TNA Impact Wrestling returned to Spike TV last night (Feb. 14, 2013) with a taped show featuring the promotion's latest show on its annual trip to the United Kingdom in front of thousands of paying fans who actually care about the product.
But that couldn't save it from Hulk Hogan and his want to make it all about his family.
Click here to get full results and the running live blog. Now let's get right to reactions from the show.
- It cannot be overstated how important it is for TNA to be running shows outside of Universal Studios. Everything about Impact Wrestling feels bigger, more major league, like the promotion is a big deal and we can finally recognize as much with fans who care in an arena big enough that microphones are actually necessary to carry sound. It's odd how the same angle can work just fine in front of a crowd like last night but die on the vine in Orlando.
- That said, nothing could save this show from Hulk Hogan, who once again went on a crusade to make everything about him. I get it, he's the General Manager and still the biggest name on the roster and he's still beloved in the U.K., at least based on the reaction he received. But he's a babyface General Manager, which means he should be getting out of the way as much as possible. Instead, he's booking four matches with eight guys all vying for the chance to ... impress him? They literally ran an entire show centered around wrestlers working matches in the hopes of impressing Hogan enough that he would be so gracious as to grant them a shot at Jeff Hardy and the TNA heavyweight championship in the main event of the upcoming Lockdown pay-per-view (PPV) in March. It's not about winning, it's about making a big impression on the Hulkster. How ridiculous is that?
- The best part about all this? By the end of the night, Hulk's daughter Brooke had campaigned so strongly for her husband, Bully Ray, that it's clear as day he'll be the ultimate choice for the title shot, completely invalidating the whole exercise and rendering the entire show pointless. What a monumental waste of time this will have all been.
- The Aces and 8s are dead and no one in TNA wants to realize it and dump the bodies. They come out in droves to surround the ring while Hogan is about to make his big announcement on who earned the title shot at Lockdown, and we're talking like eight big guys here, but before they attack, Bully Ray comes down with a chain. Keep in mind, this is an injured Bully Ray, as TNA had been pushing that he hurt his quadriceps. He literally limped his way to the ring and what did Aces and 8s do? They backed off. Eight big supposedly badass guys backed down because an injured guy working on a bum leg with a ridiculous chain came down to assist a geriatric old man with a broken back and two knees held together by duct tape and screws. Sting came down to offer further assistance and that was all it took to drive the group away. The idea was to put the top babyfaces in the company in the ring as a tease for who will be going against Aces and 8s at Lockdown and that's fine but they had to know that in practice, it would only make the heels look like the biggest punch of pansies in the history of wrestling.
- It's not all bad, though. We did get the pleasure of watching Bobby Roode and Austin Aries attempt to recreate the Fingerpoke of Doom to hilarious results before getting pissed and heeling it up in a match they weren't really trying too hard in but still managed to tear the house down with. There are no two wrestlers on any roster working for any promotion anywhere who are better than these two right now. None. No one in WWE or ROH or Japan or wherever else can touch them. Hyperbole? You decide. But watch their brilliance on display and try your best not to mark out like the old days. I bet you can't.
- I initially missed Joseph Park's segment with Hulk Hogan, only catching the tail end and wondering why Hulk was trying to explain that Park needed to ask around to figure out what a "rib" in pro wrestling means. Once I went back and watched, it was because Park was "ribbed" into asking about trying to politic his way to the top of the card. It's almost always a bad idea to run "shoot" style storylines in pro wrestling, mainly because it's an insult to the audience if handled improperly and it's almost impossible not to do just that, but if you're going to let fans peek behind the curtain in some way, this is exactly how you should do it. Park is just behind Roode and Aries as a performer right now. Just entertaining as all get out.
- You want to job someone to Magnus while you're in the U.K., fine, but why Christopher Daniels? He might actually be right there with Park. Wait ... did I just realize that the four top performers in all of professional wrestling right now reside in TNA? And it's still painful to watch most of the time? Fucking Hogan.
- By the way, Paul Heyman, Big Show, Daniel Bryan and Kane are my top four in WWE right now. No particular order, although the one I just used would work.
- The rest of the wrestling on the show was fine, with Rob Van Dam in particular getting an infusion of youth from the live crowd getting behind him 100-percent. James Storm has managed to become an afterthought after an entire year of seemingly being on the cusp of greatness. If you had told me Roode would be the better of the two in Beer Money this long after their split, I would have called you a liar. But you would have been right. Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle had a decent enough match and the British Boot Camp match was solid enough.
- That brings me to my last point: Let's hope Jesse was dressed down real good for that ridiculous non-save when Party Marty did a suicide dive and actually nearly killed himself because Jesse just didn't catch him. Why? Because reasons, I guess. It was an ugly and entirely avoidable sight. There is nothing worse than carelessness in pro wrestling and I'm not for watching carnage like that unless that's the express stated purpose of a match going in. That wasn't the case here. Protect your opponent, Jesse. For the good of everyone.
This show had its usual bright spots -- Park, Roode, Aries -- but was dragged down by the fact that it was all about impressing Hogan and then he never actually made a decision on anything.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off with all your thoughts in the comments section below. What did you think of last night's episode of Impact Wrestling?