Bully Ray said he would explain in detail how he set up the entire Aces and Eights plot over a nine-month period tonight.
Hulk Hogan came out and acknowledged he had never had the wool pulled over his eyes the way Ray had done. Hogan said this was now a war of survival, then highlighted the four men who led the charge against Aces and Eights last week. He introduced Samoa Joe, Magnus, Kurt Angle and Jeff Hardy. Hogan told them the world title needs to be back in TNA, and asked Hardy if he was 100% to go for the title again. Hardy said he was in bad shape, but the company needed the title back. Hardy suggested a four-way match amongst the men in the ring tonight with the winner getting the first title shot at Ray. Hogan said the last time he picked a number one contender, he made one of the biggest mistakes of his life, and said the winner should be battle tested and arranged the match.
Ray said Plan A was simple: Win the Bound for Glory Series. It just so happened that was the first night Aces and Eights appeared, where three men attacked Sting. Shortly afterwards, Ray planted the idea in Bobby Roode's head that James Storm was the one responsible for the attacks by Aces and Eights on Angle, Austin Aries, Sting, etc. Over the next few months, as the BFG tournament rolled on, Aces and Eights (under Ray's direction) made sure that Storm looked like the guilty party. Just before No Surrender, when Ray faced Storm in the BFG semifinals, Ray said he called Roode and stirred him up about how his former tag team partner could be in the main event for the world title. That explained Roode's run-in where he hit Storm over the head with a beer bottle, leading to Ray's victory. But Ray's plan was thwarted when Hardy defeated Ray that night at No Surrender. So Ray came up with a new plan: Brooke Hogan.
Austin Aries and Bobby Roode defeated Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez to retain the TNA tag team titles in 11:56. Crowd wasn't into it as the standard pattern of a hot live crowd followed by a tired taped crowd once again occurred here. Guerrero and Hernandez, in a heavy Hispanic town, should have been more over. Instead, the crowd didn't care about them. Part of the problem is there's nothing edgy about Guerrero and Hernandez. Aries did a double axehandle onto the floor on Chavo Guerrero. Hernandez got the hot tag and gave Roode the Pounce. He set up Aries for the Border Toss, but Aries worked his way to Hernandez's head for a huracanrana. Aries then took a sick bump to the floor giving Hernandez a huracanrana, and it appeared Aries may have landed on his head. Aries teased giving Guerrero the brain buster, but instead Guerrero gave him the Three Amigos. Guerrero went for the frog splash, but Kazarian distracted referee Earl Hebner. That led to Christopher Daniels running down and throwing Guerrero off the top rope, and Aries pinned Guerrero with a cradle while holding the trunks. **
Mike Tenay explained the run-in by Bad Influence as saying before the show, Daniels and Kazarian told him they were upset Guerrero and Hernandez were getting the title shots. This led to Kazarian and Daniels attacking Roode and Aries after the match, so the match between the two most charismatic tag teams in the industry is a go.
There was a history of the X Division package featuring various performances from the past. Kenny King saw this and was upset, saying that had been the theme his entire life. But he would be ready for his three-way title match tonight, and worked in a mention of 5 Hour Energy for product placement.
2. Kenny King pinned Sonjay Dutt to retain the X Division title in a three-way that also included Zema Ion in 4:54. There are new rules for the X Division. The first is a 230-pound weight limit. The second is during all three-way X Division matches, if a challenger loses the fall, he falls "out of the title picture." The term "out of the title picture" was so vague that it didn't have a precise definition, but I guess it means the challenger doesn't get a title shot until the champion loses the belt. Sonjay Dutt did a huracanrana on both King and Zema Ion. Dutt later did a Orihara moonsault onto both men, though he slipped on the second rope. Dutt got a DDT on King, and Dutt rebounded with a moonsault double stomp on Ion, but King flew into the ring with a springboard blockbuster and the three count. **1/4
Brooke showed up to the building and refused to talk about Ray, saying she was there only for her role as Knockouts GM.
They ran a ShopTNA.com commercial that mentioned Jeff Jarrett's guitars are now in clearance. That's among the first mentions of Jarrett in over a year, and it left no impression he's coming back any time soon.
Ray continued the flashback at his plan by talking about Plan B. It started with Ray striking up a friendship with Joseph Park. When Hogan and Sting were taken captive, Ray revealed the masked man that talked to them at the Aces and Eights hideout was Devon, the man who Hogan turned his back on. Ray said he made himself out to be the man to save the company, and when Hogan shook his hand, he knew he had suckered Hogan for good. Then he turned his attention to Brooke. How this had anything to do with Park is beyond me.
Sting went into Hogan's office and wanted a piece of Ray tonight. Hogan told him to go sit up in the rafters for a couple of more years, because every time he shows up, trouble unfolds. Sting said he wanted Ray, and Hogan muttered he wasn't the only one.
Taryn Terrell came out and said she knows she's on probation, but when Gail Kim put her hands on her twice, she had to retaliate. So she's now ready to face the consequences. Kim walked down and said Terrell had to learn the hard way that Kim was the one who created the division. Kim called down Brooke to fire Terrell. As Brooke made her entrance, Taz got a line in that she's available now. Brooke announced Taryn was fired as referee for the Knockouts, much to Kim's delight. Brooke then said she had assigned Terrell to the Knockouts active roster so she can get physical with anyone she wants anytime she wants. This led to Terrell giving Kim a spear and they ran to the back.
As Brooke watched this scene, Ray walked up behind Brooke, who said she once loved Ray. In response, Ray held up a wedding ring and said "Till death do us part." Brooke shouted "I hate you" in a manner than lacked the believability of Stephanie McMahon in 1999 as she was about to marry Test, but wound up getting drugged by HHH. Ray shot back "I love you, Honey" with a look of disgust on his face.
Part 3 of Bully Ray's plan focused on how Aces and Eights were formed. Devon and Garrett Bischoff were there to help TNA, but when Hogan and Sting turned them down, they looked for another group to prove themselves. They also showed a time when Garrett was passed over for a title shot by Hogan. He brought up the time Mr. Anderson was jumped by Aces and Eights, and Hogan never checked on him. Ray mentioned he recruited Taz because he wanted one of his best friends. And D.Lo Brown had been on the inside with TNA management for years. Wes Brisco got into the company by beating Bischoff, who Ray insinuated "did a job" for Brisco to make sure he could win Gut Check. And it was Brown who cast the final vote to get Brisco onto the TNA roster.
Angle did a promo that tonight's four-way was an important match because he hasn't held the TNA title in 18 months. He wanted to get back on the title track tonight, and on the track to eliminate Aces and Eights.
3. Matt Morgan defeated Joseph Park in 5:13. Matt Morgan acted like the high school bully going up against the guy who had never been in a fight before. Joseph Park's matches are very simple because the Park character is designed to be the green guy just starting out. Morgan tossed Park around until he crotched himself against the ropes going for the Carbon Footprint. Park got a shoulder block and tried his second rope splash finisher, which is now called the Closing Argument. But Park missed and Morgan hit the Carbon Footprint. *
In a backstage interview, Hardy said getting his hands on Ray again would mean the world to win. May the best man win, whoever that may be, but "don't ever count a creature out."
Tenay did an in-ring interview with A.J. Styles, who again looked like he hadn't showered in a month. Tenay asked Styles about his actions in recent weeks. Styles stayed silent. Tenay asked him about the rumors regarding drug and alcohol abuse. It was here that Taz interrupted and offered him a chance to join Aces and Eights as a prospect. Taz said Styles could stop driving around the moped and start riding a real bike. Storm came out, but Styles refused to face him. Storm said he could be the new A.J. Styles, but he will always be the same old James Storm. Storm gave him a chance to sucker punch him again, but if he did, Storm would knock his teeth down his throat. They had a staredown, and Styles just walked away without saying a word in the entire segment. So Styles is officially Sting in 1997.
Ray continued to unveil his plan, saying Hogan didn't trust him even after Ray had saved him and started a romance with his daughter. After Hogan suspended Ray, he used Sting to lure him in and get reinstated. Ray arranged the marriage with Brooke to get Hogan beaten up. He admitted he took some shots from Aces and Eights in order to get everyone on his side. After the wedding disaster, Brooke spent an entire week trying to convince her father to make Ray the number one contender at Lockdown, which Hogan did. Ray acknowledged setting up Hogan in the six-man match in England, where Hogan got jumped backstage by Aces and Eights, and leaving Sting behind to get pinned. by Anderson.
4. Jeff Hardy became the number one contender for the TNA Heavyweight title by pinning Samoa Joe in a four-way that also included Kurt Angle and Magnus in 12:13. Joe teased teaming with Magnus, but then clotheslined him along with Hardy. Angle, Hardy and Magnus fought to the outside, and Joe delivered an elbow suicidia onto all of them. Magnus got some heat on Hardy after catching him in mid-air and delivering a vertical suplex. Then the crowd started chanting for Joe and Angle to get in the ring as they fought on the floor. Joe is still taken seriously after years of poor booking. Magnus gave Joe a Michinoku Driver, which is called the Mac Daddy Driver. Hardy made a comeback by giving all three men a Twist of Fate, including one that left Magnus flat on his back. Hardy went for the senton, but Magnus cut him off. Angle gave Magnus a belly-to-belly suplex and Joe a German Suplex. He then put Joe in the Ankle Lock, but Joe kicked Angle off, and Angle collided with Magnus. At this point, Hardy recovered and gave Joe a Swanton for the pin. Easily the match of the night and it built well. ***1/4
SUMMARY: Ray's series of interviews wasn't as effective as Ole Anderson in 1980, which set the blueprint for any and all turns in wrestling history. But I thought it served it's purpose, despite some logic gaps. Like the fact that Ray helped fend off Aces and Eights for a moment on the night he turned heel. This was an average show with a pretty good main event. I like the direction that the Styles character is going through, because he needed a mid-career change. Hardy vs. Ray is nothing new, but Ray as the new leader of Aces and Eights will make fans see him in a new light.