’s no way they’re getting their deposit back.
2) Bully, I guess you should have invited Devon, huh.
3) Hogan, in an act of selfless redemption, admonishes Brooke not to worry about him, but to check on Bully Ray. She responds, ever the embodiment of theatrical and dramatic prowess, with the most TNA line ever: “My boobs are out.”