Sunday, January 11, 2015

Impactful Return: TNA's Pilot on Destination America


TNA is back and on its new home, Destination America. It's the start of a new era for TNA so I want to examine the ins and outs of their debut episode. It was a monumental episode for me as it was the first time I joined in on the live discussion, and it was the only episode I have gone back and watched 2-3 times since the initial broadcast. After the first viewing I was amazed by how good the show was and in the days following, I was shocked to see how other websites had written so many negative reviews. So let's talk TNA and see how the first show of this new era panned out.

Street Brawl

Having the opening shots of the talent en route to the arena, with Bobby Roode and MVP giving pep talks to the wrestlers, is certainly a new move for TNA and plays into the idea of peaking behind the curtain that Dixie Carter  has mentioned recently. I think it speaks volumes that they had Kenny King initiate the street brawl as he had been stuck in a rut with the anti-patriotic gig he was doing at the end of the Spike era and hopefully this is a sign of things to come for King, whom I envision in a great feud with EC3 in a year or two for the TNA World Title.

The brawl itself was a nice way to allow the talent to blow off the steam of being away from TV for months. It also gave the viewers a look at the new set - which I am a fan of - and a chance to see who is still on the roster. Personally, I was glad to see both Samoa Joe and Gail Kim joining in the fray as I had theorized that they may have been let go over the break.  Having Kurt Angle break up the fight and announce the card for the evening was a great way to show the viewers that he had re-signed with TNA and provided a seamless transition into the first match of the night.

Kurt Angle vs. MVP - Street Fight

I thought this match was the low point of the night with Kurt showing a bit of ring rust and both guys competing in street clothes to kick off the new era. Despite being a street fight, this match was more of a technical display in which MVP proved how good of a wrestler he can be with a nice arsenal of submissions being thrown out against Kurt. I don't think there was any doubt that Kurt would win this match; however, it certainly looked like MVP kicked out just before the three count so I wouldn't be surprised if that argument is brought up over the coming weeks.

Josh Mathews and Taz (and Mike Tenay's new home)

To begin, Josh Mathews and Taz are a good announce team. I think the on-air rivalry between Taz and Mike Tenay had started to negatively affect the product, so having the announce team respect each other and behave towards each other should start to cast TNA in a new light. It seemed like TNA was worried that some of their fans may have thought they left Mike Tenay out in the cold, which may have played a part in the way they introduced Tenay's interview with James Storm, but at the same time it was free advertising for their new Unlocked show – and doesn't it feel good knowing that TNA has more than one TV show now? I enjoyed Tenay's sit-down interview with Storm. I was getting tired of the typical backstage/in-ring promo segments that are just straight talking to the camera, so having a separate interview between Tenay and Storm was refreshing and another good nod to the change in production styles on the show.

The Hunt Is Back On

The Wolves are back on the title hunt which is the best place for them at the moment as they spent the better part of the last year with the titles in their possession. The new body paint/tattoos on the Wolves is a nice way to freshen up their look and something they should keep going forward. The Hardys being at ringside was an interesting development because it seems like it will take 4 or 5 people to take down The Revolution, as even with the Hardys trying to even the odds they accidentally cost The Wolves the match. The quadruple synchronized suicide dives was awesome because with each successive one I expected Storm and Abyss to move out of the way – it has been a long time since a wrestling match subverted my expectations in such a manner. The Revolution retained the gold and it set up The Hardys vs. The Wolves that was previously announced for these tapings.

The Man, The Myth, The Legend... EC3

I think it's a damn shame that EC3 got injured because it means the rocket that has been strapped to his back is going to falter at least slightly. However, he is slowly becoming a god on the mic. His interaction with the crowd for his "You can't wrestle, Yes he can" shtick was good enough but when the crowd started doing it by themselves, it was living proof that EC3 is something special. You could tell for a moment that it caught him off guard, but he carried on and got the heat back on himself.

Now I wasn't a fan of EC3 abusing JB, but it does keep his feud with Rockstar Spud going while he is unable to compete. With all of the hair shaving going on, I would not be surprised if this leads to a hair vs. hair match down the line and at this stage I would not be shocked if EC3 lost the match but ended up having Tyrus lose his hair/beard instead (you heard it here first). Regardless I think there is going to be plenty of EC3 in the coming months and I think it could be a good idea, if he is going to be restricted from in ring work for a while, to have him join the announce table during Tyrus' or Spud's matches as he would be comedy gold and it would allow him to add a new skill to his repertoire.

X-Division Championship - Match Of The Night

There really isn't much to say about this match. It was an amazing X-Division style match with Low Ki delivering his shoot style kicks and Aries being more technical in his approach. I think it served as a good showcase for what the X-Division is all about and a great way to introduce new viewers to TNA's standout division that, according to their slogan, "is not about the weight limits; it's about no limits." It was a great match that crowned a new X- Division Champion in what was, in my opinion, the match of the night.



The Holy Sh*t Of The Night

A battle royal with only 7 Knockouts probably wasn't the best idea, but TNA turned it into something special and integral for the future of the company. Having a nice return for Robbie E may not have been everyone's cup of tea and I wasn't sold on it either until Robbie started running his mouth about Brooke because then I knew there was a reason behind it, which led to the return of Brooke who attacked Robbie out of nowhere and should make for some interesting TV if they play off their real life breakup following The Amazing Race.

The Knockouts battle royal wasn't exactly a good match; Tayrn Terrell retained the title after a double elimination of Havok and Gail Kim but it wasn't over yet. Havok did a post-match beatdown on Taryn and I honestly thought my prediction of Taryn being the champion but Havok stealing the belt was going to come true, when the lights suddenly went off. Now the lights went off for longer than you would have expected and I was seriously worried that there was an issue with the lights at the arena but when the lights came back on, hell had frozen over. The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse started riding through the sky and pigs began to fly, as AWESOME KONG was in the ring and went face to face with Havok. I don't know how Dixie Carter and John Gaburick pulled this off because Kong was the one person I thought I would never see in a TNA ring again. I genuinely had goosebumps during that moment and if we need proof that this is a new TNA, I think this should suffice.



World Heavyweight Championship - Roode/Lashley III

You know it's a great show when the return of Awesome Kong isn't the most talked about segment of the night. Roode/Lashley III was an amazing match that lived up to the hype. Finisher kick-outs have become the norm in wrestling, but finisher steals are saved for only the big matches and we saw both from Roode and Lashley during this match. As for the swerve, the heel turns for Low Ki and Samoa Joe are going to breath new life into their characters, but I think Eric Young is going to benefit the most from this change. I think if TNA wants to go with a serious EY, then you have to book him as a heel. I miss his character from World Elite, and I'm sure TNA will have a good explanation why EY turned on Roode. By the end of the night we had a new World Heavyweight Champion in Lashley.

Conclusion

As the show ended, I was left with the feeling that TNA had given their best to create some new buzz to hook back their viewers. The new announce team worked amazingly well considering this was the first time they called an event together, and Josh Mathews had a few good lines throughout the night (i.e mentioning Low Ki's ROH World Title reign and also a nice comment about how most colour commentators are crap). I think we got everything we could have wanted out of the debut show and with the new post-production only getting better from this point forward, it looks like TNA will have a bright future on Destination America.

Penny For Your Thoughts

- Is anyone else eagerly awaiting another Gail Kim vs. Awesome Kong classic?

- What do you think about the new, serious EY being a heel?

- Is this a new day for TNA or are you reserving your judgement until you see more shows?