6.6 Impact Wrestling
The Big News: It may set new company lows in terms of ratings, but the live Impact in Atlanta was a hot show. The debut of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson featured a faceoff with Kurt Angle in a good, heated angle. The link between Brooke Hogan and Bully Ray was exposed again in the main event when Brooke stopped her father from hitting Ray with a hammer at the end of the show. Also, Chavo Guerrero is teasing a heel turn, and Samoa Joe and Hernandez qualified for the Bound for Glory Series Tournament. The full 12-man field will be announced next week.
With Todd Keneley's removal, it was back to a two-man booth with Mike Tenay and Taz. The bickering, which had become so common and tiresome following Taz's heel turn, was kept to a minimum tonight, which was for the best.
Bully Ray started the show and said Slammiversary hadn't been kind to Sting. He said last year Slammiversary was the first time Sting got jumped by Aces and Eights. Actually, it was the Thursday after that show. Ray said Sting was mulling retirement. He also said that he deserved to be in the Hall of Fame after destroying all of his opponents. Hulk Hogan came out for the nostalgia pop. Hogan said Ray would have competition, and announced next week would be the start of the Bound for Glory series with the announcement of the 12 competitors. Then Hogan said Ray would face Jeff Hardy tonight. Hardy came out to a big reaction. Hogan said this was Hardy's first night back at the Impact Zone. Except he wrestled Sunday....and they were in Atlanta. Hardy said the Ray vs. Hardy match would be a ladder match with a hammer over the ring. Hardy didn't say a pep the whole time. Hogan's live interviews are becoming perversely entertaining because he gets lost within seconds and has a hard time remembering the most minute details. He's like wrestling's Larry King.
Chavo Guerrero apologized to Hernandez about losing the tag team titles on Sunday. Guerrero said they were both added to the Bound for Glory series. Hernandez thanked Guerrero for teaching him everything he knows, then extended his hand. Guerrero said he taught Hernandez a lot, but he didn't teach him everything, and walked away without shaking his hand. So that tag team is nearing an end.
Hernandez pinned Chavo Guerrero in a Bound for Glory qualifier in 4:56. Guerrero didn't turn heel yet, but was making facial expressions afterwards that teased it. He did bump knuckles with Hernandez postmatch. Match itself was nothing special. Hernandez hit the over the shoulder backbreaker drop. Guerrero came back with two amigos and a koppo kick. Guerrero attempted the Frog Splash, but Hernandez got the knees up. Hernandez tried the Border Toss, but Guerrero got out and attempted a cradle. But Hernandez reversed the cradle for the pin. *1/2
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson walked around backstage making his debut, where he talked and laughed with James Storm and Gunner.
Devon came out upset over losing the TV title to Abyss and challenged him to a match then and there. Joseph Park came out instead and got the best reaction he's had in a long time. Park was mad about being jumped on Sunday by Aces and Eights, and did a double leg takedown on Devon. Park hit a few shoulder blocks before Devon hit him with a clothesline, followed with a microphone shot, and brawled to the floor. Devon was about to hit Park with a chair, but Abyss' music played. of course, Abyss didn't come out, so Devon said he was going backstage to find him. Park come up bleeding from the chin, then starting making faces and hand gestures like he was Dr. Bruce Banner before he turned into the Incredible Hulk.
Devon and Knox began looking for Abyss backstage but couldn't find him. Reminded me of how much the booking has improved from two years ago when they did this exact same gimmick on one show, except it was two babyfaces (Kazarian and Brian Kendrick) looking for Abyss, and they both looked like geeks when it was over.
Robbie E came out and said he was the MVP of the 2012 Bound for Glory Series. He mentioned beating Hardy (by countout), who wound up winning the whole thing.
2. Samoa Joe defeated Robbie E by submission in 1:43 in a Bound for Glory qualifier. Your basic squash match, where Samoa Joe gave Robbie the musclebuster and got the tap out with a Kokina Clutch. Robbie E is very much TNA's Damien Sandow, where he's a good character that can't get out of prelims. DUD.
Mickie James came into Velvet Sky's locker room and apologized for not coming to her aid last week when Gail Kim attacked her. James gave some half-assed explanation about how the moment turned into slow motion, and before she could do anything, Taryn Terrell was in the ring going after Kim. To make up for it, James gave Sky an Impact Wrestling lottery ticket. It was product placement to be sure, but I'm even more amazed that there's such a thing as an Impact Lottery Ticket. Anyway, Sky told James she wanted her rematch tonight for the Knockouts title, but James continued her heel routine saying that Brooke Hogan had already booked her against someone that Sky had avoided when she was champion. You can tell James is having some fun with this new role.
They replayed the Kurt Angle TNA Hall of Fame video, which is on the front page of the website. It's as good as you've heard, among the finest pieces of production the company has ever done. While we're talking fine TNA production pieces, there's also one put together shortly after the company's final shows in Orlando that's easy to track down.
Jeremy Borash came out to introduce Rampage, who came out with his Junkyard Dog chain around his neck. Tenay and Taz built his background up big. Crowd popped really big for him. This segment was kept very simple, but it was better that way. Rampage delivered a short, clearly scripted promo saying that he knew to be the best in TNA, he would have to beat the best. Then Angle came out with his game face on. It didn't feel like the natural Rampage with his natural charisma because he was out of his element in a controlled environment. He and Angle had a great staredown, though. Angle said Jackson was the best in the cage (guess he missed that Ryan Bader match), but Jackson was in his ring. They had a good, intense showdown where Angle got his catchphrase out, and they shook hands with some tension. Crowd was really hot for all of this, and they even repeated Angle's catchphrase just like the good old days. Overall, I thought it was a really good segment for Rampage's first time out. It was tons better than King Mo's first appearances last October, where the crowd really didn't know who Mo was, and the company really didn't know what to do with him.
Hardy did a promo about his match with Ray tonight, saying he and his Creatures of the Night would walk away satisfied after tonight.
Inside the floating Aces and Eights clubhouse, Ray asked Mr. Anderson if he had seen D.Lo Brown. Anderson said he thought he had a headache, playing off Brown getting jumped last week. Ray said it was best they got rid of him, and Anderson mentioned Brown's departure meant the Vice President of Aces and Eights' slot was open. They teased Anderson becoming the next VP. Ray wondered why Hogan would risk having Hardy tonight in a ladder match against him. He also wondered why there aren't any Aces and Eights representatives for the BFG series. Ray left to go talk to Hogan about it. Anderson asked Ray if he needed Aces and Eights' help tonight in the match against Hardy. Ray said a good Vice President should know when to make that call without asking.
3. James Storm, Gunner and Chris Sabin defeated Austin Aries, Bobby Roode and Kenny King in 6:38. Storm worked really hard and looked good for someone who could barely move around on Sunday. He even got the heat. Chris Sabin did a pescado on all three heels early. The crowd's attempt to get Gunner over had some positive signs on this night, as the crowd chanted for him leading to the hot tag. Bobby Roode gave Gunner the Double R Spinebuster, but Gunner recovered to tag Sabin. It ended when Sabin gave Kenny King the cross-legged fisherman's buster, which is called Hail Sabin. Hot short match. ***
Devon and Knox continued to look for Abyss and ran into a room where they thought he was in. The door closed, and they cut to a video package.
Brooke talked with Terrell about her match with Kim, putting it over big. Terrell thanked her, and asked Brooke if she was still in love with Ray. Brooke again didn't answer, and wished her luck in the future. Brooke rolled her eyes afterwards.
4. Mickie James defeated Taeler Hendrix in 3:47. This was the only thing all night that didn't get over. James is still doing her condescending heel routine where any offense by Taeler Hendrix would be met with derisive applause. The crowd wasn't interested, and went into Brooklyn-on-the-night-after-Wrestlemania mode, chanting "Cena Sucks" and "yes, yes, yes." Hendrix hit a dropkick and a spin kick, then went to the top rope for reasons that were never clear. Meanwhile, James started selling a knee injury, even though Hendrix had never touched her knee. When Hendrix went to check on her, James leveled her with a cheap shot, and pinned her following a reverse roundhouse kick. Crowd hasn't seem to catch on to James' heel shenanigans. Hendrix is still green. *
Backstage, we saw a really cool overhead silhouette of Devon and Knox looking for Abyss. Devon went into a corner, leaving Knox alone. We saw Knox's shadow as Abyss's shadow snuck up behind him and choked him. When Devon returned, he found the TV title and then Knox's body tossed out at him. Devon and Abyss started brawling, with Devon being thrown into the wall, and Abyss told a fallen Devon "I'm taking this belt into the Abyss." Pretty creative segment.
There was a tweet from Sting shown after his loss to Ray on Sunday, which simply said "Sunday I was left to fight alone...Message received!" So it looks like they're going to make an attempt to explain why six Aces and Eights guys jumped Sting without anyone in the TNA locker room helping him. Sting will do a promo next week to "address his future." Also next week, A.J. Styles faces Angle, and Daniels and Kazarian faces Storm and Gunner with the winning team qualifying for the BFG Tournament.
5. Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray went to a no contest in a ladder with a hammer above the ring match in roughly 16:45. Hardy started with a pescado and a somersault bodyblock before Ray could even get in the ring. This was similar to an old school weapons match where one blow with the weapon would be a killer. Hardy made four attempts to get the hammer, but never grabbed it. Ray pushed Hardy off the ladder several times when he attempted to grab the hammer, but made his comeback with a DDT. Later, Ray wound up in the corner, where Hardy kicked the end of the ladder into his crotch. Ray sold that big for the rest of the match. Hardy made an attempt to get the hammer, but took his worst bump of the match when he fell flat on his back. Ray then got the hammer, but as he tried to use it, Hardy hit the Twist of Fate. The hammer went straight up in the air, and Hardy grabbed it. Ray saw that and simply went to the back. Hardy sold his him so much he couldn't go after him. ***1/2
The scene shifted backstage, where Hardy was looking for his title belt. As he searched, Hogan creeped around a corner with his own hammer about to hit Ray. Just as he was about to strike, Brooke came out and screamed "Dad! No!" Brooke stood beside Ray, while Hogan looked on in wonder. It wasn't a clear heel turn for Brooke, but at the very least made it clear she still had feelings for him.
SUMMARY: This was the best Impact show in awhile. Crowd was strong and the matches were good. I'm not sure whether a Brooke heel turn would be a good thing long term, because the company has to ask itself some hard questions regarding Hulk Hogan's future whenever his contract rolls around. I'm not sure if Impact will be better long term making the show a weekly episodic look at the Hogans.