Saturday, March 11, 2017

IMPACT (Mar. 11th, 2017): The New Impact Wrestling... Oh Dear...

It's a day late but that's only because I saw it a day late and since I've seen it and since this is supposed to be a new day yes it is and since I don't know what a comma is apparently I'm going to share my thoughts on the first episode of the brand spanking new IMPACT WRESTLING being run by all the old TNA guys.

I guess that's good enough for TNA standards, right?

Anyway, to provide context, this is the first episode of Impact Wrestling under the direction of the new creative team of Jeff Jarrett, Scott D'Amore, Bruce Prichard, Dutch Mantell, and a couple other guys... essentially some of the folks who were around during the TNA heyday years, whatever that ends up meaning, I guess. The company had been acquired by the Anthem Sports group (who also owns the Fight Network up here in Canada) a while ago and have before this point produced lame bird episodes from what's left of the old regime. And since this is a new era or something, this seems like the perfect jumping on point for someone looking to get into this would-be alternative to the WWE circus.

Some more context to provide; this is the first episode of Impact Wrestling that I actually sat down and watch in its entirety in years. Yes, despite the "brilliance" of Broken Fatt, Brother New Coke, and Not So Final Deletions, I haven't had the urge or desire to catch up on anything going on with the TNA promotion beyond reports I've read online. If anything, the story of the administrative in-fighting and financial woes of the company were more compelling than anything that took place in the hexagonal circle.

With Dixie Carter and Billy Corgan turfed in some form or fashion and most of the major stars having left, I figured it'd be interesting to see how Jarrett and company fare on their first effort in a new chapter of Impact Wrestling. So I gave the first episode a go and well, you could read my full thoughts after the break. However, given the choice of image used for the header of this post, you could probably surmise what I thought of this first episode.

Grab a drink, kids. This is going to be a long one.

We open with a video package showcasing the history of the company, from its early days in Nashville when they were doing weekly pay-per-view shows for ten bucks a pop to its prime years with some top talent who were just there for a payday to its less than stellar years with crap storylines and Hardy hard-ons. It's nice to see this video acknowledge some of its homegrown talent who have gone on to become big stars in the business. Unfortunately, those homegrown talents are currently big stars in other wrestling companies instead of this one. Oops.

There's a new opening video featuring an owl. I guess since people were pissed with the blue bird logo and the Anthem people had to change it into something less shit, they needed to stuff a bird in there somewhere. It's a nice looking owl who needs a name and presumably a good home because she deserves better than this. And I say this regardless of whether this episode was good or not.

The show proper begins with two guys I've never seen before brawling in the ring. Well, that's good. It's nice to see a wrestling show with two guys fighting each other, even if it's in the crowd and it's not much of a fight. Also, despite being name-dropped (one is Davey Richards and the other is Eddie Edwards, who is a former TNA World champion apparently), I have no clue who any of these guys are and the show makes no real effort in introducing me to these players so that I'd have a reason to care about these. Maybe a showcase of their stuff... would be nice for a show that is supposed to be a relaunching and a good starting point for potential new viewers to catch up on.

And then we have Josh Matthews bitching about there being a third chair and Jeremy Borash cutting a promo about him joining the announce team of Josh and Pope and also talking about how people don't like Josh and you already lost me.

Oh, I like that Josh quipped "This isn't Smackdown where they have 40 announcers on the table" because have four-man commentary teams on Smackdown is stupid. What's also stupid is reminding me of a wrestling show I should be watching because the main play-by-play guy on that show isn't total shit. Hell, I'll take drab David Otunga over Josh Matthews any day of the week. I also liked that JB name-dropped Mike Tenay, former voice of TNA who's doing betting podcasts at the moment. If only we could bring back the Professor and have him whack Josh with a brick... it could happen.

So we're doing this again, aren't we? Not enough five, ten minutes in and we're already going into the WWE bin of stupid ideas by rehashing the voice of the company being a dick. And making it even worse, this "feud" between Josh and JB will be playing out throughout the night and dominate, taking away from what's going on in the show. Hey, good for JB that he's getting a chance to do commentary on the main show - I always thought he was pretty decent the few times I've heard him and if somehow, this means Josh gets turfed and Borash takes over the main duties, then I'm all for it because the son of a bitch deserves it for being so loyal and so devoted to a company that hardly deserves it.

But this whole thing is just so utterly stupid and outright retarded when WWE did years ago with Michael Cole. The only difference between this and that is that Cole, as annoying as he was in that role, pulled off the part convincingly and had his moments in the sun. Track down episodes of the original NXT show to see Cole relish in this role. Josh Matthews, on the other hand... fuck me, I'm going about this long, I know... believe me, it's not over by a long shot.

One thing that I noticed from this promo was that Borash made mention to a "couple of idiots who no longer work here" in reference to the former management of TNA and making reference to WWE. This is worth noting because it's something of another common theme throughout the night as it relates to introducing the "new" management of the show; taking pot shots at the old management, making references and taking pot shots at WWE, and name-dropping guys not part of the company. The funny thing is that this is something they used to do in the old days of TNA as well... and it was pretty pathetic back then too.

And then Cody Rhodes shows up to end this "fascinating" segment... with a title I'm not familiar with. Apparently, it's a Global Force Wrestling title... because apparently, that's still a thing. I kinda thought Global Force was doing gold deals, but I haven't been caught up.

Cody wants a match with Moose. This had me excited for a bit until I realize that Moose is in reference to a wrestler here and not an actual moose, which would've been outside the box and dangerously stupid, but it's something different, I guess. In any case, Moose is in Japan at the time of taping... which is stupid because you could've done this at any time when Moose was around, but... whatever.

So fifteen minutes and one commercial break later, we have our first match of the night; a tag-team contest between two tag-teams that I am not familiar with and that JB refers to as "new faces." Unfortunately, this brings up two other common ailments throughout this show; the matches are short and the commentary is more about Josh being a fuckwad than trying to sell the match in the ring. That last part is important because a new viewer watching this for the first time, as well as viewers such as myself who hasn't touched an episode of Impact in YEARS, would have no clue as to who any of these guys are. It's just "Here's a match between new faces and JB and Josh bicker."

The matches themselves don't last long, either. There's only four of them on this entire show and outside of the main event, they last about three to five minutes... more or less. For a first impression, this is pretty bad because it's not enough time to tell a story or showcase what these guys are all about. Again, for first time viewers - and I would consider myself as such in this case - I have no clue as to who any of these wrestlers are nor do I have any reason to care about any of them. And the one area that could be telling me about these guys isn't doing their fucking job, but instead bickering among themselves.

On the bright side, the tag-team who won, Reno Scum, cut a halfway decent interview that doesn't say much, but they tried, I suppose. One has a mohawk and they both have that Christian Bale Batman grunting sounding voice... that's all I got out of it. It's something, at least.

They show footage of some wedding that took place on a prior episode and it goes horribly wrong because of course it fucking does. And then they say that Maria had a breakdown and she's gone for good. I guess they needed a way to explain why she's no longer with the company and I will give them credit for that much, at least.

There's a match between four guys I don't know and despite some nuggets of information and some adequate play by play, most of the commentary is about that wedding and more of Jeremy and Josh bickering. The match is also fairly short and I still don't know who any of these guys are beyond a couple nuggets here and there. They tried, but the bad commentary and short match times ruins it.

At this point, I am wondering why I'm still even watching this. However, I press on.

Next up, we have a women's match between some woman with funny hair (Sienna) and Paul Ellering's daughter, Raechel. JB asks Josh if he's heard of the Road Warriors, to which Josh replies, "The movie?" Somewhere along the way, Josh got stupider, which explains his inane tweets over the years. Josh then accuses JB of having the promo skills of Lance Storm, once again reminding me of someone I'd much rather be listening to at the moment than this Schitt’s Creek.

(By the way, do check out his podcast with Cyrus. It's actually entertaining and not boring.)

Again, despite the ladies doing the best they could, the match is short, does nothing for me, and is overshadowed by the bickering announcers.

Is Vince Russo writing this show? This has his fingerprints over it.

(No... no, he is not.)

Oh... well, that's something.

Then Bruce Prichard shows up, talks about how Impact used to be great, and then declares that TNA is dead... dude, people have been declaring TNA dead for years. TNA just didn't know it yet, but I digress. Prichard then name drops guys like Hogan, Austin, Rock, and Cena before bringing out reigning world champion Bobby Lashley. Because when I think top-tier global superstar icon and national treasure along the likes of those names mentioned, I think Black Lesnar.

And then new signee Alberto Del Rio El Patron Del Paige makes his debut and he gets a title match by virtue of being a former WWE guy that they just signed. Didn't Borash give the "couple of idiots who no longer work here" shit for signing Josh because he was a former WWE guy a short while ago? I swear WWE gets more mentions than Impact Wrestling ON THIS RELAUNCH OF IMPACT WRESTLING!

The more things change... you know the rest.

There's a backstage interview with Eddie Edwards, where he ends up getting slapped by Angelina Love, longtime TNA Impact Knockout woman person and the only other person I can recognize. I don't know what else to tell you, folks.

Then Dutch Mantell shows up, still in his Zeb Colter get-up. He almost calls himself that before stopping himself then says that his real name is Dutch. (Funny; I thought your real name was Wayne, but that's probably an alternate universe too.) He then talks about his past, namedrops some stars no longer with the company, talks about the lack of leadership, vision, and respect from the old management, and then talks about trying to make Impact great or something to that extent. I like listening to Dutch talk; he sounds like an intelligent man, so when he says he wants to make the show great, I almost buy into it... and then Josh Matthews opens his mouth and the whole thing craters deeper than it already has... and that makes me irritated.

There's a clip where the Hardys are wrestling a kangaroo and the kangaroo is just a fucking horrible wrestler who doesn't sell anything. That kangaroo will never be a big star so long as he doesn't sell or something. So the Hardyz embark on something else and one quick cut later, we have the Decay team with the tag titles declaring that the Hardys have been deleted. From my understanding, the Hardys were the TNA Tag Champs and they left the company without ever dropping the belts. So instead of having them lose in a match quickly or even strip them of the titles, they do this thing where they get deleted and Decay are now the champions. It's not the greatest move ever, but at least it's original.

You know what they need to delete next? Josh Matthews. For fuck's sake, the commentary on this show is outright horrible because of this fucking idiot. Is it any wonder why Tim White was always trying to end it all whenever Josh was around. It's sad because Jeremy Borash is usually fine in play-by-play (I would say somewhat better than when he did those WWA shows a decade or so ago - sorry, that's my best point of reference) and Pope ain't too shabby, either. But then you have this other fuckwad who... GAH!

Even heel Michael Cole during the 2010-2012 run was tolerable compared to this fuckwad.

Jeremy Borash plugs the Slammiversary PPV taking place in July. Looking forward to checking that out on the WWE Network... oh wait.

Main event is Bobby Lashley defending the World title against Alberto El Kabong and this is the longest match at close to seventeen minutes. It's also perhaps the least interesting match on the card, since Alberto as a hero seems wrong and Lashley is just boring. The match is really nothing special and the only noteworthy things were a couple ref bumps and Alberto whacking Lashley with the belt for the win and the title. The two refs then bicker and they're teasing the possibility of the decision being overturned and the title returning to Lashley... though the show ends before such a decision is made.

First show of a new era and they're already teasing a Dusty Finish. Where's that Cornette face?

So, that's the new Impact Wrestling, where the new management takes pot shots at the old management for producing a terrible wrestling product and promises to make Impact Wrestling great again... by producing a terrible wrestling product. Oh, and Josh Matthews. Can't forget him no matter how hard I try.

Look, just so that I'm not completely negative, here are a couple points I liked about the show.

#1 - The opening package was a nice little historical overview. Mind you, watching that only serves to remind me of all the times this company had the tools to be a viable alternate and they fucked that up royally, but it's a gesture and a solid celebration of this company's history.

#2 - This show was only two hours long. That means something in this business.

And those are all the positives I have.

This was supposed to be a relaunch and a rebirth for Impact Wrestling. It was supposed to try and get the people who gave up on TNA back on board and maybe coax a few new viewers while we're at it. Hell, I so desperately wanted to give this show another shot and figured this would be the best time to do it. And what did we get?

#1 - We got dueling announcers who spend more time bickering among themselves than they do calling the action, which implies a lack of reason to care about the action in the ring. Because if the announcers don't care about the match or the participants, then why should I?

#2 - The constant callbacks to WWE. Jeremy Borash notes Josh Matthews being a former WWE guy having been fired by WWE then namedrops Jim Ross, a name most people these days associate with WWE. Bruce Prichard comes out and shills his podcast before namedropping legends associated with WWE rather than try to put Impact Wrestling over. Dutch Mantel reminding us of former TNA guys now in WWE. WWE this, WWE that. This is supposed to be a new era of Impact Wrestling where we shed away the TNA initials and start making this brand a viable entity... and we're spending more time putting over DOUBLE-YOU DOUBLE-YOU FUCKING-EEE than we are IMPACT FUCKING WRESTLING!! It's almost as though they're telling me to go watch WWE instead of their fucking Impact show. You tell me, folks!

#3 - "Hey, remember when this show used to be good? Remember all those times when Impact was a hot show and a nice alternative to WWE? Well, we stopped doing that and that drove the fans away. But we're going to make Impact great again! You'll see!" Of course, if the overall quality of THIS show is any indication, then I have to question what their definition of "great" really is.

#4 - "Hey, remember when we had guys like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Booby Roode here? Boy, those guys were awesome, but then they left TNA because TNA sucks." Also, you guys were bringing in former WWE guys and has-beens and giving them main event pushes while the likes of Styles, Joe, and other languished until they left the company to be big stars elsewhere. Now it's a new era and you're doing it all over again. Speaking of which...

#5 - Christian Cage debuting in 2005 was kind of a big deal. Kurt Angle debuting in 2006 proved to be a really big deal... and now we have Alberto Del Paige in 2017 and I should be excited... why, exactly? I'm being honest, here; why should I be excited about Del Rio El Patron making his debut in the Impact Zone or wherever the hell they're taping this from?

#6 - Hey, remember when wrestling mattered on Impact Wrestling? Yeah, neither did I. And neither did anyone else at TNA creative, as there were only four matches and a total of roughly 27 minutes worth of wrestling. And the longest match was the main event at roughly sixteen minutes, so do the math for the rest of it.

#7 - Hey, remember when the X-Division used to be this cool thing that TNA had where it wasn't about weight limits, but no limits? That was the division which had those awesome matches from guys like AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, and others. Now it's just a thing where we toss four guys in there and they bounce around all over the place. And no reason is given for me to care.

#8 - Two of these four matches featured the Impact debut of the tag team Reno Scum and Raechel Ellering and they only got a handful of minutes to ply their trade to the best of their ability. The shitty announcer feud taking focus away from the matches didn't help matters, either.

#9 - The main event was shit. Never mind the lack of excitement over a World title match between Booby Lashley and Alberto El Beevis; the match was slow, plodding, lacking any semblance of energy or anticipation. I've seen Giant Gonzales matches more exciting than this. On top of that, the classic cliche of TWO REF BUMPS and a BELT SHOT to give the new guy the title in a title match that the new guy got because he's a former WWE guy... and then you have the refs bicker and that might be teasing a Dusty Finish and...

So that was my first episode of Impact Wrestling in a good long while. And from the looks of things, it'll probably be my last... because I wanted to give this show a shot and I was rewarded with shit commentary from Josh Matthews. Now I know what Tim White feels like whenever Josh is around because I'm in the mood for a Bleach Cocktail right about now. Impact Wrestling tried to distance themselves from the TNA brand and what they delivered was another day in the office at TNA, doing the same stupid shit that they usually do.

I know that the majority of this musing has been a bit on the harsh side and there's bound to be the claim that if this were a WWE show, I'd be giving them a pass. I suppose there could be precedent for that, but here's the thing. These days, the only WWE programming I watch is the monthly or bi-weekly PPVs. I've stopped watching RAW for years and I only catch Smackdown or NXT every once in a while. And on occasion, I'll sample some of the wrestling shows airing on the Fight Network (I've got this one episode of the New Japan show on the PVR that I've yet to watch.) That's pretty much the extent of "new" wrestling viewing I'll get outside of the occasional DVD or BluRay pick-up.

Every time I've tried to watch TNA recently, there's usually something that turns me off instantly. Whether it's bad storytelling, lack of interesting wrestlers, lack of reason to care, or whatever the case may be, TNA has always done something that turned me off to the product. It got to the point where the only story that I enjoyed from the TNA camp was whether it was going to survive or not. That is not a positive sign for any wrestling promotion.

It's not like I have any vendetta towards the promotion. I used to watch them in the early years when they had weekly PPVs for ten dollars a pop. I actually picked up a couple of their PPVs, bought a bunch of their DVDS, I even bought their single video game on the lesser consoles because that's all I have. So make no mistake; I bought TNA merch. I've watch TNA shows. And there were times when I enjoyed the stuff they were putting out and I honestly thought this company had potential to be a viable alternative to the stagnant and complacent WWE product.

But then they squandered that potential and kept producing shitty product after shitty product. And every once in a while, whenever I would try to jump back on board, it seemed as though the product was getting worse and worse. It got to a point where TNA was essentially a lost cause; a fact that was obvious to all but the folks running the company as well as the folks who ended up buying the rotting corpse. Anthem thought they could right the wrongs of the previous owners and try to turn the Impact Wrestling brand into something great... and instead proceeded to do the same stupid shit the old management did that the new management were mocking the old for... or something.

I like watching wrestling. I don't watch as much as I used to, but I still like watching wrestling as it still somewhat appeals to me, even when it's not the best it can be. But that doesn't mean I'm going to watch any wrestling show for the sake of watching wrestling, especially if it's a product that I don't care for and have even grown to despise as the show went on. That was certainly the case here and yet as much as I just wanted to stop wasting my time, I kept going. I gave them one episode to get me excited about the brand. I gave them one WHOLE episode without skipping ahead and without stopping. I gave them THAT much and they gave me no reason to give a shit. And so I won't.

As to not end this diatribe on a sour note, I will go ahead and wish the folks at that company nothing but the best and maybe somewhere down the line, I might give these folks another look... but that won't be any time soon. I sure as hell won't be watching next week.

I guess it's back to Smackdown for me.

Bye Felicia.

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