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By Harry Simon on 2013-06-30 12:16:00

TNA Impact Wrestling/Xplosion TV taping
Orleans Arena
Las Vegas, NV

As I found my seat, Faith No More’s “Falling To Pieces” was playing over the PA. I knew then and there it was going to be a good night. Then they played Foreigner’s “Double Vision,” which made me think of the Doink-Crush finish at WrestleMania 9, which also happened here in Las Vegas.

The place was about half-full as they started fifteen minutes before the 7:00pm printed on tickets. Fans eventually filled in the gaps, so it should look fine on television. I’d guesstimate maybe 6,000 fans but I’ve never been great and counting crowds.

Jimmy Jay came out throwing merchandise to the crowd. By the way, I highly recommend the “Brown Bag” deal on the Shop TNA website. For $25.00, you get a shirt, four different DVDs, an action figure, and a banner. Spoiler alert: You will get a Gunner shirt. It’s already happened to me twice. The damn thing is beige, so when you wear it, you’ll look like a giant vanilla milkshake.

SoCal Val – who looks stunning in person, by the way – started firing up the crowd. She introduced Jeremy Borash, who came out to Motley Crue’s “Wild Side.” No, really. JB worked the crowd and brought out Las Vegas’ own Mike Tenay. No theme music for the Professor. WTF?

They either had production problems or thought the crowd sucked because Val counted us down to “going live” six different times. I had already made the joke about her counting us down to the next countdown by #3. I understand wanting a hot crowd, but they have to realize that most of us are in awful cardiovascular condition and thus, if we scream our lungs out for the opening to Xplosion, we’ll be out of gas for the A-show. Does Xplosion even have an opening? I honesty don’t know. Frankly, I was surprised to learn Xplosion was still a thing.

A) ODB pinned Tara at 6:55. Taped for Xplosion. (Did you know Xplosion was still a thing? I didn’t.) Both were over and worked the crowd great. Big “ODB” chants, and she acknowledged with her signature smacking-of-the-boobs to honor the crowd. You know, it’s kind of like the new version of Kamala’s stomach-patting, except it’s awesome. ODB hit the Bronco Muncher at one point. Seriously, that’s what it’s called. I just looked it up. Tara took over, but missed the shimmy-shimmy-shake moonsault. ODB won with the Bam. Good opener that pumped up the crowd well. I wish they’d been given more time.

Christy Hemme came out for Impact. The poor girl was cold. Taz came out via the entrance ramp, as opposed to the Aces & Eights through-the-crowd entrance.

7/4 Impact:

Hulk Hogan arrived to loud cheers. I started yelling lyrics at him from Randy Savage’s “Be A Man” song, but nobody cared. Hogan brought out Austin Aries to again scold him for his skullduggery in stealing the X Division Title the previous week. They again established the gimmick that the XD belt could be cashed in for a TNA World Title match at the special “Destination X” Impact, which is scheduled to be taped in Louisville, KY to air on 7/18 from what I understand. Hogan told Aries that he may not get the chance to cash in because he’s defending in tonight’s main event; a three-way XD Title match against Sabin and the man he screwed last week. Here’s where things get strange. Hogan said that TJ Perkins was still under the mask, but he was not Suicide any more. Hogan decreed that from now on, TJ Perkins will be known as “Manic.” TJ came out in the same mask and the same costume, except now the word “Suicide” was gone. None of this made any sense to me since Hogan brought out the guy without his mask and revealed his identity to the world last week.
1) A.J. Styles beat Kazarian (w/ Christopher Daniels) by submission at 4:01 in a match that was probably for the Bound For Glory Series (more on that later). The Bad Influence came out dressed as famous Las Vegas entertainers Sigfried & Roy. They had sequin jackets and funny wigs. Daniels was even carrying a stuffed tiger. Styles came out to his new entrance music that is about as exciting and adrenaline-pumping as a moving walkway at the airport. Styles immediately knocked Kazarian’s wig off his head to start the match. Daniels retained his wig at ringside. A fan shouted “Nice hair” at Daniels, to which Daniels spun around and fired back “Not as nice as your mother’s mustache!” At ringside, Daniels worked just as hard as the guys in the ring. Fans near me chanted “Let’s go A.J.” to which I shouted back “CENA SUCKS!” They popped. Around the ringside area, fans started yelling at other fans to sit down. Not sure if it was a TNA fail or Orleans Arena staff fail, but that was a problem all night. That’s the main reason there won’t be much blow-by-blow reporting tonight. I couldn’t see much. ‘Sides, it’s all going to be on TV anyway. Also Xplosion. Which is still a thing, I guess. Anyway, Styles slapped on the calf killer and Kazarian tapped. Very good match, though way too short. The Bad Influence is awesome as a live act.

JB started shilling that the loudest fans would be given passes to go backstage and/or hang out at a VIP party afterward. Fans screamed accordingly.

Mickie James came out with a ladder to promo a #1 contender ladder match between Gail Kim and Taryn Terrell for the 7/11 show. Mickie is great as the condescending arrogant heel. Mickie said it didn’t matter who won because she would beat either one of them.

Backstage Gut Check segment. Ryan Howe’s Gut Check will be in the ring later tonight. Alas, “Big O” Adam Ohriner is eliminated on the spot, gone before we could even finish reading whatever the hell he has tattooed on his pec.

2) Hernandez (w/ Chavo Guerrero Jr.) pinned Jay Bradley at 3:11 in a match that was probably part of the BFGS (more on that later). Both guys played their roles well, but didn’t have enough time for much. Chavo tripped Bradley to give Hernandez the win.

A&8 came out for their standard “Sons Of Mediocrity” biker gang promo. Bully Ray threatened to take out Aries tonight and thus, prevent him from cashing in his title shot.

During a break, “Miserlou” played as JB again tried to Pied-Piper fans with the promise of being brought backstage “right now.” I liked the ECW montage nostalgia, but I did wonder why a wrestling company doing a television show would specifically want to earmark the fans that cheered the loudest and REMOVE THEM FROM THE ARENA. Didn’t think this one through, didja Dixie?

3) TNA Tag Team Champions GunStorm (Gunner & James Storm) beat The Bro Mans (Robbie E & Jesse Godderz, w/ Tara) at 3:10. They didn’t announce it as title or non-title, they didn’t have the referee hold up the belts, and they didn’t announce GunStorm as “winners and still champions,” so I’m assuming it’s a non-title match. Makes me wonder why go to the effort of making a new team if you’re just going to job them out in a quickie for their first match. The Bro Mans have a great logo for the tron with two fists bumping together. I already want that t-shirt. Oh, and I know the champs aren’t officially called “GunStorm.” I think it sounds cool. Also, they never officially said they WEREN’T called GunStorm either, so there. My report, my abbreviations. The Bro Mans worked the heel comedy bit well and I hope they keep them together. Storm worked the crowd well as a babyface, and Gunner botched the finish so bad, he literally had to do it over from scratch. He’s not earning a better t-shirt for himself anytime soon with that kind of performance.

The Main Event Mafia (Sting & Kurt Angle) came out and introduced their new third member, Samoa Joe. I have to say, Joe rocked the suit and still came off as a total badass. No sooner had we taken in the sight of Joe’s popped collar than the MEM introduced their new fourth member, Magnus. I know they said that MEM membership was exclusive to former TNA World Champions. They say a lot of things. Sting vowed that the MEM would negate any interference from A&8 in the main event so the best man could win. That giant vein on the right side of Kurt Angle’s head looks bigger in person.

4) Jeff Hardy beat Joseph Park by disqualification at 8:01 in a match that was definitely part of the BFGS. Now about that. They didn’t announce which matches were for the BFGS, but during this match I noticed that the BFGS logo was on the tron. Between watching the matches in the ring, taking notes, and texting this one chick I’m trying to nail, I didn’t think to look at the tron for the previous two matches. I assume they were part of BFGS as well, but I can’t swear to that just yet. We’ll find out on Thursday. My bad, folks. Anyway, this was a good match except for Hardy doing an AWFUL twist-of-fate where Park’s chin was in a different zip code from Hardy’s arm on the impact, followed by an EQUALLY AWFUL whisper-in-the-wind that missed by a mile. At this point, I should mention that comedy abounded all night as a couple fans in suits holding replica belts and a “CWF Hollywood” sign were entertaining as hell. Fans chanted “Let’s go Hardy” so the CWF guys chanted back “Let’s go Fat Guy!” Park eventually did the bloody mouth thing, and worked the crowd masterfully so that they popped big when he Abyss’ed up and did the crossed-arms pose. Jobyss then grabbed the referee and planted him with a SWEET black hole slam. Another ref ran down and called for the DQ. Hardy just stood there selling that he was confused. I guess he doesn’t watch Impact. He probably doesn’t even know that Xplosion is still a thing. Naturally, the bell snapped Park out of his trance and he wondered what happened to the unconscious ref. The Joseph Park character is brilliant. The guy’s facial expressions are right up there with William Regal and The Rock.

Live Gut Check segment. Al Snow smiled warmly at the “Head” chants fans bestowed upon him. I’ve always been a huge mark for the Snowman, so that made me happy. Ryan Howe came out carrying his guitar, but didn’t play it. Fans HATED Howe as a pretty boy rock star and booed the holy hell out of him. He was the most hated heel all night and I’m not even slightly kidding. Snow talked first, saying that he has watched Howe’s improvement over time and he was the reason Howe was invited to Gut Check. That didn’t win Al any points with the ferocious anti-Howe mob. But then Al won the crowd back over by voting “no” with a heavy heart. JB gave Howe thirty seconds to “kick out” and in twenty-six years of going to live wrestling shows, I have never heard fans louder or more united in their booing. Nevertheless, Howe remained on point in his plea to the judges. I couldn’t hear a word he said over the booing, but he did stay focused. Next was Danny Davis’ turn. Watching fans react to Danny Davis is fascinating. Many of them really think he’s Dusty Rhodes until he’s introduced or he talks. Then fans feel like he screwed them by not being Dusty Rhodes, so they boo poor Danny, who did nothing wrong aside from not being Dusty Rhodes. Danny didn’t get booed as loudly as they booed Ryan Howe, but his own heat was still significant. Davis hung the proverbial lantern on this, telling Howe that the crowd “was booing the hell out of him” but he stayed on point, so that changed Davis’ vote to a “yes.” The crowd did not like that non-Dusty-Rhodes-motherf**ker one iota for voting yes. With the votes split, all the pressure was on Bruce Prichard. Fans booed and chanted “No!” There was plenty of nervous tension that Bruce would say the wrong thing and thus be responsible for modern society going down in flames. Bruce did his usual “You’re great, but…” speech and finally voted “No.” The place ERUPTED in the loudest pop all night. Ryan Howe took his guitar and went home. Taz got on the live mic and took a swipe at Snow’s “thrift shop” jacket. (It WAS pretty hideous.) Howe had so much heat and this is going to come off so great on television, they pretty much HAVE to bring him back as a heel now. It worked for The Honky Tonk Man.

A&8 walked to ringside for the main event.

5) Chris Sabin won a three-way over Austin Aries and Manic to regain the X Division Title at 14:37. Very good match. Brief “Super Dragon” chant from a few fans over yonder in the opening minutes. Turning point of the match came when Manic dove onto A&8 at ringside, but DOC caught him and gave him a SICK powerbomb on the floor, causing a very loud “THUMP” that actually made fans cringe. They essentially halted the match (possibly for a commercial break) while medics stretchered Manic to the back. Even Val and JB were selling it as a shoot, and fans were genuinely afraid that Manic was legit injured. I sure hope it was a work for the guy’s sake and everyone around the scene was just doing an awesome job of selling. I honestly couldn’t tell, which means if it was a work, it worked. At this point, the MEM came out. Remember how they said they were going to prevent A&8 from interfering? Remember how I said that they have said a lot of things? Well, yeah. The match continued as Aries vs. Sabin one-on-one and they put on a clinic for what time they had. Chants of “This is awesome” and “TNA” rang out. Aries kicked out of cradle shock. They wound up on the ropes and Sabin outmaneuvered Aries into a second cradle shock off the second rope for the pin. Big crowd pop. The show ended with Bully yelling at Sabin from ringside.

JB told us that Impact had been on the road for a few weeks now and Las Vegas was the best-looking, best-sounding crowd they’ve ever had. So if you happen to be in a crowd and JB says something other than that, you’ll know that JEREMY BORASH IS A DAMN DIRTY DOGF**KING LIAR because he already crowned Las Vegas as the best crowd forevermore.

JB announced that since we’re in Las Vegas, the next Impact would have three Joker’s Wild randomly-drawn tag team matches, with the winners advancing to a six-man Gauntlet as the main event. The winner of the Gauntlet would win a big 25 points in the BFGS. Well, at least he told me this time.

7/11 Impact (And you’re going to want to DVR this one)

1) A.J. Styles & Samoa Joe beat Jeff Hardy & Joseph Park at 4:48 in a Joker’s Wild tag match to advance to the Gauntlet. Upon hearing Joe drawn as one of his opponents, Park sold his unhappiness with an EPIC facial expression that had everyone who saw it laughing hysterically. Again, everyone shoehorned in as much greatness as they could into the limited time they were allotted. Despite their long history, Styles and Joe worked well as a team. Park tapped to Joe’s coquina clutch. Joe was way over with alternate chants of “Joe is gonna kill you” and – from my CWF friends of course – “Joe is gonna eat you.”

2) Magnus & Mr. Anderson beat Hernandez & Jay Bradley at 3:55 in a Joker’s Wild tag match to advance to the Gauntlet. As starcrossed partners from opposing factions, Magnus and Anderson didn’t get along. Anderson kept short-arming him and wouldn’t tag in so Magnus wrestled solo but won with a schoolboy anyway.

A&8 came out for another promo. You know, Steve Austin is one of the greatest performers ever and his contributions to the business are immeasurable. I hope he has a very long and prosperous life full of friends, family and happiness. Then I hope a bunch of drunk idiots crash his funeral and yell “WHAT?” every time someone tries to say something. Bully Ray called out the Main Event Mafia as “FIVE guys in cheap suits” so the backstage stuff will establish that tonight the MEM introduce their newest, fifth member. Bully acknowledged that the MEM challenged them to a fight “next week in Louisville” but they declined.

During the break, JB brought fans up to speed by announcing that the MEM would introduce their fifth member tonight, and the newest member “Has never before competed in a TNA ring.” That actually did not assuage my fear that it would turn out to be Kevin Nash.

3) Kazarian & Bobby Roode beat Christopher Daniels & Austin Aries at 6:20 in a Joker’s Wild tag match to advance to the Gauntlet. Great match. Of course, the story was everybody having to fight their regular tag team partner. Daniels set up Roode for the BME, but Aries impatiently tagged himself in, causing Daniels to throw a fit. Daniels protected Kazarian at first by tagging himself in when Aries was in control. But when Kazarian later hit a MAGNIFICENT slingshot DDT on Aries, Daniels broke up the pin. Daniels and Kazarian argued, then moments later, Kazarian small-packaged Daniels for the pin. Kazarian and Daniels argued and teased a split, but Daniels relented and raised Kazarian’s hand. If you haven’t seen Christopher Daniels live, you might as well go back in time and abort yourself, for you haven’t really lived.

Mickie James’ music started, then stopped abruptly. Val started cheerleading the crowd for a minute, and Mickie’s music played again, but she never came back out. Not sure if this was a screw up or if it will be explained on TV.

4) Gail Kim beat Taryn Terrell in a ladder match to become #1 contender to the Knockouts Title at 11:36. Excellent match, billed as the first-ever Knockouts ladder match. You can’t really compare it to their last-Knockout-standing match from Slammiversary because they were so different, but in a very good way. Early on, one of Taryn’s hair extensions fell off her head. I can only assume that’s her version of Jerry Lawler pulling the strap down. Another hair extension defected, which referee ODB put in her pocket. The thing hung halfway out of ODB’s pocket throughout the match, which amused me. Gail went for the figure-four-around-the-post, but Taryn kicked her off. Gail made a “THUD” just as loud as Manic, but she was up in time to thwart Taryn’s climb, so not only is Gail Kim the greatest woman wrestler in North American history, she’s also tougher than a guy with a skull mask. Many great, innovative spots, including Gail hooking the figure-four on Taryn THROUGH THE LADDER and Taryn not selling it a minute later (which was the only negative to the match). The first ladder remained standing throughout the match (which might be a first), and a second ladder was added as a platform between the first ladder and the ropes. At one point when both women were down, fans loudly chanted “ODB,” as she was still over from the first match. ODB even slyly looked up at the contract as if she was contemplating making a grab for it herself. ODB is a phenomenal performer who can interact with a crowd perfectly. They did a nice shove-off-the-attempted-cutter spot. Taryn climbed and was about to snag the contract, but she saw Gail was headed for her, so she hit a beautiful flying bodypress off the ladder. Taryn grabbed Gail in a move I called a “half-naked choke.” Fans chanted “This is awesome” and “TNA” for the match. Clever finish saw Gail grab Taryn’s hair and tie it to the second rope in a knot. Gail climbed quickly and retrieved the contract for the win. Massive pop for the match. Taryn had accidentally untangled herself too quickly, but still sold enough so that Gail’s win looked good. Just like how Shawn Michaels accidentally untangled his leg at WrestleMania 10, then recovered by trapping his own arm! Fans even gave Taryn a standing ovation as ODB helped her to the back (except for one rude guy in a wheelchair). Seriously, this was spectacular. I can’t say enough about Gail and Taryn. They’re having the feud of the year and carving out some great history not just for women’s wrestling, but wrestling in general. A must-see PPV-quality match.

5) Magnus pinned Roode to win the six-man Gauntlet at 15:02, earning him 25 points in the BFGS. Decent match, but nothing could follow Gail vs. Taryn. Styles and Magnus were out first, followed by Kazarian, then Joe. Kazarian was the first one eliminated at 5:22. That briefly left it two-on-one with the MEM guys against Styles. Questionable booking to have two guys from a babyface faction double-team a tweener. It didn’t last long enough to be really stupid, though. They had the two-minute clock on the tron so fans could do the Dick Clark countdown, but suspiciously the clock vanished after Joe came out, then reappeared with 14 seconds before the next entrant (Anderson). The timing probably got a little screwed up, warranting a fix. Roode was the final entrant, which is usually Gauntlet/Royal Rumble code for “this is the guy who the winner will defeat to win.” At one point, Styles saved Anderson from elimination. I’m guessing the commentary plays up the ambiguity, as Taz suggests Styles was helping A&8, while Tenay claims Styles was just acting his own best interests to prevent another two-on-one. Joe was supposed to clothesline Anderson over the top rope to the apron so they could tease an elimination, but Anderson botched it, so they went to another side of the ring and got it right the second time. Styles was eliminated at 10:00. The emo kid always gets bullied. Joe eliminated both himself and Anderson with a Cactus clothesline at 10:59. They might sell that Joe sacrificed himself to take out the lone member of A&8 but I tend to overthink these things. They’ll probably just awkwardly plug Bellator. That left Magnus and Roode in the finals. Very good back-and-forth from two guys who really know their stuff. Roode slapped on a Crippler crossface, which was just uncomfortable to watch, even six years after the Benoit tragedy. Screw the piledriver, the industry ought to ban THAT move. Finish saw Roode catch a reverse rollup, but Magnus hooked Roode’s shoulders with his feet and rolled them into the pin. Again, nice enough match, but Gail and Taryn had already stolen the show and nobody was going to top them. So Magnus won 25 points in the BFGS which may or may not turn out to possibly mean something as the series unfolds maybe. At the very least, a big win like this makes it look like Sting and Angle chose wisely when they picked Magnus for the MEM.

During the Gauntlet, some drunk guys were harassing Val, so JB came to her defense and told them to knock it off. In all seriousness, it was very cool to see. Well done, JB.

The show’s not over yet, but they slipped in another Xplosion match before the last angle.

B) Chavo Guerrero Jr. cleanly pinned Las Vegas’ Own Kenny King at 7:29. There were more signs for King than any other wrestler all night, as fans remembered him from his FSW days. HUGE pop for King’s entrance, and Chavo got a nice pop himself. Fans loved everything King did and cheered/chanted accordingly. Chavo hit the three amigos, earning a respectful chant of “Eddie.” Even after all the years and various angles, you can tell Chavo is genuinely pleased that the fans fondly remember his uncle. Anyway, Chavo hit the frog splash and pinned King clean. Fans were shocked and angry. Not “Aw, darn, our guy lost” angry, but rather “Are you f**king kidding me??” angry. It was like someone let the air out of the entire room. People ENJOYED booing Howe, but this just pissed them off. So not only will the one TNA wrestler billed from Las Vegas not be on either Impact from Las Vegas, he did a clean job on an internet show that most people don’t even know is still a thing. I can only assume King is seriously in the doghouse for some reason considering he lost the XD Title twice (he was the one pinned by Ariescide last Thursday), now this. The match itself was good, but the finish was the equivalent of recognizing one of your parents in a porno. (Speaking of which, no Brooke Hogan appearance all night, just in case anyone was wondering.)

Final segment for Impact. Hogan came out to loud cheers again. Hogan acknowledged the fans’ ovation by saying “I might just slam a giant tonight.” I yelled “BROOKE?” which popped those around me. Hogan brought out Sabin and put him over for regaining the XD Title. Hogan again explained the cash-in option (which they called “Option C” instead of “Option X” for some reason). Sabin was about to cash in the XD Title, but A&8 interrupted. Bully entered the ring while the others stood at ringside. Bully did his standard great heel promo warning Sabin not to cash in. Sabin came back with the best promo of his career mocking Bully’s “Do you know who I am?” Sabin said clearly Bully forgot who he was talking to. Sabin pointed out that he pinned Bully in Team 3D’s retirement match, and that he was “the only one to ever kick out of the 3D finish.” (Both references to Team 3D vs. Motor City Machine Guns from Turning Point 2010.) Fans did the “OH SNAP” pop and completely got behind Sabin. Bully warned Sabin one last time not to cash in, but Sabin stared Bully down and dramatically handed the XD belt to Hogan, officially cashing in his title shot for Destination X. Big pop for a very effective angle. This is going to come off great on TV. The Mens’ Wearhouse Mafia showed up one last time and Sting promised that the Bully-Sabin match would be “one-on-one” as the MEM would keep A&8 in check. That same promise didn’t work out so great for Manic tonight, but what the hell, it still sounds good. Sting then introduced their “heavy hitter,” the newest MEMber: Rampage Jackson. Rampage wasn’t wearing a suit, just his normal street clothes and normal street big-a** chain. Bully sold the surprise like a boss. Hogan and Sabin smirked. Tenay was screaming his head off at ringside as a producer counted him down to zero. End of show.

After Impact ended, all the wrestlers cleared out except for Hogan, Sabin, and Bully, who remained in the ring. Kind of weird that the biker gang would abandon their leader, even for a dark angle. Anyway, Bully vowed to end Hogan here and now. Hogan punched Bully. Bully sold by staggering into an enziguri from Sabin. Bully bailed out, Hogan and Sabin left to cheers, and JB thanked his favorite best-looking crowd, vowing that Impact would return to Las Vegas.

Upon leaving the arena, Jimmy Jay was at the merchandise stand, where they were selling the “Brown Bag” deal for $40. It’s only $25 online. Schmucks! I high-fived Jimmy Jay to cross it off my bucket list and called it a night.

Overall good show. Gail vs. Taryn was one of the best live matches I’ve ever seen. Kazarian & Roode vs. Daniels & Aries was a strong second-best-of-the-night. Every match but the XD three-way, the Knockouts, and the Gauntlet was way too rushed. Though on the plus side, they kept things moving well and it sure didn’t FEEL like we were sitting through two Impact tapings, plus Xplosion. Which apparently is still a thing. I once sat through a Superstars/Prime Time/Coliseum Video taping at the Thomas & Mack Center two days after WrestleMania 7 and the thing dragged for at least five hours. And it felt like ten. That said, it was somewhat disappointing that the heavily-advertised Sting, Kurt Angle, Bully Ray, and Mickie James all appeared, but didn’t wrestle. Still though, we definitely got our money’s worth and tonight was a big win for the company, the fans, and anyone not named Kenny King.

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