The content below isn’t fictional. It’s uncomfortable and sad. It’s TNA’s opening segment.
The show opened with the announcers reminding viewers that Impact is on the road, “We’re in the birthplace of the King, Elvis himself, and we are ready to rock ‘n roll tonight!” They would have been better served going with, “We’re important enough to go on tour! Seriously, we’re a big deal!!!…Please don’t change the channel.”
Sting’s music hit and the crowd responded with a nice pop. Kurt Angle was already in the ring. It’s a two hour show and Kurt Angle can’t get an entrance?
Angle started to cut a promo on the Aces and Eights. In the promo, he bragged about defeating D’Lo Brown in their “I Quit” match, “I didn’t just make D’Lo Brown tap out.” :dramatic pause: “I made his ass say I quit!!”
How does that scenario get suggested in the booking meeting in a way that makes it seem plausible?
Writer One: “I think we should have Matt Morgan go over Sting.”
Hulk Hogan: “You got it all wrong, brother! We need Stinger to make Morgan pass out from the Deathlock. To build anticipation, brother, we’re gonna have Angle go over D’Lo in an epic “I Quit.” Then I’m gonna hit the ring, brother, and I’m gonna take my FiberCon and say my prayers, brother, and I’m gonna raise the Stingers hand. The Stinger and the Hulkster soaking in the glory, brother.”
Back on Impact, A.J. Styles made his way to the ring.
The announcers referred to A.J. as a free agent, reminding us just how much this storyline has failed. Does anyone really believe that Aces and Eights and TNA are separate entities? Does anyone really believe that TNA’s existence is in jeopardy? Does anyone really believe that A.J. is the potential deciding factor in a war between two organizations?
For weeks, fans have bemoaned the fact that AJ Styles is playing the exact same role that Sting played in the late 90s nWo invasion of WCW. Instead of creating differences between the two stories, Sting confirmed the parallels, “I’ve been in your shoes before. I did the whole hanging from the rafters thing.”
Sting continued, explaining that the roar of the crowd isn’t actually a roaring crowd. Instead, the roaring crowd is the house that A.J. built!
A.J. was pushed to choose a side. He walked out, and the segment ended with an Aces and Eights run-in. Sting took a 3D’ the cameraman zoomed in on Sting’s enormous belly, and show went to commercial.
You can’t beat early 90′s montages set to power ballads, especially when the montage is dedicated to Lex Luger. No need to try, Lex, you are my hero.
The members of 3MB earn consistent television time through their gimmick of total self-unawareness. It’s awesome, and it always ends like it did last night. If you can convince yourself that Heath Slater is never going away, you’ll grow to appreciate the comedic value in these beat downs.
Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar in a “Loser Wears a Soft Cast Match”
Is there a scenario in which the loser of this match doesn’t parade around in a soft cast to protect his “broken arm?” The answer is yes, but only because the loser may go with the hard cast option. I wish they would have given us a small break before going with the tiebreaking contest, but I understand the thought process. With the Rock officially off the card, they needed a PPV-selling match to start pushing Extreme Rules sales.
Punk Takes Off
CM Punk’s highly-anticipated promo ended mid-sentence last night, when he walked out of the ring and out of the arena. It’s been widely speculated that Punk will take some time off to heal nagging injuries and recharge his mental batteries. Heyman sold the walkout as if he had no idea it was coming. Punk hasn’t started working a program for Extreme Rules, and there’s no clear choice for his next feud. I wouldn’t expect to see him until after the European tour at the very earliest. My hunch is that he won’t return full-time until after Extreme Rules.
Ryback and Cena Square Off
The biggest story here was the misuse of The Shield. They’ve been booked as a top group in the WWE, and they have proven themselves worthy of that billing. In this instance, they were booked seemingly to help get heat on Ryback. Unless we learn of a connection between The Shield and Ryback/Cena, there was no reason to book the young trio in last night’s final segment. It doesn’t further their purpose.
Ziggler, Del Rio, Swagger Triple Threat?
Alberto Del Rio attempted to exercise his rematch clause last night, but Jack Swagger attacked him before the bell sounded, ruining the match. Ziggler has worked with both men in recent weeks. A match between any two of these men would leave the third man without an Extreme Rules opponent. Are we heading toward a triple threat match?
Fandango Next US Champ?
Kofi Kingston won the United States Championship, ending Antonio Cesaro’s lengthy run. While the title has been devalued, it’s hard to imagine that creative thought so little of Cesaro’s run that they would end the reign without good reason. My sense is that Kofi Kingston, one of WWE’s most popular mid-card performers, was selected to work a program with Fandango. The crowd will back Kingston in the feud, helping the dancing star get over as a heel.
Will Fandango-mania continue?
After last week’s Raw, Fandango’s star has skyrocketed. His theme shot to the tops of several iTunes charts, and the act of ‘Fandangoing’ has gone viral. Early reports from last week’s Smackdown taping indicated that the crowd did not chant Fandango’s theme; however, it sounded like producers laced the chant into the Smackdown broadcast. After a week’s worth of momentum, it will be interesting to see if Fandango remains hot and more interesting to see where creative takes his character next.
How will the crowd receive Ryback?
The announcers tried to sell Ryback’s attack on John Cena as a heel turn. It seems like WWE is confident that the crowd will align with Cena, but I’m not so sure. If they go with a triple threat match, they don’t necessarily need Ryback to get over as a heel. He’s fine as a tweener.
What’s next for Triple H and Brock Lesnar?
Brock Lesnar is apparently in the Raw arena. With the Brock-Rock feud seemingly on hold, it looks like Triple H and Lesnar are set for a rubber match at a future PPV. We should see the start of that build tonight. The fear here is that Triple H goes into company savior mode now that The Rock is no longer around. Here’s to hoping for another 3MB interruption.
What’s next for The Shield?
We know that The Shield will work some sort of program with Team Hell No. It’s still unclear whether the program will lead to a tag title match at Extreme Rules or if we’re looking at another six-man. We should get a bit more clarity on that tonight.
Will we hear more from Dolph?
Creative did a tremendous job of masking Ziggler’s voice at the Smackdown taping. It’s been six days since his first full show as champion, enough time to realistically expect his voice to be back. It would be nice to see Ziggler get the opportunity to cut an uninterrupted promo. We should also get a better sense of where they intend to take the character.
In reality, Austin is far from the first person to predict a Fandango title run. This would be more newsworthy if he was calling for a World Title run. Still, there’s something to be said for getting over with Stone Cold.
Forget about your perpetual undercard, here are five of the biggest and/or hottest names in the company.
As hot as Fandango is right now (top five on several iTunes download charts), his character lacks direction. Chris Jericho, the only WWE star Fandango has worked with during his run, is touring with his band. Jericho will appear on an upcoming Raw, but he won’t be around enough to forward his program with Fandango in any meaningful way. My guess is that Fandango will work a program with Wade Barrett. WWE could easily start this program during their European tour by having Fandango interrupt one of Barrett’s promos. The only problem with this, however, is that both guys will be over with the Euro crowd, meaning that the reception they’ll receive won’t align with the reception they are accustomed to in front of U.S. crowds.
If creative views this as a serious problem, Fandango could work a program with a returning Christian. Christian will return to a huge pop, and Fandago can generate some heat by ‘spoiling’ his return. Plus a win over another big name will give the young superstar even more credibility.
Punk’s three most recent feuds (Cena, Rock and Undertaker) won’t be rekindled. Punk-Cena has run its course for now, and Rock and Taker are no longer around.
Given that he’s so banged up, time off makes sense for Punk. If he doesn’t take time off, creative will have a tough time finding a program for Punk.
Still, Punk is the hottest heel in the business right now. He could draw with anyone.
Sheamus, Randy Orton and Big Show
The Shield moved into the tag title hunt after their program with Sheamus, Orton and Show. Their match at ‘Mania featured a Show “heel turn” (if you can call it that), seemingly leaving Sheamus, Orton and Show with unfinished business. Monday night’s start to the feud was a tremendous flop. Show’s legal troubles have left his status up in the air, and it looks like creative is leaning toward a Sheamus-Orton program. If they decide to go this route, it’s hard to envision them keeping a captive audience through Extreme Rules. That is, if they haven’t lost the audience already.
A Sheamus-Orton program also leaves Show in no man’s land. It’s possible that they could go the triple threat route, but that option is less plausible if the card already features a Cena-Henry-Ryback triple threat.
Episode two of the new weekly Steve Austin podcast is a must-listen. Austin is joined by Shawn Michaels for more than an hour during the show. The pair discuss why and how Michaels broke into the wrestling business, touch upon WrestleMania 14 and Michaels drug problems, and offer some fresh takes that you won’t hear on other interviews.
Near the beginning, Austin mentions that he’s been asked the same questions for 15 years, and he promises Michaels that he’ll ask some about some new topics. He delivers on his promises.
You can listen to the pod at this link.