SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
The Opening Video: This was the slickest video the company has made in years. We saw TNA’s heroes of yesterday accompanied by a voiceover talking about the greatness of the promotion. It’s okay to embellish a bit at times like this. Showing footage of Roddy Piper, Dusty Rhodes, and other legends was a nice touch, and made it seem like the company has a more prestigious history than it actually does. Well done. However… it was all quickly downhill from there. We’ll get to that in a bit.
The Production Values: Besides the video, Impact looked better than it has since it aired on Spike TV. Jeff Jarrett assembled a good crew for this show, and the videos were of a higher quality than the usual fare. It was also nice just to see the lights on for the studio audience, so the atmosphere wasn’t so dark and depressing!
El Patron vs. Lashley: A solid first time ever main event match. Alberto el Patron has been keeping busy on the indy scene, so he hasn’t lost a step in the ring. It was also nice to see Bobby Lashley work with an opponent who felt like an equal star to him. I’d like to see a rematch without commercial breaks, but they did a good job with what they were given. Unfortunately, it was the only match on the show to even last five minutes.
Maria Gets A Storyline Exit: This is a miss in the sense that Maria should still be involved with the promotion, but hats off to Impact for giving an actual explanation as to why she left. No other show on TV gets away with featured actors leaving without some sort of story or line of dialogue about their character’s departure, but wrestling does it constantly. While it stinks we won’t see Allie vs. Maria, they at least let us know it won’t be happening in the near future.
Laurel Gone Crazy: A minor moment on the show, but I got a laugh out of Laurel Van Ness still wearing her wedding dress and looking incredibly disheveled a couple weeks after she was stood up. Then her facial expressions switched to pained horror… and it kind of creeped me out! Having her turn this into a serious “broken” character not played for comedy could actually be an interesting route to go.
Jeremy Borash vs. Josh Matthews: Quite possibly the worst night of announcing I’ve ever heard. I literally don’t think a commentary team has ever annoyed me so much on a wrestling show. The only thing comparable is Michael Cole’s heel run, or Cole and Matthews together during NXT’s early days. However, at least those guys knew that show was a joke. The new talent on Impact were actually trying to make a good first impression, but Borash and Matthews made it impossible. I would be pissed off if I was either member of Reno Scum in particular, because the commentary team didn’t give a damn about anything that was going on in the ring. I’d cast 70 percent of the blame on Josh, but J.B. continually egged him on and started a bunch of arguments too. Unpleasant. Irritating. Completely awful. I think I might prefer all three guys leaving and being replaced entirely rather than go through weeks or months of growing pains. Hell, I’d take Kirk Cameron from “Growing Pains” to be lead play-by-play over what we heard. He’d know nothing about the product, but would be less painful to listen to.
El Patron Wins Gold: I’m a bit torn on this. On one hand, I get Impact wanting to create a buzz right now. However, it brought me back to Kurt Angle going over Samoa Joe in his debut, and RVD capturing the title from A.J. Styles in their first match. Lashley has been away from WWE long enough where he now feels like an Impact guy, whereas Patron’s last impression on a national scale was being drafted to SmackDown, losing a couple of matches and then getting busted for a Wellness Policy violation. JUST ONCE I would like to see a WWE guy come in, lose his first big fight and put over the company by saying something like “I’ve fought the best in the world, and the competition here is unreal. I underestimated Bobby Lashley (or whoever), but I guarantee I’m going to train harder and win the next round.” Otherwise it seems like guys in WWE’s Intercontinental/US Title range are better than Impact’s best. That’s not the perception they should be making.
Why Bruce?: I don’t want to see Jeff Jarrett as a character on TV every week, but if anyone in the history of the company was to kill the TNA name, it should have been him… or Billy Corgan. For fans of Impact, they last saw Bruce a few years ago as a Gut Check judge. Unless you listen to his podcast, then you might have assumed he was out of the business entirely. He was fine in his promo (minus those distracting purple shoes), but he was a strange choice to deliver the good news of the demise of “TNA.”
GFW Makes An Appearance: Josh, Pope, and J.B. all failed to provide any context for this. It bugs me that Impact assumes the audience knows everything about the wrestling world at large. Some people out there tune in for two hours, and that’s their entire wrestling fix for the week. Cody Rhodes showing up with the GFW Next Gen Title was baffling. Nobody on commentary bothered to say what GFW is, or what that title is. Fans who have been watching Impact regularly hadn’t seen the promotion since the Destination America days. It had never even been mentioned that Cody had one of their belts. Did he just win it? If not, why did he suddenly bring it in it? Throw in Reno Scum having some tag titles and Moose being in Japan, and Impact suddenly feels like a place where wrestlers show up for a night, but it’s not really their biggest priority.
Make Impact Great: I like Dutch Mantell. I liked his work at Zeb Colter. I don’t like this message of making Impact great. For one, it’s like they’re apologizing for how bad things have been. While many fans have tuned out over the years, there has to be some people who have enjoyed the product who don’t feel they need to be apologized to for liking the show. The bigger issue is “Make Impact Great” is a play off of “Make America Great Again”… you know, the President’s catchphrase. Even if everyone on Impact’s creative team voted for the guy, he’s insanely unpopular with a huge segment of a potential new fan base. Just not a good area to go in. Also, I still enjoyed Billy Corgan’s work more than what we saw on the show, so… maybe “Make Impact As Good As It Was For Most Of 2016” for a slogan?
Kangaroo Wrestling: Yeah. I’m done with this. Done! The Hardys started out as a lot of fun for me, but eventually moved into self-indulgent territory. It seems they thought they could record anything they thought up, put it on national TV and it would be a hit. It’s kind of like New Day now. Just because you’re popular doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still try to come up with something actually clever. The brothers fighting a kangaroo (wow, that sounds weird) felt like a tired retread of the past few months. I’ll miss their star power and energy, but not the diminishing returns of these segments.
X Division Continues To Not Matter: I will never understand. No matter who is in charge of this company, they give us nothing but random 4, 5, 6…37 man X Division matches. It’s complete madness. The opening video showed us a lot of cool highlights of past competitors in the division, and they deliver a four minute match with three guys who didn’t get their entrance televised. Awful. I’ve already completely given up hope that it will get better. It’s just better for my mental health.
Rockstar Spud’s New Gig: Wait a second… was that Rockstar Spud – former X Division Champion – doing in-ring introductions? It sure was! They couldn’t take four seconds out of the show to say that? He was just with Aron Rex two weeks ago dressed up as Liberace’s limo driver! They went to the effort of explaining Maria and The Hardys leaving, but not this? The weirdness of Impact’s new era was kind of overwhelming.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S ARTICLE: IMPACT HITS & MISSES: Josh Matthews, Cody Rhodes, Jade, Moose, Hardys, Josh Barnett, Trevor Lee, Wolves