A colossal letdown (or epic damage control): TNA Impact 2/3/11

The February 3rd edition of Impact was supposed to be a huge deal with four advertised happenings: 1) Hulk Hogan was supposed to return for the first time since Thanksgiving; 2) Dixie Carter was supposed to have her court verdict on Immortal’s takeover of her company; 3) the TNA Championship rematch between Mr. Anderson and Jeff Hardy; 4) the THEY advertised by Kurt Angle, Scott Steiner and Crimson would be revealed.  The build to this episode had been running for weeks and was the most interesting that TNA has been in some time.  If you tuned in for the episode for those three reasons, you were probably very disappointed.

Right off the bat in the obligatory “Immortal stands around while Eric Bischoff talks” segment, Bischoff knocked out the first two points by saying that Dixie Carter had been granted a continuance and thus Hulk Hogan still couldn’t be in the building.  No verdict, no Hogan.  But he switched gears immediately and tried to get Scott Steiner to abandon Kurt Angle and join Immortal.  Big Poppa Pump answered Bischoff like only he can (with several words beeped out) and refused, with Angle and Crimson arriving to remind everyone about THEY’s arrival.

Throughout the show we were given numerous reminders about THEY’s arrival.  Kurt Angle took a call from THEY and told Steiner and Crimson to go over their plan.  Bischoff began panicking over it (which is a sharp turn from last week) and lamented the disappearance of Ric Flair who was also MIA, while Immortal tried to keep him relaxed about it.  Even Eric Young kept his role of dropping into whatever storyline he pleases for unneeded comedy relief going by telling Taz and Mike Tenay that he had seen THEY but couldn’t say who THEY were.

But Mr. Anderson had bigger fish to fry as he called Jeff Hardy out to the ring for a pre-match talkin’ to.  Anderson cut a promo basically saying that WWE management (without saying the name) had tried to control them, and the two were in TNA because they were their own people.  Then the insults flew and Anderson challenged Hardy to fight their match with no interference from Immortal.  Hardy agreed and even demanded to Bischoff that he keep Immortal away from the ringside area.

But when it came time for the match, Hardy was not a man of his word (he is the Antichrist, after all).  He started the brawl match by attacking Anderson while the champ was announcing himself during his intro, and then the two brawled until Al Snow came down to break them up.  One commercial break later, the match was underway.  The turning point came when Hardy went for the Twist of Hate, which Anderson shoved off, pushing him directly into Rookie Referee Extraordinaire Jackson James who sold it like he had just been hit by a ton of bricks.

Hardy hit another Twist of Hate, then called out Immortal.  The non-Fortune troops came out first and began beating on Anderson.  The Fortune arrived and joined in on the celebrating.  But as Hardy pulled Anderson up to be hit by Styles, A.J. stopped, threw up the Fortune sign, and then Fortune attacked Immortal, knocking them out of the ring.  Hardy stared in disbelief, only to be leveled by Robert Roode, then dropped with a Styles Clash.  The ref was revived and Anderson retained his title, which was handed to him by A.J.

Eric Bischoff came out to throw a bunch of childish insults at A.J., as Kurt Angle, Scott Steiner and Crimson arrived to stand with the newly turned good guys.  Styles explained that Bischoff had run a million-dollar company out of business (WCW, duh) and they would not let that happen to TNA.  Since his and Hogan’s arrival, they tried to change TNA and bring in a bunch of people who didn’t belong in wrestling.  Bischoff responded by setting a new “must watch” date for March 3rd in which Hogan would return (we promise this time, really) and they would officially take control of TNA.  Again.  I guess.

Plenty of comments this one after the jump and the rest of the show’s results.

  • Ink, Inc. returned to Impact to take on Gunner and Murphy, though I have no idea as to why.  The only beneficial thing about this match is I finally learned which one was Gunner (long hair) and which one was Murphy (short hair).  Ink, Inc. pulled the victory after Shannon Moore hit the Mooregasm.
  • A  decent-sized chunk of the episode was spent with numerous segments in the Jarrett household with Karen Jarrett basically saying over and over again how much she likes Jeff Jarrett.  The payoff was Jeff re-proposing to Karen to renew their vows on the March 3rd Impact.  Isn’t it amazing how everything just seems to be happening on that date?
  • Bully Ray and D’Angelo Dinero are apparently a team now and they called out Brother Devon and Samoa Joe for a tag match.  The match never happened as Joe (and Okada) chased the Pope out of the area and Ray and Devon did some hardcore brawlin’ which was eventually broken up by security.  Ray took the opportunity to spit liquid at two seemingly random fans at ringside who were eventually identified as Devon’s sons.
  • With Max Buck on commentary, Jeremy Buck defeated Douglas Williams and Jay Lethal to qualify for the #1 contenders match at Against All Odds after kicking Williams in the junk while he had Lethal pinned after the Chaos Theory, then pinning Lethal himself.
  • It was announced that next week the last qualifier would be between Robbie E, Brian Kendrick and the returning Suicide.
  • Sarita hyped up an upcoming “taped fist match” (whatever that is) against Mickie James and hyped an upcoming debut of her cousin Rosita.
  • Mickie James defeated Sarita.  Apparently a taped fist match ends when one person punches the other in the head with their fist taped, which for some reason knocks them out instantly.  Sarita faked hitting Mickie with about 2 million opportunites but did not do so. 
  • Dixie Carter was shown in an interview from the European tour in which she didn’t seem to be aware that nothing would be happening on this Impact as she hyped the upcoming court decision.

Looking Back
I give you what happens when a plan doesn’t come together.  It’s really hard to explain this one without giving the situation that led to it.  TNA had hyped the THEY bit with the belief that they would be able to bring in the other members of the Main Event Mafia (Sting, Kevin Nash, Booker T) for the big reveal.  That fell through when Nash and Booker both jumped to the WWE for Sunday’s Royal Rumble event.  But the build had already aired (and was taped weeks before that) so TNA was stuck in a bind as to the reveal they had promised fans.  Fortune was in a slow-burn to an eventual face turn (evidenced by the animosity between Eric Bischoff and A.J. Styles) so TNA instead decided to push that forward and go ahead and make Fortune THEY.

But the storyline doesn’t work for several reasons.  Unlike the Hogan/Bischoff/Hardy reveal from Bound for Glory, you can’t go back and point to when Fortune decided to go against Immortal.  As of last week’s episode, the entire stable was unified in their match against Angle and Crimson and their subsequent beatdown of Matt Morgan.  Each member of the stable were positively brutal in their attempts to get the belts off of the various members of the TNA roster.  I suppose you could argue that each were simply gaining the belts to eventually get them out of the hands of Immortal (who now has no titles), but then why not just leave them with Douglas Williams, the Motor City Machine Guns and Jay Lethal?  This is nothing more than TNA trying to make the best out of the bad situation they found themselves in when the MEM return fell apart.

But that’s not to say that it was all bad.  There is some silver lining to the matter.  Number one is that A.J. Styles is back to being a babyface and looks to be fighting for the very identity of TNA.  It’s been a said numerous times that Hogan and Bischoff tried (and succeeded) turning TNA into the second-coming of WCW (moreso than it had already been).  But really this is a battle that should have been fought a long time ago.  A.J. was correct about Hogan bringing in guys that had no business being there, but the biggest culprits (the Nasty Boys, Sean Morley, Scott Hall, Syxx) have been gone for quite a while now.  The remaining three of the influx are Mr. Anderson (who was standing in the ring when A.J. said it), Orlando Jordan and Brian Kendrick.  All three of them have since earned their places in TNA.

The second beneficial part is that it leads to the questioning of what team Ric Flair will be on when he returns.  He assembled Fortune and he’s been Eric Bischoff’s right-hand man ever since Bound for Glory.  It honestly would make even less sense for Flair to stand with his group, but I don’t know what will happen here.  Historically, there’s no love between him and Bischoff/Hogan.  As for his vanishing this week, Flair was actually injured in a match against Douglas Williams during the European tour TNA just completed.  He was doing his signature climb-the-turnbuckle-only-to-get-thrown-off when he came down directly on his shoulder, tearing his rotator cuff.  Don’t look for a Flair return until after Against All Odds.

Speaking of the PPV, with only one episode left before the event, TNA seems to be in a mess.  Only three matches have thus far been announced: the #1 contenders match for the X-Divison title (which has had its dynamic change with the reigning champion having turned face), the Last Knockout Standing match between Mickie James and Madison Rayne, and the street fight between the once-and-future members of Team 3D.  Next week will be a scrambling to put together a hodge-podge card quickly.

As for the Hogan situation, I haven’t been able to find any reasoning for why he didn’t show up on Impact as was heavily advertised.  Word going around is that he simply pushed his return back a month when the MEM angle fell through and thus they also pushed back the Dixie Carter revelation to go with it.  The idea that Dixie was granted a continuance was ridiculous, though.  Dixie is trying to regain control of her company, and she has the evidence to do so.  It would do her no good to get the matter pushed back an entire month.  Should Hogan return because of it – who cares?  She would have her company back and thus he would be under her control.  They should have explained it as Bischoff getting a continuance to keep control of the company, even though that meant delaying Hulk’s return.  But oh well.

Thoughts on the rest of the show:

  • During his rant to open the show, Bischoff name-dropped Kevin Nash and Booker T.  He could have just said “Hey, you should go watch WWE if you want to see the guys you thought would be here.”
  • I could listen to Scott Steiner talk all day long.
  • Having Gunner & Murphy fight Ink, Inc. was pointless.  Gunner and Murphy are not wrestlers (storyline-wise) and are usually only used in matches when needed.  Why would they be fighting Moore and Neal?
  • It’s odd that Shannon Moore is the one who always gets the hot tag.  Jesse Neal is the stronger of the two and would be more believable taking down the opposing team.
  • Someone should mention to Mr. Anderson that if he hates the Jeff Hardy belt so much (he insults it numerous times every week), Eric Young is running around with the old belt.
  • A good chunk of an episode dedicated to how great Jeff Jarrett is?  Vintage TNA.
  • I found myself questioning just who can or can’t see what is being aired on Impact at any given time.  Angle was talking strategy to Steiner and Crimson, which was apparently secret, yet just a bit later Anderson addressed Hardy directly while talking into the camera.
  • Speaking of strategy, what was the point of Angle’s meeting?  All he and his trio did was walk out to the ring and stand with Fortune.
  • I suppose we’re giving up on the Pope defending himself and his actions.  Standing with Bully Ray doesn’t help your argument  Wasn’t someone from his congregation supposed to testify this week?
  • I’d say there’s a 4-1 chance that Devon’s sons will turn on him at Against All Odds.
  • Max Buck wasn’t terrible on commentary, and I’m actually starting to like the heel tactics of Generation Me.
  • I’m not really getting into the X Divison matches like I thought I would.  Thus far its been more like a push for Generation Me rather than the division.
  • Add “yambags” to the list of things Taz should quit saying.
  • The crowd gave a dueling let’s go Lethal/let’s go Williams chant.  Jeremy Buck winning probably pissed everyone off.
  • Jeff Hardy’s facepaint was terrible.  It looked like a 4-year-old Sting fan applied it.  Mr. Anderson was fighting to keep a straight face when he first saw it.
  • Anderson dropped a Green Bay Packers shoutout, which I’m assuming would have worked better if Impact travelled.
  • There was absolutely no point to the Taped Fist match.  People punch other people in the head all the time – many with their hands taped up – without anyone being knocked out.
  • No one bothered to explain the rules to the viewing audience or, it seemed, to Mickie James who went for the pin attempt while the ref was calling for the KO.
  • The video about the European tour not only referred to Dixie Carter as TNA President but even showed her speaking in the ring.  Does anyone even remember the storyline she’s currently in?
  • I swear if we get another THEY coming on March 3, I’m going to scream.

But my final comment will be just what I would have done in TNA’s place.  Let’s say I was writing the show in which my main storyline fell apart in front of me.  What would I do?  Who would my THEY have been?  Everyone on the TNA roster.  Everyone from Alex Shelley to Winter coming out to line up behind Angle, Steiner and Crimson to unite against the tyrannical rule of Eric Bischoff and Immortal.  The only people that have benefitted from the reign of Immortal has been Immortal, and the rest of TNA wants to stand together to reclaim the company.  Immortal falls beneath them and Carter reclaims the company, with Immortal only hanging together through the belts they had gathered at Genesis.  That’s what I would have done.

Match Results

  • Ink, Inc. (Shannon Moore & Jesse Neal) def. Gunner & Murphy
  • Bully Ray & D’Angelo Dinero vs. Brother Devon & Samoa Joe (w/Okada) never got started and thus had no result
  • Jeremy Buck def. Douglas Williams and Jay Lethal to qualify for the #1 contender match for the X Division title
  • Mickie James def. Sarita in a Taped Fist match
  • Mr. Anderson def. Jeff Hardy to retain the TNA Championship
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