TNA Impact Wrestling Review 7/25/13 & WWE Smackdown Review 7/26/13

In ring segment with The Main Event Mafia, Chris Sabin, interrupted by Bully Ray: Good mic work from Sabin but besides that none of this hooked me into wanting to watch the show. The Main Event Mafia continue to be dead air to me and Bully Ray trying to sue TNA because he got screwed out of the World Title is eye-rolling. The lawyer was pretty over the top ridiculous though so I found that entertaining.

Manik won the TNA X-Division Championship in an Ultimate X Match against Sonjay Dutt and Greg Marasciulo: Last week I was disappointed in the Ultimate X qualifying matches. This week, the winners of those matches put on one of the best opening I wish that we had seen more spots on the X itself, but the Jig ‘N Tonic on the ramp and Sonjay/Marasciulo brawling on top of the structure provided some memorable moments. I really enjoyed the finish sequence, and my palms were sweating with nervousness due to the dangerousness of the situation. Whenever a title becomes vacated, it’s tough to restore credibility to the belt right away. However, by having these three guys tear the house down, TNA pumped fresh air into the lungs of the X-Division immediately.

Mr. Anderson beat Hernandez by pinfall to pick up 7 points in the BFG Series: These two surprised me quite a bit. The match itself was solid, but the clever finish took it to the next level.

Mickie James beat Gail Kim to retain the TNA Knockouts Championship: It’s often difficult to gets fans into a match between two heels. However, these two ladies brought it. The action was really fast early on, and they hooked the audience with their skill rather having one of them do the obnoxious “babyface for one match” thing that tends to happen in these situations. Gail Kim continues to show that she is one of the best female workers on the planet, and Mickie James, who won the title seemingly out of nowhere, has done an unbelievable job as champion. Like I said earlier- Gail Kim is one of the best female workers on the planet. By pairing her off with ODB, TNA seems to be weakening her stock in favor of putting Velvet Sky back into a title feud. Sky doesn’t have the crowd behind her the way that she once did, and is nowhere near the caliber of worker that Kim is. It’s irritating to watch on as Sky takes over the spotlight while Kim is shoved into the background again despite clicking on all cylinders.

Christopher Daniels beat Samoa Joe by pinfall to pick up 7 points in the BFG Series: I thought these two put on a solid match, but I thought the finish was a little bit goofy. The fake interference felt hokey and unnecessary. It didn’t come across well, and it took the wind out of my sails.

AJ Styles beat Jeff Hardy by submission to pick up 10 points in the BFG Series: I may be in the minority heel, but I really liked AJ’s ring work here, and felt that it helped take this match to the next level. When Jeff Hardy is forced to sell and his high spots come in moments of desperation, his matches come across better. AJ working a slower, more physical style served in guiding Hardy. I liked the Pele Kick being reintroduced, and the roll into the Calf Killer was a great finish. Though I have taken issue with some of his promos, I have enjoyed AJ’s ring work since his turn, specifically the killer instinct that he has shown.

Sabin/Bully in a Cage: While I didn’t enjoy their initial match as much as a lot of other people, I think that the cage format will be great for these two. It will provide Sabin with an environment to innovate, and it will also allow for Bully to utilize his physical offense. The dynamic should be interesting as well, with Sabin coming in as the champion, and Bully knowing that Sabin can beat him.

I thought that this was one of the best episodes of Impact Wrestling in some time. The Ultimate X match was crazy, Anderson and Hernandez surprised me, the women put on a great match, AJ Styles continued to grow into his character, and the announcement of the Sabin/Bully cage match is intriguing. Although I am not a fan of Velvet Sky moving into the Knockouts title picture, Mickie James has been a miracle worker lately and could end up making their rivalry compelling. The BFG Series is shaping up interestingly, and although I was opposed to AJ Styles winning earlier due to his character, if they keep him off the microphone and let his ring work do the talking, I would honestly be fine with him winning the whole thing. Go out of your way to see this week’s show. 8.5/10.

Randy Orton d. Damian Sandow: This didn’t manage to be interesting for its whole run. It started off rather slowly and meandered for quite a while, but it did kick up a notch down the finishing stretch and Cody Rhodes’ appearance helped kick off an entertaining show long storyline. In an addendum to my little rant about squash matches on Raw, with a little build-up this could have made for a fine PPV match, but gets thrown away for free on Smackdown. It is almost like they aren’t listening to me. Hmph.

This Punk is a Pipe-Bomb: When CM Punk gets a microphone and talks about his hatred for Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman, it invariably ends up being wonderful. Thus, this promo was wonderful, and enhanced even further. He didn’t say anything particularly new and revelatory, but it was effective nonetheless. The GTS to Fandango t the end was a tad unnecessary, but the hapless dancer’s selling of it was pretty neat, so thumbs up there.

Mark Henry & The Usos d. Wade Barrett & The Prime Time Players: The match wasn’t up to much and it was inconsiderate of WWE to sacrifice my compatriot Wade Barrett on my birthday, but it wasn’t offensive or anything and helped strengthen the status of Mark Henry and the Usos.

Alberto Del Rio d. Rob Van Dam: Well this was disappointing. I would have like a fun little sprint to set up a lengthier, meatier Summerslam match between the two, but instead we got Alberto Del Rio running away for a bit before landing a superkick and winning. Who gets over in this situation? Rob Van Dam’s been on surprisingly excellent form since his WWE return, and this was just a waste of him. What a letdown.

The State of the Mind Address: The title of this segment was creative and AJ Lee’s promo to start was really good, but as soon as Dolph Ziggler came out this descended into a painfully unfunny segment in which BITCHES BE CRAZY, which is a sure-fire way of annoying me. Ziggler had a few semi-amusing lines, but the absolute silence of the crowd, even for the conclusion in which Ziggler and Kaitlyn wiped out Langston and AJ, tells you all you need to know.

The Wyatt Family d. Tons of Funk: Bad news everyone: The Wyatt’s are just another group. Well, they still have a cool entrance and the promos have bigger words, but there’s nothing truly special about them or their targeting of Kane. Still, always nice to see Brodie Lee.

Christian d. Jack Swagger: These two have good chemistry dating back to their ECW days together. Hey, remember WWECW from around October/November 2008 onwards? It was brilliant, wasn’t it? You had new stars and consistently excellent main events and it all felt so fresh and fun. I miss it quite a lot. Anyway, this match was fine, probably around ** 3/4,.

The Long Awaited Return of the Gulf of Mexico: The Gulf of Mexico came back last night to team with Cody Rhodes and humiliate Damian Sandow, adding the Intellectual Savior of the Masses’ name to its illustrious list of victims which also includes Rey Mysterio and Chavo Guerrero. I like show-long storylines a lot, they always make whatever broadcast they consume standout and usually prove to be entertaining. While Rhodes continues to act like the second most morally bankrupt good guy in WWE, he remains worth watching with his charm and physical charisma, and Sandow is just great.

I actually liked this Smackdown, because things actually happened on it. Sure, many of them were negative things, but it’s so refreshing to watch a blue-branded show, which doesn’t exist in a dream-like world where nothing that happens within affects the rest of the universe. It felt energetic and purposeful and the Rhodes-Sandow thing was pretty fun, so mild thumbs up! 6.5/10

TNA Impact Wrestling Review 7/4/13 & WWE Smackdown Review 7/5/13

Austin Aries joins us to start, and you can bet your sweet ass that he’s cashing in his newly won X title in two weeks.  He brings out Hogan to hand over the belt, but Hulk accuses him of the worst crime in wrestling:  GIMMICK INFRINGEMENT.  So as punishment, tonight Aries defends against Chris Sabin and Suicide, who is now called Manic.  That’s pretty unfair to Aries, especially when the title match last week was specifically advertised as being the match to determine who got the World title shot.

AJ Styles beat Frankie Kazarian by Submission in a Bound for Glory Series Match: Though this match was short, I found it to be entertaining the entire time. The Sigfried and Roy outfits for Daniels and Kazarian were quite amusing as well. I liked that AJ went over with the Calf Killer, as it not only establishes the move as a legitimate finisher, but also makes it appear as if AJ wants to get as many points as possible (**1/4).

Mickie James’ Promo: Mickie James cut another great promo on Thursday, this time focusing on the upcoming number one contender’s ladder match between Gail Kim and Taryn Terrell. This belongs in the right for two reasons. First off, it continued to establish Mickie as a cocky, self-admiring heel. Secondly, by having the champion thoroughly invested in the number one contender’s match, the match seems more important. Promotions tend to throw out number one contender’s matches with frequency. By having the champion devote her promo time to it, this match becomes more than just a match with a random stipulation to determine who gets a title shot.

Hernandez beat Jay Bradley by Pinfall in a Bound for Glory Series Match: I’m a fan of Chavo, but I like that they are at least building up something interesting that involves Hernandez. He seems like he’s been in a rut ever since he teamed with Chavo, and a potential split or heel turn could breathe new life into his character. As far as the match goes, it was by default the worst fight of the night (1/2).

TNA Tag Team Champions James Storm and Gunner beat The BroMANS: As hard as I have been on James Storm in this column, I’m actually enjoying his in-ring work with Gunner. However, the tag team division is pretty much non-existent outside of the champions. They knocked off the BroMANS this week, but now what? Bad Influence are tied up, Hernandez and Chavo might be splitting, and Roode and Aries are in the BFG series. TNA is either going to have to make some new teams, bring in new talent (unlikely, given the recent budget cuts), or find ways to balance the BFG Series with the tag team division. The match up was just okay for my taste (*1/2). 

The Main-Event Mafia Segments: The introduction of Magnus had me intrigued, as I am a fan of Magnus, but the segment was nothing more than a bunch of guys kissing each other’s asses. I also felt that they took away from the rub Chris Sabin could have gotten from beating Aries by being ringside during the main-event. I wasn’t a fan of the original Main-Event Mafia, and to be honest, I’m not too keen on it this time either.

Jeff Hardy beat Joseph Park by DQ in a Bound for Glory Series Match: TNA needs to decide if they are going to do the Park/Abyss reveal soon, or if they are going to slow burn it, because it seems like they have been flip-flopping on that issue. One week Joseph Park is nothing more than a comedy goober. The next, he goes into “Abyss Mode,” but then it’s back to normal the next week. Hopefully by having a competitive match with Hardy (2nd best fight of the fight in my opinion) and laying out the referee, a resolution is on the horizon in the near future (**3/4).

Why Did Ryan Howe Get Through to the Second Round of the Gut Check?: While I wasn’t impressed with the Big O, in kayfabe, why would he not go through to the next round? Could we at least get a little bit of explanation as to why the loser would get the opportunity instead of the guy who beat him? It doesn’t make sense without clarification.

Chris Sabin beat Austin Aries and Manik to win the TNA X-Division Championship: So last week, TJ Perkins revealed himself as the real suicide, and appeared as himself for the rest of the episode. I thought that the final minutes of the triple threat which exclusively focused on Sabin and Aries were great, even though the killing of Sabin’s finishers was a bit much. I haven’t bought into Chris Sabin as a main-eventer, but this helped a little bit, as he picked up a huge victory over Aries. It is also nice to see the X-Division getting a good amount of attention heading into Destination X. Although the payoff to the “Austin Aries is Suicide” mess was Chris Sabin getting a big victory, I still don’t think they went about this the right way. It did not need to be as convoluted or polarizing. Instead of building up a steady stream of momentum for Sabin, they briefly set him back, then put him back where he would have been anyway. In the end, the whole thing was basically an over-the-top plot devise that got us back to exactly where we were before (****1/4).

This week is tough to give a score to, as I really liked some of it, found some of it to be okay, and couldn’t stand other parts of it. The logic behind guys befriending Sting NOW because there is a label on it, Sting’s sudden character transformation, and the Manik character are going to be bothering me going into the foreseeable future. However, TNA did create some interesting new directions this week. AJ Styles looks intent on gaining points, Destination X seems pretty important, and Hernandez is going to get out of his rut. All in all, this week’s good outweighed this week’s bad.

Show Rating 6.0 (Average)

WWE Smackdown Review 7/5/13

The Friendzone: So CM Punk is facing Alberto Del Rio in the main event, and Paul Heyman thinks this is a bad idea when Punk could be resting for the Money in the Bank match. He also offers to accompany Punk to the ring at Money in the Bank to watch his back. Punk rejects both, reminding Heyman they’re just friends. A short, entertaining segment that also inches their storyline forward, which is something that happens all too little on Smackdown these days.

The Usos d. The Rhodes Scholars: The match didn’t have much to it, but it was a good enough showcase of the Usos, who are one of the more unique and enjoyable duos to watch in the ring in recent WWE history. The Shield’s post match promo was suitably intimidating as well. There wasn’t really enough substance in this to go into the right section, but it was undeniably effective (N/R).

Alicia Fox d. Kaitlyn: Briefly, when AJ came out to ringside and Kaitlyn just started to annihilate Alicia, I thought they were going to do a clever twist on the tired trope of “Wrestler A distracts Wrestler B allowing Wrestler C to pick up the win with a roll-up.” But instead, AJ distracted Kaitlyn, allowing Fox to pick up the win with a roll-up. This feud continues to flit between unpleasant and just plain boring (DUD).

Randy Orton d. Christian: This was so good! I’ve not seen a match as good as this. If they’d gone out and done a mere re-run of their 2011 feud I would have been happy enough, but they played off their familiarity with each other with some terrific counters and counter-counters and counter-counter-counters, making it a unique bout in its own right. I really liked the sequence when Christian sprang to the top rope looking for his sunset flip, which prompted Orton to position himself for the RKO, only for him to do it too early and allow Christian to counter that in turn. So many counters. Towards the end of the match it became a bit more of a conventionally structured match with the usual big moves and near falls, but this was still a terrific match, one of if not the best on Smackdown this year (***1/2).

Dolph Ziggler d. Drew McIntyre: Ziggler continues to be an intensely dislikeable face, with his pre-match promo essentially consisting of him saying “hey guys Del Rio tried to suck up to you, I would never do that because I’m cocky and arrogant, and also you’re all waaaaaaaay too smart for that, you bunch of geniuses, have you ever considered joining MENSA? Gosh, you’re all so smart. I love smart people. But I sure hate suck-ups, and I’m going to beat-up Del Rio for being one!” But the match was a fun spirited squash, and I am fond of Ziggler humiliating the Three-Man Band or as I like to call them the Three-Man Duds without laying a finger on them (*).

Fandango d. Justin Gabriel: Fandango’s fantastic, isn’t he? There’s not a moment when he isn’t 100% in character and positively reveling in playing it. His offence is quite fun as well. There wasn’t much to this match but FAAAAAANDANNNNNNGOOOOOO (DUD).

CM Punk N/C Alberto Del Rio: At just under ten minutes this match was a little shorter than most would have hoped, but it was enjoyable while it lasted and contained honest to god storyline advancement, which is something almost extinct on Smackdown. Punk snapping on Del Rio when he belted Heyman isn’t revelatory or anything, but it re-asserts the two’s friendship in a week that had called it into question. We all know where this angle is going, but if it continues to be carried by Punk, Heyman and Lesnar, with minimal involvement from Curtis Axel, then we should have a fun journey there (**1/2).

An enjoyable episode of Smackdown, thanks to the excellent bout between Randy Orton and Christian and most of the other segments at the very least not being given enough time to wear out their welcome. Not a ground-breaking episode of TV or anything, but probably a better watch than Raw this week.

Show Rating 7.5 (Good)

WWE Impact Wrestling Review 6/27/13, WWE Smackdown Review 6/28/13

Suicide” beat Chris Sabin and Kenny King to win the TNA X-Division Championship: A really fun and entertaining match to open the show but the finish seemed lost on the crowd. Interesting way to end it and I love the way Sabin sold the loss; man looked like he was going to bawl (***).

Adam Ohriner beat Ryan Howe: TNA’s fan voting for the Gut Check was a creative idea. However, in this scenario, it led to Adam Ohriner, also known as “The Big O,” getting a match and winning. I don’t blame Ohriner for leveraging his popularity from Zack Ryder’s internet show into a great opportunity. That said, I don’t feel that he is ready to compete on such a big stage. Howe didn’t fare much better, showing off little more than his hokey character, and I’m hoping neither guy is back (DUD).

Mickie James Beat Velvet Sky: This match was better than the previous one between these two, but it was still a bit clunky. Though Velvet is over, she really struggles in the ring. I’m hoping that she doesn’t get the title back at any point in the near future. Mickie is a better in-ring worker with the most interesting character in the division. TNA should move her onto something new soon so that she isn’t wasting her efforts in a feud that creates nothing but awkward matches. TNA pride themselves on being an alternative product, and part of that is their women’s division. Just a week ago, Brooke Hogan talked about how proud she was of the division’s competitors and the buzz that they had generated for their ring work. TNA built on that this week by having Velvet Sky cry after losing her match. This didn’t make me pity Velvet; it just made her look like a whiny bitch. Instead of having her act like a grown woman, TNA had her act like a child. It’s hard to hold their women’s division in high regard when you can tell that the people writing it don’t hold women as a whole in a high regard (*1/2).

Magnus beat Bobby Roode: Though it was at the expense of Bobby Roode, who hasn’t been able to catch a break as of late, Magnus picked up another win and is still on top of the Bound for Glory Series standings. While I feel that he will most likely fade off a bit as the tournament progress, I like that TNA is making him a focal point. He can talk, wrestle, and carry himself well, and this run on top of the standings will be a good litmus test to determine if he can be a top guy (**1/2).

LOL UR GAY: Robbie E and Jessie Godderz appear to have formed an alliance, dubbing themselves “The Bro-Mans.” While I can’t imagine them having any five star matches any time soon, I think this idea would be okay for an undercard jobber tag team. However, instead of being showcased that way, they were in a promo with the TNA Tag Team Champions, James Storm and Gunner. James Storm inferred that Robbie E and Gooderz are gay with subpar delivery, which is great comedy in 2013. The reason this ends up in “The Wrong” is because it showcases just how badly the tag team division has gone into the shitter. Not long ago, Bad Influence and Roode and Aries were putting on great matches every week. Now we have James Storm making gay jokes and a bunch of guys who could disappear forever without fans even noticing.

Samoa Joe beat Ken Anderson: I felt a little torn when Samoa Joe joined The Main-Event Mafia. On one hand, Samoa Joe has been great recently. He’s been wrestling with intensity and showing some fire on the microphone. It appears as if he is motivated once again. If this means that Samoa Joe’s work is being rewarded, and he will be a focal point of the company, that’s great. However, a large part of me worries that instead, Joe will be lost in the shuffle as merely another guy who is in a stable. This is one of those wait-and-see issues, so we’ll do just that (*1/2).

Austin Aries is Suicide: First off, let me through this out there: I like unpredictability. When watching a wrestling show, the “anything can happen!” element is a good thing. However, I like unpredictability to be founded in logic and to make sense. Austin Aries beating up a guy backstage prior to a match and presumably stripping him naked with no one noticing is a bit out there. On top of that, we are now left with more questions than answers. For example, what will happen to Aries’ spot in the Bound for Glory Series? Though this was surprising, it now seems like TNA’s X-Division has gone nowhere in the last year. Austin Aries already got his rub. TNA could have given a chance to someone new, but they didn’t. Instead, they’ve gone with Aries for the second straight year. The idea of Aries finding a way to insert himself in the title picture is fine, but this was the wrong way to go about it, and it most likely took away a big opportunity from someone else. This is the kind of convoluted trash that made me stop watching TNA from 2008-2011.

This was the worst episode of Impact that I can remember in some time. Most of the booking made me want to put my head through a wall, and while the in-ring action was okay, there wasn’t one match in particular that stood out. While there were a lot of things of consequence that took place, my reaction to them was either, “let’s wait and see” or “this is not good.” The main storyline for the episode (Aries is Suicide) was hokey and ridiculous. Let’s hope that things get back on track next week.

Show Rating: 4.5

Sheamus d. Damian Sandow: This was rather stupid, and not always in a good way, but on the whole it was an entertaining enough brawl to make the right section. The spots with the beer-keg and the sack of potatoes and the green weaponry weren’t really that funny, but the match improved once it became more heated, and both wrestlers appeared to be enjoying themselves throughout the bout. The finish was pretty darn cool as well. Hopefully everyone involved in this feud can move on to more meaningful matches from here (***).

MizTV w/ Paul Heyman: This wasn’t great. The verbal sparring between the Miz and Paul Heyman was strangely limp and heatless; Heyman had a few nice moments, but Miz was awkward throughout, though the lack of fire on display was appropriate for the lifeless Miz-Axel feud. I wonder if this segment would have had a bit more purpose if it was based around the approximately 231 times more interesting Punk/Lesnar/Heyman love triangle, or whether both men were just having an off night. On the plus side, the Miz saved an abysmal Star Wars joke with the “Luke, you’re not your father” line to Curtis, which was genuinely clever. Hooray for that!

Natalya d. AJ: HAHAHAHA AJ HAD SEX WITH MULTIPLE PARTNERS AND ONE OF THEM MIGHT HAVE BEEN A GIRL!!!!!!!!! JBL’s appalled “OH NO!” when Kaitlyn insinuated AJ and Mark Yeaton had been together made me laugh, but the promo very much didn’t. Since about 2006 the women’s division has been a black hole of creativity, and this AJ-Kaitlyn feud has been sucked into it after an initially promising start (DUD).

Randy Orton d. Kane: I’m starting to have serious concerns that my confident prediction from last week that Daniel Bryanis turning heel might prove to be humiliatingly inaccurate, though his performance on commentary and bungled interference during this bout certainly wasn’t that of your conventional fan favorite. Anyway, this Orton-Kane match was hugely enjoyable, very nearly as good as the Orton-Bryan match from last week, with some surprisingly fluid sequences, close near-falls, and an enjoyable D-Bry cameo. I wouldn’t object to further matches between these two (**3/4).

Ryback d. Justin Gabriel: A Ryback squash is a Ryback squash is a Ryback squash. Jericho’s promo was fine but the feud isn’t anything to get worked up about.

Christian & The Usos d. The Shield: Remember when the Shield were nigh on invincible? Now they’re losing to Christian and the Usos on Smackdown. The match was good fun, with a suitably chaotic finishing sequence, but you get the sense WWE are slowly winding the Shield down, which is a real shame. Still, maybe this was a blip, and a very watchable one at that (*3/4).

Fiesta Del Rio: Del Rio’s such a great heel isn’t he? He manages to be sleazy, slimy, and quietly intimidating all at the same time, and while I couldn’t understand much of his promo, I’m sure it was excellent. The Ziggler Piñata was a nice touch, as was Ziggler commandeering the mariachi band. The segment felt a bit rushed and anti-climactic (WHY DID NO ONE GO FACE FIRST INTO THE SALSA?) but it was a nice concept and enjoyable enough.

This was one of the most painfully average episodes of Smackdown I can remember; nothing really bad happened, but nothing all that good occurred either, which in my eyes is worse than a show that makes the effort to be something, even if that something is awful. Two decent matches and an entertaining, if forgettable final segment aren’t enough to make this a worthwhile use of two hours.

Show Rating: 5.5