TNA hit College Park Center in Arlington, Texas, for last night's (Sun., June 15, 2014) Slammiversary pay-per-view (PPV), and while it suffered from a few typical "LOLTNA" moments, this was actually a damn good evening of entertainment. Considering how painfully bad the past two months of Impact has been, this was a pleasant surprise.
Let's switch up the format a bit to recap and react to this event. Click here for complete results and the live blog.
The main event: While there's no way to be sure, Eric Young vs. MVP would have almost surely been an overbooked mess marked by some form of interference from THE UNSTOPPABLE ALLIANCE that led to MVP winning the title and no one feeling good about it. Instead, we got a well worked match featuring good psychology between two very good workers (Young and Austin Aries) and a better than expected Bobby Lashley. Young said he was going to get just crazy enough to win this match, so he went out and got just crazy enough and won the match. And there was no interference or unnecessary run-ins or overbooking to mar the proceedings. Just three guys fighting for a title and the champion doing exactly what he said he would to successfully hold on to his title. And it felt GOOD to see wrestling play out like wrestling should.
THE IRON CLAW: You know the Von Erichs are legendary in the greater Dallas area and nostalgia is a very powerful thing. But did anyone really expect the roof to blow off the place when Kevin Von Erich jumped the guardrail, sent Jesse Godderz packing, and then put THE IRON CLAW on Zema Ion? As our friend Mat Burnz put it on Twitter, this was decades of making a hold important on display and the crowd went suitably ape shit for it. Such a fun segment. Also, credit to the BroMans for doing such a good job working with the obviously inexperienced Marshall and Ross Von Erich.
HO-LY SHIT: We all had a hearty laugh at TNA for trying to get 500 retweets for the tease of the opening match on this PPV and not even reaching half their goal before deleting the tweet. Well, this was the match they were teasing and it delivered in spades. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if WWE fails to come anywhere close to matching this on its Money in the Bank card here in two weeks. It almost sucks that this match took place under the TNA banner because that almost assures it won't get the credit it deserves. Had it happened in WWE it's possible people would be talking "Match of the Year". It was incredibly fun -- save for one spot I despised, but that's for later -- and, surprisingly enough, the crowd made Crazzy Steve, of all people, seem like a legitimate star.
3D, TNA Hall of Famers: Considering the state of the company, there was a very real fear that someone like Mike Tenay would be inducted into the Hall of Fame and a cheesy and/or awkward segment would follow featuring a blow-by-blow announcer who constantly appears to be in over his head. Then Kurt Angle came out, and he was super over, and announced Team 3D, who no one considered after Devon had been away for so long. And you know what? Good for them. Not that these things matter in pro wrestling, because it's all a gimmick and smoke up the ass anyway, but if there's a tag team in history who deserves an honor like this, it's 3D. The crowd treated them like super over stars, with Devon visibly touched by the positive response and Bully Ray perfectly playing up the moment to maximize the reaction they were getting. This didn't feel like a low rent team getting inducted into a Hall of Fame that has zero credibility (in fairness, the WWE Hall of Fame doesn't either but they're better at keeping up appearances and they promote better than anyone). This felt right. This felt good and better yet, it felt good to realize how good it actually felt.
Let's get physical: Samoa Joe and Bobby Lashley didn't get a ton of time but they did maximize the time they got by working a super physical, very fun match that was, dare I say, a veritable hoss fight. The best part? The finish made sense. No convoluted nonsense, no bullshit run-in, no Kenny King running down and talking and ruining everything. Just Joe being a good guy and avoiding hitting a referee and Lashley taking advantage of Joe's kindness. There's an issue with Joe doing jobs like this and being booked into the ground when he could be the focus of a promotion if they wrote him well, but this was a necessary evil to get Lashley into the main event, so that's a minor quibble we can gladly look over for our purposes here.
What's the difference: On a typical episode of Impact, you get an hour of talking, 10 minutes of brawling, and one wrestling match that ends in interference and breaks down into brawling. Everything looks the same. They've booked PPVs this way in the past, too, and it's always to the detriment of the matches that are supposed to stand out. Well, this show managed to avoid that up and down the card. The X Division title ladder match was a crazy spot fest with a strong finish and hard work for all involved. Then you got a hoss fight with Joe and Lashley. Then Willow and Magnus had a short match that didn't offer much and featured outside interference but at least it was set up and proper. Then Austin Aries and Kenny King had a technically sound straight up wrestling match. Then the Von Erichs showcase that was good for what it was and set up the great post-match angle. There's an issue with the Knockouts match, but they can't all be winners. Then we got Bully Ray vs. EC3 in a Texas Death Match and it stood out for all its gimmickery and brutality. Then Storm and Anderson in a short, nothing match that served its purpose. Finally, the awesome main event strong on workrate and psychology. The booking of this card was damn near perfect as far as how it was laid out and put together.
Get the table: Bully Ray feuding with Dixie Carter is unfortunate both because it leads to a babyface male yelling at his boss "I'm going to kill you, bitch" and that getting cheered, which sucks, and because they set up this entire program to pay off with Dixie going through a table. The problem? She's never going through that table. It's just not going to happen, and because of that this feud will never feel like it's truly settled. That's unfortunate, because the match with EC3 was very well done. You just couldn't feel as good about it as you want to because they're not giving you what they made you want in the first place.
That spot: Remember when I talked about that one bad spot in the X Division title ladder match and getting to it later? Here we are. It's later, and it's time to get to it. The spot was one that, as many have pointed out to me since I initially complained about it, has been used by many of the greats through the years. It's an old pro wrestling spot used in most ladder matches. Wrestler A, in this instance Crazzy Steve, puts a ladder on his shoulders, hangs on tight, and spins the ladder around. Wrestler B, C, D, E, and F all rush in to attack and end up getting blasted by the ladder. Let's be blunt: this spot is stupid. It would work if Steve was spinning and deliberately hitting people who couldn't manage to get out of the way in time. Instead, everyone else in the match looked like an idiot for very clearly seeing a guy standing in the middle of the ring swinging a ladder all around and blindly running in to attack him.
We can't be sure those are Dallas Cowboys: I'm a huge football fan, even more than I'm a pro wrestling fan, and I couldn't recognize a single guy TNA identified as a member of the Dallas Cowboys at this show. They were used for cheap heat all night, with low rent wrestlers in a low rent promotion dogging Tony Romo, who is worth more alone than the entire company. Still, they've gotta get heat how they can, so that part is fine. But the James Storm-Ken Anderson match was nothing more than a publicity stunt, and it wasn't even done all that well. Storm, a Cowboy, was jobbed out thanks to a member of the Dallas Cowboys helping a guy from Green Bay who supports the Packers win. Thankfully, they didn't waste much time on this, and booked it properly for what it was they wanted to do.
Knock(me)outs: There was a time not all that long ago that the Knockouts division was the only reason to watch Impact because the women were consistently booked to wrestle each other in matches that always seemed to entertain. Those involved very clearly prided themselves on putting on good to great matches for a company that actually allowed them to do so. That's why it was so disappointing that Angelina Love and Gail Kim were given so little time just to work an angle heavy match featuring a storyline that centers around a referee who apparently has the hots for Velvet Sky, who wasn't even wrestling in the match. This could have been so much more.
The plastic skeleton is better: The idea that TNA would allow Jeff Hardy the creative liberty to totally kill Jeff Hardy as a drawing card for the company is bad enough, but to let him do it just so he can play out this Willow character is sacrilege. The issue isn't even that he wanted to do something different, it's that he's still wrestling exactly like Jeff Hardy would wrestle only he's wearing a mask with brightly colored contacts and talking funny while laughing maniacally. That's it. That's what they're allowing him to kill his drawing power for. It's just unfortunate. Also, Mike Tenay and Taz have to stop trying to push this idea that Willow is "unpredictable" in matches. He's not. He's Jeff Hardy and he works the same match every time out. Come to think of it, that's a problem too. Get your stuff in, yeah, but I shouldn't know what you're doing before you're doing it. That's the opposite of unpredictable.
Talking: This show opened with MVP, Kenny King, and Bobby Lashley talking backstage. Enough with this kind of thing already. You do that enough on Impact. The PPVs are for wrestling.
This was a very good show, a totally unexpected but highly fulfilling evening of pro wrestling entertainment. The lows really weren't all that low and the highs were really high.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?