Friday, March 9, 2018

Impact Wrestling: Crossroads (March 8, 2018 Episode)

Yeah, I'll come up with a proper banner when I get home.

The last time I sat down to watch an episode of Impact Wrestling... let's just say it didn't go over well and the end result was one of the longer tirades I've written on a wrestling show.

For a fun recap, click here.

It's been a year since then and there's been yet another shake-up in management, a move to Toronto, and a massive reshuffling of the deck in terms of talent and personnel. And of course, the familiar claim to fame that Impact Wrestling survived another year. And while the product was once again under new management, I didn't bother to watch their first show last month because it wasn't a straight-up reboot or anything like that, but rather a slow shift. Things would change, but not outright and in a way that would feel natural rather than forced.

So I made the decision to bite the bullet and check out their Crossroads special; essentially an episode of Impact Wrestling with four major matches, including the first ever meeting between Impact World champion Austin Aries and Johnny Impact. I'll be doing a general musings of the show, but I will also bring up a couple points from my last Impact viewing experience and see how this compares to that earlier (and lesser) venture.

For what it's worth, I'm watching this off the Global Wrestling Network website, which shows the last few episodes of Impact for free. I'm on the fence as to whether I'd want to fork over another ten bucks for a monthly subscription, but on the other hand, there's a whole bunch of TNA shows that I'd very much want to check out and I've got some free time coming up, so it might be worth looking into in the future.

But back to Crossroads... right after the break, of course.

The show opens with reigning Impact World champion Austin Aries (who won the title on his first night back with the company - what's that saying about the more things change?) and Johnny Nitro Morrison Mundo Impact walking to the arena. Impact has an entourage carrying American Flags for some reason. After the opening package highlighting the main event, we have Josh Matthews and former X-Divison champion Sonjay Dutt standing behind a blue screen running the card.

So let's touch on the first point of contention I had with the previous "new start" and that is the commentary, which featured Josh Matthews playing an annoying little shit who did nothing but bicker with Jeremy Borash on commentary while completely avoiding the matches taking place.

One year later, Jeremy Borash would leave Impact Wrestling for NXT and your commentary team for Impact would be Josh Matthews and former TNA wrestler Sonjay Dutt. And while Josh was an annoying shit at times in the past (both in that one Impact episode and also on Twitter), I found him to be much more tolerable to the point of being a compliment to the matches rather than a detriment. He and Sonjay have good, natural chemistry and they're easy to listen. Their enthusiasm seems more natural and that helps get me into the matches a little more, especially if it's with folks I'm not familiar with.

And here's another thing I'll touch on real fast; the video packages highlighting each of the matches and getting us all up to speed. Showing the highlights, showing some of the interviews and promos, and just setting up the mood... a good video package does a good job of selling you on the matches even if you're watching a show for the first time and you've got several good video packages here. I'm almost excited to watch the show now.

Impact World Tag-Team Champions LAX (two guys named Santana and Ortiz paired up with Konnan) defeated Cult Of Lee (two guys named Trevor Lee and Caleb Konley) to retain the titles. Despite LAX being something of a fixture in the old TNA, the team defending the titles are two guys I'm not familiar with... that's going to be a recurring theme for tonight and something that might potentially hinder my overall enjoyment. On a whole, however, I thought this was a pretty hot opener to set the mood. Both teams gave it their all and seem to pull off a good show, though there's no way I can buy into any group headed by Konnan as a "face" team... especially if Konnan needs to trip a guy up to have his boys win... but whatever, it was a good start regardless.

And then we have a Bobby Lashley interview... apparently, he doesn't have a partner because of that one brutal baseball bat shot from the previous week's episode of Impact (they showed it in a later clip and fuck, that's brutal) A pretty standard promo, but Lashley is showing some semblance of a personality here and that's more than what I got out of him back when he was in WWE.

We then get a "Classic Moment Of The Week" featuring an old match between Christian Cage (yes, that Christian) and Monty Brown... hey, I remember Monty Brown.  The match is from an old TNA PPV, Destination X... and I've heard mention of a title match, which means it's probably a 2006 match because that's when Christian was NWA World champ. Unfortunately, there's no graphic to tell me when this took place because I would've liked to have seen the whole thing. (The match or the show; either way works.)

You know, they call this a Classic Moment, but they're showing ten minutes of this match. I wonder if this is a regular thing. But you know what? I can't complain about this; looks to be a good match, touches on the company history without being obnoxious about it, and it's a nice sell to their Global Network VOD service.

Grand champion Matt Sydal defeated X-Division Taiji Ishimori (a masked fellow) to win both championships. Nothing like a good title unification match to get rid of titles you don't need. You know what? I was really into this match; probably a little more than I was expecting. It was fast-paced, it went by quickly, both guys gave it their all... I imagine Matt Sydal winning both titles here means an eventual encounter with the World champion and I'm actually intrigued by this angle. On a whole, good match.

Allie defeated Knockouts' Champion Laurel Van (a.k.a. SWA graduate Chelsea Green) to win the title. I don't get the Laurel Van Ness thing... I get that she had a wedding go wrong and that's why she's a mess... but it's been a year since I last saw her and she's still a mess. Is this a thing that people are into? I don't know anything about Allie other than she's a former champ and I guess that's something. This wasn't such a bad match. My unfamiliarity with the product might have hampered my overall enjoyment and ability to get invested in the match, but putting that aside, as a wrestling match of sorts, it was alright. Shy of running nine minutes, this is probably the shortest match on the show, which is already blowing away the shortest match on the last show - about a couple minutes at most.

So Lashley (with very fashionable headband - no, really, that's a good look for him) is fighting off these two guys and then is joined by this mohawked big guy named Brian Cage. He and Lashley beat the other two guys, but won't shake hands. I need to get this out of the way; I need to go back and see more Lashley stuff in TNA because I'm actually digging his stuff here. I used to sour on him quite a bit during his initial WWE run and even on the last show, I wasn't the least bit impressed. That's obviously changed and if rumors are true that Lashley is WWE bound, then hopefully some of his personality and intensity will come along for the ride. I certainly won't be calling Black Lesnar anymore... after all, Lashley has a GOOD record in MMA.

Impact World Champion Austin Aries (and his shitload of belts... how many belts does he have right now) defeated Johnny Impact to retain the title. Here's a simple idea; take two really talented guys with distinct styles and personalities that gel nicely together and let them compete for the top prize in the game. That's all the story that's being told here (and for someone like me, that's more than enough because it saves me the trouble of being confused) and it's a story that was told exceptionally well. It was a great match, both guys brought their best, it felt like a contest, and I was actually interested in seeing this to the end. And when the match was over, it was a satisfying finish... and then Alberto El Rio Del Patron De Paige comes out and we tease a title match. Show over.

So let me get this out of the way; as a jumping in point for Impact Wrestling, this Crossroads episode is a good way to go about it and a strong sell on the promotion. You only have five matches, but unlike the previous time I tried jumping in, all five matches had considerably length to them, they were all title matches (or at least important enough to merit air time), and on top of that, you had some great action of differing styles and flavor complimented by a competent and energetic commentary team that, while nearing the annoying lingo of nerd talk, complimented the action rather than take away from it. That's a rare thing to have in wrestling shows, especially on the much larger stage.

A lot of the issues that I had with the previous show are seemingly all resolved here. Sure, Borash being gone had me uneasy at first, but I'm happy to say that Josh Matthews and Sonjay Dutt delivered their end of the bargain and made the show easier to tolerate. There's no authority figures taking up promo time making empty promises, there's only one reminiscing with a classic clip from the TNA years, and perhaps most importantly, they're not giving WWE the spotlight. The show was focused on hyping up the matches on the card and then the matches delivered in spades. As a one-off wrestling show, Impact Wrestling delivered the goods with Crossroads.

Now, all that having been said, is one good show enough for me to become a regular viewer? Probably not, as it simply boils down to time these days and when it comes to my wrestling fixes, I generally stick with the bigger shows these days. However, one good episode of Impact may convince me that it's worth following along the way and who knows? I might consider checking out their upcoming PPV event and giving that a go. Should be fun.

So yeah... good on you, Impact. You actually delivered the goods and I enjoyed what I saw. Keep it up and I might actually buy a PPV from you guys... or at the very least, subscribe to that Global Wrestling Network thing.

P.S. Does it come with gold bullions?

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