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)