01 February 2015

Ringside: Impact Wrestling Review - Jan 30, 2015

It must sound like we consider everything that TNA does as gold to the casual reader.  The loyal and objective TNAMecca readers know that's not the case.  Most level-headed wrestling fans have to admit that the TNA product is HOT.  It's undeniable unless you are completely jaded (like Steven Tyler sang about) or a complete TNA-hater or are simply part of a vocal minority (which is totally fine and acceptable).  The majority of pro-wrestling fans agree that TNA is on fire right now with a VERY bright immediate future going into the U.K. IMPACTs.  First things first, this lead-in episode for Lockdown provided another quality show that I completely sank my teeth into.  It was an absolute buffet of delicious storylines and superb professional wrestling.  It is a superior product right now.  I stand by that statement.  This is the hottest and best-quality wrestling product on the planet RIGHT NOW.  They have the attention of the wrestling world and the next few months are going to be a crazy, crazy ride.  Meanwhile, back in the Manhattan Center...

The opening segment showcasing 4 of the best talents on the roster vying for the World Title was "pro-wrestling promo" at its finest.  The writers are doing a spot-on job right now setting the table with the World Title scene and all of the secondary storylines.  So many things to enjoy with this current run of shows since the switch to Destination America.  I ask you, does the show feel different to you, 4 shows in now?  I completely feel like it has shifted and morphed into a better overall product with a higher ceiling of how much more it can improve and evolve.  This is a process, much like a younger, developing professional sports team, that is learning lessons and preparing to make a run at the championship of their league.  However, TNA has to be at the very top of their game like this, simply to be noticed by casual viewers and to gain the respect of the overrated, jaded majority of IWC fans.  I have had people in my personal life that have watched the product lately due to my persuading them strongly to do so.  These are the most casual of wrestling fans.  They all have loved the TNA Impacts that they have taken time to watch since the switch to Destination America happened.  TNA is reaching others like them that have either:

A. Not watched pro-wrestling in years


B. Stopped watching TNA at some point and have now come back to it.

The viewership numbers for IMPACT don't lie.  They are steadily increasing their viewership on a weekly basis on a channel that a lot of people initially shit on verbally.  Well, that little channel is proving even the most optimistic of TNA fans wrong.  To get over 600,000 U.S. viewers already for the combined 1st & 2nd showing of IMPACT on Fridays in the U.S. should not be taken lightly.  That is HUGE.  Even we thought this would take months or even years to happen, and instead, it happened 3 weeks into their Destination America Era.  This last IMPACT kept that momentum going (and I'd imagine ratings-wise also) but, regardless of the numbers, it certainly did with the overall effect of the episode leading into a free edition of Lockdown next week.  Lashley established himself once again as a fighting World Champion (which is a unique aspect again compared to the WWE right now) as he took on 3 legit competitors in MVP, Aries and Roode.  That spear from Lashley that appeared to nearly break Aries in half was legit, as he got the 3-count and retained the title.  A beat-down on the World Champ from the BDC brought out Angle, Gunner and Roode.  The show ended with a nice tease for the potential 4th member of Angle's Lethal Lockdown team that will face the BDC 4 on 4 next week inside six-sides of steel. 

Bram and Magnus stole the show in my opinion.  Their segments at the NYC bar were overall the most compelling thing I have seen on TV this year, pro-wrestling or otherwise.  Bram continued his rise to be an established star in this business during those segments and, in turn, they simultaneously made the audience care about Magnus again.  That is writing at its absolute best from TNA.  That is execution of an angle and storyline progression from TNA that speaks for itself.  If you didn't like that segment, then go bugger off.  It was exceptional and served as a special treat for TNA fans in the U.K. going forward.  It sets up the British IMPACTs so perfectly, it's not even funny.  A billiards cue ball to the skull and a #Bramming Bram screaming at his fallen "best friend" was a chilling sight.  I literally had the adrenaline in my body flowing when Bram was leaning down over Magnus and yelling like the mad man that he is.  The realism of the legal issues in Bram's life and the newly born son of Magnus and a returning Mickie James being woven into things is just amazing writing and story-telling.  Bringing those elements of blurring the lines of reality and fantasy is what TNA does best.  It sets them apart as a unique product when it comes to a wrestling program.  It's something that can be focused on with a new TV deal and have it translate to future success and increased exposure.  They have found a formula that works, not only with this angle but the whole show and direction in general.  The unbelievably plentiful amount of hours of programming on Destination America is having an effect also, which is a vital part of the bigger picture here with TNA.  The storm is near perfect right now to elevate the company after it's tough yet prudent decision to leave Spike TV.

The Knockouts put on another nice match with Taryn, Gail and Madison fighting for the title.  This division is going to get multiple "shots in the arm" with Awesome Kong facing Havok at Lockdown and Mickie James returning and Kay Lee Ray's impending U.K. tour contributions.  A patented "Better Than Divas" chant was unfortunately tainted by the confusingly dated and disrespectful "We Want Puppies" chant that I wish would have been edited out.  Thanks for all the great crowds NYC fans, but frankly, that puppies chant were beneath you.  Eric Young's current persona is very captivating to me, and Dreamer took a wicked piledriver from the psychotic EY after a dramatic and effective mic exchange.  It was, again, serendipitous that I got to write this edition of Ringside since I enjoy Monsters Ball matches to the degree that I do.  In my mind, the more blood you spill and the more pain that you go through for TNA, the more respect and adulation you should receive.  Jeff Hardy and Abyss have both put their bodies on the line over and over again and this match was no exception.  TNA does hardcore wrestling better than any other company in the world right now, which is another facet of the company that sets itself apart from any other. 

TNA's inclusions of, and spotlight on, the British stars is incredible right now.  It's just what the doctor ordered heading to Glasgow, Manchester and London.  Rockstar Spud and Mark Andrews, referred to (controversially to some) on the broadcasts as Mandrews, are a fun tag team that have formed a nice rivalry with EC3 and Tyrus.  Borash has elevated this storyline a lot as well as he has proven again how much of a team player he is.  JB also plays a gigantic role as a TNA ambassador to Great Britain and Europe.  That media swing through Italy before the taped UK shows with Roode was very strategic.  The crowd pics from the U.K. shows that exploded on social media this past week were breathtaking.  Drew Galloway debuting got the Internet buzzing during Super Bowl week, which is near impossible to do as the NFL eclipses all things in the media for that week.  Somehow though, TNA overcame that and got some impressive exposure.  They are also getting IMPACT advertisements during the Super Bowl on Animal Planet (a Discovery Communications channel) during the very popular Puppy Bowl that airs during the Super Bowl (which gets 100 million plus viewers in front of TV's annually).  A lot of those viewers flip over to Puppy Bowl too.  If you don't believe in TNA after this week, I'm not sure that you can be persuaded.  Lockdown and the U.K. shows can be the clincher though if you are indeed on the fence.  People need to put their past and current biases aside, and get on board with this promotion.  Like Matt Hardy said on Twitter this past week, this is not "the TNA of old".  This is a new TNA with a new, refreshing direction and a long-term plan for success.  It is inspiring to see and motivating for super fans like so many of us are.  They finally provided an avenue for Canadian fans to see the show now also, as they listened to the voice of the fans once again during this crucial week.  They hooked up the Canadian fanbase with exclusive access to watch all the new episodes from the Destination America Era "on-demand" through their website to pacify things in this regard until a permanent TV deal with a presumed Discovery Communications channel impending. 

In closing, can you read this review and not be optimistic about TNA's future?  These are my true and honest thoughts right now.  I'm not pulling any punches and I'm not hiding any information or feelings.  I wear my emotions on my sleeve, so with me, you get what you see.  I am not running and hiding from any critics of TNA here.  In fact, TNA is doing all the talking on that front for us because of the way that they're conducting business and showcasing their product.  That current direction of TNA is essentially throwing it all right back into the faces of their IWC critics, but not necessarily in a reactionary way.  They are doing it in a manner where they aren't ignoring their naysayers, but still, in effect are silencing them in a supplementary and natural way.  I consider our TNAMecca community as the flag-bearers for the fanbase.  We are the fans that pay for tickets to shows and fork over money to buy TV packages to watch the product (those that can afford it that is).  You have been to fan interactions and bought TNA merchandise.  You comment here and watch videos on TNA's YouTube channel.  You promote the product on social media (those that aren't anti-social media that is). You are the loyalists and investors of the product in whatever capacity that's feasible and doable for you individually.  TNA literally will thank you in person in every way possible to show their gratitude, as evidenced by their past LIVE events and current TV tapings.  You have a respected voice with this company.  They listen and reward your loyalty.  Amazing time for TNA and their fans right now.
Favorite Moment - The Bram/Magnus segment was brilliant.

Least Favorite Moment - There were no bad segments on the entire show for me.

MVP of the Night - I give it to Bram for putting his mark on the show in a way that was trailblazing, with the entire way it was presented and the acting skills it took to pull it all off.  This man is ultra-talented.  Like EC3 and the impending contributions of Drew Galloway, TNA has proven that the WWE decision makers were complete fools for ever letting these talents go.
Grade - This show was the best so far on Destination America.  Only thing is, it will soon be out-done by LockDown and the U.K. shows.  With that said, I give this show a solid A, which bodes well for the next 2 months of amazing IMPACTs in the coffers.

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