03 May 2015

Ringside: Impact Wrestling Review - May 1, 2015

It was the Hardcore Justice edition of Impact this week on Destination America and I think for the most part TNA did not disappoint. Although I don't think the show was extreme enough, I thought it delivered enough hardcore action to justify the theme. I can't help feel, however, that TNA realized in post-production that they had taped a few hardcore-style matches and decided last minute to lump them together and stick the Hardcore Justice label on. I'm sure that's not the case but I wish TNA did a better job promoting this special episode of Impact.

The main event this week was a Stretcher match between Kurt Angle and Eric Young. It was a very good match but it was the way in which it ended that truly stood out for me. A crazy heel like Young defeating a top babyface like Angle clean in a hardcore-style match is not something you're accustomed to if you're a mainstream fan. To beat him in such impressive fashion was even more remarkable. I don't think anyone who watched this match can deny that Eric Young deserves a world title shot against Kurt Angle, although the fact remains that he deserves a shot because he's still the #1 contender in the TOP 5 rankings. It's still nice that the writers made him earn it even more due to his actions in recent weeks against Lashley and Austin Aries. It's great storytelling and very good booking.

It's been the match I've been anticipating since the first night in Scotland when an unintentional pipe shot to Low Ki's head created a blood feud the likes of which we don't see often. This one was real and I knew the moment Drew Galloway and Low Ki would step in the ring was going to be awesome. I'm happy to report that it was. It was as stiff a match that you'll see in mainstream wrestling, although I don't believe the pipe was as much a factor as I thought it was. If I remember correctly, it was used once by Low Ki but overall, I liked that the stipulation did not affect this match because pole matches, in my opinion, can be quite contrived with very little happening organically. That was not the case here. A fantastically physical match.

This week, the Dollhouse felt much more natural to me with Taryn Terrell as their leader whereas I thought Jade and Marti Bell felt a bit aimless before. We now know why. The addition of Terrell has really brought this gimmick together for me and I absolutely love it. It's also lit a fire under Taryn Terrell, who now seems much more at ease in her role. The Knockouts title match against Brooke was very good. TNA gave the women some time to tell a story in the ring before the eventual interference so that's something I appreciate. This is when the booking is at its best. By giving the match some time to breathe, the post-match events involving Gail Kim and Awesome Kong felt more meaningful. It felt much more organic.

Unfortunately, the booking for the X Division title match was a mess. I thought the match featured some fine moments, particularly from Tigre Uno and Mandrews, both of whom stood out in a big way, but overall, Rockstar Spud and the ending killed this match for me. To me, Spud's antics in the X Division have grown old and quite frankly, it's time to either let him loose as a wrestler or let him be Spud far away from a division that's known more for its athleticism and great action. Spud's underdog schtick is simply doing the X Division and its competitors no favors. I cringe every time he performs that ridiculously cornball wind-up punch on another wrestler. I stopped watching the WWE because I felt that it insulted my intelligence and this is no different to me. With that said, I'm glad to see Kenny King with the title because hopefully we'll get better X Division matches but again, will the booking allow him to or will the BDC constantly interfere? TNA, when we asked for more X Division, this was not what we meant.

This week, it was Mr. Anderson's chance to make a campaign speech in response to last week's campaign announcement by Ethan Carter III. I have to say, this is a fun and clever way to build EC3 up as a world title contender. The narrative is clear: EC3 wants a world title shot and he will play politics to get it while Anderson represents his first political opponent. The segment, this week, set up a match for next week's live episode of Impact in which fans get to vote for the stipulation. Vote for EC3 for an arm wrestling match or Anderson for a Last Man Standing match. I voted for the latter but I have a feeling the former will prevail for many reasons, one of them being that it makes more sense from a booking standpoint. An actual match will come later. Overall, an excellent segment.

Speaking of excellent segments, the face-to-face between Magnus and James Storm was a perfect example of how storytelling can elevate a feud and the eventual payoff via a wrestling match when it's done well. On the surface, it seems like a simple case of a heel trying to recruit a new member for his group by causing tension between her and her partner. But this story seems so much more than that. It's nuanced and thought-provoking and quite frankly, I can't wait to see what happens next.

And lastly, I'd like to focus a little on Al Snow. I think it's important to give him an opportunity to settle in to the role before we evaluate his performance. However, there is something we can evaluate based on his debut...his voice. Unfortunately, I don't think his voice is conducive to color commentating simply because I had a hard time understanding him at times. I hope he begins to enunciate more as he becomes comfortable in the position.

Favorite Moment - So much goodness this week but I thought the Magnus/James Storm promo was simply brilliant. The storytelling is nuanced and complex and the performances by the talents are top notch. This is the sort of soap opera drama that I can get behind because it's done so well.

Least Favorite Moment - The ending to the X Division match. It was simply hard to watch young men like Tigre Uno and Mandrews kill themselves to perform some awesome high spots for the fans and the underdog babyface is doing wind-up punches on ladders like Hulk Hogan did in the 80's. The fucking 80's! Wrestling fans are much too sophisticated for this sort of thing.

MVP of the Night - I have to give it to Eric Young this week. He made quite a statement with his clean win over Kurt Angle. It was impressive.

Grade - I thought Hardcore Justice was a very good show.  The second hour was fantastic while the first hour, minus the EC3/Anderson promo, was lackluster and at times frustrating. Overall, this week's Impact gets a B- from me. Very good show but the X Division stuff left a bad taste in my mouth.

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