10 January 2015

Ringside: Impact Wrestling Review - Jan 7, 2015

Well, here we are!  The first Ringside of 2015 and the first edition of the Destination America Era.  The most fitting word I can use to describe this show is special.  It was a special, special show.  You don't get many like this.  A near 2 month build up and wait that was rewarded with a new TV network debut and a pay-off that you will never forget.  Can you ask for more?  Not in one show, as it was just the right mix of surprise, quality wrestling, drama and intrigue.  Was it perfect?  No, and nothing ever is 100% perfect.  However, this show was a more powerful IMPACT than usual in multiple ways and on several fronts. I rarely remember being this excited and motivated to write an IMPACT review.  So, let's walk down that memory lane of 2 days ago.  Before that, a quick note about Ringside's regular slot starting next week.  It will be posted at 6 PM EST on Sundays, which coincidentally is also the same time that IMPACT gets over on Challenge TV in the U.K. for our beloved British community members.  The U.K. audiences will soon be hosting IMPACT in front of large, passionate fans and serendipitously our Ringside Reviews will also serve as a place for British fans to discuss IMPACT directly after the weekly Sunday showings are over.  For now, though, back to New York City!

The opening video package was just breathtaking.  It was totally surreal to finally witness IMPACT on Destination America and the production value of that opening moment was pretty amazing.  Then we got a smooth transition from the vignettes of the 2 different crews (heels and faces) arriving at The Manhattan Center.  A massive brawl began on the streets of NYC!  What a visual it truly was, and to think that the entire chaotic scene had its fuse lit by a cocky punch from Kenny King.  The crowd was loving every second of the massive fight as the wrestlers were spread out all over the building.  Meanwhile, the enthusiastic tones of a debuting Josh Mathews had the pro-wrestling world paying close attention to the extremely rare occurrence of a TNA show not being called by Mike Tenay.  And this all took place in just the opening few minutes!

Kurt Angle announced that his time as GM is over and that that he'd be a full-time wrestler again.  He also announced that all the championships would be defended tonight.  The Street Fight between MVP and Angle was entertaining and exciting as the crowd was hot.  Angle winning was not a surprise and neither was MVP's uncanny ability to get massive amounts of crowd reaction with his dastardly ways.  It was a nice touch to have Tenay preview the debut of Unlocked and then we saw Mike in a 1 on 1 interview with James Storm.  This was such a great preview for the type of content we'll hopefully see on future editions of Unlocked.  Revolution VS The Wolves was an fun bout capped off with a vicious Last Call super-kick from Storm for the win.  It appeared to be that Davey and Eddie have either got some wicked tattoos done in the theme of huge wolf scratches or it's just war paint that they will use going forward.  Either way, the tweak of their look was a nice upgrade.

The backstage segments involving MVP, Lashley and Kenny King were very well done as the storytelling aspect of IMPACT continues to be a major strength of the company.  The head-shaving segment with EC3, Tyrus, Rockstar Spud and Jeremy Borash was pure gold, just as their previous segments were from late last year.  JB really took one for the team as the LIVE crowd and the TV audience really feels true sympathy for Jeremy when he's being publicly humiliated. EC3 continues to show everyone why he is going to be involved in the main event scene sometime in the near future. The Aries VS Low-Ki match was as good as you could ask for given the time constraints of a TV bout.  Austin Aries winning the X-Division title again was somewhat of a surprise as most people figured that Low-Ki would receive an extended run with the belt.

The Knockouts Battle Royale was decent for what it was.  The BroMans interjected themselves into the mix as they introduced The Beautiful People and a returning Robbie E.  The writers have integrated the Amazing Race drama between Brooke and Robbie into IMPACT (which is a savvy and expected move).  Brooke coming out through the crowd and attacking Robbie was nicely done as they played on the real life break-up of the couple and their elimination from the reality show.  Taryn retains her title and receives a post-match beatdown from Havok for her efforts.  Just as Havok was celebrating her usual dominance, the lights went out.  When they came back on, in the ring stood Awesome Kong!!!  I have not seen a moment that shocking in TNA maybe ever.  I was literally yelling at my TV in disbelief.  My brain could not catch up with my eyes.  For so many reasons, nearly everyone had written off the possibility of Kong ever returning to TNA.  Yet there she was standing face to face with Havok in a fantasy booking dream of mass proportions.  Awesome Kong stole the show and had social media buzzing,

The World Title main event of Roode/Lashley III did not disappoint.  These two have great chemistry together and really push one another to up their game.  Lots of near-falls and hard-hitting action here.  Lashley bleeding from his mouth was a great visual that added to the vicious quality of the fight.  Eventually MVP, Kenny King and their 2 masked  compadres made their way ringside.  Nobody could have predicted that Samoa Joe and Low-Ki had joined forces with King and MVP as the Beat Down Clan was born.  While we were still in shock from the events that had just unfolded, here came EY to shockingly turn heel on Roode and beat him down with a steel chair.  Roode loses his World Title due to Eric Young's interference as Lashley picks up the scraps and begins another title reign.  What a cliffhanger ending that sets up multiple feuds and raises the level of intrigue significantly.  The storylines just went to another level and TNA now has a concrete direction moving forward. 

Favorite Moment - The return of Awesome Kong turned me into a jubilant little child.  I have not been that shocked watching pro-wrestling in multiple years.

Least Favorite Moment - There was a backstage segment sequence where the audio was off for just over a minute.  That's the breaks for a LIVE/taped delayed show but the old-Godzilla-movie talking was fairly disconcerting.

MVP of the Night - I have to give it to Lashley again as he recaptured the World Title and really delivered in and out of the ring during the show.

Grade - This debut of Destination IMPACT exceeded my expectations and receives a solid A from me.  What a great way to start a fantastic new era for the company.

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