TNA isn't dead yet.
That's how I felt after watching the 2/6/14 episode of Impact Wrestling. They really needed to really hit one out of the park with this show, and I felt that the company really did. After several weeks of teasing the mystery investor, TNA needed to follow up with a strong showing to explain why MVP was here and they did that. They also had a lot of good wrestling and character development on the show.
Plus, Dixie Carter, who's work is usually the weakest on the show, was kept to short segments backstage for most of the show and was put into segments with MVP where he obviously didn't buy her line of crap and called her on it, which made it a lot more enjoyable than the usual Dixie show. They needed to set the stage for the idea that Carter's reign of terror ruining the show was over and I hopre that was it.
Overall, I think they did a fine job last night. The first hour, specifically, was one of the strongest hours of TNA in a long time.
In comparison to Monday's Raw, this show was far superior when it came to setting up stories that played out over the two hours. I was so high on the show that when Impact was over, that not only was I looking forward to next week, but I wanted to order the #OldSchool PPV. What a difference a good TV episode makes!
So, onto what worked, what didn't and what we learned:
*MVP's promo. He really needed to hit his promo out of the park to get his role and storyline over and he did. I thought he came off just great as it felt like he was talking about his life as opposed to giving an overly scripted promo. In fact, I thought the promo was better than anything he was scripted to do in WWE. TNA has needed, for a long, long time, someone fresh to signify that the company was going to change itself and MVP, who's never worked here before, was perfect. In fact, he's far better here than I could have ever predicted. He's credible, well spoken and broke down everything perfectly - his goals, his background and his promise to the fans that things were going to change and that Dixie Carter wasn't going to run over the company anymore - they rang true. The message TNA was trying to send was clear - things have been rough but they aren't going to suck anymore. Let's hope that they can use MVP as their avatar to keep that word, because it was a really good, out of the box idea. His interaction with Spud was fine as well as a way to set up Magnus vs. Kurt Angle. His interaction later on with Dixie Carter were the best Carter segments since she's turned into the evil company owner - and that was all due to MVP. His facial expressions towards the crap Carter was spewing was great and MVP blaming Dixie for the state of the company was great - because there's truth in his words and playing off the truth often creates the best angles. A great first week for MVP.
*Bobby Roode vs. Samoa Joe. A good, enjoyable back and forth physical bout with some good wrestling. It's really great to see Samoa Joe in a top position again as he seemed really fired up backstage with his promo and he had a good bout here. A quality match to set up Joe's challenge of the TNA title and to further Bobby Roode's issues with Dixie Carter, since her forces were nowhere to be found when he needed them most. It's really nice to see Joe back in a position of prominence. The only thing I would have wanted was for this match to have a little more time to build some drama, since I don't think anyone really expected Roode to win, based on how everything had been set up, but the bout itself was fine for the 7-8 minutes they had.
*The Monster's Ball. Since we haven't seen one of these in quite awhile on TNA TV, this was a lot of fun and a good brawl. Kicking off the show with it felt differently, since usually we get a 10-45 minute talking segment. Eric Young often gets overlooked as an in-ring worker because of the character he plays but he had the chance to really show some fire as a babyface during the early portion of the match, especially with his missile dropkick and a great dive to the outside. I don't want to see him taking thumbtack bumps every show, but Abyss taking the sunset flip powerbomb into the tacks was shot perfectly and was quite the sight to see. Young spitting the tacks out was insane. Young's bump to the table outside was brutal as well. The ending, with Young ripping the mask off and forcing Joseph Park and Abyss to realize they are indeed, one in the same, probably should have come a little earlier in this storyline as it's felt like it was a little long in the tooth, but this match was really good and a nice conclusion to this science experiments story. I'm curious to see what they do with Abyss going forward. Maybe he'll remember where he left the TV title!
*Austin Aries vs. Zema Ion. The entire segment was great. First, we had Aries set the stage for the idea he intended to use the X-Division championship as his way to get back to the TNA title. The Bro-Mans' distraction and Ion's attack made sense for their characters. Then, we had Ion really kicking the hell out of Aries with some strong offense and intensity, only to have Aries make the comeback and kill him with the brainbuster. Pitch perfect.
*Ethan Carter III. Every week, he shows that WWE really made a big mistake cutting him loose. TNA has put a lot on his shoulders and I really feel like he's run with the ball. Whether it's a solid in-ring showing, a good performance in a backstage vignette or just his facial expressions and body language, EC3 has been the best talent pickup for the company in a long, long time. His beating on Kurt Angle allowed us to see a more vicious side of the arrogant Carter and the announcers smartly tied it into EC3 showing Dixie what he can do after she blew him off earlier in the show. That moment where he sat in the aisle watching the medics working over the Kurt Angle he just destroyed...great character building stuff.
*Chris Sabin telling off Velvet Sky. Just when you thought you knew where that segment was going, Sabin went all out scumbag villain by handing Velvet Sky an engagement ringbox, bringing her up with this moment of shock and excitement, then instead breaking her heart, stomping on her emotionally and...challenging her to a match? Well, I thought that last part was a little dopey but when Sabin went from acting like the chump trying to get his ex-girlfriend back to the guy ripping her apart, well, I didn't see that coming. Sabin has never been someone with a reputation for being a great promo but I thought he was OK here. He wasn't able to bring it to where it was this awesome, but that moment where he revealed the empty box was great. Sky was really, really good here and totally made you believe that she just went through the wringer emotionally. She's really grown as a performer.
*Magnus. I am really glad to see we are seeing a backbone out of him as opposed to just being Dixie's lapdog. I also like that he explained away why he tapped last week, noting that when the title isn't on the line, his pride doesn't overpower his brain - meaning he lost to save himself for a bigger battle. I still feel like TNA is trying to really nail Magnus' character since they turned him, but this week was very good. I really feel like he's doing a good job carrying himself as champion and trying to fill a really hard role as the top guy in the company. A good showing for him in the ring and backstage, especially his back and forth with Bobby Roode.
*Rockstar Spud. When he told Dixie Carter that MVP "seemed like a pretty good bloke", I cracked up laughing. Not since the days of Dancin' Stevie Richards in ECW and Robbie Dawber in OVW have I enjoyed a good comedy character. Spud's look, body language and comments are awesome every week. He takes a small role in a scene and steals it.
*The announcing. I miss Taz's humor but Jeremy Borash is a hell of an announcer. It's amazing to think there was a time a few years ago where Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan attempted to replace him with Bubba the Love Sponge! Mike Tenay did his usual good job as well.
*The editing of the backstage face-off between MVP and Dixie Carter. The multiple angles only served to take the viewer out of the segment as opposed to making them feel like they were seeing something real.
What We Learned:
*Christy Hemme is the only person in wrestling to actually watch the TV show she is on. Hemme actually seeing the "secret camera footage" of Samuel Shaw's tribute room to her and the creepy mannequin makes her 10000 times smarter than everyone else ever in pro wrestling history. I really like the Patrick Bateman-inspired Shaw character and I am curious to see how TNA builds him going forward.
*Kurt Angle is insane. Yes, this isn't news, but the man is absolutely insane for not only getting in the ring with Magnus but having as good of a match as he had...well, the man is insane. I worry for his long-term health but I also respect him for that work ethic. Angle has the same type of work ethic that made me fall in love with Terry Funk as a performer years ago. I shake my head at amazement, worry and awe, all at once, for that man.
*Bully Ray is a man obsessed. Ray destroying Curry Man as he screamed for Ken Anderson was a good, simple way to build to the Coffin Match next week. It was nice to see Curry Man for a brief moment as well. Always liked that character. Ray getting some real heel heat from the audience, even making a little girl shirk away in fright, was awesome.
*MVP was good taste in movies. I pop for the Gojira roar, every time I hear it in his theme song.
*TNA should tape more overseas. I don't know that they can make it a viable option, but the show feels so much fresher and so much more energetic in the last few weeks. Glasgow, you did right by TNA.