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. This week’s Impact review will attempt to score each segment as a hit (+1; a superior match or well-executed story-building segment), a miss (-1; offensive to the eyes or ears), or a push (+0; a segment that is wholly acceptable, but nothing memorable) in order to find an overall rating for the show.
Segment 1: Aces & Eights Mourn Devon
Positives: Knux’s quick promo was a pleasant surprise. It’s very late in the game for TNA to begin making his character anything more than “guy who hands the other guy a hammer,” but at least he seemed to know who he was, and was ready to tell people about it.
The “Ray loves Tito” angle is actually really intriguing in a twisted way. Ray seems almost creepily enamored with Ortiz, who responds by shifting his weight from foot to foot and not speaking.
Negatives: The first image of this week’s Impact Wrestling: a butt. If TNA’s best plan to bail out the ship is butts, then God help us all.
Bischoff and Brisco were high school theatre awful, especially Brisco. Him calling Ray “prez” was so forced it hurt.
It was weird that Bully Ray was the only member of Aces & Eights who cared that Devon was gone even a little bit. It would have made sense for him to grieve the most, given their history, but everybody else acted like they wouldn’t miss Devon whatsoever. Of course, this all would have been fine if TNA had ever hinted once before that there was tension between Devon and the rest of the club.
Ray ultimately heeling on Devon let all the steam off of the Main Event Mafia’s victory last week. This is classic TNA booking with the heels laughing everything off to try and keep their heat.
Here’s the problem with Ken Anderson spinning out of Aces & Eights as a babyface: The only logical thing to do with him is to have him feud with Ray, and the only way to book that angle is for him to eventually go over Ray and win the title. Impact needs babyface champion Ken Anderson like it needs a third hour.
Gosh, that felt long.
Segment Score: -1
Segment 2: Jeff Hardy vs. Kazarian
Positives: This match had a pace that matched the body types and repertoires of the two wrestlers involved. Not everything was crisp and beautiful, but they both got themselves over with the match they put together.
The crowd was really into both Hardy and Kazarian, which helped this match a lot. On an intriguing note, the crowd seemed poised to accept Kaz as a babyface.
Add Jeff Hardy to the list of people with better figure fours than the Miz.
TNA resisted the urge to involve other members of EGO in the finish, and by doing so helped keep Jeff Hardy looking strong.
Negatives: If you watched this match on mute and didn’t hear the crowd, you’d say it was just okay.
Segment Score: +1
Segment 3: Gail Kim vs. ODB – Two out of Three Falls
Positives: This match involved a well-established heel who is over with the crowd working over a well-established babyface who is over with the crowd. That is the formula that works.
The first fall of the match told a really fantastic story, but it should have been the third fall of the match (see below).
Throughout the match, Gail Kim worked ODB’s leg with a degree of ferocity and calculation that very few wrestlers (of any gender) can achieve.
Negatives: The idea that Kim would work over ODB’s leg to the point of submission in the first fall and then lose the match is crazy. Who is ODB that she could recover from her knee being destroyed to come back and win two straight falls? Superman? Tommy Dreamer? Hulk Hogan?
Even with this match under her belt, ODB doesn’t feel like a threat to Mickie James’ Knockouts Title. She’s over and TNA has put the wind in her sails, but something just isn’t clicking with ODB at the tippy-top.
Segment Score: +0
Segment 4: A Ton of Backstage Promos in a Row
Positives: Robert Roode and Christopher Daniels played near-perfect wrestling heels in their quick exchange. They were simultaneously overconfident, mean, and scared to death.
Austin Aries successfully established himself as a babyface after what feels like an eternity of being a poorly-defined tweener character.
Daniels running in on Aries’ interview felt really different and unique, considering that TNA usually uses backstage for factions planning rather than foes confronting each other. There was crazy intensity in their exchange – it actually made you want to see them fight.
Negatives: Velvet Sky and Chris Sabin are together? What? If a guy had a popular, good-looking girlfriend and was champion, wouldn’t you accentuate that when he was champion and not after his dreams had been crushed?
Aries did a better job of explaining his position than Styles ever has, but he still feels like the second horse to the trough.
Miley Cyrus jokes are too easy.
Segment Score: +1
Segment 5: Main Event Mafia/A.J. Styles Promo
Positives: Rampage’s promo seemed really natural, and if anything, almost “too real” for wrestling at times. He snuck in the date for their Bellator fight very stealthily, though, and he finished strong.
Wittingly or not, Rampage articulated the Bellator-TNA relationship better than anybody else has been able to thus far: Impact is a place where Bellator fighters can work storylines to eventually build towards a supposedly-super-personal “real” fight.
Samoa Joe was really over and seemed to thrive with the increased mic time. He has a much younger and hipper voice with which to speak to the fans than Sting or Angle, so he gives the Mafia their best chance to get over.
In spite of all the things that made A.J. Styles’ promo difficult to sit through, at least he brought it around to the World Heavyweight Title at the end and stated that his goal is to win the title to become “The Go-To Guy” again.
Negatives: I know there were some late-breaking issues with Magnus, but presenting the Mafia without him (especially now when they’re supposed to have “scored a victory in the numbers game”) looked a little weak.
A.J. saying his real name was awkward. It felt like a bit of a slap in the face to everybody who has bought into him being A.J. Styles over the last decade. Overall, his promo seemed like a work in all the wrong places and a shoot in all the wrong places.
A.J.’s promo would have been hard to listen to in half the time, but the really offensive part of it was the length.
Segment Score: +0 (Saved from a -1 by Joe and a surprisingly good Rampage)
Segment 6: A.J. Styles vs. Bobby Roode
Positives: A.J. really brought the energy in this match. The months he spent slowing down his style are making him seem extra exciting at this point. Also, Bobby Roode knows how to sell for the exciting babyface as well as anyone in TNA.
Remember when I said Hardy and Kazarian would have been “just okay” on mute? Not this match. Everything looked crisp and solid, and Roode did a lot to help A.J. tell the story of his journey back to the top.
Negatives: A.J. and Roode executed the finish fine, but Hebner’s count made it look like they had rolled through into a different position after he already counted “one.”
Not finishing in the top four of the BFG Series sends A.J. Styles back into the chaotic shuffle for the thousandth time. If there isn’t something good planned for him after this, he’ll never be a top star for TNA again.
Segment Score: +1
Segment 7: Christopher Daniels vs. Austin Aries
Positives: These two successfully carried over the intensity from their earlier promo exchange to this match. The opening moments (up until Aries got potatoed silly) were very active and exciting, and finish was well-executed too.
Negatives: There were some awkward moments in this match right after Aries got caught stiff diving into Daniels’ boot. Goodness knows how things looked for the live crowd when they cut to commercial right afterwards.
Segment Score: +0
Segment 8: Hulk Hogan is a Person Who Still Exists
Positives: Allegedly, this segment closes the book on Brooke Hogan in TNA. Now, where’s that flashy pen light thing from Men in Black?
Negatives: Hulk Hogan’s cheap pops are more shameless than Mick Foley’s, and also without the ironic charm.
When Hogan was breaking down the BFG Series leader board, he sounded like a third-rate game show host explaining the rules.
So, basically there is going to be a match that is worth so many points it renders the entire Series to this point meaningless. Aren’t you glad you spent your summer watching Impact Wrestling?
The way Ray keeps his heat by completely no-selling any babyface victory is obnoxious. A lot of fingers are pointed at Hulk Hogan, but Ray’s been as guilty as anybody in recent months of taking care of himself and dragging down storylines with repetitive garbage.
TNA built Slammiversary around the stipulation that Sting couldn’t’ get another title shot if he lost, which he did. Here he is, two months later, getting a title shot on a week’s notice.
Segment Score: -2 (The announcements in this segment destroyed TNA’s two biggest storylines, earning the first -2 ever)
NET +/- SCORE FOR TNA IMPACT WRESTLING 7/27: +0