SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
TNA Impact Wrestling Report
May 17, 2016
Taped in Orlando, Fla. at Universal Studios
Aired on Pop TV
Report by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonPW), PWTorch contributor
Impact Wrestling opened with a video hyping tonight’s main event between TNA World Hvt. Champion Drew Galloway and Bobby Lashley. Josh Mathews then shows cuts of both Galloway and Lashley arriving at the building earlier today.
As Lashley entered the building, he came across Galloway, who attacked him near a set. A brawl took place backstage. It spilled onto the interview set before the locker room broke Lashley and Galloway apart.
In-arena: Mathews called tonight’s main event more epic than Batman vs. Superman or Captain America vs. Ironman.
Willow makes his ring entrance. Mathews shows highlights from last week, when three different Willow characters attacked Jeff Hardy backstage after one Willow distracted Hardy during a match where Hardy teamed with James Storm against Decay. There’s just one Willow here tonight …
“Fear? I have no fear,” Willow said. “I have no regret. My mind is clear. For I am Willow, and I am free.” (WIllow is wearing a black body suit with a mask. The voice is distorted with a high pitch.)
Jeff Hardy’s music hits and he emerges from backstage, walking to the ring and playing it up with the crowd. “I don’t know who you are,” Hardy said, “but whatever you’re trying to do isn’t going to work. There is only one Willow in this world, and he lives inside of me.” Pope talked about how Willow has come to life.
Hardy said he’s about to expose Willow. “Willow has a special place in my heart,” Hardy said. “When Jeff Hardy needs to go dark, he goes to Willow.” Hardy attacked Willow. Suddenly referee Brian Hebner came into the ring, and apparently it’s a match …
1 — JEFF HARDY vs. WILLOW
Hardy tried for a Twist of Fate, but Willow broke free. Hardy then hit a Twist of Fate to score the pin.
WINNER: Jeff Hardy via pin at 0:57.
After the match, Hardy grabbed Willow and tried to pull off his mask, but a second Willow hit the ring and attacked Hardy with an umbrella. After Hardy was down, the third Willow came out from backstage. “You want answers,” Willow asked? “You desire truths? I will give you those and it will become your worst nightmare.”
[Commercial Break at 9:10]
Coming back from the break, TNA ran a promo for Slammiversary in June.
In-ring: Willow said that all the pieces of the puzzle fit. The mask comes off and Willow is revealed to be Matt Hardy. Matt said that Jeff loved Willow more than he ever loved him.
[Q2] Matt said that he used Willow to show Jeff his fatal mistake. Matt said that Jeff’s mistake was that he did not finish him. Matt said that he has designed a pathway to pain for Jeff, and if his survival results in Jeff’s destruction, so be it. Matt then tells the other two Willows to “punish him.”
“You have fight left in you?” asked Hardy. “Good. I want you to fight. I want you to struggle and go to war with me. Suffering, scars, physical pain, emotional pain, mental pain. We will both suffer. Matt Hardy will not die.”
After the other Willows beat up Hardy some more, Matt stood over his brother. He picked him up – Jeff begins to fight back – but Matt locked on a rear-naked choke and choked out Jeff. “Everything ends,” Matt said. “Even the indestructible Jeff Hardy.” On commentary, Mathews says that he is lost for words.
Referees ran in to tend to Jeff as Matt walks back up the ramp slowly. Mathews tells us to “take it all in, folks.”
[Reax: The one-week Willow mystery is solved. This is another evolution for Matt Hardy, who has went really dark in his promo. Matt Hardy has been doing some of the best work of his career since his heel turn and it will be interesting to see where this evolution takes him.]
Tonight: Drew Galloway vs. Bobby Lashley.
Backstage: Velvet Sky is walking backstage and she bumps into Maria’s new personal apprentice, Allie (the debuting Cherry Bomb). Allie tells Velvet that she has a match against Sienna. And if she loses, she’s fired.
[Commercial Break at 9:22]
Backstage: In an interview segment backstage with Jeremy Borash, Dixie Carter announces that tonight’s World Title main event will be a lumberjack match.
2 — VELVET SKY vs. SIENNA — If Velvet Sky loses the match, she has to retire from TNA
Sienna and Velvet rush each other right from the start. Two roll-ups by Velvet, but Sienna kicks out. Sienna has control after that, stomping Velvet in the corner.
[Q3] Velvet gets up a boot on a charging Sienna. The match spills to the outside. Back in the ring, Velvet hits a neckbreaker for a two count. Velvet splashes Sienna in the corner and then hits a bulldog for another two count. Back to their feet, Sienna scores the pin after her finisher, which doesn’t yet have a name. It involved getting Velvet up in her shoulder, and spinning her off, face-first, to the mat.
WINNER: Sienna at 3:20.
[Reax: That’s it? Okay, so Velvet Sky wasn’t Steve Austin or anything, but there’s nothing ceremonious about her exit? The match ended and no more than 10-15 seconds later, TNA threw to the next video package.]
Video: Mike Bennett and Maria were shown sunbathing by a pool. Maria dives in as Bennett does a voice-over talking about how great their life is. Bennett said that ECIII needs him in his life. Bennett said that ECIII is on his road to redemption, and while ECIII is looking at his past, Bennett is looking at his future, which includes becoming TNA World Hvt. Champion. Bennett said that when Maria is done getting sun, they’re heading to the Impact Zone to “truly make a miracle.”
[Commercial Break at 9:34]
Back from the break, Mathews recaps Dixie Carter making tonight’s World Title match a lumberjack match.
In-arena: Bennett and Maria are in the ring finishing their ring entrance. “I understand why you don’t believe in me yet,” Bennett said. “It’s because you don’t believe in yourselves. It’s hard to believe in me, when you don’t believe in yourself.”
Bennett said that ECIII also doesn’t believe in himself; he needs this road to redemption in order to overcome demons from his past. Bennett reiterated that if ECIII fails on this road to redemption, he will not be able to face Bennett at Slammiversary.
“I want to call out a TNA Hall of Famer,” Bennett said. “And no, it’s not Kurt Angle, because every time I tried to fight Kurt Angle, he ran away like a little chicken.” Bennett said that he wanted to call out someone who has worked around the world, and someone who is “very familiar with the colors of black and white.”
Bennett called out … Earl Hebner. Bennett said Earl Hebner refereeing one of his matches was on his bucket list. But tonight, he wanted to fight Hebner. Bennett said that he’s a future TNA Hall of Famer, and to “just think about it.”
“Think of what we could do, Earl,” Bennett said. “I know you’re not a wrestler, but let’s face it, you’re the only active Hall of Famer on the roster, so if I am going to fight a Hall of Famer, it has to be you.”
Bennett said they could wait until he’s in the Hall of Fame to do a Hall of Fame match, “but by the time that happens, you’ll be dead.” Bennett called out referee Brian Stiffler. Bennett keeps egging on Hebner, calling him “old man” and poking at him to provoke him. Earl comes back with one of his shoves. Bennett then tells Stiffler to ring the bell, and he does.
3 — MIKE BENNETT (w/Maria) vs. EARL HEBNER
Bennett hit Hebner with a right hand and Stifler went to count after a long pause, but Hebner kicked out. As Bennett argued with Stiffler, Earl hit a low blow. Maria got in the ring and started yelling at Earl, who flipped off Maria and then ripped off his shirt like Hulk Hogan. As Hebner turned around, Bennett hit a big kick for a three count.
WINNER: Mike Bennett via pin at 2:31.
After the match, Bennett grabbed Hebner and looked like he was going for a piledriver, but ECIII made the save, running down to the ring and clearing out Bennett.
“Look at who it is!” Bennett said as he retreated up the aisle. “Now Ethan, I’ve never known you to be a caring individual, but that was quite nice of you.” Bennett said that ECIII is on a road to redemption, and he already conquered one demon, Spud, last week. But tonight, Bennett said that he would face a much bigger demon. Bennett said that tonight, in a last-man standing match, he’ll face Tyrus. Just as Bennett made the announcement, Tyrus attacked ECIII.
[Reax: The set-up here is that Bennett will now brag about beating a TNA Hall of Famer. That’s okay heat, so the segment did it’s job (assuming Bennett keeps using this win moving forward). But did they have to throw in the spot with Earl kicking out? The 67-year-old referee kicked out of a pin from a guy who is supposedly one of the best up-and-coming talents in the company? A guy who certainly seems like he’ll be a World Champion down the road? … That’s silly. That makes people – the casual fans – laugh at pro wrestling. Sure, he kicked out after a long pause and only after one punch, but it didn’t have to be there. Or, if you want to do that, don’t do it with Bennett. He’s a guy that needs to be protected and shouldn’t be used for a cheap laugh like that, or to give Earl a gold watch moment for service to TNA.]
[Commercial Break at 9:49]
4 — ETHAN CARTER III vs. TYRUS — last-man standing match
We join this match in progress …
Back from the break, Tyrus is leaning on ECIII. After a moment, ECIII is on his feet and breaks free. He tries two clotheslines but it just rocks Tyrus. ECIII gets scooped up on the third attempt and Tyrus drops him with a slam.
Tyrus goes to the outside and slides in a steel chair. ECIII meets him with right hands. Tyrus slows ECIII down with an eye poke. Tyrus bodyslams ECIII onto a chair. Tyrus takes the chair and positions it in the corner. As he turns around, ECIII hits two chinbreakers and then sends Tyrus into the chair perched in the corner.
ECIII hits three straight splashes. Tyrus comes out of the corner and whips ECIII into the turnbuckle, but misses a splash. ECIII hits a crossbody off the top rope. ECIII goes to the outside and slides in a table. ECIII slams a chair over Tyrus’s back three times and then pauses for Brian Hebner to count.
[Q5 — second hour] Tyrus gets back up at nine. ECIII has two chairs set up facing each other. He tries for a One-Percenter through the chairs, but Tyrus reverses into a back suplex.
Tyrus sets up the table and then chokes ECIII, but he answers the count at six. Tyrus sets up ECIII on the table and begins to climb the turnbuckle but ECIII recovers and powerbombs Tyrus through the table.
Tyrus answers the count at seven. Tyrus blocks a chair shot and suplexes ECIII into the corner. Tyrus hits the ICU spike on ECIII, who was on the ring apron. It knocks ECIII to the floor on the outside. But, ECIII gets back to his feet.
The match moves to the aisle where Tyrus drops ECIII on his hip. ECIII back up at nine and then drops again. Meanwhile, Tyrus breaks apart the steel guardrail and sets it up so that one end is resting on the ring apron and the other end is on the floor.
Tyrus grabs ECIII by the head and is yelling something in his ear. ECIII begins to fight back with elbows. ECIII lifts up Tyrus and some Samoan Drops Tyrus through the guardrail, which bends in the middle. Tyrus comes to a stop next to the ring steps. ECIII turns the steps over on top of Tyrus and then begins to beat the steps with a chair. ECIII climbs up to the ring apron and stands on top of the steps as Hebner counts to 10.
WINNER: Ethan Carter III via 10 count at 15:38.
After the match, Bennett walks out on the stage and stares down ECIII. Mathews points out that there is no smile on Bennett’s face. He looks much more serious than last week. Mathews says that with the victory, ECIII is on his way to face Bennett at Slammiversary.
[Reax: Very good match. They kept Tyrus stronger here than they did coming out of his title match against Galloway a few weeks back. The spot with the guardrail looked great, really showcasing ECIII’s strength to get Tyrus up like that. Tyrus looked more like a monster in this match than he has in recent weeks on Impact.]
Video: A Bobby Lashley training montage is shown. Lashley is doing mostly MMA training along with some weight lifting and other Crossfit-inspired workouts.
Next: Eddie Edwards and D.J. Z will team up.
[Commercial Break at 10:08]
Back from the break, Mathews recaps the segment between Willow/Matt Hardy/Jeff Hardy.
Backstage: Jeff Hardy is recovering after the attack. He says that Matt has gone off the deep end. “He wanted this fight,” Jeff said. “I broke him.” Jeff said he would get redemption at Slammiversary.
In-arena: Andrew Everett and Trevor Lee are coming to the ring. A box pops up – think old-school WWE Superstars – where Shane Helms cuts a quick promo explaining why his team is going to beat Edwards and his new partner. Mathews says that Edwards and D.J. Z are great friends and are teaming up tonight while Davey Richards still recovers from an injury.
5 — D.J. ZEMA & EDDIE EDWARDS vs. X Division champion TREVOR LEE & ANDREW EVERETT (w/Shane Helms)
Lee and Edwards begin the match. Lee makes a quick tag to Everett and Edwards makes a quick tag to D.J. Z
[Q6] D.J. Z hits a dropkick for a two count on Everett. D.J. Z whips Everett into the ropes but ducks it and slides to the outside. D.J. Z chases Everett around the outside of the ring and Lee hits a cheap shot kick on D.J. Z from the apron.
Back in the ring, Everett tags in Lee, who begins to choke D.J. Z in the corner and then stomps him. Mathews points out the differences in the six-sided ring and the difference angles. Pope says that six-sided ring is made for the X-Division more than the heavyweights.
D.J. Z tries to make a tag but Everett grabs his foot. D.J. Z hits an enziguri and tags in Edwards. Edwards drops Everett with an atomic drop. Edwards hits the ropes but Lee kicks Edwards in the kidneys. Edwards hits a huracanrana on Everett.
Back up, Everett knees Edwards in the gut and follows up with a kick to the head. Edwards kicks a charging Everett and tags in D.J. Z, who immediately runs into a suicide dive onto Lee on the outside. Back int he ring, D.J. Z misses Everett but lands on his feet. Everett throws D.J. Z into the ropes where Lee kicks him.
Everett misses a moonsault, lands on his feet, but D.J. Z kicks him. Edwards takes out Lee with a dive and D.J. Z hits a DDT on Everett for the win. Post-match, Edwards and D.J. Zema yell at Helms. Mathews says the only place to see the X-Division is on Impact.
WINNERS: D.J. Z and Eddie Edwards via pinfall at 5:33
[Reax: There’s no doubt that this is D.J. Z’s biggest win on Impact in quite some time. He shined here and it looks like they could be heading in a direction where he gets into the mix for the X Division Title either now or maybe down the road, once Edwards is put back with Richards upon his return. The show is starting to pick up after a very lackluster opening 50 minutes.]
Next: Eli Drake.
[Commercial Break at 10:21]
Back from the break, Eli Drake is hosting his “Fact of Life” segment. “Anyone with half a brain in their head knows that I am Eli Drake,” he said. “Tonight, we’re calling out some dummies …”
Drake begins to run down the crowd, hitting his “dummy button.” “Anyway, 2016 has been quite a year,” Drake said. “People talk about having power to make a change.”
Drake said that his briefcase, which has a shot for the KOTM Title, is real change. Drake then brings out his guest tonight, Bram. Bram enters the ring. Drake tells production to cut off Bram’s music.
“I can see you looking at this briefcase with those rusty wheels in your head,” Drake said. Bram said that the briefcase is dangerous … but it’s dangerous for Eli Drake.
Drake said that’s where Bram is wrong. Drake said that he’s the most dangerous man in Bram’s life right now. Drake said he’s not here for confrontation, though. He wants to make a deal with Bram. Drake said that he could cash in the KOTM Title shot whenever he likes and score a win. Or, Bram could just hand over the title tonight and make it easy.
[Q7] Bram said that he could just hand over the title, or he could rip out Drake’s throat. Drake said that Bram chose the hard way, and that ends the Fact of Life tonight. Drake begins to walk off and Bram told him that he “had no testicles.” Drake gets heated and asked Bram if he wanted him to cash it in? Bram was ready for a fight but Drake said he wasn’t cashing in tonight.
Drake begins to walk up the ramp but Bram catches him and throws him back in the right, where he begins to throw some haymakers. Drake ducks out of the ring, grabs his briefcase and retreats up the ramp.
Up Next: Bobby Lashley vs. Drew Galloway
[Commercial Break at 10:34]
Back from the break, Mathews recaps the ECIII-Tyrus last man standing match from earlier tonight.
Backstage: ECIII catches Bennett. “I’m two for two, Michael,” ECIII said. Bennett said that ECIII isn’t done yet. He has one more obstacle to overcome. Bennett said that last obstacle is Matt Hardy, the man who took the World Title from him. Bennett said that next week, if he can make Matt Hardy tap out or if he can pin him, they might have their re-match.
Next week: Matt Hardy vs. ECIII, Grado vs. Al Snow, and the return of the Ultimate X match for the X Division championship in a show titled “May Mayhem.”
In-arena: The lumberjacks begin to surround the ring as Bobby Lashley makes his ring entrance.
6 — TNA World Hvt. champion DREW GALLOWAY vs. BOBBY LASHLEY — lumberjack match for the TNA World Hvt. Title
The bell rings and the lumberjacks bang on the mat. Lashley grabs Galloway and forces him to the corner. Referee Brian Hebner separates them and Galloway throws punches. Lashley catches a kick and throws a punch at Galloway, who takes Lashley down with a tackle.
Galloway hits a running boot. Galloway goes to the apron and Lashley spears him to the outside. The lumberjacks grab Galloway as the show goes to break.
[Commercial Break at 10:44] [Q8..]
[..Q8] Back from the break, Lashley has control of Galloway in the corner, choking him on the rope. Lashley stomps on Galloway in the corner and then throws Galloway back to the outside. He’s on the heel side of the ring, apparently, as Spud, Everett, Bennett, and Eli Drake land some shots before rolling Galloway back into the ring. Lashley again attacks Galloway in the corner.
Lashley spears Galloway into the corner and then takes him to the middle of the ring for a delayed vertical suplex, but Galloway blocks it. Lashley settles for a spinning neckbreaker for a two count. Galloway chops Lashley, but Lashley takes Galloway back down with a tackle.
Mathews notes that Lashley is more aggressive in the past few months. Pope compares Galloway to John Wayne. Lashley lands some shots. Galloway gets up and tells Lashley to hit in right on the chin. Lashley and Galloway stand off, trading punches. Lashley tries for a neckbreaker, but Galloway reverses it, landing a forearm to the back of Lashley’s neck.
Galloway hits a running boot and a running forearm and then a flying clothesline off the top. Galloway tries for a Future Shock DDT, but Lashley reverses it into a suplex for a two count. Galloway gets up and hits a neckbreaker. Both men back up, Lashley scoops up Galloway on his shoulder and drives Galloway to the mat with a spinebuster for another two count.
Lashley misses a splash in the corner, then Galloway connects with a Celtic Cross. Galloway sets up for the Claymore in the corner, but the heel lumberjacks pull him to the outside and begin to attack him, which forces Brian Hebner to call for the bell. The babyfaces come over and a brawl breaks out.
WINNER: Drew Galloway via DQ at 13:11; Galloway retains the TNA Title.
After the match, D.J. Z hits a splash onto everyone on the outside. Robbie E then dives from the top rope to the outside on top of more lumberjacks. Trevor Lee dives over the top to take out more lumberjacks. Bennett is brawling with Mahabali Shera. Eddie Edwards goes to the top rope, but Andrew Everett cuts him off.
Both Edwards and Everett are on the top rope. Edwards suplexes Everett to the outside, on top of a group of lumberjacks. Everyone is down. Mathews says that Lashley is down in front of them.
Lashley gets into the ring. Bram hits a running knee on Lashley. Drake attacks Bram with the briefcase. Drake gets taken out by Jeff Hardy. Hardy goes to the top rope to hit Drake with a swanton, but Matt Hardy runs down from backstage and takes out Hardy. Matt and Jeff brawl to the back.
In the ring, Bennett throws out Drake. Bennett turns around and ECIII is stnading there waiting for him. ECIII chases Bennett out of the ring. Lashley then hits ECIII with a spear. Galloway runs back into the ring and takes out Lashley with a Claymore. Galloway then dives overs the top rope, taking out more lumberjacks and Lashley, landing on his feet.
Galloway is the last man standing, literally, as everyone else is down around the Impact Zone. Mathews signs off, saying, “we leave you, with Drew Galloway standing tall.”
Final Thoughts: What a hectic ending, but it was good. The inconclusive result likely leads to a re-match between Galloway and Lashley at Slammiversary. That should be a strong pay-per-view card with Lashley-Galloway, Matt-Jeff, and Bennett-ECIII as the headliners. Granted those are all matches we’ve seen for free recently on Impact, but there have been good back-stories built to make people want to see these re-matches.
Some of the spots in the post-match brawl to close the show were really interesting. D.J. Z had another spot to shine, landing the first of a few suicide dives. Edwards suplexing Everett to the outside looked incredible. It was nice not to see the entire group waiting there for Edwards and Everett with their arms up ready to catch them. That always looks too fake. Instead, the lumberjacks just fought and caught Everett and Edwards, but it didn’t look so much like a stunt as much as it did a natural part of the fight. They also teased Bennett-ECIII, Bram-Drake, and Matt-Jeff all in that final brawl. Robbie E. also was showcased with a dive off the top.
Overall, the second hour of this show was very strong. The opening 50 minutes, up until the ECIII-Tyrus match, really dragged and felt slow and disjointed. But, the final hour was full of action and some good storytelling. Slammiversary is still just about one month away, but TNA is really building well to this pay-per-view, all while keeping the television show a priority. That’s a delicate balance, with as many matches TNA has to give away for free to build Impact. For now, TNA is just a television product, anyway. But they are keeping some big re-matches for Slammiversary.
Perhaps that’s the best formula for TNA right now. They’re doing a nice job building up these re-matches, but they’re saving the fresh first-time matches for Impact. That’s a small sweet spot to hit, but so far, I would say TNA is hitting it well.