This week, TNA was still enjoying the tremendous pop of being out of the Impact Zone. However, I think someone needs to explain to them what it means to have a "themed" show. After promising us a Star Wars-themed Impact from England, the only thing Star Wars-related on this broadcast was Mike Tenay constantly hyping the promo that they eventually showed during the second hour. It was a disappointment to those of us expecting, say, Sting to come out with a lightsaber, or Velvet Skye dressed as Princess Leia. They could have done so much more with this, and yet they completely dropped the ball on it.
On the bright side, not once did I write the phrases "to the rescue!" or "Surprising no one." Creative seems like it has something new and different going on that makes me actually believe Hogan when he says the company is destined for greatness. Nay, it gives me A NEW HOPE for it (see what I did there, TNA? It's little things like that you could have added to the promos, but didn't). At this point, I'm finding I really want TNA to begin to succeed and make WWE step up their game, which, admittedly, has gotten rather lazy lately. TNA should be smelling blood right now, and they should be going after those ratings.
Enough of my rambling, let's get to the matches.
1. Christopher Daniels v. AJ Styles - 4 out of 5
2. Doug Williams v. Alex Shelley v. Austin Aries - 3 out of 5
3. Mickie James v. Velvet Skye - 4 out of 5
4. Bully Ray & Bobby Roode v. James Storm & Sting - 4 out of 5
Overall, I think I'd have to give this week's show a 4. Star Wars ball-dropping aside, it was fairly well put-together. It's nice to see them, for a change, not showing us the pay-per-view matches for two weeks before making us pay for them. THAT is how you make people want to buy it. Normally, we'd be seeing Kaz and AJ duking it out, but instead, they pitted AJ against Kaz's Lord and Master Christopher Daniels. Instead of giving us Tara v. Gail Kim, they had Kim attack Tara backstage, and gave us Mickie James turning heel against Velvet Skye. Instead of a three-way dance (since Jeff Hardy couldn't come with them to England) between the main competitors, they gave us a tag team match that didn't end with us wondering if the main event of Against All Odds would essentially be 2 v. 1 v. 1. Even Samoa Joe & Magnus came out looking like strong contenders for the tag team championships when they cut a promo against Crimson and Matt Morgan.
You know who didn't come out looking strong in this show? Garrett Bischoff. After revealing last week that Hogan was his new trainer, and after weeks and weeks of aggression between him and his father, the build-up for his match on Sunday against Gunner went like this: He and Hogan came down to the ring, Hogan talked instead of Garrett, and insisted that Garrett is the future of this company. Eric Bischoff and Gunner interrupted the promo, and they attacked. They threw Hogan down first, and then beat Garrett into a corner, kicking at him mercilessly until Hogan got up again, and literally single-handedly tossed them both out of the ring. Garrett did nothing this week that gives the viewers any confidence that he is what Hogan says he is. There's a long way to go yet to prove to us that Garrett has any business being in the ring other than that he's Eric Bischoff's son. We've all seen legend children come and go. Some of them deserve their time in the ring (Cody Rhodes comes to mind). But others clearly don't have the talent their famous relatives did. If they truly want to make Garrett Bischoff look like a contender, they need to give him more of a chance to show off his in-ring abilities. They could have been spending these last few weeks putting him in matches against some of the lesser-known talent, giving him wins to prep him for his big pay-per-view debut, instead of hashing out this, "I've been training" angle that has taken up so much time and has left viewers skeptical of his talents.
When there are only four matches on the card, it seems like it should be easy to pick a favorite match, but honestly I think Daniels v. AJ and the tag team main event tied for first place. Both matches were perfectly executed. When you put two people in the ring who used to be partners, there should be plenty of back-and-forth, playing off the fact that these guys know each other so well. Both of these matches had that going for them. Daniels is a terrific heel, and much as a lot of people are tired of this storyline with Kaz, I think he pulls the strings rather well. However, I will say that the star of the show tonight was none other that Mr. Calves himself, Bully Ray. He started the show with an angry demand to yell at Bobby Roode for not having his back last week (because Roode was ejected from ringside), a promo that was much shorter than expected and as a result was FANTASTIC. Later on, when he and Roode were backstage talking about being on the same page for the tag-team match, he went to shake Roode's hand, but Bobby insisted on a hug instead. Bully Ray obliged, but then cupped the champ's head in his hand and whispered in his ear, "Three days." Admittedly, this foreshadowed his turn at the end of the match, and the line of the night, "See you in three days, CHAMP." But it came across with the same solemn dread of a mafia don giving you a kiss on each cheek, essentially marking you for death.
This is, I think, the most I've ever had to say about an episode of Impact. It's a good thing. I only hope that they keep up this level of entertainment when they return to Florida next week.