TNA Impact returned last night (Jan. 19, 2016) from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania with two championship matches. Let's take a look at what went down and how it did.
Jeff Hardy comes down and invites his brother Matt down to join him. Jeff tells Matt that they made their careers off of risk but putting his career on the line tonight may be too much. Matt says he feels he let Jeff and the fans down so far. He agrees that it's a gamble because tonight he feels it is the night. Matt is confident that he can out think EC3, comparing this to a chess game and win the title. That was enough for Jeff, who predicts that there would be a new champion and they'd all be chanting "Hardy! Hardy! Hardy!"
They are interrupted by Tyrus. Tyrus tells Matt he's not here for him because Matt already made his big mistake. He's here for Jeff, who made the mistake of insulting Tyrus' intelligence last week when he implied he could not read. He challenges Jeff to a match, who accepted and said the match would be now.
Early on in the match, Jeff run up to the top turnbuckle but slipped, landing on his previously injured leg. Tyrus works over the leg for while. He then pulls Jeff's legs against the turnbuckle and grabs for chair to to hit Jeff's knee with. The referee goes to stop Tyrus and gets shoved for his efforts. That lead to Tyrus' disqualification. As he gets back into the ring to attack Hardy some more, Jeff hits him with a twist of fate.
I had something written for this when I first watched it, but it turned out that this segment fed into the big angle at the end of the show so all of my critiques as a stand alone segment no longer held water. Because as a single segment, it didn't work well. Tyrus still looked like a chump for getting a Twist of Fate despite working on Jeff's injured leg the entire time.
And I do think it would have been better for Tyrus to get DQ'd for beating up Jeff Hardy so badly the ref has no choice. He would have looked stronger while Jeff would have gained sympathy and even more (spoiler alert for those who were waiting for the end of the article to read about the main event) Matt would look even nastier for sending out Tyrus to maim his brother just so Matt could weasel his way into the a title victory.
However, in the end, you can look back at this segment and say "Oh, that's why Matt was so confident about this match" or "Tyrus doing Matt's dirty work makes more sense than Tyrus being upset by a childish insult." The strength of this segment lies in the retrospective, though that doesn't help the first watch through.
The Wolves are cutting a promo backstage challenging Beer Money to a showdown when they are interrupted by a much crazier Crazzy Steve. They are then laid out by Steve and a mystery assailant.
This was brief, but I really liked the new Crazzy Steve that we met in this segment. Maybe it's because I'm a big fan of horror movies, but he was creepy as hell here. If he's going to be part of a horror movie inspired tag team, I can get behind that. The tag division is the safest place to try those more outrageous gimmicks.
Gail Kim defeats Awesome Kong to retain the Knockouts title in a match that the rest of the Doll House and Beautiful People are involved in. When the numbers were getting out of hand, the Beautiful People (Angelina Love & Velvet Sky) neutralize Rebel and Marti Bell and Gail is able to overcome Jade and Kong to get the win.
In my preview, I said to expect over booked madness and that's what we got here. It was fun for what it is, especially since it wasn't a long built title feud. It does take some shine off the threat of the new Doll House that they can't get the job so soon after their formation. It looks like they are positioning Kong to be the top heel, and she's already lost her first title shot. If the plan is build the division around the new Doll House, and why keep the stable at all if they weren't, losing so soon does them no favors.
Those points aside, the match itself was fun. It's always tough to make anyone's offense look believable against Awesome Kong and Gail does that well. She spent some time flying around taking out the rest of the Doll House on the outside of the ring before the Beautiful People got involved, which was also exciting.
I do like the new set up of the Doll House, where Jade seems to positioned in the #2 slot behind Kong but well above Marti Bell and Rebel, who were the ones dispatched by the Beautiful People. The more prominent Jade is, the better.
Beer Money (James Storm & Bobby Roode) comes out to call out Bram and Eric Young. Instead, they get Jessie Godderz and Eli Drake. Both Drake and Jessie cut a quick promo before the match.
Beer Money defeat Eli Drake and Jessie Godderz via pinfall.
For Beer Money's first Impact match, they get the team of Godderz and Drake, who are looking like they could be the jobber team. (I sure hope not.) This leaves Eric Young and Bram to play the role of Beer Money first real challenge.
Eli Drake continues to be a fun promo. I don't know what Godderz was doing there though. He seemed to be staring off into nothing when delivering his lines and it was weird. The match was what you would have expected it to be, which Beer Money doing some of their hits before getting the win.
Beer Money was a TNA favorite for me back in their last run, but they haven't yet clicked with me early in this run.It could be because there was no story that built to this at all. There was slow burn teasing a Beer Money reunion and then a moment where they paid it off. Storm just came out and said "Let's be Beer Money again", Rood said "Sure", and here we are. Hopefully when we get into a story to invest in with them, it'll be smooth sailing.
I also miss James Storm coming out on the scooter.
Matt Hardy convinces Jeff Hardy to go to the hospital to get his leg looked at given his past injuries.
Part two of Matt's plan was to get his brother out of there so he could go forward with his plan without his moral conscious in Jeff to stop him. This part had a bit of unsubtle foreshadowing with Matt's wife Reby telling Matt he has to do this prior to him talking to his brother.
Kurt Angle comes out and puts over Drew Galloway and the match they had last week, calling it a five star match. He then asks who will be next but before he can proceed is interrupted by Bobby Lashley.
Lashley says years ago, it was Kurt who suggested Lashley got into wrestling. He talks about how he waited a long time to face Kurt Angle because he knew he had to beat Angle to be the man. The Destroyer discusses how he got that chance to face Kurt a year ago and it was the best day of his life because he got to finally face Angle, but it was also the worst day because he lost. He has not been able to get over that day, explaining that he's been a shell of a man since then. He asks for another shot to beat Angle, which Angle grants.
Afterwards, Lashley gets in Kurt's face he tells him he's going to beat his ass.
In the middle of a post segment interview, Lashley is interrupted by Raquel, who tells him his pain is her pleasure.
Forgetting the fact that TNA announced this match yesterday, this segment worked. My worry was that Kurt Angle was going to have random matches and the retire. Instead, there's a story they are building heading towards that final match, a story that draws back to a match a year ago. And after they did all the requisite respect stuff, Lashley lets it be known it's beyond respect when he calmly tells Angle "I'm going to beat your ass" and leaves.
There's potential to flesh out a story here instead of just having a match dubbed "Kurt Angle's farewell match."
As for the Raquel (Gabi from Tough Enough) segment, that doesn't seem to fit in any of this and I worry it may get worked heavily into this story. Lashley getting his win over Kurt Angle while he still can is story enough, without introducing a super green women into the mix as well.
The Miracle Michael Bennett defeats Pepper Parks. After the match, Bennett cuts a promo about "building a kingdom of miracles."
The Miracle persona is still finding its legs, and it will take a few more weeks before we are able to really tell if it works or not. Maria Kanellis is excellent as always, introducing Bennett prior to the match as if he were Joel Osteen. The match itself was not an overall squash, which is preferable when introducing a wrestler so they can showcase more of their offense.
The final promo by Bennett was a bit generic and as of now, confusing. But again, new characters need to find time to find themselves. All in all, a good in ring Impact premiere for Bennett.
Matt Hardy defeats EC3 with help of Tyrus to win the TNA Heavyweight Championship in a Last Man Standing match.
Afterwards Hardy tells the crowd that he did this all for him and not the ants and gnats like the fans. He says that he followed the advice of his wife and took what was his. Matt goes on to say that Tyrus made a better deal with Matt than EC3 and now begins the era of Big Money Matt. He caps it by delivering a con-chair-to to EC3 as he's already laid out.
Double turns aren't easy to pull off but that was really well done. It helps that EC3 is so good that fans started to like him despite him being a big heel and that the Matt Hardy good guy act was long past worn. Credit to Matt Hardy for planting the seeds of him turning heel, alongside his wife, during that "Huh?" segment with Mr. Anderson last week. (Still doesn't make that segment any more watchable.)
Then they laid out the parts plan throughout this show, having Tyrus work on injuring Jeff's leg so Matt could make Jeff go to the hospital, presumably so he can't be there to stop him or so Matt doesn't have to look at his brother who will surely be ashamed of his actions.
This was a good choice of a match to pull a double turn because Matt could do heelish things early and it could be explained by the No DQ aspect of a Last Man Standing match. But he continued to up the game in a nasty fashion, first going with a Twist of Fate with a chair around Carter's neck and the later, getting a hammer from his wife diaper bag, the move that solidified the heel turn. All this time, Carter kept getting back up, painting him in a more sympathetic light.
By the time Tyrus came down, the writing was already on the wall. I'm not sure of the smile Carter gave when he saw Tyrus was one of him knowing what was going down and accepting it or if he thought that Tyrus was still in his pocket, but it worked in either way. Carter got one last flurry of offense against both men before Matt nailed him with the title belt for the win.
Matt's post match heel promo, dubbing himself "Big Money Matt' which is ridiculous and great at the same time, was solid. He was convincing in his delivery and it sounded like the crowd was eating it up. (Obviously, this being pre-taped, it could have been some extra heat added in later, but it sounded good on TV.)
Tyrus' turn is the only thing in story that still doesn't fit. No matter who is champ, he is still Number One contender. Perhaps, he feels Matt is an easier win down the line than the unpinned/unsubmitted Carter. But that's something left to explain for another day.
All in all, this Impact did a good job building up to a needed shake up in the main event scene, turning Carter into the company's top babyface and giving Matt Hardy a much needed make over. This move allows fans who want to cheer for EC3 to do so in confines of the story and gives Matt Hardy some new life in TNA.
Pros of the Show:
- Great main event angle threaded throughout the show.
- Mike Bennett's in ring debut was promising
- Adding a reason for Angle to face Lashley in his final match
Cons of the Show:
- The new Doll House failing to get the job done this soon after formation does not help them look good
- Beer Money still needs something to relight the spark.
- They're already introducing Raquel?
This show did a great job building up to a main event and then pulling of the EC3/Matt Hardy double turn. Everything else on the show was at least decent.