The +/- #’s: TNA Destination X

Chris Sabin captures the TNA World Heavyweight Title

In hockey, basketball, and other sports I’m sure I’m forgetting, individual players are held accountable for their team’s performance during their time in the game through the plus/minus statistic. If left wing Doug Smith is on the ice when his team scores a goal, he’s +1. If his line surrenders a goal later in the game, he’s +0. If poor Dougie is on the ice for a second opposing goal, he’s -1. This week’s Destination X review will attempt to score each segment as a hit (+1), a miss (-1), or a push (+0) in order to find an overall rating to the show.

Segment 1: Main Event Video Package

Positives: TNA gave Destination X a pay per view feel by starting with a video package that hyped the main event and introduced the principal characters. This helped push the idea that this was more than just another show, and fully connected the dots on why the Chris Sabin character is a worthy title contender. It would have been really nice if they had done something like this last week as well, rather than focusing so much on the Main Event Mafia.

Negatives: The deep-voiced voiceover narration felt a little dated, like something from a TNA pay per view circa 2007. The narrator threw out some really generic lines such as “Before you can stake your claim, one last obstacle looms.”

Segment Score: +1

Segment 2: Bully Ray Promo

Positives: The Xs and Os portion of this promo (when Ray talked about Sabin and the title) worked effectively to build anticipation for the main event. The crowd really helped out by emphatically chanting for Sabin and booing when Ray said he was going to beat him. Ray did a great job establishing that there was a clear heel and a clear babyface in this match, and that he was happy to be the bad guy. Imagine what a mess this would have been if TNA had gone with Ray-Aries…

The clinking of Rampage’s chain in the background brought a quiet legitimacy to Kurt Angle’s remarks on behalf of the Main Event Mafia. If TNA can find a way to play up Jackson’s toughness without exposing him as untrained in the ring, they actually have a chance to make money with him.

Also, an entire book could be written on the way Bully Ray says “Twittah.” It’s almost reminiscent of the way Superstar Billy Graham used to say “My Body” in that he’s made it such a part of his character that a promo feels incomplete when he doesn’t say it. 

Negatives: Involving Brooke Hogan took away from the pay per view feel of this show. She was an integral part of Ray’s heel turn, but she has absolutely nothing to do with the story of the night. The heat should have stayed firmly on the World Heavyweight Title match, and it felt like the Hogans bigfooted Chris Sabin big time.

It’s a small point, but it sounded really awful when Hulk Hogan used the word “rape” to describe how Bully Ray took advantage of TNA and the Hogan family. Wrestling would be better served locking that particular term away in a safety deposit box somewhere.

Segment Score: -1

Segment 3: Bobby Roode vs. Austin Aries

Aries-Roode

Positives: This was a wrestling match between two quality workers with a clean finish. If you can’t get behind that philosophically, you don’t like wrestling. 

The “all straight man” booth of Mike Tenay and Jeremy Borash felt refreshing during this match. Their straight-up call of the match and playful banter emphasized what a sandbag Taz has been to Tenay in his TNA career.

Negatives: This match was reminiscent of Jericho-RVD from this week’s Raw in that it felt like a collection of signature spots to pop the crowd rather than a match between well-defined characters. RVD and Jericho was face-face with minimal promo buildup; this was heel-heel with minimal promo buildup. Fans love to cheer Aries and his high-impact spots, but it’s really becoming a noticeable problem as Aries seemed even more heelish than Roode in this matchup.

Making Roode one of the goats of the BFG series is a terrible plan. He’s a former long-reigning champion and a “TNA original,” which makes him the perfect kind of wrestler to feature in the series. His character would have been better served excluded from the series and allowed to whine about being left out because of his credentials as the first series winner.

Segment Score: +0

Segment 4: Homicide vs. Petey Williams vs. Sonjay Dutt

Positives: This match started with a quick refresher on who each of these men was and what their legacies in the X Division were. TNA is officially old enough to start putting things into historical context, so it was good to see them do that, especially for any “Hogan-Era” fans who might not remember or know about the time when these wrestlers were featured.

While neither one of them is a complete package, Petey Williams and Sonjay Dutt could wrestle each other a hundred times, and every single one of those matches would be worth watching. Their speed and athleticism is what the X Division is (or was) all about.

Terry Taylor has said, “There’s only one pop that matters – the finish.” That principal was at play during this match, as after some good action, the crowd favorite won with his finisher.

Negatives: Homicide’s never been what you might call “a smooth worker,” and that was definitely evident in this match. A number of the spots involving him seemed clunky or sloppy. No wrestler makes every spot look perfect, but if you’re in a match with no real back-story, making the contest look good is paramount.

Segment Score: +1

Segment 5: Manik vs. Kenny King vs. Chavo Guerrero

Positives: Nobody was seriously hurt in this match, although Kenny King did seem to roll his ankle early on. Manik seemed to have a better connection with the crowd than he did in the final months of being Suicide.

It was interesting to hear Mike Tenay reference the WCW and WWE title reigns of Chavo Guerrero. Tenay did this frequently in the early years of TNA, but for whatever reason, be it advice from lawyers or corporate policy, he had shied away from doing it recently. As was noted earlier, wrestling works better when things are contextualized (as all things do), and this contrasted with the WWE’s long-standing “no other wrestling company does now or ever has existed” policy, so this felt like a good move.

Negatives: This match was what fans have come to expect from X Division three-way matches, but it suffered from following a match of the exact same format with much faster-paced action. Even the finishing sequence of this match, while featuring different wrestlers and spots, felt like a half-speed version of the final minute of the previous match.

This isn’t entirely connected to this particular match, but why is Suicide/Manik still wearing his mask? If his gimmick was “masked man of mystery,” didn’t that sort of die when he was, you know, unmasked on national television? Don Jardine had it right: put the mask on the line all you want, but if it’s a major part of your character, don’t take it off. (Note: Jardine wrestled unmasked in Madison Square Garden, but given the different climate of the era, those fans had no knowledge of the masked Spoiler character, so it was a totally different situation.)

Segment Score: -1

Segment 6: Main Event Mafia vs. Aces & Eights Promo War

Positives: The crowd seemed behind the Main Event Mafia, actually chanting “Mafia” rather loudly after their promo was over. This storyline will have the best chance to succeed if the Mafia become over babyfaces with the crowd behind them. If Aces & Eights continue to get “cool heel” cheers from vocal fans, this angle is worthless, so MEM being over is a big deal, and tonight seemed like a move in the right direction for them.

Negatives: Sting was, in his time, a great wrestler. Kurt Angle was, in his time, one of the all-time greats. However, neither of them was ever truly considered a great promo. So here’s the question: why are they doing so much of the talking for the Main Event Mafia? It’s true they have credibility as long-standing main eventers, but the mic would be better served in the hands of Magnus and Samoa Joe who are young and cool enough to make a meaningful connection with the crowd rather than just spewing tired, formulaic wrestling promos.

This segment was pretty weak, considered what was advertised. TNA had teased that there would be a somewhat-meaningful fight between these two groups, but it turned out to be an “abduction” of Kurt Angle that lasted roughly 15 minutes. Fans will have to wait and see next week what developments will occur in this storyline, but this week’s edition of A&E vs. MEM was decidedly lackluster.

Segment Score: -1

Segment 7: Rubix (Jigsaw) vs. Rockstar Spud vs. Greg Marasciulo (Trent Baretta) 

Greg Marasciulo gives Rockstar Spud his finisher

Positives: This match was exciting before it even started, as it featured some much-needed fresh faces in the X Division (and TNA in general). Tenay and Borash did a great job introducing Marasciulo to fans by hyping his impressive performance in the Best of the Super Juniors tournament and discussing his quirky personality. Rockstar Spud similarly got his character across, playing “obnoxious little guy” to the hilt. Both wrestlers seem like they have bright futures in TNA, and while Rubix felt conspicuously less featured, he’s a seasoned indy scene veteran capable of holding his own in the occasional nationally-televised match.

In many ways, this felt like the best-organized of the triple-threat matches on the night, as everybody got their spots in and looked good, while the pace actually felt balanced between out-of-control hectic (the first match) and taking-time-to-set-things-up slow (the second match).

Negatives: Fans chanted “Trent Baretta” at Marasciulo. There must be some Facebook group I’m not a part of called “People Who Think It’s Cool To Chant the Names of Wrestlers’ Old Gimmicks.” Knock it off, please.

Segment Score: +1

Segment 8: Mickie James Promo

Positives: Mickie furthered her disingenuous character by literally putting her personal accomplishments above the Knockouts ladder match on last week’s Impact, comparing her Nashville concert to the moon landing and “the invention of the Twinkie.” She has the phony egomaniac act down pat, and while the Knockouts weren’t heavily featured during Destination X, she and Gail Kim did well to remind viewers about the ongoing Knockouts storyline and their forthcoming title match.

Negatives: Gail Kim seemed like a female Austin Aries in this segment in that she was simultaneously playing heel and babyface. TNA is treading in some dangerous (and confusing) waters with so many characters so poorly defined at the moment.

Also, it didn’t seem necessary for Mickie and Gail to touch, let alone roll around on the mat as referees tried to rip them apart. Even though both of them play unlikable characters, they could have easily cut the same promos and walked out of the ring, each sure she was the top dog. The Knockouts have been something really special over the last few months for TNA, and as such they are worthy of building a title match in a dignified, serious manner. This came off a little comedic with a little too much “T&A” (pun acknowledged, but not intended).

Segment Score: +0

Segment 9: Chris Sabin vs. Bully Ray – World Heavyweight Title Match

Chris Sabin captures the TNA World Heavyweight Title

Positives: This match told a logical story, with Ray working Sabin’s injured knees and Sabin spending the majority of the match selling to set-up a big comeback. Bully Ray’s long period of offense felt truly old-school heelish in that it was meticulously-paced with no attention being paid to “entertaining” the crowd. Tenay and Borash continued their strong night of work by selling the cruelty of Ray’s attack and consistently praising Sabin’s never-say-die attitude.

Negatives: If anything, Bully Ray’s offense was so dominant and so sustained as to make the finish somewhat obvious from even the early minutes of the match. The whole ref bump schmozz involving the Main Event Mafia and Aces & Eights felt 100% unnecessary. While the dastardly cheaters were prevented from helping Bully Ray steal a victory, they were only there to help him because they were booked to be standing there in the first place. Why not have both teams occupying each other in the back rather than surrounding the ring? So many bodies flailing around hurt the “big match” atmosphere that a World Heavyweight Title change deserves.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is this the year 2000 that popular babyfaces win titles dirty? Either put him over clean, or have him lose clean. As much as the finish popped the crowd (it was a title change, after all), it didn’t really do anything to help Sabin’s character. Even the most unbelievably miraculous comeback would have told a story more consistent with the Chris Sabin character TNA has built up. Sabin being champion could be a good shakeup for TNA, but the way they got there was abysmally bad. 

Segment Score: -1

NET +/- SCORE FOR TNA DESTINATION X:  -1

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