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AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT WHAT WORKED AND WHAT DIDN'T AT TNA BOUND FOR GLORY AND WHY

By Mike Johnson on 2013-10-22 10:20:00

TNA's Bound For Glory was a solid effort overall, but failed to break the doldrums that fans might have towards the company. Although I railed in a previous column that the promotion desperately needed to have a balls to the wall kickass PPV with some great wrestling, the odds of that actually happening were pretty miniscule to begin with. What we were presented with, however, was a mixed tag that certainly was not worth the $50-$55 price tag the show cost in some PPV circles.

The highlight of the show, as it should be, was the main event between TNA champion Bully Ray and AJ Styles, at least from a physical standpoint. Styles may have been booked to win the title, but one got the impression watching the match that Ray really wanted to make AJ earn it, brutally beating him until welts and bruises began sprouting across Styles' chest. In many ways, this was the lone match on the show that felt like TNA when it's star shined brightest - you had a legitimate issue between the two, Ray playing an awesome villain, Styles fighting from behind and this incredible "Sportscenter moment" of Styles missing his 450 splash onto a table, decimating it in spectacular fashion. From an pro wrestling presentation standpoint, this was as good as we could have gotten and it worked.

The only real negatives for the main event had nothing to do with Styles or Ray themselves.  A big issue was  that for the "biggest show of the year", this didn't feel like a fresh match going in, partially because for some reason, the creative direction dictated that the Dixie Carter heel turn and storyline needed to be latched onto this. If anyone felt this match needed Carter to get it over, they were mistaken, but it is what it is.  There were some other minor issues as well, which were creative flaws. Despite being listed as a No DQ match, we had wrestlers interfering and then disappearing when logically, Knux and Garett Bischoff could have easily continued to interfere. It seemed silly they just disappeared into a Bermuda Triangle or something.

The Dixie Carter interference was fine - I think she does a decent job as a villain, but the reality is that when Stephanie McMahon and Triple H are all over WWE TV doing a similar deal, it comes off like TNA is doing a secondary knock-off deal, whether the creative idea was the same or not. It does open up the next chapter, which is Styles with the belt being able to call his shots and make Carter's life miserable.

Unfortunately for TNA, one of the real issues they did have with this show is the same one I see with Carter's current role - they tried to move too many chess pieces too quickly and the audience live didn't see these new players as being ready for their roles. As they say, necessity is the key to invention, so when TNA's roster and budget is so slimmed down, they have to try and build from within, but it was obvious that despite the best efforts of some of the talents, the crowd wasn't ready to take to them. Hopefully, the move back to Orlando will help in that respect by letting those fans get the chance to watch Magnus, Jesse Godderz, Robbie E, etc. grow into their new roles.

Magnus vs. Sting was a solid match but it was missing that special spark to truly make it a moment. Sting rarely ever loses clean in the fashion he did to Magnus, much less get nailed with his own signature spots AND have someone muscle out of the Scorpion Deathlock, so you have to give him a lot of credit for going out there at 55 years old and trying to give Magnus as much of a rub as he could.

Magnus was working as hard as he could as well (and deserves credit for that), but the live crowd didn't see the bout as a competitive issue, just as a chance to see Sting, which is falls on the creative team, who needed to make them interested. The match was obviously designed to be Sting vs. Ric Flair at the first Clash of Champions but there was no way they could really recreate this - they didn't have the time the first Clash gave Flair and Sting, Sting is far older now than Flair was then and Sting, as charismatic as he is, was never the in-ring performer Flair was anywhere near his prime. But, TNA could use still photos and video packages to racket up the drama and make this more of a moment than it came across on TV.

The Kurt Angle segments were very interesting to watch unfold. Angle turning down the TNA Hall of Fame watch and then losing in a good, competitive bout to Bobby Roode seem to signify that his future storyline is of the former star and champion who just hit rock bottom personally and professionally, which isn't too far from the reality of the last year of his life. We see this sort of story structured in MMA a lot when a great champion gets killed and loses his title, needing to rebound. If that is the case, the segment with Sting was a good first chapter, although doing an angle with the Hall of Fame sort of cheapens whatever it's worth. WWE has long avoided doing angles with their Hall for that reason. Angle vs. Roode was very good, but like Styles vs. Ray, didn't feel like an issue that was fresh. Inside the ring, the storytelling was very good, but you didn't feel like we were watching an all-time classic wrestling clinic unfolding, which is really what the show (and Angle) needed. The finish was very good, with Angle actually defeating himself, leaving it open for Roode to not brag about what he's accomplished when it was really a fluke that he won...but that doesn't really build Roode, the "longest reigning" champion, either, does it?

The Knockouts match was far better than anyone really had any reason to suspect and all three should be commended for their work. Gail Kim is just awesome in her timing and takes bumps with reckless abandon. She is one tough woman. Brooke has been nothing short of exceptional in her improvement from when she began in the business and every big match, tries hard to pull out one really big spot. She's really found a great role for herself as Bully Ray's muse and I sincerely love watching her work. ODB was great here and it was really nice to see her working as opposed to being a referee or doing a silly vignette with Eric Young as she has this awesomely unique charisma that no other female in the business carries. They all worked hard and the only negative I can really see is that the Kim/Lei'd Tapa combination comes off much too similar to AJ Lee/Tamina in WWE and that doesn't help the company look like an alternative or like they are doing something fresh and unique.

The debut of Ethan Carter III was pitch-perfect. Michael Hutter obviously went out there and threw his all into the new personality, showing a great swagger and confidence in himself. I don't know if this is meant to be the start of more Carter family "members" showing up, but EC3 was off to a good start. It was a nice surprise to see Peter Avalon pop up as Carter's opponent and he played the ham & egger character needed to spotlight Carter perfectly, to the point that when he hit the flying bodypress, the crowd really thought they might be an upset for a second. Here's to hoping Carter finds his niche in TNA, because he could use it and TNA really needs some new players to get over.

The TNA Tag Team bout was similar to Magnus vs. Sting in that challengers Jesse Godderz and Robbie E. really worked their asses off and the match was well put together and far more competitive than anyone would have suspected going in, but the crowd didn't see them as potential new champions, just comedy fodder heels. It would be like Shark Boy just showed up after months of silliness and not only challenged, but won the TNA title. It just came so far out of left field that San Diego didn't know what to make of it, which again, is a creative thing and it's up to TNA to get them to work in their new roles. As I noted, the work in the match itself was very strong with Godderz really showing good timing. James Storm and Gunner did a great job but you can't help but look at Storm and think "WTF" happened to him since he was TNA champion at one point until the creative direction dragged him back down. Gunner showed some good intensity as well. As a match, it was solid but the finish was so out of nowhere that it's going to take time for the new champions to gel in that role.

The promo segment with Bad Influence, Abyss and Eric Young was exactly what it needed to be. Bad Influence, in many ways, is the best act in all of TNA, and to me, are the closest thing to what a great tag team attraction on a wrestling show should be. They nail the workrate, the interviews, the interaction, etc. perfectly. If I was WWE, they would be the one act I'd be going out of my way to raid - they are that good. As much as the Joseph Park thing seems tired at times, it's really a way to keep Abyss from killing himself just as Socko was that shield for Mick Foley, so I don't mind it, plus when Abyss is unleashed, he gets (no pun intended) monster pops. The direction works for the character. I also love that Eric Young, who's always been the most wacky character in TNA history (and something of their mascot) is the one person to see through everything and know that Park and Abyss as one in the same. As an undercard segment, good stuff.

The Ultimate X that opened the show was OK. The problem with this sort of match is that through the years, we've seen a truckload of dangerous, insane spots, so that now when guys work a safer style, it seems like a letdown. Adding Samoa Joe to the match was the biggest waste of Joe, since he's not going to be spotlighted in a bout where pulling yourself across cables is a key factor. The ladder being brought in was a cute way to have Chris Sabin win the belt but again, his character has been changed so quickly and drastically from when he returns to challenge Bully Ray that it's made him (and girlfriend Velvet Sky) completely cold because so much was done in such a short period of time. As I said, the match was OK, but TNA really needed this to be an off the charts insane match and that's not what you were going to get with the mixture of guys booked.  The tease of Jeff Hardy, the daredevil, in the craziest match possible was a cool idea but didn't really pan out.  Manik didn't gain or lose anything, except a title, by being here.  It wasn't what Ultimate X needs to be for TNA, which is a signature attraction bout in the same vein that Hell in A Cell is for WWE, although with a completely different presentation.  It needs to be a match that when announced, makes the audience go, "Oh sh**, something is going down."  Instead, it was just there.

As I said, Bound for Glory was as an OK show but didn't leave one feeling like they got their money's worth.  It spotlighted that right now, TNA really needs to strengthen from within and figure out what they are doing. There was nothing on the show that served to electrify the audience or make them wait with great anticipation for the next Impact Wrestling broadcast. It was just a show - some good, some eh, but Bound for Glory should never be just a show, it's their Wrestlemania, except this year, it wasn't.  It was just there.

Let's hope by BFG 2014, we can look back and see how much TNA has improved from a year before.  TNA needs to, now more than ever, be the polar opposite of what WWE is today and right now, they aren't.  They are just another wrestling show doing a product that WWE produces with bigger stars and slicker production.  It's time for TNA to really re-invent their wheel.  They went down the red and yellow brick Bischoff road for three years and there's no Emerald City at the end.   They need to find a new road to success.  If they cannot, it's going to be a scary time for TNA, which really needs something to spark some passion and energy back into their promotion.

Mike Johnson can be reached at MikeJohnsonPWInsider@gmail.com.

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