TNA Impact returned last night (March 15, 2016) with a semi-live show from Orlando with a ton of shake ups. Let's see how it did.
Jeff Hardy defeats Eric Young via pinfall to get added to the heavyweight title main event with Ethan Carter and champion Matt Hardy.
After the match, Matt Hardy, Reby, and Maxel come down to the ring where Jeff is celebrating. Matt and Reby are overly nice to Jeff (Maxel appears indifferent) as they congratulate him. Matt apologies for standing by and doing nothing when Young piledrove Jeff through a table months back but explained that he had to protect his wife. They even give Jeff Maxel to hold to try to sweeten him up before asking him to step out of the main event tonight. Matt says instead they can have a one on one for the title later. Jeff declines, leading to Matt trying to attack his brother. Jeff is able to avoid the attack and hit Matt with a Twist of Fate of his own.
This opening segment worked to help add to the intrigue of the main event. Matt vs. EC3 has quickly become a stale match and it was wise to change it up to make it exciting. The set up to get them there started with Eric Young ranting and raving at Dixie Carter in the back about how Jeff is the golden boy who gets all the opportunities, which lead to Dixie coming out as the match started telling EY he's got his opportunity now. Young is a good heel in the fact he's not at all likable with this persona. Because of that there's a feeling of vindication when we see him fail;
The Hardy brothers segment was really strong. Matt continues to play the shithead heel to perfection, buttering up the brother trying keep him out of the main event. Jeff doesn't say much, which isn't necessary. Jeff is not a strong promo so he'll get more sympathy for having to stand there and listen to his a-hole brother prattle on instead of picking up a mic to defend himself. When he did talk, all he said is "The answer is no. I'm in the main event" in a calm manner, which helps accent how outrageous Matt is. Good stuff from both men to help build some excitement for what's destined to be another Hardy brothers feud.
The Miracle Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis defeat Gail Kim and Drew Gallway after Maria pins Gail
This was a good segment when it came to getting back to the proper heel/face alignments. When these respective mens and women's feuds were promo segments, the faces (Drew and Gail) were outmatched by the heels to the point they came off looking worse for it. However, in the ring, they were able to get back to where they should be. Maria cowardly avoided Gail at all turns until she sneaked a roll up with tights to get the win. And that was after her husband ran in to stop Gail from trying to fight Maria. The cocky arrogance of Bennett was a great juxtaposition to Galloway's serious, intense nature.
The issue that did exist with this match, and it happens often with TNA, is vague rules of how the match works. Traditionally, in a mixed tag match, as soon as there is a tag on one team, the other team has to switch members to keep the in-ring genders aligned. But tonight, there was a rule that the person had to make the tag as "soon as they were able," as Josh explained it. This was likely so Gail could get some shots in on Bennett any time he would confront her, but it confuses the viewer to what the rules are. If you don't know the rules, you don't know who's breaking them.
It was enjoyable seeing Gail not show any intimidation regarding Bennett, having no problem kicking his ass if necessary.
Josh Mathews is in the ring to interview Bobby Lashley. He asks Lashley why he attacked Kurt Angle after Angle's final match last week. Bobby tells the crowd that he is the most dominating, toughest athlete around. Since that's the case, why do guys like EC3, Drew Galloway, and the Hardys get all the shots? The Destroyer states that he has no friends and when people are in the ring with him, they are going to get hurt.
Lashley soon questions Mathews' line of inquiries and picks him up and tosses him around the ring. The Pope slides in to back Lashley off and gets a spear for his troubles.
Now I know what many of you are probably thinking. If Lashley is a heel, why did he beat up the announce team that has been so difficult to listen to for some time. But the truth is, he's heel because he didn't get the job done. Josh Mathews was able to finish the show. Yes, the Pope was replaced with Jeremy Borash, but it's not enough. It's heelish because he teased taking out the announce booth only for us to find more disappointment when it wasn't the case. Damn you, Lashley.
Lashley has always been about an average promo, but tonight's low key promo worked for him. It helps that the crowd was hating him too. The promo was almost soft spoken promo, which fits a character who is "paid to fight" and not looking to be anyone's hero. He doesn't care what the crowd thinks. He's not angry about anything. He just wants people to know he's going to kick some ass.
As for the Pope, I hope this is the start of him leaving the announce booth and getting back in the ring. I was a fan of the Pope circa 2010 in TNA. He's a charismatic in ring performer. He's not suited to be a full time announcer.
The Decay (Abyss, Crazzy Steve, & Rosemary) defeats Beer Money & Eddie Edwards when Crazzy Steve pins Edwards
This match was set up earlier in the night with a backstage segment of Eddie getting attacked by the Decay and then later on Beer Money offers Eddie Edwards their services in a match against the Decay tonight.
I continue to love the Decay. They're just so magnetic and mesmerizing to watch. Tonight, at the insistence of the Decay, Rosemary was part of this match. And that's great. Intergender matches are no problem as long as they are done right. It felt; however, like Rosemary was playing the same role as she would when she's actually in the match, running in and spray her mist prior to running to avoid contact. If she's in the match, it'd be nice to show her as fearless, willing to stare down anyone in the ring.
The match itself was fun and the Decay getting the win is a good move to keep them as a legitimate tag team. Unfortunately, the ring tonight pretty much was the entire tag team division and it would be preferable for the Decay to get some wins over some lesser teams before entering a feud with Beer Money.
Eli Drake comes down to the ring looking to get his Feast or Fired briefcase that Grado stole last week back. Billy Corgan and Grado, with the case, come to join him in the ring. Corgan says that since there is some evidence of shenanigans concerning Drake and the cases, Grado will have an opportunity to win a contract back onto the Impact roster in a ladder match.
Grado defeats Eli Drake in a ladder match to win a TNA contract. Both Mahabali Shera and Jessie Godderz were involved in the match.
This was a fun match to conclude this story and maybe the first match that Grado has had that wasn't purely a comedy bit. He actually looked like a wrestler you could maybe take seriously for a chance. It was a good ending to a lower midcard story and it's nice just to get a lower midcard story for those guys to get exposure.
As an Eli Drake fan, I felt some of how this story was told did him a disservice. The beginning and end of this feud were good, but the middle dragged on and Grado seemed to get the better of Drake each time the matched up. Drake has charisma and is a pretty strong promo so it would have been good to see him get the best of Grado until the end of the feud when Grado finally wins the ladder match. Luckily, with this KOTM briefcase, Drake always has an opportunity for reversal of fortunes.
Drew Galloway pins Matt Hardy after cashing in his Feast or Fired Briefcase to become TNA Heavyweight Champion
During the match, Jeff Hardy took a piledriver on the floor outside from Eric Young, who was with Bram, and was taken to the back. After neutralizing Rockstar Spud and Tyrus, EC3 was attacked by Mike Bennett and he was laid out in the crowd and could also no longer compete. Matt cut an "I told you so" promo to the fans when Drew opted to cash in his briefcase.
The main event was over booked (too much so) but it got them to where they wanted to get to: Drew Galloway winning the title. While every run in had some explanation, and the announcers tried to sell the fact that these were all people that Matt Hardy hired to help him secure his title, after so many run ins, it's going to become eye rolling. Good matches can be overbooked, but it's not the norm.
The end of the match played out really well. Matt's promo telling the fans he's always going to be champion was another superb effort from the Iconic Matt Hardy and was so obnoxious that there was no one who would sympathize with him having to face yet a fourth competitor.
This all served to shake up the stories in TNA going forward. Perhaps it was because of struggling ratings or perhaps it was just because they were finding trouble telling the EC3/Hardy story, but it was a shake up that needed to happen. They've opened up new feuds, including a Mike Bennett/EC3 feud that has major potential. And while Matt Hardy has really owned his heel role, it's a better look for the promotion to casual fans to have someone younger hold that title.
In the end, this match itself was overbooked with three separate run ins involving a total of six people, but the end result is a good one. Drew Galloway holds a major title which he deserves, there are new feuds to play with, and we'll get to hear the Iconic Matt Hardy deliver some strong promos about how he was screwed in all of this.
Pros of the Show:
- Main event shake up
- Drew Galloway as champion
- Seeing the announce crew beaten down by Lashley
Cons of the Show:
- Muddled main event match
- While the finish of the story was good, Eli Drake came out of this feud looking weaker than he should
This was a pretty strong showing despite an overbooked main event. And Drew cashing in rectified such over booking.