Welcome back to another edition of Retroactive Reconstruction! Here, we take a look at abortive, not-quite-there, or downright abysmal gimmicks, angles and storylines before we retroactively put them together into something better. It's fantasy booking at its finest! Today, we look at an angle that Sting, the dumbest man in professional wrestling, thought was bullshit.
Jesus Christ, is this gonna be like shooting fish in a fucking barrel.
A brief tangent before we get into the meat of this retroactive reconstruction: despite the things that I have written over the time that I joined CageSide Seats, I do not *hate* Jeff Hardy. At his best, I simply found him to be wildly overrated as a WWE main event talent, but I will acknowledge that he was damned popular while he was. At his worst, I consider him to be a sad and modern example of what happens when the wrestling industry chews up and spits out yet another one of their brightest talents, only for him to drift towards a "wrestling company" (and I use those words very loosely) that served as less of an employer and more of an enabler.
With that being said, buckle up lassie: We're about to dig into one of the most infamous moments in recent wrestling memory.
For starters, as much as I hate the ineptitude and insipidness and general incompetence of TNA, I have to give them a grudging credit for naming one of their PPVs "Victory Road." Fuck FastLane, this is the name of a PPV that makes me think that we're on the road to something bigger and better on the horizon. Of course, this could possibly be because I'm a goddamn Pokemaniac, and Lucario is my spirit animal. But I digress.
Now, this event took place in 2011, which, if you'll recall, took place during Hulk Hogan's last gasp at being the big boss man in a wrestling company. It sucked back then, and it sucks now, Hulkster. Sorry, buddy. No amount of time is going to heal the wounds of Immortal as it ran wild across TNA.
Look, this PPV was voted by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter as the worst major PPV of 2011. It makes the 2015 Royal Rumble's ending look like the ending to Wrestlemania 30. Digging through the entirety of the PPV is like walking barefoot through a cactus patch, having forgotten to put on sunscreen in the mid-day Arizona heat. It is not recommended watching. Even if you're drunk. Even if you're hate-watching. Even if you're drunk and hate-watching. It's really not worth the time, because the very act of you sitting down and searching through the interwebz for a stream of this show involves more effort than the "brain" trust from TNA when they called an audible for the botched Main Event. If it hasn't already been made clear, I really don't want to put this thing back together. But if I have to (and I do), then this is important to cover.
After several months off television, The Man Called Sting returned to TNA in March of 2011. In fact, on the March 3 edition of Impact, Sting not only returned, he also challenged and defeated Jeff Hardy (Immortal's poster boy. Think an even less compelling Seth Rollins) for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Where had Sting been all this time? Well, the last time that we'd seen him, he'd tried and failed to convince Dixie Carter that Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff were conspiring to take over TNA, so it only makes sense that he'd return and suddenly take the title off of Jeff Hardy. Because why make a slow build for the championship when you can just have the babyface be defending from a position of strength?
Humorously enough (for all the wrong reasons, mind you), Jeff Hardy spent the next week of television whining and moaning that the sudden return of Sting was completely unfair, because he hadn't been given enough time to properly prepare a title defense. That would be like John Cena, after they fused together the mangled pieces of his corpse following SummerSlam 2014, went on RAW and whined and moaned that he had been robbed of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, because how could he have known that Brock Lesnar was so big and strong and mean?
However, unlike John Cena, Jeff Hardy had the help of his Dumb and Dumber bosses in Hogan and Bischoff, who announced that Jeff Hardy was going to get his title rematch at Victory Road 2011, which was literally three days after this edition of Impact. Let's be honest here, folks: we can shit on WWE all the time for being impatient and fast-tracking their booking, but I have to say that this is exceptionally impatient on the part of TNA. No build? No back-and-forth? Just…gonna have a match? Okaaaay...
The other major angle at the time was a blood feud that was developing between Rob Van Dam and MIISSTTTEEEEERRRRR ANNNNNDDDEERRSSOOOONNNN over the Number One Contendership spot for the TNA championship. At Against All Odds 2011, Jeff Hardy had defeated Mr. Anderson in a Ladder Match for the TNA Championship. So naturally, Anderson announced his intention to invoke his rematch clause for the title…only to find out that RVD was taking his place. Why was that? Because, according to Eric Bischoff, "The Network" didn't want someone like Mr. Anderson contending for the championship, and they only wanted guys that were…*ugh*…best for business to get "Ratings."
I'm gonna take a moment to remark that, by Eric Bischoff's logic, this means that Rob Van Dam is considered family friendly.
Mr. Anderson didn't take kindly to that, but agreed to serve as the *snicker* impartial referee for the February 17 edition of Impact, where Hardy defeated Van Dam to retain. Cue Mr. Anderson hitting both of them with the Mic Check after the match, and now we've got a certifiable clusterfuck. The next week, Bischoff declared a contendership match between Anderson, Van Dam, and Kurt Angle for some reason, which Anderson won. But when he declared his intent to take on Hardy for the March 3 edition of Impact, that's when Sting came in and won the title. And then Jeff Hardy told Anderson to buzz off, because his focus was on Sting and he had first dibs. But then Van Dam, who probably had just looked up from his chill haze, presumably looked up and remarked "Hey! I lost the title match at Against All Odds. Doesn't that mean I get a rematch?"
So we have three guys with claims to the title ranging in legitimacy from Joffrey to Robb Stark, while Sting presumably sits on the Iron Throne and wonders why he didn't take up the initial offer to sign with WWE. So what does Bischoff do here? In a rather remarkable moment of lucidity, Bischoff threw up his hands and declared "Fuck it. Contendership between Anderson and Van Dam, and Hardy vs. Sting at Victory Road!" There's no way this can go wrong, right?
Oh dear GOD let's get this over with!
WHAT KILLED THE SHOW?
In fairness to the rest of the roster and the card, I'm keeping my reconstruction to the main and co-main events of the PPV, which are really the only things that actually could have been fixed and actually needed to be fixed. Matt Hardy vs. AJ Styles was fine. The Knockouts match was alright. Everything else? Eh, nothing you wouldn't find in the undercard of a standard PPV by a wrestling company that doesn't know what it's doing.
Based on my Ph.D.s in Gimmickology and Anglenomics, as well as my Masters' in Smarkometrics, I have concluded that there are TWO things that utterly ruined Victory Road 2011.
First, The ending to the Number-One contendership match.
After spending just under 15 minutes that featured a pretty bad botch of a leapfrog spot that resulted in Rob taking a headbutt right to the Van Dams, the two contenders slug it out to the stage where Mr. Anderson hits a Mic Check…and it's ruled a double count out. The fans boo like crazy, and despite multiple and numerous chants for the company to restart the match or give us something that is definitive, instead we are left with a double count-out for the finish. Which means that no one won, and that the past fifteen minutes were an almost complete waste of our time...
…in comparison to the main event, which was a complete waste of our time.
Second, the now legendarily bad "main event" title match between Sting and Jeff Hardy.
You know the drill: Jeff Hardy came out stoned out of his gourd and in no condition to wrestle, and then Eric Bischoff stalled for time and suddenly announced that this was going to be a No-DQ match in addition to being a title match. Considering just how irresponsible that is, I have to wonder why they didn't just include the falls-count-anywhere stipulation: I mean, when you're being completely reckless towards the health and safety of your performers, then I have to wonder why that of all things was considered the line that they couldn't cross. There was a brief bump where Bischoff ate shit and then got his ass thrown out of the ring, and then our "main event" began. After drunkenly/hazily taunting the crowd with the old "feint throwing your t-shirt into the crowd like you're taunting a dog" routine, Jeff Hardy stumbled over towards a positively steaming Sting…who had to shoot on the Charismatic Enigma and legitimately pin him for the title retention.
If anything, I have to admire Sting's professionalism in this situation. If I was in his position, and I had just been told by my boss Eric Bischoff that I have to end this fight swiftly…I'm not sure that I wouldn't have just slugged Hardy in the face and then stood over his unconscious, snoring body for the "fuck you" pin. It's a combination of terrible oversight by the company, as well as the near-crushing revelation that once again Eric Bischoff is essentially hanging me out to dry. But that would get me sued, and you wouldn't be reading this.
To me, the easiest way to have avoided this…and I mean all of this, is if someone had been keeping tabs on Jeff Hardy. I mean, I know as well as the next guy that you don't want to get interrupted while you're getting into "the zone," but come on. There's nothing wrong with someone periodically checking in and going "fifteen minutes, Jeff…oh shit, I gotta tell Dixie you're messed up!" and then hastily re-write something. ANYTHING would have been preferable to this shitstorm.
Instead, what was going to shape up as yet another offensively bland TNA PPV card that would probably get anywhere between a D and a C+ (and I'm being harsh) and end up being forgotten some years down the road…ended up turning into a laughably bad and horribly negligent example of Dixie Carter's incompetence as an owner and yet another example of what looked like Eric Bischoff passing the buck off to Sting. Just like he did in WCW.
Look, there's only so much that can be done in putting this dumpster fire out. And yet the things that could be done to save the two major main events were so damn easy to take care of. Seriously! I can break it down into two seconds.
1.) Have there be a definitive winner of the number-one contendership match between Mr. Anderson and Rob Van Dam.
2.) For the love of the Lord, come up with a fucking replacement for the main event.
For the first sentence, some elaboration. When it comes down to it, you can't just keep the ascension for the title so muddied like that. Either pick RVD or pick Mr. Anderson. Truthfully, I think I'd go with Mr. Anderson if only for the fact that Rob Van Dam at this stage in his career is best for spotfests and putting over younger talent. Y'know, with his spotty schedule, why not just stick him in the X-Division? Mr. Anderson might not be "younger" talent, but he is a fresher face than Rob Van Dam, who at this stage is best used in short bursts.
And for the main event? Hell, why not have Kurt Angle come in and ruin things?
Sting stands in the ring waiting for his opponent, Hardy's music hits…and out comes a raving angry Kurt Angle. He's got a mic, and he's pissed.
Remember, around this time Kurt was involved in that hideous angle between himself and his ex-wife Karen and Jeff Jarrett where the loser of a match had to walk Karen down the aisle for her new wedding. On the March 3 edition of Impact, Angle had broken up the wedding with a fucking axe and had put special guest New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott (why he was there? I have no clue) in the Ankle Lock. And got him to tap, because evidently fans of the New York Jets haven't quite suffered enough for the hubris of Joe Namath. Have it be an extension of Angle's delusional rage: He lost his wife to Jeff Jarrett, so he's going to take the belt from the company that Jarrett created. He's gonna go full Angle-heel, and try to go after Sting for a 12-minute match or so before outside interference from Immortal and others results in a DQ finish.
From there, on the next edition of Impact you can have a livid confrontation between Bischoff/Hogan and Angle, with Sting as the lone babyface in the new feud. Where's Hardy? Have an explanation for the obvious rehab stint that you're going to send him to, by having the explanation be that Kurt Angle fucked him up. Because in angry Angle's mind, Jeff Hardy is the TNA World Heavyweight Champ. TNA is run by Jeff Jarrett. Thus, by winning the TNA Championship, Kurt Angle hurts Jeff Jarrett's soul…or something. I dunno, but doesn't it sound better than them sticking a drug addict who was under the influence in a no-DQ match? Add in Mr. Anderson, and you have at least a triple threat match for the title. What about Immortal's representation? Y'know, this might come as a shock to Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff…but maybe try bringing up a younger guy from the roster that is a heel that you can claim is representative of your stable, because Immortal is, uh, Immortal! So boom, you have a fatal-fourway for the title while you fret over what the hell you have to do about Hardy. But at least you aren't paralyzed by him.
Is it shitty? Yes, but it is infinitely better than the alternative, which was having a legitimately impaired individual come out to the ring and wrestle against a man that was told to legitimately hold him to the mat for a three count.
I am an optimist at heart, and I like to think that people should be allowed to learn from their mistakes and learn to improve and become better people. But time and time again, TNA shows me and the rest of the world that not only do they not learn from their mistakes…they seem unaware of the fact that they have made a mistake in the first place. They act as though they are edgy and still a competitive company, while convincing themselves that it wasn't them, it was Spike that was the bad business partner. And that it's exciting to be the most-watched program on Destination America, a channel that I am still unsure of where to find and what cable package it requires. And that it's a good thing when they are over half a million people watching their program. And that it's okay to stick someone who had his body chewed up in the WWE so badly in situations that repeatedly risk his life and well-being, and then he repays you by bombing the main event of a PPV that people willingly gave you their money for the chance to watch instead of simply watching it for free. And that it's okay to, after he spends some years in a sort of purgatory, stick his ass in another terribly dangerous spot that does nothing but make fans cringe.
They don't learn. They have no interest in learning. And they keep weaseling their way into getting more chances.
I'm done with giving them chances. Time and again, they just waste it and then act like it was outside factors that cost them. I will no longer defend them and their brain trust, and any future times I look at this company I will do so with venom in my veins, and fury at my fingertips.
Dixie Carter, you make 2015 Vince McMahon seem like a goddamn genius.
Fuck this angle.
Fuck this company.
And another Retroactive Reconstruction post is in the books! What do you think? Agree with my madness? Disagree with my methods? Drop a line in the comments below. If you have an angle or gimmick or character or even a show (we're branching out!) that you'd like to see put back together, let me know in the comments! Tune in next time, when we take a look at a championship feud…that fell by the wayside in favor of relationship strife-ah.