A few weeks ago on Twitter, I offered to write recaps of TNA Impact Wrestling for anyone who would pay me, and unsurprisingly, nobody took me up on the offer. Still, I feel like going through each show is the only way that I’m ever going to be able to actually understand what the hell is going on down in Orlando. Seriously, I’ve been watching wrestling for over 20 years, and Impact manages to mystify me every single week. So join me now, as I try to figure out What The Hell Happened On Impact: June 7, 2012.
Before we get into the show itself, there’s a bit of a debate raging over whether the actual name of the company is “TNA” or “Impact Wrestling.” For those of you who aren’t aware, the wrestling industry took a cue from comics about ten years ago and relaunched the National Wrestling Alliance as NWA: Total Nonstop Action, an edgier version that aired on pay-per-view and featured go-go dancers in cages flanking the entrance ramp. Seriously. I’m not making that part up. Eventually, they separated from the NWA and just stuck with TNA. Over the past few years, though, they’ve apparently come to their senses and tried to rebrand themselves as Impact Wrestling after their weekly TV show — and TNAWrestling.com now redirects to ImpactWrestling.com, for example — but all the major events are still billed under the TNA banner, and they still have a big ol’ TNA logo on their (very nice) championship belt. So who knows?
If you ask me — and I want to note here that nobody actually did — they should just go ahead and change it to Impact, since ten years is a long time to operate under a brand name that is genuinely embarrassing to say out loud to another human being. Plus, if they do end up ditching it, they can probably sell ShopTNA.com to the porn industry for enough money to finally by Don West those lozenges he’s been needing for the past ten years.
But anyway, on to this week’s epsiode! One of the reasons I have such a hard time figuring Impact out is that it’s not really presented like any other wrestling show. Instead, the producers seem to want to give the impression that you’re watching something that falls between a reality show and a scripted drama that just happens to break out into a wrestling match seven or eight times every week. I’m actually not sure if this is a terrible idea or a great one. On the one hand, the structure of it really is different from the way WWE presents their storylines, which helps the company and the program stand out. On the other hand, it stands out because it’s frequently fucking insane.
The kookiness hit critical mass a few weeks ago when the show opened with Hulk Hogan sitting in his office, reading aloud from the script to that week’s show, telling the four wrestlers in his office that the show was going to open with the four of them in his office deciding who got a shot at the title. He was reading from the script, while acting in the scene that the script was outlining, and talking about the outline in the scene itself. It was a wrestling promo in the form of a Möbius strip, and I still can’t think about it for more than a few seconds without bleeding from the eyes.
On the bright side, all the guys involved in the scene were surprisingly good actors who really sold what was going on as a real event. Even Jeff Hardy, although his acting was more subtle, as it was mostly just sitting there in silence pretending that he couldn’t see snakes made of music crawling all over his hands.
This week’s show, however, opened with a standard reality-style recap, complete with a growly “Previously on Impact Wrestling” voice-over. And what happened previously? Well, Christopher Daniels and Kazarian are blackmailing Dixie Carter and AJ Styles, except they don’t really seem to be sure how blackmail works, because they just went ahead and told a worldwide television audience what was up. See, they have incriminating evidence that Dixie and AJ are having a secret affair, except that their “evidence,” as near as I can tell, is a photo of Dixie and AJ hugging, and a recording of a voice mail that sounds like they’re going to meet up for lunch. The only way it could possibly work as blackmail material is if AJ and Dixie just refused to actually say “we’re not having an affair,” which thus far, they’ve been polite enough to do.
All of this is happening so that AJ Styles can wrestle Christopher Daniels, which is fine since both of those dudes are pretty good at having that match, as evidenced by it being basically the only thing they’ve done for the past ten years. This time, it’s a little different, what with the involvement of Dixie’s husband, whose name is apparently “Surge.”
Speaking of matches that have happened before, the next bit of the show sets up the upcoming match between X-Division Champion Austin Aries and Samoa Joe, which is one of the most distilled, perfect examples of how the world of pro wrestling operates. In wrestling, every single offense that one commits upon another must invariably be settled in a match, no matter how big or shockingly illegal. Smash up somebody’s car with a sledgehammer? Settle it in a match. Drug someone and illegally marry them without their consent in Las Vegas? Settle it in a match. Crucify someone’s daughter on national television? Oh you best believe you gonna settle that in a match.
But it works the other way, too: A tiny, almost unnoticeable infraction can lead to a brutal blood feud. In this case, Samoa Joe is planning on beating the living hell out of Austin Aries because Aries accidentally sprayed water on him while he was doing his hair. Again: I am not kidding about this.
In a related story, did you know Crimson and Matt Morgan are two completely different people?
I know, I was surprised too.
In our next segment, we get the Knockouts, with their new boss, Brooke Hogan! Isn’t that exciting? Aren’t you excited? No, of course you’re not. No one is excited about Brooke Hogan. No one has ever been excited about Brooke Hogan. Hell, with the exception of the guys in Rent-A-Center’s marketing department, people are barely excited about Hulk Hogan at this point. Anyway, she’s shaking up the ladies division with a four-way match to determine the #1 contender, but, in a shocking twist she’s also arranged for Velvet Sky to appear in a music video by Montgomery Gentry!
If you’re like me, you may be surprised to learn that “Montgomery Gentry” is a band. I have only ever heard of them through Impact, and I initially assumed it was one dude who was a wrestler. And honestly, you have to admit that’s a pretty logical assumption when you hear a name that essentially means “Alabama Land-Owner.” Anyway, Mickie James is upset about this, as evidenced by some more really solid acting on her part. Kind of a shame that it’s in service of a “women sure are jealous of each other” plot, but, you know. Lemons and lemonade.
The next time something interesting happens, it’s the continuation of the angle that’s tied with “AJ Is Stalking Kane” for my single favorite thing in professional wrestling right now: Joseph Park, Esq., mild mannered lawyer whose search for his brother Chris — you know, Abyss — has led him into conflict with Bully Ray. Bubba/Brother/Bully Ray is one of those guys that I have a huge amount of affection for from when I was younger, but I think his current gimmick is fantastic. The big talk that immediately turns into cowardly begging as soon as someone turns the tables on him is just so well done, and it plays to one of his greatest talents: Making people absolutely hate him. The best bit, though, is Park. The first time I saw him it had been a while since I’d watched, so I didn’t realize it was actually Abyss himself playing both roles until he accompanied his trademark “you know, Abyss” by holding up his hand at exactly his own height. It cracked me up, and while I’ve seen a few people say they think this angle’s dragging, I could watch a 6’8″, 350-pound wrestler nervously stammer his way through trying to avoid conflict for the next six months and be perfectly happy with it. Especially since Park and Abyss are now having menacing conversations via the giant TV screen in the arena, on live television.
This week also brings us the next
exciting mystifying installment of Gut Check. Remember when I said that Impact was going for a reality-show kind of vibe? Well, Gut Check is that idea taken literally, an actual “reality” show that happens within the larger program. Basically, indie guys compete on the show for a contract with TNA, and then they’re judged by a Al Snow, Bruce Pritchard, and Tazz — and it is an absolute mess. Taz was brought in to replace the original third judge, Ric Flair, whose one outing involved him referring to the fans in the arena as “marks” and then changing his vote in the middle of the segment, undercutting the drama completely and pretty much tanking the whole thing.
The most recent chapter, however, has been a lot more compelling, even if it’s equally confusing. The wrestler trying out for the shot was Joey Ryan, who had a very entertaining match with Austin Aries, but didn’t get the vote. Pritchard voted no, with his logic being that Ryan had spent ten years on the indies, because apparently having experience and being around for a while is a bad thing in the company that currently employs Hulk Hogan and Sting. Snow voted yes, and his reasoning was that he didn’t like Ryan. So… that made sense. Then Taz seemed to get legitimately angry at Ryan during the segment and also gave him a no.
I was legitimately surprised that Ryan didn’t make it, since he was one of the wrestlers in the single best cage match I’ve ever seen (it’s on the PWG Sells Out compilation, which appears to unfortunately be out of print), and while the jury’s still out on whether this was legit or not, the longer it goes on, the more I’m thinking that they’re actually using this segment to create dama (!). As convincing as the video of Al Snow forcing Ryan out of the arena was, I don’t think they would’ve shown it otherwise, and I don’t think Tazz would’ve mentioned Ryan’s YouTube videos, no matter how dismissively, TNA didn’t want people out there looking at them. Of course, that might just be wishful thinking on my part; I think Ryan’s a hoot and I’d like to see him have a shot on a larger stage. Even one as weird as this one.
After that, Garrett Bischoff
Sorry, fell asleep there for a second. Fortunately, Mr. Anderson’s entrance was loud enough to wake me back up so that I wouldn’t miss this segment where Hulk Hogan put four faces in a match to determine the #1 contender for the World Championship on a match after Slammiversary, pretty much undercutting any tension that pay-per-view might’ve had by virtually assuring us that Bobby Roode’s going to retain the title. Really, the only thing about this segment that’s worth watching is seeing the Production Team decide to censor the first time Anderson said “asshole,” but then go ahead and slide the next two times.
Actually, now that I think of it, “Inconsistently Censored Assholes” is an even better name than “Impact.” Think it’ll fit on a title belt?