8.1 Impact Wrestling
The Big News: If nothing else, TNA certainly knows how to create a buzz, even if it lasts for only a night. Tito Ortiz was revealed as the August 1st mystery man at the end of the show. This was not a good night to debut him, as the crowd in Wichita Falls, Texas was so small, he was greeted with indifference. That was a good metaphor for a strange night, with some good wrestling in front of a painfully small crowd. Also, at the live Hardcore Justice show in two weeks, there's a 5-on-5 match between the Main Event Mafia and Aces and Eights, with the loser of the fall leaving TNA.
Ronnie from Atlas Security was shown denying Taz entry into the building, based on orders from Hulk Hogan. So Jeremy Borash was back on commentary tonight. I understand from the company's perspective why they want Borash at the table, but why didn't Hogan do this after Taz joined Aces and Eights six months ago?
Mike Tenay and Borash announced the main event for tonight would be Austin Aries vs. A.J. Styles, which was voted on by the fans. Then came the announcement of a mysterious video from someone who would be debuting in five weeks. Well, actually, they're debuting tonight. I just wanted to pretend for a moment what would have happened if TNA hadn't let another ground ball go through its legs. Just another one of those things about TNA that leaves you shaking your head. Borash claimed they got another tape from the company offices this afternoon. Problem was, it was the exact same footage they put on Twitter last Friday.
Aries came out for a babyface promo, congratulating Chris Sabin for winning the TNA World Title. He also said sooner or later, they would cross paths when he wins the Bound for Glory Series. Aries put over his upcoming match with Styles. Aries billed himself as the "Common Denominator of Greatness" and said he would carry the company on his back for the next 10 years, just like Styles did for the first ten. I hope so. Bobby Roode interrupted him and said he's had a nightmare of a year, and it started when Aries beat him for the TNA World title last summer. Roode said the drought would end starting tonight, Aries wished Roode luck in getting to the finals of the BFG series so he could beat him again.
Bobby Roode (7 points) defeated Hernandez (7 points) in the Bound for Glory Series in 10:44. Roode attacked Hernandez on the ramp before the bell. Since they were in Texas, Hernandez was more over. Roode took most of the offense with a Double R Spinebuster, followed by sending Hernandez into the steps on the floor. Hernandez blocked a superplex, but missed a splash. Roode hopped right into a crossface attempt, but Hernandez got out with a side slam. Hernandez blocked a clothesline attempt with the Pounce, then hit Air Mexico. Hernandez attempted the Border Toss (I've noticed since Hernandez nearly killed Doug Williams with that move two years ago, he almost never hits it), but Roode escaped and bumped referee Brian Hebner all at once. Roode hit Hernandez with a low blow, but Hernandez still kicked out of the ensuing schoolboy cradle. That led to Roode going crazy again, throwing chairs into the ring from the floor. Roode tried to carry a chair into the ring, but Hebner blocked him. While Hebner tended to the chairs, Roode pulled a beer bottle from under the ring and hit Hernandez over the head to finally get a win in the series. **1/4
The Main Event Mafia showed up, with Kurt Angle saying they would make Aces and Eights an offer they couldn't refuse. I'm still trying to figure out who Bully Ray was talking to three weeks ago who was supposed to make Angle an offer he couldn't refuse, only to have Angle show up in the following segment with neither the offer or the driver being acknowledged again.
The updated BFG Series standings following the Roode victory: 1. Magnus 49 points. 2. Samoa Joe 26 points. 3. Styles 22 points. 4. Christopher Daniels and Mr. Anderson 21 points. 6. Jeff Hardy 17 points. 7. Aries 14 points. 8. Hernandez and Roode 7 points. 10. Kazarian, Jay Bradley 0 points. 12. Joseph Park -10 points.
ODB talked with Eric Young backstage. ODB makes her in-ring return against Gail Kim. Meanwhile, Park was warming up for his BFG match tonight. Young told him not to get hit in the head, because whenever he starts bleeding, Park loses control and then gets disqualified. Young said he had just what Park needed in order to win, and they left together.
Sabin met with Manik backstage and congratulated him on winning the X Division championship. T.J. Perkins, who had his back turned to the camera with his mask off, told Sabin that the Manik gimmick has been a rebirth of his career. No idea why they didn't just show Perkins face since they aired an interview with him last week unmasked. However, it isn't unheard of for a masked man to regularly show his face on TV. It happened with the Patriot in WWF, when they acknowledged it was Del Wilkes. Or Avatar with Al Snow. Of course, neither guy got over in those personas either. Sabin and Manik each other tonight for the TNA World title.
A stretch humvee with the mystery man inside pulled up to the arena.
2. Joseph Park (-3 points) defeated Jay Bradley (0 points) in a Bound for Glory Series match in 4:22. Young came out with Park and gave him headgear to wrestle in. I assume this was a jab at the WWE Training Center. Really, of all things you could make fun of the WWE over, this was it? Park made a comeback and tried for the Closing Argument, but Bradley blocked it. Park clamped on the Boston Crab, but Bradley got to the ropes. Bradley tried to hoist Park up for a Billy Robinson backbreaker, but nearly dropped him. Bradley tried for the Boomstick, but Park pinned him after a Samoan Drop. Young and Park are now an odd couple team. *
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was the subject of a very good profile commercial from Bellator, but it might as well have been a Impact promotional piece. He talked about dropping out of school at one point, only to re-enter as a 17-year-old freshman, when he started wrestling. This was accompanied by a picture of a young Rampage with a fantastic Jheri curl. This should be mandatory on Rampage's entrance video. He talked of growing up in Memphis in a bad neighborhood and never dreamed of going to college at Chattanooga. But that's where he wound up, and now he can put his children through college. He said he owed it all to wrestling. This led to appearances by everyone from Hulk Hogan to Andrew Luck urging people to keep wrestling in the Olympics.
Angle met with the rest of the Mafia and wondered if anyone had any idea who the mystery man. They came up blank. Sting said they formed the Mafia knowing they would need to take risks. Everyone said they were ready to take a risk with Aces and Eights tonight.
3. Chris Sabin defeated Manik in 11:55 to retain the TNA World Championship. Sabin didn't get much of a reaction compared to anyone, much less a world champion. They had your typical spotfest X Division match, which just didn't feel right with the world champion involved. Not that the crowd wasn't into it, but this never felt like a world championship match because of the style of match. Manik blocked an enzuigiri and hit a Liger Bomb for a near fall. Manik went to the top rope, but Sabin caught him a hanging superplex for another two count. Manik got a surprising amount of chants and the crowd was into the match. Sabin went for Hail Sabin, but Manik escaped and tried a Tiger Suplex, but Sabin turned that into a Toyota Roll for a two count. Sabin hit an RKO, followed by a Superkick and finished Manik with Hail Sabin. ***1/2
Postmatch, Bully Ray jumped Sabin and pulled out a chain. Manik tried to stop the attack but Ray kicked him while he was down. Sabin made a comeback and sent Ray from the ring with an enzuigiri. There isn't a big man in the industry better at making a smaller man look good than Ray.
There was another shot of the white humvee limo parked outside. Taz then walked in and cut a promo on Hogan barring him from the building. Taz got a peak at who the August 1 mystery man was. Taz opened the limo, and it was a laptop computer showing the video we saw earlier. The point of this segment was for Taz to have something to do.
Next week, Christopher Daniels faces Kazarian in another match voted on by fans. They cut to an interview with the two of them. Kazarian said no one wanted to see them wrestle, just like no one wanted to see Larry Dallas slap Jack Tripper in the face. That was a reference to the 70's TV sitcom Three's Company. Suddenly, Kazarian was Bobby 'The Brain" Hennan using 35-year-old references on live television. Daniels said he was undefeated, and Kazarian was winless. Kazarian took offense to Daniels mentioning he was pointless, and told Daniels to be at his best. Kazarian then spilled Daniels' appletini on his boots and walked off.
4. ODB and Gail Kim went to a double countout in 6:08. Evidently, ODB's stint as Knockouts referee is over, because they just had Brian Stiffler do the officiating. Borash put over ODB as a former hockey player at St. Cloud State University. ODB hit a fallaway slam and a powerslamon Gail Kim for a two count. Kim got humped to the floor and tried the Steel Post Figure Four, but ODB legs somehow sent Kim into the post. Kim rammed ODB into the steps and it ended in a double countout. They had a pull-apart brawl.
Styles did an interview saying that anyone calling his match with Aries a "dream match" is full of B.S. Styles said he's become greedy, and dreams are like heroes, useless. Styles' promos are supposed to be against the grain of standard pro wrestling interviews. But its the wrong time for this character because the Wyatt family has taken on a similar theme in the WWE, and they have a promotional machine and a charismatic leader to put it over the top. Styles could only wish to be as fortunate.
Ray talked with the rest of Aces and Eights saying he wasn't worried about the Mafia's offer later, but he was obsessed with Sabin. Ray ordered Anderson to take care of the Mafia. Suddenly, Brooke Hogan turned up looking for Ray. The gimmick is there's a contract signing next week, and Brooke indicated Ray wouldn't get the rematch against Sabin unless she grants him a divorce, which makes sense.
5. Austin Aries (21 points) pinned A.J. Styles (22 points) in a Bound for Glory Series match in 17:39. There appeared to be a botched spot early where Aries attempted a leap frog but they wound up hitting head-to-head, and Aries had to leave the ring to compose himself. From there, it was what you would expect. Aries hit a Plancha, but Styles came right back as Aries tried to get in the ring and caught him with a Pescado. Styles hit a hard Dragon Suplex that looked like it shook Aries up. Aries made his comeback with a discuss forearm and clothesline, and got a two count following a backslide. Aries hit a neckbreaker across the second rope, and followed with a missile dropkick. Aries hit a corner dropkick, then put Styles on the top rope for a superplex attempt, but Styles landed on his feet and hit a neckbreaker, leading to a good near fall. Styles attempted a springboard flip splash but missed, and Aries put on the Last Chancery, but Styles raked the face to get out. Styles put Aries into the Calf Killer, but Aries also escaped and hit the Brainbuster, but Styles kicked out of the finisher. Aries went to the top rope for a 450, but he landed on Styles' knees. Styles clotheslined Aries to the floor. Styles went for another springboard, but Aries pulled the ropes. Aries tried a brainbuster on the floor, but Styles gave him a front suplex on the ramp. Styles teased the Styles clash on the ramp, but Aries backdropped Styles to the floor. Styles was shaken up, but had the presence of mind to sidestep Aries' attempt at a tope. Aries landed on the steps. They teased another double countout, but they somehow got back into the ring. They had a slugfest in the ring that led to an 1990s All Japan-style sequence. Aries hit a Steve Williams-style Backdrop Driver. Styles got right up, only to have Aries come back with a Roaring Elbow. Again, Styles got up and hit Aries with a Pele kick. They finish wasn't as well executed as it could have been, and the crowd was slow to react. It was supposed to tell the story that both men had knocked each other out, and they laid side-by-side on the mat with their arm draped over each other. Hebner counted teasing a double pin, only to have Aries lift his shoulder at two to get the victory. It was some great stuff leading to the finish. Crowd didn't know what happened at first, and when Aries got his arm raised, there was a mixed reaction. ****
The Mafia came out to make their offer to Aces and Eights. A&8s was represented by Anderson, Devon, Knux, Garrett Bischoff and Wes Brisco. And they wonder why they're swimming in red ink. Anderson teased like they wanted to fight. Angle laid out a challenge for a 5-on-5 match in Norfolk, VA for Hardcore Justice with the loser of the fall leaving TNA for good. Joe said this wasn't a negotiation and they starting fighting with each other. Man alive, does Rampage's offense need work. He was throwing knees on Devon that didn't come within a mile of his body. Anderson accepted the challenge.
Then the lights went out, and of all people, Tito Ortiz appeared on the ramp as the August 1st mystery man. Ortiz stood with his arms folded starting at everyone. Jackson looked the most concerned of all, since his match with Ortiz was announced for Bellator just the night before. Members of Aces and Eights and the Maifa both looked like they had no idea what Ortiz was doing there. The crowd looked like they had no idea who Ortiz was. Bjorn Rebney had to be watching this and squirming. It was stunning the see the lack of crowd response for Ortiz.
SUMMARY: So did Antonio Inoki replace Bruce Pritchard? The roster has three current MMA fighters, none of whom have TNA as their primary obligation. Meanwhile, James Storm, who appeared to be the focus of the company just a year ago, did a backstage cameo tweeting on his iPhone---and that's it. Bellator and Impact seem to have a business bond now, an the Ortiz-Jackson match doesn't serve either company well. For Bellator, this match feels like MMA's version of 2000's ill-fated Legends of Wrestling PPV. For TNA, it's another dangling carrot for them to pursue in lieu of making a true wrestling star. The 5-on-5 match opens another can of worms. It can prove to be another bait-and-switch, or it could truly be the end for someone. If it's Sting, the rumors regarding a Wrestlemania showdown with the Undertaker will prove to be true. Overall, this was an odd show.