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1/24 Impact Review by Wilkenfeld: The return of Joe, and other good things

Jan 24, 2008 - 11:26:02 PM

By Daniel Wilkenfeld: PWTorch Contributor

Where We've Been:
Last week's Impact was mostly about Shark Boy. Yes, that Shark Boy. We also found out that James Mitchell is Abyss's father, which on the bright side should forestall finding out anything else about Abyss for the foreseeable future. Then they had a killer three-way elimination match. Then, as a special bonus, we got a 30-minute documentary about Tomko using the Japanese subway system, and then an even more killer IWGP title defense. This all brings me to one inescapable conclusion: TNA needs to hire Joss Whedon. My wife has been dragging me through Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD (confession: I stopped minding mid-second season), and they do one episode where there's pretty much no dialogue outside the first and last 5 minutes. That sort of ability to tell stories without relying on dialogue or overly overt narration should be natural for wrestling, which has been in that business for years. And for people like Kurt Angle, it is natural—Angle and Nagata gripped the audience for 25 minutes without a word. But after 20 minutes of Shark Boy updates last week, I'm starting to think that maybe less really is more. I would certainly never advocate that a company focus on matches to the detriment of promos—but last week's tumult of useless words suggests that words are being used indiscriminately and chaotically. The effects of making wrestling-writing more Hollywood-esque have been disastrous for the WWE creative output, but maybe a little bit of a Screenwriting 101 class wouldn't be the end of the world by itself after all. Or maybe it would. I'm not honestly sure I have a point here.

The Show
The episode title is about Samoa Joe, which is promising. Cornette is in the locker room, where he reveals that TNA management is holding him responsible for last week's show. He means the fact that Joe was unfairly disqualified in the main event, but the promo works just as well if you take him to be referring to the general pre-main-event suckiness. He is therefore booking a killer show tonight to compensate. It will include: Jay Lethal vs. Johnny Devine for the X Division Championship and Styles & Tomko vs. the Motor City Machine Guns for the Tag Team Championship. Brother Ray reveals that they knew about the tag title match and that they deserve the title shot, and Cornette agrees to put them into the match in exchange for them leaving him around for the rest of the night. The implication is somehow that they used their inside scoop to get an edge, but it's not really clear why they couldn't have demanded a title shot just as easily if they had just learned about it for the first time right now. Did they really need to strategize here?

[Opening Credits]

Tonight we have the return of Booker T, a sit-down interview with Abyss, and the announcement of the TNA 2007 Year End Awards. Well, so much for this week having less pointless pontificating. To make that seem like not such a bad thing, here's Kevin Nash. He saunters to the ring, where he grabs the mic and says that Joe got screwed. Nash says that there's always an easy way and a hard way to do things, and that Cornette might as well do this the easy way and come out to present a way to pacify Joe. The hard way would be for Cornette to not come out, in which case he'll have to deal with Joe himself. The crowd starts the first "Joe" chant I've heard in months, which is interesting. Matt Morgan comes down and says that no on cares what Nash has to say anymore, since the Cliq and the nWo are both dead, and Nash's career "is on life support as best." Now Morgan is the big voice of power, and Nash can either just leave the ring or be taken out. Nash grabs him by the throat and calls him a punk. He then actually starts to leave when Morgan jumps him from behind. Joe comes out of the crowd and easily takes Morgan out of the ring. He says that Cornette made his choice, and tonight they're doing things the hard way. After tonight Cornette will never forget the name "Samoa Joe."

JB is in the Angles' locker room where he runs down tonight's line-up. Angle yells at him for not paying attention to the Angle Alliance meeting, which has important business. Kurt says he wants AJ to arrange a sit-down meeting with Tomko, since he has an offer Tomko can't refuse. AJ doesn't think he can do it, but after Karen Angle quietly promises to do him a favor later tonight he suddenly becomes more optimistic.

[Commercial Break]

Crystal is in the back with Christian Cage, and she wants to know if Christian thinks he'll win the MVP award later tonight. He asks whether he should just give his acceptance speech now to save time, since his Peeps never let him down. That was more sucking up to the crowd then is characteristic of Christian. He then turns his attention to Angle and asks whether he listens to what people say, since Tomko has been clear that he just wants to be left alone. He says that if Tomko's going to pick a side, Kurt should just let him do it on his own.

(1) Robert Roode (w/Peyton Banks) & James Storm (w/Jackie Moore) defeat Eric Young & "The Guru" Sonjay Dutt.

Peyton has died her hair to look more like Ms. Brooks. On the bright side, we get to see the never before seen showdown between Robert Roode and Eric Young. The crowd is still totally behind EY despite questionable booking the last couple of months. Young hits a cool Belly-to-Belly Suplex, but James Storm catches him when he tries to go the top rope. Storm comes in to lay some smack down, but when he tags Roode back in Young is able to hit a jawbreaker to get back in Dutt. Dutt flies around with some spinning kicks, culminating in a Lionsault for two. He hits a Seesaw Kick on Roode, but when he goes to follow up from the top rope Roode ducks and he eats a Superkick for the three count.
After the match Ms. Brooks comes in to attack Peyton Banks, which delights the crowd for reasons I don't fully understand.

Crystal is in the back with Booker T, but when she asks about Sharmell he just marches on. Talk about someone who can do more with a look than with a word.

[Commercial Break]

We get clips of the top 3 X Division wrestlers of the year—I wonder how they reduced the list from the 8 or so we got to vote on to 3. It does make the presentation slicker than it would have otherwise been. The winner (by popular vote) is Jay Lethal, which is a legitimate (if incorrect) choice. Lethal gets a kiss on the cheek from SoCal Val and a big trophy. He starts to say "Oh Yeah" but cuts himself off. He takes off the doo-rag, and talks in a normal voice about how he tries every week to put on a happy face to help us fans forget about our troubles. But lately Team 3D's actions have made him lose his smile—in fact he's mad as hell, and he's not gonna take it anymore. Tonight he's going to beat down Johnny Devine. The crowd goes nuts. Maybe he wasn't the wrong choice after all.

Crystal is in the back with Black Reign, where she wants to know if Kaz has turned the mind games around on him. Before he can answer Joe jumps in and whacks him, then walks off. Best. Black Reign. Promo. Ever. Kaz comes over to find Reign down, so he takes Reign's wig and weapon.

[Commercial Break]

We get another recap of Shark Boy's injuries and possession by Stone Cold. Uh oh.

(2) Shark Boy defeats "Prime Time" Elix Skipper

Shark Boy comes out to a remix of his music and Austin's, with a torn leather vest. He starts off with some haymakers, then hits a Lou Thesz Press and a Bionic Elbow. Skipper takes over for a second, but when he misses a Splash in the corner gets a mud hole stomped in his ass and walked dry. When Austin would use the finger Shark Boy would do that hand to head gesture he does. Skipper takes over with a cool Back Breaker, but when he goes for a Leg Drop off the top rope Shark Boy rolls out of the way and nails a Stunner for the three count. West says that Shark Boy nailed him, to which Tenay replies that "in fact he stunned him."
Shark Boy grabs the mic and says that we just saw the first of a new and improved Shark Boy. For the last few months everyone has been stomping a mud hole in his ass, but starting tonight we ain't gonna see that no more, cause "Shark Boy 24:7 says 'I just bit your ass!' And that's the fishing line, cause Shark Boy said so." He pauses throughout for the relevant cries of "what?" from the audience. At the end he mounts the corner turnbuckle and downs clam juices thrown from...somewhere? I realize that this is an exact mimic of the idea behind "Black Machismo", but that's still a big step up for Shark Boy. Also, a lot of us are probably more familiar with Austin's mannerisms than with Savage's.

[Commercial Break]

Out top knockouts are Ms. Brooks, Christy Hemme and Gail Kim. Ms. Brooks and Christy Hemme got more votes than Gail Kim? Weird. The winner is, not surprisingly, Gail Kim. She also gets a nice trophy. She thanks the crowd, but says that she's still suffering from the concussion. She can't really celebrate since Kong took her title, which she (Kong) disgraces by not caring about the effort the women put in every week but only about hurting people. She says that Kong put her down, but not out. Kong comes out with her valet, and Kim catches her on the way in. Kong turns things around though, and nails a Spinning Back Fist to Kim's concussed head. When she goes to follow up with an Awesome Bomb ODB's music hits. She sprints to the ring and tries to take Kong down with Forearm Shots, but to no effect. Kong goes for the Awesome Bomb, but ODB slips out and nails a series of dropkicks and a big clothesline to take Kong out of the ring.

Angle is meeting with Tomko, and claims that Tomko needs him as much as much as he needs Tomko. He says that if he helps him beat Christian he can get all the perks of the Angle Alliance. When he asks what that means, Angle says it can mean whatever he wants. Fancy cars, jets, wine, Karen. AJ seems shocked by the suggestion that Karen is part of the package, but when Tomko asks what she can do Angle says to use his imagination, as she can do things like inspire him. AJ, in the background, seems relieved, and goes "yeah, like shout 'Yay Tomko!'" Poor AJ. Tomko, however, says he gets all the inspiration he needs from his wife and kids. Angle is surprised by that suggestion, and points out that they're talking about Karen Angle, not some girl Tomko picked up at the strip joint…and you better believe that them's fight'n words. Tomko slugs Kurt Angle and fights him off the screen. Sometimes Tomko is so good on the mic it's scary.

[Commercial Break]

Tomko has beaten Kurt all the way down to the ring. Security pulls him off, and Angle grabs a mic. He says that Tomko blew it, and he and Kurt will have a match next week. Angle just hopes that Tomko's stripper-wife has the night off so that she can take him to the hospital, at which point security proves ineffective at restraining Tomko. We get a pull-apart brawl.

Crystal is in the back with Team 3D and Johnny Devine, and Devine says that tonight it'll be clear why he picked the side he did. He's going to be the winner, because while Lethal is good, he's still not divine. Brother Ray says that he's on to the Motor City Machine Guns. He says that they come out there and make fun of their weight, but the truth is that Devon's never looked better. I'm not sure if he just called himself fat. He says tonight they're going to win the belts, and then they're going to defend them at Against All Odds. How do you make a six-man tag match be for the Tag Team Championships? He takes another shot at Crystal for no real reason.

(3) Johnny Devine defeats "Black Machismo"(?) Jay Lethal

This match is a Street Fight. Lethal comes out in full Savage garb, but rips off the rag mid-ramp. He goes after Devine right away, beating him around the ring. He wraps a steel chair around Devine's neck and then throws him into the ring post. Devine takes control, but when get goes for a move off the top Lethal rolls out of the way and catches Devine with a DDT onto the chair.

[Commercial Break]

Lethal is still in control, bludgeoning Devine with a trashcan, busting him open. He hits the Cartwheel Drop Kick and then follows it up with some more trashcan related offense. We get some kendo stick shots and a Lethal Combo, but when he goes up for the Savage Elbow he sees Team 3D coming down to ringside and attacks them with a Cross Body Block. The distraction buys Devine enough time to recover, and he gets Lethal with a Flapjack that catches his throat on the rim of the steel chair. He tries to follow up with a chair shot, but Lethal dodges and just brains Devine with a big chair shot of his own. He gets a two count before Devon pulls out the ref. He goes to the top rope to inflict more damage, but Ray nails him with a kendo stick to the back for the three count. Devine totally deserves that belt. Wait a minute—that's not even a little true.
Thankfully, Joe seems to feel the same way, as he comes down and eats Devine. Damn they are doing a good job of making Joe cool again. Team 3D bail on their comrade. Joe tells the camera that this is what Cornette can expect all night long.

We go to Tenay's sit-down interview with Abyss. Abyss appears to be wearing a collared shirt. In fact, it might be the same shirt that Kane was wearing at the appropriate "humanizing" stage of his career (when Snitsky killed his baby). Maybe they're really just the same person. Tenay asks for confirmation that Mitchell is his father. Abyss says that it's true, which explains the shame that makes him wear a mask. He's challenged Maseis and Mitchell to a Barbed Wire Massacre match.

[Commercial Break]

The nominees for TNA's most memorable moment are the debut of Booker T, Angle unifying all the gold, and Sting regaining the World Championship. JB is joined in the ring by Kendall Gill, whom apparently I'm supposed to recognize. They plug Angle's appearance later tonight on Pros vs. Joes, and then Gill announces that the winner is Booker T's debut. That's another fair choice. Booker comes out looking happy but restrained. He first says to Sharmell watching at home that he loves her. He says that it's been really hard lately, but he'll be over it real soon. JB asks when we're going to see him back in the ring, and he says that that's the last thing on his mind right now. Roode appears on the big screen and says that he's glad that Booker's finally accepting responsibility. When he challenged Booker to a mixed tag match at Final Resolution he never dreamed that Booker would accept. He asks Booker to give Sharmell his best. He has become a real natural at selling the sleaze.

Crystal is in the back with BG James and Bullet Bob Armstrong, and she wants to know how they're preparing for their match. BG first covers her up to make this show more family friendly, and then says that they'll be "pulling a Tony Romo" and partying for the next three weeks. Bullet Bob objects that partying should be the last thing on his mind, and that for the next three weeks they'll be training as if they were still in the marines. My memory was right—Bullet Bob is a natural on the mic. BG complains that he knew Bob would do this.

The Rock & Rave Infection hit the ring, and Hoyt and Rave are sporting Guitar Hero controllers. Christy asks if we're ready to rock, Rave says hello to Cleveland, and Hoyt says they'll be playing the bar after the show. If you're going to steal shtick from somewhere, South Park is not a bad choice. Anyway, their opponents are introduced—holy shit that's Tiger Mask. Also…Curry Man? I have idea.

(4) Tiger Mask & Curry Man defeat The Rock & Rave Infection

Apparently Curry Man is also a Japanese cartoon character. The crowd gives his entrance a "That was awesome" chant, but I can't tell if it's sarcastic. Mask hits a Monkey Flip and a Hurricanrana on Rave. He tags in Curry Man, who mostly dances. Hoyt comes in and overpowers him. The crowd is wildly into this match. They tee off on Curry Man for a bit till he gets the tag. Tiger Mask hits a cool Back Breaker and follows it up with a Double Underhook Suplex off the top rope for two. Rave fights out of an attempt at a Tiger Suplex, but Tiger Mask just catches him with a Pele. He goes to the top to follow up, but Hoyt knocks him down. Mask tries follow him outside with a Plancha but Hoyt catches and slams him. Meanwhile Curry Man hits The Spice Rack (a Torture Rack into a Facebuster), but Hoyt breaks up the three count. Mask is back in, and the two of them get Hoyt out of the ring. Curry Man follows up with a Cross Body Block to keep Hoyt down on the outside, while Mask finishes off Rave with a Kamikaze Headbutt. I didn't know you were still allowed to do those, what with their possible connection to double-homicides.

[Commercial Break]

Brock Lesnar's still alive. They have a whole video package about that.

The finalists for MVP are Kurt Angle, Christian Cage, and Samoa Joe. JB announces that the winner is…Samoa Joe? I don't get how Christian could have not-won this award. Joe gets a fairly monstrous trophy—poor AJ Styles only got a plaque. Joe says that he's the most valuable wrestler here in TNA, stressing the word "wrestler." Joe wants to know why, if all these fans love him, he doesn't get his title shot. JB, in a surprising bit of logic, reminds him that he got a title shot a few months ago and didn't get the job done. Joe admits that that's the right answer, but says that it's not the right answer tonight. He clotheslines JB's head off. Cornette comes down and tells him to stop, but Joe says it won't stop till he says it does. He smashes the trophy. Cornette admits that Joe got screwed by a bad call last week, but to make it up to him he'll get to be the special guest enforcer at Against All Odds and have a title shot opportunity for Destination X. Joe looks like he's about to accept until Nash leans over and whispers something in his ear. Joe shakes his head, and says that he also wants a five-year contract, wherein every year he gets paid 15% more than Kurt Angle. Cornette somehow manages to start sweating, which is either really impressive acting or dumb luck. He asks if he can think about it, but the crowd starts up a "Joe" chant that he takes to mean that it's time now. Cornette agrees, and says that there will be a contract signing next week. Remind me never to elect Cornette President when there's a terrorist threat, which I guess will probably be forever.

Crystal is in the back with Styles & Tomko, and AJ is apologizing on behalf of Kurt. Tomko says that he's taking care of this problem tonight, that he'll take care of Kurt next week, and that AJ is only one step away from becoming a problem himself.

[Commercial Break]

(5) Styles (w/ Karen Angle) & Tomko defeat Team 3D and The Motor City Machine Guns

Apparently we're operating under modified Four Corners Match rules: there are only two people allowed in the ring, you can't tag in your own partner and you can't wrestle against your own partner. That actually makes a lot more sense than the usual rules. Sabin and Ray start things off, and Ray catches Sabin with a big Rock Bottom. AJ comes in for Ray, and Sabin catches him with a Springboard Tornado DDT. Tomko comes in to break up the cover, we get a pier-six brawl. AJ ends up alone in the ring, and goes outside with a no-hands Somersault Plancha. Karen Angle goes to distract Brother Ray, but AJ misunderstands and jumps Ray. Ray tosses AJ into Karen, who goes down. AJ tags in Devon (which is a nice touch, since he and Sabin were still legal), and then carries Karen off to the back.

[Commercial Break]

Tomko is being isolated, which is not something one usually expects. Team 3D nail a Doomsday Device, which forces the Guns to make the save. Once in, they nail Devon with some cool double team moves, culminating in Stereo Ensuguris (with Shelley's half being hit from the apron). Ray takes them out over the ring, but Tomko, who's still legal, nails a quick boot to Ray and then gets a clothesline on Devon for three.
AJ comes back out to the ring. He tries to hug Tomko, but Tomko shoves him away. Christian appears in the entranceway, clapping.

Where We're Going:
It looks like their erratic booking of Joe over the last few weeks is finally starting to coalesce into a discernible character. This week finally synthesized his various character traits into one coherent personality—he's using the angry streak of the old Joe and the selfish streak of the new Joe together as governed by the cold calculation of old-hand Kevin Nash. (There's actually a killer analogy here between Joe's coming together and Plato's account of how to harmonize the Appetitive, Spiritual, and Rational parts of the soul in The Republic, but as I'd like to still have some readers left next week I'll forgo the details for now.) The critical part was getting back that old fire without making him seem whiny, and TNA found the perfect way to do it—by making him the anti-3D. Where they ambushed people the crowd liked watching (i.e. The Motor City Machine Guns), he attacked Black Reign and Johnny Devine. The new Joe should be a more compelling challenger for the title, if only because a three-dimensional character is more fun to watch in general. I'm assuming he'll be up against Angle again soon, and the return of both of them to killers from dopes should help give their feud some of its original luster, after it lost it this past summer.

Overall: The running segment of the week was the TNA Year End Awards, all of which were used to logically progress some storyline or other, so kudos to TNA on that. This show was a lot like two weeks ago—good development throughout, and then a promising but ultimately disappointing main event. Since this week's was slightly more disappointing, this week also gets a slightly lower grade. B+

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