In this episode of Wrestling Night in America, PWTorch columnist Greg Parks breaks down both nights of WrestleMania with callers and emailers. Topics include the quality of the Firefly Funhouse match, the decision to put Charlotte over Rhea Ripley, the potential of wrestlers getting more creative freedom in the current environment, and more.
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Overall – MISS: I consider this a MISS since, unlike a normal Impact Special (which is just a glorified house show) this was promoted more like a PPV, and so it left me wanting. With only one match really worth watching, The North vs. The Rascalz, it is easily skippable. One thing that does differentiate it from other Impact Specials is that I expect more fallout than you’d normally get after one of these things (fallout not related to a legit injury like what happened with Rich Swann of course prior to Hard to Kill).
D’Mone Solavino vs. A.J. Daniels (pre-show) – PUSH: Fair warning, these are two of the most indie-rific gimmicks I’ve seen this year. D’Mone (demon, I get it) is an ageless Nephilim from purgatory who came into the ring adorned with (admittedly awesome looking) black angel wings. AJ comes from the Outer Space District. So D’Mone is a character right up my alley, and of the two, his charisma shined through the most during the match. As far as their in-ring performance, in D’Lo’s words, they are two athletic young men. The moves are competently performed, but there is something to be said for New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s system of only allowing their young lions (rookies) to perform basic wrestling holds. AJ wins with a 450.
Max the Impaler vs. Cali Young (pre-show) – PUSH: Vlad Dracula is of huge interest to me so a wrestler who takes the sobriquet of “The Impaler” is going to immediately have my attention. Cali, who is apparently running for president, has her campaign manager serve as a source of much interference throughout the match. It’s a fine showing from both women with Max going over with the most overused finisher in wrestling, the spear. At least it fits her name.
Rohit Raju vs. Corey Storm – PUSH: The opening match is a chance for Corey Storm to shine against an established Impact wrestler. He did a good job but loses to Rohit’s double stomp, which is coincidently Corey’s finisher also.
The Rascalz vs. The North – HIT: What a great match and kudos for Trey Miguel for taking a hellacious bump on the apron as Josh Alexander just drove him through the hardest part of the ring. Ethan Page and Josh dominate both Trey and Zachary Wentz throughout the majority of the match. Trey and Wentz valiantly try comeback after comeback and when they finally look like they have the upper hand, Rohit Raju runs in to push Trey off the top rope leaving Wentz to take the North’s finisher.
Ace Austin Steiner Math Promo (I think) – MISS: I am sure Ace Austin delivered a hilarious promo riffing on the famous “Steiner Math” promo. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell because the audio was shot to hell.
Kiera Hogan vs. Ray Lyn – MISS: This match is competently wrestled, and there are some good moments but man, did it overstay its welcome. With nothing on the line, no reason for the fight (unless this is part of an OVW storyline, but that was never mentioned by the commentary team), what we have is an overlong exhibition match. Ray Lin also comes across as goofy, which may be intended, but I wouldn’t know since commentary did not tell us much about Lyn. Kiera goes over with a cradle neck breaker.
Swinger and Willie Mack backstage – HIT: Swinger still thinks he and Mack are a tag-team and brings Mack a VHS tape of Swinger’s greatest matches. It doesn’t endear him any more to Mack. Fun moment between these two.
Jay Bradley vs. Willie Mack – MISS: There is a scale to rate matches between two big guys. On one end you have the badass hoss fight, and on the other, boring slog. I am sad to say this match was closer to the “boring slog” end. It’s a shame since Bradley had a good match against Moose at Outbreak and I really like Willie Mack. They just had no chemistry. Willie wins with the Six-Star Frog Splash.
OVE Promo – HIT: Uh, oh. Madman Fulton is beginning to show some self-determination, taking over the promo from Jake and Dave Crist. He even got to deliver the “thumbs up, thumbs down” line. With their leader, Sami Callihan, absent, an unleashed Fulton can be a grave threat to the rest of the Impact roster. I’ve been waiting to see what the big man can do.
OVE vs. Larry D & Acey Romero – HIT: Madman Fulton and Dave Crist are up to bat for OVE this time. While not as good as a match as their match with The North the previous night at Outbreak, Larry and Acey still did a good job. Despite a sequence early on that apparently went awry, Jake, at ringside had the attention of the referee and Fulton was supposed to get in an illegal hit on Acey to turn the tide in Dave Crist’s favor, Fulton was out of position and Acey and the ref were left looking stupid in the ring for a long period of time as Fulton got into position. Still, a good watch, just to see Acey do a suicide dive. Larry and Acey win after doing a Right Hand-Pounce combo on Dave Crist. After the match, Jake Crist jumps in and OVE proceeds to beat up Larry and Acey until Daga evens the score with a run-in. Larry and Acey fight Fulton and Dave to the back leaving Daga and Jake alone in the ring. The bell rings and…
Jake Crist vs. Daga – PUSH: … is on. The match starts out fast and furious. My problem with the match though, is that Daga has yet to show me any in ring charisma. He’s athletic, solid in the ring, and looks good but so far, he hasn’t shown “it”. I hope he finds “it” soon. Daga wins with the double under-hook into codebreaker finisher.
***WARNING*** Joey Ryan sighting ***WARNING***
Swinger vs. Joey Ryan – HIT: There is some fun interplay at the beginning of the match between these two. In lieu of fighting Joey, Swinger offers him his best of Johnny Swinger VHS tape. The crowd convinces Joey to accept so he takes it and lays down. This proves to be a ruse and Joey tries to roll up Swinger. Once the match “gets going”, the match is, what it is. Swinger wrestles in his 80’ style, and Joey does penis stuff. At one point, Swinger countered the lollipop and the referee ends up with it in her mouth. Um, the “it” being the lollipop, not “IT”. Joey wins with the “Touch It” – Sweet Tooth Music combo.
*** END OF WARNING ***
Jessicka Havok vs. Jordynne Grace – PUSH: Well color me surprised. With Grace needing heel opponents to face, and Havok being one of the bigger heels left, I was surprised this match happened, much less ended with a decisive win by Grace, choking Havok to unconsciousness with a sleeper. Havok used her size and power to try and overcome Grace, but Grace kept going for the sleeper until it worked. Not a match I’d recommend but the implications for the future are interesting.
Moose vs. Rhino – MISS: Earlier in the show, Moose cut a promo. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one of his more measured, threatening promos, but one of his shouty ones. Fits the match I suppose since subtlety took a hike. Prior to the match, they show “Wildcat” Chris Harris, who Moose spends a lot of time jaw jacking with throughout the match, likely setting up Wildcat and Moose for the TNA episode. Early in the match, Moose low-blows Rhino in full view of the referee, getting himself purposely disqualified. Not wanting to win that way, Rhino demands a no disqualification match. Moose goes along with it thinking he has an easy victory with Rhino still hurting. What follows is a Rhino “ECW Special,” a walk-and-brawl with weapons. Rhino gets a measure of revenge for earlier by using a staple gun on Moose’s crotch. Rhino sets a table in the corner, but Moose avoids the Gore and instead No-Jackhammer-Needed Spear’s him through the table for the win. It’s mostly a boring affair but it does liven up a bit at the end.
Ace Austin vs. Tessa Blanchard, Champion vs. Champion, Non-Tittle Match – HIT: Tessa needs to build a resume of wins, and Ace is a good credible opponent for her. Earlier Tessa cut an okay promo and hinted that if she wins, she may challenge for Ace’s belt. The match is pretty good, although Tessa really needs to stop going so over the top in emoting whenever there is a near-fall. Tessa and Ace struggle in the corner with Tessa attempting a super Buzzsaw DDT that Austin counters. Back on the top rope, Tessa drops to the apron and either drives Ace into the top turnbuckle or Hot-Shots him onto the top rope, I couldn’t tell which. Either way, this took out Ace and Tessa pins him for the win.