By Andrew Berg
TNA marketed Wednesday’s episode of Impact as a relaunch on Destination America after about six weeks off of TV. There were several new details that made it a very enjoyable show to watch. Former WWE announcer Josh Matthews made his TNA play-by-play review and provided a fresh, fun point of view. The passionate crowd, several good matches, the return of Awesome Kong, and outstanding work by James Storm and Austin Aries added up to a very good first show. There were some production wrinkles that will have to be addressed- there was too much shaky video footage at ringside and the constant audio drops during profane crowd chants made several promos impossible to follow-, but the presentation was the best I have seen on Impact. My opinion of the show was high, at least until it ended with one of the most unnecessary swerve endings in the last few years.
Bobby Lashley def. Bobby Roode to Become TNA World Champion
Lashley came into the rematch with a lot on his mind, including a social media war with Roode and a near fight with his friends MVP and Kenny King. He put that behind him to have an outstanding match with Roode in the main event. They worked each other over early with alternating big moves and holds aimed to wear the other man down. Lashley looked especially impressive with a delayed vertical suplex and a running powerslam. The match started to pick up when each wrestler hit the other’s finisher for a two count. Roode finally hit a Roode Bomb and locked Lashley in the crossface, but King pulled the referee out of the ring. Two masked accomplices revealed themselves as Samoa Joe and Low Ki. Kurt Angle and Eric Young ran to the ring to help Roode, but Angle was overpowered and Young turned on Roode with a chair shot. The referee recovered and counted Roode down for three to give a surprised Lashley the win and the belt.
The implication from the final segment is that MVP has enlisted Young, Joe, and Low Ki to join his team with King. It is unclear whether Lashley remains part of the group. In any case, the last thing TNA needed to do on its relaunch was to establish yet another giant heel group by way of a “shocking” turn. We know that TNA can do crazy swerves and instant gratification. What we need to see is a commitment to consistent characters who warrant emotional investment. Roode was in a position to become that as a champion. He could have had a long run against challengers like Lashley, MVP, Joe, EC3, and eventually James Storm. It was set up perfectly for a strong, steady storyline. Instead, TNA took the quick payoff of a cheap pop.
Austin Aries def. Low Ki to Become X-Division Champion
Before Low Ki got involved in the storyline hijinks, he had an outstanding match with Aries. It would be hard to find two wrestlers who know more varieties of drop kicks than these two and they used them all in this match. They also repeatedly came up with innovative counters to each other’s moves, such as Low Ki’s high kick to Aries when he tried to come through the ropes for a suicide dive. Aries recovered with a missile dropkick and a brainbuster to put Low Ki down for the three count. The match was a little too short, but they did a great job with the time they had.
Kurt Angle def. MVP in a Street Fight
Angle opened the show by making several title matches for the night. MVP came to the ring to taunt him and try to provoke him, but Angle surprised MVP by saying that he resigned as Director of Operations and made himself an active wrestler. The last match he made was a street fight between the two of them. Apparently, street fight in this case meant that they would wrestle in street clothes under normal rules. It was not the best effort from either wrestler and it seemed odd to me that the new version of Impact launched with two wrestlers who made their names in WWE. Angle eventually hit the Angle Slam and pinned MVP relatively quickly. It seems inevitable that this program will have another chapter.
Taryn Terrell Won a Knockouts Battle Royal to Retain the Knockouts Title
Robbie E pointlessly returned before the Battle Royal and taunted Brooke Tessmacher about their loss on The Amazing Race. The Bro Mans stayed at ringside to support the Beautiful People, but both Angelina Love and Velvet Sky were eliminated relatively early. Brooke ran out from the crowd and jumped Robbie E until he ran away and left only Gail Kim, Havok, and Taryn in the ring. The two smaller women tried to team up on Havok. Gail nearly had her out of the ring with a head scissors, but Havok managed to flip her out of the ring. Taryn came up from behind and dumped Havok out to retain her title. After the bell, Havok attacked Taryn until the lights went out. When they came back on, Awesome Kong stood face to face with Havok and teased a fight until referees separated them. Kong’s return should be fun since fans rarely get to see a match between a wrestler and his or her knockoff. With Taryn as the champion and a likely Beautiful People-Brooke rivalry, it appears that TNA is making room for three women’s programs at the same time.
James Storm and Abyss def. The Wolves
Mike Tenay interviewed Storm before the match and Storm explained his disenchanted cult leader character better in five minutes than Bray Wyatt has in two years. He said that he was tired of getting passed over for chances and wanted to enlist a group of wrestlers who felt the same way and could help him make his own luck. He showed that it is possible to be creepy but also have a point. By the end of the interview, I was sold on the idea that Storm could be a main eventer with his Revolution gimmick.
The Hardys came to the ring to watch the Revolution’s title rematch with the Wolves. Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards started the match at a frenzied pace. They hit four consecutive simultaneous suicide dives early on. The match started to deteriorate and Abyss tried to use Storm’s bullrope as a weapon. Jeff Hardy got in the ring and tried to take it away from him and inadvertently hit Edwards. Storm took advantage with a Last Call superkick to win. The finish set up a potential three-way rivalry with the Hardys, Wolves, and Revolution that could help keep up the high level the tag division set late last year.
EC3 Shaves JB’s Head
EC3 interrupted Jeremy Borash and turned it into another segment in which he ripped Rockstar Spud. He challenged Spud to come to the ring, and he only made it out when Tyrus dragged him down the ramp. JB tried to stand up for Spud when EC3 threatened to shave his head. JB punched EC3, which only made him more upset. Tyrus held JB down and EC3 shaved his head instead. The antics were a little silly, but EC3 was outstanding on the mic, as usual.