TNA seems to have written off Dixie Carter as a TV character with the end of Lockdown, but we'll have to see if that is indeed the case. I will wait and see before I assume, because she's been on the TV show far too much to just disappear immediately. The good news is that with MVP taking charge of "wrestling operations", TNA has a new storyline point to kick off their plans of focusing on younger, newer talents and to do so without Carter as an anchor holding those talents down and reminding people of the Hogan/Bischoff era regime.
A bigger problem for TNA is one that came increasingly clear over the course of the evening. Even for what was a solid PPV, the $50 price tag now suddenly seems disgustingly high in comparison to WWE charging $10 for Wrestlemania next month, not even including all the bells and whistles that the WWE Network now features. WWE has changed the playing field and it's going to be up to TNA and everyone else to figure out how to change with the landscape. Who figures out the best way to handle this will be the ones that do well going forward, in my opinion.
Onto what worked, what didn't and what we learned:
*Gunner vs. James Storm. This was a hell of a brawl and the best Gunner singles match to date. You believed these guys wanted to kill each other and that they hated each other. The brawling and weapons shots were stiff and believable. Storm was a hell of a heel and that made the audience get behind Gunner. Absolute thumbs up here.
*The opening six man tag. Another well put together match, although I wish it had been a little longer since we rarely get the likes of Great Muta in the United States. Senada is a hell of a wrestler to start building a new X-Division generation around. He reminds me of a young Kojima or Tanahashi - just a good, athletic, versatile wrestler. Sabin, Daniels and Kazarian all had great performances here. Yasufumi Nakanoue looked as good as you'd expect given his limited experience.
*Bobby Lashley's return. That was a good surprise for the company in that no one saw it coming and he looked good and intense in his short physical interaction. EC3 was awesome interacting on the mic telling the crowd not to hijack the show and responding to the "You can't wrestle" chants. Of all the new talents they have tried to develop lately, he's been the most impressive overall.
*Tigre Uno vs. Manik. Not as spectacular as it might have been if the cage wasn't there, but I thought they had a good faster-paced athletic match. Although the bout was about showcasing and introducing Uno, I thought Manik looked really, really good here. Tiger's finish came off great and I look forward to seeing them both wrestling Senada down the line, especially if TNA gets behind them and gives them time to really get something going inside the ring.
*Madison Rayne vs. Gail Kim. The Knockouts really don't get credit for working a harder, more physical style in the ring than their WWE counterparts. There were a lot of really original cage spots including Rayne driving Kim into the cage the way she usually drives an opponent into the mat with her knees. They worked really hard here.
What Didn't Work:
*Samoa Joe vs. Magnus finish. If TNA was going to do an angle to turn Abyss full-fledged heel and place him against Samoa Joe, that was fine, but this was not the night to do it. TNA really needed to put their best foot forward and with Joe and Magnus having a hard hitting, double juice, back and forth battle that was entertaining, the finish with Abyss pulling Joe down under the ring was like watching Raiders of the Lost Ark and then finding E.T. when he opens the Ark. Sure, you could write it, but that doesn't make it a good idea. This really detracted from the hard work of the guys and you could feel the crowd just deflate. That image of a pissed off Joe coming out of the pit was a cool one, but it didn't make up for the finish. Magnus needs to show he can stand on his own two feet. There were a lot of ways to screw Joe out of the belt, but yet another round of outside interference in a Magnus match wasn't the way to go in my opinion. TNA has had lots of really crappy overbooked finishes in their existence and the last thing the company needed was yet another. The mantra should be: rebuild, not repeat. They need the audience to believe in the company again. It may be a new regime, but it's still, in the eyes of the paying audience, the same company. I'm not saying never do a screwy finish or a ref bump again, but give it some time for fans to have faith in finishes and titles again before pulling the trigger of the zany stuff. Having Joe lose isn't the issue, having a convoluted situation leading into it is.
*Lethal Lockdown. For a match that was to determine the future of the company, there were a lot of missed opportunities. The type of rising drama that is usually associated with these Wargames-spinoff matches with the staggered entrances and the villains getting the advantage and then the heroes evening things up just wasn't there. The potential story of Davey Richards being the injured man and fighting through adversity to show what a tough guy he was, wasn't even touched upon. I didn't mind the Bully Ray turn (OR WAS IT?) at the end, but felt that it sort of neutered the heroes in that they needed to cheat to beat Dixie's team, giving her an out and an excuse instead of a legitimate win that would shut her up once and for all.
*Samuel Shaw threatening to 'end it all.' I know it's pro wrestling and no one really takes such things seriously, but to me, suicide is one of those topics that should never be floated in storylines. Let's file it next to religion and racism in the "DO NOT TOUCH" folders, OK? There is no enjoyment out of even teasing about such a thing.
*Willow? Really, what's the point of this? When we know it's Jeff Hardy and the announcers are even referencing it, there's no need for this.
What We Learned:
*Samuel Shaw is a creepy bastard. Of course the storyline makes no sense given that if this was "real life" he'd be arrested or fired, but if you throw logic out, Shaw does a hell of a job playing the role. The bit where he dragged Hemme through the cage was different, to say the least. I also thought the superplex Shaw took off the top was pretty brutal. As an angle, this was fine.
*Great Muta is a legend. Bad Influence and Chris Sabin worked their asses off to make Muta, who is as banged up as you can imagine after decades of a physical wrestling style, look like a billion dollars.
*TNA shouldn't miss the Hogan/Bischoff regime. The show last night was more fun than any show I can remember in the last few years. The influx of international talents and a hard working locker room really made the difference. TNA is still rough around a lot of edges, but from this show was far more enjoyable than most of the TNA shows over the last few years. Let's hope they can keep moving forward and, at least for awhile, ignore the temptation to get cute with the overbooking.
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